Time flies when you're having fun which, as you know, means yet another movie-going weekend has arrived. "Gran Torino," which won last weekend's box, will try to hold on to the top spot against an array of uninspiring challengers. The slate of dismal releases is par for the course for this time of year, but perhaps you'll find something to pique your interest out there. So, on the docket this week:
First up is "Defiance," which opens wide this week and stars Daniel Craig, a.k.a. James Bond, as the leader of a group of three Russian Jews on the run from the Nazis during the Second World War. Liev Schreiber ("The Manchurian Candidate," "Everything is Illuminated") and Jamie Bell ("Billy Elliott") play Craig's brothers who join him as he seeks refuge in the thick Russian forests. Not content merely to hide from their antagonists, however, the brothers begin to carry out attacks against the Nazis pursuing them. Helmed by Edward Zwick ("Glory," "Blood Diamond") the film seems to want to sell itself as a different take on WWII, showing an organized Jewish resistance to the atrocities facing them. The film looks moderately exciting and does offer a different point of view, but it currently sits at a 53% on Rotten Tomatoes right now. We didn't think it was as terrible as initially suggested, but it was probably around a B- grade for us. Apparently, much of the premise gets washed into another simple whiz-bang action flick. This weekend, though, you could do far, far worse.
Update: We almost forgot, Steven Soderbergh's two-part "Che" films, "The Argentine" and "Guerilla" are available in their full, road-show version in nine new cities that include Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis, Seattle, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. It's fantastic to see such an experiment open up to cities beyond New York and L.A. in this economic climate and its success so far has been a testament to cinephiles in both cities. Hopefully, the expansion will only continue. You can tell by now that this sprawling, obdurate and ambitious piece of work is something we greatly admire (it made our top 20 list). We've experienced the whole 4 and 1/2 hour spectacle twice now and you should at least once. It's definitely a cinephiles wet dream.