The World According to Bettany

Mr. Darwin, I'm afraid I have some bad news ...You’ve got to love the thinking here. Sony staked out this weekend for its supernatural thriller “Legion” months ago … so what do the distributors of “Creation” do? They pick the very same weekend to release their movie, presumably in the hopes that all those posters of a shirtless, winged Paul Bettany (holding a machine gun, no less) will somehow draw audiences to their tepid little period piece, which stars Bettany as Charles Darwin.

Yes! Spillover effect for the win! You know, assuming they don’t bother to look at the posters or something. And really, does anyone actually say “Two for the Paul Bettany movie” when they step up to the ticket window?

So. Diving in, then:

“Creation”: The stunt casting of actual couple Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly as Charles and Emma Darwin is supposed to add some chemistry to the dramatization of the origin of “On the Origin of Species”. It doesn’t, but it’s not really the actors’ fault; Jon Amiel just doesn’t seem interested in investing his plodding prestige drama with any life. Kieran agrees — though Susan liked it a little more than either of us.

Extraordinary Measures“: You know how sometimes a movie will take a true story and oversimplify it to the point of pandering stupidity because it doesn’t have any faith in an audience’s ability to follow a complex story? This is one of those movies — and worse, it’s further hampered by Harrison Ford’s laughable performance as a maverick research scientist who is entirely fictional. Because Brendan Fraser’s turn as a father trying to save his kids’ lives wasn’t compelling enough, apparently.

The Last Station“: Christopher Plummer surprised me in “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” by pulling out a terrific, understated performance — which the film tried its best to ignore, but that’s a different problem. Here, he’s back to hamming it up as Leo Tolstoy in Michael Hoffman’s pokey costume drama, which features additional hamming from Helen Mirren and Paul Giamatti while James McAvoy looks on and tries to keep his dignity.

Legion“: When angels declare war on humanity, Paul Bettany and his divine abs may be the only thing standing between us and annihilation. Oh, and Dennis Quaid is involved somehow, too. There was no press screening, so I’ll be discovering how closely this hews to the plot of “The Prophecy” right along with everyone else. UPDATE: Turns out it’s more of a “Terminator” riff. Huh.

Petropolis: Aerial Perspectives on the Alberta Tar Sands“: Peter Mettler’s environmental documentary delivers exactly what it promises — a series of hypnotic aerial shots of massive ecological devastation, taken from heights that make them appear almost beautiful. Only 43 minutes long, so the Royal has arranged Q&As after each screening; Mettler himself will be in attendance tonight and tomorrow, and Marc Glassman — film critic and editor of POV Magazine –will be there Sunday evening.

“Revanche”: I’ve been waiting more than a year for someone to open Gotz Spielmann’s intricate, noir-tinged drama about a cop and a crook who share a common wound; this weekend, it gets a limited engagement at the Bloor that’s basically a teaser for next month’s Criterion DVD release. It’s not ideal, but it’ll have to do.

“The Tooth Fairy”: Look, I don’t begrudge Dwayne Johnson making family comedies. He’s got that larger-than-life presence that makes him perfect for concepts like this. (And Stephen Merchant is in it, too.) But … it just looks horrible, you know? And it’s opening in mid-January. So I shall do the noble thing, and wait for the DVD.

Oh, and if you need something else to see this weekend, check out Cinematheque’s Best of the Decade program. It’s all Jia Zhang-ke, all the time, with the director introducing “Platform” tonight and “Still Life” and “The World” playing on Saturday. And give the box-office people my best.

One thought on “The World According to Bettany”

  1. Uhm, “Pray with Me if You Want to Live?”

    I think that’s always what’s best about January releases, seeing what payday actors will accept during slow periods.

    Ahh Dennis Quaid, what have you been thinking? They should sell GIJoe, Pandorum and Legion in a three-pack discount deal…

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