OPENING THIS WEEK:
Nine Lives A few years ago, there was a spate of movies about driven businessmen who neglected their wife and children, only to become trapped in a supernatural situation designed to show them the error of their ways. From The Family Man to Click, the movies kept coming and the Twilight Zone scenarios in which the protagonists found themselves got more and more outrageous. And then one of them ran for president.
I mean Frank Underwood, natch, because House of Cards' Kevin Spacey is the star of Nine Lives, the latest riff on the stop-and-smell-the-roses school of homiletic nightmare fantasies. Spacey's character, Tom Brand, has to undergo perhaps the most traumatic ordeal of the genre: An inveterate cat hater, he's imprisoned in the body of his family's new feline pet. Yep, it's the first time Kevin Spacey has ever been inside a ... nope, I can't do it. Not even me.
The issue now is whether this beaten-to-death subcategory of family films really has nine lives. Does an emotionally deadbeat dad still have drawing power if he's injected with a good dose of Grumpy Cat? It probably isn't a good sign that last spring's chat-centric Keanu was a big ol' flop, indicating that adults are just fine getting their funny Felixes for free over social media. Hey, it beats watching the kids. (PG)
Suicide Squad Ever notice how every new DC movie is going to be the one that determines the future of all other DC movies? It could actually be the case with Suicide Squad, the trailer to which was one of the few nearly universally enjoyed aspects of seeing Batman v. Superman in a theater. Of course, it probably helped that the trailer allegedly included every light-hearted moment in the movie; the reaction was so strong that Warner Bros. ordered reshoots to emphasize "more of what's working" (my favorite Hollywood phrase of the year).
How much you can do in four months to make a feature-length film match an unrepresentative few minutes is the billion-dollar question that hangs over SS, in which the fate of the world rests in the hands of a bunch of supervillains, most of whom are second-string even by fanboy standards.
Once upon a time, we were snarking that the cinematic versions of those characters looked like Halloween Horror Nights scareactors deprived of their chainsaws; now we're wondering if they can save the summer and the DC Cinematic Universe. If the flick underperforms like every DC project since The Dark Knight Rises, there's a good chance the company's entire superhero slate post 2017 will be wiped off the board. And that's a lot of responsibility for Harley Quinn to shoulder. Good thing she has all of those voices in her head to help. (PG-13)