I must really not be paying attention anymore. Last week had a film come out that I’d barely heard of until a week or so before its release. This week? There are two films I have flat-out never heard of until I looked at the release calendar today. Complete and utter unknowns. And one of them has Kevin Costner in it. Not that I’m keeping close tabs on Kevin Costner or anything, but you’d think I’d have known about a Kevin Costner movie a little sooner than now.
You might be hearing plenty about Black or White soon though, just not for any reasons that’ll be making Mr. Costner all that happy. The story is about Costner’s character raising his mixed-race granddaughter after her mother dies in childbirth. Then Octavia Spencer, as the child’s grandmother, comes along and demands that the girl go live with her father, who is a drug addict and possibly responsible for Costner’s daughter’s death. So sit back for a sensitive examination of race relations by way of Kramer vs. Kramer! Because of course the father can’t be a good guy who has just as much right to a place in his daughter’s life. That might actually lay some groundwork for some real interesting drama. Nope, he’s got to be a villain so the righteous white guy can protect his granddaughter from him. Okay, maybe I’m being a little harsh. Maybe it’s possible to tell this story in a sensitive way. I just don’t think it’s happening coming from a writer/director with a movie called The Sex Monster on his resume.
The Loft has been waiting an awfully long time for me to ignore it; it was actually shot back in 2011, but then drifted through multiple distributors and release dates until it finally landed here in the dead zone of January. It’s a remake of a Dutch film by Erik Van Looy (who also directed this version) wherein five married men share ownership of a downtown loft for use in their various extra-marital affairs. Everything’s going along swimmingly until a dead woman is found in the loft, which generally puts a damper on pretty much anything, and now everybody suspects everybody else and the rest of the film is spent unraveling the mystery of whose date ended really badly. There’s an odd mix of names here; there’s Karl Urban, James Marsden, Wentworth Miller, those kind of make sense, but then there’s Eric Stonestreet, who’s the last person I’d expect to see in this kind of movie after Modern Family. This isn’t quite a horror film, so my usual litany of “Horror films open” doesn’t strictly apply, but it looks to be a decent thriller, and it’s got a pretty small budget, so it won’t take much for this to be considered a success.
Project Almanac rounds things up simply by virtue of being the one I’ve heard of. And that’s because I got an email invite to a free preview screening last week. And look, it’s another found footage movie, this time dealing with time travel. A group of friends discover plans for a time machine — because they’re really just all over the place if you look carefully enough — decide to build their own, and of course, Things Go Wrong. Because name me a time travel story where everything just turns out all hunky dory and nothing terrible is done to the time stream. We never go into the future and find out that we didn’t devolve into cannibal apes or set up some soul-crushing dystopia. We never go into the past and manage not to kill the one person on whom all of time rests. The Back to the Future movies are probably the happiest time travel films we’ve got, and they still damn near got Doc Brown shot at least twice. I’m getting pretty weary of the whole found footage thing, because it seems like these films inevitably become about how to keep the camera running the whole time in a believable way, which only draws attention to the gimmick. So two pretty predictable genres mashed into one. Can’t wait.
Of course, everybody’s going to be either watching the Super Bowl or seeing American Sniper again, so it’s not like any of these films are going to make a huge impression anyway. Don’t need a time machine to see that.