A little bit of a respite this week. Plenty of opportunity to catch up on the riches of the last two weekends.
Frankenweenie marks Tim Burton’s first stop-motion animation film since 2005’s Corpse Bride and isn’t the first time this tale of pet resurrection has been told. The original 1984 B&W live-action version, starring Daniel Stern and Shelley Duvall, is available as an extra on The Nightmare Before Christmas DVD and used to get regular Disney Channel play. It’s a fun little film and shows clear signs of the imagination that would define future Burton films like Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood. Returning to these roots is a welcome move, especially after his so-so recent films, many of whose computer-generated effects stifle Burton’s distinctly hand-made wonders. Whether or not 3D will add anything remains to be seen.
Liam Neeson: Action Hero is back with a new chapter in the (now) franchise that launched him into the Stallone-o-sphere. Taken 2 (or Retaken?) finds his Bryan “Very Particular Set of Skills” Mills traveling to Istanbul with his wife (Famke Janssen) and daughter (“Lost”‘s Maggie Grace), only to be…taken by the father (Snatch‘s Rade Serbedzija) of the man who kidnapped his daughter the first go-round. Taken was a straightforward, pleasant action surprise, and based on the trailer, Neeson hasn’t lost his ability to speak clear and precisely under duress. Hard to imagine a sequel being as fresh as the original, but there are exceptions (The Bourne Supremacy). Still, Oliver Megaton (Transporter 3, Columbiana) is no Paul Greengrass.
Pitch Perfect is the kind of film that many will dismiss on its trailer alone. That’s fine. Anna Kendrick belting out “No Diggity” isn’t for everyone, but for those like me who still watch “Glee,” that’s a decent hook. (Will all the readers who were just alienated please stand up?) The preview unfortunately seems to give away much of this standard plot of a female a capella group taking on their college’s male equivalent. But if you’re going to see a blatant crowd-pleaser, shouldn’t it be chocked with fun songs?
Fleeing the Scene
After weeks of defying the odds (though whose odds, I’m not exactly sure), Sleepwalk With Me ends its impressive run. Imposter is out after a week, while Searching for Sugar Man holds strong at the Carolina. Dredd is also gone come Friday, a fact that makes my colleague Chris Dortch over at the Mise en Scenesters a little glum.
It’s surely no coincidence that Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows hits the home viewing front the same week as Frankenweenie heads to theaters. Elsewhere, there’s the forgettable but inoffensive drama about cults (and by no means a “cult film”) Sound of My Voice. Then there are three impressively-cast features that received next to zero buzz, none of which I’ve seen. The hippie culture-clash comedy Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding; the “I never knew I had a sister” dramedy People Like Us; and Red Lights, which sports one of the year’s most appealing ensembles (Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Olsen, Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Toby Jones, and Submarine’s Craig Roberts), but didn’t play locally and had middling critical response. Still might be worth a look.
On Netflix Instant
While they’re not films, both of Judd Apatow’s criminally under-appreciated (by the studios) TV series, “Freaks and Geeks” and “Undeclared,” make their Instant debuts. Unlike Sound of My Voice, these shows have legitimate cult followings and served as the launching pad for James Franco, Jason Segel, and Seth Rogen. Tragedy upon tragedy, neither show made it through a full season, a fact that becomes increasingly baffling the farther you get through each work.
New pickings are fairly slim. There’s The Tall Man, a Jessica Biel horror film that was on The Carolina’s “Coming Soon” page about a month ago but wasn’t booked. The film’s speedy leap to streaming makes the theater’s “no thanks” look pretty brilliant. Feel free to skip that and catch up on Scandinavian fare from the past two weeks. I’ll be catching up with Shotgun Stories, the debut from Take Shelter writer/director Jeff Nichols. He and star Michael Shannon wowed me in their second collaboration and I look forward to seeing where it all began.