[4 May 2010]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
There is so much riding on this live action adaptation of the Nickelodeon network fave that it’s hard to keep track of all the divergent interests. Primary is the still sinking career of former “future Spielberg” wunderkind M. Night Shyamalan. He will really have to deliver to wipe the stench of The Happening out of audience’s noses. Then there is the franchise itself, which needs a substantial hit to warrant more than a one and done dynamic. Paramount would also like to warrant their gamble. While Iron Man 2 and Shrek 4 will definitely deliver, this could be one of the substantial sleeper hits that puts them over the popcorn top.
For some reason, this reminds us of Igor - which is a good thing. Few saw the revisionist CG family horror comedy which tried to turn the whole mad scientist/assistant conceit on its head. This time around, it’s a supervillain that gets the warm and fuzzy treatment. Nasty bad man Gru wants to steal the Moon and a trio of orphans tries to convince him otherwise. Add in the requisite amount of genre specific gags and smarmy sense of irony and you’ve got a very conflicted cartoon. One imagines that if its clicks with the right audience, it will be a smash. Don’t be surprised, however, if a toy and ogre weary demo doesn’t merely ignore it.
When it first was hinted that Robert Rodriguez was interested in remaking the Arnold Schwarzenegger ‘classic’ Predator, Geek Nation went gonzo. After all, what better guide for a all-out action horror hybrid than the man who made the glorious Grindhouse segment, Planet Terror. Then, the truth came out. RobRod was only producing. He hired Vacancy‘s Nimrod Antal to handle the directing reigns, and then greenlit a script that plays like The Most Dangerous Game meets Aliens. Still, the creative combination here has a lot of potential, and with a cast as diverse as Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, and Laurence Fishburne, the result could be something explosive—literally.
A lesbian couple has two kids from the same sperm donor. When they reach adolescence, the duo decides to look up who their father really is. Deep drama ensues. Co-writer/director Lisa Cholodenko may not be a household name, but her intense indie efforts like High Art (with Ally Sheedy) and Laurel Canyon (with a veritable who’s who of high-profile talent) show she has the chops to handle such thought-provoking material. Whether this will succeed in big commercial terms is another story, but starring turns from A-class actresses Annette Bening and Julianne Moore promise this should appeal to the discriminating filmgoer.
Disney, desperate to keep the attraction/ancillary film element franchises afloat, uses a single sequence in Fantasia as a jumping off point for one of the most outlandish ideas in Summer 2010 (and this is a season featuring a human centipede, mind you). Nick Cage is a wily old wizard in need of someone to assist him in defending New York. Friend of Apatow Jay Baruchell is the unfortunately fella he chooses. Splash on some special effects and an arch-nemesis known as Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina) and you have all the makings of D&D in NYC. This very well could be Jerry Bruckheimer’s second bungle this sun-drenched season.
The last time Christopher Nolan went outside his usual Caped Crusader comfort zone, the result was the masterful Prestige. Now, in between bouts of Batman, he is taking on a surreal sci-fi storyline about mind control, corporate espionage, and future shock suspense. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt along to add substantial star power, and a great deal of Dark Knight goodwill remaining, this is perhaps Summer 2010’s most anticipated film. Sure, Iron Man et. al. has a built in audience, but no one delivers like Nolan. Masterpiece or mess, you know we will be first in line come the end of July.
Ever since Wanted became a surprise smash, everyone has tried to retrofit Angelina Jolie back into the action mode from whence she once escaped (how soon they forget, Tomb Raider). While this spy thriller wants to take things far more serious, it’s still going to rely on Ms. Pitt packing heat and taking names. Seeing Phillip Noyce’s name on the credits makes us a little less leery. Though his early ‘90s work was highly uneven, he’s done great things with Rabbit-Proof Fence and The Quiet American. If her performance speaks more than her media personality, Angelina might surprise us as well. Still, knowing that Tom Cruise and Michael Mann passed on this material doesn’t fill us with confidence.
One could argue that this is a far more farcical take on the River Phoenix/Lili Taylor treat Dogfight from 1991—that is, until you learn it is actually a remake of a French film The Dinner Game from 1999. Avoiding all “which came first” questions for a moment, it’s nice to see Jay Roach removed from those noxiously annoying Austin Powers/Meet the Fockers films. The trailer does look a little lame, especially with the inference that Rudd and Carrell (playing desperate worker eager to please his oddball boss and social reject, respectively) switch places at some point in the plot. Still, it looks like there’s more hope than unhappiness here.
Movies made from popular kids books are really a risk. Don’t think so? Just as Kitt Kittredge or Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Making matters worse is the anti-boy sentiment expressed by this Beverly Cleary series. Still, someone thought this was viable popcorn fodder and filmed it anyway. Now, it is up to the intended audience to decide, and from the first trailer playing in theaters, Aquamarine‘s Elizabeth Allen has done a decent job. It still won’t get those imbued with snips and snails and puppy dog tails inside them to sit still for 90 minutes, but as tiny gal power counterprogramming, will take it.
It has J.J. Abrams name attached to it, and anyone who remembers how sensational last year’s Star Trek known how good he can be. Sadly, he is sitting in the Executive Producer’s chair this time. Also on board are Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, Jeff Goldblum, and Diane Keaton. Sounds great, right? But then there is also Sherlock Holmes’ spoiler Rachel McAdams as well. The last great behind the scenes of TV comedy was James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News, so this light froth will have a lot to live up to. Don’t look to the screenwriter for any help, however. The last movies written by Aline Brosh McKenna were 27 Dresses and the Fame remake, respectively. Ouch.
Zac Efron is still seeking that big post-High School Musical hit, and while 17 Again was decent, it didn’t exactly play beyond the tween to 20 demo. True, few saw him in the terrific Orson Welles and Me, but with this take on Ben Sherwood’s 2004 novel, he might finally have the broad appeal acceptance he’s been looking for. Playing a young man who can see ghosts (the result of a car accident as a kid), there is an element of humor and heart in this friendly fable. Though Burr Steers reappearance as a director doesn’t do much for us (he was behind the previously mentioned body switching comedy), we will reserve judgment. After all, the studio bumped this from a Fall to Summer run.
It’s been almost ten years since a love of all things Babe and some stiff CGI gave this story of curs vs. kitties a substantial ankle biter payoff. Though some of the original cast returns, this looks like an attempt to cash in based on name and concept only. As we have seen throughout the last few years, studios aren’t too discriminating when it comes to live action kids fare. Just look at G-Force, or the recent Furry Vengeance as an example. Still, with almost everyone having a favorite pet preference, there might be some bark left in this already old dog yet.
At first, it smacks of pseudo Twilight material - a snobbish high school boy plays a mean joke on the resident outside (who just happens to be a witch). One pissed off Miss later and our jerk is now a monster, given one year to redeem himself and find true love or stay hideous forever. Enter sensitive girl Lindy who just so happens to be the daughter of a dangerous drug addict. In a convoluted deal, she comes to live with the ‘creature’ beginning a journey of love and overlooking superficial personality traits that sounds a little to pat to be plausible. Still, it has some solid supernatural potential.