This weekend, a pair of big-budget Hollywood movies are opening while a few smaller films are sneaking into theaters specifically for awards consideration. (Don’t worry, only one looks like it will be considered at all.) Nothing seems all that exciting. Something tells me this year is going to end with a whimper and not with a bang (and not just because I’ve seen a lot of stuff opening between now and the end of the year).
The biggest movie is probably a toss-up between two films about far flung journeys: Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie in ‘The Tourist’ or the third fantasy epic in the ‘Narnia’ franchise.
I wrote about ‘The Tourist‘ earlier today. It’s awful. Like, boring and painful and bad.
‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Trader‘ had kind of an interesting production history. It was originally set up at Disney, which produced the first two ‘Narnia’ films (the hugely successful first and the not-nearly-as-successful second). But then Disney dropped the property while it was in pre-production. Fox swooped in and picked it up, but slashed its budget in half. The project retained director Michael Apted but shook up some of the cast members. (The pirate rat from the last movie, played by Eddie Izzard, is now Simon Pegg.)
Considering that I fell asleep halfway through the second movie, I’m not exactly chomping at the bit to watch the further adventures of the Pasty English Kids and Lion Christ, but I’m sure it’ll be a somewhat sizable hit, at least because it’s in 3-D.
A few biggish independent films are being released this week as well, almost exclusively for Oscar consideration. I haven’t seen the Ryan Gosling thriller ‘All Good Things‘ yet, even though it’s been available on iTunes for weeks now and was shot where I live in Connecticut. It just looks drab. The production has been mired in nearly constant litigation since it was filmed nearly two years ago. I heard Ryan Gosling talk about it briefly during this week’s no-longer-NC-17-rated ‘Blue Valentine’ press day. The Weinsteins acquired and then dropped the film, and then the filmmakers were sued by the story’s real-life participants.
‘The Company Men‘ is the directorial debut of John Wells, who was a co-creator and executive producer of ‘ER’. (He’s also the guy who stepped in for Aaron Sorkin in the waning years of ‘The West Wing’.) It stars Tommy Lee Jones, Ben Affleck, Craig T. Nelson and Chris Cooper. It’s a feel-good movie about the recession, more or less. I hated it. It’s clumsy and inarticulate. For some reason, Wells hired Roger Deakins (who photographed beautiful movies like ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford‘) and had him shoot it like an episode of television. This didn’t affect me in the slightest, and all the talk that it’s “This year’s Up in the Air“ is just that – talk.
‘Company Men’ is only opening in New York and L.A. this weekend for a qualifying run, and then is being pushed back until the end of January. This was a last-minute decision by the Weinstein Company, made mere days ago, and shows how little faith the studio has in the movie. The Weinsteins know that their big Oscar contenders are going to be ‘The King’s Speech’ (an okay movie that will probably get far more attention than it deserves) and ‘Blue Valentine’ (a knock-you-flat-on-your-back brilliant movie that won’t get nearly the amount of attention it deserves).
‘The Fighter‘ is also opening in New York and L.A. before expanding between the coasts. It’s the story of a real-life boxing champ (played in the film by Mark Wahlberg). I’m going to save my comments because I haven’t seen the thing. I’ll be seeing it next week. I’ve heard from a lot of people that it’s really great.
Finally opening this weekend, but who knows where, is Julie Taymor’s wretched revisionist version of Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest‘. Look up my review from this year’s New York Film Festival if you’re curious. If not, I could just draw a picture of dog poop with stink lines coming out of it and flies buzzing around, and you’d get the same impression.