[3 May 2007]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
Why has it taken the husband and wife team of Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony so long to work together? True, the couple have only been married a couple of years, yet you’d assume that studio suits would be salivating to see them paired up –- perhaps in a Hispanic version of A Star is Born (take your pick over who should play the Norman Maine part). In any case, for this first onscreen teaming, we get a basic biopic centering around the King of Salsa, Hector Lavoe. What, you say you’ve never heard of the man? Well, that’s not stopping two separate productions from bringing his story to movie audiences. This is the higher profile of the two, with J-Lo essaying Lavoe’s love interest Puchi. After premiering at the Toronto Film Festival (and receiving more or less lukewarm notices) this initial release date will be followed by a limited roll-out around the nation.
The Bourne Ultimatum
It remains the unlikeliest of summer franchises: a series of smart espionage thrillers not built around computer graphics, unrealistic spectacle, or inhuman histrionics. Instead, the Bourne films have made characters and crackerjack direction chic again. For this third go round, returning helmer Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon plan on exploring the lost identity of the amnesiac agent, hoping to fill in gaps and draw conclusions left open ended in previous installments. They also hope to increase the authenticity factor, relying on stunt work and editing, not bitmaps and CPU power, to realize the series’ signature car chases. Though some fans may still be fuming over the loss of Franka Potente and her mesmerizing Marie, and there are those who just don’t cotton to Greengrass’ hyper kinetic style, there’s no doubt that Damon has increased his box office value with his consistently fine turns here. It has the makings of another successful installment.
This is just a bad idea, period. Underdog lives and dies with Wally Cox providing his animated voice, and the various cartoon villains (Simon Barsinister, Riff Raff) looking off model and sort of sloppy. Turning this into a live action affair, with a REAL dog as our hero, just seems wrong. Even worse, this particular pooch has one of those acerbic adolescent voices that makes everything he says sound like a sarcastic slap in the face. While the sight of Peter Dinklage in the cast shows promise, nothing else about this kid vid catastrophe in the making seems very enjoyable.
Rush Hour 3
It’s been nine years since the original Rush Hour, and over six since the first sequel hit screens. In that time span, Jackie Chan has churned out 10 films. His loud-mouthed costar Chris Tucker has done -– none. As a matter of fact, the caterwauling comedian with the random rapid-fire delivery has made no other films since the start of the entire Rush Hour franchise. That’s three performances since 1998. And still he earned a record sum for his participation here, somewhere in the $20 million range. That’s quite a bit for what appears to be a one note performer. No matter the pre-production issues, international audiences can’t get enough of this mismatched cop buddy comedy, and there’s talk of a Part Four waiting once the final tallies are totaled. One thing’s for sure, as long as the possibility of a paycheck from this dynasty is available, Chris Tucker will be MIA from all other possible projects.
It’s based on a Neil Gaiman novel. It features Claire Danes, Robert DeNiro, Michelle Pfieffer and a who’s who of British actors. It’s the movie that director Matthew Vaughn went to after dropping out of X-Men 3. It’s also the latest in a long line of sword and sorcery epics attempting to recapture some of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings fire. Those who know the source material are already fuming over character decisions, narrative tone, and the standard fear that Gaiman never truly translates to the visual medium. While some have likened it to Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride -– especially the combination of period piece and outrageous comedy -– others are pointing to flying dragon flop Eragon as the eventual fate for this tenuous title.
Daddy Day Camp
It’s hard to determine what’s more amazing about this inevitable sequel to the 2003 hit, that Eddie Murphy turned down another payday to star, or that producers somehow managed to get Oscar winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. to take his place? In either case, expect lots of pre-school poop and pee jokes, almost all coming at the expense of the dignity and future fortunes of the cast and crew –- including first time feature filmmaker Fred ‘Wonder Years’ Savage?
It’s becoming one of the horror genre’s biggest cinematic clichés: the alien invasion that hides under the cover of everyday people living their typical boring lives. Ever since the original Body Snatchers started the paranoid parameters of this kind of film, artists have been trying to reinterpret the material to make it more socially relevant. In 1956, it was all about the Red Scare. In 1978 it was post-Watergate distrust. And fans are still trying to figure out what Abel Ferrara’s 1993 version was all about. This time around, words like “disease” and “epidemic” are being bandied around, meaning the narrative may be trying to draw an analogy to AIDS, post 9/11 chemical terrorism, or those media constants like Bird Flu or SARS. While Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig make compelling leads, this late in the season psychological thriller suffers from a clear case of ‘been there, done that’ comparisons.
Two high school buddies are about to graduate, and the prospect of being apart come college is getting to be a little tough to bear. So they decide to cure their caustic separation anxiety by throwing a massive beer bash. Naturally, things don’t go so smoothly. Along with Knocked Up, this is Judd Apatow’s second Summer offering. Leaving the writing to pals Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, and the directing to The Daytrippers’ Greg Mottola, this could turn out to be one of the sleeper hits of the season. The trailer seems silly, but maybe there’s some heft under all the alcohol soaked stupidity.
All you need to know about this film –- about a losing coach so desperate to win that he recruits a bunch of social rejects to be on his team –- and the man behind it (director Tom Brady) are three simple words: The Hot Chick. That’s right, Brady is the man responsible for continuing Rob Schneider’s questionable career as a movie star. To make matters worse, he even scripted the similarly stupid The Animal. But cash gives one credibility, and now Brady is working with a group of seven other writers to try and reinvent the sports saga -– spoof style. Indeed, The Comebacks apparently wants to be every cinematic cliché about athletics simmered into one giant lampoon stew. Only problem is, someone forgot to put the humor in. Many have likened a recent sneak screening to seeing Epic Movie without the jokes. If that doesn’t have you questioning this entry’s entertainment viability, nothing will.
The Hottest State
If you feel you’re not getting your recommended daily requirement of Ethan Hawke, here’s a chance to instantly triple your intake. Adapting his own, much maligned novel to the silver screen, the Oscar nominated actor tells the semi-autobiographical tale of a young performers trials and tribulations upon moving to the big city. It’s hard to imagine this labor of love making much of an impact in 2007. The storyline, the setting, and the substance seems so post-grunge 1993. Still, early looks at international film festivals have born some positive notices, and who knows, audiences may be ready for a little self-indulgent navel gazing come the end of blockbuster season.
Rob Zombie must be a glutton for punishment. First, he lets MGM and Universal walk all over him while making his first film, House of 1000 Corpses. Then he takes all the commercial and critical goodwill he has built up with its sequel, the stellar Devil’s Rejects, and agrees to “reimagine” John Carpenter’s seminal slasher flick. Fans who got hold of the remake’s shooting script were appalled by the number of liberties taken with the story, including the massive backstory given to the previously enigmatic Michael Myers. Then, just as the teaser trailer was hitting the Internet, the MPAA made Dimension take it down, complaining that it was “too violent and intense” for standard viewing. Oddly enough, the ad looked pretty good, giving the story a nice, novel setting within an everyday post-modern existence. Here’s hoping Zombie survives the scuffle to deliver the goods. He’s too fine a filmmaker to let this be his downfall.
Mr. Bean’s Holiday
It’s a major motion picture mystery: why does Rowan Atkinson’s slapstick throwback to the days of physical comedy not translate to the silver screen? Well, for one thing, screenwriters keep tossing improbable narrative darts at him, hoping that something will stick. Second, film fudges choreography, making the flow of many of Atkinson’s Bean bits appear staged and static. But perhaps the main reason why this film will fail –- at least for US audiences –- is that Mr. Bean is only believable in small doses…say, for 24 minutes every Wednesday on PBS. A 90-minute overseas adventure to Cannes is just too much of the cracked court jester to digest all at once.
The Brothers Solomon
Who keeps giving Bob Odenkirk a job? Wouldn’t the less than successful returns of Let’s Go to Prison be enough to warn you off this seemingly talented writer/director? With Mr. Show a long forgotten funny business memory, we are now forced to stomach his inert big screen hilarity. Case in point, this contrived comedy about a pair of siblings who must find women to impregnate so that their dying pa can have a grandchild. Oh… brother.