1. The Town (Warner Brothers, 2,861 Theaters, 123 Minutes, Rated R): You have to admire the second act that Ben Affleck is currently enjoying. Once, he seemed to be a rare Hollywood icon. An Oscar winner for his writing ability, he seemed poised to have a long and successful career as a romantic leading man/thinking man’s action hero, a double threat if you will.
Then came Gigli.
That film was a thermonuclear bomb, laying waste to both his and Jennifer Lopez’s film career (J-Lo is only now starting to dig her way out). It seemed like Affleck was soon to be consigned to the kind of films that are only released on DVD or maybe a high-profile TV show.
But before he slipped that far, he tried his hand at directing. When it was announced that he would be directing Gone Baby Gone, the instinctual reaction would be to mock. Instead, he gave us one of the best films of the new millennium, and helped Amy Ryan get a well deserved Oscar nod.
Now he back in the directors chair with another film adapted from a crime novel featuring an eclectic, albeit very talented cast. Only this time, he’s taken on a role in the production. Will he hit a sophomore slump? Or will his successful second act continue.
2. Devil (Universal, 2,810 Theaters, 80 Minutes, Rated PG-13): Legend has it that in many a theater that ran this trailer, the audience let out a collective groan when the words “From the mind of M. Night Shyamalan” came on the screen. I only noticed some derisive mumbling when I saw it, but my mileage might vary.
Shyamalan co-wrote and produced the film, so he is a part of it, but he isn’t directing it. I don’t know if that makes a difference but there you go.
The plot does seem like a Shyamalan plot. Four strangers become trapped in an elevator when it breaks down. If that wasn’t bad enough, it appears that one of the four is the devil, and is Hellbent on torturing the other three.
Having a horror film set in the confined space of an elevator seem like a no-brainer, but I’m not sure in a good or a bad way. It seems perfect for tension, but, really, if the devil is one of the four in the elevator with you, it shouldn’t take 80 minutes to find out.
3. Easy A (Sony/Screen Gems, 2,800 Theaters, 92 Minutes, Rated PG-13): An unpopular teenager decides to help out a high-school buddy. Her friend is gay but like that fact to remain a secret. At a party, they fake having sex. The aftermath has surprising results for the girl, as she now finds herself popular in a number of different ways.
This has been getting some good notices, comparing it to Heathers and Mean Girls. Pretty heady company.
I lot, I guess, would depend on Emma Stone. It’s her likability that will be the determining factor on how good the film is. The concept seems fairly airtight and hard to screw up. But if you don’t feel for the lead, then it will all go out the window. However, if she pulls it off, this could be a star-making role.
4. Alpha And Omega (Lionsgate, 2,625 Theaters, 88 Minutes, Rated PG): The bad thing about the success of Pixar, Dreamworks, and other CGI animation houses, is that it gives the impression that this kind of success is so easy that anyone can do it. But if you lack Pixar’s sense of heart or Dreamworks sense of fun, you are not going to succeed.
This film seems kind of originality by way of cookie cutter, like a Frankenstein creation of some sorts. It’s a romance between different classes. This has been done before. Never with animated wolves, but still. You have the added dynamic of one of the pair being great at what they do, and the other being a hapless loser. The only change is that the female is the dominant one out of the pair. Of course, they are put together on a dangerous adventure where they can learn from one another and fall in love.
Other than that, the only thing this film has going for it is that it turned out to be Dennis Hopper’s last film. Which, well, is what it is.