Now this is more like it. We’ve got a practically summer-ish number of releases today, a good spread of genre, some genuine star power, and Clint Eastwood talking to actual people as opposed to furniture. That’s a good weekend at the movies right there.
Unfortunately for Clint, Trouble with the Curve is as the bottom of my list this week. Not that I think it looks terrible, it just doesn’t look very exciting either. One thing that sounded some warning bells for me is that it’s the directorial debut of Robert Lorenz, a long-time assistant director and — more significantly — producer on five of Eastwood’s directorial efforts. Which gives the impression that this is Eastwood doing a buddy a favor. Not a bad thing in and of itself, but it makes me wonder how much thought Clint put into this before he said yes. This seems like the kind of role Eastwood could do in his sleep, and has on occasion, trading in more on his persona than on the actual character. But, with his recent notoriety, this’ll probably do decent business, even if it won’t make people forget his conversation with a chair.
While The Hunger Games wasn’t exactly my piece of cake, Jennifer Lawrence at least made it bearable, both by being easy on the eyes and by being pretty good in her role. And I have to give her credit for stretching herself creatively. She burst onto the scene in a drama, did a high-profile comic book movie, a huge best-seller adaptation, and now she’s giving horror a try with House at the End of the Street. So at the very least, she”ll be watchable. But beyond coming to grips with 80s crush Elisabeth Shue being old enough to have a daughter Lawrence’s age, not much else about this film is grabbing me. It seems like your standard “There’s something spooky about this house!” movie, and director Mark Tonderai doesn’t have a track record that shows he’s going to bring anything new to the table. Sorry, Jennifer, but I did Hunger Games for you, that should be enough.
End of Watch seems stuck in this weird limbo of wanting to convince you it’s nothing like Training Day and reminding you that it’s kind of like Training Day. It’s got the same writer, and it’s got cops in morally grey areas, it just doesn’t have Denzel Washington. That said, it’s currently pulling down an 85% Fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes. I know that’s not the be-all end-all of film evaluation, but that number is miles above what I thought it would be, and supported by good reviews from the really reputable national critics. The cop drama seems to have been mostly relegated to TV these days, so maybe End of Watch can give the genre a cinematic shot in the arm.
Meanwhile, Dredd 3D looks to be offering shots in the arm, leg, torso, and plenty of other body parts. It immediately became a marked improvement over Sylvester Stallone’s previous attempt to bring the character to the screen by not including Rob Schneider, so everything else about this film is just gravy after that. There’s still that nagging similarity between its premise and the one for The Raid: Redemption, with both centering on characters fighting their way up a tall building to get to the bad guy at the top. But they appear to be coming at it from different angles, with The Raid going for a more gritty, realistic approach and Dredd channeling the comic’s bombastic, satiric style. It remains to be see if Karl Urban’s got the leading man chops — and the jaw — to pull off the title character, but it’ll undoubtedly be more fun than watching Sly give it a try was.
But the big swinger this week is the expanding release of Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. I have to admit that Anderson’s last film, There Will Be Blood, was a film I more admired than enjoyed. It’s a monumental achievement, but it’s got a certain — admittedly deliberate — distance to it that keeps me from really warming up to it the way I did its main competition that year, the Coens’ No Country for Old Men. Really, my favorite PTA film remains one of his earliest, Boogie Nights, but there’s no denying the guy is a prodigious talent, both as a writer and a director. So The Master is a pretty big deal. Throw in the always solid Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix’s major return to acting and this is a must-see. Even if millions of Doctor Who fans are going to walk out sorely disappointed.