The Pang Brothers
Nicolas Cage, Charlie Yeung, Chakrit Yamnam
(Lionsgate; US theatrical: 22 Aug 2008 (General release); 2008)
The Pang Brothers have yet to prove themselves on our shores. While foreign film fans adore their Eye franchise, their first American feature, the forgettable The Messengers argued they weren’t quite ready to take on the task. Now comes a so-called return to form, offering Nicholas Cage in a remake of their 1999 crime thriller. While the original antihero was a ruthless hitman whose status as a deaf mute made him almost unstoppable, our Hollywood A-lister will indeed get some dialogue. Filming was disrupted in 2006 for a little something called a coup d’état (in Thailand), and early buzz has been fairly mediocre. Action films like this usually don’t do too well toward the end of Summer. You have to hit audiences hard and early before they are overwhelmed with similarly styled efforts. This may be too little way too late.
Steve Coogan, Catherine Keener, Amy Poehler, David Arquette
(Focus Features; US theatrical: 22 Aug 2008 (General release); UK theatrical: 28 Nov 2008 (General release); 2008)
It wants to be this year’s break out eccentric comedy, a weird amalgamation of high school musical and inspirational teacher sludge. With the talents of Pam Brady (South Park) and Andrew Fleming (The Craft, Dick) behind the scenes, this has a chance. Of course, the already overheated hype could turn audiences off long before this dog day of the popcorn season arrives. It also doesn’t help that nearly a dozen other laughfests will have opened before it. Still, with a sharp cast and an intriguing premise, there could be much more here—wit wise—than meets the eyes.
The House Bunny
Anna Faris, Emma Stone, Colin Hanks, Kat Dennings, Beverly D’Angelo, Katharine McPhee, Rumer Willis, Kendra Wilkinson, Kiely Williams
(Columbia Pictures; US theatrical: 22 Aug 2008 (General release); UK theatrical: 10 Oct 2008 (General release); 2008)
The House Bunny
Now here’s an original premise (sarcasm alert!)—a dispossessed Playboy bunny runs into a sorority house full of female dorks, and through the magic of make-overs and a philosophy heavy in sexually promiscuous girl power, they learn to be themselves. Now, that’s never been done before, right? Since it’s from the writers of Legally Blonde, it’s time to milk the perky Miss Perfect jokes for all they’re worth. The results look like a decent opening weekend, nothing more.
Emma Roberts, Natasha Richardson, Aidan Quinn, Shirley Henderson, Alex Pettyfer
(Universal Pictures; US theatrical: 22 Aug 2008 (Limited release); 2008)
Emma Roberts, daughter of Eric and niece of Julia, stars as a spoiled brat who gets sent to a snooty British boarding school. Naturally a clash of cultures occurs. Yawn. The only elements of interest here are the interesting cast, and the possibility that some of the standard stereotyping used in these films will be avoided. Early word is not encouraging.
The Accidental Husband
Uma Thurman, Colin Firth, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Sam Shepard, Isabella Rossellini, Kristina Klebe, Lindsay Sloane, Justina Machado, Sarita Choudhury
(Yari Film Group; Very limited release: 22 Aug 2008; 2008)
The Accidental Husband
This has to be one of the most convoluted stories ever considered for a film. Uma Thurman is a successful radio talk show host (subject: relationships) who wants to get married. Unfortunately, she can’t. That’s because she’s already hitched to someone she doesn’t even know. Huh? Wait, it gets better. Once she tracks down the title man, she can’t get him to admit the issue. It all sounds so scripted and stupid.
Jim Sturgess, Harrison Ford, Ray Liotta, Sean Penn, Ashley Judd, Alice Eve, Summer Bishil
(The Weinstein Company; Very limited release: 22 Aug 2008; 2008)
If Under the Same Moon proved anything, it’s that American audiences just aren’t interested in stories about the modern immigrant experience. They love their Ellis Island mythos, but talk about Mexicans, or Koreans, or Cubans and the romance quickly fades. That’s the uphill battle writer/director Wayne Kramer faces here. While the cast contains Harrison Ford, Sean Penn, and Ray Liotta, many have found it preachy and overly liberal. Like Hollywood could produce anything different.
Vin Diesel, Michelle Yeoh, Mélanie Theirry, Gérard Depardieu, Charlotte Rampling, Lambert Wilson
(Fox; US theatrical: 29 Aug 2008 (General release); UK theatrical: 29 Aug 2008 (General release); 2008)
Get ready folks—Mr. Vin Diesel in back in speculative fiction mode, and all dystopian societies shudder at the very thought of his bald-headed heroism. Here, he plays a mercenary escorting a woman to China. Turns out, she carries some magical DNA that a powerful cult can use to create a new Messiah. Sounds legitimate and quite logical. Odder still is the appearance of La Haine and Gothika director Matthieu Kassovitz on the credits. Of course, the source material comes from fellow Frenchman Maurice G. Dantec’s novel, but this just doesn’t seem like the kind of movie he would make. Maybe he’s having a Children of Men/Alfonso Cuaron moment here. On Mr. Diesel’s end, there’s an edge of desperation. He needs another epic action hit. He’s been stuck in flop (Find Me Guilty) and family friendly (The Pacifier) territory for far too long. Whether or not any of this will work remains to be seen.
Drake Bell, Andrew Caldwell, Ryan Pinkston, Kevin Covais, Nick Zano, Zach Cregger, Gary Owen, Haley Bennett, Camille Mana, May’tay Williams, Nathalie Walker
(MGM; US theatrical: 29 Aug 2008 (General release); 2008)
Drake Bell, fresh off the semi-success of Superhero Movie, returns to the big screen as a prospective freshman tasting the treasures of the university experience for the first time. That means lots of liquor, lots of women, and lots of loud life lessons learned. While the material may seem overly familiar, a smart, updated approach just might make it viable again. Then again, it could be Animal House with less subtlety.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Scarlett Johansson, Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Rebecca Hall, Joan Pera
(The Weinstein Company; US theatrical: 15 Aug 2008 (Limited release); 2008)
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
It’s Woody Allen doing his European ‘thang’ again, this time dragging Oscar winner Javier Bardem, Scarlett Johansson, and Penelope Cruz along for the ride. The story centers on an artist romancing two American tourists. When his ex-girlfriend finds out, all kinds of romantic entanglements ensue. As with most Allen projects, little else is known.