Weekend Movies: Rip-Offs and Overrated Indies

While the end-of-year season is usually filled with high-quality flicks fighting for award nominations, this December so far isn’t quite reaching the caliber of years past– especially not this weekend’s releases.

The widest release this weekend is ‘New Year’s Eve‘, the second film in Garry Marshall’s series of highly formulaic, holiday-centric ensemble rom-coms that started last year with ‘Valentine’s Day’. The odd thing about ‘New Year’s Eve’ is that, despite starring a bunch of actors who appeared in ‘Valentine’s Day’, they’re all playing completely different characters here. The feel-good flick recycles a few of the storylines and features Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Common, Cary Elwes, Alyssa Milano, Jessica Biel, Seth Meyers, Carla Gugino, Katherine Heigl, Jon Bon Jovi, Sofia Vergara, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, James Belushi, Sarah Jessica Parker, Abigail Breslin, Josh Duhamel, Penny Marshall, Hilary Swank, Ludacris, Ryan Seacrest and Matthew Broderick.

The only other wide opener this weekend is ‘The Sitter‘, an R-rated comedy starring Jonah Hill that comes across like a remake of ‘Adventures in Babysitting’. Hill needs money, so he starts babysitting. One night, he takes the kids out with him and all hell breaks loose. When I mentioned to Josh that the studio canceled my local preview screening of this movie and apparently doesn’t want critics to see it, he responded: “Not surprising. It’s been sitting on the shelf since Jonah Hill was still fat.”

Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman have reteamed for the new comedy ‘Young Adult‘, which opens in Los Angeles and New York this weekend and expands wide(r) next weekend. Once again, Cody’s “cool” script features a central character (Charlize Theron) who believes that she’s better than everyone else. When she realizes that her high school sweetheart (Patrick Wilson) is living the life that she wants, she pulls a ‘Grosse Pointe Blank’ and heads home to steal him away from his life. During her visit, she runs into old classmates – the best of them is a crippled guy played by Patton Oswalt. Imagine a dark comedy without any laughs that serves no purpose.

Already three months old and soon to receive a Blu-ray release in the U.K., ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy‘ finally invades American soil. This overly-complicated and really slowly-paced drama follows a retired agent (Gary Oldman) who investigates a possible mole within the British secret service. The strong cast also features Mark Strong, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Colin Firth and a too-brief appearance by Tom Hardy. ‘Tinker Taylor’ opens in select cities this weekend, but is set to expand in the following weeks.

Three smaller films receive very limited releases this week. I’m not very familiar with any of them. Co-written and directed by Madonna, ‘W./E.‘ tells two romance stories at the same time. One shows the affair between King Edward VIII and an American divorcee, the other a modern-day love story about a married woman and a Russian guard. Starring John C. Reilly and Tilda Swinton, ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin‘ deals with the post-tragedy grief of the parents of a kid who went on a high school shooting rampage. The panned Sundance flick ‘I Melt with You‘ follows four college buddies (Jeremy Piven, Thomas Jane, Rob Lowe, Christian McKay) as they reunite for a guy’s weekend in Big Sur. They take drugs, meet naughty women and go a little crazy.

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