Martin Blank, Your Life is Calling

This is no life for a self-respecting actorPlenty of movies opening this week — including one exceptional drama, one acceptable comedy and the unofficial sequel to one of my favorite films of the 1990s. So let’s get into it, shall we?

Baby Mama“: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler bring their easy rapport to the big screen in Michael McCullers’ surrogacy comedy; they’re both great, and they’re buoyed by a terrific supporting cast, including an unbilled Steve Martin in the best role he’s had in years, but the movie is a little too conventional; like last month’s “Run Fatboy Run“, you can really tell which chunks of the script were rewritten by the stars, and which ones weren’t.

“Deception”: An innocent businessman is drawn into a web of sex and murrrrder in what looks an awful lot like a straight-to-video erotothriller from the 1990s, except that it stars Ewan McGregor, Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams and Fox is opening it on several thousand screens. Radheyan is unimpressed.

“The Forgotten Woman”: Bouncing into its commercial run just hours after its Hot Docs premiere, Dilip Mehta’s factual spinoff of his sister’s fictional, Oscar-nominated “Water” looks at the plight of Indian widows who’ve been abandoned by their families. Susan allows that it’s “not a total bummer.”

“Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay”: The new gig lets me be a little more choosy about which movies I watch these days, but it also allows me to hold off on something Kate really wants to see, so we can catch it together when she has the time. Thus, we are going to see this over the weekend. I have, um, high hopes.

It’s a Free World …“: After something like two decades of making socially conscious indictments of the evils of Western society, Ken Loach finally acknowledges that capitalists are human beings — though not necessarily nice ones — with this deeper-than-usual study of a young London woman who starts an employment agency for illegal workers, and almost immediately finds herself exploiting the crap out of the people she’s supposed to be helping.

The Singing Revolution“: Estonia’s escape from Soviet occupation is the one fall-of-Communism story that ends without a single drop of blood shed … which is marvelous for the Estonian people, but makes for a pretty dull documentary, a distinction made all the more obvious by the filmmakers’ decision to release this during Hot Docs season. Cue the angry letters.

“Then She Found Me”: Helen Hunt’s directorial debut is, apparently, a middle-aged romance between the star and Colin Firth, compounded by the revelation that Hunt’s character is both trying to get pregnant and dealing with the revelation that her birth mother is Bette Midler and her father was Steve McQueen. Jason makes sense of it.

The Visitor“: Tom McCarthy, director of “The Station Agent”, returns with another lovely, low-key study of an isolated man pulled back into the larger world by friendship and community; really, you don’t need to know anything more than that. Just go, this weekend, because it’ll be six months before the DVD comes out and you really don’t want to wait that long.

“War, Inc.”: In interviews, John Cusack has claimed his character is “a bit like” Martin Blank, the conflicted assassin he played in “Grosse Pointe Blank”. Horseshit. He is Blank, ten years older and a lot less human, having somehow lost soulmate Minnie Driver along the way and fallen back into the life of a freelance hitman. And this frenzied, clumsily relevant mess is a feeble attempt to superimpose the structure of George Armitage’s marvelous black comedy onto a clumsy satire of modern American warfare. That said, Marisa Tomei is pretty wonderful as a nosy journalist.

And now, I have an interview with Errol Morris to transcribe — if tickets are still available for tomorrow night’s Hot Docs premiere of “Standard Operating Procedure“, you really should grab one — so I shall excuse myself. Catch you tomorrow.

3 thoughts on “Martin Blank, Your Life is Calling”

  1. A pet peeve from someone in Scarberia:
    Why why why are movies like The Visitor always downtown at the Cumberland (which gets points for showing great movies, but loses them for uncomfortable seats and less slope)? Can’t a couple of theatres in the burbs (with their free parking and better seating) spare even one showing per evening on one screen? Is there a good reason for this?

  2. Hey, Chris,

    It’s not the theaters, it’s the distributors’ limited-release strategy that puts a film on just one screen in the entire city. And since Alliance actually owns the Cumberland, it’s the obvious venue.

    The idea is to open on one screen and ride strong reviews into a platform release; hopefully, this Friday will see “The Visitor” expand to three or four screens, one of which might even be in your part of town. (And it’s an English-language American production, which makes it a good candidate for AMC’s tony-but-not-intimidating “AMC Select” program.)

    Of course, if the film fails to perform well, it’ll never expand beyond that one screen, and you’ll have to wait for it to turn up on DVD before you can see it. But at least you’ll be seeing it in a comfortable chair.

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