Movies in Theaters on Friday, October 14, 2011
Tales of nasty aliens, brilliant surgeons, avid bird enthusiasts and disgraced entrepreneurs fill the cineplex this weekend. See what might be best for your particular attention and attendance: The Thing, The Skin I Live In, The Big Year or Father of Invention.
The prequel to John Carpenter‘s 1982 sci-fi horror classic/grand guignol freak show shows us the events that led to the harrowing opening of JC’s film: two Norwegian scientists aboard a helicopter, taking sniper shots at a seemingly defenseless canine. Sure, this “prequel” basically has the same plot as its predecessor, but really, how could it not? If you come across (and stupidly awaken this outer space nasty in an isolated setting, there’s really only one way the whole thing (heh heh) can unfold. Even if this new Thing plays more as a remake, it should still be a blast to see what today’s FX technology does with a creature that can completely replicate its host — even though that replication is often interrupted before completion, making for all sorts of gooey messes. The gorgeous Mary Elizabeth Winstead is an inspired choice to provide Ripley-esque alpha female heroics — if anyone can show these hapless Norwegian scientists how to torch this grody shape-shifter, it’s Scott Pilgrim‘s Ramona Flowers.
Spanish auteur/madman Pedro Almodovar is at it again with another examination of the fragility of the human psyche and the insatiable hunger of the sex drive, though this time he’s spicing things up with a little old-fashioned (or, rather new-fashioned, actually) body horror. If you want a completely spoiler-ific summary of this sick, twisted erotic/gross-out thriller, head on over to Wikipedia and ruin everything — otherwise, let it suffice to say that Antonio Banderas, appearing in his first Almodovar pelicula since 1990’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, plays a brilliant surgeon who’s developed a synthetic skin that’s immune to burning. He’s experimenting on a young woman (Elena Anaya) and… whoa, we almost got carried away there! Our lips our sealed — you’ll have to check out ol’ Pedro’s latest deviant exploration of sexuality, mortality and morality for yourself.
When we first heard of the plot (and the cast) of this existential comedy based on Mark Obmascik’s celebrated novel, it sounded like a Wes Anderson movie that was made by someone who isn’t Wes Anderson. And then the trailer came out and‚ well, so much for that. Anderson is a master at taking a peculiar premise and probing it for startling (and realistic) insights into the human experience; The Big Year, on the other hand, looks like a horse (or bird, rather) of too many colors — one moment, we’re in a dark comedy in which Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black engage in underhanded tactics as they try to sabotage each other’s cross-country quests to spot the most bird species in a year, and the next we’re in a tearjerker bromance about how much it sucks to be getting old with your hopes and dreams unrealized. We have a feeling this one will come off best when it shows us just how unmovable the male ego can truly be — and the supporting cast is nothing if not impressive, consisting of Rashida Jones, Anjelica Huston, Brian Dennehy, Corbin Bernsen, JoBeth Williams, Anthony Anderson, Tim Blake Nelson, Kevin Pollak, Dianne Wiest and Rosamund Pike.
You know those dudes on infomercials selling you somewhat amusing, mildly clever but ultimately worthless crap? Kevin Spacey is perfectly cast in Father of Invention as one of those guys, except his product (a device that allows you to do ab-crunches as you channel-surf, or something) ends up being dangerous and lands him in prison. When he gets out, he’s got long hair and a scraggly beard and a desire for big-time redemption, which unexpectedly comes in the form of reconnecting with his estranged daughter (Camilla Belle). Like Casino Jack and even 21 before it, Father of Invention doesn’t look like it deserves a showman of Spacey’s considerable talents, but the fact that he said “Yes” to the gig makes it about a thousand times better than it would’ve been without him — we’ll gladly watch him be humiliated as a new man (Craig Robinson) drives his car and sleeps with his wife (Virginia Madsen), swallowing his pride as he takes a job at a department store and finds new creative inspiration in the least likely of places. Spacey’s always got the magic — now we want to see him once again starring in movies that get, you know, Oscar nominations.