People Tell Me I Look Like Han Solo.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
  Summer Movie Preview: Part 3
It’s time for the third (and slightly belated) part of my preview of the upcoming summer movies, this time looking at the big July releases. As usual, I haven’t actually seen any of these movies yet, so keep that in mind that these are just my opinions of the big summer blockbusters.

Public Enemies (July 1)
So for the second straight month, my list is topped by films already out. Holidays have a funny way of messing up the be
st-laid plans. But I assume you all enjoy barbecues more than reading my thoughts on movies (if only by the slimmest of margins), so I figure you can forgive me. Anyway, Michael Mann’s film about the last days of legendary outlaw John Dillinger has been getting fairly middling reviews, but I’m still very much looking forward to checking it out myself. Mann’s one of my favorite filmmakers, and this cast looks pretty spectacular (Depp, Bale, Crudup), and it all adds up to make Public Enemies one of the movies I’ve been looking forward to the most this summer. I’ll check back in with my thoughts in the coming days.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (July 1)
This third installment in the animated franchise tied Transformers atop the box office last weekend, which is unsurprising considering how big the first two were. As usual, despite my love of animation, talking-animal kiddie flicks make my stomach turn, but evidently the kids dig this franchise. I still haven’t seen Up yet, but my understanding is that, quality wise, Pixar’s floating-house flick still is the cream of the animated crop this summer.

Blood: The Last Vampire (July 10, limited)
Speaking of animation, I’m a kinda-sorta anime fan, in that the stuff I like I really like, but as with anything, 90% of anime is unwatchable crap (I had to become something of an expert on the subject while at my old job, so I’ve seen quite a bit of it), but this action flick is a live-action adaptation of an anime I really like (with the same title). The plot follows a young Japanese girl in a school girl outfit (a fairly well-worn tradition in Japanese pop culture) who cuts up bat-looking vampires with a sword. Turns out she’s actually a vampire herself, and is much older than she appears. The anime is under an hour long, and barely spends any time on character development or even plot, really – vampires attack a U.S. military base in Japan in the ‘70s is about the extent of it – focusing instead on mood and some of the genuinely creepiest images I’ve ever seen in animation, and truly scary-looking vampire designs. The big question is whether this will hold up in a full-length movie. Seems sort of doubtful, but Blood is far enough up my alley on paper (swords, monsters, Japan) that I’ll definitely check it out.

Brüno (July 10)
I don’t typically let single reviews sway my opinion of movies going in, but I caught an early review of Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest last week that got my attention specifically because it said the film falls into exactly the trap I was afraid it would, which is that the character of Brüno, compared to Borat, is far more one-note, and this film is little more than Baron Cohen trying to shock bystanders with his gayness. If that’s true – which it very well may not be, as I think he really is something close to a proper genius – it’s pretty disappointing. I know many Americans are automatically uncomfortable with homosexuality, and while I’m sure there’s fodder for some decent comedy there, an entire movie built on that (or worse, the inherent ridiculousness of the fashion industry) will get old pretty quick. We’ll see though; I thought Borat was pretty amazing, and I’m still eager to see Brüno for myself.

I Love You, Beth Cooper (July 10)
Teen comedies, rather unsurprisingly, are not my thing, but this one looks worse than most. My thing with this movie, directed by Home Alone’s Chris Columbus and based on a novel by a former Simpsons writer (the film rights were sold before it was published; that’s not usually a great sign) is based on the fact that I’ve seen the trailer a couple of times and I still don’t know what it’s about. The premise is that some nerd, in his valedictorian speech, confesses his love for the hottest girl in school, and she later shows up at his house to take him out for a wild night on the town. The thing is, the trailer makes the titular Beth Cooper (played by Heroes starlet Hayden Panettiere) look sort of like a sociopath. So whether this movie is about the nerdy hero realizing that elevating someone you don’t even know onto an untouchable pedestal is actually a bad idea or whether she’ll turn out to just be “lovably crazy” (a form of crazy that only exists in the movies, I’ve found), I have no idea. I don’t want to see this movie, at all, but I’m pretty interested to find out what it’s actually about. The trailer’s so bad at conveying anything other than a collection of well-trodden high school jokes and crude sight gags that, as a guy who watches a lot of movie trailers, I’m sort of fascinated by it.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (July 15)
I don’t care about Harry Potter. But this thing will make tons of money, and I hear this is one of the best Potter movies yet. Enjoy.

(500) Days of Summer (July 17)
This indie romantic comedy has been getting some attention, but the trailer (which I admit is the sum total of my knowledge of this movie) looks sort of bland. Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy tries to get girl back….maybe I’m just old, but I feel like I’ve seen this movie before – a lot – and (500) Days of Summer doesn’t look like it’s doing anything different. I love the actors involved though – Joseph Gordon-Levitt has transformed into probably my favorite young actor working today, and like any good movie geek I have a serious crush on Zooey Deschanel – but unless I hear that this is some kind of once-in-a-generation insight into human relationships, it seems like just another cute-and-sappy indie romance. And I didn’t like Garden State enough to find that to be an exciting proposition.

G-Force (July 24)
A family comedy about a team of gerbil secret agents. In 3D. If I was 6 years old I’d probably be bugging my parents to take me to this. But I’m not, so I’m just going to go back to pretending this doesn’t exist. If you have kids, however, enjoy all the fart jokes and dated movie parodies.

The Ugly Truth (July 24)
Another summer romantic comedy. I doubt this stunningly generic-looking rom-com, about a stuffy TV producer (Katherine Heigl) who is (presumably eventually) charmed by a roguish ladies-man author/speaker (Gerard Butler, playing a really, really watered-down version of Tom Cruise’s character in Magnolia). I hate movies like this with a fiery passion, but many people dig them, which I can understand. But we already had one paint-by-numbers romantic comedy turn into a surprise hit this summer in The Proposal, and I doubt there’s room for two.

Orphan (July 24)
I guess it’s because I don’t have kids, but I’ve never fully grasped the appeal of the “creepy kids” s
ubgenre of horror. And those movies don’t tend to do all that well, at least they haven’t lately, so I’m a bit puzzled by this one, about a young couple that adopts a young girl after they lose their own unborn child. Turns out she’s either a psycho killer or a psycho killer with powers (the trailer is unclear; personally I like the powers idea), and all sorts of craziness ensues. The actors in this one are pretty solid though, with Vera Farmiga (the psychiatrist in The Departed) and Peter Sarsgaard as the couple, so at least the performances will presumably be decent. This also doesn’t really feel like a summer movie, but sometimes that kind of counter-programming works (see the success of The Proposal). Orphan seems pretty stock to me, but I’m just a jackass who writes about movies on the Internet.

Funny People (July 31)
I’ve really enjoyed Judd Apatow’s previous two directorial efforts, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, although I find them to be a bit overrated (which doesn’t mean they’re bad, I just think people seem to praise them more than they deserve), but I find his tendency towards the more saccharine aspects of romantic comedies and comedies in general to be his least appealing quality as a filmmaker. (The part where the plot kicks in and Things Get Serious is precisely the point where I lose interest in the vast majority of big-budget studio comedies.) The word I’ve heard on this film, about a comic-turned-Hollywood superstar’s cancer scare, set against the backdrop of the comedy scene, is that it’s really a sappy drama masquerading as a comedy, and all the funny bits are in the trailer. While, if true, that certainly doesn’t mean Funny People will be bad, it does mean I will probably wait for DVD for this one. I like the Anchorman-producing Judd Apatow, not the Judd Apatow who tries to make me cry via Adam Sandler dealing with cancer. I expect a big first weekend based on Apatow’s previous hits, but it’s a toss-up as to where things go from there. Who knows, maybe Apatow doing drama will be well-received. Stranger things have happened.

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