This week’s new releases are a curious hodgepodge ranging from a big-budget studio retread (Fast & Furious) to an experimental feature by a 79-year-old enfant terrible (Pere Portabella's The Silence Before Bach, which opened in New York City more than a year ago). Lodged in-between is a pair of movies that debuted to mixed responses at the Sundance Film Festival (Sunshine Cleaning in 2008, Adventureland earlier this year), both of which feature strong casts and capable directors.
The 82nd Academy Awards telecast is Sunday night. Will you be watching?
Yes, I will again succumb to its guilty pleasures, no doubt groaning every 10 minutes or so at the lavish, self-important nature of it all (please don’t let James Cameron win — the only thing worse than his creepy, flowing gray hair is the inevitably pompous speech that will spill from his lips if Avatar wins him a Best Director or Best Picture Oscar, which it likely will).
A trio of “event” screenings boosts this week’s mixed bag of new releases (of which Bong Joon-Ho’s Hitchcockian thriller, The Mother, is the clear winner).
What does it say when Golden Globes’ host Ricky Gervais is getting more post-show attention than the night’s winners (or January Jones’ gravity-defying dress)? Sure, Gervais’ sharp-tongued shots at various targets — from the easy (Charlie Sheen, Robert Downey Jr. and Mel Gibson) to the slightly less so (Steve Carell, Tim Allen and God) — were often insensitive and sometimes crass, but none of them were necessarily untruthful or even far from what most viewers would say about each recipient.
The worst summer movie season in memory gets a kick in the ass this week with the opening of a pair of small-scale, Sundance-approved art-house gems: the Duplass brothers' Cyrus, an unexpectedly touching, hilariously awkward comedy featuring John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei and Jonah Hill in an odd love triangle of sorts, and Debra Granik's Winter's Bone, a tension-laced thriller that is likely to stand as young actress Jennifer Lawrence's breakout role.
The fall movie season has gotten off to a pretty mediocre start, and this week’s slate of new multiplex offerings does little to reverse the trend: a pair of ho-hum-looking sci-fi thrillers, Pandorum and Surrogates, and what looks to be a glossy remake of Fame, the 1980 movie musical that would serve as the senior play for yours truly many years later (I played Ralph Garcy.) Not coincidently, all three screened after our print deadline, typically a sign that they’re not ripe for much critical love.
Can we just have Pixar make every movie? The animation studio is at it again with Toy Story 3, yet another creative triumph that offers everything the rest of the summer's big-budget extravaganzas do not: multifaceted characters, adventurous filmmaking and an emotionally involving story that is surprisingly dark and intense.
Why can't Sam Rockwell find a movie that fully takes advantage of his singular talents?
Long one of our most expressive, instinctual and interesting actors, the 42-year-old Rockwell has added spice as a supporting player in a string of high-profile studios movies (Iron Man 2, Everybody's Fine, Frost/Nixon, Matchstick Men, Charlie's Angels and The Green Mile, among others) and has been compelling as a central figure in a handful of smaller films (Choke, Joshua, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Lawn Dogs and Box of Moon Light).