Friday, June 6, 2008

A Panda, a Moron and a Mongol. A movie weekend for catch-up.

It's weekend 6 of Blockbuster summer '08 and here's what's on the release schedule: an animated Panda Bear that blunders his way through martial arts heroics in the voice of Jack Black (even as a Panda, Black seems to be channeling Chris Farley), contrived idiocy from Adam Sandler about a former Mossad agent turned hairdresser in NY, and an historical adventure that turns beautifully photographed snow fallen landscapes into frozen fields of blood. Mmmmm, what movie magic should we take in this weekend?

Well, let's take a look at what we haven't seen yet. If you base it on the offerings this weekend, the answer would be - a good movie. OK, the kids are apt to like Black as Po, the Kung Fu Panda hero-in-training, in this Dreamworks Animation offering which has received fairly solid reviews and the least offensive marketing trailers of the bunch. Though you shouldn't be expecting "Pixar" level artwork, the story will surely carry kids. Adults should find the ride occasionally humorous and not without glints of charm.

If an animated send-up of slow motion martial arts acrobatics isn't your thing, you're about out of luck on the new release front. So if going to the movies still feels like an appealing way to spend a couple of weekend hours, we highly suggest filling in some of the gaps in your summer cinema check-list. Here are our suggestions in no particular order.

Iron Man. Adult kid-stuff like most great action hero comic book flicks. The stand-out here is Robert Downey Jr. who is a blast to watch from first frame to last. He's the reason the franchise took off with such solid numbers and the sole reason you'll be anxious for the sequel before the end credits have had time to finish.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls. The second huge hit of summer and very likely the one that will come out on top when the pollen clears. This one tracks with a little more adult appeal than Iron Man, particularly if you loved the originals. Of course Harrison Ford, in fedora and leather jacket, is the driving force and though Shia LaBeouf may make good on bringing a new generation to the adventurers of Dr. Jones, it's Karen Allen's return that makes the whole thing snap. Ultimately she's the reason to take in the adventure even if you've already seen it once. Go back, take someone who hasn't been yet, and this time find a theater where you love the popcorn.

Sex and the City. It's the second weekend of release and as such, there are two big benefits. First, the lines shouldn't be daunting and there's no chance there'll be camera crews hanging around the box-office. With all of the girl's night out parties wrapped or relocated, access to Carrie and Co. should be unencumbered. Which leads to the second reason this is a great time to see Sex, no one will know you went. Guys, I'm talking to you here. Take the girlfriends, the wives, the gay buddies, whoever and have fun. You know you want to. The truth is, the HBO series and all of those DVD sales didn't only materialize from female fans and Sex and the City has been a quality act from Season One. The weak offerings opening this weekend will have lots of fans thinking the same way and we're predicting Sex is in for a very strong second weekend at the box-office.

The Strangers. This horror thriller was number three at the box-office last week, taking in over 20 million and bumping Iron Man out of the top three for the first time since it's release. Strangers stars Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman as a young couple isolated in a vacation home when a trio of strangers decides to terrorize them, simply because they happen to be there. With wide positive reviews and an emphasis on psychological scares, The Strangers fills a gap in the variety of movie releases so far this summer that should stand it well against the competition for at least another week.

When Did You Last See Your Father?. If you live in a big city and have a theater near you that showcases limited releases, the only new film out that tweaked our interest is this one, starring Jim Broadbent and Colin Firth. You can take a look at why we're looking forward to it on our June List over at, along with the other June releases we've got our eye on.

So take our cue and grab this weekend for some catching up. Next week gets back to form with two major entries into the summer blockbuster sweepstakes. Marvel Studios takes it's second crack at amassing millions with The Incredible Hulk, starring (and written by) Edward Norton. It's also the second film of the summer to star Liv Tyler. The Happening, starring Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel will also debut, in spite of the fact that it was written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan who hasn't written or directed a worthwhile project since The Sixth Sense so very many years ago. (Yes, we dislike his work that much.) Come to think of it, you may have sometime for catching up next week as well.

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