Cowboys, talking chihuahuas, hipsters in love, sports legends, tragic inventors, gay muslims and even more coming to your local cineplex.
Eight major releases open nationwide today. That’s a lot of films all at once, especially for October. And just like it should be, there’s something for every taste. What follows below are only the briefest of concept summaries and also some trailers. The links click through to blog entries where we’ve already given some of the movies a lengthier consideration.
Appaloosa (Expanding from limited release): Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen play traveling gunfighters hired by a dying frontier town to stand up to a despotic rancher (Jeremy Irons). Renee Zellweger is the woman standing between the two friends. Harris also directed, and early reviews from its limited release have been for the most part positive. Harris and Mortensen’s previous onscreen collaboration, A History of Violence, was a near-perfect smart bomb of a movie two years ago; seeing the two play partners in this film will likely offer plenty of intelligent action fun.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua: We sat through a trailer for this bit of fluff last summer and our eyes are still mad at us. Live action but with plenty of celebrity voices and creepy talking dog CGI animation, it tells the story of a – Jesus God – rich chihuahua from Beverly Hills who gets lost while on vacation in Mexico and has to find her way home. Drew Barrymoe voices the dog out of water Chloe, while an Argonauts of Latino actors - Edward James Olmos, Andy Garcia, Paul Rodriguez, Luiz Guzman, Placido Domingo, and George Lopez – fill out the cast. A 90s-era Taco Bell commercial of a kid’s movie, of which there’s not a lot out right now.
Blindness: A kindred spirit of sorts to 2006′s overrated Children of Men, Blindness stars that film’s Julianne Moore as a woman who retains her sight after an epidemic of “white blindness” breaks out in her home city. The afflicted are moved into a concentration facility and left to fend for themselves with minimal assistance, and of course society and any sense of moral restraint break down. City of God’s Fernando Meirelles directs this adaptation of Jose Saramago’s best-selling novel, but early reviews and a chilly reception at Cannes have been less than brilliant. Reportedly unrelenting in its bleak depiction of human depravity, it’s the kind of movie where one wise old inmate (Danny Glover) wears an eye patch. Get it? Of course you do.
The Express: There are now officially enough “true stories about overcoming the odds of racism/poverty through playing sports” movies to constitute a genre unto themselves. Ernie “The Elmira Express” Davis was the first black football player to win the Heisman Trophy, and though his pro career was cut short by leukemia his college record was an early rallying point for the Civil Rights Movement. Sports-movie veteran Rob Brown (Coach Carter) plays Davis, while Dennis Quaid plays Syracuse coach Ben Schwartzwalder, who was – naturally – a surrogate father on and off the field. Previews have been exactly the same as all the other films of its stripe.
Flash of Genius: Ever felt sorry for the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper? You likely will after this Greg Kinnear-led character piece about inventor Robert Kearn’s three decade legal struggle against the Ford and Chrysler corporations. Basically, he invented the intermittent wiper, an important safety device on all modern cars, and the car companies cheated him out of the profits. Lauren Graham and Durmot Mulroney co-star. Even though early reviews are middling, Kinnear’s role has Oscar written all over it, and his performance might get him the award he’s deserved at least once already.
How To Lose Friends and Alienate People: Simon Pegg heads this based-on-truth story of British writer Toby Young’s attempts to fit in at Vanity Fair magazine. The trailer has its funny moments, mostly based on Pegg’s undeniable comic timing, but the film’s “The Devil Wears Prada But With A Guy” conceit may not quite deliver, despite a supporting cast including Jeff Bridges, Gillian Anderson, Kirsten Dunst, and Transformers vixen Megan Fox. We like Pegg, and it’s always fun to watch Bridges vamp as the bad guy, but if the whole movie is just Pegg’s wanker schtick this could be a great example of where the trailer has all the funny moments.
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist: A conventional romantic comedy fashionably attired in indie duds, this Manhattan adventure directed by Peter Sollett (Raising Victor Vargas) features rising star Kat Dennings (The 40 Year Old Virgin) and possibly-over-already Michael Cera as two teens who fall in love during and after a punk concert in the East Village. The script is based on the popular novel by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, though Cera’s character was reportedly rewritten considerably to meld with his screen persona, and the ending was also changed. Early reviews are lukewarm, and if it flops you’ll likely hear all kinds of smart analysis about how Juno was just a fluke after all. Alexis Dziena (Broken Flowers) co-stars.
Religulous: Social and political provocateur – and proclaimed atheist – Bill Maher examines the worldwide phenomena of religion in this documentary directed by Larry Charles (Borat, Seinfeld). Maher’s roving adventures include trips to a Christian-themed amusement park in Florida, an Islamic gay bar in Amsterdam, and an interview with a United States Senator who believes in creationism. Maher and Charles used the fake title “A Spiritual Journey” and did not identify Maher as its host when soliciting the film’s interviews. Get ready for some people to get pissed off. I just hope it plays in Tennessee.
Monday we’ll have a review of whatever film we decided to see first. (It won’t be Beverly Hills Chihuahua.) Have a good weekend.
- Michael Kabel