Movies in Theaters January 27, 2012
We're just about free from January, but for a month that's usually known for its cinematic wretchedness, it hasn't been half-bad this year. This weekend even looks to have a bona fide winner (The Grey) along with some over-the-top treats for the horror crowd (The Theatre Bizarre and The Wicker Tree), though we doubt anyone will actually care whether Sam Worthington jumps or not (in Man on a Ledge). Check it out.
Ha, remember when Liam Neeson made moves like Kinsey? Yeah, neither do we. The Irish giant has stormed the gates of middle age shooting a gun and packing some fists of fury, along with the occasional gig as an ass-kicking White Guy with Sword (or lightsaber, as it were). In Taken, Neeson punched out everyone in France as he sought to get back his sold-into-sex-slavery daughter; in The Grey, he's a plane crash survivor who punches out Mother Nature herself, causes avalanches with his mighty battle cries and tosses wimpy wolves over cliffs, laughing maniacally and causing the sky to rain blood (hey, he played Zeus once, after all). Okay, maybe we're exaggerating, but only just a little. Neeson can play this kind of role in his sleep at this point, but the real ace card here is Joe Carnahan, who's proved himself to be a lean and mean action director with the still-impressive Narc and even The A-Team (in which Neeson flew helicopters, chomped on cigars and loved it when a plan came together). January's definitely going out with a bang -- and a howl -- with this one.
What's up with Sam Worthington? Shouldn't the hero of Avatar be a huge star by now and not have to do gimmicky studio thrillers like Man on a Ledge? Hey, there are worse ways to pay the rent, but we thought he'd at least have his own superhero franchise by now and not be headlining what looks something like a 21st century updating of Dog Day Afternoon, except the bank robber has now become a suicidal ex-con who's threatening to take a swan dive off a Manhattan roof top -- which actually ends up being a diversion from the diamond heist going on down the street (hey, don't blame us -- the trailer reveals the second act twist as modern-day trailers tend to do). Whether all of the what's-really-going-on in Man on a Ledge ends up being more interesting than tiresome remains to be same, but we don't have very high hopes; it's a shame, too, as the film sports a cast to die for, including Elizabeth Banks as a police psychologist who tries to talk Worthington down, Jamie Bell as Worthington's associate with whom he communicates via earpiece, Edward Burns as a cop with a thick Brooklyn accent and Ed Harris as a‚ well, as the kind of scowling, shady old guy you'd have Ed Harris play.
And boy, is it bizarre! If this horror anthology film is as go-for-broke as its crazy trailer, then genre fans are in for a sick and twisted treat (albeit one that probably doesn't know when to quit, but such lack of restraint -- and sometimes taste -- kind of comes with the territory). It all starts when young Enola Gay (Virginia Newcomb) enters what looks like an old abandoned theatre, where a human puppet that looks a lot like Udo Kier encourages her to take a seat in the otherwise empty house; she watches in both terror and delight as six demented and devilish tales filled with sex, violence and gore unfold before her -- and, as anyone who's seen Creepshow or any other horror anthology film, there's no such thing as an innocent bystander -- or, passive spectator -- in this kind of scenario. Richard Stanley, whose Hardware remains one of the most underrated sci-fi horror films in the history of forever, serves as writer and director on one of the segments; veteran special effects maestro Tom Savini calls the shots on another, which also stars longtime scream queen Debbie Rochon. If you're a horror fan, you'll definitely want a front-row ticket to this show -- if you're not, it's probably best to keep a safe distance of at least 50 miles.
The Man was burnt to a crisp -- but The Tree grows and thrives! Writer-director Robin Hardy must've not been too fond of what Neil LaBute and Nicolas Cage did with their beyond goofy 2006 remake of The Wicker Man, as he's gone and made his own unofficial sequel/companion piece/spiritual whatever to his 1973 cult classic. The trailer is heavy on atmosphere and little on plot, so allow us to fill in the blanks: The poor doomed non-believers this time around are Beth and Steve (Brittania Nicol and Henry Garrett), two "Cowboys for Christ" (which is the name of Hardy's book on which this is based) who leave Texas and head to Scotland to preach the Good Word; it isn't long before they're seemingly welcomed with open arms by the isolated community of Tressock, and‚ well, pagan mayhem ensues. Early word says that Hardy has taken a more satirical than horrific approach this time around, which is probably for the best -- the passage of time (and LaBute's remake) has probably drained the premise of all of its potential creepiness. Anyway, this is one of the last movies we ever thought would be made, so it definitely counts as a curiosity piece (very curious, in fact); Christopher Lee has a cameo as the "Old Man," who we're assuming is supposed to be an elderly Lord Summerisle from the original film.