Movies in Theaters on Friday, November 18, 2011
This weekend brings us the story of a beach bum turned cuckold struck with a sudden mid-life crisis; the ever-escalating romantic pratfalls of a vampire and werewolf in love with the same perpetually stoned-looking human; a dysfunctional family getting all emotional, confrontational and accusatory at a wedding; and the unlikely yet eventually unbreakable bond between two completely miserable British misfits. Which will be your pre-Thanksgiving cinematic appetizer?
Director Alexander Payne is back for more dark humor and almost unbearable heartbreak with this tale of a lawyer (George Clooney) who's always been indifferent toward his role as both a husband and a father as he pursued the American dream (in Hawaii, at that) suddenly forced to come to terms with his family when his wife gets into a boating accident that leaves her in a coma. Yes, it's another tale of a middle-aged sorta-jerk whose sudden feelings of guilt inspire him to seek redemption -- however, as this is one starring George Clooney and directed by the guy who did Election, Sideways and About Schmidt, you can bet we're going to be hearing about it all the way through awards season. Clooney, as always, will be aces, but it's starting to get to the point where the fact that he's George Clooney might be working against his film career; he's a good actor, but he might always be a better movie star, and therefore never able to completely lose himself in a role -- or, indeed, in a situation where we're supposed to believe that his wife cheated on him with Matthew Lillard.
Hey, if nothing else (and there might indeed be nothing else), the Twilight movies give a lot of people jobs, and that's good, right? If only they were working on something that was worth working on… Really, what's most frustrating about especially Breaking Dawn is that Stephanie Meyer's novel about a girl getting knocked up by a vampire and the resulting fetus commencing to feed on her from the inside out (or something) is completely and absolutely insane -- it's the type of subversive material that could make for a memorably whacko movie, a cult classic to be watched over and over and endlessly quoted for years to come. Alas, every Twilight film to date has played it safe to the point of rendering itself into a state of complete dramatic and emotional inertia, which means Breaking Dawn - Part 1 will be probably be yet another glitzy, shiny (or is that sparkly?) piece of wasted potential. It's really a shame -- with the right directors given license to just go crazy with this stuff, a new Twilight movie could've been something to look forward to every year.
You know the title is meant to be ironic, right? The real challenge would be to make a movie that took a title like that completely sincerely. Alas, drama is easier when it involves misery, and writer-director Sam Levinson (son of Barry Levinson) serves up a heaping pile of emotional trauma filled with accusations, revelations and other juicy stuff in Another Happy Day, which follows a divorcee (Ellen Barkin) dealing with the various members of her dysfunctional family -- including her domineering mother (Ellen Burstyn), ex-husband (Thomas Haden Church) and his new trophy wife (Demi Moore) -- at the wedding of her oldest son. Meanwhile, her youngest son (Ezra Miller) seems bound and determined to destroy himself with drugs, despite having been to rehab at least four times. And this hits theaters just in time for Thanksgiving! Fortunately, it's the really heavy and depressing material that usually brings out the best in actors, and word hath it that Ellen Barkin sets the screen on fire with her performance, 22 years after setting it on fire with her smoldering sex appeal in Sea of Love.
Hey, speaking of depressing material, here's a British drama that will conjure more than a few grey clouds in your blue sky (don't most of them, though?). However, like with Another Happy Day, it's the acting that's going to shine through, with Peter Mullan (who's now taking the slurring, impossible-to-understand cockney-accented tough guy roles that Ray Winstone used to take) as a volatile, hard-drinking ne'er-do-well who becomes the unlikely guardian angel of a wife (Olivia Colman) who's being emotionally and physically abused by her psycho husband (Eddie Marsan, fast becoming the go-to Brit for creepy character roles). Tyrannosaur is the feature directorial debut of Paddy Considine, who apparently wanted to do more with his film career than just act in stuff like Submarine and The Bourne Ultimatum; he appeared with Colman in Hot Fuzz and with Mullan and Marsan in Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1980. If Another Happy Day is just too cheery and optimistic for you, this ought to balance things out nicely.