Lots of films coming to the ‘new release’ shelves

By A Contributor

A dozen and a half movies formerly in “general release” to theaters are supposed to appear on the “new release” shelves of video stores this month. None of them are kids’ movies.

A couple of them were fun to watch. “Moneyball” is a fairly competent narrative version of a non-fiction book about Billy Beane and the early century success of the Oakland Athletics, though the movie fails utterly to show how Beane’s change in front office style altered the fortunes of the team. The new version of the 1951 movie “The Thing” is a sort of prequel without reference to the Cold War. So it means little, but is a fairly effective horror movie.

Coming thing Ryan Gossling stars in “Drive,” a movie about a nearly-mute car steerer who gets himself involved in crime and then goes looking for revenge. The ghost story “Dream House,” with Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, depends on a point of view trick that moviegoers will know from “The Sixth Sense.” Nevertheless, the story is well-told and entertaining.

I slept a little as “Shark Night” ran (in 3D) and I thought it needed to admit its own premise—about villainous red-necks filming shark attacks in a Louisiana lake so they could sell the footage on t.v.—was ridiculous. But it was cheap horror movie funny. “Killer Elite,” supposedly based on a true story, is second-rate Jason Statham, but the extended action scenes are fun to watch. John Singleton has somehow made “Twilight” bopper idol Taylor Lautner into an action movie hero, largely by cutting quick and using a good supporting cast.

Less amusing were “In Time,” a movie considers a world where living time is currency, and some “rich” guy gives Justin Timberlake hundreds of years to live I don’t care for Justin Timberlake. “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” is Mexican director Guillermo del Toro’s re-make of a 70s made-for-t.v. movie about scary tooth fairies. It still seems like a made-for-t.v. movie.

More seriously-intended, Stephen Soderbergh’s “Contagion” shows what would happen if a virulent new flu appeared. But by splitting the entertainment into five or six plots about individuals influenced, it loses its narrative chance to concentrate on the Matt Damon story about the clueless cuckold whose life is saved when his wife (Gweneth Palthrow) stops in Chicago for a tryst on her way home from China to Minneapolis, which she never reaches.

The similarly self-important “Ides of March,” directed with scalded outrage by George Clooney, discovers that politicians aren’t idealists. Well, duh.

“I Don’t Know How She Does It,” a Sarah Jessica Parker comedy about women’s conflicting emotions about their work and professional lives, seems dated. But it is also surprisingly well acted, and even Parker extends herself some here. The Anna Ferris comedy “What’s Your Number?” also seems a little Cosmo 1970, as its heroine decides to pick one of her years of former lovers to marry and sets off to review the candidates. It can be amusing, too.

So can “The Hangover Part 2,” though it uses the original and much funnier film as a tracing pattern. The dramady “50/50” was Joseph Gordon-Leavitt’s chance to star in one of today’s quirky comedies about young men who don’t recognize convention. He gets cancer and we follow his treatment.

The only Georgia independent movie we saw this year was “Courageous,” about men approaching middle age who vow to be conventionally moral in a way the guys in “50/50” would not immediately get. “C” is talky and acted by modest talents, but the action scenes show the movie-maker, Eddie Kendrick, is beginning to pick up fundamental film truths.

A couple of the year’s big name entertainments, “Real Steel” (think “Transformers” robots in the story of “Rocky”) and “The Big Year” (about competitive bird watching—honest) didn’t entertain me much.

But there are going to be enough new titles out that surely most movie fans will be able to find something on the list to interest them. Here’s to variety!

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