What should I be doing instead of this?
March 25th, 2011 By Jason Gargano | Movies |

Friday Movie Roundup: Multiplex Blues Edition

It's been a typically lackluster first quarter of the year at the movie house, as precious few offerings have risen beyond mediocrity (Blue Valentine, Cedar Rapids, The Lincoln Lawyer, Rango and The Way Back have been rare exceptions).

The dire situation has more acute at the multiplex. There are several reasons for this, none more important than the fact that Hollywood is, first and foremost, run as a risk-averse business — and that business is being affected, like everyone else's, by our depressed economy. Box-office receipts will always trump creativity, thus the parade of cookie-cutter, teen-centered duds that have populated the big-box joints in recent months.

With that in mind, Scott Renshaw proposes an intriguing new model that might bring more adults to the multiplex, thereby spurring the possibility that Hollywood might then begin to make more films for adults. (Don't hold your breath, Scott.)

This week's opening films are an odd batch — none of which were screened locally for critics, which is never a good sign — highlighted by a documentary about Beat Generation icon William S. Burroughs that has been available on DVD for more than a month.

Opening films:

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: RODRICK RULES — Jeff Kinney's humorous, teen-friendly book series gets another big-screen adaptation. The narrative centers on the life 12-year-old Gregory Heffley (Zachary Gordon), who this time is forced by his parents to bond with his older brother, Rodrick (Devon Bostock), while at the same time trying to woo his school crush, Holly Hillis (Peyton R. List). Dave Bowers — who made his name in the animation departments of such films as Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Ferngully before guiding Flushed Away and Astro Boy — directs a cast that also includes Rachael Harris and Steve Zahn. (Opens wide Friday.) — Jason Gargano (Rated PG.) Review coming soon.

HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE — This unfortunately titled drama from writer/director/star Josh Radnor — best known as an actor on television's How I Met Your Mother — follows the travails of twentysomethings “on the cusp of truly growing up.” If the trailer is any indication — or The Village Voice review's assertion that the script is “gently worthless” — expect plenty of sitcom speak pawned off as something more poignant. Of course, the trailer and The Voice could be wrong. The cast features the always interesting Zoe Kazan (see Exploding Girl), as well as Kate Mara, Malin Akerman, Tony Hale and Pablo Schreiber. (Opens Friday at Kenwood Theatre.) — JG (Rated R.) Review coming soon.

SUCKER PUNCH — The latest CGI-driven fantasia from filmmaker Zach Snyder (Watchmen, 300) tells the story of Babydoll (Emily Browning), a young girl who is sent to a mental institution by her stepfather — a fate that unlocks her superior imagination and ass-kicking skills. Snyder has called Sucker PunchAlice in Wonderland with machine guns,” a vision that includes a brothel full of scantily clad young women (played by Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung), B-25 bombers, serpents, dragons and plenty more mayhem, all of which will no doubt be presented via the director's highly stylized aesthetic. Jon Hamm and Carla Gugino round out the the cast. (Opens wide Friday.) — JG (Rated PG-13.) Review coming soon.

WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS: A MAN WITHIN — The Beat Generation icon gets the documentary treatment courtesy of director Yony Leyser, who procured interviews with the writer's friends and admirers Iggy Pop, Gus Van Sant, John Waters, Patti Smith, Thurston Moore, Genesis Breyer, Jello Biafra, David Cronenberg, Laurie Anderson and more. The film features narration by Peter Weller (who played the lead character in Cronenberg's film adaptation of Burroughs' Naked Lunch) and a score by Smith and Sonic Youth. Writing in liner notes that accompany Oscilloscope's lush DVD release of the film, Richard Hell calls the doc “fresh and solid info on the magnificent writer: great vintage footage and his friends and colleagues finally speaking frankly of his character and personality, semi-humanizing him.” (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — JG (Not Rated.) Review coming soon.

WINSTON CHURCHILL: WALKING WITH DESTINY — Ben Kingsley narrates this documentary about Britain's former prime minister and the vital role he played in subduing the Nazis' march to European domination. Director Richard Trank revisits Churchill's famous speeches and important war developments (the Blitz, Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain) in what has been described as a “glowing biography of Churchill the wartime prime minister.” (Opens today at Mariemont Theatre.) — JG (Not Rated.) Review coming soon.

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