So far in this young fall, there have been a handful of weighty, serious films ('All the King's Men,''The Black Dahlia,''Hollywoodland'), none of which have particularly taken audiences or critics by storm. But this weekend we've got the opening of the first big-budget, bonafide Oscar contender of the season -- and that's 'The Departed,' a crime thriller about cops and the Irish mafia in Boston that stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin. It's a remake of the Hong Kong movie 'Infernal Affairs,' and oh, and it was directed by some dude named Scorsese. You know, the guy with the big eyebrows and the funny voice.
As Magnum, P.I. used to say, I know what you're thinking, and you're right. Yes, the movie is violent, heavy on the testosterone and over two hours long. It also knocked my friggin' socks off. 'The Departed' is smart, it's fierce, it's terrifically acted and gorgeously filmed, it roars with an energy we rarely see in movies anymore ... and believe it or not, it's funny, too. If I had a nickel for every review that's called this film "Scorsese's best since 'Goodfellas'" -- which it is, by the way -- I wouldn't even need to think about buying lottery tickets. 'The Departed' could and should win a slew of Oscars, including a long-deserved best director award for Scorsese, the Susan Lucci of the Academy Awards (he's been nominated six times but never won); but of course, whether glowing reviews and Oscar buzz will translate into box-office bucks is a whole 'nother kettle of fish.
Marty's got some pretty stiff competition from a couple of films that will never share a shelf with 'The Departed' at your local video store. (Except "New Releases." OK, never mind.) For one, there's 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning,' a tender coming-of-age tale (err, not) about how an abandoned, disfigured lad became the chainsaw-wielding, teen-slaughtering cannibal known as Leatherface. There's no Jessica Biel this time around; and other than the original movie's writer and director, who served as producers on the film, the closest thing the film has to a "name" is Jordana Brewster, co-star of 'The Fast and the Furious' and 'Annapolis.' But this, my friends, is what is known as a sure thing. It's review-proof, it'll bring in the teen crowd, and really, who doesn't love a little disemboweling and cannibalism among pals? Nobody, that's who.
Last but certainly not least is 'Employee of the Month,' starring comedian Dane Cook and Jessica Simpson, the musician/actress currently known as "Ashlee's sister." Jessica plays a checker at a supermarket, which is a little troubling considering that she doesn't know tuna from chicken, but what do you expect for minimum wage? And Dane is the slacker bagboy who's determined to win her heart. Again, here, the reviews (which aren't great) don't matter so much; romantic comedies tend to fare pretty well at the box office, and this week you couldn't blink without seeing a commercial for the movie. But the question is, have audiences had enough of Jessica's dumb blonde routine? Will the once-hapless Nick have the last laugh after all?
So there you are. I have to say, it's a tough one this week. You've got possibly the best film of the year pitted against a mega-successful slasher franchise and a turn-off-your-brain romantic comedy. It could be anyone's game, but I'll take a stab at it. What say you? Are my guesses on-target, or can you do me one (or five) better? Have at it, movie fans, and I'll see you next week.
The Departed, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Employee ofthe Month, Martin Scorsese, Jessica Simpson, Dane Cook, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, box office, prediction