Avatar is garnering much snarky commentary out in the blogosphere. You won't get that here; I thought it was a fantastic film.
I looked over at my wife after thirty minutes and told her I'd enjoyed the film back when it was Dances With Wolves (1987). She agreed. Recycled plot points aside, James Cameron's vision here is so creative, so vibrant, so enthralling that the film is well worth seeing in the theater. I loved the framing (the shots of the destruction of the tree of life are so well rendered that the CGI's insistence disappears, allowing for raw audience emotion to surface), and the effects are stunning. The writing is clunky at times, but not to the utter detriment of the narrative. These are more like minor annoyances (Jeanne and I traded dubious glances when the talk of a "flux vortex" came up).
It's like this immortal line uttered in the disappointing film Sunshine (2007): The mainframes are out of the coolant!
Now, whenever we become a little vexed, Jeanne and I discuss the mainframes, the coolant, and the rest of the fubar mess...
Here's a review by my favorite film critic, always the eloquent arbiter of celluloid goodness. Shawn Levy's thoughts on the film coincide with my own, only I actually liked the film, in its totality, a bit more than he did. It's an 'A' for me, and I actually would like to see it again in IMAX, just to check out the 3-D.
Less successful in its execution, but not in its intentions, is Roland Emmerich's 2012. Bombastic in scope, this one is pretty fun if you look beyond all the ridiculous destruction. Woody Harrelson is awesome, John Cusack is...John Cusack, and the CGI makes for a few exhilarating moments. This one is a 'B-' for me, but still worth seeing on the big screen.
Gotta love the holiday popcorn films...
My third recommendation is Stephen King's Under the Dome. At over 1,000 pages, this one's not for the faint of constitution. That said, King needs that kind of canvas to truly diagram the destruction of small-town New England. King drills down (often with an annoying but necessary omniscient narrator) on no less than three dozen characters. Seriously, I wonder how he kept all the names straight. His office must have looked like that dude's classroom in A Beautiful Mind.
This one is about environmental catastrophe, political tyranny, post-9/11 detention tactics and, most importantly, the psychic bruise we all carry from harming others, whether that harm is physical, mental or emotional.
King is good here--as good as he was in Duma Key and Bag of Bones. Much better than he was in Lisey's Story. He takes his liberties with pacing and a portion of the text drags. Still, it cooks over the last 200 pages and the conclusion is satisfying and appropriate.
By the way, Grisham's Ford County is also pretty solid. Some of these stories are hilarious, others heartbreaking. Damn you Lawyer Wade, why must you lie all the time?