C: September is an odd month for movies: summer leftovers, stuff that had higher hopes but didn’t test well, and the occasional Oscar contender slipped in.
E: Is there gold to be found in them there hills? Maybe. Just maybe. Let’s take a look.
C: What’s to like about this project? A few things.
E: Really? Surprise me.
C: Okay. First, I’m always pleased to see a female-led comedy that’s not just marketed as a ‘chick flick’ — though, could this more obviously rip-off of Bridesmaids?
E: Blatant money-grabbing ripoff.
C: Second, the Party Down reunion with Lizzy Caplan (also known for Mean Girls) as one of the three stars and Adam Scott (also Parks and Recreation) as her love interest. And Kirsten Dunst can be good in things.
M: So, I’ve never heard of Party Down, and have never made watching Mean Girls enough of a priority, so to me Lizzy Caplan will for the foreseeable future be known as “Nick’s lawyer girlfriend that he screwed things up with on New Girl.” That’s actually a good thing.
C: Hey that’s right, she was good on NG. But you need to see Mean Girls.
M: Yeah yeah.
E: I know New Girl is well made, and that Party Down was Ryan Hansen’s Veronica Mars follow up and also starred a pre-Glee Jane Lynch, which are also good things.
M: Um, you know Jane Lynch was already quite famous before Glee, right?
E: Because you and I both became fans of hers when we saw Best in Show, yes I do.
C: Not to like about Bachelorette, though? Where to begin…
E: Yeah, I’m kind of impressed you found that many good things to start off with.
C: On the con side: how about the fact that the plot centers around supposed ‘friends’ of the bride who actually spend the entire time alternately mocking her and acting out jealously? Or the fact that they each fit a really obnoxious female stereotype? Or the presence of Isla Fisher?
E: I was with you up to Fisher, who I liked a lot in Definitely, Maybe.
M: I was going to say “that’s not fair” when you mentioned her, but the only thing I’ve even remotely liked her in was Wedding Crashers, and that more for the movie than for her. Go on.
C: Ugh, her character in WC is why I started despising her. But as far as this film goes, you don’t need to look farther than this delightful interchange in the trailer:
James Marsden: I just wanna give you what you want.
Kirsten Dunst: What do I want?
James Marsden: You want someone to put you in your place.
Yup, this is the romance we’re meant to be rooting for, kids.
M: To be fair, in the right context that could be funny. I don’t think this is the right context, but still.
E: Is there a right context for that? Not if that’s supposed to be sexy there isn’t.
M: If he’s being sarcastic or ironic? Cleverly funny? Really, just not like he says it in the trailer?
C: Honestly, I’m with E. There’s no right context for that — unless the character is giving a mocking impression of a complete a*hole.
C: This movie has caused some amusement among what I shall call ‘English Teacher circles’ because of its apparent moral: ‘Plagiarism will destroy your life.’ Good work, screenwriter!
E: Or, ‘Even someone as pretty as Bradley Cooper can feel inadequate if he’s not smart and creative enough.’
M: See, now to me the moral of this seems to be ‘If you’re going to plagiarize, do a better job of changing the names and details to cover it up, or make sure the true author is dead, and then you’ll get all the fame and money without any of the life-destruction part‘. 😉 Also, don’t plagiarize the works of Rambaldi when Arvin Sloan is still around to bust you.
C: Will Tippin was never the brightest guy.
The Cold Light of Day
C: This action thriller with a boilerplate plot (a Wall Street guy whose family is kidnaps hunts for the men responsible and a mysterious briefcase) may be notable in no other way, but it does star our newest Superman, Henry Cavill.
M: So did Immortals, I don’t think that alone is enough to pull in an audience. Maybe the supporting cast (Bruce Willis, Sigourney Weaver) or the setting in Madrid will?
C: Hm. Maybe.
Hello I Must Be Going
C: Despite the weird title, seems to be a fairly straightforward dramedy about a divorcee who moves back in with her parents and starts an affair with a much younger man to rejuvenate her life. On the upside, Melanie Lynskey is usually great. On the creepy side, the guy is supposed to be 19 (though the actor, Christopher Abbott, is an entirely appropriate 26).
M: Yeah, ew. Also, only knowing Lynskey as Rose on Two and a Half Men, it’d be weird to see her in a more serious role.
E: Didn’t you ever see Ever After?
M: Nope, sorry.
E: You should; it’s a cute movie. Your oldest is a great age for that, too. Lynskey was so charming as the not-so-evil stepsister that it’s how many years later, and I automatically want everything she’s in to succeed. I’m curious to hear the reviews, though mostly to see if this is worth renting.
C: Speaking of inappropriate, here’s another age gap romance. This time it’s Josh Radnor (Ted from How I Met Your Mother) playing a college recruiter who falls for a college sophomore. Here the 19-year-old love interest is being played by 23-year-old Elizabeth Olsen. Though the film seems to take the age gap seriously, the fact that Radnor wrote and directed this ups the sketchy fantasy factor.
M: Well, Hollywood does tend to put out projects in twos, so I guess now it’s the pedophilia two-fer. Okay, that’s not fair. What’s the old-young relationship typically called, a ‘May-December romance’? Maybe this would be an ‘April-August’ two-fer?
E: Well, thankfully neither Elizabeth Olsen nor Christopher Abbott is actually (or supposed to be) a child. So not quite as pervy as you make it seem.
C: It doesn’t help, though, that the girl here is named Zibby. Yes. Like she’s a four-year-old’s pet parakeet.
E: Yack. Maybe it is pervy.
M: Since there are two of these, I was thinking about it, and find this very odd. There are seemingly contradictory double standards when we get into the old-younger relationship discussion. The first is that maybe not in the case of these two movies, but in general, older (and especially old) men dating/marrying younger women seems to be far more accepted and less of a big deal. That changes, though, if the woman dips down into “young woman” territory. If she’s less than, say, 19 or 20, then it’s creepy and downright vilified (rightfully so), even if it’s just the older man ogling her. However, with older woman lusting after teenage men (see: “Twilight moms” below) there seems to be a higher level of acceptance.
C: I’m not sure it’s quite acceptance — more like a cultural “can’t look away” fascination. And part of what contributes to the toleration is the fact that it’s regular women lusting fruitlessly after movie stars.
M: And then there’s the whole teacher-student thing, where male students-female teachers tend to get movies made about them, while female student-male teachers tend to be considered sluts and perverts, and the best they get is a creepy song by The Police. Very odd, how we’re not consistent with this.
C: Is that because male student/female teacher is more often portrayed as a fantasy from the young male perspective, rather than from the teacher’s? Whereas for younger girls the power imbalance with a male teacher verges too close to rape territory?
E: Yes, exactly. We could do a whole post on this topic and probably not cover it completely, M. I will say that as much as the whole “cougar” craze supposedly freed women to feel okay about acknowledging the attractiveness of younger men (and that men, unlike women, are supposed to feel thrilled about being made into sex objects), Tom Cruises’ wives still stay the same age.
M: Which is good, because, to steal a line from City Slickers, if they were getting younger, pretty soon he’d be dating sperm.
C: So, we don’t have much to say about the film itself, it seems. I will just add, in Radnor’s favor, that it appears from the trailer to have a strong flavor of college nostalgia, which I do identify with. Even if I wasn’t dating guys in their mid-to-late thirties in those days.
C: Nicholas Cage desperately searches for his kidnapped daughter. Is it Hollywood law that every aging action star make a film where he desperately searches for his kidnapped daughter?
E: We’ve seen a variant of that already in September with The Cold Light of Day.
M: Hmm, I can think of Liam Neeson in Taken, but am blanking on others that fit that mold. Ransom was Mel Gibson’s son, Frantic is Harrison Ford’s wife…. nope, not coming up with any others. Now, if you’d gone with it being Hollywood law that Nic Cage was in a bad action movie…
C: Taking me too literally as usual. How about, “all action guys eventually do a movie where they frantically search for a kidnapped child”? These films are legion – help me out, RE readers?
M: Paul Thomas Anderson directing, Phillip Seymour Hoffman leading, apparently only potential assassins (or patsies, depending on your take on conspiracy theories) need apply.
C: Duh, E, he means the “guys with three names are assassins” theory.
M: You know, John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, etc. Seriously, you need to rewatch Conspiracy Theory.
E: Um, no.
C: Um, YES. So underrated.
E: Cough (because it was awful) cough.
M: If by “awful” you mean “totally and completely aweSOME”, then yes. But back to the movie… once you throw non-triple named Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams into the case, I’d almost smell Oscar nominations — except for one thing. This is apparently loosely based on L. Ron Hubbard and the founding of Scientology.
C: Just to step back a minute: The Master, despite its title, is disappointingly not about the Doctor’s Time Lord nemesis, but rather about a WWII vet (Phoenix) who falls under the sway of a charismatic cult leader (Hoffman).
M: I’ve read a lot about both Hubbard and Scientology, and both the man and the “religion” seem to be equal parts charismatic and crazy as bat guano. However, Scientology has a VERY strong presence in Hollywood (again, charismatic and crazy as bat guano), and anything negative (no matter how truthful) toward the cult… er, religion will likely come with significant backlash. Heck, it needed Oracle co-founder and CEO Larry Ellison’s fortune, and daughter Megan, forming a new production company just to get this film made.
E: I am super, super curious about this movie; what its quality will be, whether it will be interesting, and what form the controversy surrounding it will take. It could add quite the unusual flavor to this year’s Oscar race if Scientology can make the case that the movie is somehow discriminatory or defamatory. So far everyone concerned is scrupulously protesting that the subject is not Scientology, wink wink nudge nudge.
M: Riiiiiight, and Political Animals wasn’t based on Hillary Clinton.
E: Well, Political Animals was inspired by Hillary Clinton. It was kind of an alt-universe Clinton. Not that it matters in this context.
C: Which is alt-universe take on folks who believe human spirits once lived in other universes. You’re right, this should prove interesting.
Resident Evil: Retribution
M: The other Paul Anderson directs this one! Paul Anderson vs Paul Anderson in the same weekend! It’s a battle so unimaginable, so incredible, that you’ll want to buy a ticket to watch it! Okay, maybe not.
C: Gosh, Paul Thomas Anderson must just seethe over that.
M: Clearly this fifth (or is it 15th?) installment of the video-game-turned-crappy-movie franchise will win the battle at the box office, but it will also suck.
E: Yes. That. Not that it’s impossible to make a good movie out of a video game, but this is not it.
M: Richard Gere playing a big time player in the world of investments and such… where’s Julia Roberts?
E: I don’t think there’s any such fun in this movie. Instead I think it’s more a Bernie Madoff take-down thriller, where Gere maneuvers to hide his corruption. So instead of a golden-hearted, hilarious hooker, there’s just a really nice wife (Susan Sarandon) and brilliant daughter (Brit Marling) whom he deceives. Interesting that they’re telling this one from the point of view of the bad guy, huh?
M: Yeah, not the usual m.o. for things like this, that’s for sure.
C: Could make it more interesting, but probably will just make it more of a downer.
M: I was just thinking, “Hey, it’s been a good month or so since a Channing Tatum movie opened, somebody’s got to get him back in front of the camera to make an indie version of American Reunion!” Oh, wait, no I wasn’t.
E: Hee. I recently rented Step Up, which is a pretty decent formula movie, so the first thing I noticed about this flick is that it features Tatum’s wife (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) whom he met when they costarred in the high school dance story. So that’s sort of neat.
C: Yeah it is, and actually, this cast also includes some really fun people: Justin Long, who (though with more misses than hits on his resume) is ever-adorable, plus Parks and Recreation‘s Aubrey Plaza and Chris Pratt, both also adorable. If this film starred someone good, and didn’t look like it was primarily about a tiresome relationship crisis, I might really be interested.
M: I will say this. It’s difficult for me to bad mouth a LOTR alum, but really, come on Karl Urban (Eomer). At least with Total Recall they were remaking something that was pretty good, and was based on a Phillip K Dick story. This is based on Judge Dredd, an 88 minute “feature film” that had a remarkable cast (Stallone, Diane Lane, Armand Asante, Max von Sydow, Jurgen Prochnow) and even knew how to use Rob Schneider (as a side kick who is not supposed to be taken seriously), and it failed horrendously. Like I mentioned with Total Recall, the new version looks to be like the new version of everything that’s being remade these days, darker and grittier. It also looks even suckier.
E: I understand the source material has a lot of fans, and I can see them feeling like the Stallone movie didn’t do it justice. Being that it was shockingly awful. Since I’m not enraptured with the source material, I have trouble seeing what there is worth saving.
M: I still just remember watching the original, seeing the final fight starting to take place and thinking, “Wait, we’re an hour and 20 minutes in, they can’t be fighting yet,” but they were. Amazingly, this new one, according to the run time on IMDB, is actually one minute shorter!
C: The final fight only lasted 8 minutes? That earns real points in my book.
End of Watch
M: I saw a preview for this last week, and all I could think is that this is trying to be the Blair Witch of cop movies. I literally got nauseous just watching it. It looks like it’s about Jake Gyllenhaal’s beat cop sticking his nose into something drug and or gang related that might get him killed, but I really couldn’t get past the disorienting camera work.
E: Ugh. I’m a fan of Gyllenhaal’s, but I’m way more sensitive to shaky hand cam than you; now I don’t even want to see the trailer.
M: Yeah, don’t.
House at the End of the Street
E: Elizabeth Shue moves with her daughter, Jennifer Lawrence into the titular house, looking for a new start after a divorce. And at this new house, they see rainbows and adopt puppies and paint picket fences with lovely neighbors and everything is very, very sweet and charming and just as delicious as can be.
M: And if you buy that, we’ve got a bridge to sell you. One with big Olympic rings that raise up when boats need to go under it.
C: To be clear for the credulous among us: this is your standard ghost/bad seed/teen exploitation horror movie. With a young star who really shouldn’t be short of money these days, so why she’s in this may be the real mystery.
M: Elizabeth Shue as Jennifer Lawrence’s mother? I feel really old.
E: You and me both. Just think of it as Hollywood needing them to both be as young and hot as possible. Like Michelle Monaghan playing Shia LeBeouf’s mother in Eagle Eye, only plausible.
C: Or Winona Ryder as Spock’s mom, apparently having given birth as a six-year-old. What was that?
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
C: I really like the song in the trailer for this movie, “It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons. Also, Emma Watson! Other than that… interchangeable coming-of-age dreck.
M: The primary web site that I get my free screening passes through has been inundated with screening of this one, all of which have been “open” (as opposed to closed, critic only) screenings. That to me means one of two things: either they have a really good film and they are trying to get as many people to see it to create word of mouth buzz as possible because they have no money to promote it properly, or it sucks. I hope for Hermione Granger’s sake it’s the former.
E: I’m with you; I’d really like Emma to do well, and the novel this is based on is really popular.
C: I’ve heard poor things about the book’s quality, but it did get a lot of buzz somehow. They’re probably trying to get the young crowd, rather than critic-readers, on this one.
Trouble With the Curve
E: This could be the cream of September’s crop. After a four-year absence, it’s nice to Clint Eastwood back in front of the cameras, here as a baseball scout coping with front office politics and his lawyer daughter (the delightful Amy Adams). With Justin Timberlake and John Goodman in supporting roles, it looks like a timely and appealing offering. And you can’t ever count Clint Eastwood out of an Oscar race, even if he’s not directing.
M: You know that I love baseball and Clint, and usually find Adams and, believe it or not Timberlake, too, to be talented and entertaining. However, I’m not sold on this one. It’s not that it doesn’t look appealing, or well done. I think my problem is that it just feels like someone in a studio said “Hey, Moneyball was a big hit with audiences and critics AND won awards… let’s turn it into a rom-com! We should get a respected actress to keep the awards people in, a hot young star to keep the Brad Pitt audience, maybe throw in someone with stature,” and voila! Trouble With The Curve was born.
E: See, Clint is just way more canny and picky than that. Plus I’m sure the movie was already underway before last fall, when no one could have anticipated Moneyball‘s extraordinary success. Trust in the Clint, my brother.
C: Whereas I’ll sit out, since the Clint has never made a movie I actually enjoyed. I know–plebeian tastes.
M: I don’t know if you’ve seen the trailer for this one yet, but you should.
E: I have, and I’m excited.
C: I have, and I’m confused. Are we supposed to be rooting for the main character, or the main character?
M: When I first heard about it I was baffled at the “Joe Gordon Levitt plays a younger version of Bruce Willis” aspect, thinking it wouldn’t work. Well, having seen the trailer months and months ago, I’ve got to say it looks like it will, and the movie looks like it could be really cool. I’ve been looking forward to it for a while now, as there aren’t enough good or creative sci-fi/time travel movies out there.
E: And it’s such an intriguing premise! This is easily the best weekend of September for choices and quality.
M: It has some elements of another Willis film, 12 Monkeys, to it, but with a different and seemingly slightly less dark and gritty style. Plus, JGL is awesome, and is really coming into his own.
M: Let the Halloween kids movie season begin! As best I can tell, this is a stereotypical “overprotective dad/teenage-daughter-wants-to-date-the-wrong-guy-who-turns-out-to-be-the-right-guy-despite-the-boneheaded-dad’s-objections” movie, but with the slight twists that it’s animated, and oh, the dad is Dracula.
C: That… actually sounds kind of awesome.
M: The voice cast is star studded (Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, David Spade, Molly Shannon, Ceelo Green, Jon Lovitz). And if you think it sounds like a lot of SNL people, you’re right, and you have to include one of the writers, former Conan O’Brien writer and SNL’s chief animation writer, Rober Smigel.
E: My kids aren’t necessarily the right age for a dating movie, even one that’s animated; this looks cute, but I can’t help thinking the subject matter could constrict the possible audience. Still there’s no competition in the animated features niche, so we’ll see.
C: Yes, goodness knows your children are very turned off by movies that centrally feature a romance plot. I know how much they hated Tangled, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast…
E: Okay, so maybe I’m wrong.
Won’t Back Down
M: Correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s been a while since we had a good “determined parent/teacher/principal/coach transforms the failing school” movie along the lines of Stand and Deliver, Dangerous Minds or Coach Carter. Will this Viola Davis/Maggie Gyllenhaal vehicle be the one to end the drought?
C: I don’t think there’s been a total drought of entries in the genre, but they do all seem fairly interchangeable. If only Dangerous Wands could get made…
E: The casting is a head start to goodness.
C: Yes, two good actresses and there’s even Lance Reddick in a supporting (though evidently unsupportive) role. Viola Davis seems to be finding a niche in these inspirational social-change films; I just hope this one isn’t plagued by the same controversy her last one generated. It looks like it could be pretty decent.