Every artist deserves a chance to stretch if he wants to. So even if director Ivan Reitman is best known for helming the supernatural comedy megahit Ghostbusters, why shouldn’t he also get a turn making a bland sports drama?
Kevin Costner stars as Sonny Weaver Jr., GM of the Cleveland Browns, who’s trying to manage the draft for the next season alongside team lawyer Ali (Jennifer Garner). Apparently, Ali is Sonny’s secret girlfriend — they don’t want to go public with their relationship, to maintain the good Browns’ name — and newly pregnant. All the other stuff that happens is about football and thus is over my head, but evidently it involves dozens of phone calls. Sounds fun?
Wesley Morris: “Draft Day is the least offensive film one could make about the National Football League. It’s about the business of building a team, and the movie has a decently dramatized climax that manages to show what a chess match the draft itself can be. It just takes a lot of silliness to get there.”
New and Notable
In real life, there are all kinds of reasons a straight couple might get to the end of a blind date and decide they’re not right for one another. In pop culture, one of about three is that she’s persnickety and he’s a slob, and that’s the one the writers of Blended thought was going to be a can’t-miss premise. (Again.)
Reuniting for their third outing (after The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates), Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler are, respectively, the fussbudget and the man-child in question. Reflecting how much older we ALL are, however, since those earlier films, Barrymore’s Lauren and Sandler’s Jim are now both divorced single parents — she to two sons, he to three daughters (one of whom is named Espn) (really).
After their bad first date, they run into each other again in a drugstore, both in the midst of embarrassing transactions: She’s buying a dirty magazine she found in her son’s room (not worth getting into), while he is buying tampons for his teenage daughter I MEAN CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE. (Dads/men: Please get over it.) And then the two families end up together on an African vacation, and against all odds … well, I don’t want to spoil it!!!
Early/“In Theaters” Releases
Life of Crime
If the Life of Crime trailer and poster put you in mind of sprawling crime comedies of the late ’90s like Get Shorty and Out of Sight, there’s a reason: Like those, Life of Crime was based on a novel by the late Elmore Leonard.
In theaters the same day as its VOD release, Life of Crime stars Jennifer Aniston as Mickey, a socialite kidnapped by a pair of idiots (John Hawkes and Yasiin Bey). The crooks’ hopes for a quick payday are scuttled, however, when Mickey’s husband (Tim Robbins) sees an opportunity to make things more permanent for his mistress (Isla Fisher) and refuses to pay the ransom.
If you have a horror brand that’s made a lot of money over a matter of decades, why let it lie fallow? So goes the reasoning of the people who own the rights to Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and now Leprechaun.
The franchise that gave a young Jennifer Aniston one of her earliest roles is back, in reboot form! This time, two cute young couples are backpacking in Ireland when they discover that tales of leprechauns are not quite as fictional as they seem, thanks in part to an encounter with the titular creature, played by little person WWE star Dylan “Hornswoggle” Postl. Curious but don’t want to risk being seen entering a theater to watch it? Good news: You can rent it the same day it hits cinemas.
Though films like Sexy Beast, The Limey, and anything by Guy Ritchie romanticize the exploits of the classic “hard case” gangster, Starred Up takes a different angle: What happens when a criminal kid doesn’t know any other kind of life and gets incarcerated in the same prison his father is in?
The expression “starred up” refers to an underage offender growing into an adult unit in prison, which is in process when we meet Eric (Jack O’Connell). But as his status and circumstances change — bringing him closer to his inmate father, Neville (Ben Mendelsohn) — Eric must figure out whether to follow the same life, or allow himself to be swayed by the efforts of volunteer therapist Oliver (Rupert Friend). The film, which screenwriter Jonathan Asser based partly on his own experiences as a prison volunteer, is available to rent the same day as its theatrical release.
The Possession of Michael King
From last week’s write-up on The Quiet Ones: “Here’s one thing you can be sure of in a movie: Whenever a character takes a hard line against the existence of supernatural forces, you can be PRETTY SURE he is going to have to learn how wrong he is, and that the experience is not going to be pleasant.” Well, guys, The Possession of Michael King is about another skeptic of all things supernatural AND YOU’LL NEVER GUESS WHAT.
When the titular Michael (Shane Johnson) suddenly loses his wife, his grief causes him to abandon the documentary he was making about their wonderful life together. Instead, to prove his atheism and doubt were right all along, he sets up cameras around his house to capture all the nothing he thinks will happen when he tries to call demons to mess with him. Where this ends up is … kind of telegraphed by the film’s title. Released on VOD and in theaters the same day.
The Two Faces of January
The fiction of Patricia Highsmith has inspired film adaptations from The Talented Mr. Ripley (the most successful) to The Cry of the Owl (the most Julia Stiles–y). For celebrated screenwriter Hossein Amini to choose one of her works for his directorial debut (for which he also wrote the screenplay) is a sensible move.
Available to rent before it hits theaters, The Two Faces of January finds the MacFarlands — Chester (Viggo Mortensen) and Colette (Kirsten Dunst) — visiting Greece in the early ’60s. In their perambulations, they meet the dashing Rydal (Oscar Isaac), and a relationship that starts with a friendly dinner invitation soon develops into something more complex, since Rydal is a con artist … but he’s not the only one.