Movie studios all over Hollywood breathed a sigh of relief this morning as the world didn’t end, meaning they didn’t sink all that money into these upcoming releases for nothing. We’re in for a real onslaught over the next few days, with five wide releases today, and three more plus one expansion on Christmas Day (which will get its own very special What I’d Watch next week). The films opening today aren’t exactly cannon fodder, but the fact that they’ve wedged themselves between The Hobbit and the Christmas one-two punch of Django Unchained and Les Misérables tells me their respective studios knew their best chance to make money was to stay as out of the way as possible. Even so, none of them look likely to knock Bilbo and company out of the top spot this weekend.
The big name behind Cirque Du Soleil: Worlds Away, aside from the titular troupe, has been producer James Cameron. Pretty much any 3D extravaganza that comes along these days tries to place itself in Avatar‘s shadow, even if the only thing they have in common is making you wear plastic glasses, and invoking Cameron’s name in the credits is a pretty good way of doing that. The film was actually directed by Andrew Adamson, director of the first two Shrek films and the first two Narnia films, which I guess means he’ll bow out after the second film if this becomes a trilogy. This is opening on less than 900 screens, all of them 3D. That’s the big selling point and, probably, its sole reason for existing. That and its eventual place as a staple during PBS pledge drives.
The Guilt Trip actually opened on Wednesday, not that you’d be blamed for not noticing. Even with Barbara Streisand on board, it feels like this came out of nowhere. Which is pretty much where Streisand’s acting career has been of late, trapped in Focker hell with the Meet the Parents sequels. Everything about this film screams throwback to me, and not in a good way. It feels like something we would have seen Billy Crystal and Shirley MacLaine in back in the late 80s/early 90s, a big, broad disposable comedy that wants us to be so tickled by the very concept and casting that it doesn’t think it has to work all that hard on anything else. I feel bad for Seth Rogen; he deserves better.
I’m not as big a Judd Apatow fan as some are. Freaks and Geeks is awesome, I liked The Forty-Year Old Virgin just fine, I never saw Funny People, and Knocked Up just didn’t wow me. It opted for a sort of fairy tale ending when something more realistic would have been much more appropriate, and the married couple played by Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann really rubbed me the wrong way. So when those characters got their own sort-of sequel, I was less than enthused about it. Early reviews have been pretty scathing, so much so that I passed on a chance to see this for free last night. They’ve called it long and meandering, which sounds like a director whose success has led to him being surrounded by people who won’t tell him no anymore.
Rock of Ages (and he was one of the few good things in that mess), and now he’s launching what he hopes will be a successful action franchise with Jack Reacher, based on the books by Lee Child. You’d think John Carter and Alex Cross would have taught some lessons about ambiguously naming films after their lead characters, but here we are. I don’t know much about the novels on which the film is based, and I’ve heard some grumblings that Cruise doesn’t really get the character. But from the trailers, it does seem like it’s playing on his public persona of being somewhat of an arrogant jerk sometimes, and you can’t really say Cruise has ever phoned it in when it comes to a role. This is Cruise’s first big role since his separation from Katie Holmes, so it’ll be interesting to see what the reaction is.
I’m kind of torn about Monsters, Inc. 3D. On the one hand, I’m really not a big fan of 3D re-releases. If the film was good enough the first time around to make a 3D re-release viable, why shove it into a different format? On the other, it’s good to see the film get some love. I think that, along with A Bug’s Life, it’s sort of become one of the “forgotten” Pixar films, one everybody loved when it first came out, but now regularly gets ranked near the bottom of the canon. Not that that’s a huge slight when it comes to Pixar, but Monsters deserves some love on the strength of that amazing door factory chase alone. But really, this release isn’t so much about celebrating Monsters, Inc. as it is about reminding people that Monsters University is coming next year. Still, I’d rather see this again than almost anything else coming out this week.
Of course, the film I really want to see is opening on all of eight screens. For a while, it looked like Lincoln had pretty much closed the door on the Best Picture and Best Director races, but over the last few weeks, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty has been absolutely cleaning up with the critics’ awards, so much so that many now see it as the front-runner. It’s a far cry from the underdog campaign that took The Hurt Locker to Oscar gold, and given the controversy over the depiction of torture in the film, this one certainly isn’t sneaking up on anybody. Well, once it’s playing on more than eight screens, that is.
And after all that, it’s likely I’m going to see The Hobbit again this weekend. I’ve seen it twice, once in IMAX 3D, once in 3D at the 48fps frame rate, but now I just want to watch it as a movie rather than an “experience.” I wasn’t all that wowed by the higher frame rate. I didn’t have any of the issues some have had with it, but it didn’t really feel all that revelatory after the first few minutes. I got absorbed in the movie and didn’t really pay attention to how sharp the image was. Besides, 3D makes the image so dark, and there’s so much color here, I really want an unadulterated viewing. And I just really like the film. Not the head over heels I felt for The Fellowship of the Ring, but damn close. Seems like a good way to kick of the long holiday weekend with a little present to myself.