Opening This Weekend: Scorsese and Polanski Get Their Thrills… Will You?

Good news, cinephiles: a couple of Mount Rushmore-ready directors open films today. Even better news: only one of them brings a scandalous criminal record to theaters as well! (Hint: his name rhymes with Poman Rolanski.) As we do every Friday, here’s a handy guide to the new releases.

Shutter Island

What’s the story: If it feels like you’ve been waiting for Shutter Island to reach theaters since forever, that’s because you have. As seems to be the trend here in 2010, Martin Scorsese’s follow-up to the Oscar-winning The Departed—like The Wolfman and the upcoming Matt Damon film The Green Zone—was originally supposed to come out in the fall of 2009. It was pushed back to February, though, after Paramount deemed the film unworthy of awards consideration. Never mind that with ten Best Picture slots, the chances of something with a pedigree as strong as Shutter Island getting selected would have been pretty high no matter what; lest we forget, The Blind Side is a Best Picture nominee. Anyway! Based on the book by Dennis Lehane, Shutter Island follows a pair of U.S. Marshalls (Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo) sent to solve a missing person case at the mental hospital on Shutter Island. Needless to say, things aren’t anywhere near what they appear, something you can probably ascertain from the gives-away-too-much-plot trailer. The reviews have been solid, but even the most glowing notices concede that Mr. Scorsese has made nothing more than a B-movie thriller that indulges in all his film school fantasies. Set your expectations to pulpy and hang on for the ride.

Who should see it: The ghosts of Sam Fuller and Alfred Hitchcock.

The Ghost Writer

What’s the story: Maybe a better title would have been The Ghost Director. Only the second film Roman Polanski has directed since winning his Best Director Oscar for The Pianist in 2002, The Ghost Writer had to be completed while the director was held under house arrest. The ageless Ewan McGregor stars as the titular author who gets caught up in a web of intrigue (is there any other kind?) while working on the memoir of a former British Prime Minister (Pierce Brosnan). There are not-so-slightly veiled references to Tony Blair, Kim Cattrall with a British accent and (apparently) the best use of a car GPS navigator in Hollywood history, but based on the reviews, The Ghost Writer still ends up falling way short.

Who should see it: Jack Nicholson. Opening This Weekend: Scorsese and Polanski Get Their Thrills… Will You?