Opening in Chicago, Weekend of 12/21

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Is it just me, or does it seem like the film industry sort of shot its load early this year? For awhile, there were high-profile, well-reviewed movies coming out one after the other (e.g., Argo, Lincoln, Skyfall) as well as less well-reviewed but still interesting projects (Anna Karenina and Life of Pi, the latter of which I’ve yet to see). Now, though, the Christmas outlook seems less promising.

To me, the most interesting release this week is Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone (trailer). I thought Audiard’s A Prophet was impressive but maybe a little overrated, and for that matter I think I like his Read My Lips the best of his films that I’ve seen. This one isn’t getting quite the reviews that A Prophet did, but it seems like a good showcase for Marion Cotillard, who I think is one of the very best there is right now.

Besides that, we have a grab bag of notable but not really exciting releases. I was initially interested in The Impossible (trailer), starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts as parents of a family caught up in the Asian tsunami from several years back, but the trailer doesn’t do much for me. And honestly, there’s something uninspired about casting McGregor and Watts in roles like these, and it’s hard to explain why since I like both of them well enough. I just feel like I know what I’m getting in advance, that’s all. Still, it should be better than Clint Eastwood’s tsunami film, Hereafter.

Up to this point, I’ve been contentedly but unenthusiastically aboard the Judd Apatow train, at least when he’s directing, but I just can’t imagine that I’ll enjoy This Is 40 (trailer), which looks for all the world like a big dumb self-absorbed jerkoff. I don’t even remember the Rudd and Banks characters from Knocked Up, why would I want to see a movie about them? Why do I care about how they feel about turning 40? Why do I need to see a movie about parents exasperated by the first-world problems they face raising their kids? These questions and more (such as, “why is this movie 134 minutes long?”) need to be answered before I go anywhere near this thing.

Also, anyone else find it odd that a Knocked Up spinoff is competing directly with a new Seth Rogen comedy? And which of the two looks less appealing? The Guilt Trip (trailer) stars Rogen as a man who for some unknowable reason decides to take a cross-country road trip with his clueless mom, who is Barbra Streisand, and toegther they face all kinds of predictable yet implausible encounters, like strip clubs. Who does this appeal to, exactly? Who wants to sit and watch two hours of Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen squabbling? That sounds like torture to me.

And speaking of lack of appeal, what’s up with Jack Reacher (trailer)? It was once traditional for studios to try to market their big major movie star vehicles, but Paramount seems to have dropped this and run away like it was a bag of poo on someone’s doorstep. It’s odd, really, because whatever one thinks of Cruise, he’s rarely starred in an outright bomb like this. It doesn’t even seem like it was widely reviewed, so I’m not sure how widely Paramount screened it for critics. I wonder why they even bothered to keep the prominent release date instead of dumping it in February like studios did in days of yore, because clearly no one cares about it.

The others:

Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away (trailer) – “Cirque du Soleil” means “circus of the sun”
Dabangg 2 – “a continuation of the amazing exploits of Chulbul ‘Robin Hood’ Pandey”
Jean Gentil – a Haitian man in the Dominican Republic searches for a work
Monsters, Inc. (trailer) – pointless 3D reissue

3 responses »

  1. The Impossible is a tiresome movie, and Ebert’s review is one of his worst ever, reading like it was commissioned by the studio itself. It’s not so much that he liked the movie – no accounting for taste! – but the marketing-department vibe that runs throughout.

    For example: “Now again, at another holiday season, this film becomes a powerful story of a family’s cohesive strength.” What? That’s awful. It doesn’t even make grammatical sense – this film becomes a powerful story “again”? When did it do it the first time?

    Anyway, I watched this and thought about how it’s popular to bash Schindler’s List in some circles; numerous times I’ve seen the (apocryphal?) Kubrick quote bandied about about how the Holocaust was about the millions of Jews that were killed, while the Spielberg film was about a few hundred who weren’t. But I’ve always thought that was unfair, because a Martian visiting Earth and watching the movie could, without any historical knowledge of the Nazis, understand the kinds of horrors that were perpetrated during the Holocaust and realize that the Schindler Jews who escaped with their lives were extremely fortunate.

    Likewise, as much as Cameron’s Titanic gets knocked around, I think the full scope of the disaster is pretty well accounted for. And Cameron, to his vast credit, makes very clear the sociopolitical and logistical factors that went so far in explaining why the survivors survived and the dead died. Whatever the flaws with that film, and whatever dramatic license he took to center the film around a teenage romance, I don’t think he can be accused of dishonestly portraying the catastrophe.

    But The Impossible has a bafflingly limited perspective. The aforementioned Martian could watch the movie and literally come away believing that the 2004 tsunami primarily affected Western tourists. Aside from a few helicopter shots surveying the destruction, there’s absolutely zero signs of the overwhelmingly massive loss of life in the affected area. It’s frankly tacky, reducing the tsunami to a banal human-uplift story about people whose lives, to all appearances, aren’t even materially affected in a long-term way. At base-level, it’s not much more than a vacation-from-hell story.

    And along those lines, I can’t help notice that Ebert related to it as … a tourist. It’s an interesting coincidence that he had been to that beach before, but so what? I’d been to the observation deck of the World Trade Center in New York when I was a kid, but it would be awfully self-absorbed of me if I could only relate to 9/11 footage through my own experience of visiting the site.

  2. I’ve always loved Ebert as a writer, but I don’t take much notice of him in terms of his film reviews for some time now. Just seems overly generous and random in his reviews (‘Morning Glory’ 3.5 stars?!?)

  3. Morning Glory was a fun movie and Rachel MacAdams was great. Is that out of 5 stars or 4? If it’s out of 5, yes. 4? Maybe he was a little generous…

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