E: Ah, September. No one’s favorite month for movies, ever.
M: Okay, you don’t know for sure that that’s true. It could be the favorite month for indie directors who feel like they have a fighting chance at audiences.
C: The favorite month for filmmakers whose movies are generally not good enough to end up as blockbusters or Oscar bait, so they’re just happy to be seen! The Jerry Gergich of months at the movies.
The Transporter Refueled (wide)
E: This a restart of the franchise that made Jason Statham a star — without Jason Statham. This year’s kung fu driver extraordinaire is one Ed Skrein, who has to rescue his father from kidnappers angry at a job gone south.
M: Did they learn nothing from the Jason Bourne series? The attempt to continue milking that cow with Jeremy Renner was such a failure. And Renner was coming off things like the Oscar-winning Hurt Locker. I could be off-base and Skrein could be the next great action star, but what’s he coming off of, exactly?
C: Complete obscurity?
E: It’s a puzzle for sure.
C: Jason Statham wasn’t a household name in America when he started the series, though. Unless you were a Guy Richie fanatic, he was just “that British guy in The Italian Job.”
M: But he’d been in things like that, and the Ritchie movies, which were at least somewhat known. Transporter took him to a different level, not introduced him.
E: Yep. Moving on, the plot is slightly more complex/tortured than I mentioned above. The kidnappers are Russian mobsters angry at the gang of women who robbed a major bank with getaway help from Skrein’s Frank Martin; though mistrustful of them, Martin forces the robbers to help him steal back his dad.
M: I’ll say this, as ridiculous as that sounds, it’s still a better plot than John Wick.
E: Which critics actually liked, if you can believe it.
M: I know that, I read the reviews, and I still don’t believe it.
E: If you like the Transporter series, I imagine that you’d like this too as long as you can get over the loss of Statham. Nicely choreographed fight scenes, heists, great scenery, slick driving, and what more do you need?
M: My Bourne criticism aside, that’s probably likely. The Bourne movies had a certain intelligence and higher level plot to them than this one, which is far more based on the quality of the action sequences. And I will say, the fire hydrant trick in the preview is pretty cool.
A Walk in the Woods (wide)
E: Yes, this is based on the Bill Bryson book.
M: Ohhh, the BILL BRYSON book! Thanks for clearing that up.
C: Dude, it’s a totally famous book.
M: Remember your argument about Statham…
E: Anyway, the memoir in which writer Bill Bryson — here played by Robert Redford — decides to hike the Appalachian trail with the friend of his youth, Nick Nolte.
M: THE Bill Bryson was friends with Nick Nolte in his youth? Man, I can hardly contain my excitement!
E: Oh, shut up. I mention this in part because C gave me the book, and plenty of people other than you have heard of it.
M: Snarkiness aside, this looks like a outdoorsy version of The Bucket List, and Redford’s stammering at the funeral at the start of the trailer did get me to chuckle. It could be entertaining.
E: It could be, although the joy of the book is as much in Bryson’s amazing prose as it is in any older-guy buddy comedy concept. You have to love seeing the wonderful Emma Thompson as Redford’s (of course age-inappropriate) wife, who thinks he’s crazy to attempt this monumental hike.
M: I doubt Redford has starred with an age-appropriate love interest since the 60’s. And I mean the 1960’s, not when he was in his 60’s.
C: Why would you expect anything else from Hollywood?
E: I know, I just can’t help snarking about it.
Life in a Walk (limited)
C: So if you’re keeping track, this would be the second movie opening this weekend about people walking. But there’s something rather personally cool about this one, as I’ll mention in a minute.
E: Tantalizing! But first, the premise: someone named Yogi (an actual guy) goes for a walk with his dad in this documentary which looks to inspire audiences to take a break from technology and our sedentary lives, and just walk with our loved ones. Or so the reductive thumbnail I read about it suggested.
M: I agree with the sentiment, especially as the father of a teen and a tween. That said, not sure it makes for a feature film.
C: Unplugging from media is also a slightly ironic thing to make a feature film about.
M: Hee hee, yes.
E: If you watch the trailer, you’ll see that Yogi Roth decided to walk a pilgrimage through Spain and Portugal with his dad Will when Will was diagnosed with cancer and refused conventional treatment. So you have two men enjoying life, yes, but with the knowledge that this might be a last chance to know each other.
M: Well, the importance of the walk was just ratcheted up, but the potential for me enjoying it may have left the building.
E: Really? I kind of think that sounds great.
M: Oh, it does, and it looks touching, but it also looks like it will be gut wrenching. I’m just sure it will end with me trying to hold back tears, especially since it starts out with the dad refusing cancer treatments.
E: Whereas I am incapable of holding back tears, and don’t mind crying if it’s not something relentlessly depressing, which is not the vibe I get from this at all.
C: So, the cool tidbit I promised is that my fiancé actually walked the Camino de Santiago, the path they take in this movie (and also in the Martin Sheen-Emilio Estevez film The Way, which some readers may have heard of). So I think this could be really neat to see.
E: No way! That’s pretty awesome. Perhaps a family viewing is in order then.
M: Agreed. On video. In the daytime.
Before We Go (limited)
E: Chris Evans directed and wrote this cute-looking movie about two strangers (Evans himself and Star Trek‘s Alice Eve) trapped in Manhattan for the night.
M: Looks like an attempt at an updated, Americanized version of Before Sunrise.
E: Yes, and that romance was so brilliant that the comparison can’t be a good thing.
M: Unless this turns out to be really good. Evans has earned some leeway in my book.
C: If this is sweeter and less arty than Before Sunrise, I honestly will not mind. The genre of actually good romantic comedies cannot come back soon enough for me.
M: Agreed, on both points.
E: It also makes me think of Serendipity, which could be a much more flattering comparison. He’s charming, she’s wary, they both have secrets and baggage. As you say, C, good romantic comedies are few and far between these days; I’m rooting for this one to on the high side of the “strangers in the city” continuum.
M: So, to make sure I understand you, it’s “much more flattering” to compare this to a worse movie. Got it.
C: Standing next to the ugly movie to look more attractive? But actually, what it strongly reminded me of was Once. Let’s see if it can live up to that comparison.
Dirty Weekend (limited)
E: I feel the need to include this Matthew Broderick sex comedy about coworkers trapped in Albuquerque during a lay over (ha) largely because like the movie that precedes it on this list, it costars Alice Eve, this time in British, closely guarded brunette lesbian mode.
M: That’s why you included it? Sheesh.
E: Eve starring in two movies in one weekend seemed like something worth commenting on.
C: “Matthew Broderick sex comedy” is worth never mentioning again, I think.
M: Hear hear!
C: Especially as he (in Ferris Bueller, on videocasette) was my first big childhood movie crush.
M: Ok, well, not sharing that point with you. However, to it being included, Alice Eve’s other movie has been on demand for a while (doing quite well), while this one will be lucky to get on demand. I will throw in a quick tangent. I have watched, in its history, about 10 total minutes of The Great Food Truck Race. Those 10 minutes were recent, and in that time they referred to Albuquerque as the “spiritual center of the Southwest.” Maybe I’ve been sleeping on Albuquerque, but I have never heard it referred to as either spiritual or, more importantly, the center of anything. And that includes feedback from a friend who spent years in New Mexico.
E: To me the most interesting thing about the preview is how Eve says “Albuquerque” in her British accent.
M: I agree with that completely, with the caveat that I didn’t think that was all that interesting.
The Visit (wide)
E: Single mom Kathryn Hahn gets a call from her parents, asking if their grandkids can stay for a week. This sounds like the start of many children’s books, where the protagonists will find a magic ring or wardrobe or learn that their grandparents run a preserve for magical creatures, but in fact it’s an M. Night Shyamalan horror flick where the first cool-seeming grandparents turn out to have murderous intent. Wanna hop into the oven and clean it for me, honey?
C: That’s nightmarish. Also, I thought I didn’t know who Kathryn Hahn was until I saw her face. Ohhhh, her.
M: Exactly. I’ve been a fan of hers since her Crossing Jordan days, but in general she’s very familiar without being a household name. Quick thing that cracked me up. Mrs M’s and my best friends’ kids call one set of their grandparents Nana and Pop Pop, as the kids in The Visit do. I chuckled to no end picturing my friend’s parents as the possessed, murderous grandparents.
E: I bet you enjoyed the trailer more than anyone else because of it. Being that it’s Shyamalan, I expect there’s some sort of twist in addition to the original twist?
M: Being Shyamalan post-Signs, I expect it to suck. His career is one of the saddest in the history of Hollywood to me. I loved The Sixth Sense (quick note, I was out of the country when it came out and all the hype happened, and came back not to “go see this movie with a twist ending” like everyone else was told, but to “it’s awesome go see it,” so I was totally surprised by the twist), really loved Unbreakable (such a great origin story!) and really liked Signs (I know some people consider that the start of his downfall, but it’s a really entertaining, well done movie). EVERYTHING he’s done since then has been horrible. How do you make three movies that range from really good to all time great, and then are unable to make one that’s even passable?
E: I don’t know, but I agree it’s puzzling and sad. Unbreakable particularly is such a fantastic movie, and The Sixth Sense (on a recent rewatch) holds up beautifully. Why was there no more of that in him?
M: Seriously, it makes no sense (pun not initially, but now intended).
C: It’s hard being an auteur and starting out so strong! I mean that seriously. The expectations must be killer to manage, especially becoming known for such a demanding “signature move.” There just aren’t that many good plot twists in the world.
M: Yeah, but to not be able to even make a decent movie any more?
E: I can’t agree with you about Signs, M, but I have to ask — when were you out of the country? I have no memory of this other than the spring break you spent in Aruba. Did you really manage to avoid all those “I see dead people” commercials?
M: My honeymoon, and yes, I missed them all. Every single one. Which made the movie that much better.
E: Oh, okay. I guess I thought the movie was older than that implies.
C: The man who was on his honeymoon now has a child in high school; the movie’s kinda old…
E: I didn’t say it wasn’t kinda old, just that I thought it was older. But wow, I can’t imagine going into that movie not knowing anything about it. It must have been amazing.
M: It really was. Especially since I generally am good at seeing twists coming, but that one took me completely by surprise. Oh Shayamalan, please find that magic again.
90 Minutes in Heaven (wide)
M: When I was discussing with E some of the movies that we’d missed in our first sweep of adding titles to this post, she commented that it was weird that they were all horror movies and Christian movies (this being the latter, if you couldn’t guess). While I agree that’s weird, I think it’d be REALLY weird if they were Christian horror movies.
C: Wouldn’t The Exorcist sort of count as one?
E: I guess that you could construe this as a zombie movie, since the lead character was dead and comes back to life.
M: But not a zombie comedy; we’ll get to that later. Moving on to this movie, the trend of Christian films getting bigger-named actors. The production company and director are none of the usual “Christian film” suspects, which portends well for the genre. As does the presence of star Kate Bosworth.
C: Kate Bosworth isn’t that big a name. Only 12 letters!
E: Snort. I think M was being ironic, though.
M: No, I think Bosworth still counts as a star.
E: Huh. Well. We’ll agree to disagree on that one, then.
M: What does not count in its favor was my take on the trailer. Not knowing who was in this before watching it, I kept thinking the voice of the lead actor was familiar, but that he looked completely unrecognizable. What stood out, though, was how incredibly wooden his performance looked to be, even in the trailer. Then the name HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN came up on the screen, and everything made sense.
C: Ha! The giveaway was that muttered line about how much he hates sand…
E: Snort again. I knew that Christensen was the star, and I still didn’t recognize him.
M: I’m not going to say this will be bad, but between Christensen looking like the male equivalent of Kristen Stewart and the heavy-handedness of the look of the rest of the trailer, I’m thinking it’s not going to be another Heaven Is For Real or Soul Surfer.
E: Not a hit, you mean? I agree. It looks dour and pedantic and yes, wooden.
The Perfect Guy (wide)
E: In case you were wondering, that’s an ironic title.
M: Like, actual irony or the Alanis Morissette coincidental kind?
C: Actual irony, in that it’s pointing to a difference between what appears to be and what really is… but not good irony, as there’s nothing surprising, clever, or incisive about the observation.
E: Okay, a few thoughts about this. First, I’m curious how many times they’ve made this movie on Lifetime. Seemingly perfect guy turns out to be psychotic! Gee, never saw that one coming.
M: There are plenty of feature film versions, too, but I agree that Lifetime has probably set the record.
E: Second, maybe they didn’t make this one on Lifetime so it could be extra steamy?
M: Yeah, I saw a poster for it before I saw the trailer, and from 50 feet away you could see cleavage.
E: The trailer definitely suggests that, too. Or is it the racial makeup of the cast that’s supposed to set it apart?
M: No, pretty sure we’ve seen this with an African American cast before. Didn’t Tyler Perry make a version of this about a year ago?
E: Oh, maybe. He can be very Lifetime, Tyler Perry. Third, why did they have to cast Sanaa Lathan, Morris Chestnut and Michael Ealy in a movie I have no desire to see?
M: Other than not knowing Lathan, I agree completely.
E: Ealy, who starred in the terrific, short-lived Almost Human, deserves to be a movie star. But in order to get there, he needs better material than this.
M: I’m still REALLY upset about Almost Human. I was thinking that it was unreasonably so, until I recently read an article explaining that not only did FOX give up on it too soon, they really jerked it around while it was on. They broadcast almost every episode out of order, messed with the show runner, all while it’s ratings were about the same as their other shows. ARGH!!
E: It was more expensive to produce than comparably rated shows, right? But yes. I’m still peeved about that too.
C: So, to sum up: go watch Almost Human on Hulu and don’t bother with this perfect movie.
Sleeping With Other People (limited)
C: Look people, it’s the sex addiction romcom you were faithfully waiting for, until you got distracted by something else.
E: Jason Sudekis and Alison Brie star in this romantic comedy about a pair of serial cheaters who run into each other 12 years after losing their virginity to each other in college. Since they’re both terrible at relationships but really enjoy each other’s company and perspectives, they decide to be friends. I’m positive that’s the way the story’s going to end, too.
M: Oh, yes, movies like this always end up proving the point that men and women can be platonic friends. ALWAYS.
C: The idea is that they can’t sleep with each other, since they’re in recovery.
E: The conversation where they try to choose a safe word to use when they’re having inappropriately sexual thoughts about each each other is pretty funny.
M: I will say, there were quite a few lines in the trailer that I thought were pretty funny. Way more than I expected there to be.
C: Actually though, as often as romcoms rely on the premise that two people who are attracted to each other aren’t dating for some contrived reason, it’s interesting to see one that actually tackles the weirdness (to both parties, and to other people) of the “um-gee-you-two-reeeeeally-seem-like-you’re-dating-even-though-you’re-not” relationship. Because if you haven’t been in one of those yourself, I’m sure you know someone, or several someones, who have.
M: Agreed. We have good friends who were for years. Or still are. I’m not sure.
E: No way, there’s still a question about those two? Argh.
C: Those crazy kids.
E: To return to the film, I thought the trailer was decently funny, in a vulgar and entirely predictable way. I’m not going to run out and see it in the theater, but it probably passes the “I’m bored and there’s nothing else on cable” test. Assuming they can actually show this on cable… And now, do you mind if I pair Brie with our perpetual whine?
C: ‘Tis my favorite vintage! That is, if it’s the whine you referred to briefly regarding Robert Redford?
E: Why yes, it is. Does anyone out there believe that Alison Brie and Jason Sudekis are the same age? Brie is 32, pretty much exactly the age she would be if she’d been in college 12 years ago. Sudekis, though, is 40.
M: I knew she way playing young on Community, but I actually expected their age gap to be much more.
C: It’s still plenty, though.
Time Out Of Mind (limited)
E: Richard Gere stars as an alcoholic wanderer attempting to come to terms with his wrecked life. Jena Malone is his resentful bartender daughter.
C: Gads, for a second I thought you were going to say “love interest” and my heart stopped. Phew!!
M: What to make of this one… Well, I’ve been a fan of Malone’s since Donnie Darko. I’ve been a anti-fan of Gere’s since before I can remember. I love co-stars Ben Vereen and Steve Buscemi. Still, my dislike for Gere’d probably win the day on it’s own, even if the trailer wasn’t a rambling mess that was completely unintelligible, divulging nothing about a plot other than “Gere wanders the streets, and might, every few minutes or so, say something.”
E: “Am I homeless? Am I homeless?” Is he talking about himself, or putting down someone else? I know we often complain about trailers that give away too much, but here we have the reverse.
M: Agreed. That said, E, I’m sure you’ll be watching this come Oscar season, it looks like a critic’s dream.
E: Ah, but remember, M, it’s September. If it were really a contender, they’d be releasing it later. I suspect they were going for Oscar but didn’t quite make it to that level.
M: Fair point.
E: It’s always possible for the odd contender to open in September, but if that’s true of this September, this isn’t the one I’m afraid of.
C: “Afraid” is an intriguing word choice…
A Brilliant Young Mind (limited)
E: Asa Butterfield stars in this British coming-of-age story in which a young autistic teen joins a prestigious math team and perhaps begins to form his own emotional connections with people beside his mother, played by Sally Hawkins. Costarring Rafe Spall and Eddie Marsan as teachers who see Asa’s potential and help him on the road to achieving it.
M: With close friends who have children on the spectrum, this hits close to home for me. I don’t know if that makes me more or less critical of it, though.
E: I get that. When you’re close to a subject, you’re more protective of it. There’s more fear that filmmakers might not get it right.
M: That said, I’ve thought Butterfield was excellent in everything I’ve seen him in, which admittedly has only been Hugo and Ender’s Game (the disappointment of which was not his fault). This is a very, very different role for him, and he’s barely recognizable, but both the picture and his performance, at least from the trailer, look incredibly winning.
E: It looks pretty good, I’ve got to say. Totally rentable at a minimum, which is September feels like high praise.
Black Mass (wide)
E: I’m so sick of Whitey Bulger. If you lived in Massachusetts, you’d understand that we had years of wall to wall Whitey news coverage. I don’t like mob stories, I’m too young to have lived through his reign of terror, and I’m just worn out.
C: To be fair, I think that’s only true in our part of the world.
M: And not of everybody, because I’m totally not. I intentionally shut out the news of his trail, and like you, I didn’t live through his reign. His brother’s, sure (for those unfamiliar with the story, he was President of the State Senate, and then President of the state university system. He’s now drawing pensions for both, which is supposed to be illegal, btw). But Bulger himself? I actually know relatively little about his real story. As a fan of The Departed, which was partly based on Bulger, I think the bar is set pretty high for this one, but I’m more than willing to give it a shot.
E: Wow, really? I didn’t listen to the news of his trial, but felt like I was turning off the news for about two years because every time I turned on the radio or checked a website they were talking about him.
M: Huh, I totally didn’t get that.
E: Anyway, an unrecognizable Johnny Depp stars as the vile and violent leader of the Winter Hill gang, with Benedict Cumberbatch as his squeaky clean politician brother Billy, and Joel Edgerton as the FBI agent who enabled Bulger’s crimes.
M: Okay, I’ve seen various commercials and trailers for this, somehow I didn’t know Cumberbatch was playing Billy. Has the casting director never seen even a picture of Billy Bulger? Yikes. I love Cumberbatch and all, but come on.
E: No, they weren’t going with realism there at all. This impressive cast is rounded out by Adam Scott, Corey Stoll, Julianne Nicholson, Dakota Johnson, Peter Saarsgard, Juno Temple and oh yes, Kevin Bacon.
M: I need to back up for a minute, E, and get your opinion on Edgerton. What’s the deal with this guy, why is he getting soooooo many plumb roles? I’ve never been overly impressed.
E: I think of him as pretty solid. He was excellent in Animal Kingdom, the Australian crime drama that introduced him and Jacki Weaver to international audiences.
M: Huh, Ben Mendelsohn, too. We’ll get to him later on.
E: That was Mendelsohn? Wow. I didn’t realize that was him. Shudder. This is one of those movies (rather like Animal Kingdom, actually, which I loathe and respect at the same time) where I’m praying no one gets nominated for anything. The fact that it’s being released in September is a huge relief to me.
C: In case you’re unclear on why that is, folks, it’s so she won’t “have” to see it for her Oscar blog-orama.
M: Like I said, I’m on the other side, hoping it’s good, thinking Depp looks unbelievably good in the trailers, and wondering if it can deliver on the promise of the cast. I agree with you on one thing… the September release is a bad sign.
E: So Mr. E and I just saw Ant-Man in 3-D (good stuff) and there was a preview for this in front of it. I have read articles about this horrific tragedy where a storm decimates a group of hikers trying to descend Mount Everest. And now I have seen more than enough. It looks not only devastatingly sad, but terrifying.
M: If you’re looking for a natural disaster movie, or amazing effects, this is definitely the movie for you. Clearly, it’s not the movie for E; I’m not sure it’s for me either. Based on the trailer, I’d probably say yes. Based on E’s foreshadowing of a less than happy ending, I’d lean toward no.
E: Think of it like last year’s Lone Survivor, but without the warning in the title. If you followed the news at all, you know how this ends.
Maze Runner: Scorch Trials (wide)
E: I caught the first of these movies on cable recently, and I enjoyed it. Enough that I want to read the book trilogy the films are based on.
M: I know my son has read them, and I’m about 90% sure my oldest daughter has, too. My son loved them, and I’ve been meaning to add them to my list, just haven’t gotten to it.
C: Nor have I. I’m surprised to hear anything good about the first film, which looked dreary.
M: I haven’t seen the first movie either, but heard from several people, including one of our avid readers, that it was good. Not only that, but it was a September hit last year, so clearly they’re looking to strike twice. The trailer definitely looks entertaining, and adding the likes of Lili Taylor and Giancarlo Esposito to the cast definitely helps ratchet up the excitement level for me.
C: Is it still about running around in a scary maze? Because I can just reread Goblet of Fire…
E: Not to be confused with the Ryan Reynolds movie of last year, this is our second inspiring Christian movie of the month. And also a little bit of a book commercial.
M: This is certainly not your typical Christian movie. Not only is it a major studio production (Paramount) starring blockbuster and Oscar-caliber actors, but it’s far grittier than the norm.
E: Desperate Kate Mara’s been given a copy of The Purpose Driven Life by a person in her support group, and when she’s held prisoner by David Oyelowo (a convict on the run after a violent jail break) and the two end up reading and discussing the book.
M: All while trying to avoid the cops and while Mara tries to stop Oyelowo from killing anyone. Mara’s trying to get away to get back to see her daughter that the state has taken from her because she’s an unfit mother, while Oyelowo broke out of prison to try to see the son he just found out he had. Looks to be two very broken lives, with what we can assume is the hope of putting their pieces together through faith.
C: David Oyelowo knocked my socks off in Selma, so I’m willing to give most things he’s in a chance.
E: I’ve read The Purpose Driven Life, and it’s a good and helpful book. But if this wasn’t based on a true story, I’d be very tempted to say the idea was contrived and clunky. The acting looks exceptional, though.
M: I agree with that, it’s one of those “if it weren’t real you wouldn’t believe it” types, but not for the usual reasons.
C: Quick aside — I had initially corrected that to The Purpose-Driven Life, but no, apparently the publishers did not feel purposeful about grammar.
M: A less pedantic quick aside — the trailer’s use of the amazing Hillsong United song “Oceans” was brilliant, it builds and crescendos at all the right times. I love when trailers (and movies) use music properly.
About Ray (limited)
E: Elle Fanning stars as a teen trying to transition and live as a boy and running into all the kind of issues you might imagine. Bullying, family that doesn’t get it (“why can’t she just be a lesbian?” asks grandmother Susan Sarandon), stress with her mom (Naomi Watts) who tries valiantly to understand and support her child. Fanning’s also coping with the dad who abandoned him as a baby refusing to sign the consent forms for the surgery.
M: Remember your comment about being sick of Whitey Bulger? Well…
E: America is having a transmoment; we’ll have to see whether that brings an audience to this film.
M: Because a mentally disturbed (regardless of your thoughts on the whole “trans” issue) former Olympian turned reality “star,” who killed someone while drunk driving a few months ago — lest we forget — gives a puff piece interview, is undeservedly given a sports award (over insanely deserving runners up), and gets a reality show that no one is watching, you think our country is “having a moment”?
E: I don’t see how you can deny that it’s become a large part of the national conversation in the last few months, however you feel about Caitlyn Jenner. Add to that shows like Transparent and I Am Jazz, and I do think it’s legitimate to say that it’s out there.
M: It’s out there, but it’s always been out there. By that definition, America’s having a deflated footballs moment, too.
C: Sadly, that’s true! And it’s certainly also true that “trans” stories have come to the forefront of the American consciousness recently. We can all agree in hoping that that doesn’t lead to a stampede of shoddy movies and shows trying to capitalize on a trend, but rather, to rich and thoughtful portrayals of the subject matter.
E: As for this movie, it has a terrific cast and looks good enough that if it wasn’t September, I’d be wondering about Oscar prospects.
E: Yet another zombie comedy. I swear, there aren’t nearly as many vampire comedies or werewolf comedies. Why have we decided that zombies are funny?
M: Because Simon Pegg and Nick Frost made them so.
E: I was thinking more that their lurching and shambling lends itself to physical comedy? But maybe you’re right. Maybe Pegg and Frost were so inspiring that a bunch of other writers and directors caught the funny zombie virus?
M: If it was just the physical comedy potential, someone would have successfully done it before Pegg and Frost, no? Anyway, let’s get to Cooties, which looks like no Shaun of the Dead.
E: Elijah Woods stars as a new teacher at an elementary school where one child has “cooties” — which of course is a zombie virus that turns anyone she scratches or bites into a ravening mindless creature of appetite. Anyone, that is, under the age of 13. The teachers are safe, unless they get eaten.
M: Right, safe from the virus, not safe from the flesh-eating fourth graders. Also, this co-stars Rainn Wilson as, basically, a Zombie-fighting Ron Swanson, and Jack McBrayer as the same character he’s played in everything he’s ever been in.
C: Murderous children are so not my sense of humor.
Sicario (limited, but wide on September 25)
E: Here’s a perfect summary of plots that I don’t want to pay money to see: Emily Blunt stars as a CIA agent drawn into the horrific world of drug cartels and morally corrupt law enforcement in Juarez, Mexico.
M: OK, I agree this isn’t necessarily the kind of movie that I typically want to see, but I will make a case that you SHOULD see it. Here goes… remember last year when we previewed Edge of Tomorrow (aka Live Die Repeat)? Along with our usual refrain of complaining about the age of Tom Cruise’s co-stars, we proposed that Blunt *should* have been the star of the movie, the main character, with Cruise as the supporting role.
C: I do in fact remember that. If only we’d been consulted.
M: Well, it’s not the cool sci-fi plot that’s in our wheelhouse, but this IS the movie where Emily Blunt is the female lead in a role that’s usually occupied by a man. This is her Hunt For Red October, her Spy Game or any other action-drama built around one star that is the moral heart amidst shady government and foreign agents who use their adversary’s means to justify their own. And she’s the star, not Oscar nominee Josh Brolin, not the fantastic Oscar winner Benecio del Toro. You should be supporting that, and putting your money where your mouth is.
E: Okay, that is actually a really good case. We are big fans of Emily Blunt here, and I do love that she’s getting the big chance she deserves. I just wish it were in a movie I was more excited to see; you can tell that mob corruption is not my cup of tea. I’d certainly rather see this than Black Mass, given the choice. This is another movie I’d suspect of Oscar hopes if it weren’t for the September release date.
M: Well, and that goes to the point, I think, of why it’s hard to get movies like this made. Even people who argue that they want women in more lead roles, and more roles in general, aren’t looking to go see movies with them in those roles if they aren’t the type of movie they want to see. This isn’t the kind of movie that women will typically flock to.
E: Okay, I’d like to see your data on that.
M: If they don’t go when a woman is the lead, and if men don’t go because a woman is the lead (which would be insanely dumb, both because Blunt is great and because it shouldn’t matter) then the stupid studios will say “see, we told you it wouldn’t work.” If you want to change things, you need to step out of your box a bit.
Pawn Sacrifice (limited)
E: Tobey Maguire stars as chess prodigy Bobby Fischer, who may or may not have been a cold warrior in the service of the United States government. Liev Schrieber costars as his top Russian adversary.
C: Whoa. I super did not know any of that.
M: Fischer has always been such a mystery, the child prodigy, the Soviet-toppling World Chess Champion, then the recluse who disappeared, and died young. I am incredibly fascinated to see this. I probably won’t see it in the theater, but I will definitely see it at some point. It looks incredibly well made, doesn’t look to hold back to make Fischer look more heroic, and Maguire looks excellent as usual.
E: I actually started wondering whether he was crazy — there were real shades of A Beautiful Mind in there for me, which confused me a little. But I am very glad to see the excellent Maguire back on the screen. I hope it’s worth of his talents.
M: You and me both.
Hotel Transylvania 2 (wide)
E: What’s cuter than a half human, half vampire baby? No, it’s not Renesmee, it’s a curly haired little red head named Dennis, grandson to Count Dracula, who takes him to summer camp for some quality monster time.
M: Awwwww. Wait, are you being serious?
E: The first of these movies was cute. Not revolutionary, but not heinous to sit through, either.
M: Haven’t seen it yet.
E: I did, and I’m sure I’ll see this one, too. I expect this will provide similar Halloween-themed fun. And there’s no question that it’s the only even marginally endurable movie Adam Sandler will release this year.
M: Way to go out on a limb there, sis. Kind of like I did with M. Night Shayamalan up above.
C: Dracula’s desperately hoping his grandson will turn out supernatural, and doing his best to bring it out in the boy, but for right now he seems awfully mundane. Kind of reminds me of little Neville Longbottom’s family dropping him out of windows, hoping he’ll bounce…
The Intern (wide)
E: Weirdly sweet-looking story about web CEO Anne Hathaway and her new intern, retiree Robert DeNiro.
M: Having seen posters and ads before watching the trailer, I was expecting the roles to be reversed, and was very pleasantly surprised by the switcheroo.
E: Hathaway’s overwhelmed by the tremendous success of her idea (something fashion-centric and girly, of course, which took her from a home-based business to 200 plus employees in a year), and fighting with investors who want to replace her with someone more experienced. Due to a happy accident with a “senior” internship program, she finds an assistant with lots of gravitas. Will it be patronizing or awesome? I’m not sure.
M: I loved the exchange between Hathaway and her assistant about which kind of “senior” the intern program was.
E: There seems to be quite a lot of humor based on DeNiro’s character Ben’s inability to wear anything other than a suit.
M: And any other millennial man in the office’s inability to wear anything that doesn’t look slovenly.
C: Start-ups are famous for their casual work attire…
E: For once, Nancy Meyers makes a movie about a friendship rather than romance. Good for you, Nancy. No, Renee Russo is not a reasonable love interest for Robert DeNiro, and no one Anne Hathaway’s age would hold up creepy Jack Nicholson as a standard of kempt manliness that her employees should aspire to (Harrison Ford was more in line, and Sean Connery or Paul Newman would have been much better choices than scruffy Jack), but otherwise, this seems pretty enjoyable.
The Green Inferno (wide)
E: A group of idealistic young Americans head south to help protect the Amazonian rainforest in some unspecified way, but when their plane crashes, they are of course picked up and held captive by cannibals. Looks like a bowl of laughs.
M: When I see clips from reviewers like “The stuff nightmares are made of” and “Unnerving pure horror”, I know I get the warm and fuzzies.
Before I Wake (wide)
E: Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane bring little foster child Cody into their home after their son dies. It turns out that Cody’s dreams — like butterflies, and an apparition of the dead son — come true. But since this is a horror movie, his nightmares also take life. I think it’s mildly interesting that the child here isn’t evil but an unwilling victim of his own subconscious. I don’t want to see it, but it’s a new twist.
M: New twist, yes. Good twist, yes. The vessel that twist is brought to us in? No thanks. Terrified kids screaming, grieving parents tortured by the specter of their dead son, which appears and is pulled back away, creepy ghost children tormenting both children and super-kind foster parents alike? So not something I ever want to see. Looks like an 0-for-2 month for me for Kate Bosworth.
C: There’s an L.M. Montgomery story about a ghost child that freaked me out when I read it as a kid. Good, though.
99 Homes (limited)
E: Foreclosure themed drama about a young guy (Andrew Garfield) who’s thrown out of his home and has to provide for his mom (Laura Dern) and son by working for the evil real estate tycoon who helped the bank evict them. Misery created to explain the housing crisis? Perhaps. You might be more entertained listening to the Motley Fool explain it instead.
M: The trailer is fantastically tense, builds a real conflict, and the moment that it really hits home is when you see Garfield’s character questioning what he’s doing, and then hear him asking “is it all worth it?” Garfield really impressed me in The Social Network, Shannon was a very good Zod, and Dern has been outstanding forever. I probably won’t see it, and definitely not in the theater, but it looks like it could be riveting.
E: Oh, the cast is great. It just had the feeling of a pedantic issue movie for me (mostly because Shannon’s colorful character seems less moral than Zod), but maybe it will be good.
M: Oh, I agree with you there, Shannon’s character looks like such a caricature, what every Occupy member thinks every capitalist looks and acts like. You know, devoid of humanity.
E: Yes, exactly. And even as someone more on the Occupy side, I don’t appreciate the apparent lack of nuance. Basically, I’ll be interested in seeing the reviews.
Mississippi Grind (limited)
E: Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn (mentioned above and soon to be seen in Rogue One, the first of the upcoming stand alone Star Wars movies) star as desperate gamblers taking a trip down the Mississippi trying to dig Mendelsohn out of a heinous hole of debt.
M: Reynolds, who seems to have really turned a corner in his career in recent years, is apparently good luck, where as Mendelsohn is a total mush. I have to say, Mendelsohn has 70 acting credits on IMDb, dating back to the mid 80’s, and I counted exactly three things I *might* have seen him in (two I have, one was an episode of Farscape which I’ve probably, but not definitely seen). Yet in this, he looks to give a fantastic performance. Just the trailer makes me want to see more of what he’s done.
E: Just prepare yourself for tough viewing if you rent Animal Kingdom.
E: The story of the gay rights riots and protests in NYC in the 70’s; history of the pride parades you might not even know was out there.
C: Wait, the parades or the history?
E: I meant the inspiration for the parades; I think most people know about those, but not how or why they started. According to the trailer, a handsome country bumpkin arrives in the city after being thrown out by his family for being gay. He’s introduced to a sort of pre-AIDS paradise via gay bars, and becomes radicalized by the constant harassment bar patrons receive from the police.
M: I’m not sure what is portrayed in the film is accurately described by the word “harassment” — I’m not sure it’s a strong enough word.
E: No, you’re right. The thing is, it looks like Stonewall wants to be a major civil rights movie, but at least in the trailer, none of the characters transcend caricatures. I’ll be curious to hear the reviews, but I’m not expecting much, given September.
M: And that’s it for September. Let us know in the comments if there’s anything you’re excited to see, and we’ll do it again next month!