- It means “The Road,” you know.
The Road: Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you like people! Because, spoiler alert, there’s not-insubstantial cannibalism in The Road, adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s strangely compelling novel. The movie comes to us courtesy of the Weinstein Company, who display admirable near-equity towards their projects in that they treat almost every single one like something they’re ashamed of: shuffling release dates, cutting and recutting, and finding counterintuitive ways of actually releasing the damn thing. (Exceptions: movies by Quentin Tarantino or Kevin Smith, and anything with the words “Scary” or “Movie” in the title.) If it’s a movie with some kind of mass appeal prime for a one-weekend cash grab, release it in two theaters, or quietly dump it to DVD. If it’s an oppressively bleak but faithful adaptation of a beloved book, mismarket it as a thriller, put together a really ugly poster, and release it wide around Thanksgiving.
I just recently read the book, and fresh in my mind, I have to say that Viggo Mortensen is pretty spot-on casting, and I’m interested to see whether a McCarthy vision more superficially cinematic than No Country for Old Men will translate as well. I’m guessing not, but I’m also guessing this movie deserves better than the ol’ Weinstein shuffle.
The Princess and the Frog: Disney has returned to hand-drawn animation, fairy tales, and princesses with this movie, and although it has the accompanying retro charms, some of the particulars (a black princess! Who isn’t really a princess! And is in fact a hard-working independent lady!) are modern, as is the animation—not in technique so much as its delirious parade of images, which sometimes fly by at a pace disturbingly reminiscent of some of the more manic computer-animated movies. But Princess and the Frog does manage to avoid pop culture references and winking “adult” jokes (the stuff that made the writing-directing team’s Aladdin feel so fresh in 1992), and its artistry shines through near-constantly. It’s the hand-drawn cap we needed to this year of consistently high-quality animation.
Ninja Assassin: Last Thanksgiving, action fans got a heaping helping of Transporter; Crank 2 having already come out this past spring, it’s now a bit of famine for those of us who wouldn’t mind some Stath for the holidays. The next best, or perhaps fifth-best, thing: any movie called Ninja Assassin. I already know I have to see it to find out whether it’s about an assassin who is also a ninja, or an assassin who specializes in killing ninjas, or, wait for it, both. I do admit that it seems entirely possible that this movie could turn out to be one of those B-pictures that has just enough mayhem to compose a reasonably busy and overcut trailer but in fact is filled with a lot of boring, stupid plot (like the Statham/Jet Li team-up War). Killing time until I find out, I’ll keep composing my own Ninja Assassin taglines, such as: PART NINJA. PART ASSASSIN. ALL NINJA! Or: THEY ASSASSINATED THE WRONG NINJA. Or: Or: HE’LL KILL YOU TWICE: ONCE AS A NINJA AND THEN, ON A NON-CONSECUTIVE OCCASION, AS AN ASSASSIN.
Me and Orson Welles: Richard Linklater really went on a tear in the earlier part of this decade; from 2001-2006 he released seven movies, keeping pace with Steven Soderbergh for that same period. If most of Linklater’s weren’t as good as Soderbergh’s, they were all at least worth watching, and for some directors, I’ll take quantity and experimentation over glacially released safety slash quality. Since 2006, though, Soderbergh has put out four more movies, solidifying his position as the most prolific major U.S. filmmaker of the past ten years, while Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles is his first feature since A Scanner Darkly and Fast Food Nation in ’06. This is all just a nerdy stats-and-productivity-centric way of saying that perversely, I’d be more excited about Me and Orson Welles if it was the second or third Linklater movie of the year. It sounds interesting, what with the trying to make a semi-serious actor of Zac Efron, who plays a young actor drawn into the orbit of Orson Welles, but not necessarily worth two-to-three-year wait.
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee: Rebecca Miller, daughter of Arthur, writes and directs another indie about Women in Trouble, here played by Robin Wright. Miller’s Personal Velocity was far from great, but it had greatness in it; she has the rare ability to make movies that are sometimes worth seeing for the writing alone.
Old Dogs: Old Dogs doesn’t just evoke Wild Hogs, one of those massive hits that no one in your peer group has ever seen, through John Travolta, director Walt Becker, and rhyme. It’s also a similar experiment in audience-friendly unhipness: it’s a Disney movie… starring John Travolta and Robin Williams… bumbling through the parenting of some little kids. Truly, this movie could be used as some kind of hipster kryptonite, only it takes things further by jettisoning Martin Lawrence (who presumably has mostly non-baby-boomer fans) and William H. Macy (who has a certain level of indie dignity no matter how many crap Hollywood movies he gets paid for, and also, whatever, good for him, Mamet doesn’t always pay the bills). Cannibalism starts to look pretty cheery, huh?