Well, this week is juggernaut-free, which suits me just fine — not that I don’t understand the pull of last week’s newsmaking big winner. I just can’t join in the enthusiasm for it. Probably the most interesting thing this week is the chance to see whether or not Jennifer Aniston was “robbed” of an Oscar nomination. (I have my own theory on why she was overlooked, but I’m withholding it for the moment.) Otherwise, what you’re looking at are three mainstream releases that haven’t been screened for critics — or, to judge by the dearth of “user” reviews on the IMDb, anyone. This is rarely an encouraging sign. Of course, it doesn’t always follow that signs are a reliable barometer of quality. But, yeah, experience suggests this is rarely a good thing.
I’ve seen and reviewed Cake (opening Friday at The Carolina). The review is in this week’s Xpress, and while the truth is that it’s nothing like a great movie, I think it’s a very interesting one. In some ways, I like it because it’s kind of messy and sometimes even wrong-headed. The problem is that it no longer probably matters whether or not Jennifer Aniston is good — or even great — in her role. The lack of that once expected Oscar nomination will probably drive the interest way, way down. Funny how everyone seems to mostly agree that Oscars are meaningless, but still seem to put great stock in them as a barometer of what to see. Maybe we’d be better off seeing for ourselves.
So about the other things…
The Boy Next Door is the kind of movie that a.) crops up every January, b.) is never screened for critics, and c.) will almost certainly smell from herring. It was made by Rob Cohen, who hasn’t had a very good run since the original The Fast and the Furious in 2001. And it has the additional downside of starring Jennifer Lopez. Now, I don’t dislike Lopez as such, but goodness knows, she does show up in some amazingly crappy movies. This thriller in which she’s stalked by some beefy boy (played by someone called Ryan Guzman) certainly has all the earmarks of being on the Lopezian crapfest list. It looks like cheesy exploitation stuff that probably is neither cheesy enough, nor sufficiently exploitative to be much fun. It has, however, spawned much debate from (presumably) horny teenage boys about whether or not they’ll get to see naked J-Lo. I love intellectual discussions.
Then there’s David Koepp’s Mortdecai starring Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Paul Bettany, and Olivia Munn. This is an action comedy/spy spoof sort of thing that will probably fall prey to the apparent national obsession to bash Johnny Depp for his more recent movies (whether he or they deserve it), and the inevitable bile directed at Gwyneth Paltrow for being obnoxious in real life. I will concede in this case that the trailer looks…well, not very good. However, I’ve liked most of the David Koepp films I’ve seen — notably 1999’s Stir of Echoes (so much better than the similar Sixth Sense) and the underseen Ghost Town (2008). I also genuinely like Depp and have never subscribed to this downgrading. For that matter, I can overlook Paltrow’s teeth-grating pronouncements. Am I optimistic? Not really, but I’m not writing it off yet.
Finally we get Strange Magic, which is “from the mind of George Lucas.” That appears to be the selling point for this animated fantasy. In fact, the generally solid, if hardly big box office, voice cast doesn’t rate a mention. Though “from the mind of George Lucas” it may be, newcomer feature director Gary Rydstrom is helming the thing and is one of the screenwriters. (Lucas provided the story and is executive producer.) It’s all about magical forest creatures — you know, pixies and fairies and goblins — engaged in a battle over some potion or other. And it’s decked out with pop hits “of the past 60 years” on the soundtrack (presumably including ELO’s “Strange Magic”). There is much boasting over Industrial Light & Magic effects, but no one has actually seen the film.
This week we lose Big Eyes, which was pretty much a foregone conclusion. Also notable is the fact that The Carolina is moving both Foxcatcher and Inherent Vice to split shows. This is particularly distressing in the case of Inherent Vice. The arrival of three new art titles next Friday bodes ill for it.
This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show follows up last week’s film, Night Watch, with its sequel Day Watch (2006) — also from Timur Bekmambetov — at 8 p.m. on Thu., Jan. 22 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Teorema (Theorem) (1968) on Fri., Jan. 23 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Michael Anderson’s Operation Crossbow (1965) on Sun., Jan. 25 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society closes out its January calendar with the Wheeler and Woolsey comedy Half Shot at Sunrise (1930) on Tue., Jan. 27 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress — with full reviews in the online edition.
Probably the best thing this week is The Boxtrolls, but don’t rule out the chance to finally get to see Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem. Also up is The Drop, which impressed others more than it did me. Ditto Lucy and Annabelle, neither of which I plan on ever seeing again.