The week in movies: The Help, Contagion and Warrior
– by Regan Payne
– Say what you will about The Help, it is an important film within the 2011 film landscape, if for no other reason than it proves there is a film demographic outside of the Michael Bay-blow ‘em up flicks; kudos for ruling the box office for two weeks in a row.
– Should The Help succeed in a third week on top, it will have to hold off Steven Soderbergh’s latest, as well as the latest mixed martial arts flick, along with the lowbrow, Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star. Contagion marks Matt Damon’s sixth collaboration with director Steven Soderbergh. In the drama, a group of doctors are contracted to deal with a potentially deadly disease outbreak: sporting a great international cast, it’s an easy sell as plots go. Traditional film bad guys may wield AK-47s or hold the keys to nuclear destruction, but nothing chills the blood faster than the possibility of shriveling into oblivion through contact with the very air we breathe and people we love.
– The other threats to the box office throne this weekend (Warrior, and the aforementioned Bucky) would be considered long shots. Mixed martial arts is still waiting for its Raging Bull, and Warrior, a story about a son reconciling with an alcoholic father, a former boxer (Nick Nolte – who else?), to train for an upcoming competition, seems unlikely to grab that mantle. Bucky Larson is directed by Tom Brady (not the NFL quarterback), who is most well known for a slew of Rob Schneider vehicles: one can almost hear the Razzie organizers licking their chops.
– Perhaps the most important film-business festival opened last night. Every film that considers itself anything screens at the Toronto International Film Festival. Cannes and Venice have more cache, TIFF is where the major deals get done. This year’s festival opened with the U2 documentary From the Sky Down, which attempts to pin down how this band has been so successful for so long. Though very much Canadian, this year’s festival has an overwhelming French feel, with no less than 32 French productions in the line-up, 16 of which are world premieres. The festival runs to through the 18th. See the massive TIFF line-up here.
– Across the sea in Italy, another giant festival is about to wrap, as the 68th Venice Film Festival presents its awards tomorrow evening. For me, the most anticipated film in in Venice was not even selected for competition – Yorgis Lanthimos’s Alps. Alps marks the Greek filmmaker’s follow-up to the outrageously good Dogtooth, nominated for a Best Foreign Language Feature last year. Alps centers around a foursome (a nurse, paramedic, gymnast and her coach) that hire themselves out to grieving families, standing in for dead relatives, by appointment.