E: You know, I must be in an extra good mood. Normally, August’s film slate depresses me. No more tentpoles, scads of horror, nothing interesting. For whatever weird reason, lots of this month’s trailers are making me laugh. Or they look like the kind of dumb fun I might enjoy having.
C: With a new, possibly interesting Fantastic Four movie and a full-length feature appearance from Shaun the Sheep of Wallace and Gromit fame, I think there’s some reason for optimism about August here. Though if you haven’t seen Ant-Man or Inside Out yet, those should probably be at the top of your list.
M: Yeah, I don’t know if I’d say “No more tentpoles” applies to August any more, what with FF4 and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which are both trying to be tentpoles. Late August, yes, but after the success of Guardians of the Galaxy last August, I think studios are realizing they can release things in the first week or two and still cash in on the summer money.
C: Right, why not?
M: I mean, after three to four weeks most movies have already taken in 90% or more of what they will at the box office, so it makes sense to keep early August as an option.
E: On the other hand, look at the last weekend of this month…
M: Seriously, there is nothing opening wide that weekend. Nothing. I don’t know if I can think of a week where nothing opened wide since we started doing this.
E: That’s the kind of barren wasteland we’ll see all through September. But the rest of this month is surprisingly unshabby.
Fantastic Four (wide)
C: Of all the superhero reboots we’ve had recently, this may be the first one that hasn’t felt totally unnecessary. Okay, this and Daredevil.
M: Much like all the Highlander sequels, I just prefer thinking the Ben Affleck Daredevil movie never happened.
C: Totally fair. But when you remake a franchise that was active less than a decade earlier, your justification has to be pretty good. In this case, their justification was: “The earlier ones were pretty darn crappy.”
M: Right. The Spidey reboot was only and entirely about Sony keeping the rights to the character. The Hulk reboot was a combo of trying to get it right and the start of the lead up to Avengers, but it was SOOOOOO close to the Ang Lee version that it was just ridiculous. Plus, it wasn’t that good. This looks good.
E: Ten years ago, when the first Fantastic Four movie came out, the sibs were thrilled. We’d been big fans of the cartoon as kids, and were excited to see it come to fruition.
C: There was a cartoon?
M: There was, yes. Pretty sure she meant “the older sibs.”
C: E, you should really say “M and I” when referring to stuff from before I was born.
E: Oh, let it go already.
C: Let the complete inaccuracy of your statement go? Why? Having looked it up, I’m going to assume you were either watching reruns of the 1960s Hanna-Barbera cartoon or the late ’70s New Fantastic Four? I never even saw the ’90s cartoon, so I’ll assume you guys as twenty-somethings didn’t either.
M: Must have been reruns, because Saturday mornings in the 80’s definitely had Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four together. But we digress.
C: To keep going about the old movie instead of the new one… I was excited for it too, because I liked Ioan Gruffudd (Horatio Hornblower!) and Jessica Alba (Dark Angel was amazing shut up).
M: There’s no need to be defensive about Dark Angel, it was ahead of its time, and would have been a huge hit in this decade.
C: Agreed! It’s basically YA Dystopia: the TV show. Though it did decline in quality… achem, anyway!
E: I liked Gruffudd and also Michael Chiklis, though I was less sure about that Chris Evans guy.
C: To be fair, all doubts were justified. I have no idea how someone could imagined he would be so good as Captain America after his performance as the Human Torch. Kudos to that far-sighted person.
M: Agreed. I couldn’t believe he got cast as Captain America, partly because, well, any actor or actress should really only play one iconic (read: not Daredevil) superhero, and partly because he was Chris Evans. Man, that last phrase has changed its meaning since then. I’m continually surprised at how good he is as Captain America.
C: But honestly, no one put in a good performance in the 2005 or the 2007 sequel.
E: Cheesy is the word that comes to mind.
C: Hammy and cheesy.
M: Okay, overkill. The first one wasn’t great, but it also wasn’t that bad. The sequel was lousy, and killed the franchise.
E: Now that Marvel has come into its own (and Evans has found his true calling), I’m cautiously optimistic about this reboot. I’m still afraid there’s no way to make Reed Richards’ rubberiness not look cheesy, but I’m for sure curious.
C: There’s a number of promising aspects to this. I like that the protagonists are all in their late twenties/early thirties, making them feel more like equals than in the previous version. I’m fascinated by the idea of Jamie Bell — who in his younger days played roles like a ballet dancer and a fragile, disabled Dickens character — playing The Thing. I’m encouraged by the filmmakers’ statement that they see the family dynamic as key to getting back to the roots of the FF. Also, bringing in Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm seems like a great idea on multiple levels (though one can’t help but feel that casting such a gifted black actor as team leader Mr. Fantastic might have dampened grumblings about tokenism while also avoiding the need to change the characters’ relationships). All this said, though, the trailers so far have been a bit lackluster, a bit rote. This puts a serious damper on my excitement.
M: The final trailer, which I saw just this week and linked to above, looks awesome, actually. Dipped into Richards’ childhood, more of the forming of the team… really exciting. I’m optimistic.
C: A last minute update: the early reviews are in, and they’re not good at all. So take that into consideration also.
M: Bummer! It’s a good thing I don’t trust reviews.
Shaun the Sheep (wide)
E: From Aardman Studios, which brought you Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run, comes the adorable looking claymation story of a mischievous young sheep.
C: A sheep you’ll definitely remember if you saw the charming 1995 half-hour film “A Close Shave,” where Gromit gets some help from Shaun in saving Wallace from the manic consequences of his latest invention, the Knit-o-Matic. Shaun may not be quite the American household name that I get the impression he is in Britain, but he’s popular enough that at a craft fair I recently visited with E and her kids, a woman selling Shaun the Sheep child-sized aprons told us she’d been beset all day with requests for the (sadly nonexistent) adult size.
E: That popularity may be due to a series of shorts about Shaun (which sounds an awful lot like “shorn” when spoken with a British accent) that I don’t know about.
C: Oh, neither did I. Neat! Got to track those down.
M: Seriously, you two?!?! Starting in 2007 there have been four seasons and well over 100 episodes of the Shaun the Sheep TV series. How have you missed it entirely? Admitedly, I’ve only seen it here and there, but come on! Anyway, let’s ignore your obliviousness and get to Shaun’s big movie.
E: I’ll oblige. In this feature film, Shaun leads his flock into the Big City to recover their farmer, who was accidentally stranded there during a prank.
M: A prank that anyone familiar (read: not you two) can be sure that Shaun was the instigator of.
E: While there, the sheep need to avoid falling into the clutches of a wily, single-minded animal control officer, their own Javert.
M: And stay out of the pound, where the farmer’s dog, Shaun’s buddy Bitzer, ends up.
E: I’m a big fan of the Oscar-winning “A Close Shave,” so I’m pretty excited for an new ovine adventure. Also, I’m pleased that there’s a new family film coming out, since we’ve already seen the summer’s earlier, excellent options, Minions and Inside Out.
C: I have a lot of faith in Nick Park, but I’m not sure the whiz-bang hijinks in the trailer here have quite the charm I’d have expected. However, that could just be the way the trailer is cut, presumably to appeal to impatient, popcorn-throwing American children.
E: My only qualm is that it looks rather young-skewing, maybe too young for my older kids.
M: Oh, I’m sure based on Aardman’s history that it will be good for them.
Ricki and the Flash (wide)
C: Written by Diablo Cody — remember her?
C: She did Juno and was the biggest deal for about six months in 2007.
M: 2007, you say? That would be the year the Shaun the Sheep TV show debuted! But I digress.
E: Yes, you do. Stop it.
C: Anyway, this is a play on the old absentee-father-rediscovers-the-value-of-family film trope, but with a mother instead.
E: Meryl Streep stars as an aging rock star trying to reconnect with her children after her daughter (played by Streep’s actual daughter, Mamie Gummer) is left by her partner. Awkwardness, anger and eventually, hopefully hilarity ensue.
M: Not sure about hilarity; I think it’s supposed to be — though I doubt they’d choose to word it this way — sentimental schlock.
C: Kevin Kline plays her ex-husband, Audra McDonald the stepmom who took her place in the children’s lives, and Rick Springfield (yes the “Jessie’s Girl” Rick Springfield) is her current love/bandmate.
E: Streep has good luck with fun summer releases (think Mama Mia and The Devil Wears Prada) and this might fit in that vein.
M: Okay, before we end here I have to complain. You know when you feel like you’ve seen the entire movie after watching the trailer? Well, that’s this. So, don’t watch it or keep reading this comment if you don’t want spoilers, but heck, the end the trailer shows Streep and her band playing in a reception hall, with the daughter in what looks like a wedding dress dancing with her on stage. Ummm, thanks for putting that in there, trailer-makers.
C: It’s true, there can’t be many surprises left here.
Dark Places (limited)
E: The first in a bevy of August horror releases.
M: Not quite, I don’t think. This is more psychological thriller and whodunnit than straight-out horror, about a woman whose parents were killed, presumably by her deranged brother, when she was eight. Now in her 30’s, a group that tries to get wrongfully imprisoned people freed convinces her to rethink the case, and visit her brother for the first time. After that, it’s hard to tell who is good and bad and who to trust.
C: That’s pretty intriguing as a premise.
M: If that’s not enough to convince you it’s not horror, check out the cast. Charlize Theron as the main character, Nicholas Hoult as the leader of the do-gooders group, Christina Hendricks, Chloe Grace Moretz and Ant-Man’s Corey Stoll as the brother. Oh, and it’s written by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn.
C: Corey Stoll is dang creepy. This could be very tense and chilling, if well done!
Diary of a Teenage Girl (limited)
C: Picture the kind of small movie about a teenager’s inner life that has whimsical partly-animated sequences and very quirky folk songs playing over the soundtrack. Can you picture it? Diary of a Teenage Girl (awkwardly similar to Anne Frank’s subtitle, in my opinion) is one of those movies.
E: The conceit of this movie is that it’s really a journal — we see everything from the view of Minnie, a boy-crazy teen from the 1970s, incorporating vocal entries onto cassette tape and drawings and fantasies with her real life. Which is all about sex and men and boys, and wondering what those men and boys think about her. And a little bit about her mother, Kristin Wiig, who wonders why she isn’t more obviously boy-crazy.
M: If that sounds good to you, and the trailer looks good to you, have at it. I’ll pass, and forget about this as soon as we’re done writing this.
The Runner (limited)
E: Nicolas Cage is a Lousiana congressman, see? And he’s speaking truth to power about the BP oil spill when of course he gets taken down by a honey trap by those powerful enemies. Will the good man be kept down through public contempt for his philandering? Or will justice triumph?
M: More importantly, will Nic Cage be able to pull off a Cajun accent for 2 hours?
E: Connie Nielson of Gladiator (and this past season of The Good Wife!) costars as Cage’s steely, Robin Wright-in-House Of Cards-like wife.
C: Just the term “honey trap” alone is enough for me not to see this.
M: There are plenty more reasons.
The Prophet (limited)
M: An animated film based on Kahlil Gibran’s book of the same name, which happens to be one of the best selling books of all time. We siblings are kind of partial to this, too, as we’re first cousins several-times-removed with Gibran.
C: It’s the closest thing we have to a claim to fame. Other than this blog, of course!
E: Even if we weren’t, however, this looks stunning. And the voice cast? Liam Neeson, Salma Hayek, Quvenzhane Wallis, John Krasinski, Frank Langella and Alfred Molina? Fantastic.
C: I don’t really think of The Prophet as plot-driven, so it’s an unusual choice for a movie adaptation. What it seems like, though, is that the filmmakers have embraced this, with a visual, emotional, creative, conceptual, non-linear style. Poetry in motion, literally.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (wide)
E: Here’s the last of the great summer tentpoles of 2015 — a remake of the 6o’s television series about American and Soviet spies working together (despite the Cold War) against a common enemy.
C: And all I can say is UGH UGH UGH.
E: Oh? I’m quite hopeful this will be good.
M: Unfortunately, that means that once again, it’s C and me against you.
E: Well, no, maybe I need to rephrase that. I really want this to be good.
M: Okay, maybe we’re on the same page after all.
E: Going by the trailer, it looks pretty terrific!
M: …nope, I was wrong…
E: What’s not to like? Gorgeous people, locations and clothes, with some swagger and fun dialog. Okay, so Armie Hammer and Henry Cavill don’t exactly have perfect track records.
C: “Looks terrific”? Are you kidding me? Could anything look more overtly chauvinist and smarmy than this trailer?
E: C, it LOOKS terrific. It is visually attractive. That’s all I meant.
C: As I’ve mentioned more than once in this space, I’ve been crushing on Henry Cavill since 2002, and I’d be delighted to see him do spy stuff in a nice suit. But watching this trailer felt like having the mustachioed maître d’ of a private gentlemen’s club wink cheekily and shut the door in my face.
M: Okay, so I don’t quite follow that, and I will say it’s supposed to be set in the 60’s, so to make it accurate to the less chauvinistic climate of today would be historically inaccurate. However, the “smarmy” part definitely clicks with me.
C: Well exactly. It’s one thing to be historically accurate about chauvinism (think Agent Carter, for instance), and a whole other thing to use a historical setting as an excuse to enjoy chauvinism.
M: Point taken. Also, it just looks too… well… too Guy Ritchie-ish. Which, of course, is because he’s directing, but still, I like both Cavill and Hammer, and want them to be in good stuff. I’ll just be really surprised if this fits that description. Nothing I’ve seen in the trailers makes me want to see it. It reminds me more of that gawd-awful Chris-Pine-and-Tom-Hardy-fight-over-Reese-Witherspoon flick This Means War than a good James Bond-type spy action adventure film.
E: Wow. I think I need to watch the trailer again, because I didn’t get This Means War at all.
Straight Outta Compton (wide)
E: Interesting-looking flick about the hip hop music titans who made it out of LA neighborhood Compton in the 80’s.
M: Okay, admission time. E will know this, but C may not remember, as she was, like nine at the time. I was a huge NWA fan in the late 80’s. In my defense, my best friend at the time was an African-American boy being raised by a white family, who was trying to relate to what he thought his culture was supposed to be, so we listened to a lot of rap.
C: I completely did not know that you ever liked rap! This revises my whole image of your youthful music tastes.
M: NWA was really talented, more so that most of the groups we listened to. I’m very intrigued by this. I don’t know anyone in the cast other than Paul Giamatti, which in this case I think could be a good thing.
E: Hey, look, it’s another animated movie! Excellent. An evil soccer megastar (voiced by Nicholas Hoult) wants to bulldoze his home town to build a gigantic stadium, and can only be stopped through a high stakes game of soccer played by his old loser rival (Matthew Morrison) leading a team of tiny foosball soccer players magically come to life.
C: Come to life but still tiny, one should specify. But compete against human soccer players.
M: Yeah, I’m all for the fantastic, especially in my animation, but this one seems too far-fetched even for me.
C: This is actually a dub of a 2013 Argentine film.
E: Huh. I guess that explains the soccer-centric plot.
M: Seriously? The animation is top notch!
C: Why the tone of surprise? What do any of us even know about Argentine animation?
M: Just, since we’ve never seen or heard of it before, the odds of it looking better than a lot of major Hollywood studio animation seems surprising. Not impossible, but surprising.
C: To echo your comment above: point taken. Now to our fellow geeks, wanna weep a little? There’s also a UK dub starring Rupert “Ron Weasley” Grint, with Anthony “Giles” Head as the villain. But no, we get the Glee guy. (Okay, and Beast, at least. But RON WEASLEY!)
E: Definite weepage required.
M: Don’t forget, in the attempt to make us weep, that we also get Ariana Grande.
C: Indeed. As to the movie itself, I generally dislike computer animation of humans (they’re better off sticking with toys, fish, and stylized personifications of psychological traits, in my opinion) but if I can get past that, this could be lightly amusing. Who doesn’t enjoy a classic underdog sports story?
M: So, you know I also love my underdog sports stories, fictional or true life, but I like it when I can actually believe there’s a chance at victory.
She’s Funny That Way (limited)
E: Ensemble comedy/backstage sex romp starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston as part of a chain of romantic liaisons. Start with Wilson, the director of a play in rehearsal, who’s married to the star (Kathryn Hahn) but sleeping with call girl Imogen Poots. Somehow, Poots manages to also charm the play’s writer (Will Forte) and maybe even get cast in it along with Hahn and Rhys Ifans. Aniston, meanwhile, plays a therapist who used to date Forte. Also, Wilson gets slapped a lot by women he used to sleep with. Okay.
C: The slapping part sounds fun.
M: From the trailer it’s the only part that looks entertaining.
C: You know what else sounds fun? Imogen Poots. Go on, say it! poots poots poots.
M: Okay, I give you another “point taken” for that, too.
C: Now you’re using it wrong.
E: Moving on… I won’t say that the premise is completely beyond redemption, but it’s pretty sexist, and the early reviews have been awful.
C: This is too sexist for you, but somehow Man from U.N.C.L.E. looks “terrific”?
M: She’s a giant ball of consistency, that sister of ours.
E: Horror movie not set at the prestigious prep school (the first thing that came to my mind) but at an abandoned facility created to help mentally challenged children and teens which instead, of course, oversaw their abuse, neglect and torture. Obviously, a bunch of modern day teens decide to party there, with predictable results.
M: I wonder if teens in real life are as dumb in the places they choose to party as teens in horror movies are?
E: Created — has half the horror movies out there seem to be — by the teams that brought us Paranormal Activity and Insidious. How the heck many people made Paranormal Activity? Don’t they seem to be everywhere?
M: Also, it was directed by the guy that directed Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th and Conan the Barbarian! Umm, check that, it was directed by the guy that directed the lousy remakes of those three movies. SIGN ME UP!
Mistress America (limited)
E: Quirky looking indie about a young girl (Lola Kirke) who gets taken under the wing of her soon-to-be stepsister, indie-darling Greta Gerwig. Gerwig’s Brooke opens up a whole new world; she seems like the embodiment of youth and excitement and the very city of New York.
M: I hope you’re just quoting the trailer, and that you didn’t actually think that yourself.
E: I’m paraphrasing the trailer, yes. Let the relief soak in.
C: According to Wikipedia, Greta Gerwig gained recognition as a prominent member of the “mumblecore film movement.” So that’s a thing.
M: It may be a thing, but using myself as a one-man sample, not a very big thing. I’m guessing it’s a smaller thing than Vocal Fry. I did a quick search and found a “Ten Essential Mumblecore Films” article, and only recognized two of the movies listed. One was Before Sunset, the third movie in a series that started in the 90’s. Not sure it counts.
E: Especially since it’s actually the second movie in the trilogy; Before Midnight was the last. Odd that they’d pick the middle episode…
E: Well anyway, this movie’s cowritten by Gerwig and director Noah Baumbach…
M: Another Mumblecore staple, apparently.
E: Yes. I’m vaguely surprised I’m the only one of us who’ve heard of that. Back to the film, though, of course goes on to show that Brooke doesn’t have it quite as together as her adoring sister-to-be first assumes. The mess is supposed to be part of her Bridget Jones-y charm, though.
C: This does seem like Artsy Indie New York Bridget Jones, actually. Good call.
M: Horror sequel. Cannot. Contain. EXCITEMENT!
E: DUDE! YOU MUST CHILL!
M: Thanks Lloyd Dobler, I’m better now.
E: That’s debatable.
M: Point taken.
C: Better use.
E: Anyway, to this movie, Shannyn Sossamon’s two young boys are corrupted by the spirits haunting their house and by the films, located in a trunk in their basement, of entire families murdered by such evil demons. Ew. Endangered children. Not my cup of tea. If, like M, it’s yours, I suppose it looks well enough made, even if the story is (as it says itself) not remotely new.
M: A horror story that’s not new? Shocking!
E: Sossamon — the early 2000s budding star last seen by me in 2006’s The Holiday — seems to be making horror her comeback vehicle. In the last year, she’s apparently had recurring roles of televised creep fests Sleepy Hollow and Whispering Pines.
C: My primary association with her is the role of Coraline on the short-lived but much-loved vampire series Moonlight, so it’s pretty easy to picture her in other Gothic roles.
M: Much loved by Alex O’Loughlin/Jason Dohring adoring fangirls, at least.
E: Watch that dismissive tone, M.
C: Just because they were both adorable in it doesn’t mean the show didn’t also stand on its own merits!
American Ultra (wide)
M: Jesse Eisenberg, continuing the glorious work of James Franco and Seth Rogen in making this stoner/secret agent action-comedy. Also staring Kristen Stewart, who typically displays about as many facial expressions as John Kerry.
E: Oh, ouch! That one smarts.
C: I will say, for a very simple concept, this does look slightly amusing.
M: I will somewhat reluctantly agree.
C: Slacker clerk Eisenberg is a sleeper agent with no idea that he has superagent programming. When he’s “activated,” he calls his slacker girlfriend (Stewart) and they try to get away from the various bad guys and government guys (led by Topher Grace) trying to control or terminate his powers. The same old “unlikely spy/ass-kicker” plot, this time with a stoner instead of a computer geek or a plus-sized woman.
Hitman: Agent 47 (wide)
C: These colon titles always make me assume there’s a series, or it’s based on something. A quick check proves this to be correct: this is adapting a video game series called Hitman. No one would blame you for thinking they were inspired by Fringe, though, with nameless bald cyborg agents running around menacing humanity.
M: Pretty sure the colon part is to separate it from 2007’s Hitman, which this is a remake/reboot of. Never saw that, so I don’t really know which it is, but it’s definitely the same character based on the same video game.
E: Dumb fun, baby. Lots of Matrix style fighting in this one. Lots of silliness. Rupert Friend (Wickham in the Keira Knightley Pride & Prejudice) stars as 47, some sort of secret agent who kidnaps a woman (Hannah Ware) because she’s “like him” — inherently skilled at super fighting. He gets her to realize this, by the way, by trapping her and making her free herself.
C: Friend is primarily memorable to me as an impressively similar Orlando Bloom knockoff.
E: Right? Didn’t you think it was Bloom with a shaved head at first? I certainly did, until I remembered that he doesn’t seem to make movies anymore.
C: That said, it’s been ten years since P&P so it’s surprising to see him reappearing in a starring role now. But I guess he’s on Homeland?
M: Still trying to find the time to binge-watch that.
E: I get the impression that Zachary Quinto’s character, who says he wants to help 47, is really the villain of the piece. I have no idea what sort of organization either of them belongs to, or to whom they owe their loyalty. I don’t know that I care, though. It just looks fun.
C: That is so weird. We must have watched different trailers, because in the one I watched it looked like Quinto was the hero and Friend the bad guy, and Ware barely appeared at all.
E: Wow, these trailers are all over the map.
M: I think I saw the same trailer as C. 47’s trying to find Ware because her father created the Agent program that created him. Quinto is trying to protect her, Kyle Reese style. Definitely looks mindless. Not sold on the fun part just yet.
E: Lily Tomlin stars as the titular grandmother, who is definitely more sassy than your average grandma. I mean, obviously you’d expect that since she’s played by Lily Tomlin, but this is sassy to the nth degree.
M: The sass being especially focused on her pregnant teenage granddaughter.
E: The film chronicles the quest to find 600 bucks to fund an abortion for Lily’s granddaughter, and it sees the old lady lying to her daughter (Judy Greer), getting a tattoo from a transwoman, and knocking the granddaughter’s quasi boyfriend in the nuts with a hockey stick to get him to pony up some cash.
M: Yes, high moral character on display all over the place in this one.
E: Highlight of the trailer: when Grandma hands her cherubic granddaughter (curly blond bubble of hair, mouth like a bow) her worn copy of The Feminine Mystique. What’s this, the girl asks, shocking and then baffling her relative, is it about the X-Men character?
C: There’s some kind of brilliant mash-up in that just waiting to happen.
Slow Learners (limited)
C: Unfunny-looking movie about man and woman friends (Adam Pally of The Mindy Project and Sarah Burns of nothing-in-particular) following the conventional dirty romcom trajectory.
M: Couldn’t agree more. Given the way this preview has been going, I’m guessing E will think this looks earnest and appealing.
E: This weekend is going to be the definition for me of stuff that I wouldn’t have expected to be interested in but am.
M: And there it is.
E: Look, sorry. I’m not saying I’d see it, but it surprised me a little. This film introduces us to two grown up nerds who decide they want to be cool, and set about making it happen. What they want, they decide in a hilariously awful conversation, is to be the kind of people who have sex in bathrooms.
M: I don’t think “nerd” is a term for anyone who’s socially awkward. They display no other characteristics of being nerds. And no characteristics of being funny.
C: Yeah, agreed.
E: It seems like they figure it out, possibly through one character’s love of research.
M: Well, I think C and I will be content to let you research if this is crap or not.
Learning to Drive (limited)
E: Patricia Clarkson stars as a New Yorker whose husband leaves her for a bimbo (the latest instance of his reccuring “seven year itch”); this time, she uses the event as a reason to finally learn to drive.
M: I haven’t seen enough of Clarkson, she’s really quite a good actress who I unfortunately forget about for long periods of time.
E: Love her. It’s so funny, isn’t it, thinking of adults who don’t learn to drive? I mean, yes, our grandmother only learned to drive in her 70s when her husband died, but it was a lot more normal for individuals (read, women) not to drive when she decided not to learn. Also, oh my gosh, I can’t imagine the horror of our grandfather as a backseat driver.
C: You’re too much in the suburban parenting set. I know a number of adults who don’t drive. If you’re an urbanite, have anxieties, or just want to save a lot of money, it’s not that odd an option.
M: Agreed, where we live, not driving isn’t an option. But for someone living in NYC or Chicago, or some other city (not Boston) where everything is self-contained? Not only is it an option, it’s probably preferable.
C: People manage it in Boston. Or anywhere there’s a bus line.
M: But to your other point, E: no, I wouldn’t want to have seen Pappy as a back-seat driver. Yikes!
E: Anyway, the movie seems to be largely about her friendship with her driving instructor, Ben Kingsley.
C: I worried this was a race-crossing role for him (though of course I know he played Gandhi), but apparently he is half-Indian ethnically. Here he plays a Sikh who dispenses eloquent nuggets of cliched wisdom, as is traditional for people of color in movies, but also seems somewhat of a developed character.
E: Indeed, we see what’s going on in his life too (development that pleased and surprised me), including an arranged marriage. At his age, yes. Maybe this is the movie that should have been called Slow Learners.
M: Whatever it’s called, it looks far better than most of the movies we’ve gone over so far. Kingsley looks to be his usual brilliant self, Clarkson strong, and the snippets we see of their friendship looks genuine.
Being Evel (limited)
E: Like most children of the 70s, M and I were admirers of legendary stuntman Evel Knievel. I remember watching him ride his motorcycle over cars and jumps and caverns in total awe.
M: Honestly, I more remember knowing/hearing about him, as opposed to remembering seeing anything he did myself. Makes me wonder what his fame would have been like in the YouTube/Social Media generation.
E: Totally epic, I’m sure. But he did well enough back in the day. I’m pretty sure we even had a Barbie-sized doll of him. Who wants to date Ken when you could have Evel? Of course my Barbies were more into our similarly sized Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, but that’s probably a story for another time.
C: It sounds like your Barbies were really spoiled for choice!
E: They had it pretty good. Anyway, this is a Behind the Music-like documentary about the tangled life of the famous stuntman, who had all sorts of legal troubles I’d never heard about. At least according to the trailer, the movie explores Evel’s influence on today’s extreme sports practitioners, and thrill seeking aspects of our culture.
M: So, what’s interesting is that I’d never thought about it that way, about the X Games and Jackass (as this movie was made by the Jackass crew), but it’s such an obvious connection now that it’s been pointed out.
Z for Zachariah (limited)
C: Based on — but drastically adapted from — a 1974 young adult novel, this movie deviates from the trend of post-apocalyptic/dystopian YA films by making the heroine (Margot Robbie) an adult instead of a young teen. I’m guessing the filmmakers made that choice to reduce the creep factor, since the male protagonist (here, Chiwetel Ejiofor) already was a mature adult. Oh, and they invented the third character whole cloth.
M: Have you seen how much older than her previous co-stars/love interests have been? Do you remember all our previous discussions on this topic? Russell Crowe et all? When has Hollywood ever cared about that? I think they just wanted the big names, and the adult romances.
C: No, I mean the girl in the book is like 13 or 14. Hollywood doesn’t usually go there. In movies, anyway.
M: Point taken.
E: Robbie — almost unrecognizable as a brunette — operates a farm in a beautiful valley, mysteriously uncontaminated after the “end of the world.” Into her protected haven come two strangers, first Ejiofor, who slowly courts her, then Chris Pine. What happens when you think you’re alone in the world, and then you aren’t? Maybe Robbie was better off alone…
M: Sure as heck looks like it, and sure as heck looks dull. When there’s a love triangle mixed into a plot, sometimes… SOMEtimes it can work. When it’s the entire plot?
C: I think it’s meant as a sort of psychological, thinky piece. “What would you do…”
E: The first arrival, smart and patient Ejiofor, has settled in comfortably, but the compelling Pine disrupts their tentative harmony. There’s lots of “you can’t trust him” and “no, you can’t trust him” and lots of confusing attraction and power dynamics between Robbie and both men.
M: Yeah, Pine’s character is clearly not supposed to look trustworthy. Just hot.
C: Heads up, guys: I’m gonna delve right into the realm of taboo for a moment. The premise here is that these characters may well be the only people left alive on Earth. Yet they’re apparently fixated on having a (potentially fatal, if the hints at the end of the trailer are meaningful) love triangle. I’m sorry, but if all of human society is gone, isn’t a nontraditional arrangement clearly the practical way to go here?
M: Not sure that dealing with a remotest-of-remote hypothetical is really that taboo, but yeah, I think you work it out in that circumstance. If you want to go really taboo… if they did work it out and had a bunch of kids, their kids would have to procreate with each other.
C: Right, so a wider DNA pool seems a better idea.
E: Still not very wide, but a genetic step up in terms of repopulating the earth, yes.
M: Don’t see a lot of YA fiction about that, do you.
When Animals Dream (limited)
E: Truly creepy looking Danish film about a teenager who lives with her parents on a small island, helping to take care of them, until strange changes take her over. Okay, so this weekend is clearly the weekend of horror, and I probably didn’t need to import a foreign film onto this list to prove that. But. This is the one that looks genuinely chilling. If I wanted to go to the movies to freak the heck out, this is definitely the one I’d see.
C: Nope nope nope. Waaaay too scary for me.
M: Honestly, I saw about 4 screen caps when looking up the trailer, and didn’t even bother watching the trailer. The next time I enjoy watching someone with blood flowing out of their mouth will be the first. If I’m going to watch a Danish movie, it’s not going to be to watch people bleed from the mouth.
E: Emma Watson stars as the lone survivor of massacre, and Ethan Hawke is the detective still trying to figure out what happened to her family back when she was a little girl.
M: With the help of David “Professor Lupin” Thewlis, no less. And what happened is very shrouded.
E: Something Satanic, perhaps? Some sort of ritual in an enormous barn? He uses hypnotic regression in an attempt to find out. And guess what? I know you’ll find it hard to believe, but it looks like maybe he should have left well enough alone.
M: Looks really creepy, but creepy in a good way, as opposed to the usual Fall movie season creepy. More in a Doug Hutchinson in The X Files or The Green Mile kind of way. Thankfully, also not in a Doug Hutchinson’s real life kind of way.
E: Ha. Nicely done, M.
C: What on earth is Emma Watson doing in this movie? She’s glorious! Where are the glorious roles for her, dammit?
M: I wouldn’t discount this as being something she really wanted to do. Pretty sure the HP movies have made her wealthy beyond needing to ever work again, so my take is that anything she is in is something that she really wanted to do.
E: Well, I think she wants a career as an actress, not money, but this doesn’t necessarily seem like the kind of film to advance careers. I’m curious about the reviews, though.
M: Her presence makes me interested in this even a little more. Plus, I like Hawke and Thewlis. And Mrs M watched the trailer with me, and is really interested, and that’s a tough bar to reach for this type of film.
We Are Your Friends (wide/limited)
C: I hear they’ve already green-lit a sequel for this, to be titled A Long Time Ago, We Used to Be Friends.
M: You know only Marshmallows will get that, right?
E: And you know anyone that didn’t get her line won’t get yours either, right?
M: Point taken.
E: Anyway, Zac Efron stars as an ambitious DJ who may have to leave his similarly ambitious San Fernando valley friends (wanna be actors and musicians who can’t afford to live in LA proper) behind in order to make it in Hollywood.
C: His work catches the eye (or ear?) of Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games, etc.), the rich guy who opens up opportunities for our DJ hero and dispenses gems of life wisdom like “you gotta open yourself up and listen to the world”… oh, and introduces him to a seductive, shiny new world just as his friends seem to spiral out of control.
E: Also costars Emily Ratajkowski as the perfect L.A. dream girl.
M: For a while the trailer felt generically interesting. By the end if felt like a Red Bull commercial.
E: Snort. Seems both more gritty and more adult than I’d expect from Efron, which can’t be an accident.
C: He’s been trying to do grittier, more adult stuff for several years now. He is 27, you know. The same age as, for instance, Karen Gillan, Michael B. Jordan, Blake Lively, Miles Teller… He just hasn’t picked any winners yet.
M: I’m thinking that streak’s not about to end, but you never know.