Paranormal Activity heads to the screens for the fourth time this weekend, and while the jury's still out on how it holds up to its three predecessors, the number in the title puts it in the dubious pantheon of franchise fourquels. By the time a film series reaches its fourth installment, there's not a lot of room for a middling effort: Things tend to get very bad, very strange, or secretly amazing. We could have done a bracket on this, but a Final Destination/Halloween showdown would have inevitably led to several Grantland staffers refusing to speak to each other, so we decided to let 'em all into the Hall of Fame.
Silver: I can’t think of another performer who had a breakout year like Melissa McCarthy did in 2011. I also can’t think of another performer who wouldn’t have seized upon that success and rushed into cash and any starring role offered to them. McCarthy went back to her day job on her CBS sitcom, took a small role in Judd Apatow’s upcoming This Is 40, and, smartly knowing that she still may not be ready to carry an entire film, took the co-lead in Identity Thief. Now here’s the bad news: Identity Thief looks pretty terrible. The film feels like a tossed-aside sitcom premise, extended and stuffed to fit 90 minutes of screen time. I love Jason Bateman, but outside of Michael Bluth, he’s pretty much emptied his tank on the ne’er-do-well-pushed-to-the-brink role (I much prefer him as the snarky, smarmy, and dickish guy). At least McCarthy isn’t playing her role as a retread of Megan from Bridesmaids. The only genuine laughs I got from this trailer were when McCarthy throat-punched Bateman twice. Because who doesn’t love throat punches? Even if this film is a turd, if it gets McCarthy back hosting SNL, then we all win.
Silver: Brad Pitt should just forget about mass-appeal fare like Moneyball and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. He’s so perfectly suited for characters that exist on the fringes — 12 Monkeys, Fight Club, Inglourious Basterds, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Even if they’re expansive thematically and visually, Pitt is a performer who shines when he’s more understated, so smaller, more intimate narratives like Killing Them Softly play to his strengths. With KTS, Pitt reunites with Jesse James writer/director Andrew Dominick, and looks at ease playing a sleazy enforcer called in to “clean up” after a gangster’s card game gets held up. Although this film feels a little cheekier, it definitely exudes a Drive vibe. Like Nicolas Winding Refn, Softly director Dominick appears to have infused his offshore sensibilities and visuals into this inherently American story (Dominick is from New Zealand). I’m also looking forward to seeing Pitt and James Gandolfini onscreen together again. The two of them had terrific chemistry in Gore Verbinski’s underrated The Mexican.
Demi Moore has joined the biopic Lovelace as Gloria Steinem, whose involvement in the story came through a profile she wrote of Linda Lovelace for Ms. describing how the porn actress was forced into shooting the infamous Deep Throat. Also newly onboard are Adam Brody, as Deep Throat co-star Harry Reems, and Eric Roberts, as lie-detector expert Nat Laurendi. Wait, hold up, sorry: Seth Cohen is playing a porn star? Probably should have led with that information. Grade: B [HR]