Movies in Theaters on Friday, December 09, 2011
This weekend's cinematic offerings include an impressive lineup of heavyweight British thespians playing spy games (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), an unofficial spin on an '80s favorite, Adventures in Babysitting (The Sitter), the (hopefully) triumphant return of the Juno team of writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman (Young Adult) and the latest candidate for Most Depressing Movie of 2011 (We Need to Talk About Kevin). Which will you be attending?
John le Carre's celebrated espionage novel gets the feature film treatment with an A-list cast of heavyweight dramatic actors, led by Gary Oldman as an aging spy brought out of semi-retirement to help identify a Soviet agent within the ranks of MI6. Don't expect any kind of James Bond or Jason Bourne kind of action here; this is a "thinking man's thriller," with Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Toby Jones, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ciaran Hinds (who seems to really dig this genre lately, having appeared in The Debt earlier this year) on hand to show off all that classical thespian training. Oldman's going to be amazing, of course (and his colleagues won't be too shabby, either), but the real star of the show is going to be director Tomas Alfredson, making his English language debut after turning the vampire genre on its head with his astonishing Swedish horror film, Let the Right One In -- if Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has even half the dramatic tension and visual beauty of its predecessor, it's a shoo-in for any and all year-end Top Ten Best lists.
From the director of George Washington comes another heartfelt Southern drama in which‚ heh heh, no, that David Gordon Green is long gone. Now that he's realized that there's really no fame or fortune to be had with being "the next Terrence Malick," there is only the David Gordon Green who makes goofy stoner comedies like Pineapple Express and Your Highness. The Sitter is his latest, an unofficial Adventures in Babysitting remake in which Jonah Hill plays a slacker ne'er-do-well who ends up taking a babysitting job and chaos/wackiness ensues. There's something oddly desperate about opening a (red band) trailer with a scene in which a young woman compliments Hill on his cunnilingus skills -- what crude sexual prowess has to do with a guy who become the dubious guardian of a handful of wards is unknown, but apparently it's going to get some asses in the seats. Even though the whole "raunchy comedy" thing is getting a little old, it can still get by if there's a sense of wit and intelligence lurking around the filth -- the jury's out on whether The Sitter has this redeeming element (though it doesn't look too likely).
The Juno super-team of writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman are back with this tale of Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), a fiction writer, recent divorcee and eternal "psychotic prom queen bitch" who returns to her hometown in Minnesota with the hopes that she'll rekindle her romance with an ex-boyfriend (Patrick Wilson)‚ who is now married with children. Cody's got a lot on the line here after the sophomore slump that was Jennifer's Body, though having her Juno pal Reitman back to call the shots (following his sublime work on another character piece, Up in the Air) should make for an entertaining (and probably quotable) piece of pop culture fluff. It's interesting casting Charlize Theron in the role of a woman who never really matured past high school, as the stunning actress has seemingly barely aged a day since her 1996 debut, Two Days in the Valley.
It's not awards season unless there's at least one almost paralyzingly depressing film released every weekend, you know. Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly play the parents of a troubled teenager (Ezra Miller, who recently appeared in another dark family drama, Another Happy Day) whose increasing malevolence has finally boiled over with a brutal high school shooting; the focus is mostly on poor Mom as she struggles with the fact that she has a psycho for a son and tries to come to terms with her own sense of guilt and failure as a parent. Swinton continues her reign as one of the most effective yet humorless actresses working today, and it's good to see Reilly doing this kind of challenging material again after his brief stint as one of Will Ferrell's minions. The make-or-break performance, though, will be Miller's -- whether We Need to Talk About Kevin is the powerful drama it's selling itself as or an unintentionally goofy variation on The Omen depends on how finely tuned he's in touch with this difficult subject matter. This is director Lynne Ramsay's first film since 2002's Morvern Callar (that was pretty depressing, too).