Movies in Theaters on Friday, September 9, 2011
The fall movie season has officially begun with two rather "grown-up" films: Steven Soderbergh's sprawling portrait of a rampant deadly virus, Contagion, and Gavin O'Connor's punchy Irish family drama set in the world of mixed martial arts, Warrior. Summer still seems to be holding on a little bit, though, as we've also got yet another raunchy R-rated comedy looking to snag the Hangover and Horrible Bosses crowd, Bucky Larson: Born To Be a Star. Which will get your more "serious" money?
Famous movie stars get pale, red-eyed and sweaty in director Steven Soderbergh's companion piece to Traffic, another ensemble examination of several characters from radically different walks of life all linked by a global crisis. Instead of the dangerous underworld of narcotics, the sticky web here is an almost supernaturally infectious super-virus that spreads like wildfire and brings rampant fear and panic in its wake. Contagion sports an all-star cast to die for; Gwyneth Paltrow buys it pretty early on as one of the first carriers of the bug (her death isn't so much a spoiler as it is one of the highlights of the trailer, 'cause that's just how Soderbergh rolls), with Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard and Jude Law all just trying to stay alive and make sense of a world that's suddenly running an extremely high fever. Expect this to be Soderbergh at his best, which means it will probably end up being one of the year's best films (and certainly one of the most frightening).
Director Gavin O'Connor is responsible for one of the greatest sports movies ever made: Miracle, the true-life story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team and their completely unexpected (and well-deserved) victory over the seemingly invincible Russians. Miracle (and, more recently, O'Connor's crime drama, Pride and Glory) was nothing if not passionate and, rather admirably, completely and unapologetically earnest in its depiction of underdogs going up against impossible odds and goddamn winning. Expect the same kind of rousing treatment with Warrior, a punchy Irish melodrama that chronicles the plight of two brothers -- one a haunted ex-Marine (Tom Hardy), the other a struggling school teacher trying to make ends meet -- and the circumstances that lead to them taking on one another in a mixed martial arts tournament. If you don't cry, cheer and exclaim "Yes!" at least once during this thing, then you must hate life and movies and sports and the Irish and everything in-between.
We didn't think we would see a trailer worse than Adam Sandler's Jack and Jill this year but, lo and behold, along comes the one for something called Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star. It should come as no surprise that Sandler produced this loathsome-looking "comedy" about a buck-toothed hayseed (Nick Swardson, who was quite funny in this summer's 30 Minutes or Less) who discovers his parents were porn stars, inspiring him to leave his Midwestern farm and head to Hollywood to continue their legacy. The premise is tacky enough as it is, but the follow-thru looks to be even more offensive -- and mind-numbingly devoid of laughs. Some decent actors got conned into appearing in this crap, including Stephen Dorff, Christina Ricci and Edward Herrmann, though only Don Johnson looks like he may be able to salvage some of this mess as a has-been smut director. When is someone going to tell Adam Sandler and his idiot posse that "funny" voices and "funny" facial prosthetics simply aren't goddamn funny?