Friday, February 20, 2009

Movies opening this week (and last week)

Apologies for the unplanned hiatus in posting; I've been uncommonly busy the past couple of weeks. I think this is the first time I've completely missed posting about new releases since I started this blog over four years ago. Oops. Anyway, you can listen to me chat about last week's openings with my old Xtreme Disorder cohort Brian Black on last week's Josh Bell Hates Everything podcast; this week is so lacking in worthwhile releases that instead I devoted the podcast with Tony Macklin just to talking about the Oscars (it's missing the last 10 minutes, but I hope will be fixed ASAP).

Opening this week:

Fired Up (Nicholas D'Agosto, Eric Christian Olsen, Sarah Roemer, dir. Will Gluck)
Coraline aside, this year so far has been so dismal in terms of movie quality that I can't bother getting all, er, fired up about this forgettable and pointless movie. It doesn't have anything going for it, but it's short and efficient and I believe nearly made me laugh at one point (although I can't remember why). D'Agosto and Olsen give terrible performances, delivering every line, whether it's a joke or a heartfelt speech, with the same bored insincerity, and as has been noted elsewhere, D'Agosto and Olsen are just absurdly old (28 and 31, respectively) to be playing high-schoolers. It is indeed like the filmmakers aren't even trying, which sadly sums up most of 2009 so far. Wide release

From last week:

Confessions of a Shopaholic (Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, Krysten Ritter, dir. P.J. Hogan)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
For a short time at the beginning, this movie almost had me on its side. Fisher is really charismatic and fun to watch, and as I've said many times, I like movies that bother to take seriously things that are traditionally considered frivolous. But this movie eventually drowns in its own hypocrisy, with no idea whether to be a smart cautionary tale or a frothy escapist comedy. Plus, it wastes a killer supporting cast. Still, I expect to see big things from Fisher, especially if she can find a vehicle worthy of her talents. Wide release

Friday the 13th (Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Amanda Righetti, dir. Marcus Nispel)
As others have pointed out, the original Friday the 13th isn't even all that good; it's completely overshadowed by the other two movies in the holy trinity of the slasher genre, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween, both of which are scarier, with more interesting characters and better writing, and made by genuine auteurs who went on to define an entire generation of horror filmmaking. This remake/reboot/re-whatever doesn't actually follow the first film's template anyway - it dispenses with the plot about Jason's mother killing camp counselors during the opening credits, and then plods through a generic rehash of Jason himself hacking up a bunch of interchangeable, frequently nude young people. There's no motivation or reason behind any of it, and Nispel gives it the same music-video look he brought to his Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. It's a bunch of cheap jump moments and gratuitous breast flashes, with nothing there to hold your interest. Even the original was better. Wide release

The International (Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Brian F. O'Byrne, dir. Tom Tykwer)
If nothing else, the overhead shots in this movie look wonderful, and the much-praised shootout at the Guggenheim (for which the filmmakers built a whole replica of its rotunda) is every bit as impressive as you've heard. Take that out and put it in, say, a James Bond movie, and you'd really have something. Unfortunately, the story surrounding it is dull and full of cardboard characters, and surprisingly slow-paced for something by the director of Run Lola Run (then again, I remember being completely bored by his Lola follow-up, The Princess and the Warrior). Maybe more suprising is how conventional it is, given Tykwer's penchant for artiness and experimentation (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer may have been a mess, but it was an audacious mess). I would strongly argue for Naomi Watts as the greatest actress currently working in English-language films, but even she can't make her useless character interesting. The movie's ending, with a sort of hollow non-victory, doesn't make an insightful comment on the futility of challenging entrenched institutions; instead it just makes the preceding two hours feel like even more of a waste of time. Wide release

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