MCN Columnists
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

Summer Movie Preview

Only the most elitist curmudgeons do not look forward to the summer movie season. Sure, it’s not likely that we’ll find works of art that stand the test of time, but that’s not what we look for during the summer months. I’ve long been of the belief that quality movies should be released year-round, not just in the last four months, but I’ve always enjoyed the summers for what they were. There is something wonderfully nostalgic about taking a break from the oppressive summer heat to duck into the cool of the theater, hoping for nothing more than pure entertainment for two hours. Summer is a forgiving time at the multiplex, where we’re able to ignore a film’s enormous plot holes and focus on the visceral thrill and joy of going to the movies.

By the end of August, we’ll be sick of the so-called “tentpole” films being marketed to death and longing for a higher standard when we plop down our ten bucks. But, after a long, malaise-filled winter at the cinema, I’m looking forward to summer more than ever.

So, without further ado (and bear with me, this is a long one), here are my takes on the notable films opening each weekend this summer (release dates are always subject to change):

May 2

Iron Man (Dir. Jon Favreau)

The adaptation of the Marvel comic book looks like a surefire fun way to open up the summer with a bang. I’m not a big comic book fan, but I love the idea of casting Robert Downey, Jr. in the role of an alcoholic billionaire who builds a suit made out of iron that has all sorts of gadgets on it. It’s another brave move for Downey to not only headline a franchise film, but to play a character that is working through familiar demons while trying to save the world. I have high hopes for this film, not just because of Downey but also because Jon Favreau has proven himself to be quite a capable filmmaker with Made, Elf and Zathura.This is by far the biggest project Favreau has had to helm, but I have confidence he’ll be able to handle it.

Iron Man co-stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard and Frenzy favoriteJeff Bridges. For a summer tentpole film, it has a cast that is just a little bit left of center combined with a trailer that is both fun and funny. The character might not be as familiar to people as Spider-Man or Superman, but perhaps it will be a benefit because audiences won’t bring as much baggage to the film.

Mister Lonely (Dir. Harmony Korine)

And then there’s this film, which couldn’t be more different from Iron Man. I happen to love Harmony Korine, not necessarily for the work that he puts on the screen but because of the work he aspires to make. He is an audacious filmmaker that is not afraid of controversy and it takes a lot of guts to pigeonhole yourself as that kind of filmmaker, who will never get a job directing Iron Manand has to consistently scrounge for cash just to make their little passion projects. And for a filmmaker like Korine, they are all passion projects.

I still think his script for Larry Clark’s Kids is one of the most important screenplays of the 90’s, one that understood kids with a lack of judgment. It opened up a lot of people’s eyes to the ongoing AIDS epidemic as well as the vapidity of our youth. It was incredibly controversial, with many groups decrying its portrayal of young, sex-obsessed teens. He followed it up with the navel-gazing Gummo, which I found to be a bit too intent on shocking for shock’s sake. But Gummo was an important film for Korine because it allowed him to find his voice as a director and showed us that he really wanted to experiment with form. He took this to the next level with Julien Donkey-Boy, an American Dogme film about a mentally challenged boy in Forest Hills with a pregnant sister and a domineering father played by German director Werner Herzog. It is a wonderfully, horribly deranged piece of film that you cannot look away from even as it makes you uncomfortable.

This brings us to Mister Lonely, Korine’s first film in seven years. It stars Diego Luna as a Michael Jackson impersonator who meets a Marilyn Monroeimpersonator (Samantha Morton) in Paris. Marilyn brings Michael to a commune where there are nothing but celebrity impersonators, from Charlie Chaplin to Madonna to Shirley Temple. If this all sounds like a horror film, it’s not; in fact, the film is described as a dramatic comedy but from the looks of its trailer it seems almost whimsical. It also seems like a tonal departure for Korine, one that I look forward to chewing on in between the other spectacles of summer.

Also opening: Made of Honor starring Patrick Dempsey, David Mamet’s Redbelt (opens wide on 5/9) with Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Sundance ’07 sensation Son of Rambow fromGarth Jennings.

May 9

Speed Racer (Dir. The Wachowskis)

Just watching the trailer for this film could give you a seizure, with its candy-colored vision of super-fast races reminiscent of MarioKart for Nintendo 64. This film is adapted from the famed anime show that I sometimes would catch late at night when I was younger. I never had any particular attachment to the series and I remember very little about the storyline except that Speed was a racecar driver who had a girl named Trixie and we’re never sure what Racer X’s story was.

In this adaptation, Speed is played by Emile Hirsch – a fine young actor – Trixie is played by the stunning Christina Ricci and Racer X is played by Lost’sMatthew Fox. The plot follows Speed as he is blackmailed into competing in a super dangerous cross-country race called The Crucible. I’m sure various adventures occur along the way.

This film is interesting for a few reasons: 1) it is the first Wachowski film since the Matrix trilogy (they produced but did not direct V for Vendetta). 2) It was shot almost entirely on a green screen. 3) The cast, which also includes Susan Sarandon and John Goodman as Speed’s parents, is great. 4) It looks insane; I mean, I’ve never seen colors look so vibrant nor have I ever seen a film’s photography focused in such a way. It’s really indescribable and needs to be seen to be understood and I think that bodes well for its box office; it will certainly get people talking.

Also opening: Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz in the incredibly lame looking What Happens in Vegas… and Ellen Page in The Tracey Fragments.

May 16

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (Dir. Andrew Adamson)

It’s interesting because when I saw the first Narnia film, I was surprised by how much I liked it. I was really drawn into the story and genuinely liked the kids. Now that it’s been a couple of years, I don’t remember much about the film except for bits and pieces. So, essentially I’m saying that the film was almost the archetypical “summer” film – a lot of fun while I watched it and was utterly forgettable. I’m hoping this sequel provides at least more of the same.

This time the Pevensie kids are back in Narnia trying to stop an evil king and return the land back to Prince Caspian. I don’t really understand this because I thought the kids were all now the kings and queens of Narnia, but hopefully the film will explain it to me. Let’s hope I don’t forget it all a week later.

May 23

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Dir. Steven Spielberg)

Okay, this is a film I was dreading for a while because I’m a Spielberg fan and I am always hoping that he will continue to make more original pictures. But, I cannot deny that seeing the trailer for this film made me more excited than the trailer for any other summer blockbuster. That theme music combined with the sight of Harrison Ford with the hat and whip and Karen Allen, it all combined in me to make me so nostalgic for my childhood. I grew up, like a lot of kids, pretending to be Indiana Jones in my living room, scaling the couches and fighting the bad guys. Of course, there are a lot of folks out there that can’t relate to this feeling and I understand that; either you’re excited for the latest installment or you’re not.

This adventure concerns…um, well nobody really knows but I’m assuming something happens with a crystal skull. Shia LaBeouf joins the team as Indy’s long-lost son and Cate Blanchett is playing a Russian villainess named Irina Spalko. Whatever, I’m sold.

Also opening: Uwe Boll’s latest masterpiece Postal

May 30

Sex and the City: The Movie (Dir. Michael Patrick King)

I watched every single episode of this show, sometimes multiple times. This is what happens when you decide not to be single today; you are subjected to multiple viewings of this show because your significant other loves the shoes, the clothes and the fantasy of being thirty-five and single. Because I’ve watched every episode, while I’ve developed affection for the show, I also have a lot of deeper issues regarding the nature of some of the characters. I’ll go into it in further detail when the movie comes out but, basically, the Carrie Bradshaw character (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) is one of the most vile women ever put on television.

To put it simply, Carrie Bradshaw is self-absorbed but doesn’t know it. In fact, she’s so self-absorbed that she believes her trivial issues are more important than her friends’ serious issues … like breast cancer or losing a parent or getting a divorce. If you go back and watch the show, watch for when Carrie listens to her friends’ sob stories for approximately five seconds before kvetching about her own BS.

So the problem with the show is not that the characterization is bad (because I think it’s actually fascinating) but that the makers don’t seem to understand how much of a despicable person they’ve created as their ideal. Anyway, more later, but that’s the baggage I’m bringing to the movie. I must confess to being excited to hear from Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) again, as I always thought she was the one gal in the group who seemed to have a heart. Of course Samantha (Kim Cattrall) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) will be back as well and all of them will have their hubbies. I’ll probably be there opening night, pretending to have a miserable time but secretly enjoying every minute.

Also opening: the Liv Tyler home-invasion flick The Strangers, funnyman Danny McBride’sFoot-Fist Way, and Tom Kalin’s Savage Grace.

June 6

You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (Dir. Dennis Dugan)

I thought for a long time that my love for Billy Madison was just due to my age at the time I first viewed it. But after watching it again recently, I realized that that film is just pure deranged genius. Jim Downey as the principal during the academic decathlon is probably one of the most insanely hilarious things I’ve seen in a movie. That being said, the Adam Sandler that brought us Billy Madison and his filthy comedy albums like “They’re All Gonna Laugh at You” is long gone. It seems as if Sandler has been replaced by an automaton that goes through the motions in sub-par Hollywood versions of his old stuff. Films like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and Click are mere concept films with Sandler thrown in there. Since Punch-Drunk Love, it’s all been downhill for Sandler.

But with Judd Apatow helping to write the script for this one, there is a slight ray of hope. This film is about a Mossad agent who hides out in New York City, pretending to be a hairstylist. I hope that this is not just a concept that they’re stretching into a feature film, like an SNL skit that has a great idea but goes on too long. Time will tell, but I’m always rooting for Sandler to get back to his dirty, hilarious roots.

Also opening: the animated Kung-Fu Panda, Dario Argento’s Mother of Tears, and theGenghis Khan film Mongol.

June 13

The Happening (Dir. M. Night Shyamalan)

I haven’t really loved a Shyamalan film since Unbreakable, which I thought was brilliant on about ten different levels. I found Signs to be disappointing, especially the lame ending, and I found The Village to be flat-out laughable. But nothing could have prepared me for the excruciating pain of sitting through Lady in the Water, which was not only a miscalculation from the get-go but also an incredibly narcissistic film in which the director himself plays a writer whose work of fiction will save the world. It was trying for whimsy (I think) but wound up coming up with a fistful of cheese.

The Happening is supposed to be Shymalan’s darkest film, which is encouraging – I’ve always felt this man’s greatest ideas were being hidden beneath a façade of sentimentality. The Sixth Sense has some great moments, but it is at its best when it sticks to the scares. Mark Wahlberg andZooey Deschanel star in the new film as a couple on the run from a natural crisis that causes people to kill themselves. It’s a thinly-veiled take on global warming, about our environment trying to wipe our species out and it’s a great concept. The best horror films are ones that have something bigger to say about our world.

I have hopes that the failure of Lady in the Water has brought Shymalan back down to earth and that he’ll give us a truly horrifying and engrossing picture. Tak Fujimoto is back to do the photography and that’s always a good sign.

The Incredible Hulk (Dir. Louis Leterrier)

Okay, I thought the Hulk film that came out three years ago was flat-out terrible. And that was directed by a genius like Ang Lee, so it’s hard for me to have high hopes for a reboot directed by the guy who brought us The Transporter. The cast for this one is pretty good, with Edward Norton replacing Eric Bana as Bruce Banner and Liv Tyler as his sweetheart Betty Ross, replacing Jennifer Connelly. The always underrated Tim Roth and William Hurt co-star.

There are a lot of reports about dissention between Edward Norton and the studio over the final cut of the film (as is usually the case when Norton is involved) which doesn’t bode well because it means that the filmmakers weren’t all on the same page. Norton is an incredible actor, but he’s been off his game for quite a while. After American History X, people were crowning him as the next Brando but his choices in projects since then has been iffy at best. I root for him to succeed because he’s such a talent, but I can’t help but feel a tad disappointed that he would do a reboot of a bad film.

June 20

Get Smart (Dir. Peter Segal)

I never watched the television show, but I’m familiar with some of the references and the trailer makes this film seem agreeable enough. Though I’d rather see Steve Carell in movies like The 40 Year Old Virgin, he is always a welcome presence and he’s getting ample support in this film from Anne Hathaway, The Rock, Alan Arkin, Terrence Stamp and Bill Murray.

Carell plays Maxwell Smart, who is a bumbling spy for CONTROL and he battles the evil KAOS. It basically sounds like an Austin Powers movie, but without the sixties jokes. I literally just shrugged after writing about this movie.

Speaking of Austin Powers…

The Love Guru (Dir. Marco Schnabel)

Mike Myers returns with a brad new character named Pitka, who is an American man raised by gurus and tries to get in the self-help business. The film co-stars Jessica Alba, Romany Malco and the hilarious Justin Timberlake(at least from his appearances on SNL).

The character of Pitka seems more like a throwaway character from an Austin Powers film than someone who I’d want to see an entire movie devoted to. He seems even more tiresome upon viewing the trailer which is remarkably unfunny. I’m a Mike Myers fan, enjoyed all of the Austin Powers films and love Wayne’s World and its sequel; I even have a strange affection for So I Married an Axe Murderer. However, this film looks like a disaster on first glance. I hope I’m wrong about this, but while I liked the Austin Powers films, they definitely got a bit more broad as the series went along and this new one seems even more broad than Goldmember. I’ll be seeing this one on opening day, but with a fair amount of trepidation. I just don’t know if Myers is relevant in a world where Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill are king.

June 27

Wall-E (Dir. Andrew Stanton)

Pixar! Sorry, that’s just my reaction to hearing about a new film from the makers of Toy Story, its sequel, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc. By any measure, these are some of the top films of the last fifteen years, animated or otherwise. So, if hearing the word Pixar (!) doesn’t make exclamation points (!) dance around your head, then you haven’t been paying close attention to the beauty and genius of these films. And I’m not even one of those people that is crazy about animated movies; in fact, I usually sulk at the prospect of seeing anything that isn’t live-action, so it’s a testament to how wonderful this company is that I’m consistently excited about every project they announce.

Wall-E seems kind of like Short Circuit Goes to Space, as its about an earthbound robot who winds up going on a space adventure to find the meaning of life. Honestly, this movie could be an animated remake of Julien Donkey-Boy and I’d be excited if Pixar (!) was behind it. So yes, I’m looking forward to this one.

Wanted (Dir. Timur Bekmambetov)

From the director of the Russian vampire film Night Watch comes thisAngelina Jolie/James McAvoy film about an elite group of assassins. Morgan Freeman plays the head honcho of this underground sect and Common andTerence Stamp co-star. Basically, this sounds an awful lot like that terrible filmHitman that came out last year.

The trailer has some cool visuals and Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy look gorgeous, but I really don’t know what to think of this one based on the information in front of me. I’d like to think that Jolie, McAvoy and Freeman indicates some kind of quality, but the truth of the matter is that we all need to pay mortgages and its possible that they all teamed up to do “one for them.” I wasn’t a particularly big fan of Timur’s Night Watch films, either, despite the fact that the films have rabid fans, but I did enjoy the visual flair. So, perhaps this film will emulate Timur’s Russian pictures, with lots of visual pop and little else. It’s a toss-up.

July 4

Hancock (Dir. Peter Berg)

Here we have the latest Will Smith Independence Day weekend film, which is about a homeless superhero who hires a PR agent (Jason Bateman). Charlize Theron co-stars. If you’ve seen the trailer, which I urge you to do, I wonder if you can tell what the tone of the film is. It seems to be an action-comedy, but I can’t really tell. It definitely doesn’t seem to be trying as hard at the comedy as Men in Black and it doesn’t seem to be straining as hard at the action scenes as Independence Day, so it’s hard to tell exactly how this is being sold.

I have faith in Peter Berg as a man who knows how to handle big set pieces while coaxing performances out of his actors that have just enough layers for the type of film he is making. But this is the biggest thing Berg has been a part of so far; a huge Fourth of July release starring Will Smith. And I can only hope that Berg had enough clout to impose his own will on the picture. He’s been great at juggling genres before, but if this is another Very Bad Things, I don’t know if the Fourth of July audiences will be so interested.

Will Smith has been on a roll recently, bringing pathos to his performance in I Am Legend and I hope he continues the trend here. He seems intent on being the biggest movie star in the world, but I’m glad that he hasn’t given up trying to be a good actor too.

Also opening: Sundance hit The Wackness.

July 11

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Dir. Guillermo Del Toro)

It wouldn’t exactly be going out on a limb for me to say thatGullermo Del Toro is flat-out awesome. He has the twin powers of not only being a film geek, but also an artist who doesn’t take any of his directorial duties lightly, regardless of whether he’s making Blade 2 or Pan’s Labyrinth; he’s always bringing his dark yet loving sensibility to each of his pictures.

I, for one, loved the first Hellboy despite the fact that I wasn’t familiar with the character at all. It was truly a one-of-a-kind franchise picture, about a demon child that fights for good, wisecracking and cigar-chomping the whole way. It was dark as all hell at certain times, but it always had the charm of Ron Perlman as the titular character who never let the proceedings get too hairy.

So, I’m pretty excited about this sequel and I’m hoping for more Abe Sapien, the fish-man who is Hellboy’s friend and Selma Blair as the flame-shooting Liz Sherman, Hellboy’s love. The great thing about Del Toro is that he’s got such a unique vision with truly original visuals, but he never forgets to imbue his characters with heart and, despite having a name like Hellboy, he sure has a lot of it.

Also opening: the Brendan Fraser kids flick Journey to the Center of the Earth and theEddie Murphy sci-fi flick Meet Dave (a bold move after The Adventures of Pluto Nash).

July 18

The Dark Knight (Dir. Christopher Nolan)

I wanted to like Batman Begins more than I actually did. Sure, I thought it was good, but I didn’t love it like I lovedTim Burton’s Batman. Christian Bale is a wonderful actor and he had wonderful support from Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and others, but having already seen one version of the Batman origin story, I was a little disappointed at seeing this revisionist history. With that said, I enjoyed a lot of the things Nolan did in creating a newBatman franchise, making Gotham City seem more realistic and gritty. I like what he’s doing in making a superhero film that almost feels like it could take place in the real world, with characters that don’t possess superhuman powers, just a desire to either wreak havoc or get justice.

The Dark Knight has Bruce Wayne/Batman facing off against The Joker (played by Heath Ledger). While I love the character of the Joker, I have a bit of trepidation about Ledger stepping into the shoes of Jack Nicholson who famously played the character in Tim Burton’s version. It seems, based on the trailer, that Ledger went for menacing where Nicholson went for oddball so it’ll be a different animal altogether but again I have a weird feeling of déjà vu.

Batman was always my favorite superhero because I loved the duality inherent in the character. I hope that this film improves over the last one and I’m confident in Ledger’s abilities as an actor to make me forget all about Nicholson’s Joker. Co-starring this time are Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart, and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Also opening: Meryl Streep in the Abba musical Mamma Mia, the animated Space Chimps.

July 25

Step Brothers (Dir. Adam McKay)

Will Ferrell and Adam McKay have done two feature films together prior to this one: the hilarious Anchorman and the shrug-inducing Talladega Nights. This film has Ferrell and John C. Reilly playing grown men whose parents get married and then hilarity ensues. Reilly proved his comedic chops in Dewey Cox in December, but Ferrell has been struggling lately, seemingly content to ham it up in sports comedies like Blades of Glory, Semi-Pro, and Kicking and Screaming while his forays into drama have been forgettable (Stranger than Fiction, Winter Passing).

This will be a turning point for Ferrell where he proves to us whether or not he’s a one-trick pony. The problem has been that in Anchorman, he was willing to cede a lot of the funniest lines to supporting players like Steve Carell and Paul Rudd while in Talladega Nights, he seemed to want the focus on him. With each successive film, he seems to be trying to put the film on his back while working with less comedically talented co-stars. Hopefully Reilly will take some of the burden off Ferrell, but the film sounds a bit too much like The Brothers Solomon for me.

Also opening: the long-awaited sequel to The X-Files (which I would write more about if I had watched the series more), the Fred Durst-directed Ice Cube-starring The Longshots, the documentary American Teen, and Mark Pellington’s Henry Poole Is Here starring Luke Wilson.

August 1

Choke (Dir. Clark Gregg)

Chuck Palahniuk is an interesting author whose work is hit or miss and this novel was more of a hit than a miss for me. It’s about a sex-addict named Victor Mancini who works at a colonial amusement park who earns extra cash by choking in restaurants, only to let one of his fellow diners to give him aid and save his life. Victor finds that after this happens, the people who save him tend to give him money, feeling responsible for him in a way. Victor also has a strange relationship with his mother.

The film has Sam Rockwell playing Victor and Angelica Huston as his mother. Early word from Sundance has been promising and I’m surprised its taken this long for Hollywood to make another film based on the work of theFight Club author. I was always more partial to Survivor and Invisible Monsters, but I’m definitely looking forward to this one because Rockwell is the a character actor who can be so good in lead roles (see his work in last year’s Joshua). The great thing about him is that he’s just a little bit off, so you’re never really sure about him and that will work to his advantage when he plays Victor Mancini.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Dir. Rob Cohen)

Really? Didn’t we say all we needed to say in the first two Mummy films (not to mention The Scorpion King)? Regardless, we’re getting another desert adventure starringBrendan Fraser as Rick O’Connell, who was always a poor man’s Indiana Jones. Now, with an actual Indiana Jones movie coming out this summer, O’Connell will seem like a homeless man’s Indy.

While we won’t get the exquisite beauty and terrific acting of Rachel Weisz, Maria Bello is not such a terrible replacement. Luke Ford is joining as the swashbuckling son who joins his parents on the adventure (really? I mean,Harrison Ford is sixty something, so I understand introducing the son butBrendan Fraser isn’t even forty!). Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh co-star in this film from the director of Stealth.

Also opening: Jennifer Connelly and Jennifer Aniston in the romantic comedy He’s Just Not That Into You, Rainn Wilson in The Rocker, Kevin Costner and Kelsey Grammer inSwing Vote.

August 8

Pineapple Express (Dir. David Gordon Green)

When was the last time there was a funny pot comedy? No, the answer is notHarold and Kumar. I think you’d have to go back ten years to David Chapelle’s underrated Half Baked. This time around we’ve got the Apatow gang in a pot comedy meets action flick starring everyone’s favorite action hero…Seth Rogen. Rogen is playing your basic stoner who goes on the run with his dealer (James Franco) after Rogen witnesses a murder.

First of all, I have to say: David Gordon Green? Wow, what an inspired choice for this movie and I can’t wait to see what the director of George Washingtonbrings to a Seth Rogen flick. Second of all, if you’re wondering why you should be excited to see this one, I would recommend you do a search for the red-band trailer.

I can envision a day where we’re sick of the Apatow brand of comedy, but I don’t see that day coming anytime soon.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (Dir. Sanaa Hamri)

I know I’m going to get my “man card” taken away for saying this but I truly enjoyed the first movie. Yes, it was cheesy and it was cloying, but it swept me up and I got manipulated by this story of a pair of jeans that magically fits four teenage girls as they spent a summer away from each other. The girls are played by four talented actresses: Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel, Blake Lively and America Ferrara and they all did a great job in the original making me care about their individual plights. I think I was so astounded because it’s a family film for young women that doesn’t sugarcoat a lot of the hardships that young girls have to go through, including how hard it is for a parent to remarry or to lose a parent while recognizing your own sexuality.

So this film has all the girls reuniting and while the first film wasn’t high art, it’s enough to make me curious as to what kind of journey these young ladies will embark upon next.

Also opening: Larry Bishop’s Hell Ride.

August 15

Tropic Thunder (Dir. Ben Stiller)

This movie looks like so much fun. The film follows a troupe of actors who are shooting a big-budget war movie get lost in the jungle and wind up embroiled in an actual conflict. In case you were wondering what the tone of the film is, it starsBen Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. as an Australian method actor who dyes his skin black for the part. The trailer looks absolutely hilarious.

Stiller behind the camera has usually meant good things (I was a fan ofZoolander and The Cable Guy and his Reality Bites is a modern classic) and the cast he’s assembled also includes Steve Coogan, Bill Hader and Nick Nolte. Based on first appearances, this could be our best bet for funniest film of the summer. Fingers crossed.

The International (Dir. Tom Tykwer)

Tykwer is an interesting filmmaker. After the massive international success and acclaim of Run, Lola, Run he decided to make two difficult films called The Princess and the Warrior and the Krzysztof Kieslowski-penned Heavenstarring Cate Blanchett. These films were blips on the radar for the majority of filmgoers, but they showed that Tykwer was maturing as artists, still relishing the visual flourish but also trying to get to a deeper emotional place. Eventually he directed Perfume, a project Kubrick once called “unfilmable.” Well, Tykwer filmed it and he did it quite well, creating one of the most sumptuous visual delights of the modern era, allowing the audience the pleasure of smell through sight. Really, a remarkable achievement even if the film wasn’t all there. He also directed the short film True, which was a part of Paris Je’taime and was speeded-up romance between Natalie Portman and a blind man. It was brilliant.

Finally, Tykwer comes to Hollywood to make a big-budget action flick starringClive Owen and Naomi Watts. The International has Owen as an Interpol agent investigating an arms dealer. With Tykwer behind the camera, it can be assured that the film will be beautiful to look at, but with leads like Owen and Watts, we might have this year’s Bourne Identity.

Also opening: Alan Ball’s long-delayed Towelhead, Alexandre Aja’s Mirrors starringKiefer Sutherland, and the Emma Roberts tween flick Wild Child.

August 22

Bangkok Dangerous (Dir. The Pang Brothers)

Oh, Nicolas Cage. Truly, he’s an actor with a tremendous amount of talent, as anyone who has seen Leaving Las Vegas or Adaptation can attest. But sometimes I worry that there are people in the world who only know Cage from, say, Con Air, The Rock, Ghost Rider, Next, The Wicker Man, The National Treasure films, etc. Once in a while, he’ll make me remember why I respect him when he turns in performances like the ones he gave in Andrew Niccol’sLord of War or Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center or Ridley Scott’sMatchstick Men, but more often than not he’s been content to film movies likeBangkok Dangerous.

The latest film has Cage as a hitman in (you guessed it) Bangkok who gets into a series of misadventures doing typical hitman stuff. I’m sure it’s possible that this film will be absolutely brilliant, but based on Cage’s recent track record and the films of the Pang Brothers (The Messengers, the original overrated The Eye) I can’t say that I have particularly high hopes.

Hamlet 2 (Dir. Andrew Fleming)

This movie had me sold on the title alone. This comedy sold for a ton of money at January’s Sundance film festival and got a lot of good buzz. The film stars the brilliant Steve Coogan as a high school drama teacher who has his kids perform a “sequel” to the Shakespeare tragedy. Elisabeth Shue, David Arquette, Catherine Keener and Melonie Diaz co-star.

Premises like these are tough because sometimes the writers can be content to just have this great idea and then they just run through the jokes that the audience would have already thought up. The trick is to defy expectations and dig a little deeper, which I’m hoping this film does. The fact that it was co-written by Team America and South Park scribe Pam Brady definitely raises the bar for me.

Also opening: Anna Faris comedy The House Bunny, Griffin Dunne’s The Accidental Husband, Wayne Kramer’s delayed immigration flick Crossing Over starring Harrison Ford and Sean Penn.

August 29

Babylon, A.D. (Dir. Mathieu Kassovitz)

It wouldn’t be summer if we didn’t get an overblown, over-budget Vin Diesel sci-fi flick, right? Word from the set is that Diesel and Kassovitz never really got along, but at least it co-stars Michelle Yeoh. Supposedly there will be some parkour fight scenes, which I would have thought would have been passé since it’s already been in a Bond film.

The plot follows Diesel, who is a mercenary who has to get a sick woman out of Russia, except that her sickness could wipe out humankind. At least, that’s what IMDB says. Kassovitz hasn’t made a really great film sinceLa Haine and after his stellar performance in Munich, I wonder if maybe he should stay in front of the camera.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Dir. Woody Allen)

If you’ve been reading me long enough, you should know by now that this perhaps my most anticipated film of the summer. Woody is a genius and I think he’s back on a roll after the great Cassandra’s Dream. As usual, his latest film is shrouded in mystery but we do know that it’s set (and was shot) in Barcelona and it stars new muse Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Javier Bardemand Penelope Cruz.

There has been words on a few sites that there is a same-gender sex scene between Scarlett and either Cruz or Hall, but of course little to no word on whether this is one of Woody’s comedies or tragedies. Either way, you know I’ll be there, ending my summer by enjoying one of the greatest living director’s new films.

Also opening: Drake Bell (Superhero Movie) in College and Don Cheadle and Guy Pearce in Traitor.

– Noah Forrest
April 16, 2008

Noah Forrest is a 25 year old aspiring writer/filmmaker in New York City.

The opinions expressed in these columns are the writer’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Movie City News or any of its editors or other contributors.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon