This weekend features a whole bunch of characters that are gunnin’ for vengeance – a classic cinematic boogeyman, a cadre of woodland creatures, and Michael Caine. Oh and there’s also a sweet little adult drama that I’m sure no one will see because they’d rather catch up with ‘Clash of the Titans‘ (in 3-D, no less).
The week’s biggest release, sadly, is New Line’s big budget remake of Wes Craven’s seminal 1984 horror film ‘Nightmare on Elm Street.’ Directed by Stuart Bayer, who directed the ‘Nightmare’-inspired “Smells Like Teen Spirit” music video roughly four million years ago (and yet this is his first movie, not a great sign) and produced by Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes shingle, this movie is, in a word, horrible. Any imagination and verve that you may have expected, since this is a movie about dreams being made in the technologically advanced year of 2010, is absent. In its place are a bunch of vacant young stars (many who fail to open their mouths much when speaking), unoriginal set pieces (the Johnny Depp “blood geyser” death from the original is ripped off not once but twice), and some lame-ass, sub-‘Hannibal Rising’ backstory.
Jackie Earle Haley, who never tires of playing weirdo pedophiles, steps into the striped sweater and be-knived hand as revenge-seeking dream weaver Freddy Krueger, who, in additional to being saddled with said backstory also has some crummy new make-up enhancements. In addition to layers of prosthetics, Freddy also has some Harvey Two-Face-esque digitally augmented make-up, which I didn’t even notice until the movie’s third act. He doesn’t have much of a presence, since he’s so short you feel like you can put him in your pocket with you and take him to the mall, and the film’s lack of humor, gore, or scariness certainly doesn’t help things. It’s as bland as bland can be. If you see a movie theater playing this, step across to the other side of the street. It’s certainly a nightmare.
Speaking of vengeance, there’s a movie opening called ‘Furry Vengeance.’ It stars Brendan Fraser, Brendan Fraser’s weird hair and/or hair piece, and a whole bunch of cuddly animals that attack him. Fans of animals attacking people may enjoy but everyone else (including myself) will probably want to skip this. The only interesting thing about this movie is that Participant Media is one of the film’s co-producers. Participant, for those of you whose homepage is not the Huffington Post, is a lefty production company that has been responsible for stuff like ‘Syriana’ and ‘Standard Operating Procedure.’ Maybe the inherent progressiveness of a movie about a dude wanting to level a forest (and then being attacked) was enough for them. Or maybe the whole movie is a metaphor for the Iraq war. Probably not.
In limited release comes the British movie ‘Harry Brown.’ It isn’t great, mostly because it can’t decide whether it’s going to commit to its more social commentary or if it’s going to be a cathartic, blood-and-guts revenge movie, but it is a good movie, mostly because of Michael Caine’s performance. As a man whose wife has died and whose best friend has been murdered, he conveys the right amount of emotional anguish and general old man consternation, adding a lot of weight to a movie that feels sort of airless. The main problem is that Caine’s motivation for brutally murdering a handful of small time hoods that have infested his estate apartment building remains unclear. Yes, his friend was murdered by these guys, but why him? My theory: he saw ‘The Brave One’ on cable one night and thought it looked cool.
The best movie opening this weekend (in limited release) is ‘Please Give,’ the new film by the talented Nicole Holofcener (‘Lovely & Amazing,’ ‘Friends with Money’). A low-key adult drama set in Manhattan about messy interpersonal relationships, the stellar cast includes Catherine Keener, Rebecca Hall, Amanda Peet and Oliver Platt. There’s not a whole lot of plot, per se, but there is some wonderful dialogue and occasionally hilarious scenarios. If you’re looking for an escape from the mega-budget blockbusters clogging the cineplex, take a trip to the art house for this one. You won’t be disappointed.