Saturday, October 29, 2011

Everything but a horror movie

It's the Friday before Halloween ... do you know where your horror movies are?

Who'd have thought we'd so notice the absence (for the first time since 2003) of a new Saw movie? Now there are simply no scary movies being released on the Friday before Halloween. How unlikely.

Okay, maybe not so unlikely ... Paranormal Activity 3 and The Thing both came out earlier in the month, presumably to put more asses in the seats before Halloween actually rolled around. Smart strategy.

And perhaps that's why counter-programming is so abundant on the October 28, 2011 release date. Without a perceived front-runner for this weekend's box office dollars -- that is, a perceived front-runner among new releases, as all movies will be grappling with the phenomenon known as Paranormal Activity 3 -- a number of other movies have jumped up to the fore to stake their claim to this weekend's available dollars.

In fact, I now have to laugh at myself for this post, in which I wondered whether March 10, 2011 might be the busiest release date of all time. In retrospect it seems quite funny, especially now that I've seen all the movies that came out on that date, and they were no great shakes. I contended that Battle: Los Angeles, Red Riding Hood, Mars Needs Moms and Jane Eyre (which I later discovered was only opening in limited release) were about as hot as it got for movies releasing on one date. Of course, now I know that only Jane Eyre is actually a really good movie, with Mars Needs Moms being decent and the other two being guilty-pleasure laughable at best.

Clearly, back then, I wasn't expecting a release date like October 28th, 2011.

Roland Emmerich goes legit

The movie I've been looking forward to most for a couple months now is Anonymous, Roland Emmerich's attempt to lift himself out of the bowels of the disaster movie gutter and contribute something thoughtful to the world of cinema. I've discussed previously that I love a genre I've made up called the "wax-stamp movie," which is any movie in which the production design is such that a wax seal either is or could be used. (You know, the kind used to keep a parchment letter from coming open, back in the day.)

Anonymous certainly qualifies in that regard. Which makes it the last movie I would have expected Emmerich to direct.

I'm going to choose not to hold his previous career against him and go in to this movie with an open mind -- especially since it looks fantastic. And Emmerich's most recent film, 2012, is actually my favorite film he's ever directed, so maybe he's finally figured out how to do this job after so many years in the business.

The thing I wonder in a humorous sort of way is whether this will become one of those "issue" movies. I don't know how I started thinking this, but it seems that when a director (or star, or producer, or what have you) makes a movie on a certain sociopolitical hot-button topic, they sometimes try to spread the word about whatever the particular cause is, during rounds of press interviews and (if it works out this way) during award-show acceptance speeches.

I don't think Emmerich will win -- or probably even get nominated for -- an Oscar for this movie, but I do think it'll be funny if he decides he needs to take up the campaign about whether Shakespeare really was a fraud. Which wouldn't be a very popular cause to promote in the same way that, you know, gay rights (Milk) or water contamination (Erin Brockovich) may have seemed like causes their stars or directors needed to promote.

Shirking Shrek

I couldn't find online the one poster that first gave me the idea for my take on Puss in Boots, the spin-off from the Shrek franchise starring the voice of Antonio Banderas. That poster gives my sub-heading a bit more meaning than the poster I've chosen does.

It was actually a billboard, and I started seeing it on my drive home from work a month or two ago. It shows a vaguely expressionistic, purple-colored drawing of the face of a cat with the name Puss in Boots below it.

No reference to Shrek, and certainly no visual call-out to the signature Dreamworks animation style that made the title character in this new movie famous. (Man, really wish I could locate that image.)

But this poster here is enough different from the vaguely bulbous animation style of the Shrek movies, and few if any of the posters make a reference to this film's origins within the Shrek universe.

Curious, right?

Latin American chaos

Speaking of posters that do or don't do what they're supposed to do, I find the Rum Diary posters to be some of the most effective I've seen in a long time.

Pair the posters with the trailers and you get a terrific environs in which to set a movie:

Latin American chaos.

There's something I find primitively exciting about the potential for bacchanalian drunken chaos set in a country where they speak Spanish. Do you get me? ("We get you sir!") (Hmm, don't know where that came from. Starship Troopers, I think. )

Anyway, the trailer put me in the perfect mood to imagine a series of wild adventures, many of them actually or theoretically involving rum, in the vaguely lawless version of Puerto Rico created for this movie.

Granted, Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States, and in that sense is not really Latin American. But you get what I'm going for, I think. Anyway, you said you did two paragraphs ago. Let's just say this movie looks really fun and I am very excited to see it. (And it could be the Hunter S. Thompson-ness of this movie, more than its Latin American-ness, that I'm responding to.)

One thing I think will be interesting -- and I really should read more about this -- is that this is the director's first movie in 19 years. Bruce Robinson, a name I vaguely recognized, last directed the movie Jennifer 8 in 1992. Love to hear how he found his way back into the director's chair after all these years -- especially in a high-profile project starring Johnny Depp.

Justin Timberlake, action star

It's rather amazing to me how many films Justin Timberlake has now made -- he crossed over from being primarily a singer to primarily an actor a couple years ago -- and he has yet to appear in what you would call an action role. He's got the features for it, it just didn't happen until now.

And when it did happen, that action role had to be in service of a high-concept science fiction plot.

In Time may not end up being a good movie -- in fact, I'm starting to be worried that it won't be -- but it won't seem like some kind of cash-in for Timberlake either. This apparent update of Logan's Run is clearly a movie with ideas, even if they may not end up getting executed effectively.

Just reminds me again how smart Timberlake's choices have always been. Sure, he's made the occasional dud like The Love Guru, but far more often he's selecting material that is interesting or challenging in some way, such as Alpha Dog, Black Snake Moan and The Social Network.

Okay, okay, so 2011 hasn't been his greatest year on record. I haven't seen them, but I hear that Bad Teacher and Friends With Benefits are nothing to write home about.

Look, I just want to praise the guy. Is that okay with you?

The smart romance

It occurs to me that Like Crazy, as original as it will probably be in many ways, is the latest in a string of similar movies that we hope will be a "smart romance."

It may just be me and I may be just taking a very quick look at it, but doesn't this movie remind you a little bit of things like (500) Days of Summer and One Day?

Which is not to say that Like Crazy borrows from either movie -- it seems to be a far less whimsical affair than (500) Days, and it was made pretty much at the same time as One Day, only One Day happened to release a couple months earlier.

More than anything I'm identifying a hunger for independent movies in which two beautiful young actors -- not too beautiful, just beautiful enough -- are involved in some kind of lyrical, semi-tragic romance. You could probably throw in a movie like Blue Valentine, even though that movie is presumably a lot sadder than this one.

Well, I didn't particularly care for (500) Days and I didn't see One Day, whose negative reviews kept me away. But I admit this hunger in myself, and so I'm hoping Like Crazy is good. If the reaction it received at Sundance is any indication, it will be.


More than anything, this weekend at the movies marks an unofficial start to the cinematic home stretch of 2011. Two weeks ago we got a pair of remakes, and last weekend was dominated by the genre giant Paranormal Activity 3. Next week it's November, and many of the year's high-profile award contenders are going to start hitting the theaters with regularity.

Before I get stressed out about all the things I can't see -- Martha Marcy May Marlene and Take Shelter already in theaters -- I'll just try to focus on which of the above movies I'll see this weekend. As of now, Anonymous is the top contender, with Rum Diary a close second.

One thing I can tell you I won't be seeing this weekend:

A horror movie.

In the theater, anyway. On video? Hell yeah! At least one if not several.

It's Halloween weekend, after all.

No comments: