Sometimes movies slip through the cracks and, for better or worse, I catch up with them. Here's a handful, all directed by a range of men, from an Italian visionary to some dude named Robert Redford.
The Place Beyond the Pines, directed by Derek Cianfrance
A slow-burning drama told in three connected movements, all featuring an unusually haggard, unusually good Eva Mendes. The first has Ryan Gosling doing a version of his Drive persona, a bank-robbing, tattooed stunt biker living in Schenectady (a Mohawk word that gives the movie its title). The second miscasts Bradley Cooper as a lawyer turned cop in the same town. The last has two fantastic performances from Emory Cohen and Dane DeHaan, whose relationship to each other and the rest of the movie is basically from the people who brought you Romeo and Juliet.
What Cianfrance has written has scraps of surprise and a fine chase sequence, but it doesn't reach for the stars or the emotional cosmos — or, at least, it doesn't know how to get there. He's given us plot points and episodes in search of thriller and tragedy. But no suspense. His previous movie with Gosling, 2010's martial-disaster drama Blue Valentine, was similarly unsure about how to build into something greater than shouts and murmurs. This time, you wonder whether Cianfrance reached the film's final third and realized that this was his movie, two high school burnouts who fascinate each other. But he had Gosling and Cooper and probably couldn't turn back. Once Ray Liotta shows up as his umpteenth crook, it's tempting to believe that a piece of software made the whole movie happen.
So the story here is that The Cabin in the Woods was shot back in 2009 but never released because its studio, MGM, went bankrupt. Now it’s coming out, via Lionsgate, in April, two years after originally planned. In the time since, its star Chris Hemsworth put on so much Thor muscle he started going numb. That means the masses who flocked to see him charmingly swing his magic hammer might not even recognize him here. But the big attraction is Cabin's serious genre credentials, in the form of co-writer/demigod Joss Whedon — who, like Hemsworth, is onto bigger things, with the Avengers movie — and co-writer/director Drew Goddard, the man behind Cloverfield.
Kiefer Sutherland will make a dramatic return to television with Touch, which was just given a 13-episode order from Fox. Created by Heroes’ Tim Kring, it stars Sutherland as the father of a mute 11 year old who communicates through numbers. Along with his social worker pal Gugu Mbatha-Raw and gifted-children expert Danny Glover, Kiefer attempts to figure out the meaning of his son’s coded messages. Presumably, those messages are more insightful than your standard 11-year old’s “I want Burger King”? Grade: B+ [HR]
Alex Proyas’s adaptation of Milton’s Paradise Lost is adding a few names: Casey Affleck, who’ll star as Gabriel, the six-winged angel who teams up with the angel Michael (Ben Walker) to fight Lucifer (Bradley Cooper); and Camilla Belle, who’ll star as Eve, of Adam and Eve fame. Hopefully this movie is a massive success, if only to see easily swayed Hollywood execs attempt other poetry adaptations. Grade: B+ [HR, Deadline]
Hide the women and bury the liquor! Johnny Depp is having fun again. That’s the only takeaway from this long-gestating, not-quite-as-long-shelved adaptation of the “lost” Hunter S. Thompson novel. Written in 1961, published in 1998, filmed in 2009, and finally opening this fall, The Rum Diary is the story of a disillusioned journalist who escapes pre-Kennedy America for the sun, sweat, and alcohol-induced hallucinations of Puerto Rico. Free from eyeliner and the doomed-blockbuster paunch, Depp is in fine manic form, paying tribute to his real-life kimosabe by bugging his eyes, bedding Amber Heard, and not knowing all those travel-size bottles of rum weren’t complimentary.
Jonathan Demme has optioned Stephen King's upcoming 11/22/63, about a high school teacher who travels back in time to prevent JFK's assassination (and the only good Oliver Stone movie since the '80s). Grade: B [Variety]
In a shameless bid to woo 18-24 demographic, Robert Redford has added Susan Sarandon, Julie Christie, and Richard Jenkins to the cast of his The Company You Keep, about a former militant hippie (Redford) pursued by the FBI after his identity is exposed by an ambitious young reporter (Shia LaBeouf). Sarandon and Christie will play former Weather Underground members, and Jenkins, a college professor who aids other former radicals. Grade: B [Deadline]