Monday, May 9, 2011

The Three B's of Summer

We here at the Battle of the Beltway love the summer movie season.  However, it would be a disservice to all of you faithful followers if one of us wrote a summer movie preview.  In order for all of us to become fully prepared for the "Summer of Sequels", we have enlisted the help of our friend and the biggest movie guru we know.  With out further ado I give you A.C. and his take on the upcoming summer of cinematic adventures.

By A.C.

Ahh, Summer. What a grand time of year. Nothing encompasses the classic American summer like the three B’s: Beach, Baseball, and Blockbusters. Few things are as great as sitting in the sun with your best friends, drinking a cold one, and listening to the waves crashing as a gorgeous babe strolls by half-naked. Among those few things, is grabbing those buddies and beers and substituting the waves/babes with some sunflower seeds and a day-game at the ballpark. Yet both of these delightful activities share the same nemesis: Rain. So what follows is my guide for the days when the sky urinates on our plans.

Despite being a gigantic film snob, I thoroughly enjoy summer blockbusters. It gives the moviegoer a chance to set aside his/her thinking cap and bask in the glory of hot chicks and special effects. And nothing is more Hollywood than setting aside thinking for hot chicks and special effects. I’m not trying to write a thesis on 2011’s summer blockbuster offerings so I will only be able to touch on a select few.

The Sequels

Leave it to Hollywood to suck every last bit of money out of the greatest series of children’s stories ever. What scares me is that the industry has begun to popularize the splitting of final chapters in franchises into two films. When Warner Bros. decided that they would release the final installment of Harry Potter in a two-part format, they might have unknowingly started what could become an extremely annoying trend. The Twilight franchise has already mirrored this format, not that it matters though since I’d rather jump off a tall building than pay to see Emo Vampires 4.

The final installment of Harry Potter will surely be a sad day for most. David Yates returns to direct, after taking the reigns post-Goblet of Fire. While the early Potters surely aimed for the young child demographic, Yates has transformed the series in the last three films into a dark and thrilling adventure much like the Lord of the Rings. If the whimpering nerd sitting in front of you donning a cape, a wand, and a lightning bolt on his/her forehead won’t bother you, the last Harry Potter will surely not disappoint. Release Date: July 15th.

While personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the Potter books and previous films, fantasy adventures are not for everyone. One thing that IS for everyone is attractive people and fighting robots. Master of the summer blockbuster, Michael Bay brings us his bi-annual Transformers film. While some consider Bay a sellout of Flavor Flav proportions, he must be commended for carving out a niche in a cutthroat industry and sticking to what he does best. Shia Labeouf and John Turturro reprise their roles alongside “models who act” representatives Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson. While Megan Fox is left out as Labeouf’s love interest, she is replaced by Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Huntington-Whiteley had zero acting experience prior to winning the role, but could her acting possibly be as bland as Fox’s? As Shia would say... Release Date: July 1st.

With a similar Hottie-Swap, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides leaves out both Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom, but replaces them with Penelope Cruz, who has plenty of ‘hot’ to go around. Personally, I never understood the world’s infatuation with Knightley. She is undoubtedly beautiful, but clearly lacks the voluptuousness that gets my butter churning. Cruz, on the other hand, is flawless. Not only is she painfully gorgeous, but also has the exotic Hispanic accent to accompany her coke-bottle figure. Recently Oscar-nominated Geoffrey Rush returns to play Barbosa. At the very least, the fourth in the series should provide some entertaining rum-induced humor by Depp. I mean the fact that this series has done what its done is remarkable. It’s based on a theme-park ride for heaven’s sake. Release Date: May 20th.

Ok, I saved the best for last. You guessed it, The Hangover: Part 2. I can’t remember a comedy sequel that is more anticipated than this one, and for good reason. After the turn of the millennium, the comedy genre began to flourish. Hollywood began straying from slapstick, and started pumping out witty flicks. It no longer became necessary to have a guy land face-first in dog poo. A wave of pure comedic force came along to redefine how we got our laughs. All you needed was a barrage of hilarious quips, and a couple actors with enough quality comedic timing to deliver them. What made the original Hangover so great was that it was able to combine the slapstick nature of 80’s and 90’s comedies with the wit of the Superbads and 40-Year-Old Virgins. All the actors return, including the brilliant Ken Jeong as Leslie Chow. Todd Phillips returns to direct, and since he has been able to refrain from forcing sequels to Road Trip or Old School, I have full confidence in the potential hilarity of The Hangover part deux. Release Date: May 26th.

Other sequels that don’t deserve paragraphs: Pixar’s Cars 2 (6/24), Dreamworks’ Kung Fu Panda 2 (5/26), Final Destination 5 (8/26… seriously?)

The Superhero Flicks

Hollywood has recently begun a superhero binge. With the success of Spider-Man and Chris Nolan’s Batman reboot, the industry has realized the cash to be made from our comic book darlings, and has begun cranking out virtually every adaptation possible. They are actually making another Catwoman. What, did the Halle Berry version miss on too many important plot points? As the options have quickly become scarce, they’ve resorted to finding buff heartthrobs and slapping a costume on them. Three of 2011’s superhero flicks embody the desperation of Hollywood to the fullest: Thor, The Green Lantern, and Captain America: The First Avenger, with Chris Hemsworth, Ryan Reynolds, and Chris Evans starring respectively. Thor, directed by Kenneth Branagh, seems to be the least appealing of the three, yet somehow Natalie Portman got roped into playing the female lead. Undoubtedly, someone on her management team is getting fired over that decision. Ryan Reynolds has shown glimpses of leading-man potential, so The Green Lantern may have some redeeming qualities. Chris Evans has done the superhero thing before (he played the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four films), so Captain America may succeed as well. In addition, Captain America becomes the first in a series of films involving “The Avengers”. The country was given a glimpse of the future Avengers flicks with small cameos by Samuel L. Jackson as Avengers orchestrator Nick Fury in both Iron Man flicks, so at the very least, Captain America will set the stage for the upcoming Super-Superhero series. Release Dates: Thor- May 6th, The Green Lantern- June 17th, Captain America: The First Avenger- July 22nd.

The other major superhero flick coming out this summer is the X-Men reboot, X-Men: First Class. Being the mother of all prequels, it takes place over 30 years before the first X-Men movie. It stars James McEvoy as a young Professor Charles Xavier, and chronicles the beginnings of his “school for gifted mutants”. It takes place in the 1960’s amidst the Cuban Missile crisis and takes a page out of Watchmen’s book (Oh, excuse me “graphic novel”) by guessing at what important milestones in American history would look like with superheroes involved. An intriguing concept, X-Men: First Class should prove to be solid if you enjoyed the first series of films. Release Date: June 3rd

Out-Of-Place Art House Flicks

Usually the “art house” films are saved for autumn and winter, as to coincide with Oscar season, but sometimes major studios are forced to move up or move back the release dates for various reasons. While this is usually a sign that the film is not good enough to contend in awards season, occasionally a gem or two breaks the trend, most recently exhibited by 2009’s The Hurt Locker, which had a summer release, but went on to grab the Best Picture Oscar anyway. The first of these artsy movies is Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia. The film stars Kirsten Dunst, and centers around two sisters going through emotional turmoil, which is amplified upon the world’s realization that another planet is set to collide with Earth and destroy everything. The film begins with the planet colliding with Earth and then jumps back in time, so I can’t imagine it having a happy ending. Von Trier is known for a pessimistic approach to his films, and thus this one will surely be a bit of a downer. Release Date: May 26th.

From John Madden (Shakespeare in Love, not Monday Night Football), comes The Debt, a suspense thriller about three Israeli Mossad secret agents and their mission to kill a ruthless Nazi war criminal. The film takes place on two separate timelines. The first during the original mission in 1966, and the second taking place in 1997, 30 years after the mission was supposedly completed. The three Mossad agents are portrayed in their younger form by Jessica Chastain, Martin Csokas, and Avatar’s Sam Worthington. In the 1997 timeline, the elder three are played by screen legends Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, and Ciaran Hinds. The film looks both stimulating and gripping, and should prove to be a solid thriller. Release Date: August 31st.

Finally, comes the much-anticipated drama Tree of Life. The star-studded cast is led by two-time Oscar winner Sean Penn, two-time Oscar-nominated Brad Pitt, and the aforementioned Jessica Chastain. The film is directed by legend Terrence Malick, who rose to prominence in the 70’s with the classic Badlands. Malick has since only done four feature films, one of them being the successful war drama The Thin Red Line. Malick is known for his incredible sense of visual artistry, and from the looks of the trailer, Tree of Life should showcase those talents. The details of the plot have been closely guarded by Fox Searchlight, and thus there isn’t much to analyze. All that can be deduced from the trailer is that Brad Pitt portrays the father to the younger version of Sean Penn’s character. I greatly anticipate checking this one out. Release Date: May 27th

Comedies With Potential

Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer brings us 30 Minutes or Less which features a comedic smorgasbord of talent. Danny McBride and Nick Swardson play a couple of ambitious dudes who decided to kidnap a pizza-delivery boy (Jesse Eisenberg), strap a bomb to his chest, and force him to rob a bank. The incredibly funny on-the-rise comedian Aziz Ansari plays Eisenberg’s friend who is roped into joining the escapades. While nothing could be funnier than Eisenberg receiving an Oscar nomination for portraying himself, McBride, Swardson, and Ansari could carry this to the top of Hilarious Mountain. If that doesn’t convince you to give it a shot, maybe this will: Ruben Fleischer is also the creator and principal writer for “Rob & Big” and “Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory”. Release Date: August 12th.

Our Idiot Brother is another approaching comedy with potential. It stars Paul Rudd, and basically involves a doped out loser who after being arrested for selling weed to a police officer in full uniform is forced to move back home with family members. Elizabeth Banks and Zooey Deschanel co-star. Personally, and I don’t think I’m alone here (I’m looking at you, Angelo), will go see pretty much anything involving Paul Rudd. Dude just gets me. Release Date: August 26th.

Larry Crowne is an upcoming dramedy starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Cedric the Entertainer. Pop Quiz: Which actor in that sentence doesn’t belong? This is also Hanks’ second directorial piece after 1996’s That Thing You Do. The film centers on a middle-aged man who decides to go back to college after being fired from his job in a department store. I’m sure the film wont be all bad, since Hanks is our generation’s Marlon Brando, but the contents of the trailer basically serve as a flashing neon sign that this is a quirky rom-com. See: The Terminal. Hopefully, Hanks and Roberts can prove me wrong. Release Date: July 1st.

Bridesmaids, aka the female Hangover, looks to shed the proverbial monkey on the back of female comedians. Much publicized is the lack of great comedies with a female target audience. One of the definite reasons behind this gender barrier is simply Hollywood’s tendency to cast attractive women in comedies that well… aren’t funny. Where Bridesmaids differs is its leading ladies. Producer Judd Apatow (too many great comedies to list in parenthesis) snagged two of SNL’s funniest chicks in Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph. While I’m sure the raunchiness of a rated-R comedy with a female target audience may be a turn-off for some male viewers, to those manly-men I would suggest this as a date-night alternative to the normal rom-coms that will have you thrusting a sword into your abdomen like a samurai. I know it’s an honorable death but Bridesmaids may be a healthier alternative. Release Date: May 13th.

Finally, Jodie Foster directs and co-stars in The Beaver, the story of a depressed CEO (Mel Gibson) who starts communicating with everyone in his life through a beaver hand puppet. I’m pretty sure this is a drama, but since it involves Mel Gibson using a puppet to talk for two hours, I felt this category to be more appropriate. Release Date: May 6th.

No matter the success any of these films may garner, it is sure to fall short of the pure comedic star power found here.

That about wraps it up folks, hope you enjoyed, and thanks to the Battle of the Beltway for hosting my ramblings. 
Follow A.C. at @acCOOSH 

And of Course continue to follow us @Beltway_Battle

1 comment:

  1. Well done AC. I enjoy your writing style & trust your judgement. <----Stranger things have happened.