Yes, that’s the theme of this weekend’s crop of new movies: really long titles. From ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story,’ to ‘Life As We Know It,’ to ‘My Soul to Take’ (not to mention that the artsy sci-fi drama ‘Never Let Me Go‘ is finally getting a wide release), the marquees of America are groaning from exhaustion. Oh yeah, there’s also ‘Secretariat,’ about the world’s fastest horse. (I don’t know much about sports.) What are these movies, exactly, with their cryptic and oh-so-very-lengthy titles? Read on, dear readers, read on!
It should first be noted that I haven’t seen any of the films opening this weekend other than ‘Nowhere Boy,’ the high-profile biography of a young John Lennon. As for the biggies, I’m woefully behind. But I can still share with you what I know!
The biggest movie, and the one that is already being touted as the clear weekend champion, is Disney’s feel-good, real-life sports drama ‘Secretariat.’ Yes, about the horse. The film stars Diane Lane and John Malkovich. It was written and directed by Randall Wallace, who was responsible for writing ‘Braveheart‘ and ‘Pearl Harbor,’ as well as directing the Mel Gibson Vietnam movie ‘We Were Soldiers.’ So, it’s going to be very for-God-and-country, meat-and-potatoes filmmaking, and that’s okay. There has been some buzz that Diane Lane might get an Oscar nomination for her performance, but that seems like something of a stretch. Disney is usually pretty successful with these true-life sports things, whether it’s ‘Miracle‘ or ‘The Rookie,’ so I’m sure it’ll be solid entertainment for the whole family. But it could be kind of a snooze too.
Then there’s ‘Life As We Know It.’ I’m not sure I’ll ever sit through this, which looks like it will mix treacly sentimentality with dumb-ass romantic comedy shtick to absolutely nauseating results. It stars Katherine Heigl (who I cannot stand) and Josh Duhamel (who is kind of a non-presence) as a couple of disheveled people forced to take care of a baby. Can you imagine? I wonder if they’ll find out things about each other that will actually create romance? Do you think they’ll form an unlikely family? Will anyone really care? Next.
More promising is ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story,’ which is a more mainstream affair by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the directors of strong indie films ‘Half Nelson’ and ‘Sugar.’ It’s about a teen (Kier Gilchrist) who checks himself into a mental institution populated by kooks like Emma Roberts and Zack Galifianakis. I’m sure this will have a cuddly center, no matter how prickly it may be. This movie has a sterling cast (Viola Davis, Jim Gaffigan, Lauren Graham, and future X-Man [errr, woman] Zoe Kravitz are also in there) and the filmmakers are talented folks. I just hope it’s not too cute.
There’s also a new Wes Craven joint, ‘My Soul to Take.’ This movie, his first original screenplay since ‘New Nightmare’ I believe, has been riddled with production problems. It was filmed years ago near where I live in Connecticut, and then… nothing. Then there’d be some reshoots and it would go quiet again. Well, it’s finally coming out, with the ultimate last-minute ploy: a cheap 3-D conversion! Oh yay! The movie is about a crazed killer who supposedly died but maybe lives on in the teens of a small town. It sounds a lot like the original ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street,’ featuring Wes Craven’s patented mix of high-minded philosophical leanings and scary psychological thrills. From what I understand, the supernatural elements are totally toned down. We’ll see how it turns out. Even if Craven lacks the eye for cinematography that, say, John Carpenter has, he’s still always worth watching. Maybe now is the time to out myself as a closeted ‘Cursed’ fan. No, probably not.
Also opening to surprisingly little buzz is the prison drama ‘Stone,’ which stars Edward Norton, Robert De Niro, and Milla Jovovich. (Not too shabby!) The film was directed by John Curran, who also directed Norton in ‘The Painted Veil.’ It has been sitting on a shelf for a year and is being distributed by Relativity and Overture, who couldn’t get a big weekend out of the horror masterpiece ‘Let Me In.’ Chances are they won’t be able to do much with this either. I’ve heard that the movie has some good twists. Norton plays a prisoner who tries to manipulate his psychiatrist (De Niro) in order to get out of prison quicker. Still, with a staggered release schedule, this will struggle to connect with audiences, no matter how good it is.
In limited release, we have ‘Inside Job,’ the infuriating (and infuriatingly good) new documentary about the financial crisis, as well as the Stephen Frears comedy ‘Tamara Drewe.’ All I know about the latter is that it’s based on a comic strip character and stars Gemma Arterton, who is one of the cutest people in the whole damn world. Hey, that’s enough for me.