Friday, May 15, 2009

TWOTS Guide to 2009's Summer Movies

Summer is almost officially here, so that can only mean one thing. Ok, two, if the words "unbearable heat" just came to mind. Since summertime no longer means three months of sitting inside watching MTV and eating Doritos like they're going out of style, the rising temperatures (and shrinking garments of those darn California girls) make me think about the barrage of summer movies that have just begun to storm our local theaters.

Having realized just recently that not everyone reads Entertainment Weekly's Summer Movie Preview, I thought I'd do a little rundown of some of the upcoming offerings at the local googleplex. Since the economy is still in the toilet, I'm rating the movies with 1 - 4 dollar signs in terms of their entertainment value.

I'm not just here to entertain, people. I'm also here to help.


(In order of release date.)


WOLVERINE - This Hugh Jackman-starring "origin tale" is still slashing away much of the competition at the box office. It's just too bad it's not that great. Only somewhat better than the 3rd X-Men movie, but a far cry from the terrific first two installments. $$

STAR TREK - Remember last year how IRON MAN made you remember just how good and fun big budget blockbusters could be? That's what this reboot from director J.J. Abrams does. You don't have to be a Trekkie/Trekker to enjoy this, but it helps if you can tell the difference between a phaser and a lightsaber. $$$$

ANGELS & DEMONS - 2006's THE DA VINCI CODE was a Godsend for Columbia Pictures, even though most people didn't seem to care for it. Still, money talks, and it was good enough to convince Ron Howard and Tom Hanks to give Dan Brown's Da Vinci prequel (treated here as a sequel) another whirl. The word on the street? Wholly (not holy) forgettable. $$

THE BROTHERS BLOOM - This is one that will be harder to find but probably more worth your entertainment sheckles than most of the other offerings. Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo play con men siblings and Rachel Weisz is their latest mark - or will they be her latest victim? It's a lot like DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS just without the broad (read: funnier) humor. The second film from director Rian Johnson, who had an art-house hit in 2005 with the high-school noir mystery BRICK - a film I just could not get into. My bad, I'm sure. $$$

MANAGEMENT - Another smaller film though I haven't heard much other than Jennifer Aniston and Steve Zahn are in it. For me, Aniston is limited in range, but always appealing, and Zahn is one funny dude, though check out his more serious turn in the upcoming thriller THE PERFECT GETAWAY. $$$

TERMINATOR SALVATION - Why am I still not overly excited about this fourth installment of the hugely successful cybernetic franchise? Maybe it's because it's the fourth installment of the hugely successful cybernetic franchise. Mainly it's because it's directed by McG (CHARLIE'S ANGELS 1 & 2, WE ARE MARSHALL) a guy who has yet to make a decent movie. I ask you: has any single-named director ever made a great movie? Tarsem fans, please don't write me. $$

THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE - This is another one of OCEAN'S 11,12,13's Steven Soderbergh's no-budget, art-house, ventures, and the only review I've heard is from one of my favorite online critics, emulsioncompulsion.com's Scott Marks, and he's says it's terrific. Good enough to get my money. It stars real-life porn star Sasha Grey as a high-class escort. But will it play in Omaha? $$$

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN - Unless my niece Sophia absolutely ahs to see it over Memorial Day weekend, I'm going to take a Pasadena on this one. When there are more actors in the trailer than the one-sheet for THE CANNONBALL RUN, you know something's amiss. Families will eat it up, I'm sure. $1/2

UP - It's from Pixar. Are you really not going to see this? Naysayers think they are due for a flop, but word for the Cannes film festival is that this ain't it. See it when the kiddies are in school, though. $$$$

DRAG ME TO HELL - I've seen most of this movie and can't really comment. Suffice it to say pre-SPIDER MAN Sam Raimi fans will probably get the biggest kick out of it. Post-Spidey fans might just think it's a drag. $$

THE HANGOVER - Another one I've only seen parts of, but this bachelor party gone awry comedy starring four dudes most people have never heard of is slated to be the must-see R-rated comedy of the summer. Struggling actors note: this is the second film this year Mike Tyson appears in. Call your agents. $$$1/2

LAND OF THE LOST - Will Ferrell leads bumbling loser Danny McBride and "Pushing Daisies'" fetching Anna Friel back to Sid and Marty Krofft Land in this big budget movie-fied version of the 70s kids' show staple. I saw it. Should you? Only if you ever wondered what "Jurassic Park" would be like if was a comedy. Good, dumb, fun. $$$

IMAGINE THAT - You know how there's usually at least one summer movie that is an absolute stinkbomb that repels both audiences and critics? Last summer it was MEET DAVE. This summer, Eddie Murphy goes for two with this kid-friendly flick whose plot is strikingly similar to last Christmas' Adam Sandler hit BEDTIME STORIES. Why, Eddie, why??? Fifty cents at best.

MOON - Another arthouse option. This space mystery stars CHOKE'S Sam Rockwell as a stranded astronaut. The trailer has shades of CAPRICORN ONE and SOLARIS, neither of which were major hits. Looks interesting, though. $$1/2

THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 - Denzel Washington and John Travolta star in this remake of the popular Walter Maltthau '70s action thriller. Directed by hit-maker Tony Scott (ENEMY OF THE STATE, DEJA-VU) this will probably be a decent popcorn movie, though when Travolta plays bad guys, there's usually no scenery left to chew by the film's end. Good luck, Denzel. $$

THE PROPOSAL - Sandra Bullock stars as an icy Canadian book editor (aren't they always?) who traps her assistant (Ryan Reynolds) into marrying her so she can stay in New York. The audience I saw it with laughed like they were watching SOME LIKE IT HOT. I felt like I was on another planet. Still, with Bullock headlining, it's pretty much a license to print money. $$1/2

WHATEVER WORKS - Larry David starring in a Woody Allen movie? I'm there for sure, though Woody haters will certainly curb their enthusiasm. $$$1/2

YEAR ONE - When I was a kid, I thought CAVEMAN starring Ringo Starr was one of the funniest movies I had seen in my 8 years of living. Then I saw it again in high school. Never trust an 8 year old movie critic. Still, I hope this is good. It stars Jack Black, Michael Cera, and David Cross in a prehistoric comedy directed by the usually reliable Harold Ramis. Please, please, don't suck! $$$

TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN - I didn't care for the first installment, but I do admit to having seen it only on DVD. Still, I'm not charged up for this second go around, but will at least check out a matinee at the budget-friendly Vista theater. $$

THE HURT LOCKER - Anyone up for an Iraq War-themed action-drama? The answer's usually no, but this one stars Ralph Fiennes, Guy Pierce, and "Lost's" Evangeline Lily and is directed by Kathryn Bigelow of NEAR DARK, BLUE STEEL, and STRANGE DAYS fame/infamy. $$$1/2

ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS - Is it just me or are the teaser trailers starring the acorn-seeking rodent much funnier than the movies they're advertising? This looks like more of the same...but in 3-D! Pass. $1/2

PUBLIC ENEMIES - Another one I've seen and can't really comment on except to say despite Johnny Depp and Christian Bale's box office allure, this will probably please fans of director Michael Mann more than it will PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN and DARK KNIGHT fans. It will probably be the biggest hit of the summer for the over 30 crowd at least. $$$1/2

BRUNO - Did you like BORAT? Then see this hysterically profane follow-up from creator/star Sacha Baron Cohen opening weekend. The explosive laughter that greets this fabulously un-P.C. film practically blows the theater walls off. If you hated BORAT, enjoy THE PROPOSAL. $$$$

I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER - The plot for this post-high school graduation comedy, which is based on "Simpsons" writer Larry Doyle's novel, sounds terrific. A nerdy student exclaims the phrase from the movie's title during his valedictory graduation speech, much to the horror of Beth Cooper, played by the alluring, but oddly bland, Hayden Panettiere (TV's bland "Heroes.") The bad news is it's directed by Chris Columbus, whose movies are generally, well, bland. Here's hoping, at least. $$$

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE - I've read all the books and seen all the films up til now, so I'm all in. Why did Warner Bros make us wait so long, though? Avada Kedavra on them! $$$$

ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE - There's usually at least one horror movie in the summer movie pile and this one has been on the backburner for at least three years now. Never a good sign, but the title is a killer. $1/2

(500)DAYS OF SUMMER - This romantic comedy starring Joseph Gordon-Leavitt (the excellent THE LOOKOUT, the aforementioned BRICK) and Zooey Deschanel (ELF, ALMOST FAMOUS, THE GOOD GIRL) could very well be the sleeper hit of the summer. And not just because it has the word "summer" in the title. $$$

G-FORCE - Another CGI-laden family film, this time involving butt-kicking guinea pigs (you read that right) that has kids-only written all over it. You'll crack up though when you realize which of the rodents Nicolas Cage is doing the voice for. Laugh if you want, but his acting is better here than in "Know1ng." Parents will feel like the real guinea pigs, though. $1/2

THE UGLY TRUTH - Another recent escapee from movie release purgatory, this comedy starring Katherine Heigl (KNOCKED UP, some hospital TV show) and 300's Gerard Butler will likely get lost in THE PROPOSAL's wake. And that's the ugly truth. $

ADAM - This little gem's paltry release will most likely make ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE look like TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN by comparison. Check out my review at: http://valleyscenemagazine.com/movies/ $$$

FUNNY PEOPLE - The latest from profane comedy auteur Judd Apatow stars Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, and SUPERBAD'S Jonah Hill as both successful and struggling stand-up comics. The trailer looks good, but oddly feel-good-y. Apatow always delivers the good though. $$$1/2

G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA - This buzz on this movie based on the original action figure is eerily low. The teaser posters look like the filmmakers are selling black spandex and not entertainment - and that's probably no accident. If WATCHMEN was a near-miss, this will be a gargantuan mega-bomb. Don't get snakebit. $

JULIE & JULIA - Who'd thought Meryl Streep would become a summer movie staple, but after THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA and MAMMA MIA! became counter-programming mega-hits, the former SHE DEVIL star, here playing famous chef Julia Child, is now box office gold. Having "It girl" Amy Adams playing Childs' modern counterpart doesn't hurt either. Guaranteed to be the biggest food-porn hit since BIG NIGHT. $$$

A PERFECT GETAWAY - Stylish action-thriller director David Twohy (THE ARRIVAL, PITCH BLACK) directs this perfectly entertaining thriller about a married couple, played by Steve Zahn and RESIDENT EVIL heroine/bad movie script-magnet Milla Jovovich, being stalked by a another, albeit murderous, couple led by the devilishly charming Timothy Olyphant (LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD.) Prepare yourself for some good twists. $$$

TAKING WOODSTOCK - This Ang Lee helmed drama which is set against the backdrop of the historic Woodstock concert is already giving me ACROSS THE UNIVERSE flashbacks - and that ain't good. I'm sick of actors playing 60s dress-up. Pass! $$

INGLORIOUS BASTERDS - I'm not usually one for supporting bad grammar in movie titles, but Quentin Tarantino directing a WWII action drama starring Brad Pitt? Here's my money. $$$$

H2 - Everytime I see this title I think of K-2. Then I think of K-12: THE WIDOWMAKER. Then I look at the mask and realize it's a reboot of HALLOWEEN 2, the way-inferior follow-up to the original HALLOWEEN, which was rebooted in 2007 as ROB ZOMBIE'S HALLOWEEN and it pretty much blew. I'm expecting the same, but I'll check it out with the same morbid fascination I do highway roadkill. $$

EXTRACT - The latest comedy from Mike Judge of OFFICE SPACE and "Beavis and Butthead" fame (will the word "Butthead" be mentioned in Judge's eulogy?) stars Jason Bateman, Ben Affleck, and the awesome Kristen Wiig. It concerns the goings-on at a flavor extract plant. Expect some good laughs and lots of empty seats. $$1/2

And the winner for the "Hardest To Find Award" will likely go to...

BLACK DYNAMITE - This was apparently a big hit on the festival circuit. The plot synopsis I read is as follows: " A 70s African American action hero fights 'The Man,' who murders his brothers and floods the ghetto with heroin and malt liquor." I'm in. $$$$

For you completists out there, I apologize if I left off any films you're excited about. Let me know if I overlooked any diamonds in the rough.

See you at the movies!