You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover — but films? Well, that’s what trailers are for. I watched the trailers and here’s what I think. Some of these movies I’ll go see, some I won’t. If I do, I’ll post a more complete review (mostly to see if my knee-jerk reactions were correct.) If you see them before I do, tell me what you think!
Albatross (2011, January 13)
This will be a pretty good movie, I think. It is centrally a drama, comedy, romance, and coming-of-age story, and it seems to have an intricate plot. The protagonist Emelia, played by Jessica Brown Findlay, is suffering the ordinary angst of being a teenager: a little rebellious, a little alcohol, a little sexual experimentation. She seems to have issues with father and wants to be a novelist. Notice how simultaneously typical and rich this character is. Also, Julia Ormond, who takes a supporting role, can’t be missed.
Contraband (2011, January 13)
This movie looks like it took a lot of movie to make. Thus, there is almost no storyline. A man, played by the always credible Mark Wahlberg, who was a runner (crime-talk for courier of illegal stuff) is dragged back into the life (“the life” must be said with a sort of overly emotional resonance) when his innocent nephew accidentally botches a run of his own. So, Wahlberg and his band of brothers (a typical group… how much do you want to bet that one of them just happens to be the world’s greatest hacker?) pay off his nephew’s debt by staging the greatest run in history. I really can’t hide my indignation.
Coriolanus (2011, January 13)
Well, of course, it’s going to be a great movie. Whenever Shakespeare is rendered with all the craft of modern film making, it’s great. We often skip these movies because… well, because we are lazy and aren’t really interested in being challenged by movies to think. This is how people can see Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and be really interested by it — because it doesn’t ask us to do anything. We don’t even have to follow the plot line. Coriolanus, of course, will demand more from us and therefore be more rewarding. Most people will skip.
Joyful Noise (2011, January 13)
I have a great deal of respect for Dolly Parton. Her gospel and spiritual music is remarkably sensitive. But, Queen Latifah does nothing for me. Her comedy isn’t funny and her music is largely dilettantish, much like this movie. It is an elaborate music video for a style of music made famous on Glee: you take two desperately dissimilar (but cool in their own right) songs, mash them together, do a little lipsyncing and a little choreography. It’s fun, but it’s stupid.
Newlyweds (2011, January 13)
Looks pretty good. There is an awkward period early in marriage when a couple is trying desperately to figure out what the Hell marriage is all about. Do you really share everything? And we know that a successful marriage is more than just a well-negotiated sharing of space. How do we get there? I don’t have good answers to these questions. Probably, no one does. But, this movie seems like a sensitive and well-intended meditation on those first two years or so. Added complications drive the plot forward, juxtaposing a few marriages side-by-side and few single people with their own chaos. Edward Burns stars and his chill bravado and understatement serve the theme well. Probably not the best movie for a first date or anyone who’s enjoying being single.
The Divide (2011, January 13)
So, the shit hits the fan and the bombs go off. Cities are destroyed and a small group of survivors huddle in a basement. This sort of apocalyptic staging has its advantages and disadvantages. With so many necessarily dramatic situations (they have to lock the door to the basement and keep someone people out) the audience will certainly be rewarded with some intense acting and panicky moments. Mostly, that’s what we want from movies. And the balance between character development and watching them get eat by monsters or burned to death in the incinerator can be perfectly tuned. However, these are all gambles. A few miscalculations can make the entire movie seem forced and ridiculous. I’m afraid that’s what I’m seeing here.