Movies in Theaters January 20, 2012
Now 2012 is really cooking! We're almost out of the cinematic wasteland that is January (which, actually, hasn't been so bad this year) with several high-profile releases that look like they might provide a decent amount of entertainment this weekend, for better (Haywire) or worse (Underworld: Awakening). Besides Steven Soderbergh's low-budget, big-star action flick and Kate Beckinsale's third return to the vampire/lycan well, this weekend also brings us a leftover Oscar contender (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) and what's supposedly producer George Lucas' final "blockbuster" (Red Tails). Dig in.
Steven Soderbergh recently announced that he was done with making "serious films" -- apparently, the two-part Che did him in and now he just wants to make "enjoyable movies." Watching a bunch of A-list Hollywood stars battle a rampaging virus in last fall's Contagion certainly had an element of "fun" to it, but the slam-bang Haywire looks to be the real audience-pleaser. As he did with porn queen Sasha Grey in The Girlfriend Experience, Soderbergh has once again put the spotlight on a non-actor -- in this case, MMA champion Gina Carano, who plays a lethal government operative who's seemingly been betrayed by everyone on the planet; her only option is to punch, kick and shoot her way through Soderbergh's now-trademark impressive celebrity lineup, including Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas and Michael Douglas. Casting Carano in this role is pretty fool-proof, as it means fu**-all whether she can actually "act" or not; Lem Dobbs wrote the screenplay, so expect another lean, mean, cool and stylish genre pic like The Limey before it.
Kate, honey, just face it: you're getting older, and no amount of Underworld sequels is going to stop that. Not much to say about this one other than if you liked the other Underworld movies, you'll probably like this one, as it pretty much looks exactly the same as the other ones, from the now-outdated CG-assisted feats of acrobatic derring-do to that ultra-cool pale-blue filter to that stoic, never-ending "I'm sexy because I'm emotionless" look on Beckinsale's face. This one has something to do with really big werewolves ("lycans," sorry) and a "hybrid child" who can probably somehow either destroy the universe or save it or whatever the hell it is that's at stake in these movies, all set to the soothing sounds of yet another now-outdated hard rock/electronica soundtrack. Ya know, if we stop going to see Underworld movies, maybe there will be no more Underworld movies -- something to ponder along with wondering how Stephen Rea was convinced to appear in this one.
It's a brave new marketing world we live in when a film that stars Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock isn't advertised with their movie star mugs but rather with an extreme close-up of some kid wearing a stocking hat and covering the entire bottom half of his face with his hands. What the hell are we supposed to feel from that image? What the hell are the makers of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close trying to sell with that? What the hell does it all mean? This film, based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, is already something of a hard sell as it deals with a personal 9/11 tragedy and a precocious kid (Thomas Horn) romping around New York City as he tries to piece together a mystery left behind by his late father (no, this isn't Hugo -- that one was set in Paris); we'll have to see if the shamelessly heartstrings-tugging trailer is enough for people to actually go and sit in a dark movie theater and be miserable for two-plus hours. Early word says Horn is alternately excellent and enraging, depending on what mood you're in; as he carries the entire film, this will make for either an engaging or intolerable movie experience. Good luck.
Just as Steven Soderbergh recently reported that he's done with "serious films," so too has George Lucas announced that he's done with "blockbusters" -- if that is indeed true, his swan song (as a producer, anyway) is this period action film that showcases the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African American flying aces that were suddenly called into service after being kept mostly on the ground during World War II -- and ended up kicking all sorts of Nazi ass. Red Tails looks almost embarrassing in its earnestness, but it also seems to have a heart the size of Texas, which can certainly go a long way in helping you get through even the slickest and most manipulative Hollywood epic -- and come out loving it. Anyway, it's been a while since Cuba Gooding Jr. last grimaced with patriotic fervor, so why not come fly away? Meanwhile, we'll be watching you, George -- if nothing else, we have a feeling you're not quite done tinkering around with your damn Star Wars movies just yet.