I am the WORST. Totally forgot to do this for February. But that’s probably best since it just would have been me trying to find different ways to say “This movie sucks ass” for two thousand words. Anyway, we’re on to March now, and the movies are taking a dramatic upturn for the better. This year, March is something of a “little summer” season, with a couple of potential blockbusters, and one movie I am dying to see…which is actually coming out in April.
I really liked About a Boy a lot, but ever since then, the Weitz brothers (Chris and Paul, respectively) have been more miss than hit. Chris (of Golden Compass and Twilight: New Moon fame) redeemed himself with last year’s sensitive, moving A Better Life. Now it’s Paul’s turn to make up some of the ground lost by Little Fockers. Being Flynn is Weitz’s own adaptation of writer Nick Flynn’s memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (really too bad they couldn’t keep that title), about Flynn’s relationship with his absentee father. Jonathan Flynn, a delusional wreck of a man, is highly unlikeable and it’s to Weitz’s credit that the movie makes no effort to redeem him. Robert De Niro turns his finest performance in years as Jonathan, and Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood) acquits himself well as Nick Flynn. (Olivia Thirlby of Juno fame also stands out.) However, the movie falls victim to a case of gimmickitis, a recurring affliction with the Weitzes. It’s not a bad movie—the acting is worth a look—but it suffers from too many filmmaker’s tricks.
New Zealand writer/director Taiki Waititi follows up 2007’s Eagle vs. Shark—an excellent if incredibly awkward movie—with Boy, the story of a kid whose estranged father returns to dig up some money. Waititi is a veteran of Flight of the Conchords, and that same oddball aesthetic shows up in his films. I probably won’t get to this in theaters, but as a big fan of Eagle vs. Shark and Conchords, I will definitely be seeing this at some point. But be warned—if awkward isn’t your thing, best steer clear. Waititi regularly pushes awkward to the furthest extremes of “intensely uncomfortable”.
Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax
I was never much of a Dr. Seuss reader when I was a kid. The picture books I remember reading as a small child are Edward Gorey’s Gashlycrumb Tinies, an illustrated collection of Greek mythology and an the illustrated works of Edgar Allen Poe—which probably explains a lot about me, come to think of it. I’m not sure I even owned a Dr. Seuss book growing up. I do remember reading The Lorax at some point, though. It’s Seuss’s allegory for environmental responsibility and the thing that interests me most about this movie is how Fox News will inevitably turn it into a lefty conspiracy against down-home American values. I mean, if they can make the Muppets into a Commie conspiracy, then surely they can turn Seuss into a call to environmental terrorism or something.
A found-footage party movie was inevitable. Produced by The Hangover’s Todd Phillips, Project X looks to be appealing to the same booze-and-bros humor as his previous movies. This certainly isn’t high-art filmmaking, but I liked the first Hangover and I LOVE Old School, so I’m willing to give the cheap younger cousin of those movies a shot. Also, this is the only movie coming out this weekend that even remotely interests me, so it wins by default.
Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie
If you’re a Tim & Eric fan, this movie is for you. If not, it won’t make any sense and you’ll hate it. Red band trailer warning.
The last time I tried out a Greek movie, I scored with 4 Black Suits. Attenberg was this year’s Oscar submission from Greece, and it’s a darker, more serious effort than Suits was. Attenberg tells the story of Marina (Ariane Labed), a young woman who has spent her life in the soulless architectural development designed by her father. Her dad is now dying, as is the community of the apartment building, and Marina has a hard time connecting to other people. I’m willing to give this a shot, but the extremely limited release means waiting for Netflix availability.
Formerly titled The Bully Project, Bully takes a look at the troubling and ever-growing awareness of childhood bullying. Bully posits to take a serious look at the ramifications of school bullying, particularly focusing on an anti-bullying campaign spearheaded by the parents who children were victimized by bullying. Kids have always been horrible, awful people but now they can spread their particular brand of assholery faster and further than ever before, which is taking bullying to new heights. It’s a disturbing trend and for once I don’t think The Weinstein Company is engaged in a ratings fight over nothing—kids need to be able to see this movie in the hopes that it prevents a few of them from turning into full-blown praying manti, devouring the carcasses of their peers for sport. This is the kind of topical, who-would-argue-against-it documentary guaranteed to engage audiences, not unlike Bowling for Columbine.
The Decoy Bride
OMG SCOTTISH PEOPLE. I will see anything with Scottish people in it, because I want to be Scottish so, so bad. The accent! The mountains! The rain! The men in kilts! KILTS! Scotland has always struck me as such a beautiful, mysterious place. It’s my #1 Place To Visit. The Decoy Bride is about a Hollywood actress attempting to get married in a remote Scottish village. In order to throw off the paparazzi, she engages the services of a local girl to act as her decoy. Starring Kelly McDonald (Boardwalk Empire, Nanny McPhee), Alice Eve (Entourage, She’s Out of My League) and David Tennant (Dr. Who).
Joseph Cedar’s 2011 festival standout, and Academy Award nominee, Footnote is about a pair of professors whose relationship is complicated by the fact that they’re also father and son. Cedar is one of Israel’s best and most thoughtful filmmakers and Footnote is a strong effort. It’s definitely worth a shot, especially if you’re into foreign films. I actually saw it as a double-header with the Iranian film A Separation, and I found that they made an interesting, thought-provoking pair.
Friends with Kids
I just saw this one. Written and directed by Jennifer Westfeldt (Kissing Jessica Stein), who is best known these days as Jon Hamm’s partner, Friends with Kids starts out pretty funny then takes a turn for the dark and depressing. Westfeldt stars as Julie, a woman of a certain age who fears losing out on her chance to have kids because she hasn’t met her “person” yet. Enter her best friend, Jason (Adam Scott, Party Down and Parks & Rec), who would like to have a kid without it ruining a romantic relationship, as he sees his married friends suffering with babies. Their solution is to have a kid and share custody, but not enter into a romantic relationship, thus having a child with none of the “negative side effects”. Westfeldt is a sharp writer—there is an epically uncomfortable and disastrous dinner party scene that makes the whole movie worthwhile—but the story struggles to find its tone and pace. It’s far from a total loss, though, featuring a nice performance from Scott and Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) steals every scene he’s in to great effect. Red band trailer warning.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
This documentary about a legendary sushi chef, Jiro Ono, and his Tokyo sushi restaurant, has scored some excellent early reviews. This is the kind of crowd-pleasing doc that usually goes pretty far with American audiences—father/son story, charming elderly person, artistic yet accessible tone—and I expect to see this do pretty well throughout the year.
This movie reminds me strongly of Prince of Persia: A mega-budget potential franchise starring a guy who seems tailor-made for action stardom but might not have the masses on his side, adapted from obscure source material that has been doomed by a catastrophically bad marketing campaign from a Disney divided by internal power struggles. Pixar alum Andrew Stanton (Wall-E, Finding Nemo) makes his live-action debut with John Carter, adapted from Edgar Rice Burrough’s pulp stories of the early 20th century. Starring Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night Lights) and costing upwards of THREE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS (Stanton says he stuck to his $175 million budget but he also won’t cop to how much the extensive reshoots cost, which means the rumors are probably true and his costs got out of control), this is a high-risk situation for all involved. Reviews so far are mixed and as much as I like Kitsch, this looks borderline disastrous to me.
So Christian Slater’s career has come to this: starring in a B horror film starring no one I’ve ever heard of. Remember when he was a big deal? Remember Heathers? And now…this. Oh Christian, what happened?
Cocaine is a helluva drug.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
OMG MORE SCOTTISH PEOPLE. Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolat and Dear John—WTF) directs actual Scottish person Ewan McGregor in this story about a sheikh who wants to import the sport of salmon fishing to his arid desert country. McGregor stars as Dr. Jones, the fisheries expert hired to direct the project. It looks sweet and well-meaning, but Hallstrom hasn’t felt on his game in a long, long time, so I’m always a little nervous going into his movies these days. Kristin Scott Thomas and Emily Blunt also star.
Tell me that Nicolas Cage and January Jones star in a revenge-thriller and I am distinctly uninterested. Tell me that Harrold Perrineau (Oz) also stars and I’m mildly intrigued. Add that Guy Pearce is in it, too, and I’m begrudgingly willing to Netflix this.
Elizabeth Olsen continues building her reputation as the “good” Olsen in this gimmicky horror film about a home invasion/possible psychotic break. I’m not terribly interested, but Olsen was very effective at evoking terror and a sense of a disturbed mind in Martha Marcy May Marlene, so I may get to it eventually. Not feeling like an immediate must-see, though.
A Thousand Words
Eddie Murphy has no interest in being funny. Therefore, I have no interest in giving him my money.
21 Jump Street
The first round of test screenings before Christmas created some very strong buzz, and having now seen this movie, I can attest that the buzz was right—this is a VERY funny movie. Stars Jonah Hill (who also co-wrote the script) and Channing Tatum have great comic chemistry, and I was laughing so much I missed about half of the jokes. I’m going to have to see it again in order to get the full effect. This is the kind of movie that justifies the argument for remakes—it takes a cheesy, outmoded ’80’s premise and turns it into something worthwhile. Definitely recommend this one if you’re looking to laugh for 90 minutes straight. Red band trailer warning.
Jennifer Garner stars in an indie-comedy about small-town American politics and competitive butter carving. Yeah…no thanks.
Casa de mi Padre
Will Ferrell is in a mood. He’s off in the corner, entertaining himself. I’m not sure he’s out to accomplish anything with this movie other than to see if he could get it made in the first place. Casa de mi Padre is a Spanish-language comedy about a Mexican rancher (Ferrell) whose younger brother (Diego Luna, Milk, Y Tu Mama Tambien) returns home boasting of success in the business world and pledging to settle the family’s debts at the ranch. But then it turns out the brother is involved with a drug cartel and the boss (Gael Garcia Bernal, The Motorcycle Diaries, Y Tu Mama Tambien) comes to the ranch to settle a score. It looks whacky and funny and off-beat, and it’s nice to see Ferrell trying some oddball stuff.
Remember when Adrien Brody was a thing? I will always have some affection for him because he threw down that incredible performance in The Pianist, and also stars in one of my favorite weird movies, Dummy. But he’s exhausted all other good will with me. And this story about a disaffected substitute teacher just makes me want to watch Half Nelson. Pass. (But not on Half Nelson, that’s a really good movie.)
Jeff, Who Lives at Home
I caught this last year at the Chicago International Film Festival. Here’s my review. It’s worthwhile, especially if you’re a Jason Segel fan.
4:44 Last Day on Earth
This is another of those “the world is ending and we all know it so here’s how we’re spending our time” movies. Melancholia pretty much killed this sub-genre for me, since I hated it with the fire of a thousand suns and it made me wish for a planet to smash into me and make watching it any longer impossible, and 4:44 doesn’t look like enough to redeem the premise in me eyes. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, however…maybe. Starring Willem Defoe, Natasha Lyonne (this whole post is brought to you by 2002, apparently), and that awesomely awful drunk mess, Paz de la Huerta.
A bit of torture porn masquerading as a thriller starring Stephen Dorff as an agent held hostage in the boot of a car and tortured for information. Flashbacks to Buried, which was bad, are not helping sell this movie to me.
The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins’ popular YA series brings the first installment to the big screen with Jennifer Lawrence (X-Men: First Class, Winter’s Bone) as tough-as-nails heroine Katniss Everdeen. Expectations are exceedingly high for this burgeoning franchise, and the trailer suggests a pretty faithful adaptation of the book. I’m looking forward to this—Katniss is an excellent character and Lawrence is perfectly cast. I’m a bit nervous about her partner in the “Hunger Games”, a televised blood sport of the future in which children fight to the death, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson, The Kids Are All Right). I like Hutcherson on principle—he’s a talented young actor—and I don’t dislike how he looks in the role, but he has no discernible chemistry with Lawrence. I am stunningly not interested in this young cast, which could be a problem for the franchise.
The Kid with the Bike
I also saw this one at CIFF last year, and I HATED it. Ugh. Cecile de France is good, though.
This is the classic story of an uptown girl and her downtown boy in which all their socio-economic challenges are overcome through the powers of dance. Except she’s in a wheelchair. With the exception of Center Stage, which is delightfully terrible, I’m not into dance movies. I will give Musical Chairs credit, though, for being a dance movie about a girl in a wheelchair and having the brass to call it MUSICAL CHAIRS.
The Trouble with Bliss
Michael C. Hall (Dexter) stars as a dude who starts dating a high school classmate’s daughter. His unravels according, to supposedly comical effect. I have never liked Michael C. Hall in a movie. Ever. Gamer? ARE YOU SHITTING ME? That wasn’t even a real movie.
The Deep Blue Sea
English playwright Terence Rattigan was very popular in post-war Britain, then fell out of favor, and is now enjoying a posthumous revival. The Deep Blue Sea is one of his most notable works, telling the story of Hester Collyer, the wife of a prominent high court judge, who leaves her husband for her younger, dashing RAF pilot lover. Except her lover ends up abandoning her, she tries to kill herself, and everything goes to shit. Hester is the heart of the story, but the relationship that truly defines it is with neither her husband nor her lover, but with Mr. Miller, also a social outcast. The casting in this movie seems spot-on, with Rachel Weisz stepping in as Hester, Tom Hiddleston (War Horse, Thor) as her lover, Simon Russell Beale (My Week with Marilyn) as her husband, and Karl Johnson (Hot Fuzz) as Mr. Miller. Sure to be depressing as all get-out, but I’ll see Weisz in almost anything. Except Dream House, because Jesus, that looks like a piece of shit movie.
Written by Jay Baruchel (How to Train Your Dragon, Tropic Thunder) and Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen’s writing partner, Goon is a comedy in the vein of Slapshot. Seann William Scott (Stifler for life) stars as a semi-pro hockey enforcer—the guy who beats people up—whose team is trying to win the championship. It’s standard sports-movie stuff, but the cast is top-notch (Baruchel, Allison Pill, Liev Schrieber, Kim Coates and Eugene Levy also star) and Baruchel and Goldberg are both solid writers. I’m a fan of Slapshot, so this looks funny to me, but I’m not sure how it plays to wider audiences.
Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later) directs this horror movie about a faceless person who stalks children’s nightmares. Frankly, The Woman in Black kind of traumatized me and I’m not ready for another children-in-peril horror movie just yet, though the presence of Clive Owen guarantees I’ll see this at some point. In broad daylight. With all the lights turned on.
The Island President
Mohamed Nasheed, president of the Maldives, brought democracy to his country. Then he had to fight the ocean to prevent it from subsuming his island country. This is a documentary about those things.
Tarsem Singh’s take on Snow White, starring Julia Roberts as the evil queen and Lily Collins (Abduction) as Snow, should be a wildly intriguing proposition. Tarsem’s unique visual style + one of the Grimm’s goriest and darkest fairy tales SHOULD = amazing, but Mirror, Mirror looks unutterably stupid. Sure, the colors are bright and the costumes are whacky, but after the disappointing Immortals, I’m not sure Tarsem hasn’t lost his mind and/or touch. And this trailer is so shitty I have little hope for the movie itself. But the marketing has been targeted squarely at young children and that might pay off with average-to-decent box office for the struggling Relativity. They rushed this into production just to fuck with Universal’s own Snow White makeover, Snow White and the Huntsman, and the only way to justify that bit of juvenilia is to get some money out of Mirror, Mirror. I don’t think it’ll be a huge draw, especially since it’s competing against The Pirates! for the small child dollar, but it’s probably just enough to not crash and burn.
I’m super embarrassed for Armie Hammer, though. Aren’t you?
The Raid: Redemption
This movie has all the film geeks aflutter. It’s an Indonesian action movie about a SWAT team trapped in a tenement block and trying to outgun/outrun a mobster and his thugs. I’ve heard nothing but good about this, yet it leaves me cold. Red band trailer warning.
Wrath of the Titans
Clash of the Titans was awful. Like really, really bad. I have no hope for the sequel, the ever so cleverly named Wrath of the Titans, and I refuse to see it, having already sat through one of these monstrosities. Sitting through two is like volunteering for torture.