Iron Man and a pop culture loving ogre that made a lot of money last weekend have officially kicked off the Summer Movie Season of 2010.
While the field this year isn't as heavily loaded with giant franchise pictures, some of the smaller, genre fare seems to hold hope for a low-key but interesting lineup. Sure you're getting sequels, remakes, adaptations of old TV shows and video games (and a new Twilight film like clockwork), but you're also getting what looks to be some interesting movies filling the gaps in the last faint ripples of the 2008 Writers Guild strike.
New films from Chris Nolan and Edgar Wright in the next couple of months should have any self-respecting film lover doing back flips, and the summer holds even less well known possibilities for a blast in the theater.
But don't just take my word for it. Joshua Blevins Peck and I have done a blind taste test of your would-be popcorn flicks, along with some more serious fare and are here to give you the lowdown on what you have to look forward to. And not.
Get Him to the Greek
Joe - Russell Brand reprises his role as the hedonistic rock star Aldous Snow in this quasi-sequel to 2008's Forgetting Sarah Marshall. An up-and-comer in the music biz (Jonah Hill) is tasked with corralling the libidinous, drug-fueled singer to his own concert in L.A. -- from halfway around the world. Brand was more or less born to play this role.
Josh - British comic Russell Brand reprises his Aldous Snow character from Forgetting Sarah Marshall. This time, the outrageous rock star is the lead, knee-deep in debauchery and mayhem in this R-rated road comedy. A little bit of Brand goes a long way, so a feature might be too much Brand for me.
Joe - Producer Guillermo del Toro knows a thing or two about monsters and his sensibilities appear grafted into this sci-fright film about a pair of geneticists who skirt common sense and the law to create an animal/human hybrid. Apparently, this seeming update of the Frankenstein story veers from the conventional into the realm of the deeply weird.
Josh - Lower budget sci-fi/horror film set around the splicing of animal/human DNA to create some nasty looking creatures. I prefer small films about ideas to big-budget explosions and CGI, so this looks interesting. Disturbing cross-genetic mutants and Adrian Brody star.
Joe - Inept meets uncouth -- Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigel, respectively -- in this action, rom/com whose trailer had me waiting for Kutcher to whip out a Nikon. The pair plays a young, married couple whose lives are thrown into upheaval when it turns out the husband is an international super-spy.
Josh - Everything I need to know about Killers is on the poster: A smug Ashton Kutcher removing a pair of sunglasses.
If that isn't enough reason to avoid, I don't know what is. Go write some tweets Kutcher, and stop torturing the public with your woeful films.
Joe - Now that 24 is dust, Jack Bauer is reborn as a canine co-star in this live-action/CG-enhanced interrogation, I mean, rendition -- or pick your own torture euphemism -- of the long running comic strip that no one actually reads. Whether there's a plot involved remains to be seen, though Owen Wilson voices the titular dog, casting doubt on the wisdom of his decision to live.
Josh - If you are into live-action films with talking dogs, then this is for you and the kids. How they get a group of dogs to dance a complicated routine is pretty amazing. Imagine if it were real.
The Karate Kid
Joe - Fresh Prince progeny Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan replace Macchio and Morita in this updating of the yet another '80s classic. A fish-out-of-water kid moves with his mother from Detroit to China, where he learns to defend himself against the Red hordes with the help of a wise maintenance man (Chan).
Josh - One of the worst ideas for a remake in 2010 (Red Dawn might be worse) has to be the redo for the tweens in The Karate Kid. Starring 11-year-old Jaden Smith, The Karate Kid is clearly the product of meddling parents (Will and Jada) trying to concoct a film career for their spoiled child. It must be nice Jaden but consider yourself lucky you aren't going against Cobra Kai! I'm highly dubious.
Joe - Movies based on aging TV properties with no relevance to the current generation keep on coming with this over-the-top updating of the iconic '80s action show. A band of rouge special operatives try to clear their names of a crime they didn't commit (unless this movie sucks). Director Joe Carnahan's track record is solid with Narc and Smokin' Aces, while Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper star.
Josh - The A-Team is the latest attempt at taking low-brow television and trying to make it into low-brow cinema. Remember Dukes of Hazzard? The trailer has enough noisy explosions to please action fans, but the TV show's hammy legacy is hard to top. I pity the audience member who is forced to endure the A-Team on the big screen. Sorry.
Joe - Based on the gritty graphic novel, Josh Brolin portrays Jonah Hex, an Old West anti-hero with a horribly scarred face whose personal code of ethics compels him to defend the innocent by killing the guilty. The presence of Megan Fox probably negates the need for a plot, but I hope there is one since Brolin seems to have an eye for good material. John Malkovich co-eats scenery.
Josh - Hollywood makes a film based on a comic I actually read growing up -- Jonah Hex. The comic is a western that follows a scarred anti-hero (Josh Brolin) with a strange mix of harsh violence and supernatural. I'm curious to see if the dark tone of the comic makes it to the screen. Megan Fox shows some skin as a saloon girl.
Toy Story 3
Joe - Insuring plenty of open seats for Jonah Hex, animation powerhouse Pixar puts the cherry on top of its most beloved, seminal franchise. College-bound Andy, too freakishly old to own Buzz, Woody and the gang anymore, donates his toys to a daycare, where they find themselves at the tender mercies of a new batch of sadistic kids. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen star.
Josh - The original Pixar film is back for a third installment, and this time it will be in 3D. I love the Toy Story films as they are as sweet and charming as it gets. There's something magical about the premise of toys coming to life, too. This will be another class release from Pixar, bet on it.
Joe - Heralding the end of the 21st Century comedy Renaissance, Kevin James, Adam Sandler, David Spade and Rob Schneider play old friends and ex-teammates reuniting for the funeral of their basketball coach and finding they never really got funnier. Surprisingly, George Lopez is nowhere to be found.
Josh - You have to hand it to Adam Sandler -- he keeps making dumbed-down comedies with his buddies, regardless of critical approval. Grown Ups is another ridiculous movie in the canon of Sandler. The cast are his friends and ex-Saturday Night Live folk, you know, the usual. The trailer makes it clear Sandler hasn't upped his script IQ, but people sure laugh hard at the peeing in the pool scene.
Knight and Day
Joe - Hot on the heels of Killers, this oddly named action comedy teams Xenuphile Tom Cruise with Cameron Diaz as a pair on a blind date that goes awry when it turns out she's dating Ethan Hunt from Mission Impossible. Director James Mangold has done quality work in the past, with Copland and 3:10 to Yuma, so maybe there's something more than meets the eye here.
Josh - Call me crazy but the trailer for this Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz vehicle actually looks kind of promising. It is June after all and breezy action comedies are tailor-made for summer months. Cruise can be funny (and I'm not talking about the "crazy" kind he specializes in), so I'm hopeful this will be a pleasant surprise of fluff.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Joe - The drama continues as Bella frets over Edgar and Jacob in Forks, amidst an ongoing string of mysterious murders. Meanwhile, an evil vampire seeks vengeance, though I have no idea why since I've never cracked any of these films or the Stephanie Meyer penned books they're based on. I'll abandon any pretense of objectivity while it makes millions. A lip-biting Kristin Stewart, Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson all return.
Josh - Dear Editors at Urban Tulsa Weekly: I'm writing to nominate Mr. Joe O'Shansky as the critic to review the upcoming movie Eclipse. Mr. O'Shansky has told me on many occasions he truly appreciates the unique mix of romance, action and teenage vampirism that the Twilight movies offer. I've even seen him rocking a "Team Jasper" t-shirt in public, honest. Please editors, I beg of you this one favor. Sincerely, Joshua Blevins Peck.
The Last Airbender
Joe - M. Night Shyamalan turns his auteur sensibilities on this adaptation of the popular Nickelodeon anime series. Aang is a non-Na'vi Avatar who can control the elements of Air, Water, Earth and Fire and seeks to utilize them to bring balance to a world torn by an ancient conflict. The action looks wonderfully shot, but Shyamalan's record of late inspires skepticism. Noah Ringer and the kid from Slumdog Millionaire (Dev Patel) star.
Josh - M. Night Shyamalan is overrated. He has one good film on his resume (The Sixth Sense), and this doesn't look like his second. Shyamalan goes full-CGI epic mode for his action/fantasy adaptation of the television show. Cheesy. Warning: There will be a dashed off 3D version to attempt to steal some of your money. Stick with the original 2D version. Better yet, skip it altogether.
Joe - In only the second true sequel to the original 1987 film, Adrien Brody, Topher Grace and Larry Fishburne star as part of a group of tough guys that wind up of on an alien planet that's crawling with the tentacle headed, Gary Busey killing, interstellar hunters we all know and love. Austin-based multi-tasker Robert Rodriguez has long wanted to make this, and he tapped Nimrod Antal (Kontroll) to direct. I have hope.
Josh - Gee, this one sounds familiar. That's right, it's a remake of a film from 1987 called Predator. It's about murderous aliens on earth, just like the original. Hollywood is so creative, aren't they? Expect more volume, quicker cuts, extra CGI, less humor and subtlety. I'm on a one-man mission to ravage all these useless remakes, and this is another unnecessary one. It will probably be huge.
Joe - Steve Carell heads up a voice cast of Judd Apatow alumni as Gru, a super villain with a secret underground compound in an innocuous neighborhood who is planning the ultimate heist: stealing the moon. Literally. Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Danny McBride and Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) co-star in this animated (and faux 3D) adventure.
Josh - Animated film about an inept super-villain (voiced by Steve Carell) whose plans for evil-doing take a hit when he gets the custody of three orphans. That always happens when you are trying to steal the moon. For summer animated hijinks, Despicable Me looks like a fun option for the kids.
Joe - Director Chris Nolan follows up the massive success of The Dark Knight with this sci-fi take on ... well, I'm not sure. I've purposefully tried to avoid finding out anything about this film's plot because I want to go in untainted. That's how Nolan wants it. I'd recommend you do it that way, too. Suffice to say, it looks amazing, and it sports a great cast including, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine and Ken Watanabe.
Josh - Have you watched the trailer for Inception? It's a jaw-dropper of mood, attitude and atmosphere that has me drooling with anticipation. Christopher Nolan's first film since The Dark Night has Leonardo DiCaprio in a world where technology can enter a person's brain, and the mind is a weapon. At least that's what I read online, I can't tell what the film is about via the trailer and that's a great trailer to me. Sometimes, the less you know, the better the film might turn out to be. Inception looks like it's going to be awesome.
Joe - John C. Reilly portrays John, a seven years single divorcee who discovers his ex is about to re-marry. She encourages him to meet her fiancé at a party where he winds up meeting and falling for Marisa Tomei (as would we all). Things seem on the up and up for John, until he realizes his new flame has a live-in son (Jonah Hill), an overgrown mama's boy with territorial issues. Written and directed by The Duplass Brothers, this is probably the only real indie flick on this list besides Machete.
Josh - The trailer for Cyrus gives me great hope for this dark comedy about a divorced guy (John C. Reilly) who meets a beautiful woman (Marisa Tomei) but has to deal with her nightmarish son (Jonah Hill). Written and directed by Jay/Mark Duplass, Cyrus looks to deliver the laughs by tapping into the uncomfortable and creepy. I'm extremely excited about this one.
Joe - Tom Cruise abandoned this role to play a different version of Ethan Hunt in Knight and Day, so Angelina Jolie takes the reins in this bulletfest from writer Kurt Wimmer (Equilibrium) and the director of Dead Calm, Phillip Noyce. Salt, a CIA agent who has been accused of being a Russian mole, goes undercover to clear her name and unleash death in slow motion. What looks like an exercise in the derivative actually co-stars the very reliable Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Josh - Angelina Jolie is that rare Hollywood entity -- a female action star. In Salt, Jolie is a government agent accused of being a Russian spy. She goes on the run, Jason Bourne style, while trying to prove her innocence. Expect explosions, shoot-outs, thrilling escapes, a trail of bodies and Jolie expressing her bad-ass side.
Dinner for Schmucks
Joe - Paul Rudd and Steve Carell reunite for the first time since The 40 Year Old Virgin in this comedy that finds Rudd on the verge of career success, if only he can find a moron to bring to a party to be ridiculed by his boss and his friends. If history has proven anything, it's that these two are funny together. Watch Anchorman again -- now.
Josh - Based on France's The Dinner Game, the American adaptation finally makes it to the screen after undergoing many false starts. The gist: A monthly dinner party with rewards for the guest who brings the biggest doofus. It's laughter based on the spine of cruelty but heartfelt lessons will be learned. Red flag: There are eight screenwriting credits. The always good Paul Rudd and Steve Carell (who is bordering on overexposed) play the leads.
The Other Guys
Joe - Speaking of Anchorman, director Adam McKay and Will Ferrell re-team for this comedy about a NYPD detective (Mark Wahlberg) who is stuck with Ferrell as a partner. They both idolize a pair of badass cops -- Dwayne Johnson and Sam Jackson -- until they wind up having to fill their shoes. Jackson appears to be in true "English, motherf**ker, do you speak it!?" form, while Michael Keaton and the most sarcastic Brit alive, Steve Coogan, co-star.
Josh - What's summer without a Will Ferrell comedy? Well, rest easy because The Other Guys will give you a full dose of his trademark absurdities. Mark Wahlberg plays his annoyed partner in this buddy-cop genre picture. Classic Ferrell it looks like. No more, no less.
Step Up 3-D
Joe - This spiritual soul mate to the Breakin' films pops and locks its way to life on the big screen in some form of 3D, chronicling the cut throat NYC underground competitive dance scene. Inflated ticket prices for this will assure the series best box office, though I wasn't aware the first two made enough money to warrant a third. Stars no one you've ever heard of, though there should be a curmudgeonly antagonist that wants to spoil the kid's good times.
Josh - If James Cameron had known the otherworldly success of Avatar would lead to the avalanche of crappy 3D films to bilk audiences of their cash, he might have turned his back on the money and the accolades. Yes, there will be a Step Up 3D and yes, it involves dancing. In 3D. Damn you to hellfire James Cameron!
Eat, Pray, Love
Joe - Based on the best-selling book by Elizabeth Gilbert, Julia Roberts portrays the memoirs author, a seemingly successful wife who has an epiphany about how to live: get divorced and travel to Italy to eat, India to pray and Bali to love. James Franco, Javier Bardem and Billy Crudup co-star with the always welcome Richard Jenkins adding weight to what looks like a bit early Oscar bait.
Josh - Based on Elizabeth Gilbert's popular memoir, Julia Roberts plays a woman who shucks her stressful career to the wayside to travel for a year. Italy, India and Bali are on the itinerary, as is lots and lots of self-discovery. She wants to get that zest back in her life, and I'm betting it will happen. The trailer resembles a Travel Channel excerpt with all the exotic locations, but this is the kind of role audiences love to see Roberts in.
Joe - Sylvester Stallone leads a cast that is any old school action fans wet dream. Bruce Willis, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Jason Stathem and Terry Crews (standing in for Carl Weathers) are a group of mercenaries who go to South America on a mission to fuck up a ruthless dictator's day. It's clearly the bullet laden, '80s fantasy collaboration that didn't get made till 2010. It might suck, but be thankful you live in these times.
Josh - I have a friend who is taking some vacation time to see this during the day of its release. The Expendables will likely be the most testosterone-filled release of the summer as it promises an endless amount of weaponry on parade as a bunch of mercenaries try to overthrow a despot. Featuring a crazy cast of action stars, including a Stallone/Lundgren reunion (Rocky IV!) that will likely make this macho fest popular and a guilty pleasure. I'll save my vacation days, though.
Going the Distance
Joe - If Drew Barrymore and Justin Long get back together, you can thank this film where the real-life exes play a sundered couple that try to keep the relationship alive, despite living on different coasts. What promises to be as generic as a can of Best Choice beans is made a little more interesting by the clear chemistry of the two leads. Ron Livingston (Office Space!) co-stars with the ever funny Christina Applegate. Yes, watch Anchorman again.
Josh - Romantic comedy with real-life on-again/off-again/who cares-again couple Drew Barrymore and Justin Long. They play new lovers who attempt to make a long distance relationship work, while encountering all the usual distractions and complications. Barrymore's best work is in romantic comedies, so expect her usual A-game. I'm less certain of Long in a romantic lead. He's great in computer commercials though.
Joe - The '80s love just won't stop with this remake of the film that spawned James Cameron's first feature and his first sequel, Piranha 2. Avatar was still a long ways off. This purposefully cheesy incarnation finds horny college kids getting naked and shredded by ravenous, flesh eating fish on Spring Break. But, it's directed by French horror great Alexandre Aja (High Tension) and stars Elizabeth Shue, Ving Rhames, the meta-cast Richard Dreyfuss and nudity. Hence, it must be better than Jaws 3-D.
Josh - If there's one thing I've always been curious about, it's what it looks like in the third dimension when piranhas devour human flesh. Piranha 3-D will answer that question. The National Geographic channel hasn't covered that topic, so let's offer a collective thanks to the brainiacs in Hollywood for merging nature and horror in one unpleasant experience. Oh boy, if we're really lucky it will even play at IMAX.
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