Movies in Theaters on Friday, September 16, 2011
Superman Returns couple James Marsden and Kate Bosworth reunite for this sweaty Southern gothic drama about the un-emasculation of a Hollywood screenwriter who moves with his trophy wife back to her Dixie hometown, where they're promptly terrorized by her hunky thug of an ex (Alexander Skarsgard) and his gang of pool-playing, roof-fixing rednecks. Sam Peckinpah's original Straw Dogs was a harrowing yarn about a meek pacifist driven to almost psychotic levels of bloody retribution when men invade his home (and wife) -- this remake, if anything, seems to not "re-imagine" but "un-imagine" the premise (and presentation), trading the original film's character nuance and psychological subtext for cheap revenge thrills more akin to the exploitation of Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left. Chalk this one up as yet another unnecessary remake; it's also creepy and tacky how director Rod Lurie seems to put the viewer into the mind of the villains by constantly presenting Bosworth as sweaty, pouty and scantily clad, as if daring us to wonder if (and perhaps hope that) she'll be naked in the inevitable rape scene. Ugh.
Early buzz says Drive is, like, the greatest movie ever made, so we certainly have higher hopes than usual for this thriller starring Ryan Gosling as a Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver for real-life crimes. Things get complicated when he runs afoul of a crime boss (Albert Brooks, looking creepy as all get-out) and gets involved with his cutie neighbor (Carey Mulligan), whose no-good husband is just getting out of the slammer. We have a feeling this is the movie that will send Gosling to the moon and beyond -- in every clip and trailer, he looks almost as cool as the Ford Mustang we drives around in, and every bit the full-throttle movie star. So far, director Nicolas Winding Refn has made "interesting" movies (Bronson, Valhalla Rising) but none that really soar -- Drive will be the proud vehicle that takes him to the next level. And we'll be right there in the passenger seat.
Director Gus Van Sant's latest oddity chronicles the romance between a terminally ill cutie (Mia Wasikowska) and a weirdo who likes to attend funerals (Henry Hopper) whose best friend is the ghost of a WWII kamikaze pilot (Ryo Kase) that only he can see or hear. No, we didn't just make that up, though we're definitely imagining the rollicking late night of drinking during which the bizarro premise must've been conjured. Hey, Gus Van Sant could vomit on the sidewalk and exclaim "Hey, look at this!" and we'd probably at least nod and "appreciate" it-- he'll try everything and anything without fear or apology, and Restless looks like another one of his take-it-or-leave-it experiments that sometimes soar to the highest heights (Last Days) or crash and burn to the stinking watery depths (that Psycho remake thingee). Unfortunately, the film looks a bit too "quirky" (a red flag term for indie movies) for its own good, as well as just a tad too sentimental -- it seems like it wants to be on the same shelf as Harold and Maude but, quite frankly, they don't need the company.