By Katie Walsh | The Playlist January 20, 2012 at 11:04AM
What a weekend for female-oriented action movies! It's almost like Steven Soderbergh requested "Haywire" be released the same weekend as "Underworld: Awakening," the latest entry in the dum-dum vampire franchise. You know, as a commentary on the female action hero. Regardless, there's gonna be a whole lotta ass-kicking ladies at the multiplex this weekend. Everyone wins! Let us explore the three stages of the female in action movies below.
Kate Beckinsale slithers back into the latex cat-suit and blue contacts of her vampire (is she a vampire in this series? I don't know/care) character in "Underworld: Awakening." She doesn't even have her hubs Len Wiseman behind the camera on this one to excuse her involvement in the increasingly irrelevant vampire vs. wolf-type thing vs. human franchise. Directed by Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, and co-starring Stephen Rea, Michael Ealy and Sandrine Holt. This didn't screen for critics, but we saw it and what can we say?
In the other corner, we have MMA fighter and former American Gladiator Gina Carano, Soderbergh's latest muse, making her acting debut in "Haywire," his lean, mean exercise in the action spy thriller. Carano crushes the following beefcakes in between her formidable thighs: Michael Fassbender, Ewan MacGregor and Channing Tatum. Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton, and Michael Angarano co-star. Our review says, "the film is full of long-take action and pursuit scenes where you only realize how superbly and meticulously choreographed they are after the fact when your pulse has cooled enough to let you count the long moments between edits," and "an action film that tries to convey the very real pleasure of watching an action hero actually think about what they're doing, cool reptile reason in the hot-blooded moment." Rotten Tomatoes: 81% Metacritic: 68
And last but not least, Mexican filmmaker Gerardo Naranjo brings us a completely different (and more realistic) take with Mexico's official Oscar entry "Miss Bala," about a pageant contestant swept up in the Mexican drug war. Our review says it's "a magnificently paced and deeply complex portrait of the out of control situation in Mexico with a masterfully subtle hand." RT: 89% MC: 82
For something completely different. "Red Tails" tells the real-life story of the African-American Tuskegee airmen in World War II. Produced by George Lucas and directed by Anthony Hemingway, the cast consists of a who's who in prestigious black actors, including Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., David Oyelowo, Tristan Wilds, Andre Royo, Nate Parker, Ne-Yo and Method Man (so many "The Wire" alums!), with Bryan Cranston. Our review says the film "is filled with gratingly rah-rah patriotism and stock characters, but what separates it from a similar genre throwback like, say, "The Artist," is a purity of intent. Since there's nothing, in Lucas' eyes, that can't benefit from a new layer of digital paint, the action sequences feel less like classic war movies and more like some next-gen videogame, and the effect is off-putting." RT: 35% MC: 43
If you'd prefer less action and more Shakesperean talking, Ralph Fiennes' modern take on the Bard's "Corionalus" starts rolling into theaters today. Fiennes directs and stars with Vanessa Redgrave, Gerard Butler, Jessica Chastain, Brian Cox and James Nesbitt rounding out the cast and telling the story of General Coriolanus as he enters the Senate on the insistence of his mother. However, when he is banished for rioting after failing to win the public’s support, he must team with sworn enemy, Tullus Aufidius, in taking out revenge on the city. We called the film "well-acted" and "challenging," so it should do more than enough to fill your intellectual and artistic needs. RT: 93% MC: 80
For some foreign flavor, Christian Bale goes to China for Zhang Yimou's "The Flowers Of War." He plays an American who disguises himself as a priest to save the lives of some prostitutes during the Nanjing Massacre. Hot stuff. Unforunately, we've seen the movie and it's not that good. You'll see our review soon, just take our word for. RT: 38% MC: 46
And oh yeah, PS: "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" opens wide on 2500+ screens this weekend-- check out our review here.
This is also the perfect weekend to take in a documentary with your main gay, or your main hag. Firstly, we have "Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston," about the legendary designer. Featuring interviews with Liza Minelli, Diane Von Furstenberg, Andre Leon Talley and Anjelica Huston. FAHbulous, dahling! RT: 47% MC: 32 Or, take in "Carol Channing: Larger Than Life," which is sure to be... just as absurd and kooky as the lady herself. RT: 91% MC: 66
"16-Love" is exactly what you think it might be... the story of a teenage tennis player falling in love... this title... just, no.
Astronomy nerds, be sure to check out doc "The City Dark," by filmmaker Ian Cheney. RT: 63%