MCN Columnists
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

Summer 2009 Preview, Part One

Ahh, can you smell that? Trees are blooming, flowers are blossoming, and Hollywood is preparing to assault your senses with explosions, car crashes and cyborgs. Yes indeed, my friends, the summer movie season is soon upon us. Considering the shrug-inducing first four months of the year, it will be a pleasure to watch movies that are visceral; at least with summer films, the studios are actually trying to entertain you.

Because they know if they are able to entertain you – with whatever big stars and action scenes they throw at you – they will be able to bring you back more than once. So after four months of mostly filler, we have four months of idiotic entertainment before the four months of prestige. I feel the need to once again point out that it is unbelievably stupid that the calendar year is split up in this way by the movie studios; I swear, we can enjoy dumb movies in the fall and prestige movies in the summer, it can be done.

There are lots of movies to take a look at for summer, so we’ll look at May and June this week, and then next week we’ll delve into July and August.

Without any further ado, let’s see what’s on tap this summer:

May 1st

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Dir. Gavin Hood)

There’s been a lot of controversy over the fact that this spin-off of the X-Men franchise has been leaked and then downloaded by a lot of folks. I haven’t done this because 1) I don’t know where to start and 2) apparently people get fired for doing that sort of thing and I wouldn’t want to risk it. What I do know is that this wasn’t a film that was high on my radar; I always enjoyed the character from the days when I used to read the comics and watch the Saturday morning cartoons. But, while I thought X2 was the best comic book film I’ve ever seen, the third installment of the franchise really turned me off and this latest one doesn’t seem to be striving for anything other than making a buck or two.

I think Hugh Jackman is a talented guy, but I think he’s yet to find a role or a film that really utilizes his talents as well as the Oscars did. And Gavin Hood is a director who has made one bad film (Rendition) and one overrated one (Tsotsi), so I can’t say I’m really looking forward to the combination of a shrug-inducing director and a talented actor tackling material that is below both of them.

The Limits of Control (Dir. Jim Jarmusch)

I have to admit that I haven’t been the biggest Jarmusch fan. I know, I know, take away my “indie” card and call me “the man” but I haven’t responded that well to many of the man’s films.Night on Earth and Mystery Train are both fine movies, but neither really blew my hair back like they did for many people I know. Ghost Dog was a film I wanted to like more than I did and both Down by Law and Stranger Than Paradise seem dated now that indie film has become, well, more mainstream. The two Jarmusch films that I do like, however, are Dead Man and Broken Flowers.

Dead Man speaks for itself as one of the best, most beautiful westerns of the past ten years. But Broken Flowers was a film that I didn’t love until the last ten minutes, which were absolutely revelatory; in those ten minutes, I felt like I finally understood where Jarmusch was coming from. It was poignant, haunting and enigmatic, all words that have been used to describe Jarmusch’s entire oeuvre, but I hadn’t felt that before in Jarmusch’s films (save Dead Man). If one hadn’t seen Broken Flowers and watched just the last ten minutes, they would be treated to one of the most unbelievable short films ever made. And it’s because of those ten minutes in a films starring the incomparable Bill Murray, that I’m looking forward to his newest film which also has a turn by Murray.

As with most Jarmusch films, the plot is both important and irrelevant and because of Murray’s involvement, I’m excited to see if this film is like the last ten minutes of Broken Flowers or the hour-and-a-half leading up to it.

Also Opening: Matthew McConaughey just keeps on livin’ in the movie industry, opposite Jennifer Garner in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past; Luke Wilson and Evan Rachel Wood lend their voices to the animated space adventure Battle for Terra.

May 8th

Star Trek (Dir. J.J. Abrams)

I can’t really say I’m a Star Trek fan, although I did watch my fair share of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I always thought the idea of a crew of space explorers darting through the universe was a fun idea and I’m glad to see that the franchise hasn’t died out completely because I love the idea that there are people out there making phasers out of household items. AndJ.J. Abrams has my eternal respect and gratitude for helping to bring Lost into my life.

So, I’ll check out the new Star Trek film, but I don’t think I’ll ever understand the rabid cult following that the franchise has. I just hope to enjoy the film on its own merits and that this cast and crew are able to take that basic conceit of traveling the universe and make it something thrilling and fun.

Also Opening: Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna team up once again for Carlos Cuaron’s Rudo y Cursi; Mos Def and Donald Faison star in the dark comedy about drugs,Next Day Air.

May 15th

Angels and Demons (Dir. Ron Howard)

I’ve never read Dan Brown and I don’t intend to; I find it difficult to pick up something by Brown when I still haven’t read all the works of Dostoevsky, Proust or Melville. But I did seeRon Howard’s adaptation of The Da Vinci Code and was profoundly underwhelmed. I felt like if you took out the references to the Last Supper and Jesus Christ, it was just anotherNational Treasure (i.e. a knockoff of Indiana Jones flicks).

Ron Howard has won me over with his dedication to producing straightforward “Hollywood” films that have no misconceptions about what they are. I don’t always respond to them, but I admire the way Howard is upfront about the movies he makes. Sometime he makes art, sometime he makes schlock, but he always makes films that move fast and can be understood by large audiences. Some might cast aspersions on a filmmaker who tries to appeal to the masses, but I credit him for it because he continually makes films that are smarter than they should be. And star Tom Hanks is the same way with his acting.

Having said that, if this film is anything like the first one, it will be a tremendous waste of everybody’s time that will help line the pockets of the top-line talent and enable Howard to make more films like Frost/Nixon.

The Brothers Bloom (Dir. Rian Johnson)

I feel like this flick has been on my last three or four previews. While the constant shifting of its release date is enough to give anyone pause, I still can’t help but be excited about seeing this movie despite its mixed reviews at various film festivals. The three lead actors – Rachel Weisz, Mark Ruffalo, Adrien Brody – are all extremely talented and winning individuals, but pairing them with a director as unique as Rian Johnson (director of Brick) just gets my blood pumping.

The trailer is a bit confusing tonally, but Johnson’s previous film turned out to be an impressive manipulation of tone, so I have faith that it’s the trailer’s fault and not the filmmaker’s. It looks to be a whimsical story about two brothers who specializing in confidence games and a beautiful young lady who comes between them.

Also Opening: Jennifer Aniston goes The Good Girl route opposite Steve Zahn inManagement.

May 22nd

Terminator Salvation (Dir. McG)

What a trailer, right? I mean, I had next to zero enthusiasm about this project when it was first announced, despite the involvement of a talent like Christian Bale. But when I sawWatchmen and that trailer played in front of it, complete with that great Nine Inch Nails songs, I thought to myself, “damn, I kind of want to see this movie.”

Now, having said all that, I still think any movie with McG behind the camera cannot possible be good. I would love to be proven wrong and I’m going to enter this film with an open mind, but the vapidity that he brought to the Charlie’s Angels films was enough to turn me off to the man’s work. The man is a music video director and what that means is that he will bring a keen visual eye to the film, but whether or not he can bring emotion and gain an audience’s trust is something that remains to be seen.

I saw T2 when I was eight years old in an enormous theater and it’s an experience that has stuck with me as one of the most momentous summer film experiences of my life. Even as I watch that film now, it is an absolutely perfect action-adventure film with some of the most breathtaking set pieces ever committed to celluloid. I still get chills every time Sarah Connor is making her way out of the mental institution and runs into the T-800 and Cameron brilliantly switches to slow-motion (an effect he doesn’t repeat a million times through the picture; yeah, I’m talking to you Zack Snyder!). I sincerely doubt that this new Terminator film will evoke the same feelings that T2 did for a variety of reasons, but mainly because I’m older and more cynical.

But boy, that trailer was pretty awesome.

The Girlfriend Experience (Dir. Steven Soderbergh)

I can’t say I was familiar with porn star Sasha Grey’s, uh, work before hearing that she was cast in Soderbergh’s film; but I did do some, uh, research and she seems to be very gifted at what she does. Now whether or not Ms. Grey can act in a film that doesn’t require a lot of her, uh, unique talents is something that I’m willing to discover because of the man behind the camera.

I love that Soderbergh is a filmmaker who really sticks to the adage of “one for them, one for me,” unlike so many filmmakers and actors who say that they’re going to do that and wind up being just cogs in the machine. Soderbergh really seems to have a subversive desire to make his mainstream films a little smarter (the Ocean’s franchise, Che) and his indie films even smarter and crazier (Schizopolis, Bubble). Sometimes I’m convinced that he is the most fascinating director working today due to his sheer ability to vacillate between high-brow and low-brown and I love that with this film he seems to be really embracing that and trying to meld the two together.

Also Opening: Ben Stiller takes a large paycheck for the sequel that everyone has been craving in Night at the Museum 2; Marlon and Shawn Wayans try to top White Chickswith Dance Flick.

May 29th

Up (Dir. Pete Docter)

Look, Wall-E screwed me up for life. I used to be so dismissive of most animated films, but when a film makes me cry multiple times, I have to give credit not only to the filmmakers but the genre. I had shed a tear watching Finding Nemo, sure, but I had never sobbed uncontrollably during an animated film that was, get this, a love story. Yes, to me Wall-E was like The Notebook, only way less cheesy.

So, I’m officially a believer not just in animated films but in Pixar in general. I have yet to dislike a Pixar film and I’ve enjoyed the hell out of most of them. So when I read that this new film is about an old man in a floating house, I say bring it on. I don’t care what the film is about because I’m sure with this creative team behind it, it must be something worth seeing.

Drag Me to Hell (Dir. Sam Raimi)

Like many young film-lovers, one of the movies that hooked me was Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2. It’s always the sequel that gets people because it’s more easily available than the first (and it’s also basically a remake of the first). The whole franchise, and especially Army of Darkness, are wonderful blends of horror and comedy. I remember feeling so confused watching those films because I was scared out of my mind with a smile on my face as I watched his films. And while I’ve enjoyed a lot of the films he’s made since becoming a big shot director (namely A Simple Plan and The Gift), I’ve always wanted to see him go back to his horror roots.

Well, here we are. Except … well, the trailer looks a little cheesy. And I know that the Evil Dead movies are kind of cheesy too, but it doesn’t really seem like he’s mining new territory with this film. And with the Evil Dead franchise, I felt like I was watching a genre I had never seen before, so it’s a little disappointing that it doesn’t seem (in the trailer at least) like he’s really going outside his comfort zone and reinventing the genre; rather, it seems like he’s making just another addition to a tired genre.

I hope my first impression is wrong because I would love to see Raimi rock my socks off with a killer horror flick.

Also Opening: The Academy-Award winner for best foreign flick Departures.

June 5th

Land of the Lost (Dir. Brad Silberling)

Will Ferrell had been losing steam in my opinion, starring in shrug-inducing comedies like Blades of Glory and Semi-Pro. But I thought Step Brothers was his funniest film since Anchorman and his turn in the brilliantEast Bound and Down reminded me of his versatility and his ability to make me laugh out loud. But most of the time, I don’t think Hollywood has quite figured out what to do with him. He’s not Adam Sandler or Eddie Murphy, who you can just throw into a PG or PG-13 rated film and expect him to retain that same edge that made him so great in the first place. Ferrell can’t have any shackles on him if he’s going to succeed.

All of this makes me really wonder if Land of the Lost is the right vehicle for his talents. And considering Brad Silberling’s past films, I don’t know if he’s the right director to make the most out of Ferrell’s abilities. I’m a little young to be familiar with the TV show this is based on, but I’m guessing they will just up the kitsch factor in lieu of actually trying to make a film that stands on its own merits. And I’m guessing that Ferrell will be hamstrung by the constraints of starring in a big-budget, blockbuster film with CGI dinosaurs. I hope for the best, but I’m expecting the worst.

Away We Go (Dir. Sam Mendes)

This would have to be the film I’m most excited for this summer and it has nothing to do with the fact that it looks like hipster nirvana. Dave Eggers is probably the most talented writer of his generation (I would kill to see an adaptation of his masterpiece What is the What on the big-screen) with a unique understand of people and their idiosyncrasies; he is a master at taking seemingly inconsequential events and evoking the hidden truths within.

Pairing Eggers with Mendes, who is fresh off the incredible Revolutionary Road, on a dramedy about a couple (John Krasinksi and Maya Rudolph) traveling around America trying to find a place to raise a family, is such a genius idea. Mendes has worked in practically every genre so far and I think he’s done superb work every time out and if Eggers’ delivered the script that I would expect, then I think Mendes definitely has the ability to knock it out of the park.

Also Opening: Old School director Todd Phillips gets Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis to star in a comedy that has tested so well it already has a greenlit sequel with The Hangover; Nia Vardalos returns from the witness protection program to star opposite Richard Dreyfuss in Donald Petrie’s My Life in Ruins.

June 12th

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (Dir. Tony Scott)

My sour feelings about Ridley Scott have been widely addressed in several columns I’ve written, but I’ve never really spoken about Tony Scott. I think Tony is the Scott brother that gets unfairly maligned, but I think he is the more successful of the two in terms of actually accomplishing what he sets out to do. I think Ridley aims his sights high but often fails while Tony aims his sights far lower and often succeeds (except for Déjà Vu which was pretty awful) in making exciting but forgettable flicks.

But making a remake of this particular film seems to be a fool’s errand. The original was such a product of its time, a melding of the gritty films of Sidney Lumet with the disaster films ofIrwin Allen. Now, this just seems like a shameless money-grab that looks more like a remake of Money Train than the film it purports to be. Denzel Washington hasn’t done any real “acting” since Training Day, resting instead on his commanding screen presence whileJohn Travolta seems to be doing an imitation of his bad guy from Broken Arrow.

I’m sure there will be lots of explosions and excitement, but little else; in other words, a typically forgettable Tony Scott film.

Also Opening: David Bowie’s son Duncan Jones directs Sam Rockwell in the totally awesome-looking Moon; Eddie Murphy does his family-comedy thing with Imagine That.

June 19th

Whatever Works (Dir. Woody Allen)

I love Woody Allen, that much has been established. I also love Larry David almost as much; his show Curb Your Enthusiasm has consistently been the most hilarious and cringe-inducing show on television. The idea of pairing these two geniuses together in a comedy almost makes me want to pass out from the excitement. There is literally not a single person better suited to be a Woody Allen facsimile in a Woody Allen film than Larry David (although I’d still love to see his work in that lost Scorsese film).

This latest film has Larry David in a romance with the much younger Evan Rachel Wood. Really, this could be a film about Larry David walking around New York City for two hours and I would be excited because of the guy behind the camera. Woody is the greatest living filmmaker, so this should be a film that is high on everybody’s list this summer.

Also Opening: Harold Ramis directs an outrageous Jack Black and an awkward Michael Cera in Year One; Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds star in an instantly forgettable romantic comedy that I will probably secretly enjoy called The Proposal.

June 26th

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Dir.Michael Bay)

Was anybody really clamoring for this sequel? I know the first film grossed like three hundred million dollars domestically, but did anyone actually feel good about spending that money to see Transformers? I watched the cartoon when I was a kid, but the whole fun of it was that there weren’t any human beings in it and now I have to deal with the kid from Even Stevens driving around in a car with Megan Fox for most of the running time. I don’t think anyone who sees these films actually cares one iota about the human relationships in the film, they just want to see giant robots pound on each other.

Michael Bay has been vilified as the anti-Christ of film, but he’s not the problem; he makes slick, enormous films and makes them fly. The problem is that people actually go to see everything he makes and Hollywood is just giving the people what they want.

Also Opening: Michelle Pfeiffer stars in Stephen Frears’ latest flick Cheri that will most likely be surprisingly good, considering Frears’ penchant for being a perpetually underrated and great filmmaker; Cameron Diaz and Abigail Breslin co-star in Nick Cassavetes’ latest (probably) mediocre film My Sister’s Keeper; Kathryn Bigelow’s totally awesome The Hurt Locker with Jeremy Renner screams into theaters and I’ll be sure to write more about how great that flick is.

Read Summer 2009 Preview, Part Two

– Noah Forrest
April 13, 2009

Noah Forrest is a 26-year-old aspiring writer/filmmaker in New York City.

The opinions expressed in these columns are the writers and do not neccessarily 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