5 p.m., Feb. 26
A natural gas salesman (Matt Damon, not director Gus Van Sant) uses the economy as a bully stick to convince a small town into accepting his company's offer for drilling rights to their properties. He is opposed by a charismatic stranger (John Krasinski) who takes advantage of an open-mic night to sell the locals on his side of the story. For 30 minutes there was a glimmer, a promise that Gus Van Sant had finally returned to serious filmmaking, the likes of which audiences have not seen since Drugstore Cowboy. As with Good Will Hunting, this quickly descends into textbook example territory, proof positive of the pitfalls inherent when movie stars produce and write a message picture. (The leads share screenwriting credit, and Damon was originally slated to direct.) There’s an unexpected plot twist to admire, but — with apologies to Chuck Berry swing low, chariot, if this Promised Land doesn’t come down easy as it taxis to a terminally predictable conclusion. With Frances McDormand, Rosemarie DeWitt (acting circles around all of them as Damon’s love interest), and Hal Holbrook once again lending credence as the voice of reason. 2012.