What should I be doing instead of this?
January 22nd, 2010 By Jason Gargano | Movies |

Friday Movie Roundup: King of the World Strikes Again

The Golden Globes remain a guilty pleasure marked by fashion faux pas (Sandra Bullock’s uninspired dress looked like something my prom date wore back in the day), longwinded speeches (Drew Barrymore and Mo’Nique could learned a thing or two from the pithy Robert Downey Jr.), a few pleasant surprises (including Christoph Waltz’s supporting actor win for Inglourious Basterds), cringe-worthy moments (alcohol-imbibing host Ricky Gervais’ dis of Mel Gibson) and just plain oddities (what was up with Harrison Ford’s stunted delivery?).

The Globes’ undeniable winner was Avatar, which picked up awards for Best Director (the annoyingly self-important James Cameron) and Best Picture. In addition to the awards love, Avatar is already, just a month into its theatrical release, the second-highest grossing movie of all time. It’s just a matter of days before it passes Cameron’s previous juggernaut, Titanic, as the biggest movie ever made at more than 1.8 billion in box-office grosses.

That’s a lot of money for a film that many right-wing pundits are trashing as “anti-American,” “anti-human” and “anti-capitalist.” (Read Terry Smith’s investigation of this conservative bitch-fest here). The funny thing is that the right-wingers are actually correct in their characterization of its "anti-American" leanings: Avatar — or, as many are now calling it, Dances with Smurfs — is undeniably critical of America’s capitalist culture run amok.

The problem appears to be that these pundits, like many conservatives, see any type of self-criticism or self-reflection as a form of treason.

Whether Cameron weaves these issues into a compelling movie narrative is a different argument — I found its themes too overt and sloppily rendered — but to say his Avatar isn’t a reasonably accurate depiction of corporate and governmental hubris — from our displacement of American Indians to our current preemptive wars to torture to our trashing of the environment — is to stick one’s head in the sand.

Elsewhere, it's a pretty weak week for opening films, as you'll soon realize below.

Opening films:

EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES — With the rise of basic cable, what we used to know as the “made-for-TV movie”— usually biographical, issue-oriented dramas the likes of which still fill time slots on Oxygen and Lifetime — is easy to avoid if you’re not actively seeking it out. Or, in the case of Extraordinary Measures, it’s trying to sneak its way onto your neighborhood theater screen. The based-on-a-true-story debut release by CBS Films’ theatrical division looks exactly like something that would have showed up on CBS-proper 30 years ago. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Scott Renshaw (Rated PG-13.) Grade: D-plus

LEGION — I watched trailer for this thing two different times, and I’m still not sure what the hell is going on. Seems like God has lost faith in humans, thus He sends a bunch of angels down to Earth to bring on the Apocalypse. Our only hope apparently lies in a group of strangers — none of whom appear to be Sarah Palin or Pat Robertson — trapped in a desert diner. Stars Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid and Tyrese Gibson. Longtime visual effects guru Scott Stewart directs. (Opens wide today.) — Jason Gargano (Rated R.) Review coming soon

TOOTH FAIRY — Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has now wholeheartedly picked up the muscle-bound-dude-turned-sweet-guy-actor baton from such noted thespians as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Terry “Hulk” Hogan in this family-friendly tale of a minor-league hockey player (Johnson) who is forced to be the tooth fairy for a week. Ashley Judd co-stars. Michael Lembeck directs. (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated PG.) Review coming soon

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