A fairly mainstream slate of new films this week, plus an artsy documentary to liven things up.
When was the last time Tyler Perry starred in a film that didn’t have his name precede the title? Isn’t such a stipulation in his contract? Oh well. In an unexpected turn, Madea takes over for Morgan Freeman as the titular homicide detective in Alex Cross, the latest adaptation of the wildly popular books by James Patterson. The third time around, Cross faces off against a serial killer (Matthew Fox) who targets Cross’ family. Both prior Cross films, Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider, were solid action/suspense pieces and this one could very well carry on tradition. The supporting cast is promising (Giancarlo Esposito, Edward Burns, Cicely Tyson, and Jean Reno), but the most intriguing player is Fox as the baddie. The guy has a history of scene-stealing turns (he was by far the best thing in Speed Racer), but he also could do nothing for Vantage Point, and it had an even stronger cast than this one. Rob Cohen (The Fast & the Furious, xXx) directs.
I had a chance to see Beauty is Embarrassing earlier this year at Full Frame, but didn’t get to it until now. The documentary profiles artist Wayne White, one of the creators of “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse,” whose creations continue to inspire. The film has rightfully been compared to Terry Zwigoff’s Crumb, so if artist docs appeal to you, head to the Carolina this week as it’s not likely to last past next Thursday.
Out of all the modern horror series, the Paranormal Activity saga is quite possibly the most frustrating. The original film was a neat experiment and a Blair Witch-like indie success story, but its inevitable sequels have been anything but fresh. The third installment was led by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, the team behind Catfish, but lacked the manipulation and intrigue that made their prior work so fun. Joost and Schulman are back, as is the oft-possessed Katie (Katie Featherston) and her son, whose presence in a new town causes problems for their neighbors. Here’s hoping that the filmmakers took some constructive criticism to heart after their foray into horror and will have some real surprises this time.
Fleeing the Scene
Few new titles means everything stays this week, though Arbitrage and Atlas Shrugged: Part II are likely in their final week.
Moonrise Kingdom, currently in the top spot on my Best of 2012 list, is now ready for home viewing. There’s also Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted; the year’s live-action Sandler/Samberg pairing, That’s My Boy; the found-footage bad-vacation-idea horror flick Chernobyl Diaries; and the faux politically neutral 2016: Obama’s America.
On Netflix Instant
Most exciting is Chico & Rita, a decidedly more adult animated feature than the average Pixar or Dreamworks fare. The film was a Best Animated Feature Oscar nominee this past year and is now in the top spot on my Watch Instant queue.
The Ambassador, which I just reviewed for DVD Snapshot, is a daring gonzo journalism documentary with slightly more at stake than a Sacha Baron Cohen work. Speaking of Cohen, his Bruno makes its Netflix Instant debut, along with Hotel Rwanda. There’s also the option of preparing oneself for the 4th Paranormal Activity installment by catching up with the third. (The second is also available.)
Other new films include Freelancers, which stars such heavyweights as Forest Whitaker, Robert DeNiro, and, um, 50 Cent. Parker Posey plays wacky, which she does quite well, this time as a lifestyle guru in The Love Guide. Most interesting of all, however, could be Sexual Chronicles of a French Family, which culls thoughts from three generations after a young son is caught in a compromising position in Biology class.