First off, I’d like to pat myself on the back for a moment, because I actually got the date in the title correct on the first try and didn’t write 1/4/12 out of habit. 2013 is off to a roaring start, at least as far as chronological accuracy goes.
Cinematically, well, that’s a different story. The holiday releases are still casting a pretty big shadow, and you’ve got the NFL playoffs starting this weekend, so the studios have seemingly decided to barely dip their toes in the water as far as new releases go. In fact, most of the interesting action this weekend is among films that had limited openings but are now expanding.
But first, there’s Texas Chainsaw 3D. Note the The and Massacre missing from that title, which leaves us with something that sounds like a new reality series on Discovery Channel; “They’re making Texas even flatter, one stump at a time…” Anyway, this new film is a direct sequel to the 1974 horror classic, jumping through all the usual horror sequel hoops in order to set up pretty much the exact same scenario as the previous film. So we get a girl who is somehow the last surviving member of the original’s cannibalistic family and she goes back to claim her inheritance and blah blah blah. The plot is really nothing more than a gore delivery system, and considering the film briefly flirted with an NC-17 rating, I’d say if that’s your bag, you won’t be disappointed.
The Impossible is the heartwarming story of how a white family managed to come out of the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 better than 230,000 brown people. Okay, to be fair, I haven’t seen it, but plenty of reviews have noted how, in addition to changing the family from Spanish to blandly British, the scale of the disaster as it applied to the natives is pretty much shoved into the background in favor of letting Naomi Watts get some awards attention. Now, I don’t attribute this to anything more sinister than knowing your audience. The sad truth is that people aren’t going to plop down money to watch an Indonesian family struggle for survival, but they will to see Watts and Ewan McGregor do it. So it’s easy to blame the filmmakers for the whitewashing, but really, just look around to see the real reason why.
David Chase has been pretty quiet in the five years since he left everybody hanging with the end of The Sopranos. So it’s a little surprising that he’s ended his silence with what looks for all the world like a less frenetic remake of That Thing You Do. Not Fade Away, Chase’s feature debut, is about a group of friends who form a band in 1960s New Jersey and try to reach the big time. That seems like some fairly mundane subject matter after you’ve watched Tony and the gang for seven years, but it wasn’t necessarily the setting that made The Sopranos so memorable, it was the characters and the writing. This may end up being slight, but I have enough faith in Chase that it will definitely be interesting.
Finally, there’s Promised Land, Gus Van Sant’s first high-profile release since Milk four years ago. This film reunites Van Sant with his Good Will Hunting star Matt Damon, who was originally set to direct the film himself before scheduling conflicts forced him to bow out. Damon was also responsible for the screenplay, along with co-star John Krasinksi, so it seems like they’re trying to channel that Good Will Hunting mojo all around. I’m not sure how compelling a battle over fracking may end up being on the big screen, but it seems to me the film is less about the battle and more about the people who fight it, something for which Damon and Van Sant have shown no small ability in the past. This isn’t going to topple the Bilbo/Django duo at the box office, but it’s easily the most appealing new option this week.
And that’s it for the post-holiday doldrums. Things get back to normal over the next few weeks, with releases rolling out on a much more regular schedule. Doesn’t mean the films will be any better, but at least there’ll be more of them for me to snark about.