After the promise of great action delivered with J.J. Abrams reboot of Star Trek, another Pixar gem with Up, and some expected results from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, there wasn't a lot to excite or surprise. There was however, much to dismiss. In our eyes the worst offenders of lackluster mediocrity included a flat out boring and story-less Terminator Salvation, the remake dud The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and the ultimate in wasted talent, Michael Mann's mess of a gangster pic, Public Enemies which managed to make Christian Bale utterly forgettable and Johnny Depp, shooting off a tommy gun while charming his way through a bank robbery, a complete yawn. (Not to mention the movie's series of bank robberies that looked like carbon copies of each other, right down to sets and extras.)
But hey, a little good news, it's not over yet. Summer movies seem to be racing for final release spots. In just the last 8 days no less than twelve new films have or will be hitting theater screens. The math alone means that some of these won't find a local screen for many weeks , maybe never, but if you keep looking you may be rewarded with something a bit special, say the screening of an independent like (500) Days of Summer, that surprised with strong performances, a clever, witty script and a breath of fresh air to blow out the smell of a summer's worth of stale buttered popcorn.
Here's our quick take on the new films hitting the cineplex marquees for this weekend...
You might want to see...
District 9 - We're shocked, but this piece of low resolution sci-fi is getting some really great reviews. From "smart" and "inventive" to comparisons to War of the Worlds, the advance word has been buzzing loud enough that we've become intrigued. We included District 9 on our list of ice-cold movies this month, mostly due to the goofy bug aliens, but the heat being generated by critics may be enough to grab big audiences. It's only the second time this summer that a big action flick has grabbed pre-release raves, the first time being May's release of Star Trek. Not a bad omen.
The Goods, Live Hard, Sell Hard - Love Jeremy Piven as Ari Gold in HBO's Entourage? Like raucous and rank comedy? Can't stand seeing the summer end without another glimpse of Will Ferrell? Go. Most everyone hates it but the NYT's says brainless and funny. Yeah, it's a rip on Zemeckis' Used Cars from 1980, but who the hell remembers 1980?
The Time Traveler's Wife - from the best selling novel, if you've read it you've likely already got your mind made up. Not to mention there have been precious few movies for the literate and the romantic this season. We hate the casting but we like the book. The reviews are mixed but the competition doesn't give a hoot about this target demographic. And with such low expectations, there won't be lines.
Ponyo - Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki's new film hits the U.S. today through the courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It's not a coincidence that it's Disney who brings Miyazaki's work to U.S. audiences, it's a deep rooted appreciation for the art of animation and these films are truly moving artwork. Ponyo is a take on the Hans Christian Anderson tale of The Little Mermaid (familiar Disney ground), but the uniqueness of Miyazaki's art and storytelling can often be riveting, though decidedly unusual and sometimes strange. If you've never experienced Miyazaki's work, are a fan of hand drawn animation or just a fan of storytelling through artistic expression, the experience can be singular and enlightening. It's also great entertainment.
That's as good as it gets. Here's what you should be skipping...
Bandslam - Vanessa Hudgens and company doing the 'tween idol thing, again. If you have kids who just have to go, this may be a good time to test out how they'll do managing for themselves for a few hours. Even if you're stuck waiting in the theater lobby you're probably way ahead of the game.
Post Grad - Alexis Bledel and Michael Keaton in a movie that should be on your list of Family Channel viewing options sometime next year. If you absolutely have to, rent it. If you really go see this, at least you'll be able to stretch out across the empty seats.
Spread - Ashton Kutcher in a non-movie. We can't even come up with reasons to see or skip this film. Kutcher's co-star is Anne Heche. Is anybody excited? No one in the film, other than Kutcher, has done anything else of note. If you want to see this in a theater, here's the only reason we can come up with. Go now because it will have disappeared inside of 10 days.
Taking Woodstock - The people who fondly recall Woodstock days have the festival's DVDs at home. The movie audience demographics that go see summer comedies think Country Joe and the Fish are a fiddle act in Nashville. Wait, the clincher - the "stars" of the movie are Demetri Martin and Emile Hirsch. Anne Heche must have already been filming Spread.
G.I. Joe is starting to look like a solid hold-over. Have a great weekend at the movies.