1. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Fox, @3,000 theaters, 114 Minutes, Rated PG-13): James Thurber’s short story, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, is at once one of the most cinematic stories ever written, and one that is untranslatable to films.
Sure, the story of a man who has vivid, exciting day dreams about being a fighter pilot and an assassin as he goes about his daily errands does sound like a good film, but in the end, it’s a story about a man who is going about his daily errands. This is why the makers of the 1947 adaptation decided to ad some real life adventure to Mitty’s life in the form of hiding jewels from Nazi agents.
There aren’t that many Nazis around these days, so this version features the day-dreaming Mitty (Ben Stiller) having to leave his shell to track down a vagabond superstar photojournalist (Sean Penn) to retrieve a lost negative. Not exactly as exiting as keeping jewels away from Nazis.
2. Grudge Match (Warner Brothers, 2,750+ Theaters, 113 Minutes, Rated PG-13): If you asked people what the two most iconic boxing movies of all time were, odds are that the majority of the time, you’ll get Rocky and Raging Bull. They both are indicative of the era in filmaking and provide two very different approaches to the sport. Both are based in reality (Rocky was inspired by a true story, Raging Bull was a biopic).
Both also were made a very long time ago. And while it did take all this time for the Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro’s careers to get to such a point where starring in a film rehashing their previous boxing films would seem like a good idea, it does seem odd to have the Copland costars battle each other now.
They play retired boxers who had two big matches against each other in their career, each boxer winning one. There was never a third to settle the score. When a video game raises interest in their rivalry (a plot point reminiscent of Rocky Balboa), the fighters are brought out of retirement to settle who was best once and for all.
PRODUCER: Hey, thanks for meeting with me, STUDIO EXECUTIVE. Have I got a movie for you!
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: Hit me with it.
PRODUCER: Get this; I want to do a film base on the Japanese historical event, the 47 Ronin!
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: Okay, that sounds like a hard sell here in the States.
PRODUCER: I know, and I am on top of that. We’ve solved it with two words: Keanu Reeves.
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: Wait, Keanu Reeves? Like, from The Matrix Keanu Reeves?
PRODUCER: Yep, he’s going to play the lead ronin.
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: Is he of Japanese ancestry?
PRODUCER: Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiian, one of those. Maybe a combo of them all. I don’t know. But it’s Keanu! Can’t lose!
STUDIO EXECUTIVE:If you say so. Go on.
PRODUCER:Okay, so Keanu will be leading the rest of the 46 ronin against a warlord who is responsible for the death of their master…
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: Wait, there are really 47 ronin in this? That’s a lot of characters for a film.
PRODUCER: Don’t worry about that, chief. At least 30 of the ronin will just stand in the backgrounds and not say anything. So anyway, on their path of vengeance, they’ll go up against a lot of enemies. Like, an ogres, a woman who can transform into a dragon and other monsters.
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: Wait, I though you said this was based on a true story?
PRODUCER: It is.
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: So…dragon ladies and ogres?
PRODUCER: Creative license. Hey, if anybody from the 18th century complains about the accuracy, I’ll print a retraction in Variety. And do you know that guy from that Lady Gaga video? You know, the one with a skeleton tattooed all over his body?
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: No.
PRODUCER: Well he’s in the movie too. The kids dig him. With him and Keanu in the film, it’s like printing money. Speaking of budget…
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: Yes, I was thinking of $75 million.
PRODUCER: Hey, think of what ever you want, but the final budget with cost overruns will be pushing $200 million dollars.
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: Woo. Okay, I guess. Now, I’m thinking a November 2012 release.
PRODUCER: Yeah, about that. When you see the final project, you’re going to want to have it re-edited. And, of course, you’ll want to have it converted to 3-D. So that release date is going to be bumped to February 2013.
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: Yikes.
PRODUCER: And then again to Christmas 2013. So, what do ya say! Do we have a deal?
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: (Pause) Sure. Why not? I don’t care how I’ll spend Universal’s money.
4. The Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount, @2,400 Theaters, 180 Minutes, Rated R): The shady Wall Street stock trader has become a prevalent trope over the years, and a popular one at that. Ever since Wall Street, audiences have wanted to see how men would steal their money, invest it in shady business opportunities and get rich in the process.
Jordan Belfort was a real-life version of one of these guys, a man who operated a “boiler room,” a corporation that would work make cold calls to gullible marks, read from a pre-approved script, and sell them dummy stocks and keep the money. His life story has already been adapted to the screen in a fictionalized version in Boiler Room.
Now, Belfort is getting the Martin Scorsese treatment , being portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, in his fifth pairing with the director. It’s a story that has been told before, but I think it’s safe to say that these guys will bring something new to the mix.
5. Justin Bieber’s Believe (Open Road Films, @1,000 Theaters, 92 Minutes, Rated PG): Okay, I have to believe that Justin Bieber is just about to jump the shark. I mean, after all, he’s at that awkward age when his teeny bopper fan club is just discovering good music and leaving him behind in droves, leaving him to grasp at relevance. And unlike Miley Cyrus, he can’t diddle his crotch on live TV or grind his ass against Robin Thicke’s crotch to gain a bump in record sales.
So we get a behind-the-scenes film documentary about him and his rise to superstardom, the second such behind-the-scenes film documentary about him and his rise to superstardom in three years. Because I guess Justin Bieber: Never Say Never left so many unanswered questions.
I wonder if they are going to do an in depth examination of why he peed in that janitor’s bucket. Or maybe he can get on screen and tell us why he thought spitting on his fans was so much fun.
Let’s help this kid out. Let’s help speed his inevitable trip into obscurity out by no going to see this film. If your daughter is one of those who like him and is pestering you to take her to the film, buy her a ticket to The Hobbit instead. Odds are it will take her a half hour to notice any difference.