E: Ah, our birthday month, C. A great month for our family, but not typically an impressive one for Hollywood.
C: With a few exceptions, and maybe more than in your typical August. At least, so we hope.
M: Looking at the slate below, I think that this year the summer movies are actually spilling over into one of the two months that actually comprise summer. What a novel concept!
C: A few classic summer movies, and a lot of weirdness. There’s just no other word for several of these movies.
M: And with that to pique your interest, on to what’s opening…
Guardians of the Galaxy
C: And here it is, the one really big movie happening this August.
M: No no, there are more. This is the biggest, yes, but there are more.
E: Relative blockbuster potential aside, I want to be into this. I love sci fi movies, I love adventure and zippy dialogue and underdog/bands of misfits plots, and I want to think that all these comic book films Marvel has in the pipeline – the ones about characters I’ve never heard of – are going to be as fun as the ones about characters I do know. (Trusting them worked with Iron Man, after all.) I’m kind of alarmed that this is what they figured would be most accessible, though.
M: You want a good sign, one that might get you into it?
E: Of course.
M: Marvel just announced that they green-light the sequel to this, and it will be in theaters in 2017. They announced it before this one even hit theaters, before it earns one cent. THAT’s confidence, and that’s the one thing that makes me think it’s gonna be good. And the cast. The two things that make me think it will be good are the green-lighting of the sequel and the cast. Oh, and a 93% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. So, the three things are the sequel, the cast and the Rotten Tomatoes rating. And that Marvel’s on a roll. The four things…
E: You’re right, that’s a promising sign. Signs. Anyway, I think Marvel’s marketed the movie really smartly. When they first started showing trailers over the winter, I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea of a talking raccoon and a walking tree as members of the titular gang; now I’ve seen the ads so often it doesn’t seem that weird an idea anymore.
C: I’ve said before now that this looks perplexingly similar to Farscape, right down to the humanoid plant. But that’s no bad thing; more like a point in its favor.
M: Agreed then, still agree now. And the comic it’s based on was first published in 2008, so it’s not like Farscape ripped it off.
E: Wait, you’ll have to forgive my ignorance, but did Farscape have a raccoon?
C: No, but it had a cantankerous Muppet character.
M: Who was similar in size to the Guardians‘ raccoon. And was a selfish but humorous deposed king. Man, I miss Farscape.
C: Another point in GOTG‘s favor is, of course, the presence of Chris Pratt. Somehow, when I see him — I don’t know why — I just think… everything is awesome.
Get On Up
E: Chadwick Boseman has turned into quite the biopic king. First the spectacular 42, now a retelling of the life of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. And it looks good, man.
M: Not only does it look good, and not only is Chadwick Bozeman becoming, as you said, the king of the biopic, but I heard Dan Akroyd on the radio, and he said that this is the best movie he’s been a part of, and the best one he’s seen in 20 years. Now, since he’s in it he’s kind of biased…
E: … and it’s his job to promote it…
M: …but he was friends with James Brown, and I think a pretty good judge as to whether or not this does his friend’s life justice.
E: Okay, that’s a potentially awesome endorsement, especially considering that Akroyd’s taken part in comedy cult classic The Blues Brothers (with Brown) and best picture winner Driving Miss Daisy. Who does Akroyd play? Surely not the younger version of himself.
C: From the trailer, in which he opens a briefcase of money, he looks like some sort of sleazy manager type, but it’s hard to tell.
E; Oh, right. It’s funny; I’ve seen the preview a bunch of times, but when I am I’m not thinking about the actors, I’m just thinking about the story, and how much I can’t wait to see it.
M: Oddly enough, he didn’t mention one thing about his own participation in the movie, character or anything. Just gushed about how well done it was, how great Bozeman is, how it doesn’t gloss over rougher parts of Brown’s life. I’m excited.
C: This is also, we should mention, from the director of The Help and includes both Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer in its cast.
M: Additional points in its favor. As are the weaves they have Bozeman wear. Just fantastic.
E: His weaves? That’s got you pumped up for the film? Alrighty.
M: You’ve seen the trailer, you can see how spectacularly they recreate some of Brown’s most ridiculous hairdos. How can that not excite you? 🙂
M: Brendan “Mad-Eye Moody” Gleeson plays a small town priest whose life is threatened in the confessional, who then tries to put together if it’s a credible threat while still trying to tend to his flock. Looks expertly made.
E: Should he take the man (who promises to kill him in a week) seriously? Should he take steps to protect himself? What kind of steps can he take when (per the rules of Catholic Church) he can’t go to the police? What’s the man’s goal? Who is he? It’s quite a premise.
C: The cast includes a lot more familiar faces — the best-known to Americans being Chris O’Dowd, but also Kelly Reilly (Mary from the Sherlock Holmes movies/Caroline Bingley), Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones), and Dylan Moran (Black Books). It looks good, creepy and thoughtful at the same time. Really, really hard to pin down the genre of this one.
M: Agreed, I couldn’t figure out if it was suspense, or introspective, or what. Whichever way, it is intriguing.
E: Though it’s perhaps a bit grim for a summer movie, I’m fascinated by the trailer as well. Clearly it takes religion seriously, which is unusual even for movies about the clergy. Although I can’t help wondering if Gethsemene wouldn’t have been a more appropriate name — not the hill where Jesus died, but the one where he went to contemplate the terrible death he knew was coming.
M: Oh, very good call. Though, we don’t know yet the outcome, so maybe, maybe not.
M: Remember just last month that we were discussing Daniel Radcliffe? Well, we’ll get a decent opportunity to judge his acting skills again with this rom-com. Despite that this looks like a formulaic entry into the “start as best friends, fall for each other” sub-genre, I think it actually looks pretty good. And it has new “It” guy Adam Driver! Still can’t figure out how he became an “It” guy.
E: You and me both, bro.
C: This does look cute, but I’m suspicious of the fact that the (white, blonde) female lead character’s name is Chantry. Chantry??! Surely there’s a mark one could hit between the inevitable “Kate” and so-quirky-it-hurts?
E: Yes. That has my eyes rolling up into my head. Trying to be too cutesy.
M: I don’t know, compared to names in the Harry Potter books it seems normal-ish.
C: That’s a fantasy story, though.
E: Yes, you’re basically making our point.
M: My point was that those stories made me realize that I was and still am utterly unfamiliar with many Brit names, like Hermione. So, in that context, maybe just because I, as a “Yank”, am not familiar with Chantry doesn’t mean it’s ridiculous.
E: Okay, fair enough – although as an anglophile I would still rate the name as overly cutesy. Now, I’ve seen this trailer a few times, and I can’t help thinking that the quirkiness feels a bit forced? Also, I am annoyed with the rebirth of the whole preposterous When Harry Met Sally “can men and women really be friends” debate where you take one story and pretend that speaks for all men and women. The answer is yes, men and women can be friends, and no, not all friends are each others soul mates. Duh. Now move on.
C: Boom. Nailed it.
M: *E drops the mic and walks off stage*
C: Maybe that’s just trailer oversimplification, though? We can hope.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
E: This movie, on the other hand, gets none of the good will from me that Guardians of the Galaxy has. I don’t understand why they’re trying to make this a property for adults. It doesn’t work that way.
M: Do you really not understand? Because I can explain in both long and short answers.
C: Yeah, E, you’re slipping.
E: Fine, you tell our readers what the studio execs are thinking, M, and I’ll tell you why it won’t work.
M: The long answer: The industry has seen that box office results for “big summer movies” are driven by two primary demographics, teenage boys and former teenage boys, who are now middle aged and willing to spend their disposable income on remakes and reboots of the properties that they grew up with. Transformers, Spider-Man, everything Marvel, and so on.
E: Aside from the annoying gender bias of that (I watched and read the same movies and books as you did!), I just heard a report on NPR about how teenage boys have stayed away from the box office this summer, which has resulted in a 20% slump from last year’s earnings. And that’s because the studios have been tossing out ridiculous crap like this.
C: Unfortunately, the gender bias isn’t M’s — I say “unfortunately” because he’s just one man and we could beat it out of him — it’s Hollywood’s. The vast majority of movies are made for men.
M: As a point of clarification, it’s not a “bias,” it’s a discrepancy. Bias implies prejudice, which is not based on reason or actual experience. More men/boys go to the movies. Fact, not bias. Clarification over.
C: Um, there’s plenty of debate about the “facts” on that front.
E: For instance, what if Hollywood’s biased assumption about the likelihood of women going to the movies leads them to make movies with no women in them, creating a self-fulfilling loop?
C: But we’ve had this debate before. Returning to the part where I back M up — when I was a kid TMNT was primarily a boy thing, and it’s mostly men my age that I know who are the most excited for this movie. That’s the market Hollywood clearly has in mind.
M: Which leads to my short answer: $
E: I don’t actually disagree with most of what you’ve said. My contention is not that they shouldn’t be trying to make money, but that they shouldn’t expect this to make money. As with John Carter and The Lone Ranger, sometimes it’s painfully obvious when a would-be tentpole is going to fail, months in advance. And I’m 95% sure the movie is going to be lucky to break even at the box office.
M: I’m not a betting man, but I’ll make a wager against you on that one.
E: You really think this movie will work?
M: Do I think it will work? Probably not. But I think it will make money, especially when you include world-wide, video and video game tie-ins.
E: Making money world wide and being a hit are not the same thing. Even flops can make money; I’m saying I’d be very surprised if this was a hit.
M: So, three comments above when you said “they shouldn’t expect this to make money,” you didn’t mean make money? Sorry, my bad.
E: UUUUUUUGH. What I meant was that taking away their cheesy grins is not going to make the turtles more palatable to audiences; if anything, trying to make them serious is going to hurt audience satisfaction.
C: Making the turtles more serious is already a trend in the TV versions of the past decade, though.
E: But if you’re depending on nostalgia, how does that help? Devoted fanboys may show, Megan Fox superfans may show; the rest of the world won’t. Stop trying to make the Turtles happen, Hollywood.
C: I think you might be underestimating the Turtles. But we’ll see!
The Hundred-Foot Journey
E: This is the movie for me! Helen Mirren stars as an imperious, supercilious chef whose Michelin star rated restaurant gets some competition from an Indian family who puts a restaurant a hundred feet across the street in her sleepy French town.
C: Mmmm, Indian food… I mean, that sounds good!
M: In fact it’s making me hungry, I think I may get curry for lunch today. That aside, Mirren is amazing, one of the rare actors who has had a successful career for her entire adult life, and only keeps getting both better and more famous.
E: Chocolat‘s Lasse Hallstrom is back and looks to be in peak form.
M: This is one of those rare movies where the commercial actually mentions the director by name… out loud. Pretty strange, considering Hallstrom’s track record since Cider House Rules and Chocolat is pretty spotty.
E: Ah, but it’s trying to hit exactly the same sweet spot at Chocolat, so I can see why they want us to remember it: gorgeous, sensuous food and landscapes, one of the great dames of British theater, and gooey romance. They also name-checking executive producers Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg, as if Mirren and Halstrom weren’t proof enough of class. Now, is it incredibly predictable looking? Yes. Do I really care? Nope.
C: Me neither. Definitely adding this to my “need to see” list!
Into The Storm
M: I have to say, this one baffled me. When I read the description, it sounded like a low budget documentary, or mockumentary. A group of high school students document a tornado and its aftermath. Then I saw the trailer, which makes it look like a Godzilla movie. Kinda nuts. C will be excited, though, Richard Armitage is in it.
C: WHAT? NO! OMG.
E: Four tornados and a twister of fire? That looks preposterous.
C: Sigh. Why does it have to be such a terrible movie? Why won’t anyone other than Peter Jackson give Richard Armitage a good job?? This looks like Twister, only significantly more generic and of worse quality.
E: Which, seriously. Chew on that. 15 years on, and it’s less realistic than Twister. Ugh.
M: At least it looks like it’s a step up from Sharknado.
E: Ah, but all that means is that it won’t be the fun kind of bad. It’ll just be bad.
M: Fair point.
Step Up: All In
M: They’re still making Step Up movies?
E: No, why do you ask?
M: Hmmm, no reason. What was next?
M: The plot of this sounds like a bad Skinemax movie… a group of college friends reunite a few years later after one attempts suicide. Old crushes and resentments are rekindled. How did they not get the entire Kardashian family to star in this?
C: It sounds more like a 1980s ensemble dramedy to me — isn’t that the plot of The Big Chill? (I’ve never seen it; only heard the soundtrack.)
E: It doesn’t remotely live up to the brilliant soundtrack (which you’ve no doubt heard because I wore out three cassette tapes of it back in the day), so no worries. The concept makes me think of The Big Chill as well as Peter’s Friends – which is something the movie’s explicitly aiming for, judging from the trailer.
M: I actually thought of The Big Chill, too, but in that the suicide attempt was successful, and the stars were much bigger and more respected.
C: Hmm. So you’re saying you’d rather watch Jeff Goldblum, Glenn Close, and Kevin Kline’s sexual antics than those of Aubrey Plaza, Maggie Grace, Max Minghella, Nate Parker, Jason Ritter, Jane Levy, and Max Greenfield? Not sure a lot of people would be with you on that one.
E: Do you really think a lot of people even know who Nate Parker and Max Mingella are? He’s right, Goldblum, Kline and Close certainly were (and probably still are) more famous. Also, it’s not like anyone’s asking people to care about their bed-swapping now.
C: I’m just saying, they’re young sexy people and most of them have name or at least face recognition among younger audiences. They’re just TV stars instead of movie stars, but it’s a different era — that division doesn’t matter much anymore.
E: That’s true enough. This month’s list is all about television stars. I’m a fan of Suburgatory‘s Jane Levy, anyway, and of course the wonderful Max Greenfield from New Girl and Veronica Mars.
M: You realize you’re making my “bad Skinemax movie” point, and not your “better cast than Big Chill” point, right? Would people be more interested in seeing this cast’s sexual antics? Yes. Would they be more interested in seeing the other cast act? I think so.
Let’s Be Cops
M: Speaking of New Girl, I love that show and specifically Jake Johnson, but this looks so bad.
E: It looks like a steaming load of morally offensive crap.
M: Well put, totally stealing that.
C: The premise is that Nick and Coach (playing other characters, but only barely) go to a Halloween costume dressed as cops, and have so much fun flexing fake authority by pretending to be real cops, they decide to do this all the time. If that sounds stupid, well, the movie looks stupider.
E: Lots of pulling over hot women to sexually harass them, because that kind of abuse of power is so hilarious.
M: Yes, So, so funny. That all said, it reminds me of when 21 Jump Street came out, and we all (not just us, everyone) expected it to be horrible, and it was actually mildly funny.
C: You’re welcome to go see it for us, just in case.
M: Yeah, no.
The Expendables 3
E: My favorite thing about this action hero smorgasbord? The fact that it also stars Kelsey Grammer!
M: I know, right!!! And the fact that they throw his name up in the credits like he’s just another one of the aging actions stars! Stallone! Lundgren! Gibson! Grammer!
C: That does not fail to crack me up each time!
M: Related point, I think that every comment we make about this movie should end with at least one exclamation point!
M: Okay, admission time… I’ve never read the book.
E: You’ll be surprised to learn that neither did I.
C: Not that surprised. It’s from 1993, so was actually new-ish back when I was forced to read it in middle school and traumatized for life. Of course it’s a Very Important And Well Written Work Of Children’s Literature. I’m just saying: traumatized.
M: I’m pretty sure that’s exactly why I haven’t, since it’s the type YA seemingly-utopian-but-secretly-dystopian lit I usually go for.
E: I guess that makes sense — perhaps you even warned us off. I understand that they changed a lot of Lois Lowry’s classic novel — most obviously aging the protagonist (played by Brenton Thwaites, 25) in the hopes of making him Edward Cullen rather than Harry Potter (or even Cedric Diggory).
C: Weird. So weird. Based on my memories of the book, Jonas as a sex symbol does not compute.
M: That’s apparently the thing to do with YA adaptations, though, like Percy Jackson, Hunger Games, Divergent and so on.
E: Okay, not to quibble, but in The Hunger Games and Divergent they cast actors older than the characters, but didn’t change the actual age of the character. For Percy Jackson and The Giver, they changed the age of the character AND cast a 20-something who’s pretending to be a teen.
M: I’ll quibble with Divergent, where they very glaringly left out any discussion of Four’s age or the length of time he’d been in Dauntless, so as to make 30 year old Theo James not have to try to pass for 18. But enough of this, what else does the Giver adaptation have to offer?
E: Well, they managed to get Jeff Bridges, Alexander Skarsgaard and Meryl Streep involved, which makes me think it might not be traumatizing. Streep certainly didn’t become the most nominated actor in Oscar history by picking bad projects. Of course, they got Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson to take part in Beautiful Creatures, which isn’t a Very Important And Well Written Work Of Children’s Literature, proving even Oscar-winning actors with great taste can be hoodwinked (or bought) some of the time.
C: The book’s definitely finding a new market as the obvious precursor to Hunger Games, Divergent and their ilk — publishers would like to reframe it as trendy YA, and Lowry obligingly started writing follow-up books — so the timing of this adaptation makes sense. There are a lot of people who would passionately like for this movie to be good. But that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from butchering children’s classics in the recent past.
M: And everything else that they think might be the next Hunger Games or Harry Potter or Twilight…
E: And instead, they mostly turn out to be (not so) Beautiful Creatures.
E: I did read The Summer of My German Soldier, though, so I knew that there were German POWs in the US during WWII — the subject of this film.
C: That’s funny, because “Fort McCoy” sounds like a better title for a Western.
M: I was thinking the same thing!
E: Totally. Perhaps confusingly, the film is named for the army base where barber Eric Stolz moves his family so he can serve his country by clipping hair for the military since he’s (he hopes) too old to be drafted. His teenage daughter (Nikita‘s Lyndsy Fonesca) makes eyes at an America soldier; his younger one makes friends with a very young prisoner of war. It all looks very pretty, and the trailer’s a bit stiff and old fashioned.
C: But that’s a minor quibble compared to this: the movie hit festivals in 2011. Yup, you read that right. The fact that it’s taken them this long to find a distributor is not encouraging, even if this looks like exactly the kind of sweet, touching wartime drama that out to be able to find its niche. Should have gone to TV, perhaps?
E: It kind of looks like a really well-made Hallmark movie, to be honest. I am of two minds about this. And in general, the theatrical release lag’s a bad sign. But how did it do on the festival circuit, I wonder? Because you have admire the tenacity of filmmakers who kept trying to get a distribution deal for three years.
M: Yeah, remember when we discussed how Monuments Men seemed like something that shouldn’t have been released in February, and wondered if it was bucking the trend of releasing troubled projects in off months? Then it flopped and we didn’t wonder any more? There’s a reason these trends exist.
C: I don’t know though, it won a few awards at those festivals. And here’s one cool tidbit — Kate Connor, who writes and co-directs as well as co-starring, based the story on her family and plays her own grandmother. Eric Stoltz also stars, with appearances by Camryn Manheim (The Practice) and Brendan Fehr (Roswell). A lot of blasts from the past!
E: Oh. That’s kind of cool…
M: Well, except Manheim, I find her insufferable.
E: Really? I like her. Now I really want this to be good.
M: This is actually making me think of a different project that seems quite similar, George Takei’s Broadway-bound play Allegiance. It’s based somewhat on his experiences in the Japanese internment camps here in the US during WWII, another little known piece of the history of that war. I’d rather save up and go see Allegiance.
E: You’re going to have to skip more than one movie to buy a ticket to a Broadway show. I wish live theater wasn’t so ruinously expensive, because I’d love to see Allegiance (and about five other plays) too!
Are You Here
E: How can a movie starring Amy Poehler, Zach Galifinakis and Owen Wilson fly under the radar like this one has?
M: By being horrible? Is that a trick question?
C: Galifinakis plays an unhinged guy who inherits his father’s home and business (instead of Poehler, who I think plays the goody-two-shoes sister here). Wilson, his longtime best friend, goes with him to help him deal with the sudden change. Seems like a mix of awkward humor and family/friend dynamics, plus an effort to say something profound about friendship. Also, Wilson plays a character named Steve Dallas. Really.
E: No! Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor.
M: Maybe it’s an homage to Bloom County? Maybe?
E: It has to be. Awesome!
C: This movie looks so weird. First off, there’s something the ladies will be sad to hear: it stars Michael Fassbender… as a man who wears a cartoonish plaster head over his real head and never takes it off. Domhnall Gleeson and Maggie Gyllenhaal play his friends who go with him as he tours Texas as a musician? Something like that. So. Weird.
M: Okay, I have a very important question that’s been bothering me (only mildly) for a while now. How the heck do you pronounce “Domhnall”?
C: I’ve found the safest possible way of answering this question is to refer it to the person himself. Based on this clip on Youtube, it sounds like “DOE-mnull,” the ‘m’ almost swallowed.
E: To go back to C’s question, Maggie and Domhnall are in an up-and-coming band together, and Fassbender’s the crazy genius frontman. In a papier-mâché head. It’s nice to see Bill Weasley adding to August’s list of working Harry Potter alums…
M: …as well as joining his fellow HP alum and dad, Calvary‘s Brendan, as Gleesons releasing movies this month…
E: …but yikes. I can’t get past the idea of having Fassbender in a movie where you never actually see his face. On the other hand, I got a mild kick out of him describing his facial expressions (“welcoming smile!”) to his conversational partners.
M: I actually like it. It reminds me of an interview with Brad Pitt where he was gushing in his admiration of Sean Penn because of how willing he is to be made to look ugly for his roles.
C: Though Sean Penn to begin with is, you know, no Brad Pitt, so to speak.
M: Still, I think it takes a lot for attractive actors and actresses to play a role where they are either unattractive or unseen. While unattractive may be an attempt to get award season recognition (“My gosh, a beautiful person played ugly, they must be the greatest actor ever!”), unseen is really, really tough. Good for him.
Life After Beth
C: I could never have imagined this was something I’d have to say, but: Enough with the comedy zombie movies already! Here, Aubrey Plaza plays the late, lamented, but mysteriously resurrected girlfriend of Dane DeHaan, who’s excited to have her back from the dead until he realizes she is gradually becoming a bloodthirsty monster.
E: So it’s a big month for the Parks & Rec cast, too.
C: April and Andy, anyhow.
M: And Leslie.
C: This film’s conceit basically amounts to: she’s so cute! but keeps eating people! uh oh, what’s a lovestruck guy gonna do?
E: Sorry, C, but I have to admit it: the preview made me laugh.
M: Meh. Sounds more Emily or Charlotte Bronte, as opposed to Anne.
C: Except none of them wrote comedies…
E: Or zombie stories…
C: But… yeah, I guess? Oh, and Anna Kendrick’s in it too, though not a big role judging by her one line in the trailer.
E: As well as Molly Shannon and John C. Reilly as Beth’s parents.
The One I Love
E: According to the trailer, this is an acclaimed romantic comedy with a sci-fi twist too delicious to be revealed. Of course, if you watch the trailer (let alone look at the poster, which looks like it’s advertising a horror movie), you don’t get romance or laugh-out-loud comedy from it, so what I’m left with is just weirdness. Therapist Ted Danson sends Elizabeth Moss and Mark Duplass to a couples retreat for the weekend, but there’s something seriously game-changing going on in the house.
M: Interesting. I like Mark Duplass on The League, but have yet to see him outside of that in anything worthwhile.
E: Huh. It’s looking like August is the Month of Sibling-Approved Sitcom Stars.
M: Plus, “MOVIE-CHANGING TWISTS!!” always intrigue me, but if you’re announcing before the movie comes out that there’s a twist, well, that kind of ruins it a bit, doesn’t it?
C: Yes, and I think some filmmakers forget that you can’t just have a twist; you also need a hook. “Couple goes on a retreat” is not exactly “I see dead people.”
A Trip To Italy
E: This appears to be a sequel to something I’ve never seen or heard of?
C: Strangely, it’s the sequel to a BBC series (“The Trip”) which was edited down into a movie of the same title; likewise, “A Trip to Italy” is just an edited version of the second season of the TV series. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play fictionalized versions of themselves, and go around reviewing restaurants.
E: Oh. That’s odd. The best exchange of the trailer: “Where do you stand on Michael Bublé ?” “His windpipe.” I like Michael Bublé, but that was school yard taunting done fairly well.
M: I knew it would be something like that, but it still made me laugh.
E: Indeed. I’m not in principle opposed to a film where two men talk and eat their way through Italy, but I don’t know if these are the men who could interest me. Perhaps if they whined less about girls half their age not seeing them as prospective sexual partners?
C: These two already appeared as themselves in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (2006), which was a total ripoff of Adaptation (2002), and insufferably convinced of its own nonexistent cleverness. Apparently British audiences wanted more, but I’ll pass.
M: I find that British audiences often enjoy nonexistent cleverness.
C: Totally unlike Americans in that way.
M: No, ours prefer nonexistent intelligence.
Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
M: Speaking of nonexistent intelligence. Or cleverness. Or anything else positive-ness.
E: I love film noir, and I really wanted to like the first Sin City, but it’s just too much sexist stupidity. I can’t imagine the sequel could be any better. I know Frank Miller has lots of cred with comic book nerds, but ick. Sorry.
C: Entirely agreed. Sorry, comics dudes.
M: He has cred with a certain subset of comic book nerds, not by any means all. And yeah, blech. The first one was visually interesting, but everything else about it was, as you put it above, E, a steaming load of morally offensive crap.
If I Stay
C: Based on a recent YA novel, this is about a teenage girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) whose life is good — budding musical genius, supportive parents, great boyfriend — when an accident kills her parents and little brother, and leaves her badly injured and in a coma. The story, curiously, is about her out-of-body experience during which she must decide if it’s worth fighting for life when she’s lost her family and (implied, I think?) the ability to play the cello. Sort of The Lovely Bones, with a little Just Like Heaven thrown in.
M: Or like a whole movie of the King’s Cross station scene in Deathly Hallows Part 2, but without the dying horcrux (presumably).
C: Hm, nice parallel.
E: I’m not sure about the no more cello part of your summary, but yes. I think it’s an interesting idea, anyway — this weighing of one’s life — and I’ll be curious to see the reviews.
When the Game Stands Tall
C: Before looking this up I spent several minutes puzzling over the title. How does a game stand tall? How does a game stand, period? What kind of game are we talking about — bocce? Monopoly? I finally concluded it must be about hunting; deer and other “game” standing tall and proud as you shoot them. But, no. Turns out it’s about football.
M: There are clearly not enough inspirational bocce movies!
E: So true. (And sadly, C, your quibble has legs even if the title doesn’t. Dreadful, dreadful metaphor.)
C: Basically, this looks like Friday Night Lights, but with Jim Caviezel as the good-guy coach. I know people love these kinds of movies and I have nothing negative to say about it individually, but I wish we as a country could take a harder look at the consequences of idolizing talented young male sports players.
M: There you go with the sexism again. Have you seen all the teenage female tennis players, or the teen female pop stars? Okay, before this blows up, I’m totally kidding. I agree about the over-adoration of prodigy sports stars, and the consequences it brings. Like, for example, an NHL player whose name I won’t mention who a friend of mine taught in high school. The student would not do his English homework, and would explain it away saying “yeah, I’m gonna be a millionaire, why should I bother?”
C: Working at a huge sports university, that… does not shock me.
E: I’m going to take a wild guess and bet that Jim Caviezel’s character wouldn’t put up with that sort of attitude from his players. If he did, he wouldn’t be inspirational! I’m sure he’s teaching them — what was the line Mitt Romney tried to steal from Friday Night Lights? Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose?
C: Maybe Caviezel’s slogan will be: “Avoid brain injuries, respect women, do your homework.”
Love is Strange
E: Longtime couple Alfred Molina and John Lithgow have a beautiful wedding in lower Manhattan, only to have their perfect New York life fall apart when Molina loses his job teaching music at a Catholic school (sigh) and they lose their apartment. Revelatory difficulties ensue — and really great early reviews do, too.
C: Certainly a very timely topic. And two actors who are immensely likeable, though this seems a more typically Molina-style film. Not that I doubt Lithgow’s ability to pull off the small thoughtful movie.
M: I think Lithgow doesn’t get enough credit for his range and ability to be restrained.
E: The trailer – which features Marissa Tomei as well – looks really promising. Not something I need to see on the big screen, but it seems like something thoughtful and engaging. Is it big enough to matter come Oscar time? We’ll find out.
Expedition to the End of the World
C: Adventure film — fiction? documentary? I’m unclear — about people traveling around the far reaches of the earth in an old-style sailing ship. They discover things, they shoot things, there’s lots of stunning scenery.
E: Artists. Scientists. A three-mast schooner. Lots of conversations about philosophy. Potential stone age archaeological finds and also new species. Chunks falling off icebergs. Lots of subtitles. As C said, it claims to be a documentary “adventure for the 21st century,” but that’s hard to swallow. It’s a bafflement.
M: Yeah, it sounds like as much of a documentary as Forrest Gump was.
C: I feel like that list of things makes it sound better than the trailer made it look, too.
E: Oh yes.
To Be Takei
E: Documentary on the beloved Star Trek icon/activist/internet humorist which takes in his early youth in the above mentioned internment camp and his days in Hollywood’s closet.
C: I saw him on the Daily Show promoting this and wow, is Takei an eloquent guy. I’ll wait for Netflix, but it sounds good.
M: As noted above, I’m eagerly awaiting the Broadway musical. This? Like C, it’s a Netflixer.
E: It’s not like you’d have any easy time finding it in theaters. I can’t wait to see it in whatever medium, though.
The November Man
E: Just in case you weren’t aware that summer was ending…
C: Because it just wouldn’t work to call a spy thriller The August Man. Pierce Brosnan reunites with the director of Dante’s Peak (!) for this adaptation of an ’80s spy novel series about an ex-CIA agent clashing with a former protégé (Luke Bracey). There’s a woman he has to protect too, obviously (Olga Kurylenko).
M: E and I have liked Brosnan back to his days as Remington Steele, but adapting 80’s (read: Cold War) spy thrillers is tricky, since the world has changed significantly since then. Though, to an extent it appears to be falling back into its Cold War ways.
C: How is this the first horror movie we’ve talked about so far in August? This has been an intriguingly varied month of movies.
E: Like I said, I assumed that The One I Love was going to be the first one based on the artwork. But no.
M: Ancestral home, creepy deserted hospital, restless spirit, young girl, blah blah blah. Wake me up when we get to another YA adaptation.
E: Talk about your high concept film; it’s not YA, but you might want to wake up anyway, M. Robin Wright plays actress Robin Wright, star of The Princess Bride, who allows a Hollywood studio to digitize her, enabling them to make movies with her image forever in return for enough money to save her son (Kodi McPhee-Smith) from going blind. I was willing to accept this premise, having read Connie Willis’s Remake, but I was unprepared for what followed the set up, and it’s made me really curious about this movie.
C: Also includes Harvey Keitel, John Hamm, Tim Robbins, and Paul Giamatti. My boyfriend described the trailer as “Being Roger Rabbit Malkovich,” which seems about right. WOW, it looks strange. Totally totally strange. But in a fascinating way.
M: I saw it as more Roger Rabbit meets Inception, but yeah. Very unexpected, and I’m not sure I exactly understand where they’re going with it. Fascinating is a good word.
E: I totally agree; part of the film is made by a very unexpected team of Oscar nominees, and looks like a complete headtrip. And I love that Wright — so spectacular in House of Cards — gets a chance to really show off her stuff.
As Above, So Below
M: C, you spoke too soon about horror movies.
E: Hot young archaeologists hunt for treasure in the catacombs below Paris with a home video recorder. I’m sure that will be full of sunshine and lollipops!
M: And rainbows and unicorns!
C: Oo, a home video recorder! At least that’s original.
E: C, isn’t Perdita Weeks (co-starring in this bit of tripe) related to Honeysuckle Weeks? Speaking of surprising British names…
C: Sisters! And they have a brother named Rollo, also an actor. Let us take this moment to officially thank their parents.
M: Are the Weeks (Weekses?) by any chance related to the Zappas?
Life Of Crime
C: Tim Robbins and girlfriend Isla Fisher (and let’s pause to say HOW GROSS IS THAT?!) are off on a naughty weekend when Robbins’ character gets a ransom call; his wife played by Jennifer Aniston (seriously???) has been kidnapped. The criminals want him to pay for her safe return, but he couldn’t care less. Yes. Honestly. That really is the concept of this “comedy,” described as “a prequel of sorts to Jackie Brown” [the novel].
E: Does that make any sense at all?
M: My word, that’s a steaming load of morally offensive crap!
C: The only thing about this that doesn’t bring bile to the back of my throat is the presence of Yasiin Bey, better known as Mos Def. Gosh, I like that guy. Put him in something good, movie people!
M: Seriously, why did he have to be in this? I love him, sooooo underrated.
E: He was in Begin Again, which I definitely can recommend (and applaud his performance in). See that if it’s still in your area!
C: And so we end this August movie preview by recommending, strongly, that you see a film from July before it’s too late.