On The Screen (1.30.09)
Tuesdays are all about new DVDs, and Fridays are all about what's opening in theaters. Except, this time of year, that's not always true. I find that I sit out a lot of January and February as far as feeling like I have to see everything. The studios have always been so blatant about using January as a month to dump films.
But does that mean there's nothing worth seeing? Well, let's look at what you can expect to see opening in a theater near you...
I'll have a review of this one up soon, but suffice it to say this is the one film opening this week I can wholeheartedly recommend to you. If Luc Besson had directed Paul Schrader's "Hardcore," it would look a lot like this.
And that's a good thing.
I find it amazing, frankly, that we're still seeing Asian horror remakes trickle out into release, but at this point, I think that's the last thing the studios want you to think about. They're not selling this as a remake at all. What's strange is that there actually is a Korean horror film called "The Uninvited," but this is not a remake of that one. The original was called "A Tale Of Two Sisters," and it was a little more cerebral and surreal than your average post-"Ringu" ghost story, a head game that paid off in a series of twists, not just one. The director of the original, Ji-woon Kim, has moved on to even more amazing work like "A Bittersweet Life" and last year's outstanding "The Good, The Bad & The Weird," but here we are with the inevitable remake of the film that launched his international career.
The cast is solid. Elizabeth Banks really hasn't played this sort of thing before, and Emily Browning (who I swear to god was like ten years old in "Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events" no more than ten minutes ago) has become unspeakably cute. Arielle Kebbel co-stars as her sister, the two of them united against their new stepmother (Banks) after Browning returns home from a stint in a mental hospital. The real problem is that much of what the original used to build suspense has been so thoroughly imitated that I don't know if there's really room for audiences to still be surprised by the material.
Guess we'll see on Monday, eh?
[More after the jump.]
"New In Town"
Why does Hollywood dislike the rest of America so much? The premise of this might make more sense if you were sending Renee Zellweger someplace truly foreign, like Iceland or Norway, but Minnesota is not some exotic foreign land, and moving there for business is not a death warrant. Maybe it's just me, but I look at the trailer for this, and it just smacks of exactly the attitude that people accuse Hollywood of having, an elitist belief that anyone who isn't on one of the coasts is a rube and an eccentric and just plain hilarious by definition. The plot sounds like "Gung Ho" recycled, and I'll be shocked if people want to watch a comedy about the recession right now.
This film about the movie-going culture of the Phillipines played Cannes last summer to mixed reaction, but I'm intrigued by the sound of it. Basically, it's an experiential look at life in and around The Family Theater, one of the few movie palaces in the area. I've heard it described as raw and unpleasant and uncompromised in terms of capturing the reality of life in the Phillipines right now. This is only in limited release, but for anyone who's a fan of "Cinema Paradiso" or "Goodbye Dragon Inn" or "Reel Paradise," this might be worth hunting down.
"Blessed Is The Match: The Life and Death Of Hannah Senesh" (limited)
Hannah Senesh was a Hungarian Jew, born into a life of relative luxury, who made a name for herself as a poet in the days leading up to World War II. As she watched what was happening across Europe, though, she became politicized, as did her writing, until finally she joined the British military and volunteered for a mission that had her parachute into Czechoslovakia to try and rescue Jews there. She paid with her life, and now Roberta Grossman has paid tribute to her with this documentary that Ed Gonzalez of Slant says "is remarkable for bringing a little-known story of one woman's great courage and conviction to our attention but is most notable for director Roberta Grossman's dully strenuous cinematic sense."
"The Class" (expands)
Finally today, Laurent Cantet's lively and fascinating look at the life of one particular French public school over the course of a year is rolling out wider, and I hope people take a chance on it. It's the antidote to years of pandering crap like "Mr. Holland's Opus" and "Dangerous Minds," a film in which the teacher is just as human and fallible as the kids. Francois Begaudeau stars here, and the film is based on his factual account of a year he spent teaching. Many of the kids in the film are the actual kids he taught. Yet, this isn't a documentary, and Cantet finds small subtle ways to illuminate, resisting the urge for easy drama at every turn. I don't think this is a masterwork, and I'm not falling over myself to hyperbolize about it, but I saw it three months ago, and it's still quite vivid when I think about it. There's something genuine and alive about the picture, and it's worth seeking out if you're in one of the markets where it opens wider today.
You guys have a great one, and keep checking in this weekend for more Sundance reviews and other goodies.