The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3: OK, I haven’t yet seen the original, which by all accounts is awesome. So whenever I had pictured the older movie and then the newer remake, you’ll forgive me if, in spite of seven years’ worth of NYC subway experience informing me how physically difficult this would be, I pictured a bad guy hijacking a moving train. Which keeps moving. For pretty much the whole movie. You know, like in that movie Homer Simpson called The Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down. Imagine my surprise when I saw the trailer for this latest reteaming of Tony Scott and Denzel Washington and peeped several shots of the hijacked subway car stopped in the middle of a tunnel.I mean, look, I ride the L train, so I understand that everyone would be pretty pissed off at this commute-slowing hostage-taker (played here by John Travolta, presumably in one of his slick-villain cycles). But the Tony Scott I know is not a master of talky hostage negotiation. He is a master of stuff smashing into other stuff that causes all of the stuff to blow up for some reason, and also interesting-looking subtitles. If they’re chilling in a tunnel, how is the camera going to whoosh around them in mid-air? Almost as if in direct answer to my concerns, Scott and Washington recently announced yet another reteaming, also about an out-of-control train, with the far more promising title of Unstoppable, which actually is about a runaway train that will be hurtling along for most of the movie. Seriously. I did not make that up. As excited as I now am for an undetermined date in 2011, my confidence in the Pelham remake is shaken further: how good can this movie be, that its director and star essentially decided to immediately re-remake it with more awesomeness? I quite enjoy the Scott-Washington pairing so maybe this will hit the pulp semi-sweet spot, like their Déjà vu did a few years ago. But this movie does look unavoidably, well, stoppable.
Imagine That: As far as kid-targeted Eddie Murphy schlock goes, Imagine That doesn’t look like the most painful possibility — more like a shin bruise than a paper cut or a sharp stick in the eye. Most objectionable, though, is that it looks like a feature version of every misguided screenplay-by-committee compromise ever made. That is to say: Remember how the Flintstones movie was notorious for having like thirty screenwriters, and the magical, transporting story they come up with to appeal to families everywhere involved a corporate embezzlement plot? Screenwriters have this way of assuming that the only four-quadrant storyline left must involve corporate intrigue, maybe because it’s a good way to slip your script past tone-deaf executives who really do care about corporate intrigue. So in this family comedy, you get a magical tale of fantasy stories that come true… and can be used for corporate success! I understand that this is a handy way to set up a parent-versus-child bonding-versus-opportunism sort of conflict and the movie will pretend to renounce corporate selfishness in the end, but I can’t imagine a child under the age of fifty giving any kind of toss about this story.
Moon: David Bowie’s son directs an indie sci-fi picture with Sam Rockwell as a lonely moon-dwelling astronaut. That’s it. Sold. I’m there. I don’t even want to speculate further out of fear that I will make some ridiculous joke that turns out to be an accidental spoiler (for example: cheese colony!). Sight unseen, I’m thinking this is what you should probably see this weekend. It’s even play at the Landmark Sunshine if you want a bit of astro-symmetry (or to see a sci-fi movie at the nicest art-house in the city).
Tetro: It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out that this movie is not, fact, some version of Megalopolis, the sci-fi picture Francis Ford Coppola has long yearned to make. Turns out, this is a small-scale family drama starring Vincent Gallo. I love the idea of Coppola doing the kind of intimate, inventive, personal movies George Lucas has threatened to make but clearly doesn’t want to, but then, that didn’t really help Youth Without Youth, as intriguingly wacked (and handsome-looking given its budget) as that movie was. Though this is the first screenplay Coppola has penned for himself since The Conversation, it doesn’t sound as if that sort of return to form is in the offing; the trailer makes Tetro look like interesting and deeply earnest, almost old-fashioned melodrama. In other words, it looks and sounds like something idiosyncratic film profs will love. Either way, I doubt it’ll be boring.
Food, Inc.: They tried to make a fiction film out of Fast Food Nation, but no one really took to it [Not entirely true. -Ed.], so it’s back to the well-meaning docu-route for this further-reaching expose of how you should feel really, really bad about pretty much everything you eat, not just the junk. One reason I’m not a huge documentary fan is that I often feel like I’m watching something that would be just as interesting, if not moreso, as subway reading rather than $12.50 watching. That’s the vibe I get from this.