Your Zemeckis-Triumphant Weekend at the Movies

11/02/2012 11:40 AM |

I want Denzel to play me in the movie!
  • “I want Denzel to play me in the movie!”

Flight: Though I was surprised to learn they’re all about the same age, I nonetheless have tended to group Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, and Joe Dante together in a way that perhaps even overrides the classic Spielberg/Lucas/Coppola/Scorsese/De Palma “70s movie brats” categorization, probably because Spielberg, Zemeckis, and Dante are collectively responsible for a massive chunk of movie love for the first decade of my life. Since they made such iconic entertainment in the 80s (and, okay, also 70s, for Spielberg; that’s why he seems older now), their careers have branched out in different directions. Spielberg has chased the ambition and scope of his peers at their best; sometimes he’s dinged for trying too hard, or ruining those efforts with sentiment (have you guys seen Munich, by the way? Not so sentimental. Actually quite devastating. But more on that next week, when Lincoln comes out) or for retreating into populism, but with wildly different skills and interests, he’s wound up with the varied, highlights-packed career I assume everyone thought Coppola would have circa 1980 or so. Dante, for his part, has stuck with his playful, reference-laden fun long enough for it to become a niche act: to think, the guy who made the Gremlins movies made a Looney Tunes picture in 2003, and pretty much no one showed up.

Zemeckis, then, has been the one left holding the mainstream, mass-appeal entertainment flag. In fact, for pure commercial consistency, he’s hard to match, perhaps owing to never having made a single limited-release-scale movie. His pursuit of crowd-pleasing spectacle led to a decade-or-so sojourn into motion-capture animation, and while I’m not willing to dismiss The Polar Express, Beowulf, or his surprisingly faithful adaptation of A Christmas Carol, they did step in just as post-Forrest Gump projects grew ever more adult and complex in the form of Cast Away and Contact (and, fine, What Lies Beneath isn’t complex at all, but it’s a pretty swell Hitchcock homage if I remember correctly). Flight brings Zemeckis back to the adult-movie fold with a vengeance; it’s his darkest, least spectacle-driven movie ever, even if it opens with a humdinger of a plane-crash sequence on par with his best set pieces (that a Zemeckis movie even has easily identifiable, extractable set pieces actually shows a kind of settling down; Back to the Future Part II and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, for example, are almost nonstop motion, giddily so). It’s hard to imagine this not becoming his lowest grosser since Death Becomes Her, but the success of Argo provides one of those occasional reminders that hey, some adults do like going to the movies, and don’t always need Batman or Will Smith to motivate them.

Wreck-It Ralph: Disney Animation, Non-Pixar Division, hopes to get a winning streak going after Tangled became its first $200 million homegrown cartoon since The Lion King in 1994. Quality-wise, I hope it lines up with that movie and its underappreciated predecessor The Princess and the Frog. John C. Reilly voices a video-game bad guy who yearns to break out of his niche. Disney went all out with their corporate outreach here to secure video-game characters from throughout the ages for cameos. The sight of actual classic avatars interacting with new Disney characters in the trailer is novel and not unwelcome, if a little unnerving, though it also makes me relieved, in retrospect, that they weren’t able to get a bunch of recognizable properties into Toy Story back in 1995 (also, reflect on how if Wreck-It Ralph were coming out in 1998 or so, it would seem like a huge Toy Story ripoff, even though it also reps a significant break from Traditional Disney’s fairy tale narratives). I’m usually pretty lousy at box office predictions, but it seems like this movie will make a lot of money, huh?

The Man with the Iron Fists: I seem to remember that at the height of his influence, Quentin Tarantino used to “present” rereleases of movies that inspired his cinema-addled brain. Now it seems he’s “presenting” knock-offs of his own work; I’m sure someone more kung-fu-literate than I can explain which 15 movies The Man with the Iron Fists is cleverly paying homage to. But they must also understand that the layperson (or even person who sees 200+ movies a year) will see the trailer and say, wait, so Tarantino is psyched that RZA remade the 88 Keys scene in Kill Bill with himself as the Bride? That said, I will probably see this movie if only to encourage Tarantino to encourage Eli Roth to merely write movies (he coauthored this one with RZA) rather than costarring in them. Also, Russell Crowe for some reason. I kind of wish the poster actually said that.

The Details: Emerging from Weinstein Hell, as indie movies sometimes do, is this dark comedy from Mean Creek‘s Jacob Aaron Estes, where a family of raccoons sets off havoc in a suburban household led by Tobey Maguire and Elizabeth Banks. Yes, this does sound like the kind of movie that might cause Brendan Fraser’s agent to do some soul-searching, but you gotta figure if it was anything like that, the Weinsteins would have freed it long ago.
This Must Be the Place: This Must Be a movie that sounds like something Johnny Depp would wander off into during the late 90s.

Vamps: I believe this is getting a brief theatrical release prior to a DVD bow in a couple of weeks, but I thought you good people would probably want to know that Amy Heckerling made a new movie with Alicia Silverstone, and it’s about vampires! Doesn’t that sound right up your alley, or have I confused you with someone else?