Movies in Theaters April 20th, 2012
This (rather strange) weekend brings us a look inside the ring (and cage) of mixed martial arts (Fightville), an on- and off-stage jam session with Bob Marley (Marley), a teenage vampire tale that the director promises is more "punk" than Twilight (The Moth Diaries) and another round of the ever-exhausting battle of the sexes (Think Like a Man).
"We Build Better Men." And then those men get pummeled to a pulp! Rather odd tagline aside, Fightville looks like quite the rousing look inside the world of mixed martial arts as it concentrates on a group of young men training for the various hardcore cage matches and other dangerous sparring sessions that come with the territory. Fightville aims to capture MMA's "pure essence of combat" as its participants wrestle with (and, ideally, expel) their inner demons, seeking catharsis through their fists (and being on the receiving end of another's); indeed, most of these guys consider this violent sport to be the key to their emotional, mental and spiritual redemption. As for us, the audience, the first voiceover in the trailer claims that "There's something about beating another man into submission that the world is attracted to," which is somewhat sad, but most definitely true; yell "Help!" and no one shows, yell "Fight!" and they come runnin'.
The man many consider to be the physical manifestation of reggae music itself, Robert Nesta Marley was a Jamaican singer-songwriter best known for being the rhythm guitarist, lead singer and seemingly tireless frontman of Bob Marley & the Wailers, a band that played ska, rocksteady and reggae music from 1963 until Marley's death in 1981. Kevin MacDonald's documentary, which premiered earlier this year at the Berlin Film Festival, takes a candid look at the life and times of this celebrated (and mysterious) musician via interviews with the people who were closest to him; you also, of course, get some rare concert footage that will no doubt feature the Wailers performing some of their biggest hits, including "I Shot the Sheriff," "No Woman, No Cry" and, of course, "Jammin'." Actually, at 144 minutes, this doc, like some of the Wailers' performances, might be jammin' for too long, but the chance to experience the first truly in-depth look at one of the 20th century's most enigmatic artists is probably worth an extended instrumental bridge or two. Marley was a hard one coming -- Martin Scorsese was attached to the project in 2008 but left due to scheduling conflicts and was replaced by Jonathan Demme, who brought the production to a standstill in the summer of 2009 as he clashed with producer Steve Bing during editing. Stir it up!
Mary Harron, the director of I Shot Andy Warhol, American Psycho and The Notorious Bettie Page (quite the impressive resume, no?), goes back to school with this wicked-looking reverse-take of sorts on Dario Argento's Suspiria in which Rebecca (Sarah Bolger), a boarding school student, becomes suspicious of the "new girl," Ernessa (Lily Cole), who, hmm, could be harboring a dark secret (like maybe she's a VAMPIRE or something). The trailer gives the impression that the film could most definitely be guilty of over-explaining itself in a rather heavy-handed way (the students just so happen to be studying vampire fiction simultaneously with the new girl's arrival -- GET IT?), but the creepy gothic atmosphere and downright delicious-looking imagery (including the ethereal Cole, who was born to play in the supernatural realm) will probably trump the narrative here. "Sex, blood and death," muses the literature teacher played by Underworld's Scott Speedman -- it's probably useless to resist. Based on Rachel Klein's 2002 novel; Harron herself describes it as more "punk" than Twilight, which is a description that fits for most things.
However this adaptation of Steve Harvey's Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man actually turns out, you have to give screenwriters Keith Merryman and David A. Newman credit for taking a somewhat clever approach to what is -- let's face it -- probably completely unfilmable material. The first half of the title is dropped for the movie (as it probably wouldn't fit on the poster that showcases at least nine of the characters) in which a bunch of dudes become bewildered (and increasingly emasculated) by their respective ladyfriends as they start to heed -- and act upon -- the sexual and romantic advice featured in Harvey's book (the book actually exists as a book in this adaptation of the book -- kind of like in The NeverEnding Story, but, you know, different). Ultimately, men and women act like idiots around each other in a world where pulling off a successful relationship means experimenting with alternating levels of submission and tolerance and hoping you get lucky from there -- and, with any luck, some of this nonsense will at least be good for some laughs. Directed by Tim Story, who admittedly seems to be more in his element here than he was with the wretched Fantastic Four movies.