M: We’re getting to the end of the box office doldrums. May officially starts the summer movie season, even if those of us in the northeast are still waiting impatiently for the “early” spring that Punxsutawney Phil promised us well over six weeks ago. With that said, April usually tosses in one or two things to get the ball rolling. I can’t speak for my sisters, but this year there’s one movie I’m really looking forward to, and one that I’m intrigued by against my better judgement. We’ll get to those. Once again, this is not a full and complete list, just the big films, and the small ones that may have piqued one of our interests.
M: What a surprise, another “reboot.” I will admit (and definitely lose some points with some of our readers), I have never seen the originals. As much as I love Bruce Campbell, I have never gotten around to these.
C: Wow, y0u haven’t? A good number of folks I went to high school with developed a cult obsession with these movies. I had to watch them purely to understand what people were talking about.
M: I have friends that love them, and know of their cult status, but have just never gotten to them.
E: Me neither. I have no opinion whatsoever on Bruce Campbell – and no illusions of having any cred whatsoever with horror fans.
M: Oh, Bruce Campbell is fantastic. Fully embraces that he’s a B actor, and is hilarious about it. Heck, he wrote an autobiography entitled If Chins Could Kill.
E: Very funny title, I grant you. Won’t get me to watch the movies, though.
M: Now, what I’m really wondering is what Sam Raimi is thinking these days. These were his big break movies, and they’re being remade/rebooted. The Spider-Man movies were his breakthrough-into-stardom movies, and they’re getting remade/rebooted. Is he taking this as an insult, people thinking so soon that they can make a better version than what he made? Or as a sign of respect, that he made something that was so good that people want more of it. It’s kind of like a recording artist whose songs get covered a lot. I’m not sure which way I would fall on this.
E: I think imitation is certainly a form of flattery; while that’s an interesting topic academically, however, it has little bearing on this case for me. No interest in the old ones, no interest in the new.
M: I do have interest in the old ones, but not this.
C: Frankly, I don’t understand why the reboot exists. What exactly do they intend to improve? These were intentional B-movies, so they can’t intend to make “better” films; but the high camp ridiculousness of the originals is fully realized, so that could hardly be intensified either.
Jurassic Park 3D
M: All I can think is that this is Speilberg, learning from his buddy Lucas, that you can make more money by throwing some 3D graphics on top of a beloved film and shipping it out to theaters. Unlike at least one of my sisters, I’m all for capitalism; however these 3D re-releases just feel wrong to me.
E: Ha ha. Actually, I think this could be fun to see in the theater again. There’s a difference between freshening up effects and changing a story. More like what the studios used to do before video – they’d put classic films back in the theater for revival. Depending on how it was done, this could just be a revival with updated tech. Now, I’ll agree, it’s a money grab, but as long as it doesn’t muck with canon (if you can even say Jurassic Park has canon) then I’m okay.
C: I don’t see how enhancing the special effects could change the story; it’s not like they can do reshoots with the actors twenty years older. I don’t personally love 3D — I don’t find it makes me enjoy movies more — but this is definitely a natural choice for 3D adaptation, as a movie where a lot of scary things pop out at you.
M: Did you see the Special Editions of the Star Wars movies? Does “Han shot first” ring a bell? And you still don’t think they can change the story 20 years later? That aside, I really liked the movie of Jurassic Park, but I’ve read the book, and the story in the book would have made a MUCH better movie. So no, I don’t think they’re worried about canon.
E: Are you postulating that they’re going to change the story back to the (more narratively interesting) book?
M: Do you think I’d be worried if they did? No, I’m worried that they will go in the opposite direction, maybe make the velociraptors flying helicopters, or add in a Jar Jar Binks-type racial stereotype character. It’s not likely, I’ll admit; I guess I’m just bitter over Star Wars.
E: All I’m saying is that as long as they’re not changing the story of the movie, then updating the effects is fine with me. In principle. In specifics I probably wouldn’t remember.
C: I guess I just don’t care about the story of Jurassic Park enough for this to have occurred to me as a concern. And I for one wouldn’t mind seeing the goat chomp the T-Rex first.
M: Okay, you’ve brought me around. Putting aside my Lucasaphobia, they really could do some pretty cool things with this, it could be very cool.
The Company You Keep
M: When that company includes Shia LeBeouf, you immediately drop off my list of “hey, I want to see that!” No matter how good a premise it may have, or how good the film looks otherwise, or if it’s starring and directed by Robert Redford. LeBeouf is a Mush.
E: Yuck. I cannot stand LeBeouf. Redford might be something of a draw for me, and the plot (reporter forces 60’s radical to go on the run when he discovers the older man’s hidden identity) generally interests, but not enough to deal with Mr. Whiny Pants.
M: Oh, if only whining was the only thing that turned me off to Mush LeBeouf.
C: I don’t like LeBeouf…
M: Seriously, who does?
C: …but he doesn’t make me automatically hate something; he wasn’t even what was bad about Indy 4, for instance. And this political action thriller, about a former anti-war activist who’s been hiding from the FBI for three decades when a journalist discovers his identity and threatens to expose him, has a neat sort of Three Days of the Condor-throwback sound to it.
E: Eh, I’m not sure I’d see it even without SLB – much as I love it, I can’t think of a good film Redford’s made since the transcendent A River Runs Through It.
M: Hmmm, this only takes you from 1992 (River) to 1994, but Quiz Show was very good. I don’t know why but I thought he had a better track record since then than he actually does.
E: Well that’s embarrassing. I should have looked it up, because I love Quiz Show. So, fine, it’s been 19 years rather than 21.
M: Danny Boyle, back together with the writer of Trainspotting.
E: James McAvoy! An art heist!
C: I am a huge fan of James McAvoy…
M: Seriously, who isn’t!
C: …and have been eager to see what he’d do after X-Men: First Class brought him more onto the public radar. Working with Danny Boyle — who’s made a success of such unbelievably different films as Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Millions, and Slumdog Millionaire — certainly seems like a clever career choice.
M: Do you really think McAvoy wasn’t that much on the public radar? I mean, Narnia, The Last King of Scotland, Atonement, and the hugely hyped (though lousy) Wanted I thought made him a household name. Pretty sure that wasn’t just our household.
E: I don’t know. I’m not sure he’s as successful as you’re implying; a children’s movie, two art flicks and a really bad would-be blockbuster do not a household name make.
C: I wouldn’t even call him a household name post-First Class, but most people would at least get who he is if you named his roles. Anyway, Trance appears to be a psychological thriller with several cups of violence and some heaping spoonfuls of nudity stirred in, as thug Vincent Cassel hires shrink Rosario Dawson to hypnotize James McAvoy and unlock the location of a stolen painting from his memory. It may be trying for a Memento/Usual Suspects sort of “what is real” vibe.
M: Now, my first thought was Inception.
E: That just brings me back to Trainspotting, actually — trip-city.
M: Hmmm, I’m not with you on that one.
C: Despite my love for McAvoy, Millions, and heist films, I suspect that this is not my cup of tea.
E: Quite probably not.
M: Whereas I could end up really enjoying it.
M: Now we get to the movie I’m dying to see! It’s actually fairly amazing that, in the recycled, nothing-new-under-the-sun culture of Hollywood, that no one has ever made a big time Jackie Robinson biopic before. But they have now, and everything I’ve seen for it looks amazing.
E: I agree, the previews for this look fantastic, and it’s a subject ripe for the silver screen.
M: Writer/director Brian Helgeland has had his share of misses over the years, but L.A. Confidential and Conspiracy Theory still give me reason to hold him in high regard.
C: Yes, both are excellent, though quite a while ago now…
M: Yes, unfortunately. For more current people involved, it stars Chadwick Boseman, who I’ve seen in episodes of shows like Castle and Fringe, and in the short-run summer series Persons Unknown a couple summers ago, as Robinson. He has always impressed me, and has been given a shot here at a possible role of a lifetime. Then you throw in Harrison Ford, Alan Tudyk (Wash/Steve the Pirate!!!), John C. McGinley and Christopher Meloni? And of course that’s before we even get to the amazing and inspiring true story that it’s based on! I’m sooooo all in for this.
C: It does seem like it could be great.
E: Ford is virtually unrecognizable, though!
M: Which reminds me of a fantastic interview I saw with him one time. He was talking about a conversation early in his career with a studio exec. The guy pointed to some star, and talked about how early in that star’s career he had a bit part as a grocery bag boy, but that the exec said that even as a bag boy, when he appeared on screen you said “That’s a movie star!” Ford’s reply was that that was a sign of a bad actor, because what you should be saying is “That’s a bag boy.” Loved that mindset, and am really looking forward to a big year from Ford with this and November’s release of Ender’s Game.
Scary Movie 5
M: Why? Anyone?
C: I got nothin’.
E: I got something. I think this movie comes out on the 19th. And guess what? Wouldn’t see it on either date!
To The Wonder
M: Terrence Malik, with Ben Affleck instead of Brad Pitt leading this time. Will it be as confusing and polarizing as Tree of Life?
E: Malik doesn’t produce movies so much as visual poems. Sometimes they can be spellbinding, but you have to go in knowing it’s not going to be a normal viewing experience and just flow with it. I wasn’t nearly as big a fan of Tree of Life as I was of The Thin Red Line, but even so, like its predecessors To The Wonder looks gorgeous, as if each frame was a poster.
C: Eh. True, it looks very pretty, but a movie where the main draw is the fact that each frame looks like a poster sounds about as exciting as watching someone’s two-hour slide-show from their vacation. It doesn’t matter if they’re a good photographer, does it? You get bored.
E: Oh, don’t tell Dad that!
M: Ouch! That wasn’t very nice. Quite possibly true, but not very nice.
C: Come on, even Dad’s slide-shows aren’t two hours. It’s you guys who’re being mean; I just spoke a universal truth. Movies need stories, and all I got out of this movie’s trailer is that it’s about a man cheating on his wife. That may not be boring, but it’s not a draw for me either.
M: Wait, weren’t you talking up Tyler Perry’s Temptation last month? Oh, wait, no… 😉
E: Religion, love, marriage swirled up together in a philosophical piece about beauty and meaning. Will it succeed? Who knows. But clearly Malik is trying to make something worthy, and I won’t fault him for that.
The Angel’s Share
E: A story about down and out lads in Glasgow trying to sell whiskey. Director Ken Loach’s festival crowd-pleaser has been billed as a Scottish Full Monty, which sounds great to me.
C: Yes indeed!
E: Much as I hate to admit it, however, I didn’t understand more than one word in four in the trailer. I mean, I get that “the angel’s share” is the amount of whiskey that evaporates in the cask, but other than that? Kinda lost. And I generally pride myself on my affinity for British accents.
M: Agreed, I got lost as to what the plot was. I could tell whiskey was involved, but I couldn’t tell if it was being produced, stolen, or just imbued.
C: Imbued? Do you mean imbibed, or is there a lot of saturation going on?
M: I actually did mean imbued, as the whiskey is imbued into the wood of the cask. Though you make a good point, there could be imbibing as well.
Into the White
E: Rupert Grint flies biplanes in WWI, without the use of a wand.
M: Or Felix Felicis.
C: The latter is disappointing; the former, cool. Weasley is our king!
M: I’m seeing differing reports on the opening day for this one. Some sites, like IMDb, have it opening on the 12th, while others, like BoxOfficeMojo, say the 19th. So, be warned.
E: Rotten Tomatoes says the 19th.
M: Okay, I just saw a commercial for it that says the 19th too, so forget the 12th. Anyway, I’m intrigued. This is totally the type of movie and story that I usually jump onboard for. Dystopian, post apocalyptic, sci-fi “space” exploration. Lots of cool gadgets, and surprises to be found on the “native” planet (in this case Planet of the Apes-style future Earth),
E: Everyone’s favorite shorthand for a dystopian future: ruined monuments!
M: Everyone’s other favorite, Morgan Freeman…
C: Does sound like a good mix of elements!
M: The problem is similar to The Company You Keep‘s problem: the star. Tom Cruise has not only not earned my trust, but at this point has earned my distrust. Not only that, but he wears a freakin’ Yankees cap in the movie. I didn’t think there were many ways left to make Tom Cruise less likable, but they managed to find one.
C: They were trying to get us to hate him, right? Wait, what do you mean he’s the hero?
M: Maybe the main character? I’m not sure what else you’d call his character based on the previews. Either way, it takes a lot to make him less palatable than he makes himself.
E: Almost incomprehensible. Who knew anything could be worse than that pained/constipated look he gets when trying to indicate heroic fortitude? And yet they’ve done it.
M: Why not stick him in a Che Guevera t-shirt, too?
E: Because that would at least make ME like him.
M: So, you like wanna-be dictators that have been glorified after their death, who executed (personally, or with his trained firing squads) people who opposed him politically, or deserted his forced military assignments?
C: Oy, rein it in, you two. I personally would prefer my epic film heroes not to wear t-shirts from Hot Topic, is all.
M: Haha, fair enough! Moving off the political spectrum, why, why couldn’t they have cast someone like Jake Gyllenhall or Ryan Gosling? Heck, I would take Jake Busey or Ryan Phillippe.
C: You mean someone generic and boring, as opposed to actively dislikable?
E: Hello, unnecessary and inaccurate harshness!
C: Apologies to Gosling; he’s not actually boring, most of the time.
M: Hey, I like Jake Gyllenhall. October Sky, Donnie Darko, Prince of Persia? None of those are generic or boring. Apologize to him, too, dang it!
E: Guys, guys, let’s not forget what we’re quibbling about. There is only one person who’s keeping us from being excited about Oblivion, and his name is Tom Cruise.
M: And it’s too bad, because the more previews I see for it the more I want to be excited about it!
The Lords of Salem
M: If a Rob Zombie horror film is the only movie being put into release that weekend, I would not want to be a theater owner. Time to let everyone take any vacation time they have stored up. Maybe that’s why there ‘s confusion over Oblivion‘s release date. I’m sure they’d rather go against this than against 42.
E: I hope 42 does as well as you think it will.
M: With the source material, the timing (baseball season just started) and the push that the studio is putting on (commercials and crossover promotion during March Madness), I really think it will. I just hope it’s as good as it looks like it’s going to be. Lords of Salem, on the other hand, I have no such hopes for.
C: Poor Salem. Three centuries ago it was witch trials they had to put up with; now it’s ridiculous rocker fantasies about heavy metal music containing occult powers.
E: So is that best tagline we can come up with? The Lords of Salem: Crappy, But At Least They Didn’t Actually Kill Anyone.
C: Actually I think they do. It is a horror movie.
E: Yes, but it’s also a movie.
Pain and Gain
M: Michael Bay directing, yet it’s based on a true story, and the trailer only has one explosion, so I’m confused. A story of bodybuilders (Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg, both looking jacked) who get caught up in a crime ring.
C: Wait, that sounds like a comedy. That’s not what I was expecting.
E: Pain and Gain doesn’t sound like a comedy title to you? It sure does to me. Plus, The Rock has tried to be funny before. You know he wants to be the Arnold Schwarzenegger of the new millennium.
M: Unfortunately he’s more closely approximating the Arnold Schwarzenegger of this millennium.
C: It was the casting that made me think it was a comedy, and the Michael Bay/true story bit that made me expect otherwise.
E: C, are you paying attention? Arnold. Action Comedy. It used to be more of a thing.
M: She might just be too young, the little whipper-snapper. Back to the cast, not surprisingly Ken Jeong is in it. He’s in more things than Samuel L. More surprisingly, so are Ed Harris, Tony Shaloub and Anthony Mackie. Also, family favorite Michael “Joe Junior” Rispoli is, too. For anyone wondering who that is, maybe instead of spending $12.50 to see this in the theater, just Netflix While You Were Sleeping. And yes, I’m telling you to Netflix a chick flick. It’s more than worth it.
E: If for no other reason than to understand the original context of the oft-quoted phrase “I never said Cesar Romero was tall.” It’s practically code at Quibbling family dinners.
The Big Wedding
M: Big wedding… big cast. Seriously: De Niro, Sarandon, Dianne Keaton (who could totally just be recognized by her last name were it not for Michael Keaton), Robin Williams, Amanda Seyfried, Katherine Heigel, Topher Grace and Ben “Prince Caspian” Barnes.
E: Wow. That is a cast.
M: Looks like it could be really fun. The set-up for that group is that Seyfried is marrying Barnes, whose Colombian mother is a devout Catholic and apparently doesn’t believe in divorce. Seyfried’s parents, De Niro and Keaton, are divorced, with De Niro remarried to Sarandon. They agree to pretend to still be married for the weekend of the wedding (officiated by priest Robin Williams, btw).
E: Yeah, cause that’s a smart plan, and a secret that will never ever be discovered.
C: Isn’t it funny how devout Catholics never seem to run into divorced people anywhere they go? Kind of amazing how, because they don’t personally believe in divorce, they manage to sail through life not at all noticing the thousands of divorces everywhere or accepting them as a fact of modern life!
M: Maybe in Colombia they don’t? Because everyone gets killed by drug cartels before they can get to the point of divorcing their spouse?
E: Oh, that must be it. You got it, bro!
M: Last week I besmirched all Irish-speaking (and spelling) folks, this week it’s Colombians. I’m on a roll. Back to the movie, to paraphrase Letterman, hilarity could very easily ensue. Unfortunately, it could just as easily be a train wreck.
C: Based on the 1981 novel by Salman Rushdie (probably his most famous after The Satanic Verses, the one that got him the fatwa), this movie tells the story of two boys switched at birth on the night that India declared independence. Flavored with magic realism, steeped in Indian politics, and full of humor and humanity, it’s a story with great potential to make a successful film.
E: Lit adaptation, magic realism — sounds like just my cup of tea.
C: Maybe; it is kind of a downer story. Though you appreciate that sort of thing more often than I do. Anyway, although this is a Canadian-American production, most of the names would be unfamiliar to the majority of American audiences.
M: Like Flashpoint, and that was spectacular TV.
C: There may be a few familiar faces, though. For instance, the lead role is played by Satya Bhabha, the handsome British actor who plays Cece’s fiance on New Girl. He also happens to be the son of two of the most important literary critics around, a fact that probably only people in my line of work will be tickled by.
M: Agreed, as I am not remotely tickled by that fact.
C: I do so appreciate how supportive you are about my profession.
E: Matthew McConnaughey stars as a creepy transient, wanted by the law, who beguiles two young boys into keeping his existence a secret. There’s a sunny, bleached, Southern Gothic feeling; everyone squints into the sun and drawls and takes stupid chances because no one’s properly honest.
M: Sunny, bleached, Southern Gothic? Pretty sure there’s an oxymoron or two in that sentence.
E: Sigh. Gothic doesn’t have to be visually dark, just like Veronica Mars could be noir and still set in Southern California. Anyway, if you watch the trailer you’ll see exactly what I mean, I assure you.
C: I’m not sure if I’d call that Southern Gothic, but definitely a creepy feel to it. Icko.
M: Shockingly, I’m with C, at least somewhat. I’ve watched the trailer, and despite the presence of some sunlight, I would call it neither sunny nor bleached. Southern Gothic, sure. But I still contend that those are contradictory terms. Where I depart from C is the “Icko” comment. I think it looks like a taught, suspenseful thriller, with a kid that looks waaaaaay too much like River Phoenix did in Stand By Me.
E: Feature film remake of Thor Heyerdahl’s classic voyage, which was nominated for this year’s Foreign Film Oscar. It didn’t win, but is supposed to be an excellent and exciting tale for all that. M, do you remember the book we had about this when we were kids?
M: I remember having it, and loving it. I remember that it was about a journey on a raft. Unfortunately that’s about where the memories end. Maybe that means I need to see this.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
E: So the names aren’t as big as the ones in Big Wedding, but it’s still quite a cast: Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber and Kiefer Sutherland are the Western stars in this movie about a Pakistani financier living in NYC through 9/11 and it’s aftermath. I don’t know if this is it, but I’m sure there’s an amazing story to be told about Arab-Americans dealing with life in that period.
C: I like Liev Schreiber a lot. Color me intrigued.
M: Agreed, both about Schreiber and the concept. I think there’s a fantastic story there somewhere. Maybe it is here, maybe not, but either way there are some compelling movies this month. What are you all looking forward to? Let us know in the comments!