An Oscar-nominated performance, kinky 19th-century psychology and trapped whales head the list of new bargain-theater openings.
The nominee is Michelle Williams, who takes on iconic Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn. She's typically terrific -- finding unique angles to a character we think we all know -- and she gets a lively adversary in Kenneth Branagh, also Oscar-nominated as a perpetually frustrated Laurence Olivier. The "my" of the story -- young intern Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), on whose memoirs the story is based -- isn't nearly as interesting, but the famous people around him are enough so to make up for his wide-eyed blandness.
More historical characters are at the center of A Dangerous Method, director David Cronenberg's adaptation of Christopher Hampton's play about the friendship/rivalry between Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), with Keira Knightley along as one of Jung's more troubled patients. It's a sometimes-compelling portrait of an ideological tug-of-war, but often feels like something that worked much better on the page, or on the stage.
One of 2012's early pleasant surprises was Big Miracle, which isn't simply the feel-good story suggested by the true-story premise of people getting together to save three trapped whales in Point Barrow, Alaska, circa 1988. In fact, it's a fascinating case study of pragmatic altruism, as disparate elements -- the media, corporations, environmentalists, the local Inuits -- manage to put aside their differences to get something accomplished that can work to all of their best interests. It's an over-stuffed bag of subplots at times, but provides a road map for people figuring out that doing a good deed can get them exactly what they want.
Another early 2012 release -- Underworld: Awakening -- finds Kate Beckinsale once again donning skin-tight black leather for the battle between vampires and werewolves. If that's your cup of wolfsbane, blood, or whatever, have at it.