Movies in Theaters on Friday, November 11, 2011
This weekend, Clint Eastwood brings us a "safe" biopic about very dangerous man (J. Edgar); Lars Von Trier shows us the film that led to his infamous Hitler comments at Cannes (Melancholia); Tarsem Singh delivers pretty pictures and narrative chaos in the form of a Greek myth (Immortals); and Darren Lynn Bousman goes for an Omen 666-style marketing gimmick with his latest piece of theatrical horror (11-11-11). Which will shelter you from the cold November rain?
This writer is particularly biased when it comes to Leonardo DiCaprio -- he can really do no wrong. However, the story of one of the most powerful men in the history of the United States government -- a man wrecked with paranoia, self-loathing and "deviant" appetites that could ruin his career if the public knew about them (or if they were at least officially confirmed) -- is deserving of a more rabble-rousing approach than that of the efficient yet often too understated Clint Eastwood. J. Edgar will be well-made and well-acted, as is usually the case with every Eastwood film, but it will probably leave us wondering what a troublemaker like Oliver Stone (or at least a '90s-era Stone) could've done with such potentially explosive material. Leo's trademark passionate and immersive performance will provide some much-needed sparks to Eastwood's (probably overly) fair and cautious biopic about a man deserving of something much more challenging and confrontational -- you know the movie itself is kind of boring when people just start commenting on the quality of the aging makeup.
Lars Von Trier returns with a dark fable exploring the uneasy relationship between sisters Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) as -- get this -- a planet that's been hiding behind the sun now threatens to collide with ours. Von Trier returns to one of his favorite set pieces -- a wedding -- as the backdrop for this unflinching examination of the frailty of not only our emotions but our very physical environment; it's the end of the world as Von Trier knows it, which means it will be unlike any other portrait of the apocalypse ever created. Say what you will about Von Trier -- the man knows how to draw attention to himself, whether it be through his work or his off-set antics (by now you know that whole persona non grata/Hitler nonsense that happened at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival) and, love 'em or hate 'em, his films are compelling, one-of-a-kind experiences, and Melancholia looks to be another challenging, maddening and ultimately enthralling experience. Word hath it that Kirsten Dunst hits it out of the park, though it's a very rare thing when a Von Trier leading lady doesn't.
Can we now issue a cease and desist on battle scenes in which warriors run toward each other in normal speed and then suddenly go into slow motion when they leap into the air and then it switches to slightly faster speed when their weapons make contact? The technique was cool in the first half-hour of 300 but was tedious by the closing credits, so really, it was old even before it became a filmmaking fad. Director Tarsem Singh is nothing if not an impressive visual artist, but he's often too influenced by trends started by someone else -- and that are really no longer relevant. Do we really want to see a movie about Greek gods fighting and screaming at each other in all-CG environments, especially after Clash of the Titans was so intolerably awful? Tarsem showed a few clips from Immortals at this year's San Diego Comic Con to a lukewarm audience that tried to hide the fact that they're a little over these kinds of movies; Kellan Lutz's claim that he plays "the god of wetness and moisture" got a much more enthusiastic response, at least from the female side of the house.
The trailer for director Darren Lynn Bousman's return to horror doesn't make much sense, but when a character says something like, "With belief in God comes belief in the Devil" with such conviction (and then a bunch of demons show up), we'll go along for the ride. Bousman's dark carnival approach to the genre served him well as ringmaster of Saw II, III and IV; as long as he doesn't go overboard like he did with the head-scratching Repo! The Genetic Opera (and has gotten over the whole MTV hyper-editing style thing), then 11-11-11 could be the funhouse that establishes him as a true "horror filmmaker" and not just the guy who was hired to keep a franchise going. Hey, at least this is an original piece and not another reboot/remake/sequel/whatever -- just that novelty alone is almost enough for any horror film to earn at least a "C" grade even before it's ever been screened.