New arrivals in theatres this weekend include: the sci-fi drama, The Adjustment Bureau, starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt; the animated comedy Rango, with Johnny Depp in the title role; the Canadian film Funkytown, set in the drug-addled days of disco; and the lame teen drama, Beastly.
Philip K. Dick was a brilliant, imaginative man, and that’s evident whether you have read his books, or have seen one of the films based on his books, like Total Recall, Minority Report, or Blade Runner. The remarkable thing is just how visionary his writing was, and how much it speaks of the human condition.
In writer and director George Nolfi’s adaptation of The Adjustment Bureau, Matt Damon plays David Norris, a politician in the U.S. Senate who comes face-to-face with Fate’s agents: men who are charged with changing the course of humanity’s future all in the name of what is best for the world. David’s glimpse of his own future pales in comparison, however, to the life he dreams of with ballet dancer Elise Sellas, played by Emily Blunt, a woman who Fate’s Adjustment Bureau says he can’t be with.
Chasing Elise through New York City, David will test the boundaries of Fate and attempt to defy Fate’s minions as they do everything in its power to keep the two people apart.
The biggest problem with the The Adjustment Bureau is simply that Nolfi is a first time director, and maybe the minor annoyance that The Adjustment Bureau moderately reminds me of Dark City, but Nolfi has a strong background nonetheless, penning hits that include The Bourne Ultimatum, and Ocean’s Twelve. Backing up Nolfi is also a strong team of filmmakers, like two-time Academy Award winning cinematographer John Toll, and ten-time Oscar nominated composer Thomas Newman.
Looking at the reviews, The Adjustment Bureau has strong praise from major critics, but it’s not sweeping everyone away.
Dana Stevens of Slate wrote, “The Adjustment Bureau isn’t a somber, elegant meditation on free will and destiny like Blade Runner (another adaptation of a Philip K. Dick work). But at its most winning it doesn’t try to be.”
Meanwhile, Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune commented, “The film bristles with the sort of contrivances that could incite derisive snickers. Yet it moves with such brisk self-assurance that the chuckles arrive only at a few comedic rest stops.”
Johnny Depp is a busy, busy guy. Every few months there seems to be another film that the actor has starred in, and it’s also not uncommon to see him working with one of his favorite directors. First there was Tim Burton, who is one of Depp’s long-standing friends and collaborators, and apparently now Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski is ready to make Depp a fixture in more of his films as well.
In the animated Rango, Depp voices a chameleon with a new home in what looks like a classic American western town, complete with other critters dressed up as the townspeople. Imagining himself as the hero of the story, Rango takes on the role of the Sheriff before he discovers that everyone else who tried that job before didn’t end survive very long.
Picking up strong reviews from most critics, Rango looks like the best film of the weekend, and the family-friendly tone of the movie is sure to fill theatre seats, and you won’t even need to put on any ridiculous glasses to enjoy the show.
As Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote in his review, “Rango is some kind of a miracle: An animated comedy for smart moviegoers, wonderfully made, great to look at, wickedly satirical, and (gasp!) filmed in glorious 2-D.” And Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “In a world choked with animated films — the good, the bad and the ugly — it’s hard to be either original or great. Yet director Gore Verbinski has done both…”
French and English hybrid films are pretty rare in Canada, but director Daniel Roby and screenwriter Steve Galluccio have come up with something unique in Funkytown, a drama set at the peak of the disco age and looks at the highs and lows of the era in Montreal.
Patrick Huard stars in Funkytown as Bastien Lavallée, the hottest dancer in Montreal’s Starlight disco, and the star of the show Disco Dance Party. As everyone in Montreal’s party scene tries to get close to Bastien, there’s questions about sexuality, drugs, and whether or not disco is going to fall apart at any moment.
Although there are complaints that the film is all over the map, and even that it’s far to English to be a bilingual film, Funkytown is getting a few solid reviews.
Liz Braun wrote for the Toronto Sun, “Funkytown is a bit of a mess, but it’s a mess you can dance to. There are too many characters to care about and too many storylines to follow, but the high energy will carry you along and the performances are strong.”
Wrapping up this week’s new releases is the ridiculous teen drama, Beastly, a modern Beauty and the Beast remake starring Alex Pettyfer as a popular, attractive high school student who is cursed with disfiguring ugliness after he blows off a Goth girl in his class. The only way he can lift the curse is if he finds true love, despite his deformity.
Vanessa Hudgens co-stars as the teenager’s love interest, and just for amusement’s sake it’s worth noting that the film was shot in Montreal.
That’s about all the good I can say for the film though. As James Rocchi of MSN Movies wrote, “Blandly literal and flabbily familiar, the great irony of Beastly is that this filmed version of the classic parable of how beauty is only skin-deep has so very little going on under the surface.”
And Andrea Gronvall of the Chicago Reader called Beastly “[a] pallid, formulaic teen romance that might have benefited from a little snark.”