Weekend Movies: Growing Up Is Hard to Do

Well, the (potentially) biggest movie of the week, Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz’s goofy fun ‘Knight and Day,’ opened on Wednesday. That leaves this weekend to a bunch of numskulls, and some potentially potent indie films, including a great new movie from one of the masters of French Cinema. Besides that, well… you could always go see ‘Toy Story 3‘ again… Right? Well, read on to find out if there are hidden gems lying just beneath Kevin James’ mighty buttocks!

I already reviewed James Mangold’s hellzapoppin’ ‘Knight and Day,’ which I found to be a pretty potent little action thriller. It’s streamlined, smart, and occasionally very funny. As much shit as Tom Cruise gets for being a slightly unhinged mega-watt cult member, he’s quite excellent in the film. It’s one of his better livewire performances in recent memory. The same can be said for Cameron Diaz, who wowed me last year in the under-seen and under-appreciated Richard Kelly film ‘The Box.’ Everyone should go see it and tell me if I’m nuts for thinking that it acts as a sly deconstruction of modern wham bam, thank you, ma’am action movies. Maybe I’m reading too much into it. In a couple of weeks, when I finally see ‘Inception,’ perhaps all of my over-intellectualizing will be put to good use.

Now let’s talk about under-intellectualizing. This weekend’s surefire box office champion is (sadly) going to be the Adam Sandler/Chris Rock/David Spade/Kevin James bro-out ‘Grown Ups.’ The movie is trying to position itself as a feel-good, low-rent version of ‘The Big Chill,’ but looks like a big, ungainly mess. No, I didn’t make it to the press screening for this one. I probably had something else better to do, like clip my toenails. What’s even more infuriating is that Adam Sandler can be soooo good when he wants to be, like in Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Punch-Drunk Love,’ or even last year’s wonky ‘Funny People.’ That last one may not have been a complete success, but Sandler deserves an A for effort. His performance was mostly peerless; it was the screenplay that had kinks. This is the dude that was this close to playing The Bear Jew in Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece, ‘Inglourious Basterds.’ And he’s doing contrived drivel like ‘Grown Ups’ instead. It’s sad. Doesn’t the dude have countless millions? Couldn’t he, you know, take a walk on the wild side? Then again, if I was getting paid millions of dollars to hang out and goof around with my friends, I’d probably do it too. Hell, I’d do it for $10.

Fortunately, there are a bunch of interesting things opening up on the indie film circuit.

Dogtooth,’ a critically adored Greek film, is finally coming to America in limited release from Kino. I hear it’s fabulous, but it sure sounds a little heavy. Any drama that has the word “tragedy” without the prefix “Douglas Sirk-like” usually makes me bow out. There are also a couple of documentaries out there that sound intriguing. One is ‘South of the Border,’ Oliver Stone’s long-stalled documentary about controversial Venezuelan prime minister Hugo Chavez. This might not be for everyone’s taste, but I’m sure it’ll be gripping. Stone may have lost some of his cinematic flair in recent years, but not all of it. Even pieces of ‘W.‘ are worth rewatching. Then there’s Tim Hetherington and journalist/author Sebastian Junger’s ‘Restrepo,’ which gets the award for the ugliest movie name of the week. Supposedly, it’s an absolutely wonderful and eye-opening first-person account of warfare in Afghanistan. It helped inform Junger’s new book ‘War,’ too.

It seems like I haven’t seen much this week. But when you’ve already seen Alain Resnais’ wonderful, loopy, deliriously romantic new film ‘Wild Grass,’ that’s all you need. Resnais is still a world-class filmmaker, and this bizarre tale of romance and obsession is just what the doctor ordered if you’re burned out on all the extravagant Hollywood excesses .This tiny, postage stamp-sized quirk-fest may just be the thing for that. I’m not sure if I could explain it to you, especially since I saw it almost a year ago at last year’s New York Film Festival, but I remember being dazzled. You’ll be too, I’m sure.

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