We apparently worship false gods. We adore sitting, enraptured, as mutants and other mysteries of nature battle it out for symbolic superiority (and no, we aren’t talking about an overly buff Vin Diesel taking on an equally muscled Dwayne Johnson for Brazilian back alley bragging rights). Robots rule our lazy, hazy summer days, their transformative powers perking up an otherwise aggressive assault on our senses, and every once in a while, a comedy/drama/kids film will walk by, gaining our interest before another caped crusader comes in to claim its territory. That’s right, it’s blockbuster time again, the annual cinematic assumption regarding what a majority of the mainstream movie-going public will enjoy come the next four months. Sure, it’s a gamble, and sometimes, the lows are more famous than the highs. One thing’s for sure, however, we won’t be seeing another Inception any time soon.
X-Men: First Class
James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, January Jones, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence
X-Men: First Class
It’s Hollywood’s latest craze—taking established superhero franchises and “teening” them up for an apparently ADD-addled new generation. Spider-man is being taken back to high school, and now everyone’s favorite mutants are going right back to the beginning, back before Dr. Xavier even thought of his home for “special” students. Of course, geek nation is all in a lather over origin consistencies and who will be represented (and more importantly, omitted) but one can’t help feel that in a Summer of stunning newcomers, this First Class will be outclassed. Still, with Matthew Vaughn in the director’s seat, there’s hope.
No, the famed R.E.M. bassist and backing vocalist has not abandoned Peter Buck and Michael Stipe for the greener creative pastures of cinema. This is a totally different Mike Mills, a graphic designer and video director known for previous efforts like Thumbsucker and Eating Sleeping Waiting and Praying. This time, he takes on the autobiographical story of an aging father finally coming out to his disillusioned adult son. It is partially based on Mills own parent who announced his homosexuality at age 75, a few years before he finally died. With Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer in the lead roles, the results appear promising. Early reviews suggest something special.
The British have an unusual obsession with the quirky coming of age saga, especially if said maturation process can revolve around the ribald subject of sex. As MTV trying to tap into their scandalous Skins ideal, UK filmmaker Richard Ayoade hopes his unique sensibility will breathe some subversion life into the mix. Perhaps best known for working on the glorious Garth Marenghi series Fright Knight and Darkplace, as well as the surreal kiddie comedy show The Mighty Boosh this look at an unpopular boy’s bid for recognition, both among his classmates and with his fractured family at home, has a lot of promise. As long as it avoids the obvious, it should be wonderful.
Super 8 and more...
Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Ron Eldard, Noah Emmerich, Amanda Michalka, Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths
The last time we saw J. J. Abrams behind the lens, he was lifting the sagging Star Trek franchise to new and glorious heights while creating one of 2009’s best films. Now, he’s teamed up with spiritual mentor Steven Spielberg to make what looks like a combination of Close Encounters, Cloverfield, The Blair Witch Project and The Goonies. While much of the movie has been under wraps, early trailers suggest lots of adolescent bonding, some nifty nostalgia, and a significant scope that few films even attempt. While we still don’t know if Abrams is a great filmmaker or just someone who lucked into his position as a possible heir to Roddenberry, Super 8 should/could be his defining moment.
Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer
Jordana Beatty, Heather Graham, Janet Varney, Jaleel White, Cameron Boyce, Preston Bailey
Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer
Say “Hello!” to this year’s Kitt Kitteridge and/or Ramona and Beezus. American kid lit author Megan McDonald has made a mint out of her various underage tomes, and now Hollywood has come calling, hoping to tap into a bit of the hysterical tween girl market that’s made Justin Bieber and the Disney Channel into cash machine powerhouses. Of course, ask anyone under the age of 12 who Judy Moody is (or McDonald’s other ‘classic’ character, Stink) and you might get the same stunted look. Still, someone in Tinseltown thinks they’re money, which means as long as there are dollars to be had, there will be lackadaisical adaptations like this one.
The Troll Hunter
Otto Jespersen, Hans Morten Hansen, Tomas Alf Larsen, Johanna Mørck, Knut Nærum, Robert Stoltenberg, Glenn Erland Tosterud
The found footage film has had its fair share of flops and failures, but this knotty Norwegian entry into the cinematic subgenre is not one of them. Clever without being cloying and at least partially based on a believable POV premise (students looking to investigate a recent rash of “bear” attacks), we end up following the last known hunter of the region’s elusive - and often quite destructive - ogres. The movie does mishandle a few key scenes, but every time one of the title terrors steps onscreen, all worries wash away. One can easily see a US version coming to a Cineplex near you. Unfortunately, it will lack this version’s viable local color.
The Green Lantern and more...
Already ripe with Internet buzz (mostly from a brilliant clip showing stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon doing spot on imitations of Michael Caine), this motion picture adaptation of the popular UK TV series - really nothing more than a bunch of episodes editing into one - appears to be an arthouse smash in the making. It’s like My Dinner with Andre except with better jokes. All the while, Coogan and Brydon try to mix food and culinary criticism with a smart-assed desire to one-up each other. Some have been less than favorable with their assessment, but for an audience not used to either man’s determined and dry wit, this could be a popcorn season godsend.
The Green Lantern
Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Angela Bassett, Tim Robbins
The Green Lantern
You’ve got to feel really bad for Hal Jordan. Of all the Summers his unique origin story could stumble into, he had to pick the one already bloated with Thor, Captain America, the X-Men and those tacky transforming robots. Talk about having to share the spotlight. Luckily, early looks at Martin Campbell’s take on the only Earth man ever taken into the intergalactic Green Lantern Corps looks stunning. There is an epic quality to the imagery that only a smarmy, silly screenplay could undermine. Fans originally feared that star Ryan Reynolds would go the route ala Seth Rogen and The Green Hornet. Since then, their suspicions have turned to hysterical anticipation…and with good reason.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Madeline Carroll, Angela Lansbury, Philip Baker Hall, Dominic Chianese
Mr. Popper’s Peguins
Jim Carrey goes Lemony Snicket on his freefalling fanbase, avoiding more adult material to place nice with the popular South Pole beasts. As with most kid vid nowadays, it’s based on a popular book. But the original Mr. Popper was a poor painter who found himself being eaten out of his 1938 house and home by the brood of marauding sea birds. Now, Carrey is a clueless A-personality businessman who has his life turned upside down by the sudden arrival of an array of penguins. While the studio is calling it a modern update of the classic tale, many in the already formed devotees will probably call it a cheat.
The Art of Getting By and more...
The Art of Getting By
Freddie Highmore, Emma Roberts, Alicia Silverstone, Elizabeth Reaser, Blair Underwood,Rita Wilson
The Art of Getting By
See the poster to the right? Yes, this film was originally called Homework. That’s the title it appeared under when it hit Sundance back in January. Now, it’s been renamed and readied for a mid-Summer strike at Sleeperdom. Advance word is - don’t hold your breath. Apparently, everything about this effort, from its twee and untalented cast to the first time filmmaker behind the scenes reeks of idle indie malaise. Even worse, many point to writer/director Gavin Wiesen as the real source of scorn. It seems that, instead of coming up with anything original, he’s spent the last few years desperate to mimic the entirety of indie filmmaking. Yawn.
Buck Brannaman is often called the “real” horse whisperer, and years after the film which bares his imprint came and went, we now get this enlightening documentary from first timer Cindy Meehl. As with any real life subject, our original cowboy has a complicated life. He’s a pacifist, mostly because of his childhood at the hands of an abusive parent. He doesn’t believe in violence of any kind, not even in breaking and training horses. Instead, he feels that people expose their own souls when they interact with animals such as this. Early word is, this film is equally evocative.
John Lasseter, Brad Lewis
Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Jason Issacs, Thomas Kretschmann
Okay Pixar - you’re really pushing it now. After last year’s amazing Toy Story send off, and previous masterpieces like Wall-E and Up, is this really the next phase in your studio’s storied evolution - a sequel to something many feel was your weakest animated effort? And to make matters even more unsettling, you’ve decided to turn the entire nostalgia for Route 66 highway car culture into a spoof of James Bond? Wah? Well, with a track record like yours, you’ve earned a bit of leeway. Just remember, Messageboard Nation (and the critics who fuel it) are just waiting for your first failure. Hope this isn’t it.
Conan O'Brien Can't Stop and more...
Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Lucy Punch, John Michael Higgins, Thomas Lennon, Jason Segel, Molly Shannon
Cameron Diaz cursing up a storm and acting like an obnoxious - if still attractive - a-hole? Count us intriguing. Oh…and Office writers Jake Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky are responsible for the rude and crude script? Excellent. Oh, wait. Didn’t they write the awful Jack Black/Michael Cera effort Year One? Uh oh. Fine. Fine. We’re still going to gamble on watching the sunny superstar act like a member of the Jackass crew, and we can even forgive the inclusion of ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake in the mix as well. Still, Year One, you say. Hmmm…that doesn’t bode well. No, not at all…
A Better Life
Demián Bichir, Nancy Lenehan, Isabella Rae Thomas, Joaquín Cosio, Rolando Molina, Olivia Presley
A Better Life
You were supposed to have a career after American Pie, right Chris Weitz? While your Chris Rock vehicle Down to Earth wasn’t that special, About a Boy was pretty darn great. Then…the stumbles. A stillborn Golden Compass. The tacky Twilight installment New Moon. Where do you go from there? Well, oddly enough, you apparently tell the tale of an illegal immigrant who has his landscaping truck stolen. In the meantime, he tries to keep his disenfranchised teenage son from joining the very gang that jacked his ride. If it all sounds pat and PC, you’re right. Still, Weitz did make About a Boy, so we’ll pray for more drama and less ‘melo-’.
Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop
After getting fired from NBC, famous talk show host Conan O’Brien decided to go on tour, taking his comedy, and his case, to the masses. This focus is on his 2010 ‘Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television’ showcase, and all the improvised bits in between. Even better, we get insights into the mind of someone who was groomed to be the heir apparently, only to have said birthright ripped away when the holder of the inheritance demanded it back. Bitter, twisted, and incredibly funny, this has all the makings of another Coco cult classic.