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Lite at the end of the tunnel?

Fun and games in post-apocalyptic Hollywood
By PETER KEOUGH  |  January 4, 2010

VIDEO: The trailer for The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

If you had enough of the end of the world with 2012, you might be relieved when it comes to 2010. Hollywood still has a few more doomsday scenarios to get out of its system in the months to come, but the fact that one of them is set in a diner (Legion) indicates that the studios might not be taking the Apocalypse all that seriously.

In general, Hollywood appears to be offering a more light-hearted approach to the dark side. Following up on the success of teenybopper terror flicks like Twilight and Zombieland are such not-so-scary-looking fantasy and horror features as Daybreakers, Season of the Witch, How To Train Your Dragon, and Tooth Fairy. True, such masters of the morbid as Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon) and Martin Scorsese (Shutter Island) have returned. But how bad can things be when death, as depicted in Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, is no more daunting than a stroll in Middle-earth? Or is that New Zealand?

The vampire trend can hardly go any farther than Michael and Peter Spierig's DAYBREAKERS (January 8). It's 2019, and just about everyone has joined the ranks of the undead — which leaves the few diehard humans in a sticky situation. Willem Dafoe, Isabel Lucas, and Ethan Hawke shed light on the matter.

Undead also is the late Heath Ledger, as he lives on in Terry Gilliam's THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS (January 8), his final screen appearance. It's a Faustian fantasia that also stars Christopher Plummer, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell.

Trying to bring his career back from the dead is the down-and-out country singer played by Jeff Bridges in Scott Cooper's CRAZY HEART (January 8). Music journalist Maggie Gyllenhaal is there to help out, as is Robert Duvall with tips from his own Tender Mercies.

And just when you thought it was safe to return to the cineplex, it's the gosh darn end of the world again. This time it comes courtesy of Albert and Allen Hughes's THE BOOK OF ELI (January 15), in which Denzel Washington gets stuck with guarding the tome that can save us, or at least co-stars Mila Kunis and Gary Oldman.

Let's hope Denzel makes a more intimidating impression than the fairy-tale crew of heroes in HOODWINKED TOO! HOOD VS. EVIL (January 15), an animated sequel directed by Mike Disa in which Anne Hathaway provides the voice for Little Red Riding Hood, who teams up with the Wolf to solve the disappearance of Hansel and Gretel. Hayden Panettiere, Joan Cusack, and Bill Hader chime in. And speaking of fairy tales: Peter Jackson takes on the afterlife as he adapts Alice Sebold's THE LOVELY BONES (January 15), in which a murdered girl can't find peace until her killer is brought to justice. Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, and Stanley Tucci help out.

Real life invariably intrudes on make-believe, and as usual it comes in the form of foreign movies. Like Romanian director Corneliu Porumboiu's POLICE, ADJECTIVE (January 15), in which a cop has a crisis of conscience after busting a teen for dope. Or South African director Anthony Fabian's SKIN (January 15), a true story about white parents in the '50s apartheid era who are shocked when they give birth to a black child; Sam Neill and Sophie Okonedo star. Or the ever misanthropic Austrian Haneke, whose THE WHITE RIBBON (January 15) explores the depths of depravity in a German village just prior to World War I.

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Related: Review: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Review: Invictus, Review: Sherlock Holmes, More more >
  Topics: Features , Barack Obama, Celebrity News, Kristen Bell,  More more >
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  •   REVIEW: THE WHITE RIBBON  |  January 13, 2010
    The White Ribbon starts with a black screen and an old man's voice (Ernst Jacobi, who played Hitler in Jan Troell's Hamsun and in a BBC mini-series) relating a series of mysterious accidents and crimes that occurred in the German village where he was a schoolteacher the year before the outbreak of World War I.
  •   REVIEW: THE BOOK OF ELI  |  January 13, 2010
    In a post-Apocalyptic landscape of ash and destruction infested by slack-jawed cannibal gangs with carious grins, a man walks resolutely toward the sea, bearing with him the light of humanity.
  •   REVIEW: THE LOVELY BONES  |  January 13, 2010
    When it comes to immortality and the afterlife, movies tend to get sticky.
  •   REVIEW: THE MAN FROM LONDON  |  January 13, 2010
    I had to wonder whether this latest film from Béla Tarr (co-directed by Ágnes Hranitzky) is a self-parody.
    Few filmmakers have suffered from the life-imitates-art phenomenon as has Terry Gilliam.

 See all articles by: PETER KEOUGH

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