File this under bad planning: it seems like every week Hollywood offers up yet another schlocky horror movie to the court of public opinion, but today—on the always-spooky Friday the 13th—there isn’t a horror movie in sight. Someone cue up the Price is Right horn! As we do every Friday, here’s a handy guide to the new releases.
What’s the story: This is how the world ends, not with a whimper but with a digitally created tidal wave. Not content with merely killing off half of the population in The Day After Tomorrow, apocalypse porn impresario Roland Emmerich returns to wipe out the rest of the planet in 2012. Filled with a cast of “what are they doing in this?”-types like John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Oliver Platt, Amanda Peet and Tom McCarthy (we’re a long way from The Visitor), Mr. Emmerich stages the end of days with loads of special effects and enough wooden dialogue to build an ark. Naturally critics are howling—sometimes literally; the Observer‘s Sara Vilkomerson took utter joy in 2012‘s absurdity and compared it favorably to “80s shlock-tastic blockbusters”—but does any of that really matter? This thing is basically designed to print stacks of money.
Who should see it: The ghost of Irwin Allen.
What’s the story: We were a lot more interested in this when it was called The Boat That Rocked. Released with that title in the United Kingdom last spring, the more generic-sounding Pirate Radio finally hits theaters today and tells the story of a group of ragtag DJs that set up a pirate radio station on a ship off the coast of Britain in the 1960s. Philip Seymour Hoffman—channeling Lester Bangs—stars alongside Bill Nighy, Nick Frost, Kenneth Branagh, Rhys Ifans and a host of excellent music cues (bonus points for the use of “Elenore” by The Turtles in one of the original trailers). Unfortunately, the reviews have been mixed, but we still think Pirate Radio might be worth checking out if for no other reason than for the rare sight of Mr. Hoffman having fun.
Who should see it: Cousin Brucie.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
What’s the story: Not to nitpick, but if George Clooney and Meryl Streep were going to co-star in a Wes Anderson film, couldn’t they have picked a live-action one? The inimitable stars voice Mr. and Mrs. Fox in Mr. Anderson’s long-awaited adaptation of the Roald Dahl children’s classic. (If it feels like this film has been in the hopper for quite some time, that’s because it has been listed on Mr. Anderson’s IMDb page since The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou came out five years ago.) Co-written by Noah Baumbach, and featuring the voices of the usual array of Anderson Players—Owen Wilson, Wilem Dafoe, Jason Schwartzman and, of course, Bill Murray—Fantastic Mr. Fox is certainly a “Wes Anderson film,” which is good news for film geeks like us. The reviews have been sparkling—our Ms. Vilkomerson calls it “something entirely new”—and it appears to be a return to form for the director after the lackluster The Darjeeling Limited. Move over Where the Wild Things Are, there’s a new children’s movie for hipsters to fall in love with.
Who should see it: Max Fischer.
Also opening this weekend: Carla Gugino is a Woman in Trouble; Woody Harrelson trades in zombie killing for honest-to-goodness human emotion in the critically praised The Messenger; and Joseph Gordon-Levitt finds Uncertainty.