After last week’s mixed—but better than usual for January—bag of movies, this week ought to have been a comparatively light one. In terms of new mainstream fare, we were only looking toward The Book of Eli and The Spy Next Door. (The threat of Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs. Evil was held at bay by disappearing from the schedule with no new release date announced.) Well, that wasn’t taking into account the Fine Arts opting to open both Pedro Almodóvar’s Broken Embraces and Tom Ford’s A Single Man, nor did it factor in Paramount going wide with The Lovely Bones. So instead of two movies, we’re now looking at five. Since these include Broken Embraces and A Single Man, however, I’m not complaining.
I won’t say much here about last week’s films, since Daybreakers, Leap Year and Youth in Revolt are all reviewed in this week’s Xpress. I will say that if this is as bad as January gets, we might be in for a remarkable movie year. I’ll also note that I’m glad to see that Asheville turned out in decent numbers for The Imaginarium of Dr. Paranassus—and remind everyone yet again that supporting this type of non-mainstream fare is the only thing that will guarantee we’ll continue to get it.
Of this week’s offerings, I think I can safely say that anyone planning on seeing Jackie Chan as a spy roped into duty as a babysitter in The Spy Next Door isn’t likely to be dissuaded by anything I might caution. No, I haven’t seen it and I hope to keep it that way. In fact, I’ve arranged to keep it that way, but only by telling Justin Souther that if he’d tackle it, he could also have The Book of Eli, which at least has possibilities. The stars—Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman—and the Hughes Brothers’ last film, From Hell (2001), have to count for something. Whether or not the world is waiting for another post-apocalyptic movie is a separate matter.
On the other hand, I’m very excited by the prospect of Broken Embraces and A Single Man—the only remaining 2009 releases that might have affected my “best of the year” choices, as far as I can tell. Considering that the first is from Pedro Almodóvar is enough right there to warrant some excitement in my book. Almodóvar hasn’t made a bad film in years, and there’s nothing to suggest that’s going to change with this latest one—his take on a film noir (with the expected amped-up soap-opera elements that are part and parcel of his work). That it’s another collaboration with Penélope Cruz—an incredible actress out of whom Almodóvar gets more than any other director—adds to the anticipation.
As for A Single Man, I wouldn’t sell it short. Though fashion-designer-turned-filmmaker Tom Ford is an unknown quantity (not necessarily a bad thing), the unstinting praise given to the almost invariably underrated Colin Firth is encouraging to say the least. Firth’s simmering intensity may have found its perfect match in this period piece about a gay man mourning the death of his long-time lover. Firth’s internalized performance style would seem to be just what you’d want when you place that concept in 1962—a time when such things were pretty completely just not talked about. Considering the Oscar buzz that’s surrounded his performance in a number of reviews, this is a film that ought to be on everyone’s short list of movies to catch.
Now, I’ve seen Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones—back before the tepid-to-abusive critical response caused Paramount to back off pushing it during awards season. I have not reviewed it, however, because Monday was the first we knew of it going wide this week. And I’m not reviewing it here, except to say that, while it’s flawed, I think it also got a much rougher handling than it deserved. Whatever else it is, The Lovely Bones is an interesting film—one that ought to be even more interesting to anyone familiar with Jackson’s career, especially his earlier one. I’ll have more to say in next week’s paper.
There’s no shortage of worthy contenders on DVD this week. While it’s been available for rental for some time now, The Brothers Bloom finally goes on sale. It snagged my pick as the best film of 2009, and I can’t honestly think of a better way to spend your money. But having said that, your time and finances would not be wasted by Moon or In the Loop either. Both of these are 2009 titles that are definitely worth a look—or worth a second look, if you caught them when they played theatrically. In the Loop may just be the most blisteringly funny movie of 2009—accent on blistering.
And there’s The Hurt Locker. This is a very good film, and it’s one that should be seen. It’s just not a film—maybe it’s just not a kind of film—that I can find myself particularly fond of. Then again, it’s not a film that’s pitched for that kind of response, and it’s certainly come in for its—not undeserved—share of critical enthusiasm. Here’s a movie where I’d particularly say judge it for yourself.
I’m considerably less enthused over Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (also available in an unrated director’s cut, of course), though I do find it a consistently interesting film that’s considerably more worthwhile than his first Halloween outing. That’s not exactly a recommendation, but I will admit that I’ll probably pick this up myself. I will not be picking up the fairly lousy remake of Fame, however. That very much is a warning—one that I’ll follow up by saying check out the 1980 Alan Parker original instead.
Notable TV screenings
It’s perhaps just as well—with all the new theatrical and DVD enticements—that this turns out to be one of those rare weeks where there’s nothing in the offing on TV that strikes me as remarkable. There are good things out there, yes. I noticed that TCM is running the often-overlooked Laurel and Hardy film Blockheads (1938) at 10:15 p.m. on Jan. 19, and that’s a good thing, but overall there’s just no “wow” factor for me in this week’s choices. Maybe it’s just a case of overload, or of me being under the weather, but I’m hoping for a more tantalizing set of choices next week. We shall see.