Weekend Movies: Just Because There Are ‘No Strings Attached’ Doesn’t Mean You Have to Go

This weekend follows the usual January release pattern. There’s one big studio movie that was probably too lousy to compete in another time of year when things are actually, you know, competitive. We also get a sprinkling of indie releases and a couple of smaller movies that had limited runs in December (for Oscar consideration, or at least daydreaming). In other words, if you haven’t picked up ‘Little Big Planet 2’ yet, now might be a good time.

The big Hollywood movie of which I speak is the giddy, girlie, raunchy (it’s rated R!) rom-com ‘No Strings Attached‘, starring former ‘That ’70s Show’ heartthrob Ashton Kutcher and Oscar shoo-in Natalie Portman. Until a few days ago, when I got my screening invite (I politely declined), I had no idea that this movie was directed by Ivan ‘Ghostbusters‘ Reitman. Man, that dude has taken a tumble. I mean, this is the guy who made did ‘Stripes’, ‘Meatballs’, and ‘Twins’, but in recent years has churned out garbage like ‘Father’s Day’ and ‘Six Days, Seven Nights’. (Remember that? Harrison Ford versus pirates… or something?) It must be said that I’m kind of an ‘Evolution’ apologist, but that’s neither here nor there. His last movie was ‘My Super Ex-Girlfriend’, which is one of the most hideous theatrical experiences I’ve ever had (not…a…single…laugh). Anyway, we’ll see if this R-rated romantic comedy can rack up the box office bucks, or if the weekend will once again belong to the bumbling ‘Green Hornet‘.

On the “small movies expanding” line, we have three films, one of which is actually worth watching.

The first is Sofia Coppola’s Venice-winning ‘Somewhere‘, which might be the most boring movie I’ve ever seen. That’s actually not true. There was that Romanian movie I hated. But ‘Somewhere’ is pretty boring. It stars Stephen Dorff (for some reason) as a disaffected actor and Elle Fanning as his young daughter who is forced to put up with his neglectful bullshit. Most of it is centered around the Chateau Marmot in Los Angeles, which seems like a much more interesting setting than it actually is.

Another small movie that’s rolling out wider is ‘The Company Men‘, the feature directorial debut of longtime ‘ER’ showrunner John Wells. (He’s also responsible for the recent Showtime series ‘Shameless‘.) It stars Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Craig T. Nelson, Chris Cooper and Kevin Costner, and centers around the trials and tribulations of several men caught up in the recent economic crisis. All of this sounds really great (and Wells is a super-nice dude), but the movie doesn’t really work. In fact, it doesn’t work at all. It wants to be a more down-to-earth ‘Up in the Air‘ (like what I did there?), but instead it just comes across as forced and phony and dull.

If you really want to see a great, easily overlooked movie, check out Peter Weir’s ‘The Way Back‘, the true-life tale of several detention camp escapees who walked from Siberia to India. The movie has a superb cast, with Mark Strong, Ed Harris, Colin Farrell and Jim Sturgess, but is long and often difficult to take. If you don’t mind your movies being more-than-a-little confrontation or hard-to-handle, then please check out ‘The Way Back’. It deserves your time and attention!

If you live in Los Angeles or New York, you should run (RUN!) to the theater to see Im Sang-Soo’s ‘The Housemaid‘. It’s a remake of a South Korean film from the late ’60s, and is one part domestic drama, one part erotic thriller, and one part haunted house movie. I saw it before Toronto last year, and it absolutely thrilled me. I think it’ll thrill you. If not, well, I’m sure ‘No Strings Attached’ is playing just around the corner.

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