Chloe: Editor Mark’s take on the new Atom Egoyan picture is smart and fair-minded, plus it has one of the best film-review headlines I’ve ever seen. The movie is pitched semi-awkwardly between thoughtful relationship rumination and trashy Penthouse letter, but you probably won’t have a bad time watching it, even if you’re not just ogling Amanda Seyfried and/or all of those sexy, alienating, expensive windowpanes. Actually and strangely given the elder-statespeople status of her costars, Seyfried gives by far the most interesting performance as the hooker hired by Julianne Moore to test Liam Neeson’s fidelity. Neeson feels like an afterthought—I would’ve loved to see Bill Pullman assay this one—and Moore always looks uncomfortable in this sort of domestic role, as if waiting for a P.T. Anderson catharsis that isn’t coming. Maybe she’s unnerved by Seyfried’s gigantic eyes, the center of the most memorable sustained shot of the film. I’m sure there’s a “my eyes are up here, buddy” joke to be made somewhere.
How to Train Your Dragon: The trailers for this family fantasy stress the DreamWorks brand, but the actual writer-directors didn’t work on a single Shrek, Madagascar, or even the more tolerable likes of Kung Fu Panda or Bee Movie. No, Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders last wrote and directed Disney’s wonderful Lilo & Stitch, a sort of warped but still sweet take on E.T. The friendly dragon at the center of their foray into CG animation even sports a head that looks a bit like unruly alien Stitch, and if anything could get me excited for this particular group of family-movie tropes (fantastical creatures; a diminutive hero looking for respect; a ragtag group of misfits banding together, probably) it’s glimpsing more of the character animation Sanders and DeBlois seem to instinctively understand. Lilo & Stitch is funny in large part due to the way the characters look and move, and I hope that distinctiveness isn’t lost within the DreamWorks toon factory.
Waking Sleeping Beauty: Speaking of Lilo & Stitch, it was one of the last traditionally animated Disney features to really make decent coin at the box office, as well as have actual impact on children’s imaginations (or, as Disney refers to them, merchandise desire generators)—kids, I think, found Stitch’s misbehavior fascinating and gratifying. But while Disney circa the early aughts was doing some other interesting work (they also put out the proudly Looney Tunes-y The Emperor’s New Groove and tried sci-fi adventure with Atlantis), all anyone could focus on was the comedown from their glorious late-80s resurrection and then-unprecedented hot streak in the first half of the 90s. The documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty traces the origins of Disney Animation’s slump and comeback, and it’s fascinating for anyone who cares about the medium; probably moreso, of course, for any Disney junkies. Though it gets a little bogged down in the ol’ executive shuffle, with lots of cooperation and sniping from Jeffrey Katzenberg, Roy Disney, and Michael Eisner, the most winning moments come from glimpses behind the scenes, even when the animators aren’t doing much but sitting around in abject misery (well-documented by amateur cameramen including, amusingly, future Pixar genius and overall animation guru John Lasseter). Director Don Hahn was a Disney producer, and his sometimes surprisingly frank doc actually has full Disney support (check out the clips from the movies, otherwise probably wildly unaffordable). Without any talk about the animation boom ushered in by these movies, the movie just sort of trails off contentedly, but it’s still informative and fun.
Hot Tub Time Machine: For at least the next year or so, any comedy featuring a quarter of dudes huddling around a high concept will be tagged as maybe the next Hangover. I know that actually just means the next relatively low-cost comedy to break out into an old-fashioned crowd-pleasing hit, but the idea still fills me with dread, owing to the bad taste The Hangover left in my mouth (misogyny flavored, with a hint of laziness). Hot Tub Time Machine has the benefit of a terrifically straightforward premise contained in the title [Most accurately titled movie since 2006 brought us both 13 Lakes and Snakes on a Plane! —Ed.]; as Back to the Future and at least one Futurama episode prove, time travel is rife with comic possibilities. Of course, The Hangover had a clever Memento-ish mystery to solve [I would have gone with Dude, Where’s My Car? there. -Ed], and it wound up consisting of a bunch of limp coincidences. But Hot Tub has John Cusack kidding his 80s heyday; maybe it’ll be the actually-good movie everyone pretended The Hangover was.