Snap judgments about this week's premieresIf there’s such a thing as a rock-star book-to-script screenwriter/adapter, Steve Zaillian is well within his rights, next time he rents a hotel room, to defenestrate a few TV sets, romance a groupie with a red snapper, and gag on several pints of his own vomit. (Now there’s a rave that won’t make it into his bio, I’ll wager. Or … will it? Quite the Sphinx-y stumper, eh, Mr. Publicist? Ha-ha!) Consider: Awakenings, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Schindler’s List, Clear and Present Danger, A Civil Action, Hannibal, and All the King’s Men — all once books, all written or co-written by Zaillian (hereafter, “the Zaillianaire”). He (the Zaillianaire) also co-wrote Gangs of New York and The Interpreter, reportedly did a number of uncredited, high-profile rewrites (Patriot Games, Primal Fear, Amistad), and directed Fischer, A Civil Action, and now, King’s. Anyway, couple the Zaillianaire (wearing thin yet?) with the most tantalizing cast this side of the Oscars (hold that thought, perhaps?) and throw in Pulitzer-Prize-winning source material, and there’s no way this isn’t worth your time (review, 22) — at the very least to watch Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, Kate Winslet, and James Gandolfini play Hide the Accent. Zaillianaire, baby.
If there’s a Michael Jordan of latter-day crossover martial-arts cinema, one might reasonably posit that Jet Li may as well set his tongue permanently on “wag” and go head-hunting for Craig Ehlo. (Or maybe Jackie Chan’s MJ, and Jet’s Kobe. In which case, Bruce Lee’s Dr. J, and Tony Jaa and Cyril Raffaelli = LeBron and ’Melo. Whatever.) Jet Li’s Fearless, if marketing campaigns can be trusted (haw) will be the Jetster’s (can I call him the Jetster without him swinging a lethal rope-weapon at me?) Final Martial-Arts Epic. But don’t expect him to go all Birmingham Barons and start turning up in Kevin Smith films or nothin’: he’s only done with “wushu” films — those of a specific style, rooted in martial-arts philosophy — not action flicks altogether. Yeah, I’m confused, too. But suffice it to say, we probably won’t be seeing him in any more period pieces, unless he relents, and goes all Washington Wizards and … well, you know.
If there’s a stranger-seeming casting choice than Jet Li in Clerks III (which isn’t happening — don’t get me in trouble), Matt Dillon as a Bukowski avatar in Factotum might well be it. Lo and behold, though, the ol’ Flamingo Kid may have a few tricks up his sleeve (besides that one where he uniformly slices blocks of cheddar with his brow, which, admittedly, is a pretty good one), and might know what he’s talking about (interview, page 21) — or at least moreso than you’d expect. (You, not me. I don’t judge.) (Asshole.)
If there’s a cinematic equivalent to the Garbage Pail Kids (besides GPK: The Movie — yikes), it’s probably something like Jackass: Number Two. You can’t help it. You can’t look away. Go see it, you sick bastard, and tell me all about it.
If there’s one film this year in which you’re likely to be treated to more gratuitous pasty-male frontal nudity than even Jackass 2 has to offer, it’s (surprise!) the wedding-themed British mockumentary Confetti. Come for the nuts, stay for the yuks (review, page 23). (Did I just write “yuks”?)
If there’s a prize for most consecutive war-and/or-period-piece flicks slid successfully under the radar between colossal blockbusters by a seemingly talented actor (which would surprise the shit out of me), James Franco would be up there. Next up: the biplane epic Flyboys, about the first American fighter pilots (they fought with the French).
If there’s one more paragraph in this column that begins with a preposition, I’m going to punch myself.
Local premiere dates for limited-release films are tentative and can change at the last minute. Please check your local theater listings to confirm showtimes.