Maybe it’s the close proximity to the summer movie season, which seems to leap forward every year based on the marketing needs of the studios (Universal is claiming that the April 29th release date for ‘Fast Five’ now signifies the beginning of the solstice months), but a whole bunch of big-ass movies are coming out this weekend. And some of them are even pretty good.
The biggest release is probably Sony’s ‘Battle: Los Angeles‘, which takes a supposedly real-world approach to the tired alien invasion concept. I haven’t seen this puppy yet, but I think the director, Jonathan Liebsman, is a pretty talented dude. I’m an unabashed supporter of his criminally underrated ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ prequel, ‘The Beginning’. (Seriously. Add that shizz to your Netflix queue now.)
I talked to some other critics who were at the New York screening this week. (I was at a much cooler movie that I can’t talk about yet.) They said it was more or less a disaster, with big emotional beats that were met with hearty laughter from the audience. Sounds similar to ‘2012‘ from a couple of years ago. Still, might be fun.
The runner-up is likely ‘Mars Needs Moms‘, which is also concerned with alien invasion and is completely terrible. I’m oddly fascinated by the robotic motion capture animated movies Robert Zemeckis is so hell-bent on pushing on audiences. I don’t really love any of them, but I think that an argument can be made that ‘Monster House‘ and ‘Beowulf‘ are genuinely entertaining works, rather than just weird curios. ‘Mars Needs Moms’ isn’t even a weird curio; it’s a complete bore.
If ‘How to Train Your Dragon‘ was primarily concerned with providing the audience with a sensation of flight, then ‘Mars Needs Moms’ is mostly obsessed with falling. And fall it does. In every respect. As a story, it’s deathly – poorly paced, oddly antiquated in its representation of gender politics, and thematically one-dimensional. As a gee-whiz computer-generated contraption, it fails altogether. (The character designs aren’t worthy of the bottom of Rango’s cowboy boot.) There’s never a sense of wonder or awe. It makes you realize that there’s a very good reason why Zemeckis’ motion capture animation studio was shuttered at Disney – because it was producing weird, dead-eyed crap like this.
Then there’s ‘Red Riding Hood‘, which I ultimately enjoyed despite its many sizeable deficiencies. Those deficiencies mostly have to do with ‘Twilight‘ director Catherine Hardwicke’s complete lack of interest in spatial geography, and her emphasis on moody eye glances over genuine human (or animal) emotion. Still, the movie is a whole lot of fun to look at (it looks like it was shot at Fantasyland in Disney World), and Amanda Seyfried is hard to complain about. Ever. (Well, maybe in ‘Chloe‘.) The movie is so smart, in fact, that you wish its direction had been better handled. As it stands, it’s a near-miss, but you could do a lot worse.
In limited release is the rapturous, totally enveloping ‘Jane Eyre‘ remake from ‘Sin Nombre’ filmmaker Cary Fukunaga. Significantly boosting the “Gothic horror” aspect of this tale (which is told every few years), ‘Jane’ stars Mia Wasikowska from ‘The Kids Are All Right‘ and Michael Fassbender, my current man crush. Even if you’ve seen every other iteration of ‘Eyre’, you’ll still find plenty to love in this rendition, which is sumptuously shot and packs a surprising emotional wallop, particularly in the third act. This should expand as the weeks roll on. I can see it being a great little art house hit. I absolutely loved it. It’s one of this year’s first truly great movies.