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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

my week at the movies: ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still,’ ‘Doubt,’ ‘Nothing Like the Holidays,’ ‘Yes Man,’ ‘What Doesn’t Kill You,’ ‘Delgo,’ ‘The Tale of Despereaux,’ ‘Valkyrie’ (and on stage, ‘Equus’)

I mentioned in comments here how December for film critics is so insanely busy it feels like there’s no time to sleep. A week like this is what makes me feel this way. Today’s not so bad, as far as being jam-packed with screenings goes, except that today my first screening was at 10am, and my only other screening is at 6pm, and there’s no point in going home (a trip of at least an hour) in between only to have to come back downtown again. Which means I’ve staked out a corner in Starbucks with my laptop so that I can get some work done and the day isn’t a complete waste — I can’t afford that kind of downtime, for one thing. But it means I’m drinking too much coffee all day and I can’t work in my pajamas, as we know that all proper bloggers do…

Tomorrow’s the insane day: screenings at 10am, 2pm, 6pm, and 8:30pm. With mad dashes to Starbucks with the laptop in between to check email and write reviews. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I’ve worked in cube farms. This is far preferrable. And at 10am tomorrow morning, I’ll be seeing The Day the Earth Stood Still (opens in the U.S. and the U.K. on December 12), which I’m very excited about. So I’ll be geeking out when, in a dismal alternate universe, an alternate me will be in a meeting or writing a memo or selling something bought or manufactured. So it’s all good.
Ah, those two flicks today? This morning it was Doubt (opens limited in the U.S. on December 12, and in the U.K. on February 6, 2009), based on John Patrick Shanley’s play. Yawning a few hours away on the horizon is Nothing Like the Holidays (opens in the U.S. on December 12; no U.K. release date has been announced yet), which I do not expect to put me much in a Christmas mood. And right now, my grande latte is getting empty…

I sorta like the poster for Yes Man (opens in the U.S. on December 19 and in the U.K. on December 26) — it’s happy and open and optimistic and really really upbeat in a way that seems rare for movie posters, which tend toward the confrontational and grim lately. Sometimes that’s appropriate — like with the Day the Earth Stood Still poster above — but sometimes it’s just plain odd, as with many comedies these days, with their emphasis on humiliation. There’s something sweet and gentle about the image on this poster, though, that I like a lot. Not that I’m terribly optimistic myself that this gentle sweetness will extend to the film. I’m a big fan of Jim Carrey, though what I like about him is his darkness, and if what I like about him is on display here, that’ll likely be at odds with what I see in that poster, unless the film is a lot more daring than we should expect from a studio film. And in fact, now that I look again, I wonder if there isn’t something derogatory and derisive about that image, as if it’s making fun of endless optimism…

I don’t know what to make of What Doesn’t Kill You (opens limited in the U.S. on December 12; no U.K. release date has been announced). It’s yet another crime drama about brothers in South Boston on opposite sides of the law. No, wait: they’re childhood friends who grew up like brothers. So it’s totally fresh. Mark Ruffalo, Ethan Hawke, and Donnie Wahlberg star.

I do know I’m rather terrified of Delgo (opens in the U.S. on December 12; no U.K. release date has been announced), a horrifying-looking animated film. I’m hoping the apparent adorableness of The Tale of Despereaux (opens in the U.S. and the U.K. on December 19) pans out, and that the little mouse will wash away any bad taste the unidentifiable creature that Delgo is may leave.

Also on the agenda for this week is Valkyrie (opens in the U.S. on December 25, and in the U.K. on January 23, 2009), of which I’ve written about my hopes for already.

Oh, and it’s not a movie, but it’s movie-related: on Saturday night I’ll attend a Broadway performance of Equus, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Richard Griffiths (who, coincidentally, plays Harry Potter’s Uncle Vernon). I’m sure I’ll have something to say about that afterward.



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