Movies

The One Movie You Should See This Week

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Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Eric Bana, and Michelle Williams square off for your ticket money.

Your Highness

Director: David Gordon Green

Cast: James Franco, Danny McBride, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel

Does anyone remember when David Gordon Green was an acclaimed young director drawing comparisons to Terrence Malick for dreamy, haunting films like George Washington and All the Real Girls? Now he's a guy who makes stoner comedies (and, no doubt, a lot more money). Not that there's anything wrong with that, but Pineapple Express was largely forgettable, and Your Highness looks like some sort of unworkable melding of Cheech & Chong and Men in Tights. The cast features the two most overexposed humans of 2011, James Franco and Natalie Portman, along with Danny McBride doing his clueless egotist shtick in a shaky British accent. Not even the presence of my future ex-wife Zooey Deschanel is tempting enough to lure me into this forest of silly anachronisms, cheesy special effects, and armor-clanging slapstick.

Hanna

Director: Joe Wright

Cast:Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Saoirse Ronan

Speaking of Natalie Portman, most of us got our first glimpse of her in The Professional, which is the first movie that comes to mind when I watch the trailer for Hanna. Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones) stars as a teenage girl raised by her secret agent father (Eric Bana) to be a deadly assassin. When Dad disappears, she becomes a thorn in the side of a U.S. intelligence agent (Cate Blanchett, who apparently traded accents with Danny McBride). This kind of action movie seems somewhat outside the comfort zone of director Joe Wright, best known for tonier material like Pride & Prejudice and The Soloist, but I'd certainly give Hanna a shot before the other first-name-only wide release this week, Arthur. You'd have to strap me down Clockwork Orange-style to get me to watch Russell Brand recreating Dudley Moore's greatest hits.

 

Meek's Cutoff

Director:Kelly Reichardt

Cast:Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Paul Dano, Shirley Henderson

I caught this minimalist Western at the Austin Film Festival last fall, and I feel confident in saying it's not for everyone. Michelle Williams reteams with her Wendy and Lucy director Kelly Reichardt for this bleak, claustrophobic tale of survival and desperation on the Oregon Trail. Bruce Greenwood co-stars as a grizzled wilderness guide who may be leading the wagon train to the promised land or to oblivion. It's a study in ambiguity, which doesn't generally spell big business at the box office, but the sun-baked imagery is mesmerizing, the slow build pays off with a perfectly realized finale, and Williams cements her place as one of the best young actresses working today. It requires a bit more patience than something like Your Highness, but the rewards are much greater as well.

The One Movie You Should See This Week: Meek's Cutoff