Happy weekend, everybody! Hopefully you won’t spend it enjoying dumb stuff like nature and cider and all the happy people out in the world wearing cute scarves. Not when there are so many movies to watch, on all sorts of platforms. In an effort to make your entertainment decisions a little less intimidating, we offer you this handy guide to what’s new and where in this great, big, autumnal world.
The Marvel machine does not stop, and this next phase of the Avengers initiative returns us to the shimmering environs of Asgard with Thor: The Dark World [which our own Richard Lawson calls "a good-natured romp through the heavens and on Earth"]. Come for the sparkling interplay between Chris Hemsworth's title character and Tom Hiddleston's delightful Loki. Stay for the pleasingly bizarre comedy bits and a post-credits sequence that will separate the men from the (fan)boys in your audience.
In Limited Release
In The Book Thief, Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson are a couple in WWII-era Nazi Germany, trying to conceal Jews from the Nazis. Obviously, this is the correct milieu for a story about a sweet young girl who steals books, directed by frequent Downton Abbey fellow Brian Percival. [Opens today in New York at the Regal Union Square and AMC Lincoln Square, and in Los Angeles at The Landmark and Arclight Hollywood.]
A better bet might be Alex Gibney’s The Armstrong Lie, which turns a documentary focus on cheating cyclist/monster Lance Armstrong. The hook here is that Gibney (Mea Maxima Culpa, Taxi to the Dark Side) was in the process of making a film about Armstrong when he was officially unmasked as a lying liar, and so burned by being duped by this pedal-pushing fraud, Gibney decided to tear the lid off the whole sordid affair. Not sure if I fully buy this whole lamb-in-the-woods routine from the director who made Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, but a lusty takedown should make for compelling viewing. [Opens today in New York, Los Angeles, and Austin.]
Video On Demand
Justin Long is somehow in two new releases this week. One, Best Man Down (iTunes link), is a somewhat dark-sounding romantic comedy about newlyweds who have to deal with the sudden death of their best man. That one’s been on VOD but also hits theaters today. The other, co-written by Long and Keir O’Donnell, is A Case of You (iTunes link), a more traditional rom-com full of meet-cutes and quirky deceptions (he reads her Facebook page and then acts like he’s all the things she likes!), starring Long and Evan Rachel Wood) that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival to zero fanfare last spring.
Also, if you’re looking for a movie that combines the boyish impudence of Emile Hirsch, the slightly older boyish impudence (and e-cigarette promotion) of Stephen Dorff, the endlessly fascinating manufactured personalities of Dakota Fanning, and the soothing gravel of Kris Kristofferson’s voice, push that remote-control button for The Motel Life (iTunes link), which sees Hirsch and Dorff as brothers on the run from the law.
New to Netflix’s streaming offerings this week is Denzel Washington’s Oscar-nominated performance in Flight. The movie itself is something of a ragged beast, with ill-conceived side characters – Kelly Reilly’s redemptive-angel heroin addict; John Goodman as a hippie pusher man – and a misfire of an ending. But Washington is dynamite, so there’s that, plus the first-reel plane-crash sequence is legitimately heart-stopping.
Also, if you feel like blowing your whole Saturday on a season of cable TV – and doesn’t that sound like actual heaven? – there is the fifth and final season of Damages now on Netflix streaming. You remember Damages? Glenn Close as attorney/gorgon Patty Hewes? Rose Byrne as her antagonist/protégée/antagonist? Cancelled after three seasons on FX but revived on DirecTV for two more? The DVD releases of those latter two seasons came on such a ridiculous delay that it’s no wonder everybody stopped talking about the show. The final episode aired fourteen months ago. This season, per the show’s custom, features some snazzy featured actors, including Ryan Phillippe, Janet McTeer, John Hannah, Chris Messina, and … Jenna Elfman. Sure!
Movies on TV
Premiering on HBO this Saturday? Taken 2, a movie with a particular set of skills, the most prominent of which being Liam Neeson once again stepping into his new-ish role as America’s dad-vigilante. Whereas in the first one, Neeson tracked down the jerks who abducted his daughter (Maggie Grace), the sequel sees Neeson and his wife (Famke Janssen) kidnapped by the father of one of those jerks from the first movie, whom Neeson had killed. It’s like “The Circle Game” but with the implied threat of box-cutter violence.