This weekend features the typical mixed bag from the studios. Of the three big films opening, one is a fantastical ‘Twilight’ challenger, another is a high-concept mystery that I liked quite a bit, and the last is the third movie in a series that I cannot believe made it past the first entry. I’ve seen two of the films, and you can read my expanded thoughts elsewhere on this blog. But it’ll be a cold, dark day in Hell before I see ‘Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son’. I would doubt very much that the studio will even screen it for critics, anyway.
The biggest movie of the week is probably ‘I Am Number Four‘. As I said in my review, it’s a harmless sci-fi riff on the ‘Twilight’ type of supernatural adolescence. It’s not as funny or exciting as it should be. There are some really clunky moments and some baffling choices made on a fundamental narrative level. But if you’re a teenager or have teenage kids that you’re forced occasionally to entertain, you could do a whole lot worse. It’s about a handsome alien who just wants to fit in, like every other teenager. So, yeah, there’s not a whole lot of depth. For what it is, it’s adequate – but it could have been really cool.
Next up is Liam Neeson in ‘Unknown‘, a smart (even when it’s being hopelessly dumb) and engaging thriller from French filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (‘Orphan‘, ‘House of Wax‘). It’s a mystery with a capital “M.” Neeson plays a doctor visiting Berlin for a scientific conference who, after being involved in a car accident, finds his life swept away from him. His wife (January Jones) has shacked up with another man (Aiden Quinn), who has assumed Neeson’s identity in every respect. And then things get really weird.
As I explained in my review, ‘Unknown’ strains credibility at every turn, and the third act twist threatens to tear the whole movie down around it. Nonetheless, I still really loved it. I think Collet-Serra is becoming, in his own way, a master stylist. He combines visceral thrills with a kind of detached European cool that I think totally works. The movie has a slew of great suspense set-pieces. Liam, channeling his inner ‘Taken‘ badass, gives a compelling central performance. (The supporting cast is dynamite, too.) If you want to think about something, you can probably find ‘Blue Valentine’ playing at your local art house. If you want to have fun, check out ‘Unknown’.
Then there’s ‘Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son‘. I mean, what is there even to say about this? I’ve never seen any of the ‘Big Momma’ films, but I’m shocked that there is enough interest and financial incentive to make another one. Martin Lawrence must really like dressing up as a big fat lady. That must be it.
On the art house side of things, there’s not much to inspire. ‘We Are Who We Are‘ is a Mexican cannibal movie that made a splash at last year’s New York Film Festival. I missed it there and I’m waiting for my screener in the mail, but I cannot wait! Otherwise, things look bleak. Tom Shadyac, who directed ‘Bruce Almighty‘, has decided to make a gooey, eco-friendly, introspective documentary called ‘I Am‘ that might give ‘Big Momma’ a run for her money in the category of most horrible shit out this weekend.