Resuming Normal Operations

You know how the last couple of weekends have been quiet? Well, that’s over; it’s properly January now, and the studios are throwing out as many titles as they to replace their underperforming Oscar bait. Let’s jump right in!

“Beauty and the Beast 3D”:  Disney’s digital reissue of Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise’s hand-drawn masterpiece is probably just a clever marketing gambit designed to entice people to upgrade to the 3D BD released last fall, but  it doesn’t matter. As Glenn points out, anything that puts one of the great modern animated features back on the big screen is commendable all on its own.

Contraband“: Mark Wahlberg is a crackerjack smuggler who’s gone legit, only to be dragged back in for One Last Job in this pleasantly human-scale thriller. It’s also a remake of an Icelandic thriller (2008’s “Reykjavik-Rotterdam”) directed by that film’s co-writer and star, Baltazar Kormakur. I’m pretty sure that’s a first.

A Dangerous Method“:  David Cronenberg’s well-intentioned and expertly detailed drama re-creates scenes from the birth of psychotherapy, with Michael Fassbender andViggo Mortensen as Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. It’s Cronenberg’s least involving film since “M. Butterfly” — another stage adaptation which, in making its erotic subtext into text, left Cronenberg unable to fully animate the material.

“The Iron Lady”: Meryl Street commits herself admirably to playing a Margaret Thatcher who isn’t a “Spitting Image” caricature … though Streep’s performance would have been better served in a project that actually knew what “Spitting Image” represented. This is not that movie; in fact, it’s an infuriating, superficial look at the most important British politician since Churchill. Susan liked it more than I did. I’m sad about that.

“Joyful Noise”: Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah compete for the leadership of a church choir on its way to regionals or something. The trailer was so obnoxious that I resolved to give the screening to someone else. Which I did. Victory! (And my apologies to Rad.)

Pariah“:  I thought Dee Rees’ drama about a gay teenager (Adepero Oduye) escaping her toxic home life was a well-acted but utterly formulaic picture when I saw it at TIFF last year, but other critics (including Susan) have embraced it more unreservedly. Which is nice, I guess. But we were watching movies like this 25 years ago, weren’t we?

“Red Light Revolution”: A Beijing cab driver opens a sex shop; wackiness ensues. Glenn is not a fan, though I suspect “there’s something ballsy about a film that climaxes with the appearance of an erection” is one of the most elegant multi-layered dick jokes NOW will ever print. (Me, I’m still trying to craft the perfect “food-grade latex” gag.)

The Swell Season“: “Once” made Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova movie stars and Oscar winners. It also planted the seeds of their breakup, which seems to happen in real time in this tour documentary. If you can get through the affectations of the first half, the second half pays off quite powerfully.

And there you are. There’s also a new short-film series at the NFB tonight, and the Lightbox will be screening Gary Hustwit’s design trilogy all weekend. So don’t you dare say there’s have nothing to watch.

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