Movies in Theaters March 9th, 2012
This weekend brings us Disney's $200 million tale of some dude named John Carter; the American remake of the Spanish-language "real-time" horror thriller, Silent House; pushing-40 hipsters trying to fit in with their Friends with Kids; and Nicolas Cage making a Faustian bargain that doesn't involve his head bursting into flames in Seeking Justice.
The phrase "It's so crazy, it just might work" was never more appropriately applicable to any movie more than John Carter. Disney's blockbuster adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars looks like it might somehow manage to be both an overblown train wreck made by lunatics and a rousing and satisfying sci-fi adventure tale, complete polar opposites forever locked in battle like the two opposing Martian forces of the film. The working title was John Carter of Mars, but Disney must not think that mentioning the red planet will sell tickets (huh?); as-is, we have a generically titled genre film based on somewhat obscure source material (one with a loyal fanbase, to be sure) with no super-stars, a weirdo plot (a Civil War soldier is somehow transported to you-know-where and gets involved in that planet's own civil war) and a $200 million (probably more) price tag -- this thing might sell a ton of tickets based on audience curiosity/confusion alone. There are definitely talented people involved, with WALL-E director Andrew Stanton making his live-action feature debut and a cast that includes Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Dominic West and Bryan Cranston.
Ah, we were wondering whatever happened to Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, the filmmaking duo that made a splash in 2003 with their Blair Witch-style shark tale with real sharks, Open Water. They're back with another gimmicky horror tale, as Silent House follows a young woman's haunted house ordeal in one single uninterrupted shot, creating a sense of "real-time terror." The hook is definitely enough to make this worth checking out, at least to try to see where all of the hidden cuts are (there's no way they could've filmed this all in just one take, is there?), but what will probably transcend the gimmick and make this a story worth telling no matter what unique filmmaking techniques were utilized is the lead performance of Elizabeth Olsen, who's following up her astonishing performance in last year's unsettling thriller, Martha Marcy May Marlene. Olsen's the real deal (in fact, her celebrity twin sisters have just announced their retirement from acting, probably since their younger sister is a billion times better than they ever were or could ever hope to be), and she'll probably upstage the camera and choreography at every turn (or pan, rather). This is a remake of the 2010 Spanish language thriller, La casa muda, which was also shot in one take.
A companion piece of sorts to last year's Bridesmaids (if only for the handful of overlapping cast members and similar fear of impending middle age), Friends with Kids stars Jennifer Westfeldt and Adam Scott as two BFFs who decide to have a kid together whilst keeping their relationship platonic, since having a baby seems to have taken the spark out of their married friends' lives; things become complicated (ya think?) when they try to juggle new romantic relationships (her with Edward Burns, him with Megan Fox) with being parents. Okay. . .? Westfeldt also wrote and directed, and probably played some friendship cards to get Kristin Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Jon Hamm to come in for supporting roles; hopefully there are some laughs and, in true Judd Apatow-ish fashion, Smart Insights About Life in General to be mined from such an oddly cynical and sort of depressing premise, even though the film seems to be taking place on some bizarro planet where someone who looks like Megan Fox is both conveniently single and ready to meet-cute in that most overused (and misused) of NYC locations, Central Park. By the way, does anyone else think the poster looks a lot like the one for Beautiful Girls, the pretty terrific 1996 drama about 30-somethings in romantic existential crisis?
Hey, at this point, what's any month in any given year without a new Nicolas Cage movie? Being millions of dollars in debt costs money, so Cage has become Hollywood's go-to workaholic, pretty much accepting any gig that comes his way. We enjoyed the B-movie silliness of February's Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, but Seeking Justice looks like it will require its star to do more than just brood, scream and cackle maniacally (though he doesn't have to have his head burst into flames in this one). Cage plays a regular kinda joe (as much as he's able) whose wife (January Jones) is brutally attacked by a bunch of thugs; seething with grief and rage in the hospital waiting room makes him an easy target for a mysterious stranger (Guy Pearce) who offers him a chance to put the wrong things right -- for a price. While there's little chance that Seeking Justice will end up being a great movie, it's highly likely that it'll be better than most of the other stuff Cage does to pay the bills; Pearce will also provide some class (and a shaved head) in a rare villain role as Jones continues her streak of being hooked up with older men (following X-Men: First Class and Unknown).