Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Summer Movie Preview: May 2011 (by Dave Machado)

With May right around the corner, I thought now would be a good time to take a look at some of the movies that will be coming out at the start of the 2011 Summer Movie Season. At first look, May seems to be the home for many of the "lesser quality" summer movies this season but I think there might be a few gems in the mix (with one guaranteed classic I was already able to see). Expect a new entry near the end of each month this summer. If all goes well, it may just become a monthly series.

May 6th
THE BEAVER (limited release)
The Beaver is actually the movie I'm looking forward to seeing most this month. Shelved for the past year due to Mel Gibson's "issues", The Beaver has finally started seeing the light of day within the last couple months as it rounds the festival circuit. For those who don't know, the movie centers on a man (Gibson) who has a mental breakdown but discovers that he is able to slowly get out of his rut by interacting with the world using a beaver hand puppet. I've read reviews saying the tone of the movie tends to go all over the place (broad humor, dark humor, sad family drama, etc.) but a movie this original deserves to be seen. Jodie Foster stars as Gibson's ex-wife (Foster also directs the film, her first time behind the lens since Home for the Holidays in 1995) and Anton Yelchin & Jennifer Lawrence round out the rest of this impressive cast.

I'm having a hard time getting excited for this film. Nothing in the previews I've seen really excites me. The cast and crew seem great but I'm not sure the sum will be as good as the parts. Still, it will be interesting to see a new level of fantasy be introduced in the current Marvel Movie Canon. So far (Iron Man I/II and Incredible Hulk), their films have always (though not 100% successfully) tried to keep everything grounded in some pseudoscience/technological reality. But on May 6th, we start to get into the fun realm of different dimensions and God-like men. So while I don't have high hopes, I won't completely dismiss Thor. I look forward to seeing how it all comes together. I can't help thinking though that this film deserves a terrible theme song performed by Nickelback.


May 13th
I saw a screening of this film last week and it was fantastic. In an ideal work, Bridesmaid will make at least 3 times what The Hangover Part II will make. I'll be writing up a full review closer to opening weekend, but just know that I haven't laughed that hard in the theaters in a long time. Original, witty, and raunchy. Everything I want in a big summer comedy. 

EVERYTHING MUST GO (limited release)
I know very little about this film but it looks worth checking out. Will Ferrell stars as a man whose life falls apart while losing his job and wife. As a way to cope, he holds a yard sale, hoping it will allow him to get a fresh start. Also, the boy next door is played by Christopher Jordan Wallace (Notorious B.I.G.'s son). I've enjoyed "Serious Will Ferrell" before in Stranger Than Fiction so I don't doubt he'll be great here as well.

HESHER (limited release)
Another film I know very little about but based on the cast (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, Rainn Wilson) and crew (directed by Spencer Susser, who made the amazing Animal Kingdom) it's worth seeing. It will be fun to see Gordon-Levitt play a dirty outcast/druggie/pyro (a nice change of pace for his usual dapper roles) and to see what kind of chemistry he has with Portman. They're two of the best younger actors working today, and that alone will get me in the theater. Also, that poster is pretty amazing.

I typically support any type of genre film but this just looks too bland. Throw in the stupid 3D conversion and I'll take a pass on this one.

May 20th
I never saw the third one but something tells me that won't be a problem. I've seen the previews and will admit this seems fun, but I also thought that before seeing the bad 2nd entry. The additions of Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane can't hurt though and I'm hoping the new cast injects some energy into the aging franchise. Semi-related story: I saw the original Pirates of the Caribbean in theaters during the summer I had back surgery in 2003. It was the first time I was able to leave the house by myself after finally getting clearance to drive again (only about 3 weeks of no driving but to a just graduated 18 year old, it was a long damn time). This makes Pirates of the Caribbean the only movie I ever saw while also wearing a small back brace under my shirt. I'm pretty sure that's why I liked the first one as much as I did. Why did I share that story? Because it's more interesting than this movie will probably end up being.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (limited release)
A new European Woody Allen movie. This time Owen Wilson is in it. Sure, why not?

May 27th
THE TREE OF LIFE (limited release)
I'm genuinely excited about this film. An intimately epic film spanning millions of years (at one point it involves dinosaurs). The central plot seems to revolve around Sean Penn's character, as we go back and forth between his current life and his childhood in the 1950s (featuring Brad Pitt, as his father). Penn's character appears to be having some sort of mid-life crisis, pondering such topics as the meaning of life and where we all came from. For anyone who complains that summer movies are all flash and no substance, consider this film your saving grace. The poster above will make for a great Criterion cover in the fall.

Enjoyed the first and will most likely enjoy the second. Not much else to say other than I'm still not sure why this had to be made. But who knows, it could end up being Dreamworks' version of Toy Story 2. Spoiler alert, it will not be Dreamworks' version of Toy Story 2.

"Oh my god, I can't believe this is happening...again!" -  What I assume will both be a quote from the movie itself and from me when I sit down to watch it. Maybe it will surprise me and be more than The Hangover 1: Bangkok Edition but something tells me that's exactly what it will be. Instead, go see Bridesmaids again the weekend this comes out.

That does it for May. Now shut up and go to the movies.

You're Welcome,

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Movie Review: Scream 4 (by Dave Machado)

I feel like I should preface this review by saying that the first Scream is the reason I became a horror geek. Before Scream, I couldn't handle even the tamest of horror movies. For whatever reason, seeing Scream opened the flood gates and ignited my love of horror. To this day I still consider it my favorite genre, despite how bad the current state of mainstream horror movies are. The interesting thing is that it seems the makers of Scream 4 feel the same way. The first Scream felt like a love letter to the slasher movies of the 80s, whereas this film is more a profanity ridden rant about the current crop of remakes and reboots. Consider Scream 4 the antithesis to what I thought the movie would actually be, which was "Scream 4: The Next Generation."

There were lots of paths Scream 4 could have taken. I fully expected it to focus equally on the reboot, torture porn, and found footage crazes that have plagued the horror landscape for the past few years. So it was interesting to see the movie speak so little to the latter two and instead focus most of its energy on reboots and remakes. Sure, they added a few lines of dialog here and a couple of small scenes there in order to open the discussion about the other two (re: torture and found footage), but since they never properly delved into either, these small scenes simply ended up feeling gratuitous. Having said that however, I really ended up liking what the film had to say about these remakes.

Unfortunately, the movie didn't leave me with a lot else I feel the need to discuss. It features some cool sequences and kills, along with moments of eye-rollingly faulty logic. There are some definite standouts in the new cast (specifically Hayden Panettiere and Alison Brie) but unfortunately I felt that the stronger characters were not given enough to do (whether due to an untimely death or simple lack of screen time). The "opening kill" tradition is still intact and I'll admit to finding it pretty entertaining, but I can see people being annoyed at the stream of fake-outs they must endure. Lastly, I have to congratulate Anthony Anderson on having the worst one-liner in the history of the franchise. It's so amazingly bad that it ruins what was probably my favorite kill scene.

*Fairly Major Spoilers from here on in (as in, I'll be discussing the ending, but without giving specifics). If you are still unsure of my opinion, simply know this, I liked Scream 4. It's not the best in the franchise but it certainly isn't the worst. If you enjoyed any of the previous 3, this one will entertain you. OK, now time for Spoilers, so stop reading if you want to know nothing about the last act.*

Scream 4 of course plays out like the previous 3, in that it is a murder mystery. The entire movie is about introducing red herrings and trying to make you think that (to quote Randy from the first Scream) "Everybody's a suspect!" While it can get a bit tedious at first with so many random "side glances of doom", I was actually surprised when the true killer was revealed. By the way, when I say "surprised", what I really mean is that I slapped my forehead and let out a hearty "What the hell?" followed by an eye roll. Of course, that was until I put together what the film actually was. You see, that's when I realized Scream 4 wasn't about real people, or even real characters. It was simply a metaphor on the current state of horror, no more, no less.

The killer(s) in Scream 4 are the personification of remakes and reboots. Obviously this then makes Sidney, Gale Weathers, and Dewey the personification of the "original" franchise. To me, the message of Scream 4 is that while bad remakes exist, no matter how bad they are they can never harm or kill off the original. Scream 4 is throwing a big middle finger to all remakes, declaring that they can never take down what has come before it, and that when all is said and done, it's the legacy of the original that will be the only survivor, no matter how harmed it may be in the process. This is where I think Scream 4 really succeeds, despite my indifference to most of what precedes the final act. Sure, it's not exactly a subtle approach for a movie to take, but then again, subtly never was the strong point of the franchise.

You're Welcome,