Proving true to his word, Schwarzenegger returns to the screen, but the competition is more fierce than a Tyra Banks reality show.
Prioritizing politics over acting for nearly a decade, The Last Stand marks Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first leading role since 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. In what intends to be an explosion-filled return to form, Arnold plays a sheriff on the U.S./Mexico border who leads his ragtag staff against a merciless drug kingpin. Directed by South Korea’s Jee-woon Kim, making his Hollywood debut after the splattertastic I Saw the Devil, the film has received surprisingly positive buzz, the specifics of which have been smothered by its strict press embargo. With more films on the way, including re-teaming with his Expendables 2 costar Sylvester Stallone on September’s The Tomb, The Last Stand should be a strong indicator of whether or not Schwarzenegger can still carry an action film. I’m hopeful that he can.
In Broken City, Russell Crowe plays a crooked New York City mayor who hires a disgraced former cop (Mark Wahlberg) to spy on his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones). What follows is a mix of double-crosses and revenge, playing out under the direction of Allen Hughes, working without brother Albert for the first time. The cast (which also includes Jeffrey Wright, Barry Pepper, and Kyle Chandler) looks great, and though I haven’t necessarily loved the Hughes Brothers films, the likes of From Hell and Book of Eli are undeniably ambitious works. This one could be a lot of fun.
In the past two years, Jessica Chastain has faced down everything from the Jim Crow South to the apocalypse to Osama bin Laden. Now she takes on the supernatural in Mama, director Andres Muschietti’s feature-length expansion of his short film that caught the eye of eventual producer Guillermo del Toro. Chastain and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Headhunters) play a married couple who open their home to their nieces, two young girls who’ve lived all their lives alone in a cabin the woods. (No, not that one.) It’s an understatement that the wild children have difficulty adjusting to domesticity, but the mysterious entity they call “Mama” who follows them into the house brings difficulties for everyone. The trailer suggests some legitimate potential for scares, which, if intentional, is always a welcome film quality. For that possibility, I might be looking forward to this one more than the other newbies.
Powder up the wigs and get ready for A Royal Affair, one of five films nominated for this year’s Best Foreign Language Oscar. The Danish drama centers on a young queen (Anna Karenina‘s Alicia Vikander) forced into a political marriage with the insane King Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard). Miserable in her high-class existence, she finds romance with the King’s confidante (Mads Mikkelsen a.k.a. the guy with tears of blood in Casino Royale)…without the King’s knowledge. Sophisticated drama ensues. Considering last year’s Best Foreign Language noms, which included such gems as A Separation, Footnote, and Monsieur Lazhar, there’s a good chance this year’s selections will be of similar high caliber. Odds are also good that I’ll have a review up on Friday.
Fleeing the Scene
Apparently all the environmental groups saw Promised Land on opening night, as it’s out after a mere two weeks. No big shakes with Texas Chainsaw heading out, but I’ll throw a parade for This Is 40 leaving town, and after co-chair Justin Souther departs that one, he’ll head up a separate one for Parental Guidance‘s exit.
Woody Allen’s excellent To Rome With Love is the undisputed champion of the week. The matter is certainly up for debate, but when the other contenders are Taken 2, The Possession, and Won’t Back Down, I don’t know if that’s an conversation you really want to have.
On Netflix Instant
After a New Year’s bounty that really was too good to be true, there’s not much to speak of this week. I’ve heard excellent things about the documentary 5 Broken Cameras, in which a Palestinian farmer chronicles his village’s non-violent resistance to encroaching Israeli forces, displaying commendable resilience despite the titular equipment damage. Otherwise, if you’re brave there’s Death Race 3: Inferno (hello Danny Trejo!), Zombies vs. Strippers, and something called Goobers!, which wields its exclamation mark like a John Wayne classic.
All of us at Orbit are pretty excited about THE LAST STAND. Korea is producing the best films right now and with TALE OF TWO SISTERS, I SAW THE DEVIL and GOOD BAD & THE WEIRD, Kim is one of the most creative directors working today.
Park Chan-wook’s STOKER and Bong Joon-ho’s SNOWPIERCER will be out this year as well. I’m also interested to see what Spike Lee does with OLDBOY.