Zach Galifianakis and Robert Downey, Jr. go on a road trip; Naomi Watts and Sean Penn fight Republicans; and James Franco cuts off his arm. Who gets your ticket money?
Director: Todd Philips
Cast: Robert Downey, Jr., Zach Galifianakis
PRO: As I mentioned a few weeks ago when It's Kind of a Funny Story hit theaters, Zach Galafianakis makes me laugh. And even though Todd Phillips' brand of sophomoric comedy is hit-and-miss at best, I'll admit to enjoying The Hangover more than I probably should have. So although this comedy about an expectant father (Robert Downey, Jr.) forced to hitch a ride with an annoying aspiring actor (Galafianakis) has a whiff of Planes, Trains and Automobiles about it, I can see myself getting a few chuckles out of it.
CON: The TV ad campaign that's seemingly been running nonstop since the Obama inauguration has probably given away all the best jokes. Maybe I'll just cue up a marathon of Between Two Ferns instead.
Director: Doug Liman
Cast: Naomi Watts, Sean Penn
PRO: The torn-from-the-headlines trials and tribulations of outed CIA agent Valerie Plame would seem to be in good hands with Doug Liman, who showed he knows his way around a spy story with the original Bourne Identity and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The casting of Naomi Watts and Sean Penn is promising, although…
CON: Sean Penn can be insufferable when he's in self-righteous mode, and there's certainly danger of that happening here. Liman also faces the same problem his fellow Bourne director Paul Greengrass encountered with his Iraq War thriller The Green Zone: do we really want to revisit the political traumas of such a recently bygone era — especially when we have so many new political traumas to contend with in the here and now?
Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn
PRO: Speaking of traumatic true stories, jack-of-all-trades Danny Boyle switches gears yet again by following up the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire with this harrowing real-life survival tale. James Franco stars as Aron Ralston, the mountain climber who got trapped under a boulder and had to amputate his own arm to free himself. Any movie that causes three viewers to pass out and another to go into a seizure, as 127 Hours did at its Toronto Film Festival premiere, has immediately got my attention.
CON: As with the similar one-man-in-distress thriller Buried, the suspense may be undercut by our knowledge that Ralston did indeed escape from the canyon alive. Although it's sort of hard to imagine impatient audience members grousing, "Cut your arm off already!"
VERDICT: Due Date has "wait for cable" written all over it, and after suffering through this week's election, I don't think reliving the horrors of the Bush administration with Fair Game is high on my list of priorities. So I'm going to call the paramedics and have them standing by as I test my heart and nerves with 127 Hours.
The One Movie You Should See This Week: 127 Hours