Special-effects men blow up L.A., Rachel McAdams hosts the news, and Denzel Washington stops a train. Who gets your ticket money?
Directors: Colin Strause, Greg Strause
Cast: Eric Balfour, Donald Faison
Big stars, high-concept plot, and bits of Los Angeles exploding can only mean one thing: summer blockbuster season is finally here! Unfortunately, it's November, which means it's actually summer leftover season, featuring the junior-varsity blockbusters that weren't quite strong enough to compete with all the warm-weather sequels and videogame adaptations, but might do some business before the entire world goes to see Harry Potter next weekend. Hence, Skyline, which, judging from the trailer, seems to be set in the late 1990s, when Dan Rather was a network-news anchor and extraterrestrial CGI raining down on L.A. was enough to sell a movie. Back then, of course, effects-heavy A-list event films cost big bucks to produce, whereas the SFX veterans helming this invasion thriller apparently kept their budget low by only spending money on effects (leaving just half a million for the story, characters, and other non-essential items).
Director: Roger Michell
Cast: Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Morning Glory, which banks heavily on the Baby Boom Generation's seemingly insatiable hunger for a Diane Keaton product. This time around, America's favorite sassy turtleneck enthusiast is paired with grumpy old Harrison Ford in the latest retread of the "bickering TV co-hosts" mini-genre, with Rachel McAdams on hand to generate non-senior-discount ticket sales. While I'm willing to go on record as a straight male with genuine affection for director Roger Michell's rom-com Notting Hill, it's hard to imagine circumstances (short of mental convalescence after a bad acid trip) where I'd willingly subject myself to Morning Glory's apparent level of blandness.
Director: Tony Scott
Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson
But fortunately, I don't have to choose between stuff getting destroyed and star power this week, because Unstoppable is two mints in one. As with zombie flicks, it's virtually impossible to screw up a runaway train movie, since (as Rosario Dawson helpfully notes in the trailer), "We're not just talking about a train — we're talking about a missile the size of the Chrysler Building!" Like David Letterman tossing watermelons off a rooftop, there's just something lizard-brain compelling about a speeding locomotive smashing through anything and everything in its path. Likewise, as Jay Pharoah recently demonstrated on SNL, there's also something inherently hilarious (yet comfort-food soothing) about Denzel Washington barking out exactly the sorts of things you'd expect him to say while trying to stop an unstoppable train. So (unless you're in one of the cities premiering Nerve alum Lena Dunham's indie charmer, Tiny Furniture, this week), I'm recommending Tony "The Taking of Pelham 123" Scott's latest for all your meat-and-potatoes blockbuster needs.
The One Movie You Should See This Week: Unstoppable