8 new films? I…am going to be busy this week.
Drive was one of my favorite films from 2011, so the reunion of its star Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn immediately made Only God Forgives one of my most anticipated films of 2013. Gosling plays Julian, a Bangkok drug-smuggler, tasked by his mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) to seek revenge on his brother’s killer. Violent and stylized, this one looks darker than Drive (which was pretty dark itself) and more on the pitch-black level of Refn’s Bronson, if not more so. Count me in.
As a big fan of James Wan’s Insidious, I was already looking forward to his follow-up The Conjuring. Then I saw the first trailer, the ending of which gave me a good jump, and the film shot even higher up my list. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson star as the real-life husband-and-wife team of Lorraine and Ed Warren, whose paranormal investigations have inspired The Amityville Horror and The Haunting in Connecticut. Partially filmed in Wilmington, NC, the film looks at one of the couple’s more disturbing cases, that of a family (led by Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston) whose farmhouse contains a dark presence. Yes, please.
From Israel comes Fill The Void, a potent little drama about love, family, and religion. Following the sudden death of her daughter Esther (Renana Raz), Rivka (Irit Sheleg) suggests that her other daughter, 18-year-old Shira (Hadas Yaron), should marry Esther’s husband Yochay (Yiftach Klein) so that he and his infant son will remain in Tel Aviv instead of accepting a proposal that would take them to Belgium. Full of strong performances and subject matter that cuts deep without being bleak, it’s a powerful work and one that very well could wind up a Best Foreign Language Oscar nominee. I’ll expand a little on these thoughts for Friday, the day the film opens at the Fine Arts Theatre.
After suffering a meltdown, failed playwright Imogene (Kristen Wiig) has nowhere else to go but back home in Girl Most Likely. Returning to New Jersey, she must deal with her oddball brother Ralph (Christopher Fitzgerald) and crazy mother Zelda (Annette Bening), who’s in a relationship with a man claiming to be an ex-CIA operative named George Bush (Matt Dillon). Further complicating things is Lee (Glee‘s Darren Criss), a member of a Backstreet Boys cover band to whom Zelda has rented out Imogene’s old room. All combined, this nuttiness helps get our protagonist back on her feet with (if the trailer is any indication) plenty of laughs along the way. Look for my review on Friday.
Representing the documentary faction this week is Dirty Wars, which follows investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill’s pursuit to uncover the U.S.’s covert military actions. A companion piece to Scahill’s book by the same name (similar to the approach Sebastian Junger took with his book War and his documentary Restrepo, co-directed by the late Tim Hetherington), Rick Rowley’s film goes to remote corners of the world to show the far-reaching consequences of American wars. Look for my review on Friday.
The first adventure of former CIA operatives deemed Retired and Extremely Dangerous, or RED, was mostly fun despite cartoonish direction and a fairly threadbare story. That film made enough of a profit ($90 mil gross/$60 mil budget) to warrant a sequel, and so Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Bruce Willis and his romantic tagalong Mary-Louise Parker are back, this time to track down a stolen nuclear device. Catherine Zeta-Jones, Byung-hun Lee (Storm Shadow from the G.I. Joe movies), and Anthony Hopkins join in on the action/comedy antics under new series director Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest; Fun With Dick and Jane). If it’s as entertaining as the original, it’ll be good enough.
Instead of directing the above sequel, RED director Robert Schwentke stuck with all caps but chose R.I.P.D.(a.k.a. the Rest In Peace Department), in which Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds play undead police officers who keep the living safe from deceased evil forces. Based on the graphic novel by the same name, the film also stars Kevin Bacon, Glee‘s Mike O’Malley, and, also having a busy week, Mary-Louise Parker. Other than the hit-or-miss Reynolds, the cast is intriguing even if the film’s bizarre trailer, scored to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Can’t Hold Us,” doesn’t exactly get my hopes up, so we’ll see how the actual product plays out.
And lastly, with a double bill of his own is Mr. Reynolds who voices the eponymous snail with dreams of racing the Indy 500 in Turbo. Granted the gift of speed after a freak accident, the Little Mollusk Who Could encounters characters voiced by Paul Giamatti, Michael Peña, Samuel L. Jackson, Michelle Rodriguez, Luis Guzmán, Maya Rudolph, and Snoop Dogg, among others, on his way to the famous brickyard track. Directed and co-written by David Soren, who’s had a hand in some of the Madagascar spin-off shorts, the film has received mostly strong reviews (including a 4-star response from The Dissolve‘s Genevieve Koski) and been praised for its blend of silliness and heart. It opens Wednesday at the Carolina in both 2D and 3D, so I will probably have some thoughts ready to share on Friday.
Fleeing the Scene
In the House enjoyed a strong run at the Fine Arts, but leaves to make room for Fill The Void. Helping clear space for new additions at the Carolina is Before Midnight, This Is the End, Love Is All You Need, White House Down, Now You See Me, and Man of Steel.
The impressive go-for-broke gore of Evil Dead may now be witnessed in living rooms across the country. The same goes for the reverential yet corny Jackie Robinson biopic 42 and the Sylvester “I’m Still Here” Stallone action extravaganza Bullet to the Head, the latter of which I have not seen.
On Netflix Instant
The new Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black is getting all sorts of praise from critics and viewers alike, including comedian Patton Oswalt. The dark comedy, about a wealthy New Yorker who gets sent to prison, is based on the memoir by Piper Kerman and developed by Weeds creator Jenji Kohan.
Also available is the surprisingly delightful animated feature A Monster in Paris, which I reviewed for DVD Snapshot, and The Achievers: The Story of Lebowski Fans, a documentary about me…well, ok, it’s about fellow fans of The Big Lebowski who have taken their love for the film to commendable heights. Close enough.