[2 May 2012]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
Just last month, we got to see the veiled visual splash of Tarsem’s take on the formidable fairy tale. It was all light and airy and snarky. Now comes the serious, and though some of the elements exceed expectations (Charlize Theron looks incredible as the evil queen), a first time director and the presence of the inert Kristen Stewart should give any potential viewer pause. Indeed, filmmaker Rupert Sanders has no clear credits to his name, and while the trailer speaks volumes to his own unique eye, movies do not work on optics alone. Just ask the man who made Mirror, Mirror.
After Alexandre Aja reinvented the moldy old Roger Corman ‘classic’ as a splatterific gore fest, fans were eager to see where the money-mandated sequel would go. Turns out, a water park was the answer. While the delays in release don’t guarantee a good time (studios don’t hold off on releasing something they think will burn up the box office), the presence of Feast director John Gulager (son of Clu and previously featured on Project Greenlight) assures that most of the genre requirements will be met. And since he’s listed in the credits, we’re still trying to figure out how Ving Rhames’ deputy survived for this installment.
Writer/director/music entrepreneur Chris Stokes introduced the street smart slang and underground dance dynamic with his You Got Served. Now, he’s returning to the source of his first success (after a couple of oddball horror films) to discuss the disenfranchised and… you guessed it, the fine art of body rocking. The story is stereotypical (wealthy man brings together a group of misfits and then hires a headstrong instructor to teach them the ways of the dance world), but one envisions some remarkable moves come show time. Besides, the generic nature of the narrative allows for more pizzazz for the parts people really care about (read: fancy footwork).
Wow, who knew the man who made The Exorcist and The French Connection was still trying to make viable cinematic statements. With Bug a distant memory (2007, to be exact) and the lack of a legitimate hit since 1994’s Blue Chips, the once important auteur is in desperate need of a critical reboot. This may not be the movie to right his reputation. Already struggling with an NC-17 rating (for excessive violence and brutality), this tale of a murderer meeting up with a young man who wants his mother dead sounds promising. Sadly, it looks like Friedkin went for gratuity instead of greatness.
This one can’t come soon enough, but not for the reasons you probably imagine. For months, there’s been speculation that this is a legitimate prequel to Ridley Scott’s seminal Alien and for just as many months, the director has denied the connection. Then the trailers and featurettes arrived and, they too, strongly suggest a link. Again, there have been definite denials. So enough of the crazy cat and mouse. Hopefully, early reviews will spill some of the beans, alleviating out fears/fascination once and for all. Still, Scott hasn’t made a good movie in a long time, so the jury is still out on this otherwise intriguing take.
It’s the summer and parents need a way to keep the wee ones out of trouble. Naturally, Tinseltown steps up and regurgitates yet another installment of a CG nightmare that no child should have to suffer through. Of course, since their aesthetic compass is set fairly low, they will eat up this awful collection of pop culture quips and routing animation. In fact, with yet another installment in the long past fading Ice Age franchise to keep the kiddies warm (and a very adult looking effort from Disney and Pixar to confuse them) this looks like another unnecessary hit. Sigh.
When you hear the premise—a smart and sassy independent gal, just shy of 30 and suddenly single (her fiancé dumps her mere weeks before the wedding) tries to navigate her way through the pitfalls of dating and love—you can imagine a mindless, mumblecore effort and that’s just what we have here. The supposedly talented duo of Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones bring us this tale of self-centered urban woe, complete with unnecessary irony and loads of righteous navel-gazing. Clearly positioned to fall far outside the summer mainstream, there could be something good here. All signs point to… probably not.
Unlike Lola Versus, this set-up is nothing short of intriguing. After seeing an inventor’s posting on Craigslist, a reporter and two interns travel to the reclusive man’s house to find out if he’s above board or just crazy. His claim? He needs a suitable partner to accompany him in his time machine. Yep, time travel. Naturally, one of the girls gives in, introducing a romantic element to the otherwise auspicious “is he or isn’t he” narrative. Apparently, the movie’s meaning teeters precariously until the final reveal, which promises either happiness or heartache. Consider us more than a little intrigued and ready for release.
Jane Fonda as an over the top hippy? Catherine Keener as her uptight NY lawyer daughter? With Bruce Beresford behind the lens, it should mark the makings of a classic culture clash comedy. Well, early reviews from film festival screenings indicate that this movie may be a bit TOO old fashioned. Apparently, the jokes you anticipate (drug humor, quirky characters) are present in abundance, while anything new or novel is quickly cast aside. Even worse, Fonda’s social burn out turn is apparently grating and gag-inducing. Oh well. Seems like everyone involved deserves better.
As one of many mindless Broadway experiences based on questionable source material (in this case, ‘80s hair metal), this big screen adaptation had little juice—that it, until Tom Cruise signed on to play the charismatic frontman, Stacee Jaxx. Suddenly, interest shifted from the project to the possibility of seeing the 40-something-year-old strutting his rock and roll stuff onstage. He even sings Bon Jovi’s hit “Wanted Dead or Alive”. Everything else about this populist production sounds rote and redundant (oddball score aside). In fact, it feels like the illegitimate child of Poison and Christina Aguilera’s awful Burlesque.
Adam Sandler is clearly concerned about his two young daughters’ college education future. Why else would he take his considerable comic talents and prostitute them out for something as awful looking as this. Granted, it’s not as bad as the drag disaster Jack and Jill, but even the sight of a sullen Andy Samberg can’t stop the stink of stupidity. The story centers on a teen father, now estranged from his son, who crashes his upcoming nupitals, trying to rekindle some kind of familial bond. Of course, Dad is as crass and crude as they come, arrested adolescence at its most smarmy. Sad, really.
A writer (Ethan Hawke) flees the US for Paris when a scandal destroys his life. Soon, he finds himself on the outskirts of the city, guarding a dilapidated hotel and striking up a romance with the mysterious Margit (Kristin Scott-Thomas). The twist? She may be a murderer. Based on a book by Douglas Kennedy and helmed by the Polish-born Pawel Pawlikowski, the concept sounds intriguing, and rumor has it that the performances are excellent. Still, it all comes across like something that would appear promising on paper, but weak in actual cinematic translation. We’ll have to wait and see.
For some reason, June seems to be Mark Duplass’ month. He appears in Safety Not Guaranteed, People Like Us, and this romantic drama about a man still devastated by the death of his brother. Offered a chance to stay at his best friend Iris’ remote cabin, he ends up running into her sister Hannah. Then his gal pal herself shows up as well. Soon, it’s deep conversations and personal misunderstandings as these angst ridden rejects from modern society selfishly focus on their own internal issues. Early buzz suggests something worthwhile. Perhaps as an antidote to the rest of the Summer season spectacle.
Directors/co-writers Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman need to thank Cars 2. No, really. Without that less than stellar Pixar release, the duo would be facing the daunting task of holding up the company’s constantly complained about “perfect record”. Now, as long as they deliver something significantly better than that overdone spy spoof with anthropomorphic vehicles, they will have saved the studio or at the very least, it’s reputation. Of course, there is always the unnecessary comparisons to Dreamworks’ delightful How to Train Your Dragon to contend with, though this storyline seems miles away from that fine family film. No matter, it’s Pixar, so it’s probably awesome.
The last time we heard from director Timur Bekmambetov on this side of the pond, he was delivering the sleeper action epic Wanted. That was back in 2008. Since then, he flexed his production muscles (The Darkest Hour, Apollo 18) while looking for the right project to spark his insane imagination. This unusual alternate history of the country’s 16th President was apparently right up his alley and one look at the amazing trailer confirms this. The visual aplomb alone is mind-boggling, and the set-pieces, featuring an axe wielding Commander in Chief are astonishing. As long as he doesn’t overstep his bounds, this could be one of 2012’s best.
Who says the high concept comedy is dead. This sounds like something that would have been greenlit during the days of Twins and Junior. As an asteroid bares down on Earth, guaranteeing its destruction, Steve Carell teams up with his British neighbor, Keira Knightley, to find his old childhood sweetheart. Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria (of Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist fame) one senses an excess of eccentricity here. Still, the concept is engaging and Carell can be quite compelling when he’s not mugging aimlessly at the camera. Definitely on our “must see” radar.
Woody Allen recently announced that he would return to the US and his native New York for his next film. This after lighting up France with Midnight in Paris (and earning yet another Oscar for screenwriting) and then turning his sites on another cinematic inspiration, Italy. Sadly, some have suggested that this addled anthology shows off his ugly American side. In our opinion, anything that champions the horrific Roberto Benigni earns our instant disapproval and it’s a shame, really. We have been hoping for an Allen renaissance for a long time now. This doesn’t appear to be it.
So, Stephen Sommers didn’t kill off this toy-based franchise after all. Of course, he’s not back in the director’s chair, either. Infusing the franchise with some major league star power—Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Bruce Willis—and casting aside from unnecessary names from the first film (bye bye, Sienna Miller, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Marlan Wayans), there’s hope that director Jon Chu can reboot this once promising tentpole. Of course, his previous experience helming such suspect entertainments as Step Up and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never doesn’t bode well for his action mantle.
This promises to be an interesting year for Tyler Perry. He experienced his first major league failure (the less than stellar Good Deeds) and was named the highest paid man in Hollywood by Forbes. Now, he reverts back to his standard drag act before taking on a rare acting only role as psychologist, detective Alex Cross in Rob Cohen’s take on the famed Robert Patterson character. Fans who aren’t quite sure to make of such events can at least rest easy knowing that everyone’s favorite gun-totting granny is back, bringing SCTV‘s Eugene Levy along for the ride. Sounds… interesting?
Channing Tatum got his start as a male stripper, so it’s no surprise that he would star in a film about the subject. What is odd is the choice of director, Steven Soderbergh. After the less than favorable response for his action foray, Haywire, he’s obviously attempting to reach a more mainstream audience. The comedy, centering on Tatum’s title character and his attempts to leave the exotic dancing game, has some interesting elements, many of which center on the casting. Indeed, with Matthew McConaughey as a mentor and Alex Pettyfer as his protégé, we could have the makings of something slick and sexy.
With its parallels to Katrina and its wistful, surreal style of storytelling, this has been a hit on the festival circuit. It’s nice to see the studios picking up on fare like this and leading it to a more mainstream viewership. Some may find the setting—a poverty stricken area known as “The Bathtub” on the farthest outskirts of the Gulf Coast—as a tad depressing, but first time filmmaker Benh Zeitlin truly delivers. Expect this one to be around longer than just the Summer season, like when annual awards and Best of kudos are handed out.
While we were hoping for a sequel to the Talking Heads’ terrific True Stories (which featured a song entitled “People Like Us”), the reality seems to be more… serious. Apparently, Chris Pine plays a prodigal son who returns for his father’s funeral, only to find he has been given the job of delivering $150,000 to the alcoholic sister he never knew he had. As the first feature film to be directed by longtime Hollywood scribe Alex Kurtzman (Watchmen, Star Trek, Transformers), the pedigree and cast argues promise. Still, one wonders if the writer can move from fantasy to reality as effectively.
Sarah Polley started out as a child actress. She is best remembered, perhaps, as the pipsqueak pain in Baron Munchausen’s side. As she’s grown, she’s made a name for herself in more adult fare, such as Zack Snyder’s solid Dawn of the Dead remake. Today, she’s a known triple threat, writing, directing, and acting in such award season favorites as Away From Her. With this latest effort, she takes on marriage and misunderstandings among Canadian cut-ups. With Seth Rogen as a co-star, you know there’s going to be a certain level of humor. Polley, on the other hand, is all about the heart.