M: As we move into July, we get another wave of would-be blockbusters coming to theaters. Invariably, the movies that studios think will be the biggest winners open right around the Fourth of July holiday, when everyone is off from school, hot, and looking for things to do. The rest of the month meters out a few more hopefuls, but generally ones that in the eyes of their studios have too many potential flaws to be released in May, June, or on the 4th.
C: Giving you plenty of time to see your favorites a second or third time, they hope.
E: There’s also a surprisingly good selection of indie comedies popping up between the tent-pole offerings. This month I’m more interested in them then the would-be blockbusters!
M: However, this year’s August slate looks far more promising than most years… but we’ll get to that in about a month. For now, let’s start with the holiday week openings, as they look to be good!
Despicable Me 2
C: Such a missed opportunity, not naming this Despicable Me Too. I mean, it’s right there!
M: I think the same thing every time I hear the title. Mrs M and I will likely be taking our and E’s kids to this on the 4th, while E attends a wedding. E gets to spend a day/evening with Mr E, a ton of good friends, enjoy a nice meal and a night of frivolity. I still think Mrs M and I are getting the better end of the deal!
E: I wouldn’t say a better deal – some pairs are just made to be together and this is one of those couples – but I might be slightly jealous that you’ll get to see it with all the kids. I’m sure you’ll have a blast.
C: I bet the kids will be much happier at the movie than they would be at the wedding!
E: Yes. That’s fair to say.
M: I love love love the first movie. We watched it again over the weekend, and it is every bit as good now as the first time I watched it. Steve Carell is fantastic, the humor is great, the story is at times touching, and, well, the minions are just pure comedic gold (or, at times, neon-glow-stick-green). I can’t wait to see the new one. To quote Jason Segel’s character in the original: “OH YEAH!”
The Lone Ranger
E: I am just not drawn to this. From the bird on Tonto’s head to the explosions and the bleached out color pallet, there’s nothing about this that piques my interest in the smallest.
M: Really? Not Johnny Depp, who is consistently good, but especially great at oddball characters like this? Not Gore Verbinski? Not wanting to see if Armie Hammer can pull it off? Not the excellent supporting cast, with the likes of Tom Wilkinson, James Badge Dale, Helena Bonham Carter, William Fichtner and Barry Pepper? Not wanting to see if they can pull off a new version of the classic characters/story? Because those ALL pique my interest.
C: You forgot the good old-fashioned racism! Isn’t that reason enough to see it? Oh wait…
M: No, no, this is new-fashioned racism. Plus, Johnny Depp is a darling of the politically correct crowd, so it’s FINE. Really.
E: If the reviews are spectacularly good I might change my mind, but the trailer looks like overblown idiocy. Depp is good, Verbinski is good, Hammer’s promising, I like all those supporting actors, but this movie just looks bad.
C: I will say this: I’m still in awe of that fact that Armie Hammer was really born with that name – or at least, Armand Hammer. He certainly was destined for an action star.
E: Or a cleaning product.
C: Ha! True. But even if this is the vehicle that makes his a truly household name, I still doubt I’ll see it. It looks like Sherlock Holmes (the Guy Ritchie movie) meets Wild Wild West. Plus racism.
Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain
E: I don’t really follow comedy, but if you like Kevin Hart, this concert film could be a really enjoyable way to spend the holiday weekend.
M: Who’s Kevin Hart? Is he one of the Hart brothers, with Brett “The Hitman” Hart, Owen Hart and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart?
C: Are those famous people? I haven’t heard of any of them, including Kevin.
M: The others are/were professional wrestlers, but thanks for pointing out that my joke will be lost on virtually all female readers, and most male readers under 35. And for making me feel old. Jerk.
C: I do what I can.
A Girl and A Gun
E: Documentary about women, guns and gender roles.
M: You can have this, I’ll go see The Lone Ranger.
E: I would be totally fine with that.
C: Actually, this looks really interesting. “The lady gun market has been really good for us,” says one gun industry guy in the trailer. “Nobody ever raped Mrs. Smith or Mrs. Wesson,” says another. I can see a lot of teachers I work with potentially using this in the classroom.
M: “This” being the movie, or the Smith and Wesson?
E: Does that even make sense? The movie looks interesting. You can have the brainless, racist fare and we’ll take the discussion about the pressing cultural issue. Done.
M: I get those outside the movie theater, with no need to pay for them, thank you very much.
The Way Way Back
E: C and I saw a preview for this comedy before Much Ado About Nothing, and I was charmed.
M: Okay, two issues with that comment. First, the two of you saw Much Ado without even seeing if I was available to join? Not cool. Second, the two of you saw Much Ado, and have not written about it for our readers? Not cool.
E: Well, it was a girls’ night, M, and you’re not a girl. I’m sorry about that.
M: I, on the other hand, am not sorry about that.
C: Was it a girls’ night? I thought that was a coincidence. Someone the Siblings are all friends with posted on Facebook about wanting to see it, and things got organized from there. If a dude had said he wanted to go, I’m sure we’d have included him.
E: Yes, that’s very true.
C: M’s right though… we really ought to review it!
M: Well, duh!
E: Okay, sure. Can we get back to the movie at hand, though? Because it looks really cute. A young teen deals with his mother’s boorish boyfriend — played against type by Steve Carell — and finds his voice through friendship with a group of genial, loving oddballs who staff a local water park.
C: Oh, that one. I wasn’t as charmed as you apparently were.
E: Wait, really? I’m totally excited to see this. I love quirky/heartwarming.
M: I’m excited for it, too. Partly because it was filmed in my general neck of the woods (which is loosely Carell’s neck of the woods. I have a friend who has run into him in the supermarket multiple times).
C: It looked a little contrived and artificial to me. Good cast, though.
E: Oh yes! The cast – Carell, Tony Collete, Sam Rockwell, Anna-Sophia Robb, Maya Rudolph, Amanda Peet, Rob Corddry, Allison Janney – sizzles. The writer/director team is Nate Faxon and Jim Rash, who won an Oscar for writing the beautiful and funny dramedy The Descendants, one of my favorite films of 2011.
C: M, how can you resist a movie where your fave Sam Rockwell goes about inspiring hearts and changing minds as a wacky, off-color water park owner?
M: Who said I was resisting? And I just recently watched part of Galaxy Quest again, one of Rockwell’s absolute gems.
E: Galaxy Quest! Sigh. Such a great movie. The next time we get together we should totally watch that.
M: But to paraphrase my favorite line in it, let’s move on to the next movie before Guy gets killed!
The Look of Love
E: Steve Coogan, Imogen Poots, Stephen Fry and family favorite Anna Friel star in this story of British pornographer Paul Raymond, his businesses and his family. Very swinging seventies.
C: Ugh. Steve Coogan’s presence taints all the rest.
E: That’s what you find unappealing here?
M: Ha, right. Because the rest is sooooo appealing.
C: Okay, porn and the 70s aren’t so much my style either. Too bad; I do love Anna Friel.
Stuck in Love
E: This comedy starring Greg Kinnear and Kristen Bell aims for the same emotional territory as The Way Way Back; quirky ensemble romance, dysfunctional families, true love.
C: And yet, looks way way way worse. Wait, didn’t we post about this one last month? Did the release date get changed, or it is just so unoriginal story that I just think I’ve insulted it already?
M: Pretty sure we caught that before posting. Right E?
E: We took it out of last month’s post — after writing a lengthy bit about how I thought it could be charming and you and M were offended — because I’d put it in the wrong month.
M: And, I believe, because we were significantly less charmed by it.
C: Oh, I missed the removal. So to update: still not charmed. Even a little. Grossed out in fact.
E: Deja vu. This features another excellent multi-generational cast (Logan Lerman, Jennifer Connelly, a voiceover from Stephen King, a semi-grown up Spencer Breslin, and two children of famous people – Lily Collins and Patrick Schwartzenegger) and that Crazy Stupid Love/Dan in Real Life/Little Miss Sunshine vibe.
C: Except that it’s just about multi-generational characters experimenting with random sex and expecting this will somehow make them better people. Which certainly wasn’t the plot of the excellent Dan in Real Life or the well-done Little Miss Sunshine.
Grown Ups 2
M: Yawn. Why? Why does anyone think this is a good idea?
E: I have no idea. Just beyond.
C: Ha! I have one friend who can’t WAIT for this movie to come out. Of course, this is a friend who enthusiastically cultivates his inner 14-year-old boy.
E: And now I know exactly who that is.
M: I think I do, too.
E: I really want to like this — giant metal robots good! — and I just can’t work up the hope.
C: Giant metal robots good? How? Why? I like action movies, but what on earth is interesting about watching non-human, non-emotional things battle each other for two hours?
M: As someone who has seen plenty of mech/gundam plotted anime shows and episodes, I like the concept of turning that into a (quasi) live action movie. I’ve seen lots of commercials for this, as they are in heavy rotation, and I think it is going to end up in one of two categories. It will either be a fun, entertaining, largely brainless romp like Independence Day was, or it will be utterly horrible. I really don’t think there’s any in between, and I do think “really entertaining bad movie” is its ceiling.
C: See, but Independence Day is full of really appealing actors (I’m sure to get sneered at if I call them “good actors,” but I think they are) playing likeable characters to whom you become attached. Not CGI machines. So how can this compare?
E: But it’s not just machines! What strikes me as crazy is that the movie has a weirdly good pedigree — Guillermo del Toro makes stylish films, Idris Elba is an amazing actor, Charlie Hunnam and Ron Perlman have made a critical success out of Sons of Anarchy.
M: Del Toro, especially, brings more gravitas to this than, say, Michael Bay would have.
E: Precisely. And I will not sneer at you for calling Bill Pullman and Will Smith good actors, btw.
M: Nor will I. Or Brent Spiner. 🙂
E: Oh my gosh, I forgot about him! Awesome. Pacific Rim also features some pretty amazing character names with oddly religious overtones – Stacker Pentecost and Raleigh Becket – which is just fun.
C: Well now, “Stacker Pentecost” has just swept all my skepticism away.
M: As long as you’re willing to admit that!
E: Mad Mikkelson won the best actor prize at Cannes for playing a Danish father whose life might be destroyed when his best friend’s daughter lies and accuses him of touching her.
C: Skipping it!
M: What C said.
C: We saw the trailer for this before Much Ado too, and none of us were left with even a clue of what the heck the story might be.
E: I looked it up. True story of a young drug dealer shot by the LAPD, starring an up and coming actor named Michael B. Jordan (of Chronicle and Parenthood), who seems to be having a moment.
M: Sorry, but whatever the “B.” stands for, he should be going by that. And I assume the drug dealer is going to be portrayed as the good guy?
E: Since bystanders filmed him being shot for no reason, it seems so. Why, you’re not going to say that police summarily shooting an unarmed, compliant person is a good thing, are you?
C: Before we get into a stupid political argument, can I share what this title reminds me of? My friend’s daughter was just telling me about a Wonder Woman comic she was reading called The Fruit of All Evil. Now that sounds like it would make a good summer movie!
E: Why hasn’t Wonder Woman gotten an on-screen portrayal since the 70s? Get it together, Hollywood!
M: There was talk a while ago of a Wonder Woman movie in the works, but I think it fell into the same Hollywood purgatory that the Superman reboot had been in for so many years. Now back to the “stupid political argument”… of COURSE I don’t think that police shooting an unarmed, compliant person is a good thing. I also don’t think glorifying a drug dealer is a good thing, and made my assumption based solely on knowing what Hollywood tends to put out in these type of films.
C: Well, it has a very low-budget, indie feel and didn’t look like a glamorous depiction of thug life. But like I said, I couldn’t really tell what was going on in the trailer at all.
E: James Cromwell finally gets a lead role in this story of elderly love.
M: I wonder if he’s have a pet pig. I hope so.
E: Oh, I don’t know. I think it’ll be nice to see him step out from the shadow of a pig. Or a limousine.
M: Is he really still in the shadow of the pig, just because we remember that he was great in a great movie with a pig? He’s been in plenty of other things since.
E: Then let’s say I think it’s nice he’s going to play a leading role. Does that sit better with you?
C: Go James Cromwell! Find elderly love!
E: Speedy the (animated) snail wants to race in the Indie 500.
C: Does that even make sense? I mean, not because he’s a slow creature, but because he’s not a car…?
M: No no, don’t be silly. According to Wikipedia’s summary, Turbo gets “sucked into the supercharger of a drag racer, fusing his DNA with nitrous oxide, and suddenly finds himself vested with some of the characteristics of a car.” Doesn’t that make perfect sense?
C: “Fusing his DNA with nitrous oxide”…?
M: It’s like being bitten by a radioactive spider, except less probable. From what I’ve seen so far, this looks like it’s in the Shark Tale category, with not-quite-top-notch animation, an amazing cast of voices including Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti and Maya Rudolph, and probably not enough plot to sustain.
E: Yes, exactly. It wants to be Cars, but there’s not enough there. It’s not in the top tier of this summer’s impressive roster of animated films, but it might be good enough to entertain the family on a really hot (or really rainy) day.
M: I’m sure kids will enjoy it, but that’s not saying a lot.
C: Frankly, they’ll watch anything.
M: I really need to get around to seeing the first one. I wanted to, and have heard from more than enough people that it was really enjoyable.
C: That’s the action movie with Helen Mirren, right? I meant to see that, too. I see she’s back for this entry, along with Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, and new additions Catherine Zeta Jones and Anthony Hopkins.
E: I was also going to say I needed to see the first movie until I realized — after several days of thinking about it — that I have rented it, and what I recall, it was perfectly fine though obviously not very memorable. This continued story of retired spies in hot water seems like a reasonable good time, although probably not the kind of good time I need to have in the theater.
M: Either way, the cast is still fantastic, and might be worth the price of the ticket themselves.
C: The title, by the way, I just learned is an acronym for “Retired, Extremely Dangerous.” The designation we’re all hoping for someday!
C: Speaking of acronym titles… in case you thought this was about bodybuilding, it’s a combo of the familiar acronyms R.I.P. and P.D. — Rest In Peace Department. But you only don’t know that if you don’t watch television.
E: Yeah, this is one of the previews I’ve seen the most of this summer.
M: Really? I’ve only seen it a couple of times. I have to say, I think the concept is pretty great, especially given the general dirth of new ideas in Hollywood.
E: I agree – the idea of deceased lawmen who help contain evil souls as part of a quirky heavenly enforcement squad is fizzy summer fun. It has the feel of a Men in Black, which could be terrific if they can pull it off. Ryan Reynolds isn’t a guarantor of quality, however, and Jeff Bridges (while a great actor) can be similarly suspect. I’m very curious to see the reviews; I don’t feel like I can tell from the trailer if it’s going to succeed or not.
C: One of the boys Mrs. M babysits was saying this morning (while I was visiting) that his father is taking him to see this. I admit, it didn’t strike me as kid-friendly from the commercials, but I suppose MiB was popular among the young folk in its day.
M: Two quick points… first, the boys Mrs M watches see a lot of things that are not kid-friendly (they brought over Jack Reacher the other day, for example). Second, “Ryan Reynolds isn’t a guarantor of quality” might be one of the biggest understatements in the history of understatements. I’m pretty sure Ryan Reynolds is close to a guarantor of crap, hence my hesitation about this.
C: Agreed. I wouldn’t accuse Ryan Reynolds of actively ruining films with his presence, but for a big star he has remarkably few truly good films under his belt.
E: Horror movie loosely based on real-life paranormal hunters Lorraine and Ed Warren (played by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson), and the demons they encountered on a Connecticut farm in the 70s. Costars Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston play the parents of five daughters all living in the haunted house.
M: It must be “loosely based” on the real events, because if it were based on real events it would end up being a bunch of people expecting something spooky to happen, then being disappointed when nothing did. Not a great movie in that.
E: Apparently the real event was a seance, in which the mother started speaking tongues and the father ordered everyone out of the house because it was all too freaky. The movie version features a longer interaction and some serious heroics from the husband/wife team played by Farmiga and Wilson.
C: …Who then turn to the director and say, “Can I have my paycheck now please, so I can get back to my next project for Sundance?”
Only God Forgives
E: Super-glammed up Kristin Scott Thomas stars as the mobster forcing one son (Ryan Gosling) to avenge the murder of his brother. Gosling reteams with Nicholas Winding Refn, the director of the very stylish Noir thriller Drive, in which Gosling was similarly caught up in a hopeless situation. He’s got the skills, sure, but he’s trying so hard not to be bad.
M: I hope the title isn’t a sign that only God will forgive the people who made this. I wasn’t interested enough to see Drive, despite strong reviews of Gosling’s performance, and this has significantly less buzz. Not a good sign.
E: Drive makes a good rental. You may be right here, though, at least for us: the killer seems to be a dirty cop (if this is a spoiler, it’s spoiled by the trailer). The mother seems to use — ahem — unorthodox tactics to motivate her child. Creepy.
M: Now you’re just trying to convince me not to see it, right?
C: She’s 100% convinced me. Even if a female Godfather does sound theoretically cool.
M: Wouldn’t that be Godmother?
Girl Most Likely
E: Playwright Kristin Wiig goes home after a nervous breakdown to live with her ne’er-do-well mother, Annette Bening, and her mom’s boyfriend, Matt Dillion. Darren Criss of Glee plays her love interest. We saw this trailer in front of Much Ado, too.
M: I like Wiig a lot, but everything else there sounds nasty.
C: It seemed sort of interesting from the trailer, or possibly so. Gosh but “adult child’s return to the parental home” is a big plot trend these days!
E: I don’t know that I’ll need to see this in the theater, but it looks like it could be fun – and actually, I’m not a particular fan of Wiig’s. She and Benning seem to play off each other really well. Interesting that Melissa McCarthy’s summer film is getting so much more attention than this one, isn’t it? But it’s nice that July will see no shortage of female led movies for audiences to choose from.
C: Well, McCarthy’s is the only one likely to bring in any notable box office. Why are you surprised this is getting less build-up? It seems more of a sitcom/small movie premise than a broadly crowd-pleasing genre like buddy cop movie The Heat.
M: And because McCarthy’s actually looks good. That might be why.
The Act of Killing
E: Tough, complicated-looking documentary which reconstructs the memories of loving grandfather Anwar Congo, a gangster and mass murderer from the Indonesian genocide in the 1960s. How do you live with a terrible past? How do you love your family and come to grips with the fact that you’ve helped kill at least a million people – when you’ve murdered hundreds with your own hands? It’s not exactly a summery question, but if you’re tired of popcorn fare, this sounds like it’ll make you think for sure.
C: Maybe this is a facile oversimplification, but I rather expect that if you “murdered hundreds with your own hands” you couldn’t sit around thinking about it with any guilt. You’d pretty much either have to justify yourself, block it out, or kill yourself.
M: Or have a very different idea of morality than we do.
C: Fair enough.
E: For those in search of serious fare in a more cheerful form, there’s this documentary about Sir Nicholas Winton, a young Englishman who saved more than 600 children from the Nazis on the eve of WW2.
C: Cheerful maybe isn’t the word for any Nazi story. Uplifting, perhaps?
M: I think she meant “cheerful” the way Schindler’s List is cheerful.
E: I did say “more” cheerful. But yes, uplifting is a good enough descriptor.
C: Of course, that makes all the difference. Schindler’s List, for instance, is definitely “more cheerful” than… um… yeah, I’m stumped.
The To Do List
E: Comedy starring one of C’s favorites, Aubrey Plaza.
C: I do love Plaza as April on Parks and Recreation, which is why I started watching the trailer for this on Youtube when it appeared on my sidebar a few months ago, got more and more mortified, and determined never to see the film. A movie about a high school senior (played by an almost-thirty-year-old actress, of course) trying to check off a long list of sexual experiences before going to college just doesn’t have the slightest appeal to me.
M: Sheesh, you’re such a prude.
C: I’m sure many would mean that seriously, but I know you don’t.
M: They really need to invent a sarcasm font.
E: Agreed. And she plays a high school student? Ick. Weird. Wrong.
C: I’ve thought for a long time that if I had godlike powers, one prank I’d play on America would be to replace every actor in their favorite teen series or movie with an actor of the precise age the character is supposed to be. “How ‘hot’ is that vampire/high school sophomore sex scene now, creepers?”
E: I’m so down with that.
M: Oh, that’d be great. You know who could help you actually accomplish that? George Lucas! He’s great at after-the-fact editing of movies and scenes that people love and making them suck!
E: Ha ha. The point isn’t to make them suck, though — it’s to make people think about the sexual expectations society puts on teenagers.
M: Which would suck to the people who are looking for them as escapist voyeurism and titillation.
C: Expectations based on images of “teens” not remotely close to their age, yes, exactly. And also to make adults face up to the real power issues involved in our commodification of teen sexuality. But you’re right, M, Lucas has just the tech to do it!
E: Drama starring one of E’s favorites, Cate Blanchett.
M: I’m listening…
E: It’s a Woody Allen flick about a woman embittered after her con-artist husband (Alec Baldwin) leaves her broke and staying with her downtrodden sister (Sally Hawkins).
M: And I’m out. You lost me at “Woody Allen,” and went off the rails at “Alec Baldwin.” What’s the last decent drama he’s been in? If you don’t count The Departed (I don’t because his role was entirely comedic), then I’m thinking it’s 1993’s Malice, or 1990’s Hunt For Red October. The latter won him a lot of points in my book, but he’s flushed those many times over in the 23 years since.
C: Well, he’s playing a con artist here, and it’s Woody Allen; neither of those exactly spells heavy drama. It seems like Blanchett is playing the classic Woody Allen role here, actually — at least, she’s the one having a nervous breakdown.
E: What I’m dubious about is the setting. I’ll grant that Bobby Cannavale and Louis C.K. look working class, but Allen has a lot to learn about what constitutes low-rent real estate.
C: And he’s got two classy British ladies playing the unlucky American sisters, oddly enough.
E: Also, if it’s meant to be a comedy — and bits of the trailer suggest this — it’s not very funny.
M: So it’s a typical Woody Allen movie?
M: Action flick starring one of M’s favorites, Wolverine.
E: Very funny, bro.
M: No, seriously, I’ve always loved Wolverine.
C: Who doesn’t? Wolverine is the best!!
E: No one’s arguing with you here.
M: See! Heck, I even enjoyed the Origins movie from a few years ago (which oddly enough co-starred both leads from another maligned film, John Carter, Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins).
E: Screeeeeech! (That’s the sound of my agreement with you coming to a halt.)
C: Yeah, I won’t go that far. That was pretty hammy.
M: “Enjoyed,” not “thought it was good.” Subtle difference.
C: Well, I have much higher hopes for this, which still stars Hugh Jackman but has a different writer and director. Of course my hopes were through the roof back when the director was Darren Aronofsky (can you even imagine what a superhero movie of his making would look like? especially the stuff in Japan, which is my favorite part of Logan’s backstory). But you know… replacement James Mangold did direct Jackman pleasingly in Kate & Leopold…
M: I’m really looking forward to this reboot, and think that it looks like it could at the least be better than The Amazing Spider-Man.
E: Eh. Wolverine: Origins wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t get the job done either (while I quite liked The Amazing Spider-Man, thank you very much). I’m hoping this film — set in Japan — will do better, because I too love Wolverine. Even if I know he’s not an actual person.
M: Shut your mouth!
E: Aliens on the secret American moonbase! Christian Slater! Meteor showers! C, it even costars Brendan Fehr!
M: And looks like a horrible Alien rip off!
C: Oh Roswell, where did you go in my life?
The Smurfs 2
M: Despite my childhood love of the Smurfs, and my respect for NPH, I still have not mustered up the strength to try to sit through the first installment.
E: No, me neither, and I don’t have much inclination to.
C: Ugghh. Why would you? It looked so terrible it could probably be an effective replacement for water torture.
E: I’m almost surprised they got another of these made, considering the reviews.
M: I’m not, the first one made money.
E: So of this month’s three animated offerings, I will definitely seek out the other three first.
M: As the resident math major, I will point out that you cannot seek out the “other three” out of three.
C: Hey, this English major caught that too!
E: Gah. Why do you have to work my weird typos into our conversation? You could be a little nicer and just edit them.
M: “Three” when you mean “two” is not a typo. “Wto” or “tow” would be a typo. Those I correct for you.
E: Whatever. You owe me, especially since you plan on getting the jump on me and taking my excuses — er, my children — to Despicable Me 2 without me. But hey. We haven’t seen Monsters University yet, and that’s supposed to be terrific.
C: So there, that makes three. Plenty to see while avoiding the tiny blue plague.