This week there were two movies with an equal chance of being pretty good: Paranorman and The Odd Life of Timothy Green. I get extra Disney points for seeing Timothy Green on opening weekend, and it’s got Joel Edgerton in it, so it won the coin toss (yes, it was rigged). There was a kind of Pay it Forward feel to Timothy Green, though I hoped it would dispense with the sad ending.
A couple buries their dreams of having a child in the garden only to have them magically morph into a ten year old boy who is part plant.
With a blurb like that, you’d expect it to be some kind of Plants vs Zombies expansion pack, but it’s actually your standard “being different is okay!” kids’ movie. As for whether they did away with the sad ending – only kind of. So although I did like The Odd Life of Timothy Green, I just didn’t love it.
I complain a lot about how there aren’t many new ideas getting made into movies, so I can’t argue with this one: an infertile couple want a kid so badly that one grows out of their garden. It’s a nutbar idea, of course, but most of the best ones are. At least, I hope The Odd Life of Timothy Green could be one of the best ones. It’s got that same “weird yet moving child” sort of feel you got with Pay it Forward, but hopefully without the sad ending. They don’t reveal much of the plot in either of the trailers apart from the fact that he comes from the garden, which could be a good sign or a bad one. But Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton agreed to be in it, so I’m going to take it as a good one.
THE EXPENDABLES 2
Oh God, not another one. I suppose I should have expected this – washed up action stars are always looking for ways to be not washed up anymore – but after the first one was so not worth my time I had hoped to avoid a sequel. But I can’t, and if possible, this movie looks even worst than the first one. They’ve not only expanded Schwarzenegger’s cameo into a full-on role, they’ve also taken on Chuck Norris and Jean Claude Van Damme, the kings of wooden acting land. And WTF? What is Liam Hemsworth doing here? Washing up before he’s washed out? All they need is Steven Segal, Clint Eastwood, and Christian Slater to jump on the bandwagon and we’ll have the whole set of bad 90s action movie trading cards. You would think that with a cast so ponderously large the film would collapse under its own weight, but luckily they don’t need any plot development beyond “go here” and “blow that up.”
Oh no! I want to see this movie too! Which do I choose? The Odd Life of Timothy Green or Paranorman? (or The Expendables 2 for its sheer hilarious terribleness?) I hate these weeks. Coraline was a great movie and I love the stop motion. I’m not sure the whole being scared/change who you are line really fits in with the lighthearted tone of the rest of the trailer and the “bullied loser saves the town” plot has been done to death, but those zombies are really hilarious looking and I love the hockey mask joke. If I don’t see this next week, I’ll probably go to it the week after.
Wait wait wait… their names are Sticks and Sparkle? Did their mothers think they were adopting dogs? Who names their kids that? I might believe it if Whitney Houston was really their mom (famous people always give their kids crazy names) but she’s only acting… or trying to, anyway. Mostly it just seems like a promotion to reignite interest in Whitney Houston’s music (dead people still sell records). Plot wise it’s pretty much the same as Joyful Noise except set in night clubs instead of churches and with Whitney Houston taking over the role of singer mom who doesn’t want her pretty daughter to be a singer lest she be knocked up and have her life ruined. I liked Joyful Noise, but this one just seems too phoned in. I’m going to skip it.
The Hunger Games is a juggernaut of a young adult novel about a young archer played by Jennifer Lawrence who takes her sister’s place in an annual game show run by the government that forces teenagers from outlying areas to fight to the death. What’s worse – she’s up against one of her friends. The book is fantastic except for the fact that it’s written in first person present tense, and the movie is the same – fantastic except for the fact that there’s a little too much close-in handheld camera work. You can read more about it in my full review, but I think you should watch it.
Oh Christian Slater, how did you manage to avoid being in the cast of The Expendables 2? You’re just as washed up an action star as the rest of them. This movie is case in point. A straight to video (or as near as makes no difference) film about a retired investigator called in to track down a vigilante assassin in Bulgaria. It sounds interesting, but that’s until you watch it and find out that a) the script was most likely written by a monkey on a typewriter and b) the filmmakers obviously had no idea that Bulgaria was not in the Middle East. Skip it for all our sakes.
Ensemble movies like 200 Cigarettes rank among some of my favorite films, but movies with multiple interconnected storylines are VERY easy to screw up. This movie unfortunately is one of the duds. It takes place in ten bars across L.A. and if you think bars are boring in real life, just wait until you have to watch OTHER people sit in them all day. It bills itself as a “quick witted comedy” but I don’t see any evidence of wit. The only reason I’d bother with it is to see Zachary Quinto, Josh Hartnett (no, apparently he has not fallen off the earth and died), and Kevin Zegers.
I’ve been impressed by Chloe Moretz before (see Kick Ass) but lately all she seems to be doing is showing up, sneering, and calling it a day. In this movie, she plays a sneering, dim-witted, seductive (supposedly) teenager who sets off on a hitchiking road trip to Las Vegas and meets every redneck hick in the world in between (and not one nice, well adjusted person… apparently none of those live in Nebraska). The movie tries to make us care about how tragic her life is, but mostly you’ll just want her to get run over by a semi. Watch something else.
I can’t wait to see this movie. I’m actually going to work on my vacation because I don’t want to miss letting everyone know how awesome this movie is going to be (Yes, I’ve already decided. Shut up!) The Bourne movies without Matt Damon’s wooden acting? Can it be? Was this made especially for me?? (Shh! Yes it was!) I love Jeremy Renner, especially after he kicked ass in Mission Impossible 4. He’s going to be perfect for this, I can tell. And of course Rachel Weisz is always great. I just hope they did away with the shakey close-up camera work when they ditched Matt Damon (there’s a new director, so I have high hopes). Tune in on Sunday night… or possibly Monday, depending on how tired/busy I am from vacationing, to hear exactly how awesome I thought it was (or, in a worst case scenario, exactly how badly it let me down). Cross your fingers!
I’m so glad this is releasing opposite The Bourne Legacy so there’s no chance I’ll have to see it. I greatly dislike both Zach Galifianakis and Will Ferrell and I don’t think either of them are funny… or at least, they aren’t very often. The worst is when directors just let them riff their own lines, spewing verbal diarrhea all over the place and attempting to be funny simply by shoving unrelated words together. Exceptions can be made for Celebrity Jeopardy skits, but this is no Celebrity Jeopardy skit. It looks like a movie with a lot of riff-diarrhea. I also don’t like politics and movies about unlikeable people, so this is a triple threat of awfulness for me. Don’t expect to see me in the theater, so feel free to laugh at these doofuses without my glowering to distract you.
Hope Springs was the name of a completely different Colin Firth movie from 2003. I don’t see why these people couldn’t have called theirs something different to spare everyone the confusion. It’s not like Meryl Streep’s character is named Hope and she’s making a resort with hot springs or working in a factory that makes springs. She and Tommy Lee Jones are just two people whose marriage is falling apart. Ho hum, how many times has THAT been done? Therapy, soul searching, unfulfilled dreams, yadda yadda. But it is funny to watch her shopping for sex tips from gay men and him imitating Steve Carrell playing a therapist. I might actually watch this someday.
Dr. Seuss stories are always really bonkers and have some sort of message, but The Lorax, which is about a boy from a polluted world who finds out how much better things used to be when an orange monster shaped like a peanut protected the trees, is probably the most message-driven. It’s cute, there are original songs, Zac Efron is in it, and there’s also a lot of clever satire aimed at commercialism to entertain the parents, so this is a movie you can watch with your whole family. Check out my full review to hear more.
Robert Pattinson is working hard to not be typecast as a sparkly vampire. He’s been an elephant tamer (Water for Elephants), a mobster (Cosmopolis), a crazy painter (Little Ashes), and now a slutty period soldier who bones everything that moves in order to move up in Paris society (gee, any guesses as to how that’s going to turn out?) So it’s kind of like Dorian Gray, but without the magic painting. His woodenness (if you’ll forgive the pun) in this one doesn’t do much for the film he’s carrying, so I’d recommend you only rent it if you’re a big fan of the Twilight movies.
Famous musicians have no end of biographies, official and otherwise, made about their lives, but this one bills itself as the “definitive” story of Bob Marley. They can say this because he’s dead (and therefore not going to do anything else) and because they have access to his family and his old interview footage. But they spend so much time talking to people who are not Bob Marley about how they were affected by Bob Marley that it almost would have been more accurate to call it The Bob Marley Legacy or something. Check it out if you’re a fan though.
While I’m glad to see anything loved by under-10s that is not Justin Bieber, you should know that this documentary was out of date by the time it was released – these pop things usually are unless the subjects are dead. It’ll be even more out of date when their fifteen minutes of fame are over and they’ve disappeared back into obscurity. Perhaps they’ll make another documentary about that process called The Only Way is Down. For now, though, get this for your tween daughter if you want to buy a brief moment where she acknowledges and appreciates you.
Ah, the continuing adventures of my least favorite tween: Greg Heffely. Thankfully, I’m on vacation this week or I might have had to go see this with one of my friends, who despite being in her 20s is still inexplicably a Wimpy Kid fan. Also thankfully, they won’t be able to keep going with these for much longer (at least not with the same kid playing Greg) because he’s starting to take on that half-molded putty person look that teenagers get while they’re growing and half the time he sounds like a 20 year old. I won’t be sorry to see these rambling, disconnected series of fart jokes go… but of course they won’t go anywhere. The worst series take the longest to die, so these books and movies will still be going strong when today’s twen fans have tweens of their own.
Ahh. Now here’s what I want to see! Normally I think remakes are a waste of time, but this is a remake I can actually get behind because a) they’re replacing a cardboard cutout (Arnold Schwarzenegger) with someone who can really act (Colin Farrell) and b) special effects have moved on a lot since 1990. I just hope they don’t call back too far. Specifically, to the original source material. Philip K. Dick had a lot of great ideas that were ruined by poor (or irrelevant nutbar) execution. It doesn’t look like they went back to “We Can Remember it for You Wholesale”, though – lots of battling the Imperial stormtrooper look-alikes in the trailer and not so much with the insane drug induced philosophical ramblings. The best part is that I don’t even remember how the other one ends, so I get to be surprised all over again!
Ooh, this is something I’d like to see as well. Robert DeNiro vs Sigourney Weaver and Cillian Murphy. Paranormal investigator/debunkers running up against an arch-enemy who might actually have psychic superpowers. It sounds like a joke – or an episode of Scooby Doo, but the trailer makes it look really tense and thrilling. Sort of like The Reaping before it plunged off the deep end into the pool of crazy. That Robert DeNiro is in it is kind of a drag – he’s such a clone, always playing the same guy. But it’s good to see Cillian Murphy again. I wondered what he’d got up to after Batman Begins.
Have you ever watched The Breakfast Club and wished there were more murders? If you have, then Detention is the movie for you. It’s a horror comedy starring Josh Hutcherson in a neon 90s getup. He and his smart talking girl friend are part of a group of “quirky” teens that are stalked by a serial killer while they’re stuck in detention. It’s dripping with irony (the annoyingly self-conscious indie teen irony, not the smart kind) but it’s better than a horror movie that tries to play the same things seriously.
Le Havre is a French film about an old shoe shiner who finds an African refugee boy in a shipping container that was on its way to London and hides him from the police while he tries to track down the kid’s family. It’s one of those heartwarming indie stories that does well in the festival circuit but is also non-boring enough for regular people to watch because the characters have snappy, clever dialogue (not annoying clever, actual clever). If you don’t mind reading the subtitles (I did mention it was in French) then you should check it out.
This is a History Channel movie about the most famous family feud in America, which occurred in Kentucky and West Virginia after the Civil War and almost caused ANOTHER civil war. It starts out with a friendship but the rest of the 290 minutes (it’s a mini-series) is taken up by eye for an eye hatred and violence, so if you weren’t tired of the whole thing going into it you sure will be afterward. It does have some pretty big names in it though – Bill Paxton, Kevin Costner, Jena Malone, and that girl who plays Crystal on True Blood so if you’re a fan you’ll probably want to check it out.
All these high school movies act like they’re the first movies in the world to discover boyfriends and breakups and be misunderstood by their parents. So basically, teen movies are like teens, but that doesn’t make them any less repetitive to watch. Miley Cyrus and her weird teeth break up with their d-bag boyfriend, fall for a girly musician, post it all on the internet, and then act surprised (or try to – they’re not good at it) when their parents find out. Ho hum, so dumb. Not to mention it’ll be outdated in 2.5 seconds because it’s loaded with technology and pop culture. Avoid.
This week was a terrible one for movies. I wish it had come just one or two weeks later so I could use being on vacation as an excuse for not seeing anything at all. Alas it’s the weeks of Total Recall and The Bourne Legacy that I’ll be away for, so I was stuck with seeing either The Watch or Step Up Revolution. They looked equally unappealing to me, so I let my friend Angella choose, and she picked The Watch.
Four guys join together to form a neighborhood watch to defend their sleepy town from invading aliens.
It sounds like a decent idea in theory. I like aliens. I like comedy. Theoretically I should like the movie. And my friend Angella did. But I didn’t. I may have smiled a few times and laughed out loud once, but that’s not acceptable for a movie that bills itself as a comedy.
I really don’t want to see this movie. It looks stupid. I don’t like Jonah Hill. Most of the time I don’t like Ben Stiller either (Tropic Thunder is my one big exception). When the two of them are accosting that skateboarder at the police station, I want to leap through the screen and beat them to death just so they’ll shut their stupid faces. Vince Vaughan I can take or leave, and Richard Ayoade I’ve never heard of, but I’m inclined to like him because he’s British. None of this makes me eager to see yet another movie about a bunch of immature doofuses acting like immature doofuses, even if there are aliens involved. The problem is that the only other movie coming to my theater this weekend is Step Up Eleventy Billion, and I’m not sure that’s going to be more worse (or less better).
STEP UP REVOLUTION
I think they’ve actually lost track of how many of these films there are – either that or the numbers have become ponderously large – because they’ve stopped putting the sequel number in the title. This one is just called Revolution, which is following the “random r word” rule used by the Resident Evil series. The actual plot of this movie is incidental – they’re all so cookie cutter that my under-12 writing group at the library could write one. There’s a dancer. Somone doesn’t want him/her to be a dancer. He/she gets a boy/girl friend, this person encourages them to dance, there’s a dance off, the end. This time they threw in an “evil property developer” cliché. I’m not saying I haven’t enjoyed any Step Up movies, but if I have to sit through even one rendition of “International Love” without an escape route I may cannibalize the entire theater… not that there will be anyone else in it.
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
The poster makes this movie look like an animated feature. So does the blurb, which goes on about bonkers things like holding together the fabric of the universe and prehistoric beasts on the loose. I mean, their names are ‘Wink’ and ‘Hushpuppy.’ So I was surprised when I hit ‘play’ on the trailer and found out it had real people in it. The kid’s pretty cute, but I’m still trying to figure out if this is a Melancholia sort of story (i.e. a pretentious poetic metaphor thing… possibly for Hurricane Katrina) or a Where the Wild Things Are sort of story (i.e. a weird kid living in her imagination thing). Judging from how many pretentious comments were left on YouTube and IMDB, I’m guessing the former.
No, this is not a B-horror movie about a giant shark that eats people. It’s a British historical drama about a judge’s wife who’s having an affair with an Air Force pilot (I know, I would have called it something else too). Anyway, normally I would be like: overwrought affairs, draggy music, too much time spent staring at things in silence – forget it! But the people staring at things (often each other) are Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston, and they spend a lot of time making out, so there are at least two reasons to give it a try.
I know the box art makes this one look like a Japanese horror movie, but it’s actually French/American (it’s in English). It’s your standard haunted house scenario: some people go to a house, they think its fine, then they start hearing weird noises and all of a sudden they’re being attacked by mystical beings or serial killers or whatever. The gimmick is that it’s supposed to have been a true story that was shot in real time rather than in fits and snatches like a regular movie. Personally I don’t think it’s all that different, but if you’re into being startled, give it a try.
The Deep Blue Sea and Silent House are really the only English language films worth mentioning this week (I guess no one buys DVDs in the summer?) so on to the foreign films! This is an Israeli movie about a father and a son who are both professors in the same field (Talmudic Studies) and are always trying to one up each other – until one wins an award and the other gets the phone call! Then the son has to decide if he’d rather get along or correct the mistake and win the award. So it’s one of those family dramas that are also funny in a quirky sort of way.
This next movie comes to us from Korea and bills itself as the next Saving Private Ryan. It’s based on a true story about two boys from the same farm who want to be runners in the Olympics but end up being enemies in the war instead, fighting for like three different countries each before the thing is finally over. It’s pretty big budget, with airplane bombing scenes and cavalry and battlefields and stuff in addition to the sweeping epic friendship stuff, so if you’re into war movies and you’re quick enough to read subtitles, check it out.