So, we have just two major releases this week and while one is hard-edged remake of a franchise-spawning eighties horror hit and the other is a purported family film, to me all signs this weekend in terms of major new releases (and one tiny release) scream: “Be afraid, be very afraid.” For the most part, the critics aren’t disagreeing.
For starters, we have “A Nightmare on Elm Street” which brings us Jackie Earle Haley in the role made famous by Robert Englund — the child-murderer of everyone’s dreams with the specially augmented fingers, Freddy Kruger. Now, as someone who is such a wuss that he was unable to get past the first twenty minutes or so of the original on VHS — that Wes Craven guy really knows how to scare people — I’m not really one to judge. However, the critics are thoroughly unimpressed with the new version directed by another music video alum, Samuel Bayer, granting it a dismal 11% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing.
Still, even if the original version is regarded as something of a classic today by critics, this movie has “critic proof” written all over it. Indeed, jolly Carl DiOrio, assures us that it’s “tracking” very well and will top the box office with “as much as” $30 million for Warner Brothers. He also gets a bit less jolly in his video this week and actually complains about the use of the word “reboot” to describe films like “Nightmare.” Well, considering that you’re starting over an existing franchise as if the original had never happened, I’m not sure what you’re supposed to call it. It’s not only a remake.
The other new release is “Furry Vengeance.” Aimed at the wee ones, this PG-rated comedy from Summit Entertainment actually borrows a premise from a long-forgotten horror film that I actually did sit through. Nevertheless, from the couldn’t-be-worse reviews that generated a mighty 0% from the Rotten Tomatoes critics, I have strong reason to believe that William Girdler’s “The Day of the Animals” was a lot funnier and less disgusting. In any case, the outstanding legs of “How to Train Your Dragon” and the weak tracking of “Furry” will combine to put the Paramount/Dreamworks Animation fest in the #2 spot for another weekend.
There’s a lot going on in the limited release realm this week. First, opening in just one theater, we have a movie I will not even name because I don’t want you to hate me. It’s a German Danish “torture porn” flick that is truly dividing the relatively few critics gutsy enough to take on its premise. I’m being coy and vague about it because that premise is such that I personally kind of wish I could unknow it and kind of slightly prefer the universe that existed before director Tom Six devised it. If you Google Herr Mr. Six, don’t say I didn’t warn you. On the other hand, what happens to the victims in this film is only by a matter of large degree worse than what a raccoon does to Brandon Fraser in “Furry Vengeance.” Once again, the line between NC-17 ultra-horror and PG-rated kiddie comedy slowly dissolves.
It’s not being mentioned in this week’s Box Office Mojo Theater counts, but also the (by me) long awaited “Harry Brown” opens in a number of theaters here in California this weekend. Starring the great Michael Caine as a geezer who goes “Death Wish” on his London tenement neighborhood, it’s getting its share of good, but mildly creeped out reviews with the usual political divide brought on by the vigilante genre. As a true bleeding heart liberal who thinks the original “Dirty Harry” is something of a work of genius, I can understand the mixed feelings.
Finally, on a far nicer note, the comedy-drama “City Island” appears to have been doing quite well in it’s very limited release and is adding 192 screens this week. Starring Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies, Emily Mortimer and Alan Arkin, this PG-13 family-centric tale from writer-director Raymond de Felitta is also the first I can think of to be released made by a filmmaker-cum-blogger who I have have actually communicated with via comments.
Another character-centric tale, critically admired comedy drama, also ignored by the Mojo, “Please Give,” from Nicole Holofcener of “Lovely and Amazing,” has the kind of indie pedigree that may make it’s five-city debut worth noting. It’s also got Catherine Keener and Amanda Peet leading the cast. I’m sure you could do worse. (See above.)