The Change Up
When I reviewed Horrible Bosses earlier this summer, I noted that I wanted someone to let Jason Bateman be more than the straight man in a comedy. I should have qualified my statement—I want someone to let Bateman be more than the straight man in a good comedy. The Change-Up looks awful, which is counter-intuitive as I like Bateman and Leslie Mann (Funny People and wife of Judd Apatow), and I enjoy Ryan Reynolds in comedic roles more than I do in serious ones. We won’t speak of Olivia Wilde, who brings her incredibly bad luck (everything she’s in tanks) with her. Yet The Change-Up looks terrible. Why? Because body-switching comedies aren’t funny. The only switch comedy that’s funny is Trading Places and that has a lot to do with Eddie Murphy in his prime. It also has a lot to do with the circumstances between the two primary characters being wildly different. (Don’t get on me about Big—it’s a great movie but it’s not a straight comedy.) In The Change-Up we have two good looking white dudes in privileged circumstances changing places. The single guy has kids now! The married man is dating! Haha! So funny! This is the sound of my heart breaking.
Gun Hill Road
This is one of those little human dramas that always feels a bit out of place in summer but probably isn’t strong enough to stand up during the traditionally more drama-oriented fall/winter, either. Gun Hill Road is about an ex-con (Esai Morales) who returns home after three years in prison to find his wife (Judy Reyes, Scrubs) is now estranged and his teenaged son is in the process of discovering himself (herself?) as a transvestite. The son, Michael/Vanessa, is played by Harmony Santana in her debut role. She got a lot of praise for her work in Gun Hill Road at Sundance amidst mixed reviews for the film overall. I want to see this for Santana alone, I just don’t think I’m going to run out and spend $13 on it.
Back in the 1960’s Ken Kesey, writer of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest got into a psychedelic bus with the “Merry Band of Pranksters” and Neal Cassady (immortalized as Dean by Jack Kerouac in On the Road) and they filmed their trip to New York. Stanley Tucci steps into this documentary about that trip as the present-day narrator and interviewer who provides some attempt at a frame for the story, as directed by documentarian Alex Gibney (Client 9, Freakonomics). There’s a lot of criticism that this doc provides little to no insight about the 1960’s and the hippie era, but I would like to point out that EVERYONE WAS STONED OUT OF THEIR MINDS. The footage is basically home video stuff shot by a bunch of dudes rocked off their gourds. So yeah, expecting coherency is just setting yourself up for disappointment. If you’re a Beat fan, a Kesey fan, a Cassady fan, a 1960’s fan and/or a fan of psychedelic bus trips, this movie’s for you.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
This also looks awful yet is getting weirdly positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Right now, I’m attributing this to the fact that no one can stand to listen to James Franco explain how we’re not “getting” him yet again, so they’re just saying nice things about his new movie so he won’t get offended. I’ll get back to you next week after I see the movie about why it really sucks (I can tell it sucks. It’s a gift). Also starring Freida Pinto, and Andy Serkis as a bunch of monkeys.
Rachel Weisz makes an Oscar bid in this inspired-by-true-events story of a UN peacekeeper who discovers a vast sex-trafficking ring within the UN. The trailer reads taut and dramatic but…I have that sneaking suspicion the movie isn’t as good as they’re making it seem. I love Weisz—so talented, so gorgeous, so good for gossip—but her taste level is…questionable. She doesn’t always pick winners (see also: Agora, My Blueberry Nights, The Fountain). She was making a lot better choices 5+ years ago (The Constant Gardner, Sunshine, About a Boy). This movie does, however, costar sexy beast David Strathairn. So there’s that.
There’s some award buzz building for this movie already, even though we’re waaaaaay too far out to really start discussing that, and also, it’s coming out in August, not September, which means it probably isn’t quite as strong as people want us to believe. Still, Emma Stone abandons her big-eyed, hand-wavy romcom schtick for a more serious turn in this adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s novel about life in segregated Mississippi. I didn’t love the book as much as everyone else did, but it should translate well to the screen, especially with this cast—Stone is joined by the always excellent Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer (Peep World), Jessica Chastain (Tree of Life), Bryce Dallas Howard (Twilight Saga: Eclipse) and Allison Janney.
30 Minutes or Less
We’ve had a decent batch of comedies this year—much improved over the comedic wasteland of 2010—but with the exception of The Trip, nothing has been gut-busting funny. Bridesmaids got pretty close but it was a bit too inconsistent, especially at the end, to really follow through. I’m hoping 30 Minutes or Less delivers us the big laughs. Director Ruben Fleischer scored a couple years ago with Zombieland and here he reunites with his Zombieland star Jesse Eisenberg, as well as Aziz Ansari (Parks & Recreation), Danny McBride and stand-up comic Nick Swardson (Reno 911). These are all people I like (well, except for Ansari but I can deal), and the premise sounds funny. A pizza delivery boy (Eisenberg) is kidnapped by a couple of low-life criminals (McBride and Swardson) who strap a bomb vest onto him and force him to rob a bank. He enlists the help of his friend (Ansari) and chaos ensues. The trailers have been consistently funny and I don’t feel like they’re spoiling the best bits. Finger’s crossed.
Final Destination 5
A group of attractive teens escape certain death during a bridge collapse thanks to a well-timed premonition. Death then finds increasingly absurd ways to kill off the attractive teens, because as we all know by #5 in this series of awful “horror” movies, Death doesn’t like to be cheated.
Remember when Devon Sawa starred in the original Final Destination? Remember when Devon Sawa was a thing?
I can’t believe how much I used to love Glee and now it’s come to this.
I have not heard one bad thing about this documentary about Brazilian Formula 1 racing legend Ayrton Senna. Directed by Asif Kapadia (Far North), Senna traces the career and untimely death of Senna and the legacy he’s left behind. This is pretty obscure subject matter for US audiences but people just rave about this movie and everyone emphasizes that you don’t have to be a Formula 1 fan to enjoy it. Docs like this always interest me—I like watching documentaries about subjects on which I am completely uninformed. If I can find this in theaters I’ll probably see it.
Conan the Barbarian
Grunting Neanderthal Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones) doesn’t cook my goose if you catch my drift, but he comes across as a fairly nice, if self-involved, dude in real life. He seems like a happy go lucky surfer/extreme athlete sort. And he does have a base, grunting-Cro-Magnon-man kind of appeal on screen. I’d rather Momoa than that half-evolved missing link Channing Tatum, I suppose. The remake of Conan the Barbarian (originally starring Arnold Schwarzenegger) is supposed to be Momoa’s big film break (he’s been playing various beefcakes on TV for a while) and it looks, well, laughably bad. But maybe also fun? I’ll get back to you on that.
With topliners like Patrick Dempsey and Ashley Judd you think this movie would be getting more attention, but it’s not. Flypaper is about a guy (Dempsey) who saves a bank teller (Judd) during a robbery in which two rival gangs end up in a Mexican standoff and everyone gets sealed inside the bank when the night security kicks in. Sounds like it could be humorous but reviews are mixed-to-bad. Tim Blake Nelson, Jeffrey Tambor and Mekhi Phifer also star.
Holy hell Colin Farrell looks good in this movie. I know he’s an emotional black hole and that shouldn’t be attractive but sweet Christ. He’s so hot. He stars with Anton Yelchin (Like Crazy, Charlie Bartlett), Toni Collette and English actress Imogen Poots (Cracks) in this remake of the 1980’s vampire flick. Yelchin stars as Charley, a high school student who comes to suspect that his neighbor, Jerry (Farrell), is a vampire. He’s helped to this realization by a classmate, Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kick Ass). Charley must then destroy Jerry in order to protect his mother (Collette) and his girl (Poots). This looks like nice, cheesy fun. Skip Final Destination 5 and see this instead.
Also, Imogen Poots needs to date Benedict Cumberbatch. They’d be the most ludicrously-named couple in Hollywood.
I know a lot of you are anxious for this one but movies like this piss me off. Keep in mind that I haven’t read the book, but just looking at the trailer I can tell you that Dex and Emma are IDIOTS. They have a passionate night in their early twenties and then blow TWENTY YEARS not being happy together. You know what movie I hate? Serendipity (Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack fall in love but instead of trading numbers like normal human beings, they decide to leave it to fate to reunite them) . One Day reminds me of Serendipity. Like—oh look, you’re my soulmate and I’m feeling all these feelings and I think I might love you and this is special and rare and should be treasured but instead of being courageous and fighting for this, for you, I’M GOING TO WALK AWAY BECAUSE TEEHEE FATE IS ADORBS! Fate sucks. Put your trust in fate and you’re going to get fucked over every time. You know what movie I love? Say Anything. You know why? Because Lloyd Dobler never stops fighting for Diane but when she needs to be brave and fight for him, she does. There’s no cutesy fate bullshit in Say Anything. Just Lloyd and Diane, fighting for one another. Sigh. Now that’s romantic.
Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World
Poor Joel McHale. Poor, poor Joel McHale. I can only assume that he ran over some Dimension exec’s dog and this is how he’s making up for it. There is no other explanation for his involvement in this tripe.
Up and coming young English things Sam Riley (Control, the upcoming On the Road) and Andrea Riseborough (Made in Dagenham and she is Madonna’s Wallis Simpson in W.E.) star in this adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel about a thug who marries the woman who witnesses him murdering someone. Helen Mirren, John Hurt and Andy Serkis in a human role round out the principal cast. I feel like I should care about this because of everyone involved, but I also feel like they’ve all done, or will do, more interesting work.
Zoe Saldana is so gorgeous. SOOOOOO gorgeous. She has shit taste in clothes but goddamn does she have a Face. She’s so pretty and fun to watch on screen that sometimes I don’t notice she’s not a very good actress. Do you think she can act? I don’t think she can act. She just coasts on her raft of presence and pretty. But I don’t care. I like watching her movies. She’s never ruined anything for me. Colombiana is exactly the kind of movie I think of her making, too, stuff that Angelina Jolie would have made fifteen years ago. Colombiana is Saldana’s Hackers. Colombiana is about a young girl who sees her parents murdered and then she grows up to be an assassin who is tracking down the people who killed her parents. Basically The Professional except in Columbia and the girl does the killing herself.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
I would be all over this Guillermo del Toro production (he also co-wrote the script), an intriguing-looking horror story about creatures inhabiting a house and trying to steal the daughter of the household (Bailee Madison, Just Go With It). Guy Pearce also stars, continuing his “I’ve kicked the heroin” comeback tour. Except del Toro hired Katie Holmes. I cannot stand Katie Holmes, Actress. SHE IS TERRIBLE. I hated her on Dawson’s Creek and I hate her in every movie I see her in. She was the WORST presence and NO TALENT and always looks/sounds like she’s about to cry. And her mangled legs are so distracting any time she’s in frame from the waist down. I would’ve liked The Kennedys so much more if ANYONE ELSE had played Jackie O. Fuck, a turnip could’ve played Jackie O and it would have been better than Katie Holmes.
I blame Tom Cruise for this.
Vera Farmiga (Source Code, Up in the Air) makes her directorial debut with Higher Ground, a film about a woman’s struggle with her faither. Farmiga plays Corrine, who, as a young mother, is baptized as an Evangelical Christian after her child is spared during an auto accident. You would expect a movie like this to have a judgey tone towards Evangelicals, since that’s the stereotype of how Hollywood portrays people of faith, but Farmiga presents a very normal portrait of Evangelical life. Corrine lives in the ’burbs, is married, has friends, talks about sex, raises her kids, with whom she sometimes fights. Interwoven throughout is the strong thread of her faith, which she sometimes struggles with. You get the sense that Corrine’s husband is a believer only because his wife is, and that he resents that, and that though Corrine holds tightly to her beliefs she doesn’t always agree with them. It’s a pretty deep and complex look at the Evangelical lifestyle, especially coming from a first-time director. Not a bad debut for Vera Farmiga, Director.
Our Idiot Brother
Brother and sister filmmaking duo Jesse and Evgenia Peretz cooked up this love letter to Paul Rudd (Jesse directs and Evgenia co-wrote the script). Rudd stars as Ned, a Happy Stoner who crashes with each of his three sisters in succession after he’s released from jail. This looks cute and Rudd seems perfect as Ned—he should since the role was written for him—but nothing about this strikes me as anything more than a middle of the road comedy. Like, I bet there’s a moral at the end. Something about accepting one another, and knowing when to relax and when to be responsible. Don’t get me wrong, the movie doesn’t look bad, it just looks like we’ve probably seen it before, you know? Big plus in its favor, though, is Steve Coogan as one of Ned’s brothers-in-law. You can’t go wrong with Coogan.
Whatever movies Olivia Wilde isn’t in this year, Jessica Chastain is. 2011 is the breakout year for Chastain, who was excellent in Tree of Life and still has the intriguing Take Shelter later this year (and The Help, mentioned above). The Debt is a then-and-now story, with Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Ciaran Hinds starring as the “now” versions of Mossad agents Rachel, David and Stefan (though “now” is 1997). Sam Worthington, Chastain and Marton Csokas (The Bourne Supremacy) star as the younger versions of the agents, working in the 1960’s. This played to generally positive reviews at TIFF last fall and the trailer is decent—tight if a little obtuse. This doesn’t really scream “must see in theater” to me and will likely be shone down by that other spy thriller this year, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.