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AM’s 2010 Summer Movie Preview Part 3: A Hot July

2010/06/11

This month looks like a meaty one, so hold on tight.      

The Last Airbender: or ‘the one that used to be called Avatar, but changed for some reason’. Apparent Plot: This is an adaptation of a wildly successful Japanese manga import based on controllers of the elements.  Pros: As Hollywood fare goes, this is pretty original.  The trailers look great, and the action and pacing seem to suggest ‘big epic’ here.  Probable Cons: It’s been a long, long time since M. Night Shyamalan made a whole movie with a satisfying resolution.  That might serve to be a problem.  Outlook:  I can’t shake the feeling that M. Night made a wise choice turning to an established tale that he’s not responsible for wrapping up.  Every trailer I’ve seen for this just looks deadly sweet, and I suspect this will be the breakout, huge moneymaker that rules the summer.  I’m there opening week, and you should be too.   

'Hi! I'm here to save your planet? Or I can look at your computer, your choice.'

 

 Predators: Apparent Plot: Those bad-ass space killers with the Williams’ sisters hair are back for more hunting, but Schwarzenegger is too busy trying to keep California from sliding into the ocean so the world has turned to Adrian Brody and Topher Grace.  Wait, WHAT?  Pros:  Director Robert Rodriguez has made more work from less before, and this is a long-held dream franchise for him, that can mean good things.  Larry Fishburne and Danny Trejo in supporting roles are usually a positive.  ‘Predators’, much like ‘Aliens’ are pretty freaking cool to watch when not co-mingled with each other in poorly conceived crossover films and video games.  Probable Cons: I’m just not likely to buy into two of the skinniest and wee guys on the planet as saviors of mankind.  Unless they spend the movie hiding in storage containers until they can launch their escape pod – then maybe I buy in, but that’s not very interesting.  As great as he can be, Rodriguez also has the power to make complete duds.  Outlook: HOW WAS DWAYNE ‘THE ROCK’ JOHNSON NOT HANDED A $15 MILLION DOLLAR CHECK AND THIS SCRIPT WITH A NOTE ON IT SAYING ‘THIS ONE IS ALL YOU’?  It’s the whole reason he’s in Hollywood  – to make this movie, exactly, and if he had, it would make a bajillion dollars and finally establish him as a new generation action star.   There’s too many stronger opponents in the field this month for this relaunch to do more than a decent opening weekend and get its DVD release date pushed up to October.  I will try to watch this then, but I don’t have high hopes.      

Despicable Me: Apparent Plot:  An animated tale told from the perspective of the villain, a Edward-Gorey inspired madman named Gru, with a cast of one-eyed tiny bloblike minions.  Pros:  A fantastic and deeper-than-most voice cast.  Steve Carrell as Gru, and featuring Miranda Cosgrove, Kristin Wiig, Danny McBride, Ken Jeong, Jason Segel, Jack McBrayer…oh hell, just IMDB the thing, you’ll see.  There’s like twenty solid contributors.  Cons:  This could easily get lost in the Toy Story 3 tsunami.  As much as I love the voices involved here, sometimes that can create a bit of a cluster while horning everybody in for some funny bits. With that giant cast, of course there’s some people I hate. In this case, that’d be you Russell Brand. And don’t get cocky, Will Arnett, you’re next. Outlook:  I’m actually more interested in this than TS3, it’s an interesting enough twist, and with the talent involved there almost has to be some gold.  It’s likely be a modest success in the theater, but bank big at home.  I’m probably in for the full-price evening show, regardless.  

Really?

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice:   Apparent Plot: Somebody thought the character Mickey Mouse played in Fantasia should be made into a full-length film with real people because Harry Potter seems popular with the kids.  Pros: Disney has an okay track record with adapting seemingly hollow premises with viable currency-generating life.  Those Jack Sparrow things seemed to work out pretty well.  Probable Cons:  I don’t know the draw of seeing a third-rate version of Harry Potter when the real deal is still all around.  Nicolas Cage appears to unfathomably have his worst hairpiece yet, and is wearing a costume he found in a trunk marked Van Helsing.  And he’s kinda like the ‘main guy’, so that’s going to be a pretty big distraction.  Outlook: This looks really really bad.  It’ll make money off families and kids when it hits the home market, but barring a miracle, will fail tremendously during this summer.      

Inception:  Apparent Plot:  There’s some grifters that have devised a manner to enter and control your dreams, fleece you of your secrets, and profit from it.  Except this dream invasion technology might be causing some seriously bad mojo.  Pros:  I’m a pro-Christopher Nolan guy, I just like what he’s had to offer as a director so far on the road.  Inception looks thick, really tripping and filled with paranoia – reminds me a little of Dark City, which is sorely underestimated.  It’s going to be a very different movie from most summer fare, and that could benefit it greatly.  Probable Cons:  This might be a little too out there for major commercial success.  Pseudoscience as fundamental plot point can really blow up on a movie if it doesn’t balance the tightrope of ‘creative’ and ‘believable’ and can quickly drop in to a deep pit of ridiculous.   Outlook:  The marketing is smartly leveraging Nolan’s Dark Knight accomplishment paired with a lot of Leo DiCaprio.  Smart.  I suspect this will do okay for a couple of weeks, but the general weirdness will be a shutdown for a good section of the general public standing on line deciding what to see.  Will do gangbusters the moment it hits the home audience.  Personally, I’m going to pay full price for this one, it’s right in my wheelhouse.      

Ramona and Beezus: Apparent Plot:  It’s an adaptation of the classic Beverly Cleary’s ‘Ramona’ character for the big screen.  Seriously, nobody’s done that yet?  Weird.  Pros:  That’s great source material – Cleary was always a go-to author in my grade school days, and for good reason.  A good family film option that will provide solace amongst along of bigger, bolder players.  Probable Cons:  Could easily get lost, with Toy Story 3 likely still doing big business at this point, and Despicable Me likely drawing in more of the intended audience, this has a chance to slip in and out of theaters quickly and quietly.  Outlook:  There’s something appealing about a well-done live-action family film, and with a hugely successfully literary base, Ramona and Beezus might make more of a dent than I think.  Truth be told, sometimes a simpler, nicer non-3D offering is much more satisfying than CGI animation and superstar voiceovers.  Provided the story gets a decent adaptation, this has potential to be a sleeper now, and a long-term winner at home.     

Salt: Apparent Plot: Angelina Jolie plays one badass and mysterious assassin, or spy, or combo.  Pros:  Looks phenomenal in the trailer.  Female-led action films are still very rare, and put together right (and casting Jolie, I have to concede, is ‘putting it together right’) make for fantastic entertainment.  Not an existing franchise, nor a sequel, both of which are big checks in the positive column.  Probable Cons: I can’t really decipher what the character or movie is really about from the trailers, which is sometimes okay, but a lot of times is an indicator of overcomplication and unneccessary plot twisting.  Outlook:  Even more than The Last Airbender, if the story is even halfway cohesive, Salt should walk out of the summer as a big winner.  It just has that warm buzzy feel about it throughout the marketing.  And for truth’s sake, I’m not a huge fan of Jolie – I’m not even positive I’ve watched an entire movie she’s been in since Girl, Interrupted, at least in one sitting – I just don’t find her all that captivating most of the time.  This looks likely to change that opinion, and it’s my single ‘must see’ theater date for the summer.     

Cats and Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (in 3D!): It’s a sequel to the original Cats and Dogs, which I don’t remember, and I watch a lot of kid’s movies.  I mention this in here for one reason:  When Avatar went all insane last year, the biggest negative aftershock has been the unneccessary 3D-ification of EVERY FREAKING THING.  Thankfully, just like every other time 3D  rises from the ashes (about every fifteen years or so), it quickly gets gimmicked to death and goes away.  I mark this movie as being the first ringing of this go-around’s death gong.  Hallelujah!     

Dinner for Schmucks:  Apparent Plot:  It’s like that old River Phoenix movie Dogfight, except Paul Rudd is River Phoenix, and Steve Carrell is the ugliest girl being brought to the ugly girl dance.  Pros: Sorry, but Paul Rudd is endlessly watchable; Even when he’s a dick, he’s likable, and naturally funny. Paired with Carrell in doof mode, this doesn’t need to bring much more to compete. Probable Cons: Carrell can sometimes over-doof, and then he becomes uncomfortable to watch, as his character comes off as pathetic, not lovable.  Outlook: Rolling out in late July, timing should create a nice pocket for this comedy.  By this point, most of the big action hitters are already out of the gate, and this will provide a nice alternative for a more soothing evening.  In addition, they’re wisely going after an often-ignored audience of ‘people who will go see something with the word ‘Schmucks’ in the title’.  I doubt I’ll see this in a theater, just because one only has so much time and money, but it could easily happen on a date night.  This’ll do pretty well, and will be worth watching at least once.     

Charlie St. Cloud:  As with most of the sections in this preview, I’m tapping out on an entry.  This looks to be some sort of coming-of-age, self-discovery melodrama intended to establish Zac Efron as a legitimate, serious (and bankable) adult actor type.  The filmmakers couldn’t care less if a guy like me wants to see it, and since I don’t, that’s all I’ll say about that.  Go see it if you like Zac Efron, he’s gonna need to hold onto that love in about five years.     

Next Up:  Finally, we come to August.

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