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In Theatres This Weekend: September 9, 2011

It’s Friday, and you know what that means: new movies. This week we’ve got an epidemic (‘Contagion’), an alligator man (‘Creature’), and two brothers at odds (‘Warrior’). What’s worth watching? Read on to find out.

Every so often a movie comes along that makes you groan just reading the summary. This month, that movie is ‘Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star‘ (R). It tells the tale of a goofy guy who learns that his parents used to be porn stars, and decides to head to California to follow in their footsteps. (Cue the crude gags and awkward moments.)
In case you’re thinking, “Hey, that sounds kind of funny”, you should know that this flick is helmed by Tom Brady, of ‘The Animal’ and ‘The Comebacks’ fame. Okay, you’ve been warned.

Simon Pegg’s latest flick, the 19th-century dark comedy ‘Burke and Hare‘ (NR) opens in limited release. Unfortunately, watching the trailer for this film gives a viewer the sneaking suspicion most of the comic moments were stuffed into the trailer, leaving little material to fill out the rest of the ninety minute running time.

Fear spreads in ‘Contagion‘ (PG-13) as a team of doctors races to contain a virus before it can become a global epidemic. The ensemble cast includes Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Lawrence Fishburne, and Gwyneth Paltrow (who dies in the trailer–nice spoiler alert, Steven Soderbergh).

But wait, haven’t we seen this before? Oh yeah, it was called ‘Blindness’. No, wait, it was called ‘Outbreak’. No, wait, it was…any of a dozen different epidemic-themed horror/drama films in which the outcome is pretty obvious: people die. That’s not to detract from the screenplay or the performances. But in a time when panic over disease and terrorism crop up regularly on the evening news, will audiences really pay to see another it-could-happen scenario on the big screen?

The only real mystery surrounding the laughable trailer for ‘Creature‘ (R) is why the filmmakers didn’t wait another month to release it to theaters. Swamp creatures, backwoods legends, and students devoured one by one make for great Halloween fodder, but at the beginning of September? Also puzzling is why they couldn’t do a better job with the monster makeup on the half-man, half-alligator monster. It’s 2011, for crying out loud. Maybe that’s why this is a limited release.

Main Street‘ (PG) is an odd little indie film with a stage director (John Doyle) and a stage writer (Horton Foote). It has a stellar cast (including Colin Firth, Ellen Burstyn, Patricia Clarkson, Orlando Bloom, and Amber Tamblyn). And it’s got an attention-grabbing plot: a Texas oil man who arrives in a small North Carolina town offers to expand his business into the dying town, but at what price? Unfortunately for viewers—and no disrespect to the late Mr. Foote—the screenplay dithers around for too long before answering that question, and then dithers some more before the abrupt conclusion. It has all the makings of an excellent drama, if only it had a few tweaks. Opening in limited release.

Andy Lau, Nicholas Tse, and Jackie Chan kick butt in the action-packed ‘Shaolin‘ (R), about a warlord who takes refuge at the Shaolin Temple and subsequently learns their ways. With this trio working together, expect lots of high-flying kung fu. Unfortunately, this film is in limited release, but if it’s not playing near you take heart: it hits DVD and VOD on October 25th.

Rooney Mara is experiencing what many critics like to call the ‘Juno’ effect: just as she’s poised to hit theaters in a major blockbuster, one of her earlier, lesser-known films is suddenly trotted out for display. The blockbuster in question is of course the American adaptation of the Swedish thriller, ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’, which hits theatres this winter. And the movie now making the rounds is ‘Tanner Hall‘ (R), the story of four girls at a boarding school who find their friendship tested as they near adulthood. Unfortunately for Mara, this dull drama is already receiving poor marks as a so-so coming-of-age snoozer.

Watching the trailer for ‘Warrior‘ (R) inspires two thoughts: first, that it’s kind of surprising Hollywood hasn’t dramatized MMA fighting before this; and second, that this movie looks an awful lot like ‘The Fighter’. There’s family angst, a brooding lead character, and a theme of redemption and inspiration.

The trouble with a film like ‘Warrior’ is that one peek at the trailer basically tells you all you need to know about the plot from start to finish. The challenge, then, is for the script and the actors to generate enough drama to keep audiences watching. Tom Hardy has already proven he’s quite capable of commanding attention on-screen in smaller roles in ‘Rock n Rolla’ and ‘Inception’. Now he needs to prove he can carry a drama in the leading man role.

Scene Creek

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