Monday, March 10, 2008

Spring Movies: Slim Pickin's

For a season that's supposed to represent new life and rebirth, spring is a pretty barren and dismal time of year for the typical movie lover - at least the kind of movie lover who still likes to go see movies in, you know, actual theaters. (We still exist, albeit in diminishing numbers.) Thus the first four months of the year are typically the time I catch up on my Netflix queue, and this year is no exception...though lately I've been queuing up television series (such as the excellent "Friday Night Lights," which is giving "Veronica Mars" and "Mad Men" a run for their money as the best-written and acted TV dramas I've seen recently) rather than movies.

A few foreign films from late last year have been trickling into U.S. theaters over the past couple of months, such as the much-acclaimed Romanian abortion drama "4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days," the Israeli dramedy-with-political-subtext "The Band's Visit," and Foreign Language Film Oscar winner (admittedly a title of dubious distinction, especially this year) "The Counterfeiters." These I will try to catch. And I will confess to a sneaking desire to ogle hunky Eric Bana and wallow in the costume pageantry of the widely-panned "The Other Boleyn Girl," and to check out the ferocious prehistoric chickens of "10,000 B.C." - though I wouldn't see either movie without getting well tanked up first. As for the rest, there's frankly not much that's likely to draw me to a cinema between now and mid-May - but there are a few bright spots that gleam all the brighter for the vast stretches of empty darkness that surround them.

In order of release date:

STOP-LOSS (March 28)

Directed by Kimberly Peirce ("Boys Don't Cry"), starring Ryan Phillippe, Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Abbie Cornish. The first Iraq war-themed movie that looks like it has an actual spark of life. And I *don't* just mean the eye candy.

21 (March 28)

Directed by Robert Luketic ("Legally Blonde," but also, urgh, "Monster-in-Law"), starring Jim Sturgess ("Across the Universe"), Kate Bosworth, Aaron Yoo, Kevin Spacey, Laurence Fishburne. Based on the bestseller BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE, the true story of the MIT whiz kids who took their card-counting skills to Vegas to scam millions at the blackjack tables. Not sure I buy Kate Bosworth as a math whiz, but then I don't really buy Kate Bosworth as anything. A good story, though gambling is hard to make cinematic (see, e.g., the decent-but-not-great "Rounders" and "Lucky You").


English-language debut of Wong Kar-Wai and acting debut of Norah Jones; also starring Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz, and David Strathairn. Got a lukewarm reception at Cannes, but if you dig WKW's dreamy, meditative, ultra-cinematic style, this is still must-see viewing.

LEATHERHEADS (April 4 - will be a good weekend, the oasis in the cinematic wasteland of spring)

Directed by and starring George Clooney; co-starring John Krasinski ("The Office") and Renee Zellweger. Period screwball comedy about the early days of football? Starring Clooney? I'll take it for those silly leather helmets alone. Plus Clooney has been on a roll lately. The man chooses his scripts well, that's for sure.


Directed by Marcel Langenegger, starring Ewan McGregor, Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams. Jackman plays Mephistopheles to McGregor's naif by offering him an entree into the steamiest (or seamiest) sex clubs of NY. Someone disappears and the naif gets into a whole lotta trouble. The fact that this movie seems to have 3 different titles in circulation doesn't bode well; but hey, as long as we get to see Ewan and/or "Huge Ackman" in a state of undress, you've still got my attention. And we all know what a penchant Ewan has for showing his McGregor, if you know what I mean...

And those are all the titles fit to print, as far as I'm concerned. Perhaps I'm overlooking some gems...

On second thought, probably not. Enjoy what you can, and let's keep on waiting for INDIANA JONES 4!


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