30 June 2011


Glenn Kenny had a line the other day that I'd have given anything to have written:
"Well what do you want from a summer movie?" a colleague who I bet is going to be one of the "counterintuitive" ravers asked me... Had I had my wits about me a little more I could have mustered a good one-word answer: "Jaws."
Which sums up my feelings towards this summer perfectly. I don't like to think of myself as anti-fun, but when I scan over the releases of the first two months of Blockbuster Season, I can't find anything other than Super 8 that I really honestly enjoyed, popcorn movie-wise. And that sucks - elitist snob or not, I want as much as anybody to actually have a good time watching special effects movies. I'm not made of stone.


Some well-intentioned counter-programming to the already-released Transformers: The Moon Hits Your Eye: a Selena Gomez picture, Monte Carlo, that shares a title but presumably not a plot with one of the few flaccid Ernst Lubtisch comedies of the early '30s; because 12-year-old girls need movies just like the 12-year-old boys do, though the rest of us aren't expected to have an opinion. Middle-aged folks get Larry Crowne, in which writer-director Tom Hanks shows how damn charming leading man Tom Hanks can be in a romantic comedy. Co-writer Nia Vardalos, noted perpetrator of crappy, over-achieving romantic comedies, is on hand to suck out any charm that accidentally sneaks in.


I love movies that wear there pitch meetings on their sleeves. In the case of Zookeeper, it could not be more obvious that the hook was "Night at the Museum at a zoo", only instead of a slumming Ben Stiller, we get the ghastly Kevin James as our human proxy this time. If I had kids, I might use this as a reason to take them to an actual, y'know, zoo; or maybe just throw lock them in the basement without food, because I imagine that would be more humane than bringing innocent children to a Kevin James/talking animals picture.

The strangely durable R-rated comedy spate of the summer continues with Horrible Bosses, which has, if nothing else, the best cast of any of them: Justin Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Colin Farrell, Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey. I can be on board for that.


Like a cool glass of water in the desert, here comes Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Part of me can't get terribly excited for this movie, because it seems like such an anti-climax in a way; after 7 movies, doesn't it kind of feel like we've already seen it? And yet, that's the comfort of it, because unlike every other movie this summer, there's no surprises in store: we all know exactly what it's going to be like, and whether or we're going to like it, and probably the specific reasons why we're going to like it. My gut says: I'm going to give it 7/10, be grateful it's so much better than the wobbly-paced Deathly Hallows: Part 1, hate on the incompetence of how the epilogue, already the worst part of the book, was executed, and rank it fourth of the eight movies (barely ahead of Prisoner of Azkaban, which looks better but can't compete with the action setpieces in the new one).

Meanwhile, the film of the whole summer that I've been anticipating with the greatest mixture of dread and excitement: the Walt Disney Animation Studios' 51st animated feature, Winnie the Pooh, which the rest of the world has already seen. My affection for the original Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is established; and I can say that from the trailer, I'm already deeply concerned that the voices sound all wrong, but that is the kind of idiot fanboy nitpicking that I'd mock if it were, say, toy robots and not toy tigers in question. Anyway, it's going to be a treat to see these characters, animated in such a stripped-down style, on the big screen, though I have to ask what the hell is going on at Disney that they'd open the film on the one single weekend in the entire calendar year where it's guaranteed to fail.


All along, my hopes have been highest for Captain America: The First Avenger out of the summer's four superhero movies, and now that they've all let me down, there's nothing left but to hope that Joe Johnston, of all unlikely directors, and Chris Evans, of all unlikely stars, can pull something out of their collective asses. On the other hand, if it sucks and if it fails (one does not depend on the other), then maybe the superhero craze is finally over, and we can go back to any other kind of tentpole movie at all?

Meanwhile, another R-rated comedy, and the year's second "friends with benefits" comedy, Friends with Benefits. Hard to say whether it's going to be better than No Strings Attached; NSA'sIvan Reitman is at least one or two steps above FWB's Will Gluck; Natalie Portman is undoubtedly a better actress than Mila Kunis (whose rise to stardom confuses me); Ashton Kutcher is just as undoubtedly a worse actor and human being than Justin Timberlake. The trailer sucks gnat balls, that much I can say; but I feel that it will get to its inevitable "hetero-normative pair-bonding" ending with less contrivance than NSA did.


Cowboys & Aliens. Can you resist that title? I can't. Screw the trailers (though they are very bad). It's called Cowboys & Aliens. You know what I bet it has? Cowboys and aliens. That's a high concept, right there.

Another comedy with a great cast, but it's not rated R, in the form of Crazy, Stupid, Love. and despite how utterly I despise the use of punctuation, there's no way to not catch your breath when you see the names: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Julianne Moore, Kevin Bacon... I have no idea who the directors are, though, and screenwriter Dan Fogelman is massively inconsistent (from Tangled to Cars 2 in just seven months!).

Lastly, a live-action Smurfs movie is something that exists now.


The.Watcher said...

I actually thought HP 7.1 was, by far, the best movie out of the bunch; certainly my favorite and the most faithful to the books' plot and tone.

I was excited for General Sam until I saw who the director is, and I've lost all hope in Cowboys & Aliens lately, especially with the horrid trailers. Winnie the Pooh is much better in its Russian version - not a dub, mind you, but the actual Russian Winnie the Pooh - much more sarcastic and cynical, much funnier and minus that annoying, cocaine-snorting tiger. Horrible Bosses, going by both of the ____-band trailers, looks lukewarm at best.

Sadly, it looks like Harry Potter is the only movie I'm looking forward to next month.

I'm really starting to feel like either 99% of everything released this year just sucked something fierce or I've contracted that medical condition known as "being a cynical bastard".

Faster, Harder, More Challenging GeoX said...

AA Milne's Winnie the Pooh is not even a little bit sarcastic or cynical, and I have to say, I find the idea of these traits being added to the story to be kind of emblematic of everything that's wrong with kids' movies today. I'm pretty sure if I saw this here "Russian version" I'd want to punch somebody in the throat.

The.Watcher said...

No, it's funnier than the Disney ones. It's not, like, in-your-face sarcasm or him being a douche, it's still sweet and good-hearted (obviously, since it was the USSR and they had strict censorship), but it has just a little bit of zing to it.

Personally, I can't stand the Disney version.

Matt said...

Pooh is the movie I've been most curious about too. The trailer's definitely aimed at older fans. And just knowing this movie exists has been enough to send me back through my Pooh archives, rewatching both the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. And I am pretty sure the second was the best of Disney's late 80s TV series.

Thor was enough to put me off new Marvel movies from any source except the Redbox.

Brigdh said...

I really liked Mila Kunis when she was on That 70s Show (one of those TV shows that I never actively wanted to watch, but which was not so offensive as to deliberately avoid, and so I was constantly somehow ending up with it on and nothing else to do). She was one of my favorite parts of that show, and I think she has a very interesting look- pretty, but in a slightly unusual way. Nonetheless, I also find her sudden stardom to be surprising.

Zev Valancy said...

I'm not sure on your director math regarding Reitman and Gluck. Yes, Reitman made Ghostbusters, but his last movie to get a good reception was Dave, and his movie before NSA was My Super Ex-Girlfriend. Gluck has only released two, and while nobody had much good to say about FIred Up (except for some loony who went on about its bizarre use of film grammar), Easy A was one of the funniest and most charming mainstream comedies in a long time. So who is really more likely to deliver a worthwhile movie?

Alyson said...

I agree with Zev, Will Gluck's modern track record is much more impressive, as far as decent comedies go. Fired Up is amazing, and Easy A was cute but inconsequential, either way I'm sure that means Friends With Benefits will also probably be cute and inconsequential (because it sure won't be another Fired Up [unfortunately]).

Tim said...

The Soviet Pooh shorts are absolutely fascinating, but I've never felt they're terribly solid adaptations of the Milne. They're just so Russian - but then, I guess the Disney ones are just so American.

One of the things I've always loved about the Disney shorts - not the subsequent TV series or God knows how many kiddie-cinema botches over the years, mind you, just the original three shorts - is the emphasis on how the characters are walking, talking toys; none of that in the Soviet films. Nor is there anything like the use of onscreen text, which has always been just about my favorite thing in the Disney films.

On the other hand, it's absolutely pointless to deny that Soviet animation isn't absolutely beautiful, and they're worth hunting down for that reason if none other.

Or I could just link to the YouTube videos:

Vinni-Pukh Goes Visiting
Vinni-Pukh and the Busy Day

As for Will Gluck, I certainly enjoyed the heck out of Easy A, but I think that had a lot less to do with him and a lot more to do with the script, and the most of all to do with Emma Stone. Reitman, it is true, has not made a good movie in over 15 years.

Will said...

Tim, your optimism regarding an impending end to the superhero craze holds one glaring blind spot: Next summer will see the release of The Avengers, which is liable to be a massive success financially (and, with Whedon at the helm and the producers of the Iron Man films handling much of the rest, could very well be a great movie to boot). The kind of financial success that inspires imitation. This imitation invariably leads to a second Green Lantern, as well as movies built around such sleepy characters as The Flash and Martian Manhunter.

Kill me now.

Alyson said...

Also, I just saw that Andy Samberg is in Friends With Benefits? That, plus Justin Timberlake, plus Will Gluck, is enough to sell me.

Alyson said...

AND Emma Stone, Tim!