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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

my week at the movies: ‘Knocked Up,’ ‘Once,’ ‘Away from Her,’ ‘Memories of Tomorrow,’ ‘Fay Grim,’ ‘1408,’ ‘Evening’

I hate, hate, hate this poster! What if this guy got you pregnant? I hate to sound like one of those awful anti-sex, anti-woman prudes, but just the concept of this flick is enough to make me concede they might have a point: If the idea of “this guy” fathering your child makes you want to hurl, then what the hell were you doing in bed with him in the first place? Maybe that’s the idea: maybe there’s a virulent conservative mean streak a mile wide running through Knocked Up. (Oh, man, do I hate the crudity of that title, too.) Maybe cloaked in the “comedy” is a vicious object lesson for women: get pregnant by “this guy,” and you’ll have no choice but to get tethered to him for the rest of your life. Cuz it’s not like there are other options when a woman finds herself unexpectedly and unwantedly in a family way… at least none that this flick will broach, I’m sure. I’ll find out tonight. I’m going to torture myself by sitting through this. I am not looking forward to it. [opens June 1]

A couple films are already playing in New York City that I missed at press screenings, but must catch this week — the buzz on them has been amazing. Once [now playing in limited release; expands June 1] is the Irish musical romance that all my critic friends are raving over, so I’ve got to see what all the fuss is about. Away from Her is from actor-turned-director Sarah Polley, and stars Julie Christie as a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s… and that seems like the perfect partner for the Japanese film Memories of Tomorrow, which stars Ken Watanabe as a man struck by early onset Alzheimer’s; the film is traveling to different cities around North America this summer. I’ve had a DVD screener of that one for a while, and it’s about time I finally watched it.
Speaking of DVD… Fay Grim is Hal Hartley’s new comedy — Parker Posey stars as a housewife who gets caught up in international espionage — and I’ve got a screener of that one that I really should get around to watching this week. [now on DVD]

The movie I’m most looking forward to seeing this week is 1408. It’s based on a short story by Stephen King, and it’s directed by Mikael Håfström, who made the underrated Derailed a couple years back. But mostly I’m looking forward to it because it stars John Cusack, who can Do No Wrong, and Samuel Jackson, who can Do No Wrong, and Tony Shalhoub, who — yup — can Do No Wrong. Even when they’re in bad movies, they’re good, and I’m not entirely sure this one won’t be bad: Cusack’s character plays a skeptical writer who stays in a supposedly haunted hotel room — No. 1408 — and gets his mind blown, or something. [opens June 22]

I’m also hoping to get to a screening this week of Evening, which looks like it might be the goopiest chick flick of the summer. It’s got a great cast — Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Claire Danes, Toni Collette — but it’s about a dying mom and secrets she doesn’t tell her daughters and lost romance and the potential for major melodrama seems unavoidable. I’m putting great hope in director Lajos Koltai: this is the second film since he turned from cinematography to directing, and his first, Fateless, did avoid sticky sentiment. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed. [opens June 29]

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