Little Is The New Big: July 2015 Movie Preview

C: After a May and June featuring some strong contenders to the 2015 Best Summer Movie title, July opens weakly, but picks up steam toward the middle of the month with the Despicable Me spinoff Minions and the much-awaited yet much-confusion-causing Ant-Man. (“Ant-Man? Really? Well… why not.”)

E: You know what gets me?  That here we are, writing the third of four summer previews — and my kids have been out of school for only one week.  It’s like the summer’s over before it’s even begun!

M: You know what gets me? I had the heat and seat warmers on in my car yesterday. It’s like summer’s never going to begin!

C: Yeesh, folk. We had two cold days after a month of 80-degree weather. Luckily, the kids can now catch up on Inside Out and all the other goodies!

E: 80-degree weather? What?

M: It must be warmer down there, C. But we digress. On to more important things, like this: how you can say July’s starting off slow? There’s a Magic Mike sequel and another Terminator sequel!!!! I mean, how can you contain your excitement?

E: Hmm, let me think.

July 1st Magic Mike XXL, Terminator Genisys, Jimmy’s Hall, Amy

July 10thMinions, Self/Less, The GallowsBoulevard, Do I Sound Gay

July 17thAnt-Man, Trainwreck, Mr. Holmes

July 24thPaper Towns, PixelsSouthpaw

July 31stMission: Impossible Rogue Nation, Vacation, The End of the TourThe Gift

July 1 (Wednesday)

Magic Mike XXL (wide)

C: I realize what the title must be in reference to, but I’m just picturing strippers who shop in the Big & Tall section.

E: Snort.

C: Either that or this is the 30th Magic Mike movie and they’re just not great at Roman numerals?

E: Oh, C.  How I love you.

M: Technically, XXX is 30 (and no, I don’t mean the bad Vin Diesel movie). You only go “backwards” by one numeral when counting in Roman. Man, there’s no good way to say that.

C: Yes, M, that’s why I said they’re not good at it.

M: Sorry, my bad, missed that! Quick aside, when typing my sarcastic swipe at this above, I originally called it “Magi Mike.” That’d be an entirely different movie, and one I’d be far more likely to see.

E: Channing Tatum heading to Bethlehem with frankincense? That’s certainly be more surprising than the actual storyline, where Mike and the gang head to a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach, SC. In interviews, Tatum explains that per public requests, they did away with lots of bothersome elements from the first movie, like emotional content and plot, along with director Stephen Soderberg, now relegated to cinematography.

M: I’ve been to Myrtle Beach once… I can’t say that the concept of there being a male stripper convention there is utterly shocking. Nor can I say that I’d expect this sequel to have either plot or emotional content, though I’m pretty sure those two things are the reason the first one was well(ish) received by critics.

C: Apparently Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino aka Troy Barnes, is also in this. But does not strip. That we know of from the commercials.

E: But Stephen “tWitch” Boss of So You Think You Can Dance is in it, and he does.  So there’s that.

M: Donald Glover is awesome, but he couldn’t keep me from giving up on Community, and he can’t get me to see this.

C: He gave up on Community himself, so maybe your tastes are more similar than you know.

Terminator Genisys (wide)

M: Oh goody, another attempt to reboot the Terminator franchise! The previous two attempt have gone so well, what could possibly go wrong?

E: Shall we name them?  The first thing I can’t get over is the spelling.

M: Which is apparently the name of an OS within the movie, and not a reference to the book of Genesis.

C: Except obviously it is, since they’re creating cyborg life.

E: Yes, thank you, C.

M: Seriously, you two. I was clarifying the reason for the spelling. Geesh.

E: If you consider that a reason. However, let’s not spend more time on that issue as the film makers did. My next problem is the plot.

M: I think you’re using that word too loosely.

E: Heh.  Probably.  I just – they couldn’t find a good way to move on from the first story, so they’re reduced to retelling it with weird differences.  How many tortured iterations of this damn story must we suffer through?  The first one was and is so desperately good.  BUT.  Ugh.

C: Terminator 2 is good too. After that…

M: “After that” indeed.

C: Well, in this one John Connor becomes the bad guy and Arnold fights himself. That’s what they’ve come to after sucking all other plot options dry.

E: To backtrack slightly, I liked Terminator 2 far better than the other sequels, but I have time paradox issues with it.

M: I can’t get past the time paradox issues with T2, actually. I just pissed off a bunch of my friends because of that, as we were discussing it in reference to this one. I love the effects in T2, which were ground-breaking at the time, but when you compare the time travel elements in it to the first (which in my opinion handles time travel as well as any fiction I’ve seen or read), it’s such a gaping wound that the whole movie implodes. I’ve passed on the other movies, partly because they follow the time-travel philosophies of 2, not the original.

C: I saw 2 before seeing… well… okay, I’ve never seen all of 1, actually. So I liked it.

M: That needs to be corrected, the first one is fantastic.

E: M and I are in full agreement on the time paradox and the misguided sequels, and the need for C and everyone else to see the first movie.  As for the sequels, including this one — after a point it feels like the producers are making bad fan fiction, exploring every possible alternate universe concept that they can find. And I am not down at all with John Connor being bad, or Arnold being the real hero in this scenario.

M: Or specifically Connor being a cyborg, or Arnold’s terminator “aging,” or Sarah Connor referring to him as “Pops.”

E: No. Just no.

C: Oh, and this may not be nice, but the woman playing Sarah Connor here does not have the gravitas of the previous actresses, to my mind. And now I duck as furious Game of Thrones watchers presumably throw things at my head.

E: I won’t, and here’s why. Emilia Clarke’s Thrones character is chiefly remarkable for her instinct for justice, her grit and her potential; she’s explicitly a very young character who is a great hope but not yet a great governor. And she’s tiny, more emotionally than physically tough; she’s not exactly Linda Hamilton fully formed.

M: In Clarke’s defense, Linda Hamilton in the first movie is FAR from beast-mode physically. That’s strictly the second movie.

E: That’s why I said fully formed!  Dude, you need to read more closely.

M: Because “fully formed” is so clear? If you meant T2 Hamilton, say that. Anyway, back to my point, one of the things that’s great about the first movie is that you see that transformation from naive, “soft” Sarah Connor to the woman who wills Kyle Reese to keep moving and fighting.

E: Yes, but it seems like this Sarah is supposed to be kick ass from the start, no transformation allowed.

M: I don’t watch GoT either, but wouldn’t put that kind of performance past Clarke, from what I’ve heard of her. I just doubt this movie will give her that opportunity.

July 3 (Friday)

Jimmy’s Hall (limited)

C: A.K.A. “The Catholic Church RUINS EVERYTHING.” Or as my boyfriend put it: Serious Footloose.

E: Good one, B!  King of British contemporary indie movies, Ken Loach, takes on a 20th century historical piece, about an Irish Communist who (spoiler) gets his dance hall shut down and is deported from Ireland in 1933.

M: Drat those Catholics, for keeping down the fun-loving, dancing communists!

E: We’re so mean that way.  I don’t think I will ever watch this movie, despite the beautiful setting and appealing-seeming cast.  It’s just so damn depressing — sweet guy opens a community hall and the nasty stern priests wreck the community by stopping people from dancing and expressing who they are through a variety of activities which (by modern standards) seem totally wholesome and positive.

M: Shocking, coming from a film industry that is never politically or religiously biased!

E:  I’m sure there’s more to the history — probably with the political aspect — because it feels so ridiculously one-sided, like one of those awful books you read in Junior High where the great, inspirational teacher gets fired by jealous parents and a short-sighted school board.

M: Again, shocking!

C: Well, that’s what’s super weird about this movie. Because you watch the trailer and all you get is “this man is just super nice! People have fun playing fiddles and dancing with their kids at his hall! and the Church hates fun so they persecute him.” Then you read the Wikipedia summary: “The film tells the story of the deportation to the United States in 1933 of Jimmy Gralton, who led the Revolutionary Workers’ Group, a precursor of the Irish Communist Party, in Leitrim … The title refers to a rural dance hall built by Gralton to expound his political views.” You get literally NO hint whatsoever of that in the trailer.

M: Do I need to say it?

C: I’m amazed you can restrain yourself.

Amy (limited)

E: Acclaimed documentary about tragic soul singer Amy Winehouse, using Hollywood’s best tricks to make you feel how the entertainment industry machine sucked in a vulnerable artist and shredded her.  “I’m not a girl trying to be a star; I’m just a girl who sings.”

M: Winehouse has always been such a sad, sad story to me. You have someone who famously battled addiciton, and during that battle had a breakthrough song that centered on the line “They tried to make me go to rehab and I said ‘No, no, no’,” and no one stepped in and did anything? To the point where she overdosed while the song was still in play on the radio? Ugh, I’m thinking there are a lot of people who had (or still have) trouble sleeping at night over that.

E: Is it weird to say I truly hope that people are plagued with doubt about their role in her implosion?  I get the impression you see a lot of that sort of trouble in this doc, how she was used for her talent but never protected by the people around her.

C: That’s an interesting way to spin her, though, since her image was definitely edgy and tough, not at all that of a fragile victim being pushed around.

M: One does not need to be fragile to be a victim.

C: Okay, yes. Well said.

E: All in all, this looks worth seeing for Winehouse fans as well as people generally interested in the music business and the demands of the modern celebrity lifestyle.

July 10th

Minions (wide)

E: The plot of this Despicable Me spin off film has long been shrouded in secrecy.  Because who cares?  All we need to see are glimpses of adorable, waddling, gibbering minions.

M: MINIONS!!!! I’m in, no strings attached.

C: I knew you’d say that.

E: Eventually, they did release a trailer that gives us a look at the plot — before they met Gru, the minions (particularly lead characters Bob, Kevin and Stu) searched for a villain worth serving.

C: Sandra Bullock as a super-villainess called Scarlet Overkill is pretty exciting.

E: Oh yes. I expect this one — the second of two major animated movies this summer — to rake in huge box office.  I don’t know if it’ll gather reviews as glowing as Inside Out‘s, but it will virtually mint its own money.

M: You don’t expect it to? I not only expect it will not, I’ll guarantee it won’t. You’re comparing a psychology-laden look at the emotional inner workings of a child and her parents, done as a comedy with critic-friendly voice actors, to a 21st century version of the Three Stooges. I LOVE the minions, and think they provided some of the most clever, wittiest humor in the two Despicable Me movies, both of which I love, but I am no critic, and you should know better.

E: You’re probably right, but I think it’s still possible for the reviews to be very good. Critics were certainly fans of the original Despicable Me.

M: No doubt they could be, but they will be no where near Inside Out is my point.

E: Fine, fine. C, got anything else to add?

C: You know that as a non-parent I have less investment in this series, cute as it is. But I’ll point out that this movie has a pretty remarkable cast, including Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, and Geoffrey Rush.

Self/Less (wide)

E: Ryan Reynolds stars as the body that ailing billionaire Ben Kingsley has his consciousness transferred into. Because what rich guy wouldn’t want to trade his own body for Ryan Reynolds’?

C: Is this basically a sci-fi version of that awful looking body-swap movie The Change-Up that Reynolds was in?

E: Oh. I think I had suppressed that movie; it took me a minute to remember what you were talking about.

M: I don’t think it is, no. That one was basically a raunchy version of Big, where the two guys knew each other and each had a whole “grass is greener” thing going on. This one looks fascinating to me, as Kingsley’s character uses wealth and science to live forever,” getting a new body (Reynolds) that he didn’t know was basically stolen.

E: And by stolen, we don’t mean from the morgue.

M: He starts inadvertently intersecting with Reynolds’ memories, and eventually his family.

C: Oh, cool. So more interacting with the type of ideas you get explored from the would-be donated body’s perspective in clone stories like The House of the Scorpion or Mirror Dance.

E: Yes, which I find super fascinating. Similarity to Bujold is good!

M: And I thought Scorpion was fascinating too (definitely the best book I’ve ever been given free for attending a movie!). As we’ve discussed before, this type of sci-fi is right up my alley. I’m really interested to see if the writers (Spanish brothers Alex and David Pastor), director (The Cell‘s Tarsem Singh) and Reynolds can pull it off. I’m sure E will be interested to know that The Good Wife‘s Matthew Goode is prominently involved, as the man who runs the body-swapping agency.

E: Indeed he does bring a nasty panache to his part.

C: He’s British, so he was bound to play a sci-fi villain eventually.

M: They’ll have to add him to those Jaguar commercials.

The Gallows (wide)

M: Yay, horror!

E: I know we’re repeating loops when we talk about horror movies; I’m genuinely sorry about that, because I hate it when critics dismiss entire genres because they’re not to their taste.  But on the other hand, we’re just not fans of most would-be scary movies, especially not of torture porn, which this looks to be, judging from the all-red trailer featuring a girl stuck in an abandoned school and choked with a rope at intermittent intervals.  How is that entertaining?  I don’t even get that.

M: Like E said, it’s not our thing. That aside, this is the type of movie that usually comes out closer to Halloween, as opposed to blockbuster season.

C: Or at the very least, in August, right? August to October is usually horror season.

M: Good point, yes. It looks like a mix of a variety of different horror stereotypes. From what I can tell we’ve got the “someone died and is now haunting this place” trope, mixed with “don’t say the name of the evil thing” and “group of friends sneak into a place they’re not supposed to be with disastrous consequences.” Throw them in with the Blair Witch shaky cam, and the Paranormal Activities/Quarantine color filters… and it looks soooooo fun!

E: And somehow, even without his much-lamented sarcasm font, you can tell M is not being sincere.

Boulevard (limited)

C: Watching this trailer is a good way to feel sad, if that’s what you want in your day right now.

M: Seriously, take a beloved actor who was depressed to the point of taking his own life, release a movie posthumously where he plays a character who is depressed with the life he’s leading? Ugh.

E: Heart-breaking final dramatic role from Robin Williams, as a closeted married man slaving away at a job he hates, who may break out of his shell to protect a young hustler.  Seeing Williams in doubt, in pain — it’s so hard, knowing where his real life pain lead, to see him like that.

M: Not sure if it’s too soon, or that it’s just too close to the truth.

C: Except the closeted older man thing, which is obviously the engine of the character’s sadness here, only I feel like this exact story has been told more than once in film recently. Including the gross age gap between the men. But Robin Williams starring adds an undeniable rawness here.

E: None of which is to say this isn’t a film worth seeing — maybe it’s important to honor his struggle with depression this way? — but it doesn’t look easy to see.

Do I Sound Gay (limited)

E: Filmmaker David Thorpe explores the phenomenon of the “gay voice” in this Sundance documentary.  If you’ve ever thought that a man sounded gay, well, here’s a whole look into how that might have happened, what it consists of, and how gay men (and gay-sounding straight men) feel about it. So, so fascinating.

C: Okay, that is really interesting. We know culture shapes so much — behavior, tastes, opinions, bodies — yet we don’t talk nearly enough about that process.

E: Right?  I will be seeking this one out.

M: Honestly, as fascinating a subject as it is, even when I intend to, I rarely end up watching documentaries. I’m still trying to find a theater showing Batkid Begins, for example, and I want to see that more than any documentary since Hoop Dreams.

E: Agreed; I’m in the same boat with Batkid, much to my frustration.  We’re fortunate to live in an area with lots of art theaters, but documentaries still prove hard to track down.

July 17th

Ant-Man (wide)

C: Paul Rudd! Paul Rudd as a superhero! I don’t care if his power is that he turns tiny and can somehow lead ants as his Minions (TM). This I have to see.

E: I just don’t know about this.  Great cast, some fun looking effects, but still — I lack confidence.

C: When has Marvel let you down lately? I’m just sayin’…

E: That’s fair enough. And Paul Rudd is charming and funny and I enjoy most of what I’ve seen him in.  But — this doesn’t give anyone else pause?

M: Let’s see… Rudd. Marvel. Written by Edgar Wright. No, I’m good. But to expand, I find the sense of humor in the trailers to be fantastic, from Rudd bagging on the name, to Evangeline Lilly punching him in the face, to the fantastic scene with Thomas the Tank Engine, and everything in between. From what I have heard from previews, the plot is really well put together, and that it’s basically a heist movie set in the MCU, and that it’s a really good heist movie. I love me a good heist movie (like The Italian Job or Ocean’s 11), and haven’t been let down by the MCU yet. What’s your cause for trepidation?

E: Ant-man.  ANT-MAN.  There is nothing menacing about a single ant.  Why do I even need to say more than that?

C: I don’t get why that isn’t a selling point to you. How many more stories about big hulky guys (or actual Hulks) can we watch before it starts to get boring? Yes, I’d for sure have rather they changed things up by finally featuring a female superhero instead…

E: Don’t even get me started on that one!

M: Wonder Woman! Eventually we will get at least Wonder Woman.

C: “Least” being the operative word. Anyway, barring that, I’ll take a hero who can’t just win the day by force alone.

E: I mean, fine. I love heists too. I love Lilly’s “that’s how you punch” line, and the train bit is fabulous. But when they need to invent a villain who also miniaturizes himself in order to give Ant-Man someone he can actually fight? That seems a little tortured, no?

C: Okay, well, that part yes.

M: I’m pretty sure the premise is that the bad guy, Corey Stoll’s Darren Cross, “owns” the tech, which Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym (very famous inventor in the Marvel comics and actual creator of Ultron in those) created, and gets Rudd to steal because of Cross’s, well, villainy. I think.

E: Yeah, yeah… I’m not saying I won’t see it, I’m just skeptical about the whole premise.

C: Beyond Superman and Captain America, all superhero premises sound stupid when you first hear of them. How is this dumber than “the Bat-Man”?

M: Or Guardians of the Galaxy, which you loved.

E: Fine, fine, true believers.  I’m still going to wait and see.

Trainwreck (wide)

M: Amy Schumer, trainwreck. But I repeat myself.

C: Judd Apatow flick in which Amy Schumer, a happy serial dater, finds herself unaccountably falling for Bill Hader, who is getting love advice from LeBron James. Actually the latter might be the unaccountable part?

E: Apparently LeBron James is getting really good views.  Who knew?

M: Yeah, they promoted the heck out of this during the NBA playoffs (I wonder why?!?), and I feel like I’m sick of it without having seen it. Honestly, I don’t know if she’s improved very recently, but I’ve seen Schumer’s stand up before, and have always found her to just say crass things, and assume that people will find them funny because she’s a woman. I prefer my comic to, you know, have actual jokes.

C: I honestly don’t know much of her work, but I did like(/weep over) her sketch about aging as an actress.

E: Even though she’s crasser than I prefer my comedians, I really enjoy her show, and I love that she talks about aspects of the female experience people don’t often call attention to.  I’m rooting for this one to be good.

Mr. Holmes (limited)

E: Ian McKellan stars as an aging Sherlock Holmes, a 93-year-old losing his famed mental facilities and trying to piece together the truth of his final case.

C: Basically they took the premise of the rather depressing final sketch from That Mitchell & Webb Look and made it into a movie. One that also looks depressing, but also beautifully produced and potentially quite moving. It takes up the suggestion in one of the stories that Holmes may someday write his own story to correct all of Watson’s creative flourishes as a biographer.

M: You could hardly ask for a better “aging Holmes” than McKellan, so there’s that.

E: Even if they had to (impeccably) age McKellan 20 years to get him there…

C: Just seeing him made up to look that old made me emotional. Too soon after Christopher Lee 😥

M: Who, of course, also played Holmes. Sad.

E: Agreed, sad, though of course what I was thinking was that it could easily make the Best Makeup Oscar shortlist.

M: That aside, the relationship with the young boy he teams with to try to solve the great unsolved case of his career looks fantastic, and I didn’t think it looked depressing at all. I like the look of the mystery, too.

E: I love McKellan’s previous outing with director Bill Condon, Gods & Monsters, I love costar Laura Linney, and generally think this looks gorgeous and promising.  Holmes with the little boy whose name is written on his shirt cuff!  Holmes tending bees!  Even the train bisecting green English pastures looks intriguing.

C: That last sentence might be the most E thing you’ve ever said.

July 24th

Paper Towns (wide)

C: And since every teen in America sobbed through The Fault in Our Stars, we shall now be treated to film renditions of every work by author John Green, starting with this one. Boy pines over the Manic Pixie Dream Girl who lives next door and she inspires him to live “epically.” Garden State with 15-year-olds.

M: Also Spider-Man, without the super powers.

E: Well, at least not everyone in the world knows the ending to this one.  (I class this as “John Green I’m afraid to read because what if it’s as gutting as TFIOS?”)

M: My 15-year-old LOVES it, says it’s not as gut-wrenching as TFIOS (which she also loves), and is trying to get Mrs. M and I to read it before we see the movie. So there’s that.

E: And that’s definitely good to know.  This co-stars Nat Wolff (blind bff Isaac from TFIOS) and supermodel Cara Delevingne as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who magically does look like a high school student. Not that I had heard of her until I heard that they’d cast “supermodel Cara Delevingne.” as the female lead, but apparently there are people out there who do know this kind of thing, and so for them, I affirm what they probably already know.

M: I am not one of those people, and think I will not likely offend her in saying that I doubt C is, either.

C: Right on both counts.

E: So the next question is whether she can really act, something that John Green at least answers in the affirmative.

M: As for the movie, it starts out looking like your typical “teenager pines for then gets the girl next door story,” but takes a detour in the middle where she disappears. Thus begins the “epic teenage road trip”/”find the missing girl” portion of the film. As snarky as I might sound describing that (and I felt really snarky writing it), it actually looks quite good.

E: It might just be.

C: I may be younger than you both, but I think I’m too old for this movie.

Pixels (wide)

C: We hear ominous music and see shots of the depths of space. The serious movie trailer voice portentously intones: “An alien life force has sent real-life video games to attack us.” Then Adam Sandler shows up on screen and it all makes sense.

E: If they do this right — and it will not be an easy thing — this could be hilarious.

M: They won’t, though.

E: I mean, you have to applaud the originality of the premise, anyway.  And the very idea of a giant Pac-man floating through space?  It’s hard to not love that.

M: I LOVE the premise. I love everything I see that doesn’t include Sandler (who lost his fastball long ago) or Kevin James.

E: Thankfully, it’s not just Adam Sandler (who is due for a hit) and Kevin James (whatevs). It’s Josh Gad (getting warmer), Michelle Monaghan as the inevitably too-gorgeous, too-young love interest (sigh), and Peter Dinklage, in a mullet. Sweet!  Also starring Sean Bean and Jane Krakowski.

M: I’m totally there with you. If the amount of time each cast member you just listed spent on screen were to be reversed from what it will actually be, I’d be really excited. However, it’s not, and this is another one that’s been promoted too heavily, and for too long, to the point where I feel like it came out 6 months ago, and is getting released on video now.

E: Huh.  I don’t have the same impression; clearly we’ve watched different TV lately.  But you’re probably right that it won’t live up to the premise — the trailer definitely doesn’t look as promising as the idea sounds.

C: This was literally the first I’ve heard of it. But, you know, I don’t have TV, just the internet.

Southpaw (limited)

C: Do people know that “southpaw” means a lefty? I thought that was a pretty obscure word, like “widdershins,” but I guess it’s more popular in sports talk.

M: It’s something I’ve known for as long as I can remember, but I’m a sports fan, so take that for what it’s worth.

E: I can’t remember not knowing what it meant, either, and I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a sports fan.  Widdershins it ain’t.

M: Anyway, Jake Gyllenhaal stars as the titular “southpaw”, a world champion boxer whose life goes up in flames. The film tracks his subsequent efforts to put it back together. Directed by Training Day‘s Antoine Fuqua, and written by Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter, it promises to be gritty and with characters who are not all bad and not all good.

E: Well, most of the characters.  It looks like the female characters are pretty saintly.

M: Rachel McAdams plays Gyllenhaal’s wife, who **spoiler from the trailer** gets killed by stray bullet fired by a rival of his in a fight, leaving him to try to raise his daughter.

E: And making more than a few mistakes on the way, ones that lead to him not being able to box for a year and so losing his giant mansion and fancy trimmings.

M: In a plot reminiscent of the fabulous Pierce Brosnan movie Evelyn (which everyone should see!), the daughter is taken by child services, and he has to straighten out his life to try to get her back. Forrest Whittaker plays the trainer he works with to try to turn it around.

E: Gyllenhaal just missed out on an Oscar nomination for his last outing in Nightcrawler, starved pencil thin with his hair long and slicked back; that visual couldn’t be more different from his raw, stubbly buffed up fighter here.

M: It’s not quite as extreme, but it’s like when Christian Bale went from The Machinist to Batman Begins.

baleE: Yes, this.

C: Definitely not as extreme as that, though.

July 31st

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation (wide)

M: Tom Cruise proves once again that he knows, to quote my favorite line from one of the American Ninja Warrior announcers, “YOU DON’T WEAR A SHIRT WHEN IT’S BUSINESS TIME!”

E: Snort.

C: Well obviously. There really should be a YouTube super-cut montage of all the best action hero shirt-removal moments. Internet, how could you let me down on this??!

M: Seriously, though, at what point does Tom Cruise cease being a viable lead actor? I looked over his history on BoxOfficeMojo, and he’s not exactly the hit machine he was in the 80’s through the mid 90’s. His last “hit” was the last Mission: Impossible movie, and even that was underwhelming.

E: M, Adam Sandler is still making movies.  Tom Cruise certainly outperforms him, even if none of us like him.

M: Are you arguing that Sandler should still be headlining movies? As for Cruise’s recent record, his last real hit was War of the Worlds. That was Speilberg remaking a classic, if that didn’t make money then nothing ever will. Outside the M:I movies and WotW, you’re talking Minority Report. Between myself and E, only one of our eight kids was born then, and C, who’ll be Dr. C in the near future, hadn’t graduated college.

C: I do think his continued stardom is weird, especially since people kind of loathe him as a human now. But I guess studios still see him as a safe bet.

E: I think that’s partly because movies today get made more because they’re adaptations of popular works, or because of their director- or studio-cred; they’re not just star vehicles. How many movie stars are there who can fill a theater by virtue of their name? Tom Cruise is one of the few people who can still come close to that.

C: Besides Chris Pratt, you mean? 😉

M: Back on topic, the movie itself looks like a mash up of most of the other M:I movies, with lots of action, gadgets, an attractive woman who of course wants Cruise, and a rare funny moment from Simon Pegg.

E: While it doesn’t look quite as fun as the first movie, I actually find myself thinking I could watch this.  The fight scenes look good, the international scenery beautiful, it’s great to see Ving Rhames again, and that stunt with the plane?  Wow.

M: Yeah, that’s definitely a wow moment. Assuming it’s green-screen, but it’s damn good effects work.

E: Alec Baldwin costars as some sort of bureaucrat who wants to close the IMF down…

M: Always be closing!

E: …while Cruise’s Ethan Hunt gets the gang together to take down a mysterious Hydra-like agency known as The Syndicate.  Sure, it’s a totally cliched name, but the M:I movies are all about the originality of the heists and gadgets and stunts, not the plots. The White Queen‘s Rebecca Ferguson, who while far too young for Cruise, seems to stunt-fight extremely well.

C: In case you all were curious, I made a chart of the ages of Tom Cruise’s female co-stars in this movie series plotted against his own age.

Cruise & His Co-Stars(Note: Not having seen Ghost Protocol I had to guess about who qualified as “the girl” in that movie — in the others, there was literally only one female actor in the major supporting cast. I picked Paula Patton, who slightly bucks the [lack of] age curve by being a mere 13 years his junior.)

M: What baffles me is that he and Emmanuelle Beart, from the first one, are only a year apart. That’s very unlike Hollywood!

E: Well, Cruise actually started his career — and his series of marriages — playing against women who were older than he is, so Beart hews more closely to that mold.  So I guess there at least used to be something to like about him after all!

Vacation (wide)

C: I don’t remember the original movies, if I ever saw them, so I particularly enjoyed this exchange in the trailer between Ed Helms’ character and his son: “I’ve never even heard of the original vacation.” “Doesn’t matter. The new vacation will stand on its own.”

M: Oddly enough, I’ve never seen the original. I’ve seen European Vacation.

E: “Look, kids, Big Ben!  Parliament!”

M: My favorite line, too. Also, I love Christmas Vacation, but avoided Vegas Vacation on purpose. We were too young when the first one came out, and I’ve never gone back and seen it. I really like the idea of them making this about the son taking his own family on vacation, rather than doing a complete reboot, though.

E: Despite my ability to quote the most famous lines, I’m not sure I’ve seen any of them all the way through.  But I agree, I like the idea of making it a tradition rather than a reboot.  That might be all I have to say about it, though.

The End of the Tour (limited)

C: Did you ever see Almost Famous?

M: While I’m admitting things… no.

E: Wait, what did he just say? Dang.

M: Yeah, I know…

C: Forget about Aloha for a minute and harken back to that great Cameron Crowe movie.

E: You have to go back almost to Tom Cruise’s heyday, but I think we can manage it.

C: Well, imagine that instead of being about a teenage interviewer who tours with a band, it was about a teenager-ish-looking interviewer who tours with a much less wild writer. You would pretty much have this movie, as least going by the trailer, which proclaims the film to be “a blizzard of heartbreaking insights.”

E: Sure. I get that. I will admit, though, that this is exactly the kind of talky, aspirational stuff I love. I want live this movie.  I want to have that extended conversation about life and aging and art and confidence.

C: Really? I mean, theoretically yes, but when you watch other people have that conversation don’t they just sound pretentious and less deep than they think they are?

E: No, generally. I just start taking part in the conversation in my head. Is that weird?

M: In general? Yes. In general for you? No. However, specific to this movie, did you actually watch the trailer? It looks cold, dull and filled with cigarette smoke. I don’t want to live that, or join in those conversations. I’m with C, I think it’s a theoretical want, not an actual want.

C: The writer in question is David Foster Wallace, played here by Jason Segel in “Marshall’s dad just died” mode.

M: Hmmm, I was thinking more in “Peter after the break up, but before he meets Mila Kunis” in Forgetting Sarah Marshall mode, myself.

C: The journalist is Jesse Eisenberg, in the only mode he seems to have (stuttery).

M: Haha, yeah. I remember a long, long time ago when we reviewed that hamster movie, G Force, commenting that Tracey Morgan was voicing, basically, hamster Tracey Morgan. Well in this it looks like Jesse Eisenberg is playing human Jesse Eisenberg.

E: Having not watched Marshall lose his dad, I look at this and think that Segel is unrecognizable as the affable goof I know from The Muppets and Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

C: That’s because of the David Foster Wallace hair.

M: No, it’s because she’s forgetting the depressed Peter part of FSM. Though the hair is distracting.

E: No, it’s because he was amusingly depressed in FSM.  But it’s also true that the hair is distracting.

The Gift (limited)

C: In case you were confused, this is not a remake of The Gift (2000) with Cate Blanchett, nor a movie of The Gift (1938) by Vladimir Nabokov nor of The Gift (1994) by Danielle Steel. It’s the other gift.

E: And man, it features a lot of literal and metaphorical gifts. Jason Bateman and Joel Edgerton, both fine actors, sully themselves with a very stereotypical looking stalker horror flick.  Jason and his lovely wife…

M: …played by Rebecca Hall, 13 years Bateman’s junior…

E: …move into a beautiful mid-century modern glass house, and Edgerton’s former school mate, Gordo, leaves lots of presents outside their house and watches them through the walls.

M: Is it just me, or does it seem like Edgerton is becoming the new Kevin Hart? I mean, he’s not in everything these days, but he sure is in an awful lot.

E: Maybe?  I don’t feel like he’s quite that omnipresent.  It turns out, of course, that perfect-seeming Bateman is hiding some terrible secret (high school sucks for everyone, apparently). And that Gordo believes going through bad times present a gift to the sufferer.

C: That’s… kindly of him?

E: Well, except I think he might mean he’s going to rain some bad times down on Jason and maybe if he’s lucky it’ll help him grow as a person.

M: Yeah, and when part way through the trailer it mentions being from the people who brought you Insidious, you can guess what Bateman and Edgerton’s high school relationship was really like.

E: I want to say something about glass houses and stones, but I think the moral is not to move into a glass house. And make sure you only go to school with sane people?

M: Or that you are sane people, maybe?

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One comment on “Little Is The New Big: July 2015 Movie Preview

  1. PT TV Cruiser says:

    My favorite movie going sibs, how have you not seen the first Vacation? It was a VHS regular, as well as often played on TV during and since the 80s. Funny that Rusty turns out to be Ed Helm, though more marketable than Anthony Michael Hall now, wouldn’t it be great to throw him some work? Second Rusty (Jason Lively) is related to Blake Lively, surely that would be marketable now? And forget Christmas V’s Johnny Galecki, too busy with Big Bang Theory. and I like the idea of Leslie Mann as Audrey marrying Chris Hemsworth – the first Audrey (Dana Barron) is still working but unfortunately the European one (Dana Hill) died and Juliette Lewis (Christmas V) is too busy doing TV now (Wayward Pines, summer series… ). Only seen parts of Vegas Vacation (the Wayne Newton parts), but they had Ethan Embry and Marisol Nichols as the siblings. Who we kidding, the kids couldn’t even be in the sequels in the 80s, let alone now. I’m guessing Randy Quaid wasn’t even considered.

    And as long as we’re talking about sad Jason Segel, there’s always Freaks & Geeks when Jon Bonham died. He mopes well.

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