Friday, April 20, 2007

Opening this weekend 4/20

This is a pretty jam-packed weekend at the movie with four wide releases opening across the country: “Hot Fuzz,” “Fracture,” “Vacancy” and “In the Land of Women.”

Obviously, the one you should see above all others is “Hot Fuzz,” Edgar Wright’s follow-up to “Shaun of the Dead.” I’ve given it more than enough coverage on here, and it’s the only film this year besides “Zodiac” that I’ve genuinely loved. Do me a personal favor and give it your dollars this weekend. I guarantee satisfaction. However, if you’re somewhat resistant to coolness or excessive entertainment, two of the weekend’s other releases are still pretty solid and recommendable.

The one casualty is Gregory Hoblit’s “Fracture,” which is surprisingly garnering some decent reviews. Perhaps I was spoiled by “Half Nelson,” but I just can’t go back to seeing Ryan Gosling playing generic roles that could just as easily be inhabited by Matthew McConaughey. And watching Anthony Hopkins here just made me depressed. He’s obviously become aware he’s not the box office draw he once was (about 50 pounds ago), so he signed on to an extremely mainstream thriller where he plays Hannibal-Lecter-but-not-really-Hannibal-Lecter-*wink*. He even goes to the point of repeatedly calling Gosling “old sport;” I half expected him to slip up and call him “Clarice.” Though he’s made three thrillers I’m a big fan of—“Fallen,” “Frequency” and “Primal Fear”—Hoblit slips here with a sort-of-dull, routine thriller that has already been spoiled by the trailers to an extent that I felt like I was watching the movie for a second time. It’s certainly not a terrible movie, just a middling one, and one you shouldn’t bother with, especially when there’s much worthier thriller out right now, such as…

“Vacancy,” the stylish thriller/horror flick starring Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale as a married couple whose child has died and regain their love for each other as they’re being hunted in their near-abandoned motel by masked men who want to videotape their demise. Basically, think “In America” meets “8 MM.” Okay, it sounds stupid. And it kind of is. But it’s surprisingly clever, particularly for a movie of this type, and it does a remarkable job of ratcheting up effective tension for the majority of its very short running time (only about 80 minutes). It’s also suitably horrific while managing to mostly avoid any sort of gore, relying purely on tension and crafty filmmaking. It manages to eschew the idiocy and “boo” scares of most thriller/horror films, and was easily worth my 8 bucks.

I honestly enjoyed Jon Kasdan’s “In the Land of Women” a lot more than I expected to, mainly due to a wildly misleading trailer. (1) It sells it as a romantic comedy, which it is emphatically not, and (2) it makes it look like a piece of shit, which it really isn’t either. The movie stars the delicious Adam Brody as Carter Webb (I know, I know), a whiney loser who flees town to stay with his death-obsessed grandmother after his breathtaking girlfriend dumps him. There, he befriends the Mom-with-cancer (Meg Ryan) across the street, as well as her underage daughter (Kristin Stewart), each of whom sort of wants him in their pants. Yeah, it follows a certain formula, *cough* “Garden State” *cough* but it’s cleverly written, and manages to mostly avoid sugariness, and works up enough goodwill to forgive its overly-formulaic ending. Obviously, not everyone’s going to enjoy this sort of thing, but don’t be put off purely by its awful trailer.

Hope that was helpful, all. Check back this weekend for my incredibly awkward and uncomfortable phone interview with “Year of the Dog” writer/director Mike White.


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