POSTED ON MAY 2, 2012:
Darkness and Light
Summer movie preview, part 1
The Avengers -- Building a unified Marvel Universe began with 2008's Iron Man and comes to fruition with possibly the most anticipated film adaptation of any Marvel property ever, The Avengers. Fans have been waiting literally decades for this and their geek patience is being rewarded by Joss Whedon; writing and directing the story that brings together Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the Hulk, among others to battle Loki, who is, of course, bent on mayhem and destruction. Advance word is effusive, so far. This is one of the few big summer releases that I'm really psyched for.
Footnote -- Having seen both, I can say A Separation deservedly took the Academy over this Israeli tragi-comedy about father and son Talmudic scholars, the father a cantankerous curmudgeon, overlooked by his peers and the son being the well-liked and respected one. When the elder mistakenly receives a distinguished prize meant for his son, the pride of both may sunder their relationship for good. Remember Laurence Olivier tearing his shirt sleeve and declaring Neil Diamond dead to him in The Jazz Singer? We Jews take this shit seriously.
Dark Shadows -- Honestly, I had zero interest in the existence of yet another Disney-fied pairing of director Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Particularly for a well-loved cult TV property that, frankly, never appealed to me. But the trailer did something weird. It hooked me, a little. Johnny Depp as an old, fish-out-of-water vampire, living with his modern-ish family seems to work. The '70s period setting makes it look like Burton is actually excited again. It'll take a lot to forgive Alice in Wonderland, but I'm feeling much less dismissive now.
God Bless America (VOD) -- Writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait, whose lack of a filter as a questionable standup comedian in the '80s now meshes perfectly with his innate filmmaking talents, crafted the nearly great, World's Greatest Dad in 2009. That's what has me champing at the bit for this bitingly black, satirical tale of a tumor patient, Frank, who teams up with Roxy, a teenaged girl who decides to go on a killing spree with Frank, taking out anyone "that deserves to die." If this film weren't from Goldthwait's clearly unique perspective and burgeoning skill, I probably wouldn't be interested.
Battleship -- OH GOD, PLEASE MAKE THEM STOP!! *adjusts tie* Ahem. Sorry. Dudes from outer space, armed with shit that looks and sounds exactly like the weapons from Transformers: Dark of the Moon, invade Earth. Liam Neeson mistakes them for wolves and punches them out of existence. Not really. I don't care. Peter Berg directs a movie that apparently shares only a name with the pointless board game.
What to Expect When You're Expecting -- Based on the huge series of self-help books by Heidi Murkoff, chick flick heavy-weights Elizabeth Banks, Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez and Chris Rock (zing for Grown Ups) star amongst an ensemble cast of five disparate couples going through the throes of their first pregnancies. The trailer makes it look, surprisingly, not worthy of seppuku.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi -- Yeah, that was a Japanese joke. But I take sushi seriously. So does this engaging documentary based on the life of Jiro Ono, regarded by many as the best sushi chef on the planet. Tucked in a Tokyo subway, Jiro is the first and only sushi chef to be awarded three Michelin stars, clearly having perfected the most rarefied of cuisines for all of his life.
Men in Black III -- OH, SWEET MOTHER OF! Wait. There's no reason to get angry about Men in Black III. It has no pedigree of quality despite the first two. It's not raping a movie series I already liked. It just is. And people will go because of Will Smith and aliens. The story goes back in time, presumably to fight aliens, and K is played by Josh Brolin, the only reason I won't roll my eyes at having to see this unasked for film. Director Barry Sonnenfeld thinks that this is an awesome trilogy. That's funny to me.
Damsels In Distress -- Writer/director Whit Stillman, whose Metropolitan put him on the map in 1990, returns 13 years after his last film, '98's The Last Days of Disco, with Damsels in Distress. What looks on the surface to be a goofy girl comedy seems a play of Duplass Brothers meets Alexander Payne proportions -- in other words, probably good. Greta Gerwig stars.
Darling Companion -- If you've seen the trailer for this and like it, then go see it. If you've seen the trailer for this and wanted the dog to die, I probably like you. Preferring a Four Seasons remake might make one less milquetoast as director Lawrence Kasdan (writer of Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back) returns with a quasi-sequel to The Big Chill with none of the excitement.
Piranha 3DD -- Okay: Again, not a reason to get upset about the squandering of summer cinema. Really, Piranha 3D didn't need a sequel. And with the absence of Alexandre Aja's brand of insanity I'm sure it won't have the same signature of underwater lesbian ballet and cock burps. But John Gulager, son of Holdenville native Clu, is directing which lends this national release a sense of local pride while putting a premium on schlock.
Snow White and the Huntsman -- Sporting a Twilight-ready leading lady (Kristen Stewart) and a bevy of screenwriters, the cast of Snow White entices, to a degree. Lily Cole, Ian McShane, Toby Jones, Ray Winstone, Charlize Theron and Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth as another titular character, all lend some prestige to what looks like a too-late adaption banking on a crowd that has already moved on to The Hunger Games.
Prometheus -- There is no other film of 2012 for which I am more stoked. Utterly and completely, I'm trying to tone down my expectations simply because if I let them get out of hand they can't possibly be met. Over 30 years after Alien, Ridley Scott revisits his arguably best film with a prequel that is aimed squarely at anyone that can appreciate one of the best sci-fi/horror films ever made. If the early '80s were your cinematic genesis, Prometheus is clearly your egg.
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted -- Counter programming. Everyone that is a kid with parents is going to see this, which is sad but necessary. Are there fans of this series? That's not a rhetorical question. It just seems like the kind of sequel that offsets a balance sheet -- a decent bet for a studio that is trying to clean up against a bona fide Alien prequel.
Rock of Ages -- The auto tuned Tom Cruise as a rock god in 1987, with Alec Baldwin and Paul Giamatti as burnout mentors of the scene that keeps Rocklahoma alive to this day, is set behind the story of Sherry and Drew; two star-crossed lovers navigating the meta-anachronistic casting and music of Adam Shankman's latest attempt to out-gay Baz Lurhmann.
That's My Boy -- Apparently the no-brainer of Andy Samberg playing Adam Sandler's son could only happen in the year of the Mayan Apocalypse. Does it matter what it's about when That's My Boy reeks of the same kind of awful, gimmicky crap that could easily pass for one of the spoof films Sandler mocked in Funny People?
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter -- Mash ups are the rage, and what better way to kill some time until Pride and Prejudice and Zombies comes out than with this already tired concept from the director of the Nightwatch franchise. Abe Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) discovers that vamps are out to take over the U.S. So he presumably kicks their bloodsucking asses. Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter might not have done it better, but it did it first. Originality and summer rarely meet.
Brave -- Pixar will own this weekend, at least hopefully, with Brave. Kelly McDonald gives voice to Merida, the bow hunting daughter of a Scottish King, who, seeking to make her own path in life, upsets traditions that leave her on her own and forced to brave a wicked curse. It's a first for Pixar, going all in on a female led film, one that looks as lovely and unique as any film they've ever made.
Seeking a Friend at the End of the World -- Melancholia-lite? Steve Carrell decides to go on a road trip to find his high school sweetheart as a planet killing asteroid closes in on Earth. He enlists his neighbor (Keira Knightly) to come along and funny, heat warming and maudlin crap seems to ensue. Patton Oswalt co-stars.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation -- The first G.I. Joe film had no business being as fun as it turned out and despite director Stephen Sommers absence it looks like the sequel is more of the same. Picking up where the first film left off, Zartan (Arnold Volsoo) is still impersonating the President and orders the Joes wiped out. The Rock and Bruce Willis aren't having that and re-team with Channing Tatum to kick some Cobra Commander ass. Looks like a blast, if you're into popcorn munching thrills.
Magic Mike -- It's a Channing Tatum double whammy as the actor re-teams with director Stephen Soderbergh (after Haywire) as a male stripper who takes a new kid under his wing and shows him the ups and downs of partying hard, getting the women and making that money. Matthew McConaughey co-stars as a strip club owner, proving Soderbergh knows how to cast a movie.
Tyler Perry Madea's Witness Protection -- Closing out Part One is the latest, awful entry into the Tyler Perry filmography. Madea's Witness Protection finds it's titular, cross-dressing character taking in a Wall Street investment banker on the run after the mafia makes him the fall guy for a Ponzi scheme gone wrong. Folksy life lessons and Madea's insane anger issues presumably guide our anti-hero to the light. Eugene Levy stars and provides the only reason to sit through yet another Tyler Perry abortion. Denise Richards co-stars, if that's a plus.
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