People Tell Me I Look Like Han Solo.
Friday, July 31, 2009
  Summer Movie Preview: Part 4
It’s time for the fourth and final part of my preview of the upcoming summer movies, this time looking at the films of August. 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 flicks.

A Perfect Getaway (Aug. 7)
This thriller follows a young married couple (Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich) backpacking through a remote part of Hawaii, where they meet up with two other couples and later learn that local authorities are looking for a pair of killers posing as a traveling couple. Appropriately enough, the men in each of the other couples is creepy as hell (Timothy Olyphant as a possibly-crazed military vet, and Chris Hemsworth, recently cast as Marvel's Thor, as just a big scary dude), and Zahn and Jovovich are soon fighting for their lives (at least this is what the trailer tells me). It was directed by David Twohy, who helmed the Riddick movies for Vin Diesel. The reason this has me sort of interested in A Perfect Getaway is that it’s a straight-up thriller, and Twohy proved in the first Riddick film, Pitch Black, that he can really do creepy atmospherics, and I like the "whodunnit" aspect of the story. It’s a bit of a strange movie to come out in summer, but every now and then a cool little piece of counterprogramming can hit the jackpot. I’m definitely intrigued.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (Aug. 7)
I’m so torn about G.I. Joe. On the one hand, I’m almost positive the movie will be bad – it was rushed into production to beat the writers’ strike, and it was directed by Stephen Sommers, whose last film was the cinematic travesty that was Van Helsing – but I was a devoted fan of the toys when I was a kid (and I occasionally wear a Cobra t-shirt as an “adult”), so I can’t pretend there isn’t a part of me that’s pretty excited to shell out money to see a movie where Snake Eyes fights Stormshadow and Destro blows things up. It’s similar to how I felt going into the first Transformers movie, but at least that had a director in Michael Bay who, if nothing else, is pretty good at making nice-looking movies in which things explode a lot. Either way, I’ll definitely be seeing G.I. Joe, and I plan on going in with as open a mind as possible. I mean, Destro melts the Eiffel Tower in the trailer. I dunno if that’s worth $12, but it’s gotta be worth something.

Julie & Julia (Aug. 7)
The requisite August chick-flick is actually a sort of ambitious idea, telling the parallel stories of Julia Child (Meryl Streep) as she goes to cooking school in France before she became famous, and Julie Powell (Amy Adams), a woman who, I guess, wrote a blog in which she tried to cook her way through all of Child’s cookbooks (forgive me if I’m not that keen on the details, or Powell's potential fame; I’ve only seen the trailer). Playing an icon like Julia Child seems right up Streep’s alley, and if she doesn’t get at least an Oscar nomination for it I’ll be surprised. While I couldn’t be less interested in the movie itself, Streep and Adams are both quality actresses, and Julie & Julia seems like just the type of movie that could sneak in and make a pile of money.

District 9 (Aug. 14)
I’ve raved about how stoked I am to see this unique-looking movie a couple of times already, and word out of the Comic-Con screening is that Neill Blomkamp’s sci-fi flick delivers the goods. No movie this summer has had me this excited. (I got so worked up when I saw a bus-shelter poster the other day I flipped a car. True story.*) Will it live up to the hype I’ve created in my brain? I guess we’ll see in a few weeks.

*not a true story.

The Goods (Aug. 14)
I know very little about this apparently raunchy comedy about competing car salesmen starring Jeremy Piven and Ed Helms other than what I’ve seen in the trailers. And the trailers have made me laugh a couple of times, so unless I hear it’s unwatchably bad, I’ll probably check it out. Another odd summer release, but after the success of The Hangover, maybe Helms will drive some fans of that movie to this one.

The Time Traveler’s Wife (Aug. 14)
Another for the “really not my thing file,” this drama sees Rachel McAdams, one of the only living humans who has witnessed me dance (true story**), playing a woman who falls in love with a man (Eric Bana, whom I do not believe has seen me dance) she first met when she was a child and he informed her he would one day marry her. See, he says he’s a time traveler, and he therefore has seen their future together. I guess he bops around in time with no real control, and their eventual marriage (there’s a minor spoiler in the title, apparently) suffers for it. I imagine it would be sort of frustrating if your spouse spontaneously dissolved every few weeks/months/years. It’s based on a best-selling novel, and the minor sci-fi conceit does make The Time Traveler’s Wife seem more interesting than the average weepy romance, but that same ambition could also be the film’s undoing.

**That one actually is a true story.

Inglourious Basterds (Aug. 21)
I don’t know what it is about this movie, but I’m surprisingly uninterested. I’m a Quentin Tarantino fan, I guess; I at least really like just about all his movies, particularly Kill Bill and True Romance (which he wrote), but I’ve never really been a freak for his stuff the way many self-styled “movie geeks” seem to. And for some reason, Tarantino’s long-gestating World War II movie is leaving me pretty cold so far. It could be that I’m not really into WWII movies. It could be that the idea was originally to cast a bunch of huge stars never panned out and instead we get a bunch of unknowns and TV actors (the guy from The Office? Seriously?). Or it could be the annoying grin Hostel director and QT pal Eli Roth’s character apparently wears in every goddamn scene he’s in. Whatever the reason, I’m just not really feeling this one. Don’t get me wrong, I will certainly see this movie, probably on the opening weekend. I’m just strangely unenthused about it. Maybe those inexplicably lowered expectations will help me enjoy it more.

Shorts (Aug. 21)
I seem to like Robert Rodriguez’s movies more than most people, but I don’t think he’s the second coming of anyone. He makes fun, violent movies that are right up my alley, and he apparently does it cheap. But his chidren’s movies (somewhat obviously) don’t interest me at all, and even for kiddie fare they seem sort of silly (this one’s about a kid who finds a rock that grants him wishes, or something). But he he’s been ahead of the curve for years (Sin City revolutionized the use of green screens, and he was making 3D movies back in 2003, years before they were all the rage), and who knows, this one may be a Spy Kids-level hit. God knows G-Force did a whole lot better than I expected it to.

Big Fan (Aug. 28)
I wrote about this film previously (it’s release on the 28th is limited to New York and Philadelphia, but it expands later), after seeing the trailer, and hoo boy, I can’t wait. This exploration of obsessive sports fandom is the directorial debut from the writer of The Wrestler, a movie I adored, and I trust Robert D. Siegel to strike the right balance between being funny, sad and sort of frightening. My only fear about Big Fan is I’m letting myself get too excited about it.

The Final Destination (Aug. 28)
The Final Destination franchise is often cited by many movie fans as a guilty pleasure, but personally I’ve always just found the movies silly. Which I understand is part of the appeal, but it just doesn’t really do it for me. Still, there are worse ways to spend 90 minutes than watching implausibly attractive young people die in increasingly elaborate accidents, and this one’s in 3D, which I imagine will add up to a pretty fun time at the movies if you’re into this kind of thing. I could see this being a surprise hit, assuming the audience overlap with the next film doesn’t do it in. But considering how divisive Rob Zombie’s first Halloween was with fans, I think The Final Destination could come out on top.

Halloween 2 (Aug. 28)
I seem to be in the minority when it comes to Rob Zombie’s Halloween movie by virtue of the fact that I quite liked it (check out my DVD review here). The sequel looks…bizarre to say the least. I certainly don’t mind the fact that Zombie’s departing from the plot of the original Halloween sequels (which I haven't seen and don't really care about), but this seems like he’s shoehorned a Rob Zombie movie about a masked killer dressed like a hobo haunted by visions of his dead mother (an idea more in keeping with Friday the 13th, but I digress) into the Halloween premise. But Zombie’s best film, The Devil’s Rejects, was itself a sequel to a by-the-numbers slasher flick (the fairly forgettable Texas Chainsaw riff House of 1,000 Corpses), and one of the things that makes Devil’s Rejects great is that it feels like Zombie’s freeing himself of the shackles of the first movie to make the movie he wants to make, and if the same holds true for Halloween 2, the result could be something pretty special. But it could also be a total mess.

Taking Woodstock (Aug. 28)
Few directors have careers as diverse as Ang Lee. His latest movie, his follow-up to the risqué Chinese spy thriller Lust, Caution, is a light-hearted comedy about the family on whose land the original Woodstock festival took place. I have no idea how accurate the premise is to real life (the trailer has the family basically lying about having a proper permit to put on a massive rock festival, which is just crazy enough to be true), but Lee’s assembled a pretty solid cast (Liev Schreiber, Emile Hirsch, Eugene Levy), with the one X-factor, for me at least, being comic Demitri Martin in the lead. I find I can take or leave Martin’s comedy (I used to really enjoy his occasional Daily Show bits a lot, but the more he did the more same-y and repetitive they started to seem, and what little I’ve seen of his own Comedy Central show, Important Things, is just lame), but I’m keeping an open mind about him as an actor, so he could very well do good work when saddled with a character to play and a talented director like Lee at the helm. And Lee doesn’t make bad movies, so him tackling this sort of material makes Taking Woodstock look more interesting than I would have otherwise thought.

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