Liam Neeson remakes himself, John Leguizamo faces the darkness, and Timothy Olyphant hopefully seeks a new agent.
Director: D.J. Caruso
Cast: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Dianna Agron
Let's all agree to pretend that Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son was released directly to DVD, as it would have been in any just universe, and turn our attention instead to those four most magical words in all of cinema: "Produced by Michael Bay." I Am Number Four certainly seems to offer everything those four words suggest: a dumbed-down story, wooden acting, gobs of special effects in place of coherent action, and all the clichéd comic-book dialogue you'd expect from the writing team behind Smallville. Alex Pettyfer, who may actually be 98% Wonder Bread, stars as a teenager with paranormal abilities trying to stay one step ahead of a deadly enemy. (Three have been killed already, you see, and he is number four.) Since Justified is back in season, not even the always-welcome presence of Timothy Olyphant is enough to pique my interest in what looks like an instant remake of The Last Airbender.
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn, Frank Langella
Not actually a sequel to Taken, but an incredible simulation of one, Unknown stars Liam Neeson in his latter-day man-of-action mode — which I actually find generally preferable to his earlier "noble dullard" mode. In this Hitchcockian scenario, Neeson's Dr. Martin Harris awakens from a coma after a car accident to find his identity has been stolen, and not even his wife (Mad Men's January Jones) seems to recognize him. I'm usually a sucker for this kind of premise, but I'm not sure director Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan, House of Wax) is exactly the Hitchcock heir it requires to be successful. As with Taken, it's probably best to stumble across Unknown on the tube a year or two from now, with expectations sufficiently lowered.
Director: Brad Anderson
Cast: Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo
Detroit just can't catch a break. It's not only the automotive industry that has vanished from the motor city in the trailer for Vanishing on 7th Street — it's pretty much all the people as well. As the power goes out and daylight begins to vanish, the few remaining residents (including Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, and John Leguizamo) begin to realize that the darkness itself is out to get them. Yes, it's kind of a weird premise, but director Brad Anderson has proven to have a good handle on sci-fi/horror material in movies like Happy Accidents and Session 9, as well as a number of Fringe episodes on television. It's a close call, but I'll take this one over Unknown based on filmmaker pedigree alone.
The One Movie You Should See This Week: Vanishing on 7th Street