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The Weekend Marquee: Indie David vs. Megatron Goliath

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Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen opened two days ago. It has already grossed over $80M and the weekend hasn’t even started yet. Needless to say, the new slate of movies that are opening today can be considered counter programming, as they don’t stand a chance of competing in the box office race with the big toy sequel. They are smaller indie flicks that have more drama than special effects; more dialogue than shots of Megan Fox‘s chest. At the top of this indie heap is Nick CassavetesAlpha Dog follow-up, My Sister’s Keeper.

The leukemia drama stars Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin (who’s no little child anymore) and Alec Baldwin. It has received mixed reviews, with more of a lean on the negative side. Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star-Ledger wrote: “Don’t avoid My Sister’s Keeper because it’s a film about a serious issue. Avoid it because it approaches that issue like a very special episode of Grey’s Anatomy – complete with whining pop songs and all the comforts of cliche.” Sounds like great summer escapist fare, right?

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The other major indie flick is Cheri, directed by the very talented Stephen Frears (The Queen, The Grifters). It’s a Parisian period drama with Michelle Pfeiffer as an aging cougar and Rupert Friend as her boy toy. It has also gotten mixed reviews, but with a slight lean on the postive side. Mike LaSalle of The San Francisco Chronicle wrote: “In the hands of director Stephen Frears and screenwriter Christopher Hampton, the team behind Dangerous Liaisons, this story of two ultra-sophisticated lovers becomes a heartfelt look at the strains and challenges of an older woman-younger man relationship. As he is coming into his manhood, she is transitioning out of young womanhood into another phase of life. It’s a poignant thing to find Pfeiffer’s face balanced right on that line between youth and age, and seeing her, I can’t help but feel that I’m seeing something that goes beyond the boundaries of the film, that I’m seeing a whole generation move from one stage to the next.” That’s true. It’s hard to imagine Catwoman entering middle age. But time waits for no one. It’s nice to see women getting good roles in Hollywood. Pfeiffer has had her own battles with that issue. It’s also nice to see an older woman with a younger man as opposed to the opposite scenario that appears so often in cinema (e.g. Jack Nicholson and Amanda Peet in Something’s Gotta Give).

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The other movies opening are The Hurt Locker, a very well-reviewed Iraq combat drama directed by Kathryn Bigelow; Cyrus Nowrasteh‘s The Stoning of Soraya M., an Iranian drama about love and loss set in 1986; and Surveillance, a serial killer thriller directed by Jennifer Chambers Lynch, the filmmaker responsible for Boxing Helena and daughter to David Lynch. All trailers are posted below. This is a heavy weekend for the cinema…all the movies seem to be about destruction, death, aging and war. You’ll wanna bring Prozac to eat with your popcorn.

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