It's been a pretty shitty year to date at the movie house. Check this list of critical bombs that have graced the multiplex in 2011, all of which generated a D or worse from CityBeat's review team: Season of the Witch, The Rite, Drive Angry, Big Momma's: Like Father, Like Son, Sanctum, From Prada to Nada, Country Strong, The Roommate, Hall Pass, Just Go With It and No Strings Attached. (Curiously, that group features films starring Oscar winners Nicolas Cage, Anthony Hopkins, Gwyneth Paltrow and Natalie Portman.)
Worse, only three 2011 multiplex films have risen to the level of a B grade: The Way Back, The Mechanic and The Green Hornet, the latter two of which seem like generous praise.
The lack of worthwhile multiplex offerings this time of year is nothing new. In the past I've dubbed the first two months the Land of Misfit Movies, a post-awards-season/pre-summer-blockbuster period when Hollywood dumps its lamest products on an audience still catching up with Oscar nominees.
This week we begin move
past the dumpster-diving season as one of the better comedies in
recent memory, Cedar Rapids, opens at both AMC Newport and the
Esquire Theatre. (Read my interview with its director, Miguel Arteta,
here.) Then there's the well-received Rango, an animated
comedy/western featuring the voice of Johnny Depp as a goofy
chameleon. I'm even interested in both The Adjustment Bureau,
Matt Damon's first role as a quasi-romantic leading man, and Take
Me Home Tonight, the latest in the rapidly burgeoning trend of
movies that partake in 1980s nostalgia.
THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU — Writer/director George Nolfi makes a smooth transition from screenwriter to filmmaker with his feature film debut. As the writer of such intrigue-action movies as The Bourne Ultimatum and The Sentinel, Nolfi knows a thing or two about creating suspense. Loosely based on a 1954 short story by Philip K. Dick, Matt Damon makes a believable politician as David Norris. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Cole Smithey (Rated PG-13.) Grade: B-
BEASTLY — Beauty and the
Beast gets a modern retelling in this drama about a
mean high school stud (I
Am Number Four's Alex Pettyfer) whose privileged life is
altered when a witch (Mary-Kate Olsen) casts at spell that transforms
him into an ugly “beast.” Daniel Barnz directs a cast that also
includes Vanessa Hudgens, Peter Krause and Neil Patrick Harris. (Read full review here.)
(Opens wide today.)
— tt stern enzi
(Rated PG-13.) Grade: D-
CEDAR RAPIDS — Small-town insurance representative Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) heads to the big city of Cedar Rapids for a weekend conference that will change his life. Cedar Rapids director Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl, Youth in Revolt) knows how to handle outsiders caught in comedic flux and, in Helms, he’s got an emerging performer who gets the laughs without overplaying his hand. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at AMC and Esquire Theatre.) — tt stern-enzi (Rated PG-13.) Grade: B-plus
RANGO — In conjunction with Industrial Light and Magic, director Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean) has created a gorgeously animated western that doesn't need any stinking 3-D effects to entertain or pump up its profit margin. Johnny Depp is the voice of Rango, a chameleon who goes from being a caged family pet to fulfilling his destiny in the Mojave Desert. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — CS (Rated PG.) Grade: A-
TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT — Written by the people behind That ’70s Show, this ’80s-set tale takes place over one night in the lives of several recent college grads (Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler, Teresa Palmer and Michelle Trachtenberg) who are trying to decide what to do with their lives. Michael Dowse makes his feature directorial debut, which was produced and nurtured to the screen by Grace. (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated R.) Review coming soon.