Strange how movies seem to come out of hibernation; after a few weeks of just a handful of releases, NYC has at least seven new movies to choose from this weekend, with another nine or ten joining them over the next few weeks. It may still seem like dump season—at least some of these movies are here for their lack of commercial prospects, in a quarter when even the MacGruber movie is considered too hot for spring (seriously, it got pushed into May! And I want to see it right now! Partially because I kind of can’t believe someone gave Will Forte another shot at writing and starring in a major motion picture!)—but take heed: throughout the last decade, one of my favorite movies of the year would often open in March. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind may have kick-started this trend in 2004, and it was followed by Danny Boyle’s wonderful, underseen Millions in 2005. Then, for three years in a row (Brick in 2006, Zodiac in 2007, and Snow Angels in 2008), my March favorite remained untoppled for the rest of the year. 2009 let me down a little in this regard, but watch out: it just became slightly more likely that The Bounty Hunter will be the best movie of the year. (Just kidding; Noah Baumbach has a new movie coming out, and there’s nothing Armond White can do to stop it!)
Greenberg: I don’t really consider film a writer’s medium, but all of my skepticism over boilerplate criticism emphasizing how it’s all about the screenplay melts, if not away, at least down a little when I think about Noah Baumbach, one of my favorite writers in any medium. He’s a good director, too; Margot at the Wedding is totally underrated and features the best Nicole Kidman performance of the past, I don’t know, let’s say five or six years. Despite the financial and critical indifference afforded Margot, Baumbach was still able to score another of his biggest-star-ever-in-a-Baumbach-movie casting grabs: Ben Stiller, taking a break from Fockering and Night at the Museuming to play a patented Baumbach disagreeable neurotic malcontent (you know, like a Woody Allen character, except disagreeable by design). Stiller can be particularly excellent in other people’s movies (see: Zero Effect; Mystery Men; The Royal Tenenbaums), but I’m a little bummed that Baumbach’s troupe from the Kicking and Screaming/Mr. Jealousy/Highball days haven’t gotten any work out of his newfound resurgence. The presence of Carlos Jacott could’ve made the difference between me seeing Greenberg opening night and me seeing Greenberg at 12:01AM the night before.
The Runaways: Ben Strong’s review makes this movie, riding some questionable Sundance buzz, sound like a lot of fun. Kristen Stewart is the major Twilight alum (no fair counting Anna Kendrick) with the best shot at a real career, and she played the retro-discomfort card well in last year’s Adventureland.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Is this the most punk-rock-lady-friendly weekend at the movies we’re likely to see all year? I haven’t read the Stieg Larsson books and I fear the general awkward compression that comes with turning a big novel into any size of a movie, but but their potential badassery sounds pretty cinematic.
Repo Ment: I guess Jude Law got thrown in movie jail after all seventeen thousand of the movies he made in 2004 underperformed at the ol’ box office, and now he’s trying to bust out via a bunch of genre-type stuff like Sherlock Holmes and this sci-fi movie about a futuristic organ transplant racket. I’ll probably see it because I’ll see just about anything set in the future, but I’m weirded out by the fact that this movie seems to have almost the exact same plot as Repo: The Genetic Opera!, a would-be cult musical from a few years ago made by one of the Saw guys (it’s not great, but hey, it’s a better use of your time than Nine or Chicago). Well, OK, maybe there are some differences, like the lack of singing, a teenage girl locked in her room, and Paris Hilton’s face falling off, but still, two movies in a few years is an awful lot of material based on that (hilarious) organ-repossession bit from Monty Python and the Meaning of Life. It’s too bad about Law, in that many of those aforementioned 2004 movies—I Heart Huckabee’s, Closer, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow are pretty cool, and his performances in Road to Perdition and A.I. are tops. He and Ewan McGregor should form a support group for future U.K.-born actors who have the gall to be good-looking and interesting, and find themselves appearing in a lot of studio junk as punishment.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Another wildly popular book series I haven’t read: the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series of cartoon novels. The trailer for this movie doesn’t make it look particularly distinguished, but I like the idea of a book/movie series that covers awkward middle-school-aged kids, so often lost between adorable moppets and glamorous teenagers. I feel like there hasn’t been a good in-depth examination of the crumminess of being about twelve or thirteen years old since, I don’t know, maybe The Wonder Years?
The Bounty Hunter: A lot of English, Scottish, Irish, and Australian actors are (I guess) forced to cruelly suppress their natural accents and sound a little silly doing it, but rarely what I’d call irritating. There’s something about Gerard Butler, though; he manages to sound like a complete fucking idiot. His version of Americatalk always sounds (and kinda looks) as if he’s chewing on something in the back of his mouth, or working his tongue around some kind of gross American blockage. Butler is in full-on mastication mode in the trailer for The Bounty Hunter, a crude-looking action-romance-comedy that looks thoroughly devoid of laughs, chemistry, or exciting action sequences. Oh, but Butler and Aniston like, punch each other a lot. Hilarious?
Last Night: In between the hard sells of Avatar and Clash of the Titans, we can also buy the trial-size Sam Worthington in this indie about a couple (Worthington and Keira Knightley) spending an evening apart. This is probably bad news for Worthington’s character, because if the past year of marketing has taught us anything, it’s that if we’re not specifically reminded who Sam Worthington is every few months via an expensive fantasy blockbuster, he will disappear into the ether without a trace.