This is a vengeful slagging of previews I’ve seen at least ten-thousand times, maybe through bad luck, bad timing, bad karma, it’s hard to say. They’re all for movies opening March 20th. Except for The Soloist, which may never open, judging by the way they keep not opening it.
I Love You Man
This is the “bromance” one about a guy (Paul Rudd playing the same damn thing he always does) with no male friends who needs to recruit one to be best man at his wedding. The recruit is Jason Segal (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), who’s big and puffy and boring and yelly, yet other characters always regard him as outrageous or liberating or heartwarming or something. We need hardly add that Jason Segal needs to be taken out into the woods and shot, or abandoned on an ice floe, anything to put an end to the tedium. You never really appreciate Jerry Lewis till you see some other dull moron try to do the “comedy of embarrassment” which is all the rage these days. Lewis’ sky-high cringe factor was directly related to the fact that he was, when going good, a riot, an appalling riot tying the viewer up in a knot of involuntary reaction. Segal, on the other hand, is blandly horrible, much like the guy who lives down the hall from you who should also never, ever star in a movie or TV series. The big preview moment is when Segal intimidates some guy by rushing at him yelling crazily. It’s pathetic what Segal comes up with there. Any drunk in the local bar has more comic invention than that bum.
On the other hand, the movie’s got J.K. Simmons (Burn After Reading, Juno). Points are awarded for the J.K. Simmons factor.
Sharpen your knives, Socialists—this could be the movie that triggers the long-awaited revolution. It’s about the supposedly hilarious hijinks of two affluent, gorgeous ex-spies (Julia Roberts and Clive Owen) who decide to infiltrate and con two rival corporations out of jillions. While planning this they stay in five-star hotels, dress like fashion models, and act very, very cute. They stride around in sunglasses saying mean quippy things, seeming to be measuring every instant the huge distance between themselves, so gleaming and thin and accessorized, and the squat unbeautiful humanity around them. Even in ordinary times they’d be hard to take, but given the current public mood of raw resentment of the rich and assholish, exhibitors are taking a real chance with fare like this.
Every time I see Nicolas Cage in an ad for another movie, i.e., about once a week, I wonder what happened to his face. Was he in a house fire or something? His hair has clearly suffered some sort of trauma, and looks like a Halloween wig inexpertly glued onto his head, a bit too far back, giving him a vaguely Elizabethan air. It’s very distracting.
Anyway, this preview has been playing for ages now—it’s the one about an unearthed sheet of numbers that seems to predict disasters, though I didn’t really understand how it was supposed to work. Cage says dramatically that somewhere in the world 81 people are going to die tomorrow in some kind of disaster, and rushes out to stop it. But if you follow the news at all, that doesn’t seem like a revelation to rush out for. Surely 81 people are always dying somewhere, what with wars and hurricanes and ferries capsizing and so on, and you can’t go racing across seven continents trying to prevent every bad thing from happening. (Look how much trouble Bill Murray had monitoring the safety of just one town in Groundhog Day.)
Luckily, the disaster turns out to be a plane crash right down the street, but there are bigger disasters coming for Nicolas Cage, apocalypse-sized ones. His son asks him in that solemn, hushed, focused, steady-eyeballed way child actors do, “Are we going to die?” and Cage promises he’ll NEVER let that happen, which seems a hell of a thing to promise a kid actor, especially when the whole screen is plunged into shadow and the desaturated color is so murky it’s clear somebody’s going to buy it.
This movie’s been kicked down the road so many times it’s attaining a certain fascination. It just got booted again, from mid-March to the end of April. How bad can it be, for God’s sake? They released Australia, after all.
This one’s got Robert Downey Jr. as Steven Lopez, the LA Times columnist who befriended homeless Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx) and then discovered Ayers had serious musical gifts to go along with his mental illness. Lopez is also troubled, of course, and can’t commit to his fellow humans, and will have to learn his lesson by saying “He’s my FRIEND” in a quivery voice at the end, which the preview helpfully includes. All very slushy and heartwarming, with nice production values, practically an Oscar-bait type of release, you’d think. So what’s wrong with it, beyond the obvious triumph-of-the-human spirit hugs and sniffles?
Does everyone who watches it die under mysterious circumstances soon afterwards, with an expression of unutterable horror on his or her face?
We should keep in mind that this film is directed by the abysmal hack Joe Wright, whose version of Pride and Prejudice was so criminally stupid it’s a wonder he wasn’t locked up in Movie Jail for life, never allowed near a camera again. Instead, they let him make Atonement. So we can’t say we haven’t been warned.
Hear Eileen Jones talk movies on Los Angeles’ KPFK Radio.
(Aired on Pocho’s Hour of Power, Feb 13, 2009)
Read more: Clive Owen, Duplicity, I Love You Man, Jamie Foxx, Jason Segal, Joe Wright, Julia Roberts, Knowing, movies, Nicolas Cage, Paul Rudd, previews, Robert Downey Jr, The Soloist, Eileen Jones, movies
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