It's awards season so there are a few deep, meaningful, highly crafted films kicking around the silver screens this week but the flick making the most noise right now is the new Arnold Schwarzenegger actioner The Last Stand.
Yup, the Governator returns to the silver screen as a past-his-prime LAPD officer who's half-retired to the role of small-town sheriff in a dusty Arizona bordertown. Unfortunately for Arnold, his sleepy little town is about to get a shot of "wake-the-eff-up" when a nasty drug kingpin and his personal army come barrelling in at high speeds en route to freedom. If anyone is gonna stop this maniac, it has to happen here and now...
Korean director Kim Jee-Woon (A Bittersweet Life, I Saw the Devil) makes his Hollywood debut by aptly mixing the contemporary shoot-em-up aesthetic with the classic Rio Bravo-style Western storyline — the bad guys are coming and it's up to all of us to hold them off. Schwarzenegger's sheriff must rely on whatever he's got to get the job done.
Luckily, he's got a solid director who understands the pacing, mood and narrative flow of a good genre film. The Last Stand knows what it is, and doesn't try to be anything more than a rip-roaring action flick. Yet somehow it also positions a world-weary Schwarzenegger as something resembling the next John Wayne (or at least the next Clint Eastwood). Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker and king Jackass Johnny Knoxville co-star and they both deliver. This is the best movie of 2013 so far.
Also opening at the Whistler Village 8, Broken City stars Russell Crowe as some kind of corrupt mayor and Mark Walberg as the ex-cop he tricks into a whole whack of trouble. There were no pre-screenings on this one but Catherine Zeta-Jones plays the femme fatale and it's directed by Allen Hughes, of the infamous Hughes Brothers (Menace II Society, Dead Presidents, From Hell).
Broken City looks like a standard thriller with a solid cast but don't expect it to sing the way The Last Stand does. And you have to be nervous about any action movie with A-list stars that gets released in January, particularly with no press screenings. This could drag a bit.
The date movie of the week is Silver Linings Playbook, an adequate tale of two half-crazy (bipolar?) people just trying to make their way through life without screwing up. It turns out the easiest way is to do it together (Surprise!). Bradley Cooper and the always incredible Jennifer Lawrence star (alongside Chris Tucker and Robert De Niro) and even though the premise is nothing new the approach is fresh, real and ultimately watchable.
Playbook is up for a lot of awards including action nods for Lawrence and Cooper. Remember the, "never go full retard" speech from Tropic Thunder? It's just as politically incorrect as ever, but also still bang on — Lawrence has a shot at the Oscar.
The big victory here is that director David O. Russell (Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees) managed to pull off a romantic comedy that doesn't make you want to cut your tongue in half with a plastic cafeteria knife and then eat a bag of road salt. This is a hot date movie.
Speaking of dates, local film fans should mark Jan. 30 on the calendar and get out to support the Monthly Movie Series put on by the Whistler Arts Council. This is our chance to check out big-screen showings of killer documentaries like Bully, Searching for Sugar Man, Ai WeiWei and Bones Brigade. Swing by Millennium Place for more info and don't worry, I'll remind you again next week in case you fry all your synapses this weekend trying to comprehend an Arnold Schwarzenegger comeback.