The Week in Film: Water + Dirt edition


In Theaters


For many viewers (including this one), 2011’s Take Shelter firmly established Jeff Nichols as one of the most exciting new voices in cinema.  Having recently caught up with his 2007 debut Shotgun Stories, I’m even more keen to see Nichols’ latest film, Mud.  Matthew McConaughey stars as the titular fugitive who’s discovered hanging out on an island by two teenage boys (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland).  The three then form a pact to help Mud reunite with his girlfriend Juniper (Reese Witherspoon) while keeping the likes of Tom (Sam Shepherd) and Galen (Nichols mainstay Michael Shannon) off his trail.  Look for my review on Friday.

The Company You Keep
(Sony Pictures Classics)

Robert Redford has been in a bit of a filmmaking funk since…well…1994’s Quiz Show.  I wasn’t exactly offended by the schmaltz of The Horse Whisperer or The Legend of Bagger Vance, but the preachy Lions for Lambs is Exhibit A in how not to make a topical film and was enough to keep me away from 2010’s The Conspirator.  The Company You Keep, about a former Weather Underground member (Redford) on the run from a reporter (Shia LaBeouf) who’s discovered his identity, seems more promising.  Most of this potential stems from the absurdly rich cast, one so impressive  that almost two posters are needed to fit them all.  Redford has failed to come through with name brands before, but with folks like Brendan Gleeson, Anna Kendrick, and Chris Cooper aboard, there should be at least a few good spots.  Look for my review on Friday.

Pain & Gain
(Paramount Pictures)

Taking an all too brief break from the Transformers franchise, Michael Bay returns to his R-rated action roots with Pain & Gain.  The film stars Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, and Anthony Mackie as a trio of Florida bodybuilders who kidnap and extort a millionaire (Tony Shalhoub).  Ed Harris’ P.I. is then hired to take them out after the Miami police are unable to finish the job.  With the exception of his underrated The Island, Bay typically does best in the more realistic realm and this “True Story,” as the marketing so starkly boasts, may be a step toward pushing the emphasis back toward the “fun” of “dumb fun.”

The Big Wedding

As with The Company You Keep, Justin Zackham’s The Big Wedding sports a big cast of recognizable faces…and could just as easily go right or wrong.  Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton star as a long-divorced couple who fake being married in order to appease the “divorce is a sin” birth mother of their adopted son (Ben Barnes, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian).   Katherine Heigl, Topher Grace, Susan Sarandon, and Amanda Seyfried round out the roster, but what worries me is Robin Williams as the ceremony’s priest.  The last time ol’ Mork donned a white tab collar, we got License to Wed.  The R rating will either help in the adult laugh department or open the floodgates for crude stupidity.  We’ll see.

Fleeing the Scene

If you haven’t made time to see Quartet at the Carolina over the past three months, Thursday night is your last chance.  (It’ll be on DVD in mid-June.)  Surviving nearly as long is Oz the Great and Powerful, which somewhat lived up to its lofty name in terms of box-office draw.  Peacing out after two weeks is the dreadful Scary Movie 5 (or Scary MoVie as the kids say), which is somewhat of a surprise considering its $22.9 million earnings thus far.  (Two points to Asheville for squashing it so quickly.)  Annnnd taking the one-week route is Like Someone in Love, but no surprise there.


A pair of forgotten Awards season titles are the week’s primo choices, they being Gus Van Sant’s fracking drama Promised Land and Juan Antonio Bayona’s Disney/horror tsunami epic The Impossible.  There are also two very different offerings that I saw on the same January afternoon: the star-studded, stylistic Gangster Squad and the laugh-free horror comedy A Haunted House, which has since been surpassed in awfulness by Spring Breakers and Scary Movie 5.

The debut I’ve yet to see but have a feeling I’ll appreciate is Ken Burns’ The Central Park Five, about a group of black and Latino teenagers from Harlem who were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in 1989.  Burns’ style typically inspires a love or hate response and since Baseball, I’ve been consistently in the former camp.

On Netflix Instant

At the top of the heap is Lee Daniels’ criminally underrated The Paperboy.  (I guess Nicole Kidman urinating on Zac Efron’s jellyfish stings is too much for people to handle.)  Farther behind is one of this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Language film, A Royal Affair.  Unknown entities include the Harry Belafonte documentary Sing Your Song and the Gary Marshall-style ensemble adaptation of What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

Two other highly appealing options come from the realm of television.  I’ve heard nothing but good things about the recent Sundance Channel miniseries  Top of the Lake, starring Elizabeth Moss from Mad Men as a New Zealand detective.  There’s also Netflix’s original horror series Hemlock Grove, produced by Eli Roth of Hostel fame, which looks to follow in the footsteps of February’s House of Cards experiment.