Friday Movie Roundup: King of the World Strikes Again

Jan 22, 2010 at 2:36 pm

The Golden Globes remain a guilty pleasure marked by fashion faux pas (Sandra Bullock’s uninspired dress looked like something my prom date wore back in the day), longwinded speeches (Drew Barrymore and Mo’Nique could learned a thing or two from the pithy Robert Downey Jr.), a few pleasant surprises (including Christoph Waltz’s supporting actor win for Inglourious Basterds), cringe-worthy moments (alcohol-imbibing host Ricky Gervais’ dis of Mel Gibson) and just plain oddities (what was up with Harrison Ford’s stunted delivery?). —-

The Globes’ undeniable winner was Avatar, which picked up awards for Best Director (the annoyingly self-important James Cameron) and Best Picture. In addition to the awards love, Avatar is already, just a month into its theatrical release, the second-highest grossing movie of all time. It’s just a matter of days before it passes Cameron’s previous juggernaut, Titanic, as the biggest movie ever made at more than 1.8 billion in box-office grosses.

That’s a lot of money for a film that many right-wing pundits are trashing as “anti-American,” “anti-human” and “anti-capitalist.” (Read Terry Smith’s investigation of this conservative bitch-fest here). The funny thing is that the right-wingers are actually correct in their characterization of its "anti-American" leanings: Avatar — or, as many are now calling it, Dances with Smurfs — is undeniably critical of America’s capitalist culture run amok.

The problem appears to be that these pundits, like many conservatives, see any type of self-criticism or self-reflection as a form of treason.

Whether Cameron weaves these issues into a compelling movie narrative is a different argument — I found its themes too overt and sloppily rendered — but to say his Avatar isn’t a reasonably accurate depiction of corporate and governmental hubris — from our displacement of American Indians to our current preemptive wars to torture to our trashing of the environment — is to stick one’s head in the sand.

Elsewhere, it's a pretty weak week for opening films, as you'll soon realize below.

Opening films:

EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES — With the rise of basic cable, what we used to know as the “made-for-TV movie”— usually biographical, issue-oriented dramas the likes of which still fill time slots on Oxygen and Lifetime — is easy to avoid if you’re not actively seeking it out. Or, in the case of Extraordinary Measures, it’s trying to sneak its way onto your neighborhood theater screen. The based-on-a-true-story debut release by CBS Films’ theatrical division looks exactly like something that would have showed up on CBS-proper 30 years ago. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Scott Renshaw (Rated PG-13.) Grade: D-plus

LEGION — I watched trailer for this thing two different times, and I’m still not sure what the hell is going on. Seems like God has lost faith in humans, thus He sends a bunch of angels down to Earth to bring on the Apocalypse. Our only hope apparently lies in a group of strangers — none of whom appear to be Sarah Palin or Pat Robertson — trapped in a desert diner. Stars Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid and Tyrese Gibson. Longtime visual effects guru Scott Stewart directs. (Opens wide today.) — Jason Gargano (Rated R.) Review coming soon

TOOTH FAIRY — Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has now wholeheartedly picked up the muscle-bound-dude-turned-sweet-guy-actor baton from such noted thespians as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Terry “Hulk” Hogan in this family-friendly tale of a minor-league hockey player (Johnson) who is forced to be the tooth fairy for a week. Ashley Judd co-stars. Michael Lembeck directs. (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated PG.) Review coming soon