- Oh, wait, what? Crap.
Avatar: Oh snap, Planet Earth! Here comes Jimmy Cameron! He made the most expensive movie ever made three times in a row! The third time he did that, it became the highest-grossing movie ever and won eleven Oscars. For his encore, he stopped making real movies for twelve years and did some documentaries about taking Bill Paxton deep-sea diving. Now it’s 2009, and no one even keeps track of the most expensive movie ever made anymore. Is it Avatar? Maybe! Spider-Man 3? Maybe! Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel? Almost certainly not, but song rights can be expensive! What we do know is that Avatar cost a ton of money; probably not the marketing-inclusive $500 million that was floating around in the media, but a lot, because it’s literally been decades since Cameron made a feature film that wasn’t one of the most expensive of its time.
The Internet meme is that the live-action/motion-capture/3-D/computer-animation hybrid Avatar looks embarrassingly like many fully animated bombs of yore including the recent Delgo and the less recent FernGully: The Last Rainforest. Kinda, but it looks to me more like mother-effing Attack of the Clones, and I do not mean that as an insult as I can watch the last 45 minutes of Attack of the Clones any day of the week. Given the early disdain, the slightly-less-early actual reviews have been quite positive, which kinda makes sense, because Cameron is always pulling stuff off that definitely shouldn’t work (sequels, Schwarzenegger movies, sweeping romances set over a backdrop of historical disasters). My major caveat: it seems like maybe Bill Paxton isn’t in this movie, which is total bullshit unless Cameron is covering for the fact that he accidentally left him at the bottom of the sea on one of their documentary shoots, and even if so, I wants some blue-skinned CGI replica of Paxton that we can call Paxtor, and I want “IN LOVING MEMORY OF BILL PAXTON, WHERE-EVER YOU ARE” front and center in every end-credits for the rest of Cameron’s career.
Nine: Look, I will go see this movie because (a.) Penelope Cruz is awesome, (b.) Marion Cotillard is awesome, (c.) watching awesome actresses sing is even awesomer, and (d.) Nicole Kidman, also awesome and also singing, will to some degree remind me of Moulin Rouge, which is mega-awesome. However: let’s talk about why this movie won’t be good: (a.) Fergie is not awesome, yet (b.) someone will inevitably praise Fergie for acting or singing by saying that she’s surprisingly good. Also, (c.) Rob Marshall, the director, made the movie version of Chicago, which was pretty lame in part because he insisted on coming up with a device/excuse for the musical numbers even though his movie is a goddamned musical, a device which (d.) he’s repeating for this movie, where apparently every big number takes place (e.) on an unadorned sound stage and (f.) inside the lead character’s head which (g.) Marshall actually tries to sell as an innovative solution to the mythical problem audiences have with musicals (that is, they don’t like when people sing and dance for no reason, except in Mamma Mia, Dreamgirls, Moulin Rouge, or Hairspray, all of which included songs integrated into the story and which grossed a combined $450 million or so domestic) rather than a soul-crushingly boring reprisal of the worst thing about Chicago.
Did You Hear About the Morgans?: I’m pretty much OK with the idea of star personas and I don’t care that much about movie star versatility (though I admire it when I see it). Without star personas, we wouldn’t have Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart or a whole bunch of other all-time greats. On those grounds, Hugh Grant shouldn’t particularly bother me, but so help me, there is something off-putting about his particular brand of late-career laziness. The last time I saw him in a movie, the inoffensive and occasionally amusing romantic comedy Music and Lyrics, Grant’s wisecracks were so tossed off that they didn’t, you know, crack; they sounded more like damp thud. It happens in the trailer for Morgans, too: playing Sarah Jessica Parker’s lovelorn/wisecracking/estranged husband, his witticisms just sort of trail off feebly—and that’s in a high-concept rom-com trailer, which is supposed to be a highlight reel of sorts; imagine how wan he must come off in the actual movie. Obviously his little riffs are supposed to seem offhand and blasé, but Grant has taken this technique to new levels of carelessness. He’s stopped seeming particularly sophisticated, caddish, sly, sheepish, or anything else but sleepy. Grant has repeatedly made noises about wanting to quit acting; instead, he reappears every three or four years to do a terrible comedy with whatever rom-com queen he hasn’t covered yet. Here’s a clip-n-save hitlist, Hugh: Reese Witherspoon, Katherine Heigl, Amy Adams, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sherilyn Fenn, Jordana Brewster, Julie Andrews, or just fucking retire and hush up about it.
Crazy Heart: A year after they released The Wrestler and revived Mickey Rourke, Fox Searchlight takes another crack at the grizzled underdog gunning for redemption slash an Oscar. It didn’t actually work for Rourke, who went home Oscarless; Bridges doesn’t have the same sad parallels with his character as Rourke (nor does he need the big career boost that Rourke got); and the likelihood of Crazy Heart itself being as good as The Wrestler seems, from the perfunctory and sentimental-looking trailer, slim. But Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal are almost always watchable, and if this signals Oscar bait beginning to more resembling The Wrestler than, say, Crash or Seabiscuit or The Reader, I’m all for it.
The Young Victoria: Emily Blunt must’ve gotten jealous, watching her Devil Wears Prada costar Anne Hathaway ride a wave of massive critical acclaim playing The Young Jane Austen in Becoming Jane, so… wait, you say nobody saw Becoming Jane? And this isn’t even about a writer, but a boring old queen? Not played by Cate Blanchett? And there aren’t ten Best Actress nominees this year, just ten Best Pictures? Then sorry, no, I have no idea why this movie exists.