My apologies that this site hasn't been updated much this week. Work intruded with some massive writing that needed to be tended to and, well, I wasn't much in the writing mood after all that. But my hope is to really dive in this weekend. On top of this column, I have DVD reviews of "Dear Zachary," "Transporter 3" and "Marley and Me" waiting in the wings, along with thoughts on two movies I hadn't seen until recently that all movielovers deem essential--Billy Wilder's "The Apartment" and Roman Polanski's "Chinatown." Plus, the summer movie season kicks into gear this weekend with "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," which I'm supposed to be seeing tomorrow night.
So let's get into the Monthly Movies. Basically I think it's a bit too tiring to do a whole summer preview--you tend to highlight big movies but you often lose sight of ones that don't tend to gather good word of mouth until close to their release date. Plus, capturing three months of film releases in one column is a heck of a lot of work.
So what we're going to do at the beginning of each month is look at the releases that are scheduled for the coming weeks. The list will by no means be exhaustive--many films hit limited release and don't open in this area. But I'll try to highlight as many films as I know about, as well as give some thoughts about what we can expect.
As is tradition, the summer movie season started this weekend, a whole three weeks before Memorial Day. So let's look at what's hitting the theaters this month!
X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE--Chances are that by the time this is posted, many of you will already have seen this film. And based on the feedback hitting newspapers and websites today, you most-likely won't be feeling too happy. Which is a shame. Wolverine was always the strongest character from the "X-Men" franchise and a Wolvie-centric film could have been a hardcore, intense action flick. Instead, it looks like director Gavin Hood and the Powers That Be at 20th Century Fox have created a lightweight action flick that belies the promise of a Wolverine stand-alone in favor of populating it with even more mutants than the first three "X-Men Films"--but because it's not the original cast, they could save on costs. It's a shame if that turns out to be the case. Gavin Hood's debut film "Tsotsi" is one of the most powerful films I've seen and I hate to think that, with this and "Rendition," he's sold out to the Hollywood machine. Also, Hugh Jackman is a charismatic and likable lead who just hasn't been able to catch a break as a leading man--if this fails, it may spell trouble for the man who also headlined "Van Helsing" and "Australia." I'm tempering expectations before seeing it tomorrow night--let's just hope for brainless fun.
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past:The typical counter-programming to the summer blockbusters. Matthew McConaughey is pretty much a golden boy when it comes to bringing in the romantic comedy crowd, so this shoudl do pretty solid business over the summer; the reviews haven't been glowing but they've been fairly strong. As much as I want to see Michael Douglas chew scenery or Jennifer Garner light up the screen, I have absolutely zero interest in this. Although one day I may get married...so we'll keep it at bay on the Blockbuster queue just in case.
The Limits of Control:I have no idea about the plot or when it's going to be released in my area. But Jim Jarmusch and Bill Murray last teamed up on the fantastic "Broken Flowers," which featured one of Murray's best performances. With Tilda Swinton added to the mix, the film could be a sequel to "Larger than Life" and I'd STILL show up.
Star Trek: I have seen exactly one "Star Trek" feature in my life--the horrid "Undiscovered Country." I never watched any of the television iterations and all I can tell you about the show is what I've acquired via pop culture osmosis. And yet, I can't wait until I screen this early next week. JJ Abrams is a name I trust. His last directorial work, "Mission: Impossible 3," was an underated film--the franchise's best entry. "Cloverfield" was one of last year's surprise pleasures. His work with "Alias" and "Lost" has solidified his reputation as being not just a skilled entertainer but one of the best storytellers in the business--a true geek who knows the importance of character and emotion. But that would still not be enough to sell me if it weren't for one thing--the trailers for this make this look absolutely fantastic. This looks to be big, intelligent and exciting fun and, for once, it actually sounds a bit cool to say "I want to see 'Star Trek.'"
Next Day Air: Oh this looks wretched. A man gets an unexpected delivery of cocaine and decides to be a dealer...in my opinion this whole genre of "urban comedies" is as racist as any minstrel show, reducing African Americans to stereotypes and "oh no she didn't" quips. The wild card, however, is that the film features the very likable Donald Faison from "Scrubs" and the very talented Mos Def, who I would normally put as being above the stereotyped trash (see his turns in "Italian Job," "18 Blocks" and "Be Kind Rewing.") So maybe there's a hidden gem in all of these, um, rocks.
Angels and Demons: Ron Howard is fresh off "Frost/Nixon," one of last year's best films and Tom Hanks renders everything "must-seeable." The trailer looks solid, with a vast religious conspiracy and some genuine suspense. And Ewan Macgregor has been on the screen far too rarely these days. The problem? I HATED HATED HATED "The DaVinci Code" film. And no, not because of its heretical content (although that didn't win points). I actually enjoyed Dan Brown's book for what it was--a ludicrous but fun thriller; the movie was just a boring trip through Paris. But we'll see with this one--the talent involved is far too strong to turn out two duds.
The Brothers Bloom: I haven't seen Rian Johnson's previous film "Brick," which I'm told is a must-see. And I haven't seen any trailers for "Brothers Bloom," a comedy about con men, yet. But the cast (Adrien Brody and Rachel Weiz) is solid and early word has been wonderful. So this is one to keep your eys on.
Terminator Salvation: Every fiber of my being tells me this shouldn't work. It's a PG-13 "Terminator" movie without Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron directed by the "Charlie's Angels" guy. But every single thing I've seen about this film just screams awesomeness. The presence of Christian Bale gives it some credibility (although he's not infallible). But the craziness of the whole post-apocalyptic landscape, the giant cyborgs and utter insanity of the whole project have me very intrigued. Everything I know tells me this is a bad idea but everything I'm seeing is telling me this is going to rock hard.
Dance Flick: Don't be fooled. Even though it claims its by two writers of "Scary Movie" and trades out "Movie" for "Flick," this looks to be every bit as terrible as the "Epic/Disaster Movie" flicks. Avoid at all costs and pray that the "Naked Gun" revival is going to be every bit as brilliant as I'm hearing; the spoof genre is dead in the water right now.
The Girlfriend ExperienceSteven Soderbergh goes low tech ala "Bubble" again with this look at high-priced call girls. Soderbergh could film a traffic jam and it would still be worth a look.
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian:I know that it's fashionable for critics to roll their eyes at this but I actually thought the first "Night at the Museum" was a fun little movie. True it got very stupid once Mickey Rooney began doing karate and it wasn't going to win awards--but it was entertaining and funny enough. The sequel could be the same; certainly the return of Ricky Gervais and the presence of Amy Adams won't hurt. Besides, what's wrong with eschewing the explosions and darkness of superheroes for some light-hearted fare?
Drag Me to Hell: A gypsy puts a curse on a young woman? I would normally yawn and pass this over as yet another lame supernatural film. But this is Sam Raimi returning to his "Evil Dead" roots and word is that it's wickedly gruesome and scary fun. Raimi's last film, "Spider-man 3" was horrid, yes, but I think that may have more to do with studio pressure and deadlines than anything with the director--his first two films revived the superhero genre and let's not forget that Raimi's "Simple Plan" is pure brilliance. But I think everyone's wanted to see him unleash the dark humor and energy that fueled his first low-budget horror movies. This could be a lot of fun.
Up: Expectations for this are higher than the balloon-lofted house that occupies this film. And they should be. This is Pixar's ninth film--and every single one prior has been increasingly brilliant. Last year's "WALL-E" was the best film of 2008 according to many critics (including myself). So do I expect anything less from this story about an old curmudgeon who flies away with a tagalong boy scout? Of course not. And I have faith that Pete Docter, who did the brilliant "Monster's Inc." will deliver the adventure, comedy and heart we all have come to cherish from the company.
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