Richard Rushfield: Judging from this glimpse, Trouble With the Curve is a one-film compilation of Clint Eastwood’s greatest hits. It’s got the team of old guys getting back on the field (Space Cowboys) ... a grizzled old-timer taking some girl under his wing (Million Dollar Baby) ... and an attempt to recapture the magic of “Get off my lawn!" with a brand-new cranky catch phrase: “Gimme a damn check!” The Clint nostalgia is appropriate since the film’s first-time director, Robert Lorenz, is a veteran of Eastwood’s crews, having served as his AD and second unit director. Ordinarily anytime Clint Eastwood wants to cuss out living room furniture, you can sign me up for a seat opening weekend. But there’s a couple of huge, neon flashing warning lights in this trailer. First: the casting of Justin Timberlake as what seems to be a regular guy in flannel hanging around the honky-tonks looks like the greatest casting misjudgment since Denise Richards played a nuclear physicist. Second, while the trailer gets points for being the first of surely thousands to use Idol champion Phillip Phillips’s victory song “Home,” not since the heyday of Peter Gabriel has a magical la-la-la chorus signaled such molasses-thick treacle in a film.
Rembert Browne: On the surface, something involving the Atlanta Braves and Justin Timberlake sounds like all of my dreams coming true. Unfortunately, the merger of two of my favorite things isn't a JT concept album about the '90s pitching trio of Glavine/Maddox/Smoltz. It's a movie in which (as you alluded to, Richard) Timberlake is simply a folksy guy saying folksy things wearing folksy clothes in a folksy bar. I want so badly for it to work, because I'm listening to FutureSex/LoveSounds as I type, but it looks as if I'm destined for disappointment. I bet Amy Adams kills it, though. She doesn't do a lot of wrong.
This Is 40 (December 21)
Rushfield: At the end of Knocked Up, Seth Rogen’s character swallows the fact that he has to spend the rest of his life married to an uncool woman who won’t let him spend the rest of his life getting stoned and talking about naked celebrities with his friends. But the pain is lessened when he comes to understand that being married means getting to hang out every day with new brother-in-law Paul Rudd. The spell of Rudd’s character seems to have haunted writer-director Judd Apatow, too. So much so that in this “sorta” sequel he told Rogen to take a hike so that he could be alone with Gen X's fantasy non-threatening guy’s guy, giving the film to himself. That said, the film looks in keeping with Apatow’s evolution into a latter-day James L. Brooks: an honest and funny look at this generation’s most horrific journey — growing old and, worse still, uncool. Throw in Albert Brooks, Melissa McCarthy, and Megan Fox in her underwear, and what more do you want?
Browne: I don't need anything else, Rushfield. Actually, there is one thing you missed, that being my favorite film sisters in recent memory.
They're back, and I've missed them so. I can't wait for this slightly depressing/slightly uplifting semi-sequel.
Zero Dark Thirty (December 19)
Rushfield: Hey, did you hear we caught Osama bin Laden? Oh, sure you did. But you haven’t heard the real story. You’re not going to hear much of it in this trailer, either, but with its trail of vanishing redaction marks, ZDT promises that for the very first time, the tale of how we got him will be told — in a big-screen movie for Christmas release! The government saved all the good stuff, apparently, to give us as a little Xmas present hiding under the tree. From what we can tell here, catching Bin Laden involved a bunch of people staring at maps. And also some yelling. Almost everything about this trailer screams that it should’ve been a much-discussed/instantly forgotten made-for-HBO movie. However, few know how to do spine-rattling intensity like director Kathryn Bigelow, so we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt until we see a little more.
Browne: I guess my prediction that Bigelow's follow-up to Hurt Locker would be an ensemble rom-com based on a holiday (Labor Day — Tagline: "Ugh, the weather's changing. WHERE DID I LEAVE MY CARDIGAN?") has been proven false with December's Zero Dark Thirty. Pretty bummed. Was really looking forward to Common, Sofia Vergara, Casey Affleck, Susan Sarandon, Jordan Knight, Criss Angel, Gwyneth Paltrow, Hank Azaria, Demi Lovato, Anthony Mackie, and the dad from Modern Family having intertwining plots all somehow revolving around autumn and back-to-school shopping. Maybe next time.
Playing for Keeps (December 7)
Rushfield: Whaddaya know? It turns out women like to look at Gerard Butler. Even though he's a former professional athlete fallen from grace who now has to work as a lowly soccer coach, they are willing to forgive him that and ogle him anyway. I would’ve thought a hunky, shirtless guy with a Scottish accent spending his time bonding with kids on the soccer field would’ve been a major turnoff for the neighborhood gals. Shows how much I know!
Browne: Imagining this film with Javier Bardem instead of Gerard Butler is fun, because not a single thing changes about the movie other than the country of origin of the dad-hunk. I think they should also make a Playing for Keeps with Bardem, just so the ladies can have their pick. #TheLadies #LadyOptions
Liberal Arts (September 14)
Rushfield: Remember that movie where Rodney Dangerfield got to go back to college and party with his son’s friends? And that other one where Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell, and Luke Wilson started a campus frat house so they could get it on with coeds? Well they’ve made it again, but this time it’s a sensitive indie movie. It turns out that if you’re 35-year-old Josh Radnor and you go back to school to hook up with Elizabeth Olsen in her freshman dorm that, in fact, you’re the one who might get hurt. No one had to warn Rodney Dangerfield to “put some armor around that bleeding little heart” of his, but different times, different takeaways.
Browne: Even if this movie turns out to be overly sappy, there was one part of the trailer that was spot on:
I've yet to find a flaw in her. Not a one. I hope I don't meet a college freshman like her when I'm 35. She'll ruin my life.
On the Road — International Trailer (2012)
Rushfield: So Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady weren’t gay after all. Good to know! Director Walter Salles is capable of lyrical, haunting images of people spinning around at the edges of society like embers wafting from a flame — preferably in really cool looking mid-century period garb. He also however, has a weakness for brooding outlaws on existential quests of self-discovery, this being the second time he’s shot that story (The Motorcycle Diaries was the first). A little Kerouac goes a long way, even on the page, let alone in a dark movie theater. You might be able to get away with lines like “The only people who interest me are the mad ones. The ones who are mad to live. To burn, burn, burn like roman candles across the night,” set against a montage in a trailer, but that is about as much as I’d want to hear of that in a movie. But it does look beautiful, and features Kristen Stewart and Kirsten Dunst, two young actresses who are never boring to watch.
Browne: I can't tell if that last sentence is complete sarcasm, because there have been times in my life when nothing has made me more upset than seeing anagrams Kristen and Kirsten on the big screen. In this film, however, I'm excited for Kristen Stewart. She seems perfect for the role, something else I've never said before. Maybe it's because I just got off a road trip and maybe it's because I read On the Road for a third time earlier this year, but I'm going to see this the day it comes out and will be in no place to write any sort of educated review about it, because even if it's done miserably, it'll get my emotions all messy-like.
Nobody Walks (October 12)
Rushfield: The Pixie in the Guest House genre has been lighting up French cinema for a decade, but now, with the help of our most acclaimed writer in a thousand years, Lena Dunham, the sensation comes to our shores. The thing that happens when you have a Pixie in the Guest House is that the holes in your own marriage get torn wide open in the face of all that life and vitality. So you better make sure you’re not just going through the motions like a Suburban Zombie, Mr. John Krasinski, because the Pixie in the Guest House with her avant-garde scorpion films will blow down your walls like Joshua at the battle of Jericho.
Browne: I'm not married, but when I get to that point in my life, the first thing I'm going to do is not get a guest house. Pixies aren't allowed in spare bedrooms, but they are welcome in guest houses. I'd like my marriage to last more than eight months.
The Loft (2012)
Rushfield: Call me old-fashioned, but there are times when there’s nothing I’d rather see than a sleazy exploitation thriller about five gross yuppies who turn on each other after a naked woman is found dead in their shared “fuck pad.” Normally the time when I want to see that is at 3 a.m., stumbling into it somewhere in the mid-range of basic cable. But from the looks of The Loft, I’ll be catching it there soon, and it will be a happy night’s end when I do.
Browne: I'm not married, but when I get to that point in my life, the second thing I'm going to do is not financially and emotionally invest in a loft. Adulterous dalliances aren't allowed in spare bedrooms, but they are welcome in guest houses and lofts. I'd like my marriage to last more than eight months, and I don't want to go to jail for murder, so I'm not going to get a guest house or a loft because I'm terrified of pixies and going to jail for murder.