2012 IN REVIEW – The Films I Didn’t See: May – August
Ah, summer — the time of tentpole blockbuster films that are meant to pad out the studios’ budgets for the next few months. I believe I saw most of the major films released during this period, at least at some point in the year, if not the theatre: The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, Men in Black 3, Battleship… Overall, it was a more than satisfying year for quality summer blockbusters that pleased both audiences and critics. … Well, probably not Battleship. That movie was awful.
With so many films that release in theatres that are best seen actually on the big screen, though, it was only inevitable that smaller and/or less interesting films fell by the wayside of my attention span. Critically acclaimed features like Beasts of the Southern Wild and Oslo, August 31st would get unfortunately lumped in with similarly ignored-by-me crap like Step Up Revolution and That’s My Boy this past summer, which isn’t a commentary on their quality as much as it is a reflection of my time and budgetary restrictions. (I subscribe to a number of rental services and still buy and go see movies in theatres, but I can only do so much and thus prioritize quality spectacle films usually over the quality comedies and dramas.)
So while I do believe I got the most out of my summertime viewings that I possibly could, let’s go over the films that I somehow managed to not see as of the time of this writing, for better or for worse.
Yet another film to add to my Netflix queue, this looks like a rather touching documentary about various kids who are training to be professional ballet dancers. Judging by the film’s critical acclaim, it’s unlikely that you would have to have too much interest in the actual art of ballet to appreciate the film, only that you have an appreciation for people who their work well. Given the personal nature of these journeys and the sure to be awesome (and probably excrutiating) footage of these various dancers, I’m sure there’s some inspiration to be had, as well.
Dark Shadows (May 11)
Tim Burton. What can I say? The man once considered a visionary filmmaker has devolved into a sort of caricature of what we expect from a Tim Burton film. This film adaptation/update of a supernatural soap opera TV series actually had the potential to showcase Burton’s dark sense of humor quite well, but of course, he squandered the opportunity on yet another showcase for Johnny Depp to act weird in yet another one of his films. At least Frankenweenie was fairly entertaining.
Under African Skies (May 11)
Part documentary, part concert film, Under African Skies examines the impact of Paul Simon’s 1986 album Graceland, which was controversial for breaking the understood boycott of apartheid-era South African culture through Simon’s pairing up with South African musical artists and borrowing from their musical stylings, despite Simon never actually advocating for the status quo and actually bringing further awareness to the suffering going on through his album. Interesting subject matter, and one that apparently made for a good film.
Where Do We Go Now? (May 11)
A Lebanese film that uses the conflict between Muslims and Christians in the area (and probably abroad) and sitcom-style comedy as a platform to possibly espouse the long held belief that, if women were in charge, there would be no war. Okay, I’m sure that it’s probably a bit more nuanced than that, but the film does look a bit overdone in the wackiness department, including the hiring of a group of strippers to distract the men from their feud. That doesn’t really speak well of these women’s abilities to lead, now does it?
The Dictator (May 16)
I saw Borat and was fairly entertained, if somewhat horrified, by Sacha Baron Cohen’s first film of this style. Bruno is on my list of films to see, though given the wrestling scene of the preceding film, my gag reflex and I are admittedly a bit more intimidated. The Dictator, being a film that does not rely upon Cohen’s previous ability to fool people into believing his characters are real, has the disadvantage of having to make the shocking and politically incorrect sense of humor Cohen exudes work under the construct of a full length movie script, which I imagine accounts for the film’s lackluster reception (58% on Rotten Tomatoes). A rental.
Rust and Bone (May 17)
Marion Cotillard’s performance in this film had fans calling foul when she wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, so it has a loyal following, for sure. She plays a dedicated whale trainer who is paralyzed during an accident at the park where she works. No longer able to perform her job, she falls into a depression, only to find passion reenter her life when she meets Ali, a new bouncer at a local nightclub who has also become the legal guardian of his estranged 5-year-old son. This French film’s trailer looks quite heavy, but that shouldn’t be a deterrent, as the film has gained quite the critical acclaim and has already won a number of awards, with more possibly to come.
Honestly, this is just one of a number of films that was so obscure, I had never even heard of it. The trailer looks bizarre, with an unnerving, retro look and sound that strongly suggests that this film is probably best enjoyed if you can tolerate films that were likely conceived under the heavy influence of psychedelic drugs. Certainly… looks… interesting…
Crooked Arrows (May 18)
Starring the once and former Superman, Brandon Routh, seems to have fallen on hard times these days if he’s going to star in films like this – a film that brings to mind 90s-era underdog sports films like The Big Green and The Mighty Ducks. Hell, the trailer even uses “Tubthumping” in the background! Routh plays Joe Logan, a part-Native American casino worker who, in a quest to rediscover his spirit, winds up coaching his reservation’s high school lacrosse team as they go up against their rivals at a presumably snooty prep-school as they work toward the championship. Given the premise, I honestly don’t care if they shatter expectations and somehow don’t win. With a setup like that one, it’s easy to see that this poorly received sports film is just a little outdated and outclassed when it comes to entertaining or inspiring audiences.
Unlike Brandon Routh, Samuel L. Jackson has done enough good work to get a pass for doing films like The Samaritan, a convoluted-looking crime thriller co-starring the equally forgivable Tom Wilkinson in what looks to be a loud, teeth-gnashing villain role that makes Jackson’s look downright low key. Funny enough, the film was also released under the title Fury in the U.K. Whether or not this was to cash in on Jackson’s role as Nick Fury in the Marvel films is something I’m sure the studio would deny.
Virginia (May 18)
It looks amusing enough – a film about a sort of white trash single mother having an affair with the small town, married Mormon sheriff. You don’t really get that much else from the trailer, though, which sees Virginia robbing a bank in a gorilla mask and offending Mormon sensibilities with her white trashy, single mother ways. Given the 4% it’s received on Rotten Tomatoes and the 33 on Metacritic, however, I don’t hold out much hope. Jennifer Connelly’s a good actress (who also seems like she would be able to do a spot-on Holly Hunter impression from the trailer), and Ed Harris is a good actor. What could’ve gone wrong?
Chernobyl Diaries (May 25)
Even though Chronicle turned out better than anyone could’ve expected, it seems like the found footage-style sub-genre really reached a low point in 2012. This Jesse McCartney-starring horror film is about a group of young adults going on an “extreme tour” of the Chernobyl disaster area, only to be attacked by the heretofore unseen mutants who stayed behind during the disaster and, therefore, also automatically turned into cheap horror movie monsters for these over-privileged twerps to harass with their screams and personal dramas. If I ever watch it, I’m definitely going to be rooting for the mutants.
Oslo, August 31st (May 25)
Hailed as one of the best movies of the year, this 2011 Norwegian film saw release this past year in the U.S. only to gain even more acclaim. The film follows Anders, a man who is struggling to make it through drug rehab who has recently been allowed out to go find a job, only to instead go and revisit old friends and find a romance beginning to blossom. Given the film’s incredible reputation for being a touching, honest, and beautiful film, Oslo, August 31st now waits for me in my Netflix queue.
Like This is Not a Film, 5 Broken Cameras is a limited release, documentary-like film hailing from the Middle East that serves as a day-in-the-life perspective from a region that is still not really understood by Westerners. Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat provides home movie footage of life on the West Bank and thus gives viewers an intimate and authentic portrait of a regular family living in this torrential area of the world. The film wasn’t ignored by me, but it certainly made it through my radar. Another film to add my ever expanding queue.
Piranha 3DD (June 1)
Too much of a good thing? Most people liked the surprise hit Piranha 3D, a film that capitalized on the previous two films’ B-movie schlock for a sort of Snakes on a Plane-style self-awareness that had even Jaws actor Richard Dreyfuss joining in on the fun. I didn’t see it, but a lot of people did, so it was only inevitable that it would get a sequel. Perhaps it was inevitable that this sequel would suck by comparison, too, which this movie does, with only 13% of critics approving of this overblown sequel according to Rotten Tomatoes. Apparently a stronger emphasis on boobs and a cameo from David Hasselhoff and Gary Busey do not make for a better film.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (June 8)
I haven’t seen a new Madagascar film since the first one came out. Having hated that one, I really had no desire to see Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, which, though better-received, still looked fairly annoying. Proving that DreamWorks Animation is learning from its past mistakes, however, Madagascar 3 is apparently the best film in the series. The biggest barrier, for me, is the fact that I don’t like watching films out of order, but I still have very little desire to watch the second film to get the complete experience, though I should probably be a little more objective, I admit.
Lola Versus (June 8)
Regrettably not a sequel to Run Lola Run, Lola Versus is a comedy about a woman, Lola (duh), who is picking up the pieces of her life after her fiancé dumps her. This film makes two Greta Gerwig films that I have not seen that were given wide release in 2012, though this one, unlike Damsels in Distress is apparently kind of a boring flop, and its trailer gives off the vibe of a film that aches to be a post-feminist/self-loathing/empowerment pastiche that automatically irks me. I admit, that’s probably too harsh a judgment for a film I haven’t even seen, but that’s what trailers are there for, right?
Rock of Ages (June 15)
Curiosity has almost caused me to rent this film, but the heavy use of the awful Def Leppard and Russell Brand has seriously put me off from ever pulling the trigger. Based on the 2006 jukebox musical that pulls from some of the 80s biggest rock acts and placing familiar, big-name celebrities (Paul Giamatti, Alec Baldwin, Tom Cruise, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Mary J. Blige) into roles that test their acting and singing skills, Rock of Ages has all the makings of an excessive project that I’m sure seemed like a good idea on paper, but mostly just feels like one big stunt, even compared to Magic Mike, which released 2 weeks later.
Co-directed by the guy who brought you Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Sean Anders, and the kid who played Andy in the Toy Story films, John Morris, That’s My Boy features Adam Sandler as a man who fathered a child at the age of 13 with his teacher and Andy Samberg as the grown-up son he was a horrible father to. Queue the desperate attempts to simultaneously subvert and mimic heartwarming family drama with crass humor and Adam Sandler’s obnoxious voice inflections. A lot of people were horrified by the casual handling of the film’s setup (statutory rape and adolescent fatherhood is funny if the kid enjoyed it and it was with a hot teacher), but, despite coming out amidst the Jerry Sandusky trial, I’m not sure the attention this film got was worth giving in the first place. Somehow, I still think everyone involved is better than this.
The Woman in the Fifth (June 15)
I’m sure it’s decent. The film follows an American man, Tom, who begins a series of sexual liaisons with a French woman, Margit, in France, where he has recently moved to in order to be closer to his daughter, only to find that the life that he’s trying to hold on to begins to unravel and the people around him begin to die – except for Margit, who may not be who Tom thought she was. Given the film’s 85 minute run time, if it’s as brisk and nicely paced as a film of that length should be, this could be a reasonable weekend streamer.
Your Sister’s Sister (June 15)
This certainly was the year of both Mark Duplass and Emily Blunt, wasn’t it? I might stop and watch this someday if it pops up and I get in the mood for an indie dramedy, and, given the high approval ratings this one’s garnered, I might be in for a treat. Granted, one that I can easily hold off on and possibly even forget, but a treat, nonetheless.
Kumaré (June 20)
Oh, I can’t imagine this one ending well. A “social experiment-turned-documentary,” Rotten Tomatoes explains, Kumaré follows Vikram Gandhi as he transforms himself into a wise guru in order to examine the types of people who would flock to him for sage advice and life training, whether to poke fun at them or not, I’m not certain, but I’m led to believe that these relationships soon begin to develop into genuine relationships, and the trailer even suggests that Vikram beings to believe his own lies – a sentiment that I’m not certain I actually buy into. Certainly sounds intriguing, though, yes?
I’m an advocate of allowing women in combat, but this documentary aims to show that women who join the military face at threat that is far more concerning than some of the more obvious ones – women in the military must also face the threat of being raped by their fellow soldiers. Aiming to bring to light the cover-ups and oversights that many women in the military have faced when they report sexual assault, The Invisible War isn’t exactly light material that one watches out of pleasure, but its 100% approval from critics and recent Oscar nomination would suggest that this is a powerful and well-thought out documentary.
To Rome with Love (June 22)
After his last film, Midnight in Paris, received pretty much universal acclaim, it seems like Woody Allen decided to coast this year with To Rome with Love, a film that looks very much like Woody Allen trying to follow Garry Marshall’s recent formula for success: throwing in a bunch of actors with separate storylines that have some sort of commonality. From the film’s mediocre reception, Allen edges out Marshall in terms of quality, but the vignette formula still doesn’t really work in his favor, either. So, basically, this is something that filmmakers really need to stop doing.
Beasts of the Southern Wild (June 27)
At 9-years-old, Quvenzhané Wallis has gone down in history as the youngest actor to ever be nominated for an Oscar, a feat only more astounding given that she was only five when she won the role. Not bad for someone who lied about her age to get in and won the role thanks to a strong personality and the ability to scream loudly and burp on command. The film is also nominated in 3 other categories (Best Adapted Screenplay, Director, and Picture), and has been widely regarded as one of the best films of 2012. How, then, did I miss this!? Blockbuster didn’t have a Blu-Ray release this week. Time to Redbox!
Madea’s Witness Protection (June 29)
The recent announcement of Tyler Perry’s pairing with Larry the Cable Guy was likely foreshadowed by his pairing with Eugene Levy and Denise Richards in this film. The fact that Tyler Perry has begun stunt casting only makes his work even more repugnant.
Eesh. The trailer uses the tag, “Sometimes the past is a present.” Something about that just screams, “This movie tries really hard to be touching and is probably pretty cloying as a result.” Apparently inspired by true events, this film is about a man whose estranged father’s death rekindles a reconnection with the rest of his family while also revealing that he also has an older sister and a nephew that he never knew about. It’s nice to see a film with two attractive leads (Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks playing the two siblings) that doesn’t involve them having to fall in love (at least, in a romantic sense), but all that suggested aforementioned cloyingness really just turns me off.
Neil Young Journeys (June 29)
Filmed at the tail end of one of Neil Young’s concert tours, wherein Young journeys across Canada to the final show, Jonathan Demme’s documentary also features concert footage and Young recounting his life along the way, stopping at places from his past life as he reminisces. It’s pretty much everything that the film’s title suggests, then. I’m not the biggest Neil Young fan (though I don’t dislike him, either), so my appreciation may vary from those who most likely appreciate him a bit more than I do.
Take This Waltz (June 29)
Director Sarah Polley has yet to have a poorly received film to her name – at least in her short directing career. Luckily, that record stands with Take This Waltz, which features Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman, and Luke Kirby in the lead roles. Williams plays Margot, who is married to Lou (Rogen), but who also has strong feelings for the artsy guy across the street, Daniel (Kirby). I’m assuming from the trailer and general casting logic that Silverman is the amusing friend and confidante. Given the fact that Polley has a strong cult following as a director, and yet I still mostly associate her with the Dawn of the Dead remake, I suppose it’s for the best that I queue this up.
You wouldn’t expect a film whose trailer states that its film is brought to you by American Express would be any good, but this Martin Donovan-starring and –directed film about a troubled playwright being held hostage by his neighbor looks pretty decent and was well received. Something to watch eventually.
Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D (July 5)
I hate her music and her “singing” voice. Why would I watch a documentary about her? … Okay, that’s actually a very bad reason for not watching something – in fact, that’s actually probably a very good reason to watch this documentary about the former Christian music performer-turned outspoken girl-kisser/singer. Still, I wasn’t about to spend theatre ticket money on this, and it’s not exactly high on my list of must-sees, especially given the number of films I’ve added to my bloated Netflix queue as a result of taking on this very article.
Hey, Mark Duplass! Haven’t seen you in… a few entries. At least your prolificity (alongside your brother and co-director Jay) actually reflects the quality of work you put out. I’m not exactly eager to see this film about two dumpy, grown men (also brothers) who put on a two-man, amateur Olympics-style series of events, but, hey, it got good reviews. I’ll consider it alongside your other fifty films that saw wide release this year.
Savages (July 6)
This movie always makes me think of that song from Pocahontas. That’s… really all that I think about when I think of this movie. That and the fact that I had to look up the trailer for this movie on my phone while waiting in line to see The Dark Knight Rises just to figure out what the film playing in the theatre across from me was actually about. I still don’t really care to remember or look it up, to be quite honest, and I’m kind of already ignoring the trailer that’s playing alongside this window on my laptop right now. Oh, hey – it stars Taylor Kitsch and… Blake Lively? Yeah, I’m definitely not interested now.
Can’t they just stick to making the Scrat-featuring trailers for these movies than the actual, you know, movies? Those remain the only reason why I get happy when I hear there’s a new Ice Age film coming out, and while this year also featured an apparently great Maggie Simpson-featuring short (which is the only thing Oscar-nominated that is also associated with this film) during the theatrical run, the fact that I was annoyed by the first film so much has influenced my decision to just wait for the trailer to be released online and then skip the actual films entirely. The promise of watching talking extinct animals who also happen to be pirates just seals the deal on me never watching this one for pleasure. Maybe as a twisted experiment.
Farewell, My Queen (July 13)
As someone who was surprised to find that he actually enjoyed Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette and who has actually watched the trailer for Farewell, My Queen and read its Wikipedia entry, I can safely say that I think that the comparisons between the two films that are cited there are rather off base. Marie Antoinette was a depiction of a young woman who was forced into a life of expectations that were not her own as depicted through the life of the titular queen, which aimed to connect to modern girls through its several anachronisms, whereas Farewell, My Queen looks to be a far more reserved and dramatic affair – affair here having a double meaning, as the film is told from the perspective of a servant who finds herself getting into a lesbian relationship with the queen during the final days of the French Revolution. Though receiving far more critical praise, I’m going to admit – the movie sounds like a bore in comparison to Coppola’s pop period piece.
The Imposter (July 13)
Combining news footage, home movies, interviews, and dramatic recreations, the documentary tells the story of the disappearance of Nicholas Barclay, a 13-year-old boy in Texas who disappeared in 1994, and Frédéric Bourdin, the French conman who showed up three years later in Spain, claiming to be the missing boy. Despite his age, eye color, and accent pointing towards the fact that this was not Nicholas, Bourdin was accepted by the family and welcomed into their home, raising the question of whether they were actually fooled or were hiding something regarding the disappearance of the boy. Given the film’s fantastic reception and subject, I really wish that this were available on Netflix, but, alas, it’s not.
Union Square (July 13)
I’m noticing a lot of films this year involve estranged family members… This one revolves around two sisters who are, of course, opposites, with Jenny having severed ties with her crazy family to settle into a calm marriage and crazy sister Lucy crashing at her apartment at the least opportune time – except it’s actually the perfect timing, I bet. Meh.
Shut Up and Play the Hits (July 18)
Uh-oh. I’ve never heard of LCD Soundsystem before my brief research into this film. Oh, but, hey, the film’s title is a reference to something Win Butler, lead singer of Arcade Fire, says in the documentary! I know them. I like them. I know Spike Jonze, too, who serves as one of the cameramen. Anyway, this was apparently a really good documentary about the group’s final concert, as James Murphy, the band’s frontman, decided to get out while the band was considered to be at its best. Given that this band is now disbanded, I may have to watch this in order to see if I may want to dive into their backlog. … Or maybe I’ll just buy a few of their hits. Hoho – see what I did there?
The Queen of Versailles (July 20)
Can a documentary about eccentric rich people who spend extravagantly escape the bounds of that reality TV-sounding premise? Apparently, yes, especially when it’s a portrayal of said family dealing with the woes of the current economy just like the rest of us, despite their riches. Who knew a trash TV concept could be spun into cinema gold?
“Nazis… from the moon.” “Invasion? Y’all must be trippin’.” “We’ll wipe the sub-humans from the face of the earth.” “The world is sick, and we are the doctors.” All lines from this hilariously and very likely (hopefully…) intentionally trashy film’s trailer. Oh, and there’s a Sarah Palin-like character, too! I know that this movie got a poor rating, but, man, does this stupid film look like stupid fun. Hopefully it’s not annoyingly self-aware, though. Nothing a beer or two can’t iron out!
Ruby Sparks (July 25)
This looks… kinda cute, I guess. Kind of a Weird Science meets Stranger Than Fiction? Dude writes about the girl of his dreams, girl of his dreams appears in his living room, and the two fall in love? Hopefully it’s more complex than that, but it’s a fun premise and looks like lighthearted fun, so it’s probably worth a view at some point.
I’ve only seen the first film in this now-4-part series (this movie is apparently also known as Step Up 4: Miami Heat, which is decidedly more cumbersome but less stupid than its former name, Step Up 4Ever), and, I must admit, the dancing was pretty much the only reason why anyone would see that film in the first place, so why bother with a storyline at all? Especially when entry number 4 deals with the female love interest’s father threatening to destroy a historic neighborhood in Miami in the name of corporate greed. Cue the girl rebelling against her father, falling in love with the leader of a dancing flash mob, and helping to lead a dance protest against the rich guys in the name of cultural preservation. Snore. I’d bet that these films would fare much better, critically, if they just became performance art themselves, rather than try to mimic the story driven format of an actual film.
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (July 27)
Ai Weiwei is a controversial Chinese artist who dares to question and even expose his country’s government as an oppressive force on the Chinese people. As the documentary suggests, Ai makes no apologies for his work, as he does so hoping that one day, future generations will not have to fight the same battle he’s facing now. At least, that’s what I gather from the trailer, which shows Ai boldly stating, “F*** you, Motherland,” on camera. This guy’s won me over.
Searching for Sugar Man (July 27)
No shortage of music documentaries in 2012, was there? This one’s honestly a bit more interesting to me, in that it’s about an almost mythical musician known simply as Rodriguez, who recorded one album only to fall into obscurity, remembered primarily for the rumor of his apparent mid-concert suicide. This documentary follows two South African fans who set out to discover what actually happened to this cult legend. That actually sounds pretty cool.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (Aug 3)
Proving that, even at 26, I’m already starting to disconnect from modern kids. Last year, I mentioned how surprised I was that the original Diary of a Wimpy Kid was popular enough to warrant a sequel. Now, with a third entry, I continue to be, especially as it seems as though the kids have now entered their teenage years and are possibly too old for films of this sort. But, again, what do I know about this book-series-turned-film-series? Apparently, nothing. And I probably will remain ignorant until I have kids – if the series is still popular by then, that is.
Jude Law. Rachel Weisz. Anthony Hopkins. Ben Foster. Four very good actors in one apparently bleh film. What is it with these vignette anthologies now? Is it possible for something so mainstream to jump the shark by going pretentious? I mean, I know that it’s not exactly a new thing, but most films of these sorts these days are largely excuses to throw well known and often very good actors into horrible short stories that struggle to make up for the fact that the filmmakers just couldn’t stretch out one story into a coherent and not-boring full length film, and, I dunno, it seems like this style of storytelling is on a rise, or something, and I find it kind of cliché and boring now. Perhaps it’s just me? I dunno, I didn’t really like Babel, so maybe I just have a chip on my shoulder for having lost that time or something.
Celeste and Jesse Forever (Aug 3)
Is Andy Samberg capable of doing semi-serious films? Granted, this is an indie-romcom featuring Rashida Jones, but, I dunno, I think he has a promising career if he begins steering clear of crap like That’s My Boy up there and doing more roles like this. Despite a contrived premise (two soon-to-be-divorcees who struggle to remain friends while moving on to new romantic partners, despite still holding feelings for one another, naturally), this looks like a genuinely interesting film to me, for some reason. I like the cast, so … yeah, why not? …
Hope Springs (Aug 8)
A film about an older couple trying to rekindle the spark in their marriage, this could’ve easily been an otherwise standard romantic comedy with a bunch of old people jokes. Given the positive response, I’m betting that it’s the performances of Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, and Steve Carell as a marriage counselor that carry the film into above-average territory. Oh, and, hey, look! Elisabeth Shue. I had a crush on her as a kid, despite my mom always annoyed by the fact that 80s films always put her in “40-year-old haircuts.”
2 Days in New York (Aug 10)
As a sequel to Julie Delpy’s acclaimed 2 Days in Paris, this didn’t fair quite as well with critics but didn’t fall so far as to be widely considered bad, either. Swapping out Adam Goldberg for Chris Rock (looking certainly more subdued than most of his mainstream roles will allow), this looks to pretty much follow in the same mold as the first film, which I have yet to see and is also the main reason why I have yet to see this. … I’ll make time!… Sometime.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green (Aug 15)
The trailers for this fantasy film really sell the point that this kid, who was born looking like an 8-year-old with leaves growing form his legs after a couple who couldn’t have kids buries their written hopes for the perfect child in their garden on a stormy night, is certainly thought to be quite special by everyone but this one girl’s parents, but what it is that sets him apart from the other kids, apart from this apparent perfection and passivity for kids who wish to turn him into an ice cream sundae, isn’t exactly portrayed as something that can carry an entire film. What else is going on here besides the wish fulfillment aspect and the couple’s potential for turning their child into the most obliging topiary ever? Most accusations against the film target its thick layer of risk-free sentimentality as the biggest weakness, so I’m not entirely convinced that Timothy Green’s reportedly odd life is one that I necessarily care about examining.
Earning the second highest box office gross worldwide for any Bollywood film (behind a comedy called 3 Idiots), I must admit – Ek Tha Tiger looks like an otherwise rather typical spy action film, with a good dose off romance and comedy thrown in for good measure – the hero, Tiger, arrogantly compares himself to James Bond in the trailer, so, you know… it’s not exactly original.
Sparkle (Aug 17)
Fun fact: my sister used to refer to the Mariah Carey bomb, Glitter, as “Sparkle” by accident all the time. It was amusing to us, and so when this film was released, imagine our glee at finding out that a film titled Sparkle was finally released. Anyway, this film looks to me like it’s trying to imitate Dreamgirls, complete with a former American Idol contestant making her feature film debut (Jennifer Hudson before, Jordin Sparks here) as a rising singer belonging to a Motown girl group who is dealing with the new drama that compounds with the already present drama of her former life. I’m sure the music’s awesome, and as Whitney Houston’s final film role, fans of hers will certainly want to check it out. As for me, unlike Dreamgirls, this didn’t really pique my interest, perhaps because of its copycat status, and didn’t exactly tickle most critics’ fancies either.
Compliance (Aug 17)
The premise behind this film may sound exploitatively ridiculous – a girl working at a fast food restaurant being falsely accused of stealing money by a man who calls in, claiming to be a police officer, and who then has the restaurant employees strip search, humiliate, and then sexually assault the girl – but then you learn that it’s actually inspired by true events that transpired at a Kentucky McDonald’s location, and you soon realize what goal this film has in mind. Praised for its strong performances and capable handling of the subject matter, Compliance doesn’t exactly sound like easy afternoon watching, but it’s definitely on my radar.
Cosmopolis (Aug 17)
Stupidity regarding his romance with Kristen Stewart aside, ever since I heard stories about how Robert Pattinson despised his own popularity and attempted to remain down-to-earth despite his Twilight-tainted career, I’ve kinda always felt bad for the guy and hoped that he would have his Leonardo DiCaprio turning point, at least gaining fame for something a little more substantial than playing a sparkly vampire. This may not be that film, but starring in a David Cronenberg film about paranoia and loss of luxury in unsettling times certainly seems to be a step in the right direction. Good for him.
Now this looks like fun and a good use of sci-fi as a storytelling element, rather than mere set dressing or spectacle. Frank Langella features as a former thief, Frank, whose kids buy him a robot companion in order to assist him in his old age. Intended to help him healthy and motivated, Frank winds up making nice with the robot and tricks its programming into assisting him with another burglary. The trailer makes promises of romance with Susan Sarandon and rediscovering life, new possibilities, and new friendships, even though you may be nearing the supposed end. Thanks to its limited release, I never got around to it. I can only hope I can find a rental, enjoy it, then inevitably buy it.
Hit & Run (Aug 22)
(Current) real life couple Dax Shepherd and Kristen Bell feature in this comedy about a man who turns out to be in the Witness Protection Program and who was once a part of a gang of thieves, serving as their getaway driver. Given the trailer’s abundance of jokes about Bradley Cooper’s character getting sodomized in prison and the presence of Tom Arnold, I can’t honestly say that I’m wanting to see this. I know everyone thinks she’s adorable, but has Kristen Bell actually featured in any good movies?
The Apparition (Aug 24)
A school experiment about whether ghosts are just a product of the human psyche actually summons a ghost that then haunts the researchers, undoubtedly killing them off one by one in spooky ways. Oooooooo… Scary. Hey, it even manages to get in some Lost-style music and found-footage-style camerawork, too! Yeah, this one’s really something I need to see, sure.
Huh. A film that features high-speed, stunt-filled bike chases, and it’s apparently not bad? The plot seems pretty bare, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing a skilled bicycle messenger whose delivery gets him involved in a plot that puts his life on the line in more ways than one, but perhaps that’s the film’s strength – knowing exactly what it should do given its plot.
The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure (Aug 29)
This thing seriously currently holds a 29% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes right now. That means that this attempt to launch a TV series spin-off and marketing franchise actually somehow received some positive reviews! Did they not even see the title of this? What the hell is an “Oogielove”?! Did they watch the same film whose trailer shows us just how ridiculous Jamie Pressly, Cary Elwes, Cloris Leachman, Christopher Lloyd, and Toni Braxton are willing to let themselves look? Did they not realize that by giving a positive review, they themselves look absolutely ridiculous and lose all credibility, too? This film should not be.
Part prank, part documentary, Mads Brügger’s film sees him going undercover as a fake European ambassador to the Central African Republic with the aim of exposing the exploitation and corruption that takes place in the blood diamond trade while also dropping a few carefully calculated jokes satirizing the whole matter along the way. It’s as if Brügger was hoping to entertain like Sacha Baron Cohen’s two undercover films while also getting himself into a situation that could have easily seen him and his crew disappearing forever. Some of the film’s detractors have accused it of feeling a bit scripted or not nearly as impactful as it could have been, but given the premise, it sounds intriguing enough, at the very least.
The Possession (Aug 31)
Ah, a straggler in the demon-possession film trend. Based on the story of a box that was sold on eBay with the backstory of containing an evil spirit known as a dybbbuk, this movie looks like it’s trying to be a bit more original, but only in that the possession is of the Jewish variety. The film also goes into the body horror niche, too, taking advantage of the fact that dybbuks are believed to be the evil wandering soul of a dead person who gradually consume their host, allowing for such shock moments as the villain showing up on an MRI and reaching out from within the young girl’s mouth. Aside from foregoing the usual Christian route that most other exorcism films follow, however, this looks like your typical possession film, complete with body disfiguration and winged insects flying around the possessed victim, who is, by the way, a young girl, naturally.
For a Good Time, Call… (Aug 31)
Two reluctantly paired roommates who are like female variations on the odd couple finally find some commonality that allows them to bond when they decide to start up a phone sex service together in order to obtain their dream apartment. Challenges and hilarity apparently follow, whereas I decide to stick to actually funny movies and forgo this one.