Winter holidays. It is the time of the year when many movie-goers crave lavish productions. And holiday movies echo that spirit. Hollywood shines with glitz, over-the-top special effects and expensive film productions. Three fit the bill: Black Swan by Darren Aronofsky, The Tourist by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and Jeff Kosinski's Tron: the Legacy.
Innocent, sensitive Nina has dedicated her whole life to ballet. She is overjoyed when she finally gets tapped to dance the coveted dual role of the Swan Queen in Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. Nina is the quintessential White Swan. But she has to twist her soul to exude the darkness of the Black Swan.
The pressure on Nina increases when Lily, another, more sensual dancer, vies for the same role.
Nina's innocence flutters away in Darren Aronofsky's psycho-thriller, Black Swan.
"Most ballets are really tragic and scary and gothic and there's demons and monsters and when you translate that into cinema, you can start to do some really scary, frightening, unsettling things," Aronofsky said.
Natalie Portman interprets tormented Nina. Portman went through intense ballet training to fit into the shoes of the prima ballerina. "It's so vicious on the body. And you never see it. It's like you see those beautiful image and underneath it is some really really grotesque detail," Portman said.
Costumes are rich, cinematography and cast are superb although the story line meanders to such extent it loses the viewer.
In The Tourist, Frank is an American tourist in Venice who can hardly believe his luck. He has just met Elise, a beautiful, mysterious woman, who takes him to her palatial hotel.
Little does Frank know that he is nothing but bait.
Alexander Pearce is Elise's lover, wanted by both the law and the Russian mafia for embezzling billions of dollars. Elise will do anything to protect him.
The plot is improbable and choppy, but who cares? Neither Angelina Jolie, who plays Elise, nor Johnny Depp, who interprets Frank, take themselves too seriously.
"It should make people feel good. It's got lovely twists and turns," Jolie said.
"It's a throwback in a way to old school thrillers," said Depp.
The Tourist is no Hitchcock mystery. It plays more like a comedy. Johnny Depp is no Cary Grant, but is charming in a clumsy sort of way. Angelina Jolie is simply stunning.
In the end, we're left enchanted -- if not with the famous duo, at least with the scenery, the elegance and romance.
Tron: the Legacy is the sequel of the original sci-fi film Tron, which tanked at the box office back in 1982. Back then, the story of Kevin Flynn, a computer engineer trapped in cyberspace and living an alternative life there, seemed so outlandish that it captured the imagination of sci-fi die hards.
Today, Disney's $170 million production sequel is a box office hit thanks to cutting-edge special effects and a story that resonates with the original fans of the saga.
"Our late story. Kevin Flynn was reported missing. The visionary icon, an ENCON CEO, skyrocketed to the top of the tech industry. He was last seen at this home with his son Sam leaving behind an empire and a now orphan little boy," a newscaster says in the film.
Eighteen years later, Sam has given up seeing his dad ever again. Until he accidentally enters cyberspace through one of his father's experimental video game machines.
Sam is determined to take his dad back into the real world, but they first have to flee from Clu, an evil computer program.
For those not sentimental about Tron, the story runs like a video game. But the special effects and the IMAX technology make Tron: the Legacy an impressive spectacle.
Jeff Bridges appears as aged Kevin Flynn, and as young Clu. His face has been made to look younger thanks to the latest 3-D cameras and motion-capture technology.
The film will satisfy younger crowds but also general sci-fi and video game fans who appreciate a more tekkie holiday spirit.