Finally, with the arrival of Memorial Day, can we celebrate the start of the summer season. Forget going to the beach or playing frisbee or other outdoor activities. Summer means big, loud, banging movies! Let's take a look at this year's offerings.
X-Men: First Class
What It Is: Every good superhero story needs an origin myth, so here is one for the X-Men, a merry band of mutants who hang around a giant mansion in tight latex suits and, presumably, have mutant power-fueled orgies. But forget about the orgies for now. In this movie we're back in the 1960s and Professor X and Magneto (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, rowr) are young idealistic friends opening a school for wayward and confused young
mutants. There's Havoc (Cyclops' brother), Beast (played by About a Boy nerd turned Skins hunk Nicholas Hoult), Mystique (Ozark princess Jennifer Lawrence), and Banshee (some dude), among others. Eventually, of course, Magneto goes rogue (not Rogue) and action ensues.
Should You See It? Probably? Though the special effects look a bit tacky in the trailers, the film is directed by Matthew Vaughn, who's shown panache before (Layer Cake), and it's a superhero movie set in the 1960s! Mad Men meets mutants! And speaking of Mad Men, this is probably worth seeing just to see how silly January Jones is. Very silly probably! (June 3)
What It Is: A monster movie written and directed by J.J. Abrams, Super 8 seems to be not just a summertime action adventure, but also a paean to youth and the imagination, much the way of Steven Spielberg. Basically some sort of monster escapes and a group of kids trying to make their own movie are the first to witness it and then adventure ensues. Kyle Chandler plays a small-town sheriff, and the dad of the boy, while Elle Fanning plays the kid's presumable love interest.
Should You See It? Yes! Spielberg's getting on in years and we need a new mega movie master to gently tell us big tales, and Abrams might be the one to do it. Sure he's already had Star Trek directing success, but that's a known franchise. Super 8 is all him. Can he do it? Let's find out together! If you're not interested in that stuff, you should probably still see it, as it looks like a fun throwback kind of movie, all about simple wonderments rather than snazzy/cynical "cool." (June 10)
What It Is: Cameron Diaz dirties it up as a foul-mouthed, drug using teacher who is... uh, bad at her job. Then she meets a substitute teacher played by Diaz's real-life ex Justin Timberlake. He's rich so she decides to snag him and figures the best way to do so is to get a boob job. So she has to become a good teacher to get the bonus that will pay for the boob job. Meanwhile Jason Segel is flirting with her and of course he's the real guy she should end up with, but she's initially too mean to realize it. I suspect in the end she does, though.
Should You See It? It could be worth it just to see Phyllis from The Office say fuck, though along those lines, swearing seems to be this movie's only source of humor. Cameron Diaz hasn't made a likable movie in a long while, so it's hard to trust her on this one. Besides, ladies are only allowed one comedy a year, and they already have Bridesmaids. So rent this in 2012. Don't get greedy, ladies. (June 24)
Michael Sheen and Maria Bello try to figure out why their son would shoot up his school in Beautiful Boy (6/3) … Ewan McGregor finds out that his father (Christopher Plummer) is both dying and gay in Beginners (6/3) … The Last Mountain is a rabble-rousing documentary about the evils of mountaintop removal coal mining that will surely make you mad (6/3) … Kellan Lutz gets his first shot at not playing a greased up hunk or a greased up vampire in the romantic comedy Love Wedding Marriage, opposite Mandy Moore (6/3) … Dutch girls move to New Zealand and feel emotions in Bride Flight (6/10) … Heather Graham plays a lovable aunt in the generically titled Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer (6/10) … Comedians travel to the Middle East and realize that those people like to laugh too in the documentary Just Like Us (6/10) … In the New York teens indie The Art of Getting By, little Freddie Highmore is almost all grown up (6/10) … Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively embarrass themselves and us in my choice for the summer's big flop, The Green Lantern (6/17) .. Mr. Popper's Penguins is somehow not a movie about a gay hockey fan (6/17) … See how your media reporting sausage is made in the documentary Page One (6/17) … An undocumented immigrant struggles to give his son a better life in the fittingly titled drama A Better Life (6/24) … Jenna Fischer, while not an undocumented immigrant, still struggles to raise her son in the indie comedy A Little Help (6/24) … Pixar tries to continue its winning streak by rolling out (get it?) Cars 2 (6/24) … Conan O'Brien Can't Stop shows us the intense side of the gangly funnyman (6/24) … The prosecution in the case of Common Decency v. Michael Bay presents Exhibit Infinity, aka Transformers: Dark of the Moon (6/29)
What It Is: Tom Hanks stars in and directs (and co-wrote with Nia Vardalos) this romantic comedy about a lovable schlub (the titular Larry) who goes back to school and finds a new lease on life. He also finds a lady love in Julia Roberts' grumpy and dissatisfied professor. Little scooters are ridden, silly jokes are made, and everyone feels happy in the end. (I'm guessing.)
Should You See It? If you're at the lake house for the week and it's raining and if you play one more game of Scrabble it might just kill you, this could be a good movie to see with the parents. Make the thirty minute drive to the closest theater, be mildly entertained for a couple hours, then go home and wait for dinner and quietly fantasize about some sort of work emergency that calls you back to the city a couple days early because you are going crazy up here. It's that kind of movie. (July 1)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
What It Is: The end. After all the books were done, we could at least still look forward to the movies, but now even that is over. There will be no more Harry Potter. That probably comes as a relief to some while being a great sadness to others. Harry finally faces down Voldemort, there's a giant battle at Hogwarts, and many beloved characters die. If they stage that battle scene right (and there's no previous evidence to suggest they won't), this will be terrific and stirring and wonderful. Now about that epilogue...
Should You See It? What are you, some kind of jerk? Of course you should see it. Look, with the inevitable robot wars coming, one way to prove that you are not an android that should be put down will be to show you have a soul. People with souls like Harry Potter, that's just fact. So get some practice in by seeing this movie and weep-clapping along with the rest of us fools. At least pretend. I'm talking to you, androids who are reading this. This is your first step to salvation! (July 15)
Friends With Benefits
What It Is: The second such comedy this year, Friends With Benefits tells the story of two friends who decide to casually fuck and see if they can keep it casual. Of course they can't, they never can, but watching them find that out is the adventure. Mila Kunis gets her first big romantic comedy lead here, as does Justin Timberlake.
Should You See It? Kunis was always cutely funny on That ‘70s Show (sue me), so that's good. And Timberlake usually acquits himself nicely on Saturday Night Live, but as has been pointed out, Timberlake is successful on that show because he's a singer who happens to be funny. Now that he's declared himself an Actor, the bar for funny has been set a lot higher. And I'm just not sure he can reach it? It's good he's getting his practice in, but do you really want to spend $20,000 (approximate cost of a movie ticket this summer) to watch him practice? Probably not. Then again there's lot of implied sex between two beautiful shirtless people, so that could be an incentive. Go on the awkwardest, most sexually tense first date of your life! (July 22)
Cowboys & Aliens
What It Is: Hm, is that title not self-explanatory enough for you? OK. It's about cowboys, like in the title, who meet aliens, also like in the title. Well they don't so much "meet" aliens as they do "get viciously attacked by" aliens. Daniel Craig plays a mysterious loner with no memory and a strange metallic something attached to his wrist, while Harrison Ford is the dictatorial ruler of a small Western town who has it out for Craig. My guess is that Craig was abducted by good aliens and given power to fight the bad aliens. Yes, abducted. Meaning he's been probed. Daniel Craig has been probed, everyone.
Should You See It? You should only see this movie in one of two circumstances. The first is if you're out for a nice walk and then it suddenly starts to downpour and so you run into the theater and it's either this or Captain America, so you pick this. The second is if you happen to be back in your hometown the same time as an old friend who's been away for a long while and you meet up and get stoned and go see this and laugh and afterward you just drive around talking until late in the night, when you've already forgotten the movie entirely, and it's just really good to be home right then.. Those are the only two instances in which this movie will be worth it. (Though, it's directed by Jon Favreau, who did show surprising flair with Iron Man. So, you never know.) (July 29)
CW princesses Katie Cassidy and Leighton Meester travel through Europe with Disney goddess Selena Gomez in Monte Carlo, sure to be the most talked-about movie in Bunk 5 (7/1) … John C. Reilly mentors a sad, struggling, awkward teen in Terri (7/1) … David Hyde Pierce plays Niles Crane if Niles Crane tortured people in The Perfect Host (7/1) … Beats, Rhymes, & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest is a documentary about the legendary hip-hop group that you should watch if you want keep up with the music snobs when you start college in the fall (7/8) … Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, and Jason Bateman conspire to straight up murder their awful employers in Horrible Bosses, a movie entirely lit by the dim glow of Jennifer Aniston's perfect sadness (7/8) … The cheaply made medieval siege drama Ironclad features the improbable duo of Paul Giamatti and Kate Mara (7/8) … Scary things happen to an institutionalized Amber Heard in John Carpenter's The Ward (7/8) … A religious fanatic forces a man to stand on a ledge while Liv Tyler cries in The Ledge (7/8) … Project Nim shows that chimps can do amazing things but are at the end of the day still just chimps (7/8) … Kevin James talks to computer animals in the sure-to-be uproarious Zookeeper (7/8) … Religious crazies square off in the dark comedy Salvation Boulevard, featuring Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear (7/15) … Sundance darling Another Earth tells a metaphysical sci-fi tale of alternate reality and different dimensions (7/22) … Chris Evans looks like a bloated tick, a bloated tick that fights Nazis!, in Captain America: The First Avenger (7/22) … Detroit-area teens meander around one lazy summer, kissing boys and smoking cigarettes in the ornately titled The Myth of the American Sleepover (7/22) … Life in a Day is the finished product of that Ridley Scott "Everyone film yourselves!" thing a while back (7/24) … Steve Carell and Julianne Moore are troubled marrieds in the comedy Crazy Stupid Love (7/29) … Dominic Cooper plays both crazy Uday Hussein and his body double in The Devil's Double (7/29) … A beloved fairytale is deconstructed by a French wackadoo in The Sleeping Beauty (7/29) … Miranda July's new movie The Future is going to be amazing and beautiful or stupid and terrible depending on where you fall on the hipster scale (7/29) … Don Cheadle fights a drug ring in The Guard (7/29) … Culture as a whole heaves a sigh and disappears as The Smurfs is released, also your childhood blows out like a candle flame (7/29)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
What It Is: It turns out that the super smart apes that enslave us all? Totally James Franco's fault. After getting one too many degrees and getting bored with that and growing tired of making weird movies about basketball and men's private parts, James Franco turns to medical science and inadvertently starts the ape-pocalypse (deal with it). So thanks a whole hell of a lot, James Franco. And you too, Freida Pinto. You should have stopped him.
Should You See It? Well, this movie seems to focus more on the "science" and less on the ape-y silliness that mired Tim Burton's disastrous Planet of the Apes remake, so that's good. The trailer is actually pretty compelling, another good thing. So yeah, what the hell. August tends to be a fairly bleak movie month anyway, and this is about the biggest ticket there is that month. Plus Franco and Pinto have that 35-minute-long, highly graphic sex scene. Haha, just kidding. Just monkeying around! (August 5)
What It Is: Based on Kathryn Stockett's inexplicably un-put-down-able novel, The Help tells the story of an idealistic young college grad (Emma Stone) who, fed up with seeing the injustices suffered by black domestic workers in 1960s Mississippi, decides to compile a book of their stories, in their own words. Of course it's quite a scandal, but eventually Skeeter (that's her name) convinces one tough-cookie maid, Abilene (Viola Davis), to participate and the rest fall like dominoes. Lessons are learned, tears are shed, and a surprising, if small, romance blooms.
Should You See It? Oh lawd. Well, like I said, the book has a mysterious gravitational pull, so there's certainly something there worth spending your time on. But the trailer makes the movie look a lot brighter and cheerier than the story really is, despite the pretty cover jacket and easy-to-read font. It's not literature, but we are talking about terrible institutionalized racism here. So... hm. If your mom's been moping around, sad that your last sibling is leaving for college and soon she'll be yet another lonely empty-nester, drive on over to her house and take her on a date. Otherwise, wait to watch it on an airplane. (August 12)
What It Is: The movie adaptation of David Nicholls' popular novel, One Day tells the story of a destined-to-be-together couple who are together then aren't together and then maybe are again. The gimmick here is that we're only seeing them in their lives for one day, the same day, July 15th to be exact, of every year. Time is spanned, milestones are reached and left behind, hearts break and mend.
Should You See It? Wellllllll. Lone Scherfig directed the movie, and she showed with An Education that she's quite adept at British wistfulness, plus the novel was actually well reviewed, even if it is slightly treacly subject matter, and there's the matter of Jim Sturgess, known attractive person. But still, you shouldn't see it. Why, you ask? Two words: Anne Hathaway. Oh god, we've been HATHAWAY'D again!! Listen to her accent! It is not good. Too bad there are no British actresses. That's really a shame, oh well. Too bad you can't see this movie now. (August 19)
Our Idiot Brother
What It Is: A Sundance hit that seems to have been repackaged as a bigger, broader comedy, Our Idiot Brother is about a well-intentioned fuck up (Paul Rudd) who annoyingly interferes with the lives of his sisters (the perfect indie/comedy triangle of Emily Mortimer, Zooey Deschanel, and Elizabeth Banks). Oh, and Rashida Jones plays Zooey Deschanel's lesbian lover. So indie film geek boys, set your boners to stun.
Should You See It? Yes, definitely yes. It's always nice to have a gentle, smart rock to cling to amidst all the loud clanging flood of summer cinema. Go see it, then sit somewhere outside and a have a glass of white wine and think with a hint of melancholy about how the summer's almost over. (August 26)
Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman switch bodies (Bateman definitely got the better deal on that one) after accidentally making a wish in The Change-Up (8/5) … Milla Jovovich and William H. Macy make a strange couple in the teen comedy Dirty Girl (8/5) … Rachel Weisz plays a real-life Nebraskan policewoman turned UN peacekeeper in The Whistleblower (8/5) … Aziz Ansari and Jesse Eisenberg go an action romp together in 30 Minutes or Less (8/12) … Final Destination 5 is a completely necessary movie that simply had to be made (8/12) … If you've missed Glee all summer you can go see Glee! Live! 3D in the theaters and laugh and clap and cry until the police come and arrest you (8/12) … A 3D Conan the Barbarian movie is just what this world needs, I mean think of the Schwarzenegger jokes! (8/19) … John Sayles takes us back to the Philippine-American War in Amigo (8/19) … Colin Farrell is going to suck you dry in Fright Night (8/19) … Vera Farmiga stars in and directs Higher Ground, a drama about a woman reemerging into the broader world after years in a strictly fundamentalist religious community (8/19) … Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World is actually just about the Spy Kids learning that they don't, in fact, have all the time in the world, that they too will grow up and someday die, and it's all pretty sad (8/19) … Apollo 18 is one of those dopey found-footage horror movies, this one set on the moon, because sure (8/26) … Zoe Saldana is a hot chick with a gun and a grudge in
your sexytime fantasies
Colombiana (8/26) … Katie Holmes' life is full of terror and strange creatures, and she's also in a creepy movie called Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (8/26) … The long-delayed Mossad mystery drama The Debt stars Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, and Ciaran Hinds as aging spies with a secret (8/31).