I don’t want to say “Spider-Man 3” is a dud, because I don’t believe that it is … but it’s a big, overstuffed mess, and the good stuff is harder and harder to remember a week after the screening. Still, you’ll probably see it. Everyone will probably see it. And James Franco will get some heat off his work. So there’s that.
Not that there’s anything else that offers real competition this week …
“Away From Her“: Sarah Polley’s feature directorial debut, an adaptation of an Alice Munro short story about a couple dealing with the onset of Alzheimer’s, is deeply felt and compassionate, and Gordon Pinsent is terrific in it. (Julie Christie, not so much, but that’s got more to do with the limitations of her character.) But it’s still just a highbrow TV-movie, and will be just as effective on cable.
“Civic Duty“: Speaking of cable, here’s “Six Feet Under” star Peter Krause as a (possibly) paranoid accountant who becomes convinced his dark-skinned new neighbor is planning an act of terror. The first half of the picture is effective and creepily ambiguous; the second is what happens when either a screenwriter or director gets nervous that people won’t see his point, and artificially amps up the tension. Ah, well.
“The Flying Scotsman“: Jonny Lee Miller does grit very well, playing Graeme Obree, a Scots cyclist who does not fly, but did set a couple of world speed records. It’s an interesting fusion of “The World’s Fastest Indian” and “Shine”, demonstrating that the English and the Irish don’t hold the patent on manipulative template cinema.
“Inland Empire“: In which David Lynch gives his unconscious mind a camcorder, and somehow talks Laura Dern into doing whatever comes to mind for three hours. Some people are saying it’s an utter masterpiece from one of the last real American mavericks; me, I felt like he’d been playing the same tricks in “Mulholland Drive” and “Lost Highway”, and even in “Twin Peaks”, and that the law of diminishing returns is finally catching up to him.
“Lucky You“: Curtis Hanson made this between “8 Mile” and “In Her Shoes”, and saw it shelved for a couple of years while Warner tried to figure out how to dump it. But this is not one of those unjustly discarded character pieces that someday finds a following; this is a real dog of a movie, with a central romantic relationship that simply does not convince, a secondary father-son relationship that seems only slightly more believable, and lots and lots of poker. Remember when Eric Bana was the next big thing? Yeah, me neither.
“The Valet“: How stereotypical is this Francis Veber farce about French people engaged in a series of frauds and distractions in order to preserve the illicit relationship between a tycoon and his supermodel mistress? Someone actually says “Ooh, la-la, la-la” in this one. The sixteen people who kept “La Cage aux Folles” running for two years are going to love this, assuming they haven’t already died of old age.
Off to another screening … try and get some sun this weekend, would you?