Where the Wild Things Are: I wonder if there’s ever been a purported family movie whose grosses wound up driven not just in part, a la Pixar, but primarily by discerning twenty- and thirtysomethings. I’m sensing that might be the case for the much-hyped (and beautifully trailered) Spike Jonze version of Where the Wild Things Are—especially if that opening weekend fails to crack fifteen million. I say this not out of derision but because pretty much everyone in my peer group is dying to see this movie. I don’t even know what to say about it; I just want to see it now, although I can more or less guarantee disappointment: either the movie won’t live up to my expectations, or it will and therefore the rest of the movie year will seem like a comedown.
New York, I Love You: Fun fact: I am going to Paris the week after this sorta-sequel to the short-film anthology Paris, je t’aime comes out. I’m hoping I can pull some kind of exchange-student reversal thing; I saw Paris in New York at the Paris theater, so hopefully I can see New York in Paris at the New York theater (note: the latter may not exist). I hope they didn’t mess this up, by the way; most of Paris was delightful, and obviously I find New York delightful or I wouldn’t spend the money to live here, but it doesn’t look like they’ve done right by our city with this new collection. The earlier film had contributions from the Coen Brothers, Alexander Payne, Alfonso Cuaron, Tom Tykwer, Gus Van Sant and Wes Craven, among others. This one has Brett Ratner and a bunch of starlets directing for the first time (well, at least Natalie Portman; Scarlett Johansson’s segment was cut) plus second-tier middlebrow-arthouse faves like Shekhar Kapur and Mira Nair. No Scorsese, no Woody Allen, no Spike Lee. Still, I’m a sucker for the limitations of the anthology format, and eager to see a movie where characters probably won’t drive from, say, Chelsea to SoHo by way of Times Square, or something.
Law Abiding Citizen: Yeah, I’m a little surprised that this movie exists, or rather that it exists with Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler, who may not be money in the bank, but who have both appeared in hit movies earlier this decade, and as such wouldn’t seem likely to be gunning for an urban vigilante thriller. This thing does have B-movie bona fides; it’s directed by F. Gary Gray, who did OK meat-and-potatoes work on the likes of The Negotiator and The Italian Job, and written by Kurt Wimmer, who made the pretty cool sci-fi action movie Equilibrium (as well as the absolutely terrible beyond my comprehension sci-fi action movie Ultraviolet [Quick story: In college a bunch of us went up to Riverdale to hang out with a friend who went to Manhattan College. We were a bunch of NYU kids experiencing Real College for the first and only time; it was fun. The winter Olympics were watched; a drinking game called “Kill Your Liver” was played with people from down the hall. We went out for bagels the next morning, leaving our friend behind in bed. “[Friend], you want anything to eat?” “I don’t think I can keep any food down right now. Can you just get me… a Snapple?” We come back, wake him up, hand him the Snapple. He places its cool, cool surface against his forehead, and falls back asleep. We’re watching Flavor of Love on the TV in his room. Commercials. The preview for Ultraviolet comes on. Our friend, still lying on his back in his bed with a Snapple against his forehead to salve his hangover, announces: “I’m tired of movies where the government creates somebody… and then fights them.” Back to sleep. And that is my review of Ultraviolet. -Ed]. Butler seems to have a nose for mediocrity, though, and nothing says mediocre like movies about moralizing murderers (they killed his wife and/or his family and/or his wife’s family and/or his family of wives); at least Saw pretty much admits to being grimy trash (Roman numeral six, coming next week!). What I’m saying is that it’s not impossible for Law Abiding Citizen to be good, but I’d be surprised. [Sorry about that, Jesse, I would have put that story in the comments but I'm going to be en route to Niagara Falls as this post goes live. -Ed.]
The Stepfather: The original Stepfather starred Locke from Lost as a creepy replacement dad; the new version stars some dude from Gossip Girl as the wary son, and no one at all from Lost appears in it anywhere, as far as I can tell. This is the kind of deadly-dull horror junk that usually makes money almost because of its mediocrity rather than in spite of it. Seriously, I saw Paranormal Activity last weekend, and it was genuinely scary, but the theater was also full of Times Square douchebags more interested (at least initially) in murmuring and giggling and yelling out their own lame jump scares than, you know, actually watching a scary movie. I think this is why the Scary Movie franchise has outgrossed most actual horror film series: the main audience for horror movies doesn’t actually want to watch horror movies. They barely want to watch movies at all; they just want some dumb shit compatible with them yelling even dumber shit. So: enjoy The Stepfather, assorted idiots.
Black Dynamite: I didn’t know you had it in you, Spawn: pre-revival superhero Michael Jai White co-wrote and stars in this low-budge send-up of low-budge blaxploitation pictures, and it’s a lot of fun. Just don’t take too much stock from film writers (or the filmmakers) saying it’s really just as much homage/tribute as spoof, or that it works on its own action-B-movie terms as well as a comedy. I mean, obviously there is some affectionate homage to the genre here, but the movie is plenty silly; maybe not Zucker-Abrams-Zucker silly, but closer to the ZAZ spoofs than to the more tongue-in-cheek-but-legitimately-awesome Robert Rodriguez neo-grindhouse style. All the better; this is the most entertaining spoof in I don’t know how long.