Red: In a year rife with men-on-a-mission movies, including one with an emphasis on retirement-age heroics, here's the capper: a bunch of retired CIA folk team up on a mission to figure out who's trying to kill them.
Future Expendables 2 bad guy (we hope!) Bruce Willis is actually the young gun here, in a cast that includes Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich. But Red seems to stand out is less for the median age of its principle cast—remember, of those Expendables, only Jason Statham may not be past his physical prime—but its apparent inclusion of actual ladies! And not just C-level celebabe rescue bait, either: the flinty Helen Mirren and the almost suspiciously lovely Mary Louise-Parker. Hopefully the combination of age, beauty, and aged beauty will redeem the droll-assassin subgenre that hasn't been especially fresh since Grosse Pointe Blank. Basically, I'm hoping Red will be like a more violent version of Clint Eastwood's excellent Space Cowboys.
Hereafter: Speaking of Space Cowboys, I don't mean to be contrarian by suggesting that Eastwood's relaxed, straightforward, single-take atmosphere works better on genre pictures than his more serious efforts, but, well, it mostly does. I'll take Space Cowboys over Mystic River or Flags of Our Fathers any day, and if I'm being honest, I have more affection for the likes of Blood Work than I do for Changeling or Invictus. Even his actual awards winners, Million Dollar Baby and Unforgiven, are smart, affecting genre riffs as much as anything. Hereafter sounds like a hybrid of his two approaches: dabbling into fantastical ghostly matters with the kind of interconnected storyline you loved (or, uh, found overdetermined and miserabilist) in Babel. Rapold's review makes it sound worthwhile for the sheer novelty of Eastwood telling his laconic stories in a new area; he does seem to perform best when awards pressure is off, so maybe Hereafter will turn into one of those Eastwood movies I champion over his classier work. A Space Cowboys of tomorrow, if you will.
Jackass 3-D: Finally, someone gets the 80s law right: the third part is in 3-D, thus only requiring the affixation of "D" to the normal sequel title. Hopefully they'll go back and do a conversion (and, um, theatrical release) on Leprechaun 3 to correct this error. In the meantime, the Jackass series will just have to show the Saw series how it's done, both in terms of adhering to the 3-D law and also being super-gross. I have to say, they've done a decent job of not bleeding this thing dry; we generally have to wait longer for Jackass sequels than we do for those involving Batman or X-Men. In any given Jackass movie, only about half of the stuff works for me, at best, but that "high five" bit in the trailer is great, and Johnny Knoxville truly seems more engaged in this stuff than he does when making real movies, and also, I don't want the other guys to even try making real movies, unless you're counting Spike Jonze (remember how great he was in Three Kings, by the way?). I can't wait for the application of the 90s (and Leprechaun-related!) rule that results in Jackass 4: In Space. (That's as close as I can get this entry to having its own mention of Space Cowboys.)
Conviction: Sam Rockwell completists will want to check this one out because he's great, as usual, and dances, as usual. The movie itself is full of decent performances, but they don't add up to much more than a diverting couple of hours, as the movie gets caught halfway between procedural and character study—actually, sort of like Eastwood's Changeling, except here, it's the character study stuff that works, rather than the procedural. In short: also not as good as Space Cowboys.