Thursday, September 30, 2010

Easy A, or Hester Prynne Goes to High School

Easy A is a movie I wish I'd written. I don't mean that in an "I could have pooped out a better script than that" way; I genuinely wish I had written something as clever and heartfelt and, for a genre that nowadays is either smug and superior or dumb and offensive, a breath of fresh air.

"We've had nine classes together since Kindergarten... ten if you count Religion of Other Cultures, which you didn't because you called it science fiction and refused to go."

It feels too easy to say "If you liked Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You, you'll like this movie." I do think Easy A bears a resemblance to both those films, notably as another modern take on a literary classic (in this case, Nathaniel Hawthorne's short novel The Scarlet Letter). But in a way I find it more satisfying than either of them. Yes, even more than Clueless, which has been the standard bearer for cute and smarter-than-you'd-think teen comedies lo these (*gulp*) fifteen years. What Easy A brings to the table are some surprisingly nuanced performances and a knack for the dynamics of high school that is frankly unnerving.

Here are the basics of the plot. Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone, in what is sure to be a breakout role) is an average high school chick, practically invisible to boys. To avoid an uncomfortable camping weekend with her best friend and said friend's naturist parents, she makes up a college guy out of thin air and says she has a date with him that weekend. After her actual boring weekend at home, she forgets about her lie until the friend asks her how the date went. Through a series of unfortunate accidents in tale-spinning, she "confesses" to having slept with her sockpuppet boyfriend. She is overheard by her ultra-conservative classmate, Marianne (Amanda Bynes, in her last role before bizarrely "retiring" from acting at age 24). Marianne starts the rumor mill a-spinning, and pretty soon Olive has a Reputation. There's an almost chilling scene in which Olive walks the hall after the rumor spreads, and the reaction of the two genders could not be more telling, and it makes me sad that slut shaming is still a thing in this day and age. With her perceived virtue essentially in the toilet, then, she agrees to pretend to have sex with a gay friend of hers, so that he can get a reprieve from the homophobic bullies who are plaguing him. Things spiral from there, and soon she's practically running a service, selling her pretend sex favors to various guys for various reasons.

There's a good bit of homage to great teen movies of yore, particularly those of John Hughes, and there's a self-awareness that just works, as if the movie itself is saying to you that it wants to be as good as those other movies, while humbly aw-shucks-ing that it never will be. This is mostly achieved by Olive's webcam narration, and Emma Stone reminded me oddly of Robert Downey, Jr. in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - only more coherent and less scatterbrained. I've been a fan of Emma Stone's for a few years now - I guess since Superbad - and I sincerely think this movie could put her on the map in a big way. I've heard musings about her possible Oscar chances, which might sound ridiculous, but I'll go ahead and say that she's at least going to the Golden Globes. She's really incredible, and it's a strangely empowering female role. On the surface, Olive is sacrificing her good name, moving herself down the social ladder so that several boys can move up. But it's not really like that at all. Olive takes charge of her sexuality, without even having sex. She owns it and doesn't let what people will think of her dictate what she does (or falsely admits doing). Because, at the end of the day, it's nobody's business but her own. The whole controversy surrounding her is ridiculous, and every lie she tells is another riff in an epic joke.

Also, as a person of faith, I was pleasantly surprised at the portrayal of the school's little Christian clique. The prayer circle especially tickled me, because what a lot of Christians call "prayer requests" are really just gossip and group judgment sessions.

Performance-wise, in addition to the awesome Emma Stone, Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci are wonderful as Olive's groovy and totally cool parents. Thomas Haden Church is pretty great as Olive's favorite teacher. Lisa Kudrow is delightful as the school guidance counselor who has serious issues of her own. And there are some really outstanding little parts, especially for Olive's, ah, clients. The script really explores sexual politics in fascinating ways, especially with a couple of guys who illustrate that a lot of times it's not the fact that a guy is a nerd that makes him unattractive. Sometimes the guy is just a jerk.

If you haven't already seen this, I highly recommend it. I think it has more to say about young adulthood and gender roles than just about any of its contemporaries.

October Movie Releases

We're getting deeper into Oscar territory. Only two movies that I've labeled "must see"s this month, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It leaves a lot of room for the "maybe"s and the "I'd love to see it if only there wasn't so much else coming out"s.


[MUST-SEE] The Social Network - Otherwise known as "The Facebook Movie." Definitely one of my most anticipated movies of the year and currently considered one of the Best Picture frontrunners. Written by Sorkin. Directed by Fincher. I challenge you not to be wowed by the full trailer and its strategic use of a girls choir's cover of Radiohead's "Creep."

[MUST-SEE] Let Me In - Horror geeks were appalled that anyone would dare remake the perfect Swedish vampire flick Let the Right One In, but everything I've heard convinces me this is one remake that does it right. The conversation may now, in fact, be turning toward whether this actually improves on the original. Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee of The Road and Chloe Kick-Ass Moretz.

Case 39 - It is freaky to watch the trailer for this film and see a younger Bradley Cooper, before he got all buff (because the movie was shot four years ago and then shelved). It almost doesn't even look like him. I hate that this movie comes out on a weekend with such heavy competition, because it looks interesting and I'm afraid it might fall through the cracks. And even though I haven't yet seen Eclipse (waiting for the Rifftrax), I'm pretty sure that little girl is the same actress who played Bree "cheeseburger of pain" Tanner.

Freakonomics - [limited] I have not read the best-selling book on which this is based, but while the ideas seem pretty fascinating, I'm wondering how they're woven together into a film without it feeling too fractious. I don't even know how to explain this one properly, so click on the title to go to the IMDB page, which has the trailer. See what you make of it.

Hatchet II - I never got around to seeing the first Hatchet, but I loved director Adam Green's follow up, Frozen, immensely. *checks Netflix* Maybe I can check out the first one before this comes out. It might be better to see it closer to Halloween anyway (especially as there's jack-all coming out the second half of the month).

Barry Munday - [LA/NY] This was a pretty big hit at SXSW this year, and I'm kind of stoked to see it. And one of the main things that interests me is the prospect of finally seeing Judy Greer starring in her own freakin' film and not just playing the snotty/quirky/clingy "best friend type" to Jennifer Garner or Katherine Heigl or whoever.

Chain Letter - [limited] Eh. I feel conflicted. I know that some of my favorite horror movies have been cheap stuff like this, but there's just something about today's horror sensibilities that make me distrustful. It's good to see a fairly original idea in the genre, though, and not just another movie spit out of the remake factory.

Douchebag - This strikes me as unbearably smug, like a funnier but less intelligent Noah Baumbach movie. No.


Life as We Know It - Before you immediately turn your back on this because of the presence of Katherine Heigl, I've heard this is actually quite good. I still hate that poster with Josh Duhamel in a diaper, but that's marketing, not the movie. At least not the whole movie. Even the snarky blog boys seem to like it.

Secretariat - Didn't I see this movie like seven years ago when it was called Seabiscuit? I don't know. The cast is impressive, the director, Randall Wallace ... I'd like to have faith because his two other films as a director (We Were Soldiers and The Man in the Iron Mask) were decent. But he also wrote the script for Pearl Harbor. My faith is not strong.

It's Kind of a Funny Story - [limited] Originally in the September post. Buzz has been horrible. This is a skip or a rental for me.

Tamara Drewe - [LA/NY] Will someone please tell me what is so special about Gemma Arterton and why I'm supposed to even know who she is? This is based on a graphic novel that is supposedly based on Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd. I'm skipping this, though, because I'm not a fan of the plot where a hot girl goes to a small town and all the men fall all over themselves for her as if the women who already exist in their lives Don't Count and this is the first time they've actually seen a female. Bella Swan, much?

Nowhere Boy - [limited] The lovely Aaron Johnson (the eponymous hero of Kick-Ass) plays a quite young John Lennon. I have always been more of a Paul gal myself and there's always been something kind of off-putting about Lennon. I mean, he was a genius, but he knew it. This is, however, the most exciting thing coming out this weekend, so I'll probably see it. The music and Aaron Johnson will be worth it, if nothing else.

My Soul to Take - Wes Craven brings us a film that bears more than a passing resemblance to his genre-defining A Nightmare on Elm Street. Dare I hope for another truly awesome Craven horror movie? Waiting to see other people's responses to this.

Stone - The notion of Robert DeNiro and Edward Norton teaming up again is definitely enticing, and I'm hearing this is actually quite good. I confess, part of my interest is in seeing Milla Jovovich act in a movie not directed by her husband, Paul W.S. Anderson.

I Spit on Your Grave: Unrated - This movie, and the ungodly original film that it is a remake of, can kindly go and die in every fire that ever burned. I am curious, though - will there actually be a story this time? Or will they fall back on the original's more, shall we say, deliberate plot pacing and faithfully recreate the (I kid you not) THIRTY-FIVE MINUTE GRAPHIC GANG RAPE SEQUENCE. In case you were wondering, I'd rather eat my own face than see this.

Inside Job - Another doc about the economic meltdown and one that looks particularly infuriating. Love the moments in the trailer where people do not want to be participating in this or ask for the camera to be turned off. I don't think I can handle this, though. I'm still seething from the last doc these filmmakers made, No End in Sight.

Today's Special - A cooking comedy. I'm intrigued by the presence of Kevin Corrigan and Aasif Mandvi, but I'm not sold.


Jackass 3-D - Don't judge me, but I may be kind of pumped to see this. May. Also, I may or may not be contemplating checking out the two previous movies. The big hand high five gets me every time I see this trailer. I think this is what 3D was made for. *wipes a proud tear from eye*

Conviction - Hearing good things about this one. But am I a bad person for hoping there's no Oscar campaign planned for Hilary Swank? I really cannot take a third round of Swank v. Bening. Sam Rockwell seems to be the jewel in the crown here, though. I'm interested.

Red - Helen Mirren has a license to kill, bitches! I think this is a definite yes, for the awesome cast alone. Willis. Freeman. Parker. Malkovich. Mirren. 'Nuff said.

Down Terrace - [limited] Most of the trailer makes it look kind of boring. UNTIL one of the characters shoves a little old lady in front of a speeding car. Sadly, that alone is not enough reason to see a movie. Waiting to hear more about this. It's being touted as "Mike Leigh meets the Sopranos" but ... I don't know.


Paranormal Activity 2 - Unless I see some downright stellar reviews of this one, this is in my "no" pile on principle. The whole charm of the first one was that it was at least somewhat original and homemade. I'm glad it was a huge hit, though I don't see what the point of rooting for original content is anymore. It doesn't help new filmmakers with new ideas at all; it just turns original content into sequel factories.

Hereafter - The trailer is lovely, but I'm hearing mixed-to-bad buzz. However, Eastwood's Gran Torino had a similar response coming out of the festivals, and then a few months later people were wondering why it got shut out of the Oscars. Also, Peter Morgan wrote the script, so there's that. I'm also intrigued by the casting of Cecile De France, who was that crazy chick in Haute Tension. I'm determined to see this and make up my own mind instead of defaulting to critical opinion.

The Company Men - [LA/NY] John Wells, who produced two of the biggest ensemble dramas in the history of television (ER and The West Wing), turns his eye to films with what looks like an incredible - you guessed it - ensemble drama. I think the most exciting thing about the trailer is "Academy Award Winner Ben Affleck ... Academy Award Winner Chris Cooper ... Academy Award Winner Kevin Costner ... Academy Award Winner Tommy Lee Jones." This is a yes.

Inhale - [NY] This looks pretty awesome, I have to say, but I'm curious as to why I've never heard of it before. It seems like a movie that appeared at a festival and took a long time to get picked up, because while I can't find any official reviews, what I *have* found are loads of links to bootleg copies on the internets. I may balance out my Paranormal Activity Principled Boycott with a Principle Viewing of this film. I can't help feeling this just deserves to be given a chance. Not that my one ticket will achieve anything, but then my not going to PA2 won't put a dent in its box office either.


Monsters - [limited] I don't know, guys, this sounds an AWFUL lot like District 9, only with a different social subtext. Reviews I'm seeing emphasize the shoestring budget and the fact that the director did the special effects on his computer. Impressive to be sure, but I'm worried people are pointing that out in an effort to adjust audience expectations. Waiting to hear more about why critics are calling it so "original."

Saw 3D: The Final Chapter - No. A thousand times no. I'm afraid this kind of sequel cycle is the fate that awaits you, Paranormal Activity.

Welcome to the Rileys - [limited] I like the idea of this story, where a married couple takes a young stripper under their wing. But I'm afraid I can't watch Kristen Stewart in anything right now.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - [limited] The third and final chapter in the successful adaptations of Stieg Larsson's smash hit book series. I have yet to see or read any of these, but they're on my to-do list, I promise! I don't think I'll be caught up in time to catch this in theaters, though.

The Kids Grow Up - [NY] Documentary about letting go of kids who leave home for the first time. What little I've heard about this is not promising.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Never Let Me Go

This movie has been dividing critics for a few weeks. There are folks that really love it and folks that can't stand it. I'm on the "really love it" side, but I think I understand why some people aren't connecting with it. This was my favorite thing I saw this weekend, so without further ado, let's dig into...

Never Let Me Go

This is a movie essentially about death. It's kind of a downer, and it's very British, which is part of the problem I think people have with it. But I'll get into that later. Never Let Me Go is set in an alternate version of our own world, where scientific breakthroughs that our world has not yet made (or at least taken advantage of) have led to significant extensions in human longevity. But we don't hear much about that at first (or really, in much of the rest of the movie). Our concern is to be with Kathy H. and her childhood friends, Tommy and Ruth.

Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth attend a kind of boarding school called Hailsham. It looks like most other boarding schools, but there's something a bit different about it. Their new teacher explains to them the conceit that frames the film. These children are not like other children. They cannot grow up and be anything they want to be. They were created for a specific purpose. They will be adults, but not for very long. After they leave school, they will begin their "donations," and when their bodies can no longer sustain themselves, they will achieve "completion." In our own terms, these children have been cloned in order to provide organs for transplants. They are kept alive as long as possible, through as many organ removal surgeries as their bodies can handle, until they die, after which presumably the remainder of their organs are kept for future use. The teacher who tells the children this is either fired or abruptly leaves the school, but she is not really telling the children anything they don't already know.

See, unlike a lot of these "clone farm" plots, and there are several, where people are being raised in order for their organs to be harvested, these children are not being lied to. They are fully aware of what is in store for them, and that they will not live long past the age of thirty. They accept this and make no effort to fight it. They don't even seem to think of themselves as being the same as their "originals." They go to school and are never allowed to leave the property until they are 18, when they move to living facilities with others like themselves and await their notice for the first donation, after which they will be moved to a kind of hospital. They have an option to apply to be "Carers," which is not a medical position but rather one of moral support for someone through their donation process.

There is a sweet romance at the center of the film. Kathy and Tommy are childhood sweethearts, but Ruth comes between them and instead she and Tommy are the couple for several years. This is actually maybe my favorite performance that I've seen from Keira Knightley (who plays Ruth). It's refreshing to see her play kind of a bad girl - well, not bad exactly, but our sympathies are not really with her, at least in the love triangle plot. I'm becoming more and more intrigued by Andrew Garfield, who plays Tommy. I first took notice of him in the extraordinary Red Riding 1974, and his is supposedly one of the strongest among several strong performances in the upcoming The Social Network; and of course he's going to be a much bigger deal soon, when he takes on the red and blue tights of Spiderman. He's pretty wonderful here. His character as a child is very angry and prone to bouts of rage, but these urges are subdued as he gets older, which makes his one last outburst at a key moment in the film that much more emotional.

The jewel in the crown, though, as might be expected, is new Hollywood "It" girl Carey Mulligan, who plays Kathy. She gives the film its soul and there's such an understated peace to her performance that I found really moving. She makes the most of her circumstances and does try to get a deferral for the start of her donations, but she has accepted her fate. The realization she eventually has that makes up the last lines of the film is pretty staggeringly beautiful. I have to give props, too, to Isobel Meikle-Small, who plays young Kathy. Not only does she physically resemble Mulligan quite uncannily, she also gives a pretty great (and not child-actor-y) performance.

Whether you like this movie or not is probably going to depend on a couple of things. First, I think younger people may have a hard time identifying with this movie. The theme of death and coming to the end of one's life is one that is probably more easily accepted and relatable to older viewers. Second, this movie is most definitely British - not just in setting and regarding the cast, but in terms of tone. There is a distinct "stiff upper lip" reserve about it that I think a lot of Americans are put off by or at least have trouble connecting with. I noticed something similar in people who didn't like Gosford Park, another movie that is English Liek Woah. I think people want it to be more dramatic and conflict-heavy, but that's just not the point of this story. It's not that there's no conflict, obviously, but I think a lot of people just don't buy the quiet acceptance. That's totally their prerogative, but I don't share that opinion.

Very, very good movie. I wish it every success as it traverses the dangerous waters of Oscar season, and I have no doubt we'll still be talking about it when those awards roll around.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Town

Saw a few movies this weekend and fully intended to post about them sooner, but I've had a kind of weird weekend. Here we go, though, and I'll start with the one many of you have probably already seen, and which has taken the top box office spot. Gigli who?!

The Town

This was a pretty awesome movie. I've seen some folks say they wish it had just been an action thriller, without the "trying to be a better man" plot, but that plot was kind of the point. The story is set in Charlestown, Massachusetts - a working class subset of Boston. Charlestown is heavily populated by people who make their living robbing banks, and the trade is very often passed down through generations. You get the idea that being born into Charlestown is a trap, and that it's near impossible to get out. Doug McRay (Ben Affleck, who also directs) is the ring leader of a particularly successful robbery crew - they've done four armored cars and two banks. They report to "The Florist" (Pete Postlethwait), who is the guy who really runs shit and tells them what jobs to pull. Meanwhile, an FBI agent, Adam Frawley (Mad Men's Jon Hamm), is trying to bring down McRay's gang, with the help of a witness/hostage from their most recent robbery, Claire Keesey (the always amazing Rebecca Hall).

Things start to go screwy Doug introduces himself to Claire as just another guy and falls in love with her. He wants out of the life, but his best friend and partner in crime James (played by The Hurt Locker's Jeremy Renner) is reluctant to let him go. "The Florist" is even more reluctant to do so. Doug belongs with them, period, and they're not going to let him walk out on them.

There are loads of great character dynamics at play here, and both those dynamics and the general story remind me of Michael Mann's brilliant film Heat. Affleck, Hamm, and Hall all bring their A-game, but I found myself even more impressed with Jeremy Renner and (wait for it) Gossip Girl's Blake Lively, who plays James's sister and Doug's sometime girlfriend, Krista. James is a tough guy, and it shows on Renner's untypically weathered face, but you can't help loving his affection and loyalty for Doug. In one of my favorite scenes, Doug asks for James's help - he's found out that some thugs have threatened Claire while she walked to work and he wants to take James with him to kick some ass. Doug doesn't tell James what is really going on and asks his help on the understanding that he can't ever ask about it, and James amusingly agrees. It's a great little relationship moment, but it's also a specific character moment for James, to show us what a violent person he is and that he really doesn't care about "who"s or "why"s - he just likes to make people hurt.

I was pleasantly surprised by Blake Lively, though. Krista starts out as a kind of generic trashy, drug-addicted girl with cheap pick-up lines. She has a kid which may or may not belong to Doug (he claims not), and while you get the impression that she sleeps around a lot, she claims a kind of ownership over Doug and does not like it at all when he expresses his intention to beat a path out of town with someone else. Frawley uses this to his advantage, and while I hated that this had to happen, I still felt sorry for Krista.

The movie ends as satisfyingly as it can, and there's a certain inevitability about it, which I think ties into the theme of inescapability rather nicely. I don't know that it's better than Affleck's other directorial effort, Gone Baby Gone, but I like The Town immensely.

Friday, September 3, 2010

September Movie Releases

It's that time of year again, my friends! Fall movie season is upon us. I have procured Entertainment Weekly's Fall Movie Preview issue, and my calendar is marked. Which is kind of pointless, I know, because like 75% of these dates are going to change as festival flicks get picked up and everyone rushes to shove their movie into theaters before the end of the year because OMG OSCARS. But it's my ritual, and I do it, even though I'm going to have to scratch stuff out and do it all over again.


Yes, I am fully aware how annoying it is to see six of the nine movies for this weekend sporting the "nah-nah-nee-boo-boo" tag of limited distribution. I feel you, I do. It's frustrating to hear critics yammer about how people don't go see these good little movies when THERE IS NO OPPORTUNITY TO in most places across the country. *ahem*

The American
- [9/1] George Clooney continues to show us why he is one of the few people who deserves his "movie star" mantle. He makes a genuine effort to do interesting, original work and never rests on his laurels. This movie looks all kinds of exciting.

Machete - HO YEAH! What started as a fake trailer for the Rodriguez/Tarantino (OTP!) double feature Grindhouse is now a real, actual movie. Starring the baddest assest Mexican-American actor ever, Danny Trejo, along with a whole lot of the people who made cameos in the trailer (including Jeff Fahey, aka "that pilot who looks like he wandered off the set of a Burt Reynolds movie" [/Lost]). This movie looks so awesome it HURTS.

The Tillman Story - [limited] Pat Tillman gave up a lucrative NFL career to fight in the Army after September 11. After his death in the line of duty, his family started asking questions trying to uncover the truth about his death. In what is poised to be an uncommonly good year for documentaries, this is getting an awful lot of buzz and people are already calling it an Oscar frontrunner.

Going the Distance - I could have sworn this already came out, but I guess not. Looks like a better than average rom-com, but that's not saying much. I think the main thing making me reluctant to see this is that godawful gag in the trailer where the woman drops the corn on the table. Can we have a moratorium on gross-out comedy, please? Even the Farrelly brothers don't really get into it anymore.

Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 - [limited] This is the second of two halves, and I completely missed the first, I'm afraid. If I can't catch the first one somehow, I'm just going to have to wait until the DVD. Which KILLS me, because I love Vincent Cassell to distraction.

A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop - [LA/NY] For some reason, IMDB is calling this "A Simple Noodle Story," which I guess ties it more closely to Blood Simple, on which it is based, but it's not as cool. So yeah, a remake of the Coen brothers' classic Blood Simple, only set in China. The film looks vibrant and interesting in the trailers, but people who've seen it so far don't seem to like it. Still, this is from the filmmaker who gave us Hero and House of Flying Daggers. At the very least it will be gorgeous to look at.

The Winning Season - [LA/NY] This sounds incredibly formulaic (alcoholic has-been coach asked to run girls basketball team), but it has Sam Rockwell, so I'm torn. It also has Rooney Mara, who is going to be the American Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The trailer is pretty great and sells it like a way less offensive and way less skeazy Mr. Woodcock. It's on my "maybe" list.

White Wedding - [LA/NY] This looks like the perfect film to catch at a festival, but that will probably slip through the cracks when it comes time to actually see something at a regular movie theater. And that makes me sad, because it looks lovely. Road trip to a wedding, South Africa style.

Last Train Home - [LA/NY] This is probably a beautiful, wonderful movie, but it also looks like the most depressing thing you'll ever see in a cinema. The story is about a family that tries to get home for Chinese New Year, along with 130 million other migrant workers. It's not that I don't like depressing movies, it's just that I'm rarely in the mood to properly appreciate them. This is a "probably not."

Gah, two out of eight in wide release. Come on, distributors!

Resident Evil: Afterlife - No.

I'm Still Here - [limited] This is that thing Joaquin Phoenix was doing when it looked like he'd gone round the bend. It's directed by Casey Affleck, which I find interesting, but what little I've seen of the film is the opposite of interesting.

The Virginity Hit - I *HATE* the ads for this that I've seen all over the subway stations, acting like virginity is some disease or a problem to be solved. I hope I'm wrong about this movie and that it's some clever commentary on the pressure on kids to "do it." So far, it looks like a poor man's Superbad (which is a movie I love, but I'm not sure it needed to be remade).

Heartbreaker - [LA/NY] If this were a Hollywood movie, I would be rolling my eyes so hard right now. Here's hoping the French can do this stale rom-com formula (man hired to break up woman's marriage falls in love with woman) a notch better. Incidentally, one of the stars is Vanessa Paradis, who gets to sleep with Johnny Depp every night.

The Romantics - [LA/NY] I liked this movie better back in 1985 when it was St. Elmo's Fire. Hits and misses in the cast - Elijah Wood yay, Josh Duhamel eh, Anna Paquin yay, Malin Ackerman alright, Katie Holmes eh well at least she's playing the bad guy (I think). Sadly, this looks like the most exciting release of the weekend.

Bran Nue Dae - [limited] Looks kind of fun, but I'm not sure about musical numbers where people sing about how great it is to be an aborigine. It does have Geoffrey Rush, but ... I don't know.

Legendary - [limited] Brought to you by World Wrestling Entertainment? The trailer is charming and the cast impressive, and I kind of dig the idea of a wiry geek who goes out for wrestling, but it still looks like a generic family/sports drama.

Expecting Mary - [Release date taken from EW; none listed on IMDB] This movie looks so cute and quirky I could puke, but it has two eye-popping names in the cast - Gene Simmons (yes, DEMON GUY from KISS) and Linda Gray (Sue Ellen from Dallas!!!). That's kind of awesome by itself! But probably a rental, not a theater experience.

Now we're getting to some good stuff!

Never Let Me Go - [9/15, limited] This is one of my most anticipated movies of the fall. I'd love to be able to read the book on which this is based before the film, but it may not be possible. Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and a dowdy (psht) Keira Knightley star in a British boarding school drama, with a dystopian twist. When Masterpiece Theater Met Parts: The Clonus Horror.

Easy A - I have heard EXCELLENT things about the performance of this movie's star, Emma Stone. Like Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You, this is another high school movie that's riffing on a classic, this time The Scarlet Letter.

The Town - I'm loving Ben Affleck the director. I think, like George Clooney, he is making a deliberate effort to stay away from projects like the ones that made him a joke several years ago. His directing debut, Gone Baby Gone was incredible, and this looks like a similarly brilliant effort. Maybe too similar - how many more Boston-set stories does he want to tell? Still, the cast is pretty darn stellar (Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, and Affleck himself), and what I know of the story is pretty cool.

Devil - They should seriously take M. Night Shyamalan's name off the adverts. It is an anti-selling point right now. And yes, this is a no. Every time I see this trailer (it is in front of EVERY MOVIE I HAVE SEEN for the past two months) I roll my eyes. Also, the director is one of the directors responsible for The Poughkeepsie Tapes. My memory is long, gentlemen, and I am slow to forgive.

Jack Goes Boating - [limited] Directorial debut of Philip Seymour Hoffman, this is based on an Off-Broadway play he was in with John Ortiz and RENT's Daphne Rubin-Vega, both of whom reprise their roles in the film, along with Hoffman. Amy Ryan (who most of you know from The Office, but who you should totally check out in her Oscar-nominated role in the aforementioned Gone Baby Gone) rounds out the cast as Hoffman's love interest. This looks pretty incredible.

Catfish - [limited] This is probably the most talked about film from Sundance, and I'm dying to see what the fuss is about. A big deal is being made about knowing as little as possible going in, which is kind of exciting. However, I have heard the "twist" of this story, and I have to say that if you find it shocking, you have not spent enough time on the internet. Because seriously, I have actually witnessed worse. There is some confusion about the genre. It has most consistently been described as a "reality thriller," which is what the studio is supposedly calling it, but there are arguments about whether it's a documentary or staged. Maybe I'm cynical, but I'm calling shenanigans. I can totally believe that it COULD be true, but it's way more likely that a studio is falsely selling a story as true than that they are fighting cynical audiences and critics to get The Truth out there.

Alpha and Omega - This movie annoys me, and all I've seen is the trailer. It's pretty much your basic high school movie, where the boy from the other side of the tracks is in love with a girl who is out of his league and miraculously wins her, only this is a movie about animated wolves. I also don't like the wink-wink-nudge-nudge about mating (seriously, children's movie!). Anyway, this is on my no list, but I suspect it will win the weekend box office unless the teens turn out like mad for Easy A.

Leaves of Grass - [NYC] Finally! This looked like it wasn't getting released at all, but yay! Tim Blake Nelson directs Edward Norton, who plays twin brothers - one an Ivy League professor, the other a pot grower. This is supposed to be brilliant. I can't wait.

The Freebie - [Release date taken from EW; none listed on IMDB] The premise is an immediate turn-off to me - couple decides to give each other a night off, a gift certificate for one cheat, if you will. I can understand that relationships are all different and that there might be people who would have legitimate reasons for doing such a stupid thing. I just don't care to see a movie about them.


You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger - [9/22, LA/NY] Woody Allen's latest. It looks like ... a Woody Allen film. I mean, what else would it look like? His films are usually interesting, and I'll probably see it. This is another foreign-set film - London again.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps - The plot summary sounds like it's a bit behind the times. Or are our not-quite-heroes supposed to be trying to avert another or even worse financial meltdown than the one that already happened two years ago? Anyway, greed is good and all that. Love Gekko getting his giant cell phone back when he gets out of prison. Charlie Sheen supposedly makes a cameo. I have to see this, for curiosity's sake if nothing else.

You Again - I love Betty White, but her awesomeness is starting to crash in on itself. I also love Kristen Bell, but she is wasted on all these comedies. And there is something so unappealing about grown women who have apparently never left high school. This is a no.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole - The plot sounds like, I kid you not, Harry Potter if, like, Hedwig was the main character and was the one who went away to school. The voice talent includes Faramir David Wenham and Elrond Hugo Weaving. The director is, bizarrely, Zack Snyder (Watchmen, 300, and now owls?). It looks beautiful, but ... owls? Really? I'm curious, to say the least, which is probably enough to sell me a ticket.

Buried - [limited] Great, simple premise that could either be really awesome or really lame. Ryan Reynolds (and the audience) spends most of the movie in a box under the ground. Will he be able to do what it takes to stay alive and get out? This has gotten some pretty great buzz, and I'm excited for it. The Alamo Drafthouse is doing a special deal where you can be buried alive and watch the movie from inside a coffin. I'm sure nothing could possibly go wrong there.

Waiting for 'Superman' - From the makers of An Inconvenient Truth, this is a documentary about the sad state of America's education system. I've heard nothing but raves for it. I hope this is huge, and I hope that every parent of a school-age child gets to see it.

Enter the Void - [LA/NY] Drew McWeeny named this his top film of last year, and what little I know of it is intriguing to say the least. The director, Gaspar NoƩ, is also the man behind Irreversible, the dizzying (literally) reverse chronology drama/thriller with an infamous 9-minute scene in a pedestrian subway. I'm interested in this movie, because the visuals look incredible and the concept (a young man dies and returns as a ghost to watch over his sister) is a fairly unique one, at least in Noe's hands.

Howl - [Release date taken from EW; none listed on IMDB] The Allen Ginsberg obscenity trial, starring James Franco. This one opened Sundance, but people didn't seem terribly excited about it. It's got an amazing cast, though (Mary Louise Parker, Jon Hamm, Alessandro Nivola, David Strathairn). I'm on the fence still; regardless, it's not really a priority.

It's Kind of a Funny Story - [Release date taken from EW; none listed on IMDB] This is the other trailer I see on every single movie I go to these days (and another trailer that, like The Virginity Hit, uses that "Oh my God" song by Ida Maria). I love Zack Galafianakis, and I'm kind of excited to see him to a more serious role (though still, from all available evidence a shade of his usual role).