- Fort Greene’s Thomas Beisl is one of The Measure’s favorite date-night spots. Try the schnitzel!
Date Night: A movie seemingly created entirely to be advertised on NBC’s Thursday line-up probably doesn’t seem like something to get worked up about one way or the other, unless you’re NBC-Universal and you somehow let Fox be the one to cash in on this, but it positively haunts me that Steve Carell and Tina Fey were OK with having Shawn Levy direct their onscreen team-up. The high-concept premise is actually sort of promising: Carell and Fey play a married couple whose attempt at a romantic evening out turns into an apparently After Hours-like parade of New York sketchiness. So why in the name of decent studio comedy would you hand this over to Levy, whose credits include two Night at the Museums, The Pink Panther ’06, Cheaper by the Dozen, and Just Married?
I’m guessing Shawn Levy is some kind of celebrity hypnotist, by which I mean hypnotist of celebrities, because his movies have collectively been able to ensnare Steve Martin, Ben Stiller, Kevin Kline, Kristin Chenoweth, Amy Adams, Hank Azaria, Bill Hader, Emily Mortimer, Beyonce, Owen Wilson, Ricky Gervais, Steve Coogan, Christopher Guest, and now, in Date Night alone, Fey, Carell, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Mark Wahlberg, Taraji P. Henson, and Mark Ruffalo. Or maybe, you know, he just happens to direct movies that pay a lot for not too much work. There’s a decent shot that Carell and Fey can augment Levy’s patented lumbering slapstick with some verbal and physical wit—the fellow who did so well with Mean Girls also gave us Just Like Heaven and Freaky Friday—but I’m disappointed that the king and queen of NBC comedy didn’t insist on someone at least marginally better (like, say, the guy who did so well with Mean Girls. But I still want to see this movie, not least because aforementioned Thursday line-up is in repeats and everything else out this weekend looks dour.
The Square: Like this Australian neo-noir, for example, in which guns are no match for a killer frown-off. The reviews are better than decent, so I have to assume this thing is just being marketed poorly, because the trailer doesn’t convey any sense of sneaky grown-up fun that I associate with neo-noir, even serious ones. In fact, I kind of thought this was a domestic drama until I read otherwise, and the poster makes it look a bit like the Canadian science fiction movie Cube. Contrast with the Date Night ads, which have made me laugh and as such, may well have disguised any amount of Levy-supplied dead air.
La Mission: If The Square sounds like too much of a larf, try Benjamin Bratt playing a macho fellow who has a whole lot of trouble dealing with the fact that his son is gay, in a film directed by Benjamin Bratt’s brother, who I only wish was also named Benjamin Bratt (as is allegedly the case with the brother of Wesley Snipes). I haven’t seen Benjamin Bratt’s TV show The Cleaner, but it is heavily advertised on movie pre-shows to the point where I can say I wish the Bratt character in that would come in and force the Bratt character in this to face the music about how he’s messing up his life. Maybe he could team up with Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Hawthorne and really fuck shit up.
After.Life: Continuing his bid to appear in every motion picture released in 2010, and zero good ones, Liam Neeson plays a funeral director who may have sinister live-burial designs on poor skinny Christina Ricci. Huh. I assumed this was an inferior remake or imitation of the Japanese movie After Life. Now I kind of wish I had tracked down a screening of this. Although: thrillers with some star power and a quiet, anemic release strategy tend to turn out a bit more like Passengers than even the mixed-bag likes of Chloe.
Letters to God: I wouldn’t even dignify this with a spot here, but I saw the trailer in New York Actual City a few weeks ago, even though this looks like the kind of movie that will gross a million or two without playing anywhere near you, like a heartland equivalent of some Canadian-only release. This movie is seriously, honestly, about a young cancer-stricken lad who writes letters to God. The troubled mailman who takes these letters for delivery is then inspired to form a bond with the boy, and his mother, and everyone learns lessons, and possibly gives press conferences, about how God did all of this and everyone saved everyone. There’s nothing left to do but play the retitling game. I humbly suggest God Sent a Motherfucker.