1. Star Trek Into Darkness(Paramount, 3,868 Theaters, 132 Minutes, Rated PG-13): And along comes the summer’s second biggest film. Apologies for the late write up for this. Typically, I like these New Release posts to hit before a film opens, and, well, they went and changed the opening date on me. Phooey. So it’s a day late.
I have to say that I was looking forward to this film a lot. I really like 2009′s Star Trek. I liked the way they set it so that the film was technically in the same continuity as every other Star Trek installment, yet in a separate, alternate universe. It was the filmmakers way of saying, we are going to change some major things here, but really we aren’t changing a thing. That old Star Trek world still exists for you and always will.
Of course, after reading reviews like FBOL head honcho Rich Drees’s take on the film, that enthusiasm has dampened a bit. The way Rich describes the film (and he goes into spoilerish detail, so you might want to see the film first before reading the review if you are put off by spoilers) kind of makes it seem like its going in the wrong direction.
I will of course see the film…someday…to form my own decisions on it. But I am not in as big of a hurry to do it.
1. The Great Gatsby (Warner Brothers,3,535 Theaters, PG-13, 143 Minutes): So, this film finally arrives. This film was supposed to come out in December of last year, then was moved to July of this year, then moved back to now.
Unlike certain other members of the FBOL staff, I do not have any animosity against Baz Luhrmann. I actually liked Moulin Rouge quite a bit. But I have to say that we really didn’t need this film made.
I mean, it has been adapted five times in the past. I guess that shows the timeless nature of the classic novel that it keeps coming back again and again. And I’m sure that the film would be visually brilliant and stunning. But I doubt that it would interpret the novel any better than the one actually made the year after the novel was published.
And it most certainly didn’t need to be presented in 3-D. I’m sure that the audience will be awed by the Jazz Age crumbling to pieces right on top of them, but it adds a gimmick to something that should ooze class.
2. Tyler Perry Presents Peeples (Lionsgate, 2,041 Theaters, 95 Minutes, Rated PG-13): Just is the awe inspiring power and influence of Tyler Perry that his name is attached to films he has almost nothing to do with.
Well, he’s listed as a producer. It depends how hands-on he was. But this film is written and directed by one Tina Gordon Chism. But at least he’s lending his name to help first time film makers follow their dream to make their own rip-off of Meet the Parents.
Craig Robinson plays a schlumpy everyman who somehow is engaged to the incredibly beautiful Kerry Washington. When he tags along with her to a family reunion out on the Hamptons, he soon butts heads with her father, played by David Alan Grier (when did he get old enough to play a dad?) Hilarity ensues. I hope Robinson is careful around any ceramic urns on fireplaces.
1. Iron Man 3 (Disney, 4,253 Theaters, 130 Minutes, Rated PG-13): So, the awesome task of following The Avengers begins, and Phase II startss just like Phase I one did–with Iron Man.
But Iron Man 3 doesn’t just have to rise out of the shadow of The Avengers, it also has to overcome the spectre of Iron Man 2, which has taken on the patina among some fans as being completely awful (I didn’t think it was that bad, but what do I know?)
There’s a new writer and director this time around in Shane Black, and this installment finally brings Tony Stark’s comic book arch nemesis The Mandarin to the big screen. It looks like it might be the biggest Iron Man film yet. I doubt it has a snowball’s chance in South Beach of beating The Avengers (although it has made 150% of its budget Internationally already), but it should be a fitting start to Phase II and the summer movie season.
1. Pain & Gain (Paramount, 3,277 Theaters, 130 Minutes, Rated R): My first thought on how to approach writing the blurb for this film was how awkward a fit Michael Bay was for directing this film. After all, the ads portray it as a wacky crime comedy about a group of bungling bodybuilders who engage in an extortion plot as revenge against a particularly obnoxious client. That is almost a story that Elmore Leonard would write. It was a film that would be better suited being directed by a Barry Sonnenfeld or a Steven Soderbergh, not the master of the explosion.
Then, thanks to the Internet, I was able to read the articles that inspired the film. You can read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 by clicking those links. If you have enough time, I’d recommend you do so. You’ll find a fascinating retelling of the true story that is being dramatized on the screen. What you won’t find is a wacky comedy. Yes, there is bungling. But there is also brutal, inhuman torture of the character Tony Shalhoub represents. There is also a second crime done by the same crew that ends in the murder of two people and their corpses being cut up and sunk in a culvert. The victims of the second crime are listed on IMDB in the cast listing, so that gruesome crime will be addressed in the film.
The true story the poster takes so much pride in stating it is adapted from doesn’t seem like the buoyant fun-filled romp that the trailers make it out to be. That means one of several things. It could mean that Paramount is misrepresenting the film as a goofy comedy instead of a pitch-black comedy/drama the real story would be. This kind of bait and switch is always unctuous.
Or it could be that the Hollywood has taken liberties with the story so it is now a wacky crime caper. This is likely, because Dwayne Johnson’s character appears to be a composite of numerous other accomplices of the Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Mackie characters.
Either way, this is an event where people died. People who were loved and respected by their friends and family were brutally murdered and the bodies underwent the ultimate disrespect after their demise. And while some of the incompetence about the muscle-headed plotters can lend itself to dark humor, you need a master of setting a tone to ensure the film stays respectful to the victims. And Michael Bay is anything but a master of setting the tone, unless it is coming from loud explosions.
2. The Big Wedding (Lionsgate, 2,633 Theaters, 90 Minutes, Rated R): You know, you don’t often get casts like this one in your remake of a French farce. I mean, you have four Oscar winners, and Prince Caspian! How could you lose!
This is a remake of France’s 2006 film, Mon Frère Se Marie. The plot consists of a family whose adopted son is getting married. The son has been writing home to his biological mother, a devout Catholic, about the wonderful family he was raised in. Only problem is that the story is a lie. His parents are divorced, his siblings are crazy, and his life is anything but perfect. But his birth mother is coming to the ceremony so the man’s family has to pretend to live up to the idealized version he relayed to his mom.
Now, right off the bat, I can pick a bone about the premise. Not that I am one to judge, but I think a Catholic who got pregnant out of wedlock and gave her son up for adoption should be able to cut a divorced couple a little slack. And the semantics of the son’s lie is troubling for me. Why would he have to address his family life in any sort of detail? And if he did, couldn’t he find something positive about his family to relate? In other words, why did he lie when he could have just not admitted the whole truth?
Anyway, farces usually have plots that work best if you don’t think about them. And this all-star cast could make anything good. Might be a fun film if you just take it at face value and run with the concept.
1. Oblivion (Universal, 3,782 Theaters, 126 Minutes, Rated PG-13): It is not going to be good year for comic book film haters when even unpublished graphic novels get adapted into films.
This film was originally supposed to be a graphic novel published by Radical Comics (which is less of a comic book company than a ‘Hey! Hollywood! Look at me! We’re an IP factory!” company), but was optioned for the screen before the comic could be published. And since, like I said, Radical publishes comics pretty much so they can be shown to Hollywood studios and licensed to them, having a comic book for this work would be superfluous.
The film stars Tom Cruise as one of the last remaining humans, whose job is scouring a post-Alien invasion Earth for what few remaining natural resources are left to take to a human settlement on Titan. Or, so he thinks. But he will soon find out that what he believes is true might not actually be what is really going on.
1. The Host (Open Road Films, 3,202 Theaters, 125 Minutes, Rated PG-13): If you were thinking, or, rather, hoping that Stephenie Meyer was a one-trick pony, well, think, or, rather, hope again. Because the master of the vampire/werewolf love triangle also wrote a romance about space aliens! And since Twilight did so well at the box office, they decided to make a film out of this book too!
The book and the movie detail an Earth overtaken by a race of body snatching aliens. One of these aliens takes over a woman named Melanie, Melanie resists. The two enter a psychic battle for control of Melanie’s body, complicated when they both fall in love with the same man–twice. No, not one man two times, both Melanie and her alien infiltrator gain feelings for a man named Ian and a man named Jared… oh, hell. I can’t even bother to continue.
If you haven’t guessed, I’m not a big Meyer fan. But there are a lot of them out there.It is unlikely this will do Twilight numbers, but it could do quite well.
2. Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor (Lionsgate, 2,047 Theaters, 111 Minutes, Rated PG-13): Suffice it to say, I am not a Tyler Perry fan either. I do admire the way he followed his dream to the big screen and the way he found his audience. But I am not his target audience and even if I was,his films seem a bit flimsy and shallow to me. Yet they are presented like they are weighty pieces of art. Not for me.
Take this one, for example. It’s about a marriage counselor who decides to cheat on her husband with her client. On the surface, that seems like ready-made drama. But, really? A trained professional willing to forgo her ethics in such a grand fashion? Because her husband watches TV instead of paying attention to her? Eh, doesn’t ring true to me.
Needless to say, as the affair goes on, it takes a nasty turn that will change the counselor’s life forever.
And if that is not bad enough, we have that legendary thespian, Dame Kim Kardashian in a supporting role. Granted, it appears to be a best friend/co-worker type of part, so it’s not like she’s going to have to do any heavy lifting. But, seriously? If you’re casting Kim Kardashian in your drama, you are scraping the bottom of the barrel.
1. G.I.Joe Retaliation (Paramount, 3,719 Theaters, 110 Minutes,Rated PG-13): So, the weather isn’t even warm yet and we already have our first summer blockbuster. Unfortunately, it’s from the summer of 2012.
That’s when the film was supposed to come out. But last May, just a month before the film was supposed to hit theaters and with marketing tie-ins already starting to roll out, Paramount pulled the plug on the release. They said it was so the film could be converted into 3-D, but industry wags claimed that it was done for other reasons, everything from rewriting Channing Tatum’s character’s death out of the film or just to avoid Tatum’s Magic Mike (although that excuse seems flimsy when you consider Dwayne Johnson has 15 other films coming out this year).
The sequel deals with how the team reacts after Cobra takes over the U.S. Government and makes the Joes public enemy #1.
I was a minority who actually liked the first film, so I can’t wait to see what they do now.Not all of the original cast is back, but the addition of Johnson and Bruce Willis more than make up for it.
1. The Croods (Dreamworks/Fox, 4,046 Theaters, 98 Minutes, Rated PG): So, like the Flintstones, only with a bigger family and as a road picture? Okay then.
Dreamworks has always been a step or two behind Pixar when it comes to their animated films. It’s not as though they haven’t had successes. Heck, at the box office, they might be way ahead when it comes to grosses. But in the quality of what they put upon the screen, they are definitely second to Pixar.
Although, I doubt even Pixar would have been able to do much with this subject. The film focuses on a prehistoric family that has to travel to new lands when their home is destroyed.
The film is co-directed by the director of Lilo & Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon, which is a good sign. . But the other co-director worked on Space Chimps, which isn’t.
2. Olympus Has Fallen (FilmDistrict, 3,098 Theaters, 120 Minutes, Rated R): And now, we come to the Die Hard knock-off. Not only that, but it’s the first of two “Die Hard in the White House” films coming this year (the other, White House Down, starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx, will be along in June).
They both have similar plots too: terrorists take over the White House and it’s up to one man to save the president. What separates this one is that the one man is Gerard Butler, the president is Aaron Eckhart, and Butler’s character is a disgraced former Secret Service Agent instead of a current one.
I always find it interesting when two movies make it so far into production with such a similar premise. Of course, based on the trailers, this one seems to really be working from the Die Hard template. It will be interesting to see how different White House Down turns out to be.
3. Admission (Focus Features, 2,160 Theaters, 117 Minutes, Rated PG-13): Tina Fey is now at a crossroads of her career. 30 Rock is done, and now the question is what she will do next.
It’s not like she doesn’t have options. She is a successful author, a great comedian, and has the makings of a good film career. But will she be a movie star? Can she be a movie star?
In this film Fey plays a strict Princeton admissions officer whose world is turned upside down when she is introduced to a potential student who might be the son she gave up for adoption years earlier. The things she does might cost her job, but might garner her so much more.
1. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (Warner Brothers, 3,160 Theaters, 100 Minutes, Rated PG-13): I want to want to see this film, but there are nagging doubts that want me to go completely gaga over it. The plot involves a Siegfried and Roy type of act consisting of Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) who ruled the Vegas Strip until an trick went wrong and caused the team to separate. Wonderstone had some success on his own, until a Criss Angel/David Blaine like street magician named Steve Grey (Jim Carrey) arrives on the scne. Grey’s edgy magic is a big draw, and he begins stealing audiences away from Burt. Now, Burt is forced to combat this new competition with his assistant Jane (Olivia Wilde), his mentor Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin) and Anton, if Burt can convince him to come back.
Carell and Carrey (sharing the big screen for the third time, if you count their voice work in Horton Hears a Who) can be good in these roles. Buscemi, Arkin and James Gandolfini (who plays a casino owner) are always solid. And there is lots to be mined from the old champion trying to fight off the young up and comer plot.
However, even though he’s getting good reviews, I think Carrey’s part should have gone to a younger actor. He’s the same age as Carell, so the young up and comer aspect is pretty much lost. And really, let’s be honest, if the tiger didn’t get hungry, Siegfried and Roy would still be performing today. Vegas is still home to a number of similar illusionists, and burlesque shows, and aging pop stars, and hypnotists and…well, let’s just say the main conceit of Carrey’s character stealing Carell’s audience just doesn’t work for me.
2. The Call (TriStar, 2,507 Theaters, 95 Minutes, Rated R): For the second weekend in a row, we have a film produced by WWE Studios. One starring Academy Award-winner Halle Berry and Academy Award-nominee Abigail Breslin no less.
Berry plays a 911 operator who is still haunted by the part she played in a serial killer’s murder of a young woman. Years later, she helps out on the call of another woman only to find it’s the same serial killer at play. Now she gets a second chance to save a girl’s life. Will she succeed?
It must be a week for plots I find implausible. Having the same 911 operator be involved with calls involving the same serial killer would only work if the the killer was one of the most prolific in the last century. The trailer says he’s not. But having Berry travel to the crime scene? That is nigh impossible.
1.Escape From Planet Earth (The Weinstein Company, 3,288 Theaters, 89 Minutes, Rated PG): When you think of The Weinstein Company, you think of the Weinstein brothers, You think of Miramax. You think of art house films done by young, up and coming directors. You think hip and trendy.
You don’t think of animated features. Or, if you do, you think of animated features with a higher standard than this one. This film comes off not as a second rate Pixar film, not just as a second rate Dreamworks film, but as a second rate Asylum film.
Scorch is an interplanetary adventurer from the planet Baab who success is due in large part to the behind-the-scenes work of his nebbishy brother Gary. When the pair get a distress call from a dangerous planet (which, based on the title of the film, one would assume would be Earth), Scorch gets himself captured. Now it’s up Gary to be the hero, save his brother and find a way to escape planet Earth.