Nothing says Valentine’s Day like a Bruce Willis/Michael Haneke/Nicholas Sparks mashup.
Bruce Willis is back as John McClane in the fifth Die Hard installment, A Good Day to Die Hard. This time, the cop who can’t be stopped brings his magnet for trouble to Russia, where he teams with his CIA agent son Jack (Jai Courtney, Jack Reacher) to try and halt a nuclear weapons heist. Radivoje Bukvic (Taken) plays the villain with the reliable Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) in a supporting role. I’ve enjoyed each film in the franchise a good deal, including 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard for its commitment to old school explosions and stunts. Trailers for the latest suggest a continuation of that approach, and with John Moore, director of the underrated, heavily stylized Behind Enemy Lines behind the camera, an afternoon of quality action appears in order.
Michael Haneke and I don’t get along, and I’m OK with that. The Austrian director is revered by critics and art house audiences worldwide for his stark cinematic vision, one almost completely lost on me. I’ve given six of his films a shot, convinced that I must be missing something, yet each time I emerge feeling some combination of boredom, frustration, and depression. The same holds for his latest, the 2012 Palme d’Or winner Amour, in which an elderly Parisian couple (Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant) struggle with their deteriorating minds and bodies. Nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, the film desperately wants to be adored for its bravery and direction, but make no mistake: it’s little more than 2+ hours of professional grade agony. Look for my review on Friday.
For fans of paranormal romance, there’s Beautiful Creatures, based on the best-selling young adult novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. One of several 2013 hopefuls poised to lure fans of the Twilight saga, the film pairs witch Lena (Alice Englert) with human Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) while Lena’s supernatural peers (including Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons, and Emmy Rossum) attempt to unleash an ancient power into the world. Writer/director Richard LaGravenese has adapted numerous works, including The Horse Whisperer and Water For Elephants, and his latest project seems like an easy hit. If the receipts add up, and they almost surely will, a sequel (the series has four books so far) won’t be far away.
New in animation is Escape from Planet Earth, about the tag-team alien Supernova brothers, Scorch (voiced by Brendan Fraser) and Gary (Rob Corddry). When brawny hero Scorch is captured on the titular blue planet, Gary must emerge from his behind-the-scenes tech role and come to the rescue. Though the trailer’s jokes fall flat and the graphics look fairly dopey, the vocal talent (including Ricky Gervais, Sophia Vergara, Sarah Jessica Parker, and William Shatner) is strong and kids are sure to love it.
Lasse Hallstrom’s love affair with Nicholas Sparks is one of modern cinema’s great mysteries. The man behind such quality films as The Cider House Rules, Chocolat, and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape apparently didn’t ingest enough soap with 2010’s dreadful Dear John, so he’s back for a second dose with Safe Haven. Set in Southport, NC, this latest melancholy romance centers on Katie (Julianne Hough, Rock of Ages), who runs from her troubled past and into the arms of widower Alex (Josh Duhamel). As with other Sparks adaptations, bets will be taken at the theater door on which character will die first. Note: tissues are not included with the price of admission.
Fleeing the Scene
Skyfall, Sam Mendes’ marvelous take on James Bond, is the most appealing disc, though don’t overlook the quiet charms of the soft sci-fi/buddy comedy/heist flick Robot & Frank. Also highly regarded, the social awareness documentary Bully examines the plight of today’s picked-on children, and while the overrated Perks of Being a Wallflower similarly tries to lift up a close-knit group of outsiders, it ignorantly wallows in adolescent cinema clichés instead.
An Oscar frontrunner until audiences actually saw the damn thing, The Sessions may now inflict its boredom and graphic nudity on America’s living rooms. Bringing up the rear are horror sequel Silent Hill 2: Revelations and RZA’s The Man with the Iron Fists, which in many ways could be interpreted as a horror sequel to the Kill Bill movies.
On Netflix Instant
Nothing new this week, but among those set to expire over the next few days are John Krasinski’s adaptation of David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush, and Richard Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles.