Welcome to Friday Flicks, NewsFeed’s weekly round up of the latest movie releases. And while the Oscars are nearly a year off, there’s no reason to not be ahead of the game, and seek out the best in current cinema (and what’s more, when you win your Oscar pool, you’ll know who to thank). So without further ado, let’s have some lights, camera…traction!
Tagline: Get Your Quest On.
Just what the world needs: another dose of James Franco in a stoner comedy. Frankly, at this point, we don’t know how he finds the time to fit in movies, such is his schedule. But Franco nevertheless crops up as the handsome prince Fabious (shouldn’t that be fabulous?), who is the older brother to Thadeous (Danny McBride, making hay while the sun shines, in a starring role). The pair must team up to rescue Fabious’ bride-to-be, Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) who has been kidnapped by the wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux). Tagging along for the ride too are the likes of Natalie Portman and Charles Dance. It’s doesn’t sound so much a movie rather than a focus group’s idea of how to appeal to the 18-35 demographic.
Advance word on Your Highness has been nothing short of disastrous (“It’s hard to locate the joke the filmmakers even think they’re telling,” wrote Kirk Honeycutt in the Hollywood Reporter, while TIME’s Richard Corliss believes that “If you were to dismiss the movie as dismal, you wouldn’t be far off”). It looks like director David Gordon Green hasn’t pulled off the same trick twice with Franco, after hitting – ahem – a high with Pineapple Express.
(More on TIME.com: See James Franco in the 2011 TIME 100 poll)
Tagline: Meet the world’s only lovable billionaire.
If 2011 is going to be remembered for anything, it could well be as the year of the sequel or remake. Further proof comes with the new version of Arthur, just the 30 years after the original starring Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli and John Gielgud. And the Brits are still dominating, with Russell Brand reprising the role of the drunken playboy billionaire (however did they get the idea to cast him?) with a slight twist coming in Helen Mirren taking on the Gielgud role of Hobson the butler, which is her second gender-rewritten role in two years (following The Tempest). Completing the rebooted cast is Greta Gerwig, tackling Minnelli’s nice-but-poor girl from the other side of the tracks who – spoiler alert! – has a hold on Arthur’s heart.
(More on TIME.com: See a profile of Russell Brand)
Tagline: Adapt Or Die.
Whatever happened to the British director Joe Wright? Celebrated after 2007’s admirable Atonement, all seemed to go quiet on the Wright front, especially as 2009’s The Soloist was an almighty mess that somehow failed to bring out the best of either Jamie Foxx or Robert Downey Jr. But he’s back, this time directing Saoirse Ronan (who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in Atonement) and Cate Blanchett as the female leads who showcase the fairer sex’s spin on the Bourne franchise in Hanna.
(More on TIME.com: See why The Bourne Ultimatum is in the top 10 movies better than the original)
But in this instance, if you will, fairer comparisons might be drawn between The Professional (which starred a young Natalie Portman) and last year’s Kick-Ass (Chloe Moretz) for this is the story of how Ronan’s eponymous young girl, who has been raised by her father (Eric Bana) to be a cold-hearted killing machine, must now learn to be a girl. TIME’s Mary Pols, while admitting that, “Some of the oddball moments do work to illustrate our heroine’s sense of disorientation,” summed it up by saying “the central conflict … lacks urgency.” That said, Wright may well have atoned for The Soloist‘s sins.
NewsFeed’s Flicks Pick: None of the above will be featuring in the year end lists but Arthur gets our nod, and could see Russell Brand competing with himself (he’s the voice of Hop) at the top of the box office.