A while back, author Nicholas Sparks explained to Entertainment Weekly that he figures out the plot for his next book by making sure it differs in some significant way from his last: “I just wrote The Lucky One. So the next one won’t be a military story. I know that right off the bat. These characters were in their 20s, okay, so the characters are not in their 20s. Okay, so if you’re in your 40s, what are the dilemmas? Oh, wait, I’ve got Nights in Rodanthe coming out, and that’s a love story with characters in their 40s, so if I come out with a book just like that, people will think I’m not original.” Aw, Sparksy. People will think you’re not original no matter what you do! ’Cause you’re not!
Like The Lucky One, the last film adapted from one of Sparks’s novels, Safe Haven finds an attractive drifter alighting in a sleepy coastal town and quietly charming all its inhabitants, none of whom finds it weird or suspect that said drifter is content to live in a shack and walk everywhere and doesn’t own a phone. Footloose’s Julianne Hough is the drifter this time, escaping a somewhat ambiguous but definitely bad situation at her former home. She immediately catches the eye of Josh Duhamel, the widower/general store owner hunkily single-fathering his angry son and daughter (the latter of whom is incredibly well cast and not annoying at all, unlike Taylor Schilling’s little puke son in The Lucky One). The story — and I swear this is true — has some unpredictable turns (really), and I bet it will be even more enjoyable if you kill a bottle or two of chardonnay while you watch it.
New and Notable
Werner Herzog plays a comic-book villain, and Tom Cruise plays a comic-book antihero (who, as written, is 6-foot-5), because why wouldn’t they?
Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain gets to have some popcorny fun as the adoptive mother of a pair of extremely troubled girls.
Stand Up Guys
Longtime gangsters Christopher Walken and Al Pacino try to fit in one last score before Walken carries out the assignment of killing Pacino.
A man (House’s Hugh Laurie) has an affair with his best friend’s daughter (Leighton Meester).
This documentary investigates the increasingly destructive resource-extraction methods currently being used in northwestern Canada.
And Now a Word From Our Sponsor
A genius ad executive (Star Trek Into Darkness costar Bruce Greenwood) develops an impairment that causes him to speak only in ad slogans; Parker Posey plays the therapist who takes him in.
Three immigrants learn that compulsive gambling has a downside.
When the World Breaks
Jerry Stiller, Mickey Rooney, and Phyllis Diller are among the interviewees in this documentary about the Great Depression.
3G: A Killer Connection
India takes a crack at the supernatural cell phone–based thriller.
This movie might be good — it revolves around a self-harming teenager (Cougar Town’s Dan Byrd) who finds love with a classmate (Revenge’s Emily VanCamp) just in time for his dad (Richard Jenkins) to at least suffer a major health crisis if not die — but it has been shelved for so long that both leads actually … look like they could be in high school.
A Jewish family moves from Brooklyn to New Orleans in the colorful 1970s. Andie MacDowell plays a Holocaust survivor, because why wouldn’t she?
That this animated film is “based on Geoff Johns’s miniseries” means nothing to me, but maybe it does to you? (Comic books, right?) Anyway, this time White Collar’s Matthew Bomer voices Supes.
A pair of trash collectors get caught up in a whirlwind of extremely temporary fame when they find Cuba Gooding Jr.’s Oscar in the garbage. (I am not proud to have instantly recognized the brunet lead from his seriously minuscule role in Elizabethtown.)
Home Sweet Home
A couple ends up trapped in their home with a crazy masked murderer in what really amounts to a dramatization of how bad home security systems are at keeping you safe.
To trick his office crush into liking him, a nerd offers to “help” her find the guy about whom she’s posted a Missed Connections ad.
In a post–black death Norway, a family is attacked, and the lone survivor — a young woman — is taken hostage by the uncivilized murderers.
When a woman who’s been abducted and hypnotized starts a relationship with a man, they both start to realize that they’ve gone through similar traumas.
Tortured by nightmares, Samantha follows her therapist’s advice to visit the former convent in Germany from which her parents adopted her. No spoilers about how well or badly that goes, but the film is presented by Fangoria.
Dorfman in Love
Mousy Deb (Sara Rue) agrees to house-sit for her longtime crush Jay (Johann Urb), only to develop a whole other crush on one of his neighbors.
“In Theaters” VOD Picks
Something in the Air
Carlos creator Olivier Assayas wrote and directed this drama about a group of idealistic students caught up in political protests in 1970s France.
Eli Roth produced and stars in this gory film about a hedonistic Chilean holiday unfortunately interrupted by an earthquake.
Opportunistic Backlist Revival Theme of the Week: Literary Classics
The Great Gatsby (in theaters now!) was the likeliest inspiration for this collection of literary adaptations, including To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride & Prejudice, William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, The Last of the Mohicans, Great Expectations, Vanity Fair, and one of the greatest of all time: The Godfather.
Weird Indie of the Week
A couple of idiot man-child brothers respond to the news that their mother is sick the way any of us would: by trying to learn and execute short cons.
Early VOD Premiere of the Week
A pair of Dutch sisters bond with their estranged mother (Holly Hunter, kind of in Top of the Lake mode) on a road trip across America.