M: Um, yeah. Last month, for the first time in years, we missed a monthly movie preview. Our bad.
E: Which is a shame, because we’re left with the spottiest month of the summer to review.
C: But in happier news, I’m back! After knocking a few items off my to-do list (got a PhD, got married), I finally have time to devote to the really important things, like lamenting the absurdity of a Ben Hur remake with my siblings.
E: Or the poor quality of this year’s August releases. But even that paucity is sweeter with you.
C: Aww. Anyway, it’s really just a normal August, with one potential blockbuster, one or two looks-good-but-could-wait-for-video quality films, and the rest pretty humdrum fare. By which I mean, a great time to see what’s still in the theaters from July. Like Ghostbusters, which is delightful!
Suicide Squad (wide)
E: I know this is highly anticipated and there’s an impressive cast and great blockbuster potential, but I’m not interested. Anti-heroes misbehaving=yawn.
C: Agreed — this isn’t to my taste. A lot of “superhero” movies and shows are about antiheroes lately anyway (Daredevil, Deadpool, etc.), so focusing on actual villains doesn’t feel terribly new.
M: I’ve never been an anti-hero fan. A hero who has overcome flaws or past misdeeds, sure. But one who’s still actively bad? Meh.
C: Also, letting them out of prison seems exceptionally dumb. I get that they’re expendable and all that, but some of them are also masterminds, so you know, maybe letting them run amok on your dime after you finally put them away isn’t too brilliant? The whole premise just annoys me.
E: Oh yes. Totally stupid recipe for disaster. I mean, I guess it’s possible that if word of mouth is overwhelmingly positive it could turn my stance around in the end (after all, that happened with Guardians of the Galaxy). I’m sure the box office’ll be huge.
M: I’m not.
E: Well, I’ll admit, I’m curious about the reviews, since I’ll be away camping in the days running up to this release and won’t hear about them. But I’m not curious about the movie itself.
M: I’ve seen a few reviews, and I feel like critics don’t know how to review this movie.
C: Hm, maybe. Critics love anti-heroes… But they don’t like movies that purport to be dark but don’t quite reach Requiem for a Dream levels of bleakness. Maybe that’s the trouble here.
E: On another note, not to quibble or anything, but where is Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn getting hair dye in prison? Maybe it’s part of her Poison Ivy-gifted superpowers?
C: Ha! Oh my goodness, what an excellent point.
M: Really? There’s a human-crocodile in this, and your quibble is that her hair is too blonde?
E: Not that it’s blonde, dude. That it’s blue and pink.
C: I mean granted, the same could be said for all their very unique couture.
M: Again, there’s a human crocodile. With scales. But whatever.
C: Also, I keep thinking it’s Gillian Jacobs under that makeup, not Robbie, and it’s kind of weirding me out.
M: I hadn’t previously made the connection (mostly because I’m paying next to no attention to the promo material for this), but you’re right, it totally looks like Britta.
C: Perhaps this is the darkest timeline.
M: Hahaha! Well done, that was a great episode!
Nine Lives (wide)
E: Do you guys remember Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) or Heaven Can Wait (1978)? The boxer who dies in a plane crash and then goes back in the body of another guy because he wasn’t supposed to die, and he gets to interact with his family and maybe get a second chance?
C: Yup, both classics and Quibbling Dad-favorites.
M: Of course.
E: Well, it turns out that they’ve remade this idea, only billionaire Kevin Spacey turns into a cat instead.
C: Excuse me?
M: Hmmm, the trailer looks a little more Shallow Hal-ish to me, or maybe even Family Man, but I can see where you’re coming from.
E: You should.
M: I do.
E: Anyway… Spacey has a week to “make it up” to his wife and daughter — because cats can totally make up for paternal neglect — or else he’ll be stuck in feline form forever.
M: Um, yeah, that seems reasonable.
E: Also, you also should have heard Dad when I told him about this. Not pleased.
C: Wait, so is his human body dead? What happens if he does “make it up to them” (whatever that means)? Lazarus-style grave rising?
E: No one explains this, but probably not a zombie, no.
M: See, I think he gets magically turned into a cat. This is why I was thinking Shallow Hal.
E: Well, since his family doesn’t seem to be in mourning, they must just think he’s on a bender or something? The Flash‘s Robbie Amell costars as Spacey’s son, and Christopher Walken as the mysterious, mystic pet store owner who sell Spacey the cat Mr. Fussypants as a present for his daughter’s birthday. Oh, and Jennifer Garner as Spacey’s totally, horrifically age-inappropriate wife. Please tell me that Amell isn’t supposed to be her son, PLEASE.
C: I’m sure she’s meant to be a second (trophy?) wife, but even so. Spacey should be the grandfather of the little girl in this scenario, and 28-year-old Amell the father, if they were going for any kind of probability.
M: Remember, the premise is that he’s super-wealthy and not a good guy or good father, so I think the whole trophy wife/young kids thing is appropriate. Icky, but appropriate.
E: Okay, that’s legit.
C: Then again, maybe we’re thinking too hard about a Cat Ghost Dad.
E: Snort. Quite so — do not look for logic. To sum up: Cat slapstick. Spacey as sneering vocal talent. Bon Appetite.
C: Have we mentioned that this looks awful? Like, even if you somehow manage to gag down the premise? Just clichéd and tacky and dumb as nails.
M: Which puts it in the company of the 2002 Paris Hilton horror flick of the same name, btw.
The Little Prince (limited)
C: This is the weekend for little dudes, apparently (see below). But actually — since The Little Prince is quite a short children’s book without enough to it to full a feature-length film — the movie itself is about a girl who befriends the author of the Little Prince story we’re all familiar with, which is included in the form of tales the old man tells her.
E: I feel like we’ve reviewed this animated movie at least twice before when it was supposedly going to open.
M: We DEFINITELY reviewed it at least once before, back in March. I looked back, we didn’t say that much.
E: Let’s see if the film (based on the classic Saint-Exupéry novel about a little boy and an airplane) finally makes it to theaters.
C: It’s going to be on Netflix, so I’m not sure how much theater business it’ll do. The animation is pretty cute and unique, based stylistically on the original illustrations, but the invented frame story looks extremely predictable — in fact, it looks a lot like Miracle on 34th Street, with the strict single mom who wants to train her daughter up to lead a realistic, successful life, and the old gent who intervenes to teach her about imagination.
Little Men (limited)
C: I thought they were making a movie of the Little Women sequel for a minute there.
E: I don’t think you were alone – I saw some comments on the trailer complaining that it looks nothing at all like the book. And yes, M, I did check to see if there was another book. There doesn’t seem to be.
M: Hahaha, that kills me. Because anyone could look at the first 2 seconds of the trailer and not know this was not written by Louisa May Alcott?
E: Well, I mean, technically it could have been a modernization.
C: But no, this is more of those those types of movies that gets called a “tenderly observed slice of modern city life” and things like that.
M: Good line, C.
E: And you’re right, it exactly is. The makers of critically acclaimed indie Love Is Strange bring us a really lovely-looking story of friendship and family set in modern day Brooklyn, starring Greg Kinnear as a failed actor, along with Jennifer Ehle, Paulina Garcia and Alfred Molina and two really terrific young actors, Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri. This looks like exactly that kind of independent, closely observed, wryly funny coming of age story you think it’s going to be, and the reviews since its debut at Sundance have been pretty terrific.
M: You think this looks “lovely-looking”? We must have watched different trailers, because the one I saw made it look the the lives of the titular little men’s families are falling apart around them. I didn’t find that lovely, even if they are building a nice friendship in the midst of it.
E: Okay, fine, they have difficult lives but their friendship blooms from that. How many movies do you know where everyone’s happy all the time? Anyway, do I know the plot? No. Am I interested in seeing how these people live together? Yes I am.
C: I guess I wish it had a bit more indication of plot, personally. Character is vital, but that shouldn’t preclude having a story hook of some kind.
E: I’m sure the movie has a plot, even if the trailer didn’t give us much besides “young teen moves to new neighborhood/kids try to connect despite the difficulties their parents choices force on them.” I don’t mind it when a preview gives me tone or character rather than exposing the entire narrative. Not that this was what you were saying; I just feel like I got enough of a taste, but I can see why you wouldn’t.
M: Okay, I’m definitely thinking I saw a different trailer now. What I got was that divorced, struggling actor Kinnear moves to a new place, and his son and the boy next door, the son of Garcia and Molina, strike up a friendship. Then both families, including Kinnear’s ex, Ehle, have all kinds of financial troubles and yell at each other a lot. And one of the kids punches the other at school. I’m pretty sure that’s all there is to the plot in this. And not that that makes it bad, it’s just not “lovely,” and not high on my list of entertainment.
C: It sounds like you two are describing the same thing to me, and as my most draconian Creative Writing professor used to say, plot and situation are not the same thing.
M: Okay, well, in that case, I don’t think this movie has a plot to divulge.
Pete’s Dragon (wide)
C: A remake of the 1977 live-action/animated musical, which I remember seeing as a kid, and nothing from this trailer is the least bit familiar. Okay, yes, there is a large green dragon named Elliott and a boy named Pete, but that’s where they left my childhood memories behind.
E: Oh yes. It’s a complete reboot — nary a drunken sailor in sight.
M: Agreed, and that’s because you couldn’t remake the ’77 version. It was far too 70’s, had too much stuff that was kid-unfriendly, and just wouldn’t fly in 2016.
C: I guess, but why bother then? Though altogether different, this new film could hardly be called “original.” Pete is now VERY Mowgli…
C: …long-haired and shirtless, living in the woods for six years until found and adopted by forest ranger Bryce Dallas Howard. She and her family are incredulous when he says he was raised by a dragon, but then he takes them out to the woods and is like “nope, see, dragon” and they’re like “oh, yup, dragon.” Guess Elliott’s not invisible in this version!
M: He can turn invisible, or at least he does at one point in the trailer.
C: Yes, but it’s still interesting that it’s not just the kid who can see him. Then Karl Urban decides he wants to kill the dragon (bad Eomer!), because someone in these movies always wants to kill the friendly mythical creature. That seems to be the plot.
M: To be fair, that decision comes after the fire-breathing dragon torches a bridge. Might be more of a lack of knowing it’s friendly. However, it’s weird to see Urban, who is almost always a good (or at least good-ish) guy playing the baddie.
E: Didn’t you see the Bourne movie he was in?
M: Must have missed that Bourne somehow.
E: Well, Eomer’s totally doing a Gaston impression here, which I guess is fine (if inevitably cartoony seeming), but it can’t be the whole movie, can it? So unoriginal.
C: And yet, it seems to be. No musical numbers (unlike the original, or Beauty and the Beast for that matter), no quirky old-time fishing village setting, and no grownup romance plot, as far as I can tell.
M: Let’s hope there’s no romance between Robert Redford and Bryce Dallas Howard, at least!
C: Seconded. However, there is one notable thing. The dragon is FURRY. A furry dragon!!! Is that even allowed? It’s pretty adorable…
Florence Foster Jenkins (wide)
C: Now this looks fun! Meryl Streep doing “her thing,” aka playing a quirky historical character in a sleekly produced film dominated by her personality.
M: Oh, I thought you meant convincingly play a character that was nothing like any other character she’s played. Because I can’t find any common thread between her characters, other than the dominating personality, of course.
C: I guess that in itself qualifies as a “thing” to me?
M: Sorry, that’s what I was saying. Let’s move on.
C: Anyway, everyone agrees she’s always great. In this case, she’s playing someone not exactly famous or significant, but well known in her day for being “a real character”: Jenkins was a wealthy patron of the arts, impassioned music lover, and a singer — with a terrible voice.
E: Genuinely dreadful.
C: She’s sort of the original for those people on the early episodes of every American Idol season, only genuinely misled about her own talent, not just grubbing for notoriety. When you’re insanely privileged and genuinely nice, apparently you can get through life without anybody bursting your delusions.
E: Especially if sucking up to you benefits them.
C: Well, precisely. This co-stars Hugh Grant as her husband (defying all usual gender/age couple casting norms!) and Simon Helberg (Howard of The Big Bang Theory) as her incredulous accompanist.
M: Hooray for Wolowitz!!
E: She must have had a younger husband in real life, huh? It’s very interesting.
M: Real life younger husband or not, we excoriate Hollywood frequently for their pairing men with younger and younger women, let’s give them credit here for not aging up the husband. It was one of the first things I noticed in the trailer.
E: Agreed! And I wonder if this is going to be Meryl’s Oscar contender this year; she wasn’t nominated this past winter, which means she’s due.
Sausage Party (wide)
E: I can’t even believe you put this in our preview. I can’t even believe somebody made a movie with that title.
M: It’s opening wide, and it’s from Seth Rogen and company. Just so our readers know, it’s an animated movie about food in a grocery store that thinks being taken home by customers is being taken to heaven. Then they find out that they actually get killed and eaten, and they panic in kind of This is the End fashion. Speaking of which, this is the end of this part of the review.
C: Wait, before I get to quote Babe: “CHRISTMAS MEANS CARNAGE!!” ? Shucks.
M: No, you can quote that now, then we’ll move on.
C: CHRISTMAS MEANS CARNAGE!!
Hell or High Water (limited)
E: Modern Western where Chris Pine and Ben Foster star as brothers who reunite to rob branches of the bank that’s trying to foreclose on their family’s land. ‘Cause that’s smart thinking, Robin Hood.
M: It’s kind of an updated version of Wisdom, for those that remember the Emilio Estevez-Demi Moore 80’s movie.
E: They’re pursued by Texas Rangers Jeff Bridges (duh) and Twilight‘s Gil Birmingham.
M: I have to say, Pine looks and sounds impressive. The whole thing just feels like it’s taking itself far too seriously to me. Like, it thinks it’s some sort of modern-day High Noon or something.
C: Like Tombstone? I seem to recall you liking that in 1993.
M: Right protagonist, wrong film. It was like Wyatt Earp. Tombstone didn’t take itself seriously, knew what it was (popcorn western) and was good at it. Wyatt Earp thought it was going to win Best Picture, and ended up being one of the worst pictures I’ve ever sat through.
E: Can I just say what pissed me off about the Rotten Tomatoes page for this movie? This line. “Justice seems to be theirs, until they find themselves on the radar of Texas Ranger, Marcus (Jeff Bridges) looking for one last grand pursuit on the eve of his retirement, and his half-Comanche partner, Alberto (Gil Birmingham). ” Maybe I’m being too touchy, but why is Birmingham called out as the ethnic partner instead of just another ranger? I mean, isn’t that just another way of saying that Bridges is the one who actually counts?
C: Maybe his ancestry’s a plot point in the movie? Admittedly saying “Guy 1, who has motivation, and Guy 2, who is non-white” is a very flawed attempt at parallelism, though I’m not sure it’s fair to assume he “doesn’t count” based on one plot summary on one review website.
E: I suppose, even if RT probably takes their summaries from the studio. Just quibbling. Although really, we already know Bridges is the one who counts because he’s far more famous.
M: My guess is it’s a combo of the last point (Bridges being famous, so counting for ticket sales) and the heritage being seen as a winning characteristic for someone who’s going to be “tracking” people through the desert.
C: Almost another one of those “failed attempt to assassinate Hitler” movies, except it’s actually about the (ultimately successful) operation to assassinate of Reinhard Heydrich, one of the highest-ranked Nazis under Hitler and a major force behind the Holocaust.
M: Based on a true story, of course, focusing on the resistance against the Nazis in Prague, this looks pretty good to me.
E: Cillian Murphy, Jamie Dornan, and Anna Geislerová (two Irishmen and an actual Czech) star as the Czechoslovakian agents , and Toby Jones plays one of their bosses (rather a change from playing a Nazi/Hydra guy in the Marvel universe!).
M: Yes, I loved the turnabout for Jones, who plays creepy fantastically as either a good or bad guy!
C: The trailer conveys a sense of tension, high stakes, and not much else, but the few early reviews in circulation suggest the film has a high investment in historical accuracy, maintaining a complex view of the forces in play while devoting the much of its time to action.
M: Sounds like a winner, and especially after Mrs M’s and my recent Hunting Hitler binge, I’m on board.
C: Let’s just hope that Fifty Shades‘s Dornan has more to bring to the film than his current top hit on Google (“Jamie Dornan Lost ‘Butt Of the Year’ To Tom Hiddleston”) suggests.
M: That’s not overly promising, but in his defense, I didn’t recognize it was “the 50 Shades guy” during the trailer. And as a huge Chris Nolan fan, I’ve seen a lot of Cillian Murphy, who is fantastic and looks it in this.
E: I find Murphy a tad creepy too…
M: …because he IS!
E: …but I agree this one intrigues.
Ben Hur (wide)
C: Ugh, whyyyyyyy.
M: Because money.
E: What’s the point of this?
E: Does anyone think they can make a better movie than the 50’s classic with Charlton Heston and Hugh Griffith? Or is it just that there’s so much money to be made these days in expensive, religious sword and sandal epics? That’s got to be it.
M: Ding ding ding!
E: M, that was sarcasm.
C: Yeah, are you expecting this to be a mega hit financially? It may make back its money but I’d be shocked if it grosses impressively.
M: Maybe they’re thinking the international market?
C: Even so, who’s the audience for this type of film beyond the very same people who love the Charlton Heston version and would find a remake unnecessary? Sure, Ben-Hur was a book first, and then two silent films (the 1925 one is also considered something of a classic). But the 1959 epic is so memorable and so well-done, there isn’t really an artistic excuse to do it over, especially without a drastic change in medium (e.g. silent to sound) to justify it.
E: No. None.
M: My guess is they’re betting on the massive advancements in special effects. The 1959 version is, as C put it, epic, but it is epic in the old-school manner. This looks epic in the new (bad) school, whiz-bang, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen kind of manner. Which made me wonder if it was produced by Universal and they wanted to make a theme park ride out of it, but no, it’s MGM.
E: Yeah, despite your pushing of the money factor, M, there’s not even a clear economic reason: this had to be incredibly expensive, it’s not a popular genre at the moment, and they haven’t filled it with stars that would motivate movie goers. (I mean, okay, they put Morgan Freeman in a decent supporting role as the chariot race trainer, but I don’t see that as being enough. Toby Kebell/Victor Von Doom as Messala? Best I can say is that he looked familiar.) So again, who thought this was a good idea and threw hundreds of millions of dollars at it, and when can we pitch them an idea?
M: That reminds me, I saw this today:
E: Snort. Now, here’s a thought: do you think they wanted to prove they could film the chariot scene without killing someone? Maybe that’s what sets them apart from the earlier versions. (Although it turns out that this was only a legend and not an actual fact.)
C: Fun facts: star Jack Huston is the grandson of famed director John Huston (The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen) and nephew of actress Angelica Huston. His mother’s name — and this is reality, not Downton Abbey — is Lady Margot Lavinia Cholmondeley, and she’s a Rothschild descendant. Now that is what you call “connected.”
E: Are you KIDDING me? That’s insane.
M: Seriously, straight up crazy.
C: Wikipedia never lies.
M: Thank you, Michael Scott.
War Dogs (wide)
E: This one is less appealing for totally different reasons.
E: Based on a true story….
M: …hopefully very loosely…
E: …Miles Teller and Jonah Hill star as a pair of “war dogs,” bottom feeding war profiteers who win a 300-million-dollar Defense Department contract to what, run guns to American troops?
M: Yup, that seems to be it.
C: I’d really love to know why “true stories” like this get told when there are actually valuable, compelling untold stories out there.
M: Because people like Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen produce movies.
E: It’s hard to tell anything about these characters other than the fact that their bid was more than 50 million dollars lower than their competition, and that they’re complete jackasses.
M: I was thinking d-bags, but jackasses works.
E: Well, maybe Teller is supposed to be less of a jackass. Only marginally, though.
M: No, I think you only think that because the other guy’s Jonah Hill. The characters seem about equal to me.
E: Bradley Cooper co-stars (or at least cameos) as a weapons buyer on the terrorist watchlist.
C: Soooo we could retitle this Hypermasculinity On Parade, then? Fun fun.
Kubo and the Two Strings (wide)
C: Now this looks different! I can think of at least one friend who’ll be super into this new outing from the studio behind Coraline and The Box Trolls.
E: And at least one sibling. I’m intrigued by this guitar-playing ninja fantasy. Really striking stop-motion animation visuals, great voiceover cast (Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, George Takei, Rooney Mara and Matthew McConnaughey), fairy tale plot.
M: Agreed, this looks fantastic.
C: Heroic quests! Gods and monsters! Destiny! Revenge!
M: And creepy Asian women that look like Guy Fawkes and try to kidnap magical children! Or was I the only one who thought that?
C: Thought they looked like Guy Fawkes? I didn’t, but I see it now you point it out. At the time I was just alarmed by those ghost-witch people, and that skeleton thing too.
E: Let’s face it. I have kids.
M: We need to face that?
E: Ignoring you. *Ahem* Let’s face it, this could easily be the only movie I see in the theaters in August. Of course, it could also be The Secret Lives of Pets, which we still haven’t gotten out to see. Or I could luck out and make it to Ghostbusters, but I’m not holding my breath.
C: Make Ghostbusters happen! You definitely want to see it on the big screen, though not with your little’uns. As to this, it does look cool, but don’t you think some parts looked pretty scary for the younger kids?
M: I certainly won’t take my two-year-old, but I think that the rest of mine, and E’s Harry Potter-experienced kids can hack it. If you’ve watched the dementors in Prisoner of Azkaban without nightmares…
C: …then I’ll be surprised 😉
M: Well played. Again. Welcome back, sis!
C: Werner Hertzog’s latest film, a documentary about A.I., the ethics and impact of current technology, and the idea of the post-human. As I’ve confessed before in this space, I never go to see documentaries in the theater, and rarely watch them at all….
M: …don’t worry, no one else does either…
C: …but among those invested in such things, this is picking up a lot of attention. With just 20 reviews as of this writing, it holds a 100% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes.
M: It looks fascinating as a concept, but the people in it and the questions they’re asking seem really detached from reality to me. There’s a guy that thinks in the next few years we’ll be able to tweet thoughts? If we could translate the electrical impulses of our brain that specifically, we’ll be curing paralysis with nerve-impulse capturing devices long before we get to the point of digitizing thought.
E: Only if there’s more money in curing paralysis. There might not be.
M: And the guy that thinks a spontaneous AI may have already developed on its own on the internet somewhere, and just not alerted us to it’s existence? Please.
C: Maybe it’s a bit out-there, but leaps in technology always seem crazy before they happen. I feel like this might be a thing some of my teacher-friends will use down the line to stir up conversation in the classroom.
Don’t Breathe (wide)
C: Some underprivileged young adults decide to rob an older blind man as their ticket out of town. They break into his house, only he turns out to be, 1) very fit, 2) very well-armed, and 3) totally comfortable with killing housebreakers. Cue the horror/thrills as they try to escape the house un-killed.
M: I will say, it’s by far not the worst horror movie trailer I’ve seen. I’m giving it some points for originality.
E: So, hmm. Do you think audiences are supposed to root for them to die, or to escape?
C: Escape. The owner is portrayed as scary and monstrous (and I’m sure you could psychoanalyze the heck out of that from a Disability Theory perspective). Also, the punishment doesn’t really fit the crime, does it?
M: And the ring leader of the housebreakers was the jerk pushing the other two into it. The two remaining (at least in the trailer) were a young single mother (Suburgatory‘s Jane Levy) trying to get herself and her daughter away from her verbally abusive mother, and a kid (Dylan Minnette, who was very good on the short lived Jason Isaacs show Awake) who balks at first at robbing a blind man.
E: Good point: I would definitely root for Levy and Minnette to live.
M: They are trying to give you enough to feel empathy for them in the trailer, so it’ll probably be at least slightly more in the movie. Not our cup of tea, but for what it is it could be good.
Hands of Stone (wide)
C: Ugh, a boxing movie. Honestly, quality pretty much doesn’t matter to me here, I just hate watching men punch each other in the face.
E: I don’t know, I could be into it. I don’t love boxing. I particularly dislike all that spit. But I have vague memories of watching Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran when I was a kid, and I’m interested to know their stories. Plus, the cast is great (Robert DeNiro as the coach! Edgar Ramirez and Usher as the boxers, with turns from Ellen Barkin, John Turturo and Reg E. Cathay) and the movie looks like a well-made Rocky/biopic fusion. And yes (because I know you’re going to ask) Usher does seem like he can pull off Sugar Ray; they have a similarly sunny charisma.
M: Okay, I was letting you guys start out on this one, so I could come in and defend the movie after you both bashed it… but E’s said a lot of what needs to be said.
C: All right, go ahead and take issue with me then. (Though I only expressed a personal taste!)
M: First of all… DeNiro in a boxing biopic? Yes! Second, the Durant-Leonard fights were not only from the heyday of boxing, but were wildly entertaining for both the personalities and the action in the fights themselves.
C: …if you like watching men punch each other in the face.
M: I’m getting to that. Seeing the true(ish) story behind those fights, especially being told from the less expected Durant perspective, seems fascinating to me. And I agree with E, at least from the trailer Usher appears like he can pull it off, which is crazy. Now sure, if you are completely averse to seeing people hit each other repeatedly, then skip it, but the sport of boxing is dead (even if it doesn’t know it yet), so you don’t have to worry about it in the future, and can just watch this movie learn about the characters that used to participate before we truly knew better.
C: Hmmm. “Knew better” and switched to Ultimate Fighting?
M: Yes, far fewer concussions in that. But even there, its popularity is nowhere near what boxing used to be. Anyway, let’s move on… to something that’s actually far more mindless.
Mechanic: Resurrection (wide)
C: Jason Statham plays a hired killer who must kill a list of people in order to save his girlfriend (?), Jessica Alba. I assume based on this title that there was a previous film there is a sequel to.
E: I think I vaguely knew that existed.
M: I looked it up, it was 2011’s The Mechanic, which was a remake/re-imagining of the 1972 Charles Bronsan film of the same name. And no, I don’t remember either one. We didn’t even include it in our April 2011 movie preview.
C: Then I’m surprised it made enough to warrant a sequel. Which features such touching dialogue as: “I’ve spent my whole life setting people up to die. I’m setting you up to live.”
M: WOOO!!! I’m pumped! Oh, wait, no.
E: I mean, there’s lots of action that looks well done. The scene in the beginning of the trailer with the skyscraper and its rooftop pool? Pretty amazing, if morally repugnant.
M: Okay, yes, that is pretty cool. There’s also Jessica Alba, Michelle Yeoh and Tommy Lee Jones, who are all good.
E: If you don’t mind the anti-hero thing (and most people don’t these days) then this is probably a great, thoughtless summer popcorn movie.
C: “Great” might be a stretch, but I take your point.
Southside With You (limited)
E: I really, really want this presidential love story to be good; it’s such a cute idea.
M: Right, romanticizing our politicians. Very cute. Always works out well historically, too.
C: It’s a totally strange idea, in my opinion, though I agree with E that it could be cute if it’s well-written. But to make a romcom about how the sitting president met his wife? Has that ever happened before, I wonder?
M: I’ll say no and not even bother to look it up.
C: I guess there was that recent romcom about the young Queen Elizabeth II — which I’ve yet to see, though I meant to…
M: …that was set 60+ years go…
C: Yes, exactly. And I can’t think of much else that’s even that comparable — especially one that’s not a TV movie, but a proper film on the arty side.
E: I think it’s less of a romcom and more of a feel-good romance with a message about “making a difference.” Parker Sawyers (Obama) and Tika Sumpter (Michelle) aren’t exactly lookalikes, but they seem to be trying to capture the right mannerisms, especially Sawyers. Not saying this was the goal, but if you want to market a movie with relatively unknown black stars to a wide audience, having them play the Obamas is a clever inspiration!
C: I suppose M will have something depressing to say about this being shameless propaganda — Hollywood’s political agenda and all that — but one point we have all agreed on many times is that representation in the media matters to people; on a deep level, there’s something meaningful to all of us in feeling like the stories of people like us (in whatever aspect) are worth telling. I know the Obamas matter on that level to a lot of people, so it’s easy for me to imagine this film scratching a neglected itch, even if its portrayals do look glowing in the extreme.
M: I’ll just say that it’s interesting that these kind of movies are never made about conservative politicians. When Hollywood made a movie about George W. Bush while he was still in office, it was a movie depicting his assassination. I’m sure that one was “charming,” too.
C: Well, to be fair, there was also that satirical Bush TV show!
E: It’s not like anyone made a film about how Hillary met Bill, either. It is kind of interesting to wonder which politician’s romantic lives might make nice movies…
C: But it’s true, romantic little inspirational films aren’t getting made about current conservative politicians that I know of, and as we just agreed, this film too is a complete anomaly, so… there we are?
M: There we are. Happy summer, folks!