My parents go to the movies almost every week, God bless ‘em. Whether there’s a new Harrison Ford movie out or the best offering is a shudder Paul Walker movie, my folks will be sitting in the theater at least 20 minutes early, popcorn in hand, waiting for it to start—and yes, they were disappointed in Cowboys and Aliens, too. They, like most film fanatics, hate the down season. January through April are the months most chock full of schlock, and September usually comes in a close second because it’s too late for summer blockbusters and too early for Oscar contenders.
Last year, the closest we got to a Best Picture nominee was The Town, an admittedly deserving contender. In 2009, however, the best of month #9 was The Informant. 2008 gave us Burn After Reading. It was 2007 that came the closest to week-to-week quality with Eastern Promises, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and The Darjeeling Limited, but the last two were given limited releases keeping most Americans from seeing them until October or later.
This year actually has a shot at September perfection. That’s not to claim every film will be a 10 out of 10 or even get an Oscar nomination. After all, a pitcher doesn’t have to strike out every batter for a perfect game. Looking at the lineup, though, there’s at least one wide release each week deserving of your dollars. Here’s hoping Mr. and Mrs. Travers agree come October.
Forget week one, unless you think the latest Blair Witch knockoff Apollo 18 looks like a winner. Oh, wait. There’s also Shark Night 3D, which might be passable entertainment like its inspiration, Piranha 3D, if it wasn’t rated PG-13. PG-13? Are you freakin’ kidding me? Wow. Horrible decision, even with the unrated DVD sure to come.
Week one’s only real saving grace is the Robert Duvall-starring Seven Days in Utopia. The G-rated golf drama pairs the living legend once more with Get Low costar Lucas Black, but with that rating scaring away adults and the subject matter alienating children it’s hard to imagine the movie in theaters more than double the days in its title. It will undoubtedly be worth your money just for the always-entertaining Duvall, but it doesn’t stack up with the rest of the month.
So forget week one *. Flip on the tube Saturday morning instead and watch the Iowa Hawkeyes start their national title run. What? Am I the only one outside of the Hawkeye state believing the best of the Big Ten’s 12 teams can topple one of the over-hyped SEC “powerhouses”? Ah, fine. Have it your way. Go see a bad movie instead. Be my guest.
*The Debt, a time-jumping action drama with Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, and Tom Wilkinson, is earning solid reviews, but was eliminated from contention due to its August 31st release. Shame.
But a month is made up of four weeks, no? Thus, it’s unfair to expect five perfect weekends when we still have four in a row featuring winners. After all, you’ll need the money you saved last week to buy tickets to two movies.
Start off the weekend with a rush by checking out Gavin O’Connor’s Warrior. The director of the Joel Edgerton-Tom Hardy fight film may not have the greatest track record with me, but everyone else seemed to love Miracle. Now, after a critical misstep with the police procedural Pride and Glory, O’connor has returned to the sports arena with a film already earning Oscar buzz.
As mentioned before, the score gets your pulse-pounding as much as Hardy’s hard stare and Edgerton’s scrapper mentality. It may not end up comparing to last year’s stellar Best Picture nominee The Fighter (and should have been winner), but anything close is worth seeing.
Movie #2 features a cast worthy of a Woody Allen film, but a plot as far from the comic’s usual chronicles as possible. Contagion, a virus-caused-end-of-the-world thriller starring Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard (who was actually in Allen’s Midnight in Paris), and the doomed Gwyneth Paltrow, is the latest from frequent filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, who has shot largely under the radar since the last Ocean’s movie in 2007.
That’s not to say he hasn’t been busy or that he’s been disappointing with his offerings, though. Soderbergh has pumped out some of my favorite movies of the past four years including The Girlfriend Experience and the two-part epic Che. Contagion marks his return to the forefront of cinema thanks to its cast, but I doubt his indelible storytelling talent ever went anywhere.
// Notes from the Road
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