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Summer Movie Guideline – June 2011
X-Men First Class: There are a lot of comic book movies coming out this summer, but X-Men First Class is the one I’m most excited about. It tells the origin story of some of the X-men’s first members including Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto. The film has a stellar cast including James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and a scantily-clad January Jones. I love that it takes place in the 60’s and features real-world scenarios instead of mutants just fighting amongst themselves, but I’m sure we’ll get that too.
Super 8: Another of my most anticipated films of the summer is J.J. Abrams’ Super 8. Directed by Abrams, and produced by Steven Spielberg, this one promises to be a good-looking movie and a good sounding story. It’s reminiscent of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial and has that 50’s era charm that Spielberg can capture so well. Abrams is notorious for keeping his projects top-secret, so not much is known about the plot other than there will likely be aliens and awesomeness.
The Green Lantern: Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively’s superhero romp is DC Comics only installment for the summer amid Marvel Comic’s three offerings. In terms of comic book films, this is my least anticipated film. The initial trailers and scenes made it look overly CGI and really fake. Apparently they’ve gone back and redone some of the CGI, but I’m still not convinced. I love both of those actors though, so I’ll hope to be pleasantly surprised.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins: I don’t know too much about Jim Carrey’s latest film other than it seems to involve a man who adopts a small colony of penguins and teaches them to dance? I’m sure there’s much more to the story, but the trailers don’t have me interested enough to find out. A lot of people haven’t liked Jim Carrey since the 90’s, but he’s held true for me as a go-to funnyman. I love his drama too. Mr. Popper’s Penguins looks like a bit of both.
Cars 2: Pixar’s summer offering of Cars 2 is a bit perplexing. I’ve heard several utterances that although Pixar is generally infallible, Cars was the worst of their films. Of course, that’s like being the dumbest kid at Harvard, but still. I, for one, would have preferred follow-ups to stronger films like The Incredibles or Monsters Inc. I still enjoyed Cars and with new voices in the mix like that of Michael Caine, Bruce Campbell and Eddie Izzard, this might make for a pretty good flick.
Bad Teacher: Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake pair up for a raunchy comedy that puts Diaz’s horrible and inefficient teacher on the road to success to win a cash prize for having the best test scores from her students so that she can earn a boob job. Justin Timberlake plays a straight-laced substitute whom Diaz will presumably fall for. This one is up in the air for me.
The Troll Hunter: I’ve seen trailers for this scattered about, and I’m not sure if it will see a wide release in the United States, but Norwegian film The Troll Hunter looks simply awesome. A documentary about a group of people hunting down trolls in the forests of Norway may sound campy, but the visuals are done really well and I’m extremely excited about it. The trolls are a mix between CGI and what looks like Jim Henson muppetry, but it’ll take a complete viewing to know how well it works. Check out the trailer if you haven’t seen it.
The latest installment of The Fast and the Furious franchise, titled Fast Five, is the best of all of the Fast and Furiousessess, though that isn’t saying much. The canon has been plagued with terrible titles since the second film, but Fast Five is the least imaginative name since Sssssss, a movie about snakes or lisps or something.
Looking past the title, you’ll find a fairly entertaining action romp that knows where to put its attention. The film reunites almost everyone from the canon. Vin Diesel returns with co-stars from the first film Paul Walker, Jordanna Brewster and Matt Schulze. Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris return from the first sequel, Sung Kang represents the third film and Gal Gadot makes a comeback from the last installment. New faces are that of Dwayne Johnson, an American law enforcement officer in pursuit of the crew, Elsa Pataky, a Portuguese cop with a troubled past and Joachim de Almeida, the major antagonist.
Even though there are more characters than you can shake a wrench at, they’re all introduced well and given enough screen time to make an impact. The actors all share good chemistry with one another and seem to enjoy powering through the awful dialogue together.
The dialogue really is quite horrendous with many one-liners like the following:
“Good news and bad news”
“You know I like my dessert first.”
But we didn’t go to this movie to see people chat over an afternoon tea. We came to see things that go fast. Although street racing was the main course in the first film, each subsequent work has seemed to take less interest in the sport. In Fast Five, it’s virtually non-existent. There is one actual street-racing scene that is completely glossed over, and one scene where the four main drivers race that lacks some of the panache from the previous movies.
There are still plenty of action scenes that keep this film from turning into an Ocean’s heist movie. Once Diesel and Johnson are introduced, you’re just biding your time until you get to see two bald muscle bags deliver a buffet of knuckle sandwiches, and you are most definitely rewarded.
Throw in a little Vin Diesel good guy charm and some family drama, and you’ve got a movie that’s a worthy introduction to the summer blockbusters to follow.
May is when the summer movies really kick off. Here are May’s blockbuster offerings arranged by release date:
Thor: Thor not only kicks off May’s blockbusters, but also ignites the comic book movies that run rampant throughout this summer. Directed by brilliant thespian and Shakespeare reviver Kenneth Branagh, Thor promises to have some substance with its action. Personally, I’m a little fearful that Thor’s Asgardian speech mixed with modern language will come off as silly, that their costumes look too much like the costumes of their action figures, and that Dr. Pepper will feature too prominently in the movie to take it seriously as it already does in the trailer (See: Pom Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold).
Hobo With A Shotgun: A much more interesting looking movie is the grindhouse-esque Hobo With A Shotgun starrting Rutger Hauer. The trailer identifies it as a Mad Max type gore flick that follows a homeless vigilante intent on ridding the world of crooked cops and various other scumbags. If nothing else, the poster looks amazing.
The Beaver: Have you forgiven Mel Gibson for his transgressions? Of course not, but he’s almost the kind of guy you can’t stay mad at. Almost. He shows up here in a new movie called The Beaver. Co-starring Jodi Foster, Gibson plays a man who has come to lose his sense of identity and resorts to communicating through a beaver hand-puppet he acquired. Gibson’s first step toward absolution I’d imagine. The jury’s out on this one.
Priest: Brilliant actor Paul Bettany seems to have trouble finding great films to be a part of. He started off well in A Beautiful Mind, Dogville and even A Knight’s Tale. But recently he’s found flops in Creation, Legion and The Da Vinci Code. Priest seems to be no exception in these flops. Here he plays a priest who seems to be part of an anti-vampire movement. But seems to be more of a vigilant exterminator since the vampires look more like steroid-induced moles.
Bridesmaid: Take a break from action this week and get into a comedy romp. Bridesmaids looks to be an excruciatingly hilarious trip down the aisle with SNL’s Kristen Whig taking the position of Maid-of-Honor for her friend played by Maya Rudolph. Add in equal parts Rose Byrne, The Office’s Ellie Kemper, Reno 911’s Wendy McClendon and a silly John Hamm, and you have a movie where your seat will be superfluous because you’ll spend all your time falling out of it.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: The new POTC takes a unique turn this year. Leaving Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly ashore in favor of newcomers Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane, will certainly add new blood to the cast. Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush return to keep the story with its central characters. Gore Verbinksi opted not to return and in his place is the odd choice of Rob Marshall. Aside from Memoirs of a Geisha, Marshall has only directed musicals. I’m unsure how this installment will stack up with the previous trilogy, but expect the drunken bar song scenes to be directed with a certain panache.
Midnight in Paris: Aside from starring Owen Wilson and Marion Cotillard, I don’t know anything about Woody Allen’s latest comedy. The cast seems promising, but his movies are hit-and-miss for me. Enjoy it if pirates aren’t your thing.
The Hangover Part II: This is a big weekend indeed. If comedy is your thing and you don’t have any underage progeny to lug about, consider taking in Todd Phillips’ sequel to 2009’s riot The Hangover. What is essentially the exact same story in a new location, seasoned inebriates Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms and Bradley Cooper try to reconstruct the events of the previous night. Not much looks different from the first one, but in this case, I think it’s OK to use the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Kung Fu Panda 2: The second sequel of the weekend is the follow up to 2008’s Best Animated Picture nominee Kung Fu Panda. I absolutely loved the first one, and the trailers for this one make it seem like a perfect compliment to its antecedent.
Tree of Life: Although I know very little about this movie, this is one of my most anticipated films of the summer. Terrence Malik wrote and directed this film starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. All I know about it takes place during the 1950’s, there’s a potentially abusive father and I’ve also seen a picture of a dinosaur, but I don’t know where that fits in to it. Mr. Malick, you have my $10 for this film. It’s going to be an expensive weekend.
At least for me, the summer movie season begins this weekend with the latest installment of The Fast and The Furious Franchise, “Fast Five”. This is shaping up to be one of the best summers in a while for blockbuster releases. There is some quality material coming up and not just simply popcorn material.
I’ve only included April in this mix based on this one film coming out this week. “Fast Five” proves to be an action-packed romp. Contrary to my previous statement, this movie will likely only be a visual romp and its plot will probably not challenge you intellectually.
Reuniting almost everyone from its previous installments, Fast Five is a rare fivequel(?) that can get back the original cast. I’m not even so sure that The Land Before Time had the same voice actors throughout its oeuvre. On top of the return of Diesel, Walker and Brewster, it will also add Dwayne Johnson, a staple of bad-ass action movies.
Don’t expect much out of this movie other than greasy fingers from your popcorn and an occasional theater seizure from the over two hours of fast cars and faster women. But it should be fun.
First of all, I would like to direct all readers towards the column to your right. Towards the bottom, you’ll find a new section devoted to what your authors are currently watching. Check back here on Mondays to see the new films and shows we are spending our precious time watching. If you have a comment about what we’re watching, go ahead and add it to the newest post on the page.
When you look at mine, you’ll see that I’m working on two different television shows. I’m still watching some films through rentals at the library and Netflix’s Instant Watch. However, I have found my queue to be a bit lacking in new films and there’s nothing on there that I really want to see despite having 337 items on it.
That being said, I’m taking on a rather extensive challenge. I recently purchased Roger Ebert’s The Great Movies: Volume I. If you haven’t heard of the book, it is a collection of reviews written by Ebert on the past films he considers great and influential.
In order to enlighten a younger generation about the great films that preceded their time, Ebert asked his editor for permission to write a bi-weekly column highlighting those he deemed “great”.
Scanning through the book I can already say that I’ve seen less than half of those listed in here, which makes it a unique challenge. For those that I have already seen, I’ll do the same as Ebert and re-watch them, then I’ll read through Ebert’s assessment and give you my own two-cents. The book is arranged alphabetically and I don’t see a reason not to just go through the book front to back. It’s unclear how long this will take, but I will attempt to bring you one viewing per week.
First up is 2001: A Space Odyssey. Fitting in that I own the film, but haven’t watched it yet.
Your 2010 Best Documentary Feature!
MPAA rating: PG-13
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Actors: Michelle Rodriguez, Aaron Eckhart, Bridget Moynahan
Plot: A hardened veteran must lead a green platoon of recruits against an alien invasion in Los Angeles. It soon becomes clear that their group may be the last, best defense against the invaders.
MPAA rating: PG-13
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Actors: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Virginia Madsen
Plot: A medieval village is being terrorized by a werewolf. Amidst the chaos a young woman begins a relationship with an orphaned woodcutter, but her family objects.
MPAA rating: PG
Director: Simon Wells
Actors: Joan Cusack, Seth Green, Elisabeth Harnois
Plot: A young boy doesn’t think much of his mother, that is until martians kidnap her and he realizes just how much he needs her. Now he must come up with a plan to get her back home.
Let us know what you’ll be seeing this week in the comments!
The debate between fate and free will has permeated society for ages. Are we free to live our lives the way we choose, or is there a guiding light leading us to an already planned destination?
George Nolfi’s latest film, The Adjustment Bureau, tackles this very subject. Based on Phillip K. Dick’s book, The Adjustment Group, this adaptation places Matt Damon and Emily Blunt against the titular division who is determined to see them apart from each other.
Damon plays David Norris, a New York senator whose two chance meetings with Elise Sellas (Blunt) were not in “the plan.” Their attraction proves irresistible and the two fall in love, for better or worse. Now they must defend their love against a league of gentlemen known as the Adjustment Bureau.
The film is a clever balancing act between an action flick and a romance (perhaps even a romantic comedy). When it really sparkles is when Damon and Blunt share screen-time as their chemistry is electrifying. Scenes with the bureau are diminished by the lack of details in the plot. Are they a supremely religious bunch? Who is the Chairman? The team certainly hints at their religious ties, but it’s never fully expounded upon.
Towards the end, the story starts to speed up a bit, to its detriment. The fact that Norris can learn the ins and outs of the bureau’s secrets in a single night, and that Sellas (who just took a doorway from Yankee Stadium to Ellis Island) can blindly accept Norris’ description of what’s happening.
This is but a minor speed bump in an otherwise enthralling story. The acting from all is superb, and the consequential ramifications of Norris and Sellas’ actions are exciting to watch unfold.