The PopMatters Summer Movie Preview - May 2014

by Bill Gibron

2 May 2014

 
 

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Neighbors

Director: Nicholas Stoller
Cast: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Lisa Kudrow, Craig Roberts
9 May
Neighbors


You probably haven’t heard about this movie, right? I mean, it’s not like Seth Rogen and co-star Zac Efron haven’t been on every media platform—tradition and social—squawking about this supposed “classic” comedy about a young couple coming face to face with a rowdy bunch of frat boys who move in next door. All WTF zoning laws aside, Universal is really pushing this lewd laugher from Forgetting Sarah Marshall/ Get Him to the Greek‘s Nicholas Stoller. So far, the buzz is beyond good, and some of the surprise guest spots for our two main stars (including an ESPN one featuring the Green Bay Packer’s Aaron Rodgers) have been hilarious.

 

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Chef

Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Jon Favreau, Sofía Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Oliver Platt, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Downey, Jr.
9 May
Chef


Someone called this Jon Favreau’s allegorical response to being dropped from Iron Man 3. Others are just glad that the accidental tentpole guide is back in the smaller, indie arena where he used to excel. Whatever the case, the multitalented writer/director/actor plays a failed restaurateur who tries to revive his fortunes via a food truck. He also hopes to fix things with his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara) while traveling cross country to reclaim his good cuisine name. Sounds like a road picture with gourmet overtones—and when you consider the cast contains Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johannson, it’s like a mini-Avengers reunion… only with truffle oil.

 

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Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return

Director: Will Finn, Dan St. Pierre
Cast: Lea Michele, Dan Aykroyd, Kelsey Grammer, Jim Belushi, Megan Hilty, Hugh Dancy, Oliver Platt, Martin Short
9 May
Legends of Oz: Dorothy Return


It’s always good to follow in the family business, and for the great grandson of the famed Frank L. Baum (Roger) the Emerald City is a pretty cushy place to work. The former banker and stockbroker has, since 2005, been putting out his own takes on the merry old land of Oz, and one of them is now being adapted into a surreal CG animated experience. From the look of the trailer below, it appears that the entire budget was spent on the voice casting. The animation is less than Pixar perfect and the introduction of new characters like Marshall Mallow and the China Princess will just confuse classicists.

 

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The Double

Director: Richard Ayoade
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, Noah Taylor, Yasmin Paige, James Fox
9 May
The Double


Simon James (Eisenberg) is a meek, mild mannered employee with a crush on a fellow co-worker (Wasikowska). James Simon (Eisenberg again) is a doppelganger, the spitting image of our milquetoast hero whose personality is the polar opposite. Naturally, things come to a violent loggerhead when Simon discovers James is wooing his gal. This third film from British comedian Richard Ayoade (Submarine, AD/BC: A Rock Opera) has received mixed reviews since premiering at the Toronto Film Festival last year. Many say it’s too similar to the work of David Lynch and Terry Gilliam to be 100% successful (really???) Others find the previous references to be the movie’s saving grace. Go figure.

 

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The Devil’s Knot

Director: Atom Egoyan
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth, Amy Ryan, Stephen Moyer, Dane DeHaan, Mireille Enos
9 May
The Devil’s Knot


After decades in the news, hours of debate, and four fabulous documentaries that covered almost every aspect and variation of this strange saga, do we really need a feature length docudrama about the infamous West Memphis Three? Better still, did we really need one that takes the focus away from the three men wrongfully accused and instead turns to a victim’s mother (Ms. Witherspoon) and a P.I. hired by the defense (Mr. Firth) to track down new evidence? Well, that’s what Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan has to offer, and from the looks of its, the answer to the above questions is a solid, unsympathetic “NO!”

 

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Stage Fright

Director: Jerome Sable
Cast: Minnie Driver, Meat Loaf, Allie MacDonald, Douglas Smith
9 May
Stage Fright


A horror “musical?” Well, that’s a new one (unless, of course, you count The Rocky Horror Picture Show, or Phantom of the Paradise among the mash-ups). In this case, first time feature filmmaker (and composer) Jerome Sable sets his slasher dynamic in a theater camp, with songs and slaughter an equal part of the mix. The story centers on a young girl working as a counselor who lives with the legacy of her dead mother, who died performing a role that our heroine is now required to essay. And then the blood spattered bodies start piling up. Apparently, this film succeeds in being scary and tuneful.

 

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Mom’s Night Out

Director: Andrew Erwin, Jon Erwin
Cast: Sarah Drew, Trace Adkins, Sean Astin, Patricia Heaton, Trace Adkins, David Hunt
9 May
Mom’s Night Out


Billed as an “American Christian/comedy”, and when you consider it comes from the directing team (Andrew and Jon Erwin) who gave us the abortion survivor drama, October Baby, you just know we’re in for some preaching within the pratfalls. The story centers on a group of Moms who just want a single solo evening to themselves. The only problem? They have to leave their lunkheaded hubbies in charge of the kids. “What could go wrong?” says the ad campaign. Supposedly a real-life look at the trials and tribulations of parenting, this laugher is a risk for the Erwins. Sure, the faith-based fans base will show up, but crossing over commercially is another thing all together.

 

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God’s Pocket

Director: John Slattery
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Jenkins, Christina Hendricks, John Turturro, Caleb Landry Jones, Eddie Marsan
9 May
God’s Pocket


Since his death this past February, fans have been eagerly awaiting the last few films made by Philip Seymour Hoffman, hoping to discover something magical or revelatory in his final performances. In this case, it appears that his devotees are in for a shock. Directed by Mad Men‘s John Slattery, this movie wants to be a black comedy with dire dramatic overtones. Instead, early reviews suggest an ambitious mess. As for Hoffman, he’s a low level conman whose stepson has recently died. When a reporter comes sneaking around, looking into the lad’s demise, the title area responds in typical closed community fashion.

 

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Palo Alto

Director: Gia Coppola
Cast: James Franco, Emma Roberts, Val Kilmer, Nat Wolfe, Keegan Allen
9 May
Palo Alto


James Franco has been in the news lately for (allegedly) trying to hook up with an underage girl via social media. While that whole ‘scandal’ turned out to be more teapot than tempest, the savvy in the audience ignored the sensationalism and, instead, found a possible PR stunt connection. Indeed, the latest member of the Coppola family to fancy themselves a filmmaker (Gia) has adapted Franco’s short stories set in the title California community for the big screen, and one of the stories centers on the author playing a high school coach who seduces a student. Sound familiar?

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