E: Have you guys noticed that not only is May now the official start of the summer movie season, it’s often got the best summer movies? There are almost no tent-pole movies in August, but May? An embarrassment of riches. I’m not noticing a lot of must-see 3D (my latest obsession), and there’s no saying that the projects that look good will actually BE good, but there’s a lot to interest. Will they be worth hiring a babysitter? I guess we’ll find that out in a few weeks. Meanwhile, we can speculate and get excited.
We thought we’d give you readers a heads up for the upcoming films we’re interested in (we’ll check back in with you if we ever get to the theater!) and even a few words on the ones that won’t get our hard earned cash.
Aside from a few documentaries I could see myself renting (Babies, Casino Jack and the United States of Money) there’s only one temptation for me – and everyone else – this weekend. Iron Man 2, baby. Let’s leave aside my loathing for sequels that don’t get their own name. I’m really hoping Tony Stark’s new adventure (an original story by the filmmakers) is on par with his last. Start with Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow; swap out Oscar nominee Terence Howard for Oscar nominee Don Cheadle; toss in Scarlett Johansson; and finish up with a strong dose of the guy who should have won last year’s Oscar, Mickey Rourke, and you’ve got a pretty fine recipe for a movie. And I don’t know, but I kind of trust director Jon Favreau at this point.
C: Ehhh, Mickey Rourke. He may be good in a certain context, but he looks terrible in the trailer for this, ludicrous accent and all. I was disappointed by the trailer over all, since it’s all action and no plot, but let’s hope that’s not an indication of the actual movie. The first one’s so great, they’ve earned a lot of good faith from me!
E: Yes, the accent is pretty silly, but Rourke has earned good faith with me from The Wrestler. And like I said, I trust Favreau. I feel like the trailer for the first Iron Man was similarly weighted towards action and away from plot, and look how that turned out!
M: I haven’t seen The Wrestler, and Mickey has always come across as a walking STD to me, so he’s a bit of a turn off. Also, cheerleaders? Really? And I can’t tell, but I think Scarlett Johansson has turned into Anna Kournakova, having burst onto the scene through looks and talent, but for a while now seeming to be coasting on reputation. And I’m with E on the sequel without its own name. Oh, do I pine for the days of The Empire Strikes Back, the days before studios and distributors felt the audience was too stupid to know that it’s a sequel. That all said, I am totally geeked up for this, because I do trust Favreau to make a good, nay, great second chapter.
C: On the other hand, E: Babies? Really? I mean, I know you like babies, but an entire movie about them was not anyone’s most exciting idea.
E: It’s kind of an academic thing – more like something that might air on, I don’t know, PBS or the Discovery Health Channel, or even on IMAX than in regular theaters. The filmmakers followed four babies (from the U.S., Mongolia, Japan and Namibia) through their first year of life. I think it’s more about the cultures they’re raised in, and their enculturation, than cute pictures of little ones. BTW, the seventh is its official opening date, but it already seems to be playing near me.
M: Quick cautionary tale for you… I almost went to see a sneak preview Disney’s Ocean the other week, watched the trailer, was excited, but then we had one child throw up and the other get covered in poison ivy, so I missed it. The report from my friend who did go to the showing? His daughter, who loves fish and ocean life, fell asleep during the 7:00 show. So be warned, sometimes something that sounds boring, even when it has a solid trailer or a decent concept, ends up being boring.
E: Okay then. Sorry, Disney! Good luck with your next documentary! One odd note. There’s an indie film opening that day called Mother and Child (about several mothers and children), which features a love scene between Naomi Watts and Samuel L. Jackson which Watts calls the raciest of her career. Um, having seeing 21 Grams and Mulholland Drive, I can’t even fathom what that scene must contain to exceed those other movies. I’m just saying. Make of it what you will.
C: Please let it not involve snakes and an airplane.
M: Which is the less appropriate response? “I believe you mean mother-****ing snakes and a mother-****ing airplane” or “Samuel L. Jackson, he’s not just in everyTHING…”
E: A mere week later (told you May was overcrowded) there’s another adventure I’m super excited about – Robin Hood, Ridley Scott’s latest epic starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. I adore them both (even if Crowe’s picked some lame projects of late) and hope the Gladiator director can make magic with his favorite leading man once more. But Cate, she never disappoints.
C: *coughIndy4cough* Hm, what was I saying? Oh yes, am curious about Robin Hood. As a “gritty, realistic retelling of a legend,” the project is too close to comfort to the direness that was King Arthur. Scott has got to do better than that, though, right? Then again, he did make Kingdom of Heaven…
E: Okay, so we won’t assume it’s going to be great, but you have to admit it’s got potential.
M: I think it has great potential, but for reasons I really can’t explain, I just don’t have a good feeling about it. Maybe it’s because I think Gladiator is overrated (C: Shut your mouth!), maybe it’s because I think Robin Hood is overdone, maybe it’s just because I love the Disney animated musical version, I don’t know.
E: Gah. The last Robin Hood movie was what, 20 years ago? You and your time limits. I love the Disney movie, too, but it’s a classic story and there’s no shame in retelling it.
Alright. There’s also the Hawaiian historical pic, Princess Kaiulani starring Band of Brothers‘ Barry Pepper and Q’orianka Kilcher, who played Pocahontas in that movie with Colin Farrell that had Pocahontas in it. Ah, The New World, that’s what it was called. Thank you, Internet Movie Database!
C: Gee, I wish I could forget the utter skeeviness of Farrell making out with a fourteen-year-old Kilcher. To give it some credit, though, it’s the only film about Pocahontas ever to make it understandable that she married John Rolfe instead of John Smith. I’d pick Christian Bale over Colin Farrell too.
M: Collin Farrell… the Mickey Rourke of his generation!
E: So true. Then there’s yet another movie with Amanda Seyfried, which costars Vanessa Redgrave and David from Kings (that failed TV show from last year which no one seemed to notice, based on the Biblical Book of Kings; glorious cinematography, serious scenery chewing from Ian McShane, and a too-vanilla lead). I like Amanda Seyfried (hello, Veronica Mars!) but I’m fascinated by her career upswing of late. This is the third movie she’s helmed in three months. Crazy!
C: Yeah, and Seyfried’s a good comic actress (hello, Mean Girls!) so why’s she headlining all this gooey, sappy dreck? I like a good romance as much as the next person, but Dear John didn’t get my dollars and unless the reviews are surprising, Letters to Juliet won’t either.
E: That’s because most romantic comedies these days are complete crap. Which leads me to Just Wright, a basketball love story starring Common and Queen Latifah (ah, that’s why he showed up with her while she was co-hosting Idol Gives Back). I like Queen Latifah, but her involvement doesn’t exactly guarantee a film’s high quality. This seems like something I might enjoy on video, and I feel a little guilty about that. It’s just that outside of Oscar season, I mostly see movies in the theater only when they demand to be seen on the big screen. And that usually means effects, or cinematography and an epic sweep. It’s not that I don’t love indie movies, or romantic comedies. It’s just that they don’t always have to be seen in the theater. On the other hand, those are the kind of movies I buy.
And, like I said, most of them turn out to be crap. Hollywood, step up your game, please!
E: Will my trips to the multiplex never end? Shrek Forever After looks like a lot of fun. This might be the first one I take my kids to in the theater. MacGruber? Not so much. I loved McGyver and I used to love SNL, but for two whole hours? I can’t see it. But maybe that’s because I’ve given up watching SNL. And not because I don’t stay up late enough, either.
C: I thought Shrek was truly brilliant and Shrek 2 was nonstop wacky fun. I can’t even remember seeing Shrek the Third, though I’m pretty sure I must have. To me that says that the life has gone out of the franchise, and unless the buzz is great, Shrek Forever After can wait for DVD.
E: A very good point. For me, almost nothing is review-proof, so yes, it will depend on the reviews. On the other hand, the ads for Shrek Forever After look pretty funny (I’m drawn to the tartan-wearing Ogre rebels, and to the too-large-to-move Puss in Boots), so I’m cautiously optimistic.
M: My kids are big Shrek fans, but like C I don’t think I’ve seen Shrek the Third, and even though I own it I can’t for the life of me remember a single scene from Shrek 2, so I may pass on the trip to the theater here. With softball and little league, we probably won’t hit theaters with the kids until the ACTUAL summer, anyway.
E: Looking to not go on a date with your sweetie? Here’s the weekend for gender segregation! We’ve got Sex in the City 2 (no temptation to me at all, despite kind of liking the show against my better instincts) facing off against Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. I’m pretty dubious about them both. Actually, I know I won’t be seeing SITC2, if for no other reason that I haven’t seen the first movie, and I guess I’ll reserve judgment about Prince of Persia. I suppose it could be an unexpected pleasure like Pirates of the Caribbean. Maybe. I think I’m most interested in Agora, which stars Rachel Weiss as an Roman astronomer in ancient Egypt.
C: Oo, this is the first I’ve heard of that last one but you’ve got me intrigued.
M: Hmmm, me too. Rachel Weiss, quirky and diverse choices, usually very solid.
E: I know, right?
C: As for the other two, gender shmender – I’d much sooner go see Prince of Persia! Video game movies don’t have a great track record, but I hope this one will be fun. Though it’s pathetic proof of the backwards state of Hollywood that Middle Eastern actors can’t get roles even in a film with “Persia” in the title…
E: Looks like a very few of the minor roles were cast with non-Europeans. Not to excuse it, but I can’t really think of an actor with Jake Gyllenhaal’s name recognition and the right ethnic background they could have cast in the lead role. Kal Penn?
C: Yeah, Kal Penn would work, if you subscribe to the Lost school of casting in which South Asian and Middle Eastern are the same. Also, you can’t really make the “but they needed the draw of a big name” argument for pasty British Gemma Artreton.
E: That’s true enough.
C: But to the larger issue – isn’t this a self-perpetuating problem? We can’t cast Middle Eastern actors because nobody’s heard of any Middle Eastern actors – who will continue never to be heard of because they are never cast.
M: As much as I’d like to see my boy Tony Shaloub and Shohreh Aghdashloo in this, let’s stop quibbling over the casting. After all, they have cast family favorites Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina. As I mentioned in our SuperBowl commercials review, and I think before that, I am really excited for this. I loved the PoP video games, I have liked Jake Gyllenhaal since seeing October Sky (one of the most underrated movies ever), and it’s Jerry Bruckheimer. Heck, he turned talking guinea pigs into an entertaining movie, this is in his wheel house. I think this is going to be a spectacle. I don’t know if it will be a great movie, but I think it’ll be a lot of fun. Kind of like Speed. As I said before, I’m in, big time.
E: Well, you know I love October Sky and Speed, but I’m not sure it’s going to be fun (or well crafted) on that level. And Bruckheimer has a spotty record – he may have made Black Hawk Down and the Pirates films, but he made Pearl Harbor, too. I am very, very curious to see the reviews.
C: And that includes reviews from you, dear readers! If you check out any of the May releases, come back and let us know what you think. But for now: what looks good to you?