Are you the last holdout on The Avengers? Because it's one of the biggest movies of all time — I saw it twice in the theater, and I didn't even like it that much — taking all the appeal of a superhero movie and multiplying it by ... let's see ... four. (Six, if you count Black Widow and Hawkeye, but since they both lack superpowers of any kind, I don't.)
Joss "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Whedon directed the film, so there are flashes of his wit in between the overlong, overpopulated action set pieces. Tom Hiddleston has lots of fun playing the god/supervillain Loki, and Robert Downey Jr. makes you fall in love with "genius/billionaire/playboy philanthropist" Tony Stark all over again. And if Scarlett Johansson is not quite up to the task of making Black Widow interesting, at least she looks good in a catsuit, which is more than I can say for Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye. That guy is like a black hole of charisma. Anyway, it's fine. But you knew that. Because you live in America and you've seen it.
New and Notable
Damsels in Distress
If you're going to see one indie movie this year with Greta Gerwig in the lead ... well, make it Lola Versus. This is the other one — Whit Stillman's long-awaited follow-up to The Last Days of Disco.
The list on Time Warner's website hypes this offering with a poster of Julie Taymor's version of The Tempest, with Helen Mirren as a gender-switched "Prospera" and Djimon Hounsou as Caliban, but don't believe it! This version stars Christopher Plummer as Prospero, and was recorded onstage at Canada's Stratford Festival.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1
While you wait for The Dark Knight Rises to come out on DVD, tide yourself over with this full-length animated feature, based on Frank Miller's graphic novels.
Samuel L. Jackson plays an ex-con whose post-prison life gets complicated by the appearance of a hungry/angry young grifter (Luke Kirby). Great, now I have to go watch Luke Kirby in Take This Waltz again.
Musicians get day jobs as cooks in a mental hospital and find themselves appreciating the chance to minister to unfortunate patients with food. Just kidding: They get locked in during a blackout and everything goes to hell.
Audrey Tautou starts to get over the death of her husband by randomly falling in love with some awkward weirdo at her office, thus perpetuating the cruel myth that beautiful women date awkward weirdos.
Norm MacDonald voices the titular bloodsucking canine, so apparently when he told Marc Maron all about his gambling debts on WTF, he was not exaggerating.
The Holy Roller
A nightclub owner convinces the pastor of a poorly attended church to bring his congregation to a flashier location (... the nightclub). At first it's great! Then it's crappy. Between The Holy Roller's VOD premiere and Joyful Noise, 2012 is the year of the cinematic portrayal of church management!
Is theater director Winona Ryder's latest production being ruined by a murderous psychopath, or is she going crazy, OR BOTH???!???!?! James Franco plays the psycho.
Opportunistic Backlist Revival Theme of the Week: The Individual Avengers
Time Warner has brought back the movies that first introduced us to the superheroes who assemble in The Avengers! ... OK, they didn't. That would have made sense. It's just The Incredible Hulk (the one with Edward Norton, who as we all know did not go on to play Hulk in The Avengers) and Iron Man 2 (not the original), but not Thor or Captain America. And then there are a bunch of featurettes with the Avengers stars talking about their characters. Lame.
"In Theaters" VOD Picks
Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best
A couple of losers start a band. Oh, Brooklyn.
Hoop Dreams director Steve James made this documentary about the issue of traumatic head injuries in sports.
Finally, a film that takes us inside the world of women's rowing!!! (At least that's one sport where you probably don't hit your head that much.) James Van Der Beek plays the love interest.
A bunch of teenage girls purposely get pregnant together. Sound familiar? Well, HOLD UP because this movie is FRENCH! So it'll probably be much classier than The Pregnancy Pact on Lifetime.
Jeff, Who Lives at Home
This week's Mark Duplass On Demand opportunity: the story of the titular slacker (Jason Segel) getting a life. I like to call it "Emo Step Brothers."
She Wants Me
Josh Gad plays a schlubby screenwriter with a cute actress girlfriend — but he can't cast her as the lead in his next movie because the studio wants famous It Girl Kim Powers (Hilary Duff). Charlie Sheen produces AND cameos as himself!
Wonder no more what ever happened to Shannon Elizabeth: She's playing a mom in straight-to-home video golden retriever movies. (Why does this Christmas movie come out in September? Maybe the kind of people who like it do their shopping real early.) Anyway, Haylie Duff voices a puppy.
Weird Indie of the Week
You May Not Kiss the Bride
This green-card marriage/caper film looks pretty joyless, but given the involvement of Rob Schneider, Vinnie Jones, Kathy Bates, Katharine McPhee, Tia Carrere, and the other guy from Borat, it's fun to think about the uncomfortable conversations around the craft services table.
Citizens United Productions is behind this documentary about the Occupy movement, so it's probably very informative and evenhanded. That, or it's appalling demagoguery. Probably the latter.