Movies in Theaters on Friday, October 28, 2011
This Halloween weekend is devoid of horror but heavy on dark comedy (The Rum Diary), sexy sci-fi (In Time), existential romance (Like Crazy) and revisionist historical thrills (Anonymous). Will any be enough to keep you from the weekend's tricks and treats?
Based on an early novel by Hunter S. Thompson (written in the early '60s but unpublished until 1998), The Rum Diary follows freelance journalist Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) as he tries to save himself from various self-destructive lost souls (including, of course, himself) while working for a newspaper in the Caribbean -- a Caribbean, however, where Captain Jack Sparrow is certainly nowhere to be found. Get ready for another mind-bending melding of Depp/Thompson, their second collaboration after director Terry Gilliam's 1998 surrealist odyssey, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Bruce Robinson is in the director's chair for this cinematic bender -- The Rum Diary marks his first directorial gig since 1992's ho-hum thriller, Jennifer Eight (that's the one with a blind Uma Thurman and a stressed-out Andy Garcia), but we know the man behind both Withnail and I (a mischievous portrait of two drunk out-of-work theatre people) and How to Get Ahead in Advertising (which features Robinson himself as the voice of a talking boil on Richard E. Grant's shoulder) can pull off this kind of gonzo material.
A cast that includes Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Matt Bomer, Alex Pettyfer and Olivia Wilde? Finally, science fiction is sexy again! This slick-looking silliness takes place in a future where the aging gene has been turned off and people stop getting old at 25 (it's Hollywood's idea of utopia!). However, stamped on everyone's arm is a clock that shows how long they will live -- to keep the population under control, time has become the way people pay for luxuries and necessities; the rich can live forever while everyone else tries to score extra "years." Timberlake plays a poor guy who's accused of murder after he inherits a whole bunch of years from a mysterious rich dude (Bomer); soon, he's on the run from a police force known as the "Time Keepers" and a middle-aged mafia known as the "Minutemen." Writer-director Andrew Niccol made a modern sci-fi classic with Gattaca, but that was back in 1997 -- since then, he's stumbled a bit with the pointless show business satire, S1m0ne, and the so-so tale of an arms dealer, Lord of War. In Time probably won't be the film with which he reclaims his position as a sci-fi visionary to be reckoned with, but it sure does look pretty.
The romance between an American (Anton Yelchin, looking relieved that he doesn't have to play a total jerkoff like he did in Fright Night) and a British foreign exchange student (Felicity Jones, looking, well, quite lovely) suddenly becomes complicated post-graduation by long-distance challenges when her expired Visa sends her back to England -- and unable to return to the States. They struggle to keep their passion alive, despite the miles and distractions -- namely, Jennifer Lawrence for him and Charlie Bewley for her. It's the sheer sincerity of Like Crazy that's going to make it‚ well, go the distance -- the film looks unapologetically, un-self-consciously emotional, unafraid to dig into the guilt and confusion that comes when passion fades when‚ well, let's just say that the term "Out of sight, out of mind" doesn't exist for nothing. Like Crazy is definitely one from the heart and, because of that, one that is probably going to be very difficult to watch.
"What Shakespeare a fraud?" Apparently, no one cares, as this period political/literary thriller was once scheduled for a large-scale opening of Shakespeare in Love proportions but was scaled back to an extremely limited release after it tested poorly. Anonymous is based on somewhat popular fringe theories that suggest the works of the Bard were written by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, who is portrayed here as a literary prodigy as well as the Queen's -- stay with us, now -- illegitimate child, lover, and father of her child (hey, if you wanna write, you gotta live). The repressed, creatively frustrated dramatist finally scores a venue through a playbroker just as revolutionaries challenge the monarchy; the actual William Shakespeare is a murdering commoner who becomes de Vere's unlikely frontman. This epic fussiness is directed by Roland Emmerich, destroying literary history instead of the planet itself this time around, though this melodrama looks to be just as over-the-top (and absurd) as 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow.