Movieline Attractions: Tag Teams Against Alice
Welcome back to Movieline Attractions, your regular guide to everything new, noteworthy and/or overpoweringly pungent at the movies. This week, exes duke it out at the multiplex, a star is born at the art house and Dakota Fanning hits bottom. And Alice in Wonderland will wipe everyone out anyway. Let's have a look.
WHAT'S NEW: When I last viewed the 1987 Robert De Niro/Charles Grodin buddy-ish comedy Midnight Run maybe four or five years ago on cable, I was disappointed to see it didn't quite hold up the way I'd hoped it would. The joke -- a gruff bounty hunter drags his droll mark back to the reservation amid hot pursuit from the feds and the Mafia -- wore pretty thin after about an hour, by which time De Niro had resorted almost exclusively to F-bombs and all that was left was Dennis Farina crushing everyone and everything with that extraordinary line, "You are going to die tonight." Anyway, the point is that if the dreadful buzz about The Bounty Hunter is accurate, and it's just a Midnight Run remake kicked and punched beyond recognition down the romcom spectrum with Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston as ex-spouses in the De Niro/Grodin slots, well, then, hey. I weep for humanity, etc. Which usually translates to a $26.5 million opening and its own basic-cable berth 15 years from now, when those who spent $10 on it today will take one look, tilt his/her head, and say, "Oh, yeah, this," before flipping to a rerun of Iron Chef: Suriname or whatever else sustains audiences in 2025.
Things are looking a little better for Diary of a Wimpy Kid -- not necessarily box-office-wise, but at least culturally. The first of what Fox hopes will be several adaptations of Jeff Kinney's popular young-adult novels about the abject comic misery of middle school has its fans, and most them have already seen Alice (if they intend to at all). So you'll see a better-than-expected boost here to around $18 million, maybe even $19 million. Universal is back with the Jude Law/Forest Whitaker sci-fi thriller Repo Men, on which the studio doesn't have nearly as much riding as it did with last week's money pit Green Zone, but which won't perform any better: $11.5 million and out.
Also opening: The universally acclaimed, soon-to-be-remade Swedish hit The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo; Jonathan Demme's concert film Neil Young Trunk Show; the indie trapped-in-a-diner-with-a-killer thriller The Killing Jar; the glimpse at Mussolini's secret family Vincere; the IMAX 3D documentary Hubble; in NYC only, the North Korea dictator study Kimjongilia, and in L.A. only, the ZIP code doc 45635 and the Iraq doc Severe Clear.
THE BIG LOSER: It's generally bad form to root for someone to fail, but I genuinely hope no one sees the rotten, fraudulent, self-satisfied exploit-a-thon The Runaways -- that some special-edition DVD will one day digitally remove the limp Dakota Fanning, the overbearing Michael Shannon, the underused Alia Shawkat and the rest of the cratering ensemble and leave nothing but Kristen Stewart's exquisite, tensely coiled portrayal of Joan Jett to appreciate for posterity. Her Jett is already so much of a loner as to be acting in virtual isolation anyway, so let's just take it all the way. As Nathan Arizona would say, "Short of that, what we got to talk about?"
THE UNDERDOG: This is a close call, but for sheer narrative chutzpah and execution, Raymond De Felitta's City Island seems as sure a thing as you'll find this weekend. It's got its flaws, some more conspicuous than others ($5 to the first person not named De Felitta who can explain Emily Mortimer's storyline to me). But the Rizzo family -- as assayed by patriarch Andy Garcia, matriarch Julianna Margulies, siblings Dominik Garcia-Lorido and Ezra Miller, and X-factor ex-con Steven Strait -- is so charmingly off-center and exhausted with each other that it's hard to resist their tortuous New York saga. Extra points for Garcia, who, with a single film, has late-bloomed into one of the best comic actors you never knew we had.
Honorable Mention: More on this in Monday's Verge interview here at Movieline, but Greta Gerwig owns Greenberg, Noah Baumbach's schizoid tale of the karmically haunted title character (Ben Stiller) and Florence (Gerwig), the rudderless young woman whose life he essentially crashes upon visiting Los Angeles. Baumbach treats her about as well as Greenberg does -- as a MacGuffin, really, a spiritual point of entry into a world that crisis and narcissism will soon eclipse. In that sense, Baumbach succeeds in making Florence all the more magnetic and all the more essential to not take for granted. But it's kind of a cheat; Woody Allen pulled a similar stunt 33 years ago, but at least he had the decency to call his film Annie Hall, you know? Anyway, if Baumbach does nothing else for the rest of his career but re-refine upper-middle-class malevolence every few years and swat away Armond White, he will be thanked for relocating Gerwig from the mumblecore fringe to the mainstream, where her loopy, romantic sincerity can flourish in the spotlight it deserves. The rest? Enh.
FOR SHUT-INS: Not an especially nourishing week to stay in with a DVD, alas, with only the stinky Did You Hear About the Morgans?, Astro Boy, Armored, Ninja Assassin, Bandslam, The Princess and the Frog and the 13th season of South Park really standing out among new releases. Unless you count New Moon arriving on Sunday. Believe me, the line forms right... behind... me.