By Neil Pedley
Anyone not waiting on a ski lift (or screening) with bated breath in Utah can spend their time picking through a hodgepodge of some of the finest examples of genre excess you’re likely to find. Bollywood goes to China, the slasher film goes 3D and the people behind “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” make zero effort not to telegraph what will likely end up the lamest rhyming gag ever.
“Chandni Chowk to China”
Warner Bros looks to establish a foothold in Bollywood with this action comedy, the first of a three-picture deal with Indian outfit People Tree Films. Directed by Nikhil Advani, “Chandni Chowk to China” is billed as the first Bollywood kung-fu comedy, a marriage of the traditional song-and-dance set-pieces with the underdog saga of a short order cook-turned-kung-fu master that owes that owes more than a nod to Stephen Chow. Akshay Kumar stars as Sidhu, a lowly chef in Chandni Chowk in Delhi who sets off to Shanghai after a pair of tourists convince him he’s the reincarnation of a legendary war hero. But rather than being treated like royalty when he arrives in China, Sidhu unwittingly finds himself facing off with a vicious local smuggler (Gordon Liu). In Hindi with subtitles.
Opens in limited release.
German novelist-turned-writer/director Doris Dörrie continues her career-long fascination with Japan, which has yielded “Enlightenment Guaranteed” and “The Fisherman and His Wife,” with this somber tale of generational disconnect, loosely inspired by Yasujiro Ozu’s masterpiece “Tokyo Story.” With their grown children in Berlin too busy to welcome them, Rudi (Elmar Wepper) and his wife Trudi (Hannelore Eisner) tiptoe around Germany to visit their to visit their other son, Karl (Maximilian Brückner) in Japan. However, when Trudi’s health takes a turn for the worse, the trip becomes a period of mourning and introspection for
Rudi, who journeys to her beloved Mount Fuji to find peace of mind. In English, German, and Japanese with subtitles.
Opens in New York and San Francisco.
“Hotel for Dogs”
Last year’s impressive resurgence of the protagonist pooch brought the dog movie out of the Hollywood pound and back as kibble for the pre-teen pack. Director Thor Freudenthal’s family-friendly canine caper drafts Nickelodeon alumnus Emma Roberts along with Jake T. Austin, Troy Gentile and Kyla Pratt as a group of wily kids getting one over on mean-spirited guardians Lois (a Cruella-esque Lisa Kudrow) and Carl (a Grinch-like Kevin Dillon) by turning an abandoned hotel into a penthouse paradise for local strays. Cue the hijinks, “Home Alone”-style slapstick, and enough improvised gizmos and gadgets to embarrass MacGyver and expect a sequel somewhere exotic this time next year — “Hotel for Dogs 2: Kahlua Beach Kennels” or the like. You’re welcome, Hollywood.
“My Bloody Valentine 3-D”
Helmer Patrick Lussier learned his trade dutifully cutting together the bumps and jumps for Wes Craven on the likes of the “Scream” franchise. Here he retools this ’80s cult classic with Jensen Ackles (of TV’s “Supernatural”) starring as Tom Hanniger, a former coal miner returning to his hometown to lay some ghosts to rest on the anniversary of a tragic accident, only to find himself the chief suspect in a series of gruesome slayings. Though it’s hardly James Cameron’s “Avatar,” those curious as to what this Real D Cinema fuss is all about could do worse than pop along. All the terrible acting, appalling plot contrivance and hokey dialogue will feel like it’s mere inches from your face.
We all know the Academy likes a music biopic like little kids like ice cream and George Lucas likes money, but the story of a character as, well, notorious as the late Biggie Smalls (played here by Brooklyn rapper Jamal Woolard) was unlikely to ever really feature in their plans — hence, this long-touted movie version of his life land amidst the January dead zone. “Soul Food” director George Tillman Jr. details Biggie’s rise from small-time hustler to one of the most prominent rap artists of all time, pioneering a style that weaved street life into a compelling lyrical narrative. Angela Bassett co-stars as Smalls’ mother, Derek Luke shows up as Sean “Puffy” Combs and Anthony Mackie does his best as Biggie’s rival and former friend Tupac Shakur.
“Paul Blart: Mall Cop”
If the painfully unfunny viral video — which features the titular Blart hassling skateboarders making, get this, a viral video — is anything to go by, the best thing this latest offering from “Daddy Day Care” director Steve Carr and the guys at Happy Madison has going for it is that it doesn’t star Larry the Cable Guy. Instead, we get Kevin James (star of TV’s hit comedy “Fat Guy Married to Hot Chick Who Catches Him in a Lie Every Single Week — a.k.a. “The King of Queens”) as a police academy washout doing the little Hitler routine at a strip mall who suddenly finds himself the last line of defense against a gang of teenage criminals who holds everyone inside hostage.
“The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema”
Written by Slavoj Žižek, “The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema” is a guide through 43 films via the filter of the famed philosopher and cultural critic, who narrates from amidst the recreated sets of “Psycho” and “Blue Velvet,” or actual adjoining rooms in what was once the Jack Tar Hotel, setting of key scenes in “The Conversation.” Sophie Fiennes, sister of Ralph and Joseph, directs.
Opens in New York.
Urban loneliness may be a myth, according to certain New York magazine features, but that doesn’t mean it can’t fuel an indie comedy. “The Sublet” focuses on Walter, a solitary 71-year-old man who decides the easiest path to meeting new people is to place a fake ad to sublet his apartment, but the applicants he gets — a hit man and a teenage runaway — offer him more adventure than he could have planned.
Opens in New York.
[Photo: “Chandni Chowk to China,” Warner Bros, 2009]