THE WEEKEND MARQUEE: ‘Enemies’ For Adults And ‘Dinosaurs’ For Kids
It’s been over a year since the last Johnny Depp flick Sweeney Todd, and this 4th of July weekend he’s back playing another twisted criminal (minus the song and dance, though). Depp stars as legendary gangster John Dillinger in Michael Mann‘s long awaited crime drama Public Enemies. Also on board is Christian Bale as FBI agent Melvin Purvis. I have one question: Does this man ever take a break? He had The Dark Knight last summer and Terminator Salvation only a month ago. No wonder he’s so moody. If I worked that much, I’d probably have a meltdown, too.
Public Enemies got an early start on Wednesday due to the fact that not many people will be going to the theater this weekend. Fireworks take priority even over Transformers. The reviews for the crime drama have been pretty good, but not great. Claudia Puig of USA Today writes that Mann “mounts a technically proficient, visually enthralling crime drama anchored by the low-key but captivating performance of Johnny Depp.”
Other critics are less enthralled. The New Yorker‘s David Denby thinks that Public Enemies lacks humanity: “The movie is structured around repeated scenes of wounded men (agents as well as criminals) dying as they look into the eyes of their friends. Yet some of the dying men are barely known to us, and the device, though beautifully staged in each case, doesn’t have the power it should have had. The movie is emotionally neutered.” One thing that most critics did agree on, however, is that it’s nice to see an intelligent adult drama amidst a summer of mindless kiddie flicks and special effects blockbusters (even if it’s a bit dull).
Speaking of kiddie flicks, the other big movie this weekend is Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs in 3D, which also opened Wednesday. Reviews for this third installment of the franchise have been mixed.
Elizabeth Weitzman of The New York Daily News sums it up best: “Threequels are notorious letdowns, so the filmmakers deserve a little extra credit for keeping up with the series, which has always been reliable, rather than groundbreaking, family entertainment. Nicely enhanced with vivid 3-D imagery, Ice Age goes down easy, even if the impact melts away with relative speed.” That’s good enough for me. In comparison, Transformers melts away even faster and does not go down easy. Ya gotta give a kiddie flick credit for being smarter than the summer’s biggest blockbuster. It shows how dumb Hollywood producers think audiences are.
The most intriguing offering this weekend is definitely Tony Manero, from Chilean director Pablo Larraín, who also wrote it along with Alfredo Castro and Mateo Iribarren. It is a genre-mixing, mind-bending satire on celebrity obsession and politcs. Manero is set in Chile during the time of Augusto Pinochet‘s regime and follows the journey of a disturbed man who has an unhealthy interest in Saturday Night Fever .
Its reviews has been garnering excellent reviews. In his Salon column “Beyond the Multiplex”, Andrew O’Hehir writes, “Shot on a low-budget on Super 16 mm film (and subsequently blown up to 35 mm), Tony Manero has a slightly dingy look that perfectly suits its oppressive ’70s setting. It’s not a picture likely to win awards for its cinematographic beauty, but I found it a memorably claustrophobic evocation of its time and place, as well as a reminder that the so-called escape offered by pop culture can sometimes be an escape into soul-sucking madness.”
Also opening this weekend in limited release are the French comedy La fille de Monaco (The Girl from Monaco) about a criminal defense lawyer and a femme fatale…
…as well as the horrendously reviewed I Hate Valentine’s Day, written, directed and starring My Big fat Greek Wedding’s Nia Vardalos. I have a message for you Nia: You just starred in the critical and financial turkey My Life in Ruins in May–about a month ago. And now you’re already back with more cinematic dreck! Why do you keep doing this to yourself? Greek Wedding was a fluke. All the pieces came together perfectly. But please stop trying to recapture that formula. You can’t just write an awful script and then cast your old co-star John Corbett and expect lightning again. Forget about making movies. It’s not working. Do theater. Guest star on Law and Order. Host a talk show. Do anything else. Audiences and critics will thank you for it.