Summertime just makes a girl yearn for a little “Mad Max.” “His only weapon: 600 horses of fuel-injected machinery. His mission is a non-stop, high torque pursuit of speed-crazed bandits. They’ve broken his wife. They’ve killed his best friend. They’ve pushed him too far.”
After researching more than 70 films for this list (cutting many that won’t get screened in the area or had their release dates pushed back) one thing is obvious: filmmakers seem to be longing for the gritty, ridiculous, post-apocalyptic fun that was the 1979 film about a boy and his Interceptor. Save the obvious parallels in “Bellflower,” though, I’m not seeing it.
While “Mad Max” isn’t in this list, we have several big movies that attempt to capture the dark side of the popcorn flick, starting with the horrifically titled “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” Other summer blockbusters of note: “Green Lantern,” “Captain America,” “Cowboys and Aliens” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” Frankly, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” is the one heavy-hitter I’m actually looking forward to seeing.
I’ll be skipping the rom-coms this summer, as usual, but there are several comedies that look solid: Steve Coogan in “The Trip,” the buddy flick about a perpetually pajama-clad kid, “Terri,” and his vice-principal (John C. Reilly) and the reunion of “Zombieland’s” Jesse Eisenberg and director Ruben Fleischer for “30 Minutes or Less.”
For those of you looking for something completely different, try dramatic films “A Better Life,” (about a Mexican immigrant and a disastrous truck purchase), the dark comedy wherein a cat changes “The Future,” or “The Debt,” starring Helen Mirren as a retired Mossad agent with a dirty secret to hide.
I suggest you steer clear of the Jim Carrey farce, “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” and the so-sweet-it-might-make-ya-gag flick, “The Smurfs.”
Whispers of “Mad Max” are evident throughout the list, but like the Feral Kid from “The Road Warrior,” right now Hollywood’s just hanging out, managing a jewelry store in Sydney. The closest we get: the Norwegian thriller “Troll Hunter,” or the indie flick made with an impossible camera, “Bellflower.” Otherwise you’ll have to wait ’till 2012, when original director George Miller reboots the franchise with “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Dude probably needed to cleanse the palate after making “Happy Feet.”
(Editor’s note: Many films are not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America until close to their release dates. Films listed as “NR” have not yet received a rating from the MPAA.)
Details are short on director J.J. Abrams’ and producer Steven Spielberg’s latest sci-fi blockbuster. We know Kyle Chandler stars and that whatever escapes from the big train crash scares off dogs. The government attempts to hide this (currently) invisible threat (classic Abrams), while a bunch of kids who caught the crash on video run around doing things smarter than the adults (classic Spielberg.) It’s probably safe to assume “Super 8” is a “Lost/E.T.” mashup: An electro-magnetic pulse causes a train crash, releasing a smoke monster that whisks the kids and their incriminating videotape to an uncharted Super 8 Motel. There, they meet a man called Mr. Eko, who gets them back to Ohio after the kids give him Reese’s Pieces and a magical bike ride in front of the moon.
Now we’re talking! Norski film students tromp le monde chasing after what they believe is a killer bear. But an eccentric hunter reveals the truth and soon the students are busy exposing a decades-long government conspiracy hiding the existence of trolls. Shot in pseudo-documentary style, the hairy/huge/three-headed trolls smash the students, their gear, and the wild Mad Max-style truck they travel in. It can be tough to watch sub-titled action films, but this one should be worth it.
If loving English oddball, Steve Coogan, is wrong, I don’t wanna be right. Coogan reteams with his “A Cock and Bull Story” pals: director Michael Winterbottom and costar Rob Brydon. The story: two best friends/professional rivals take a writing assignment touring northern England’s finest restaurants. (Already sounds like a joke.) On the way they fight about the food, which of them does a better Michael Caine impersonation and whether or not chasing women is a good use of time. Originally, the two British improv comedians made this into a television show; now it’s smooshed into a feature.
Judy Moody And The NOT Bummer Summer
If you’re a preteen or someone trying to distract a preteen for two hours, this movie — featuring the most, ahem, “thrilladelic, super-awesome summer adventure ever,” with a wild-haired little girl (Jordana Beatty), her pesky brother, Stink (Parris Mosteller) and her possibly acid-fried Aunt Opal (Heather Graham) — could be your jam. Produced by CU grad Sharon Magness.
Ryan Reynolds takes on the Green Lantern character, a test-pilot turned intergalactic peace keeper after the big, fancy bauble on his ring finger turns him green. (I’ve had rings that turned me green too though.) Just like any other big comic book movie, the special effects will probably be awesome, the plot will be easy enough for a six year-old to suss out, and whether or not the powers in Hal Jordon’s ring were accurately portrayed as technological feats (and NOT MAGICAL) will stir debate amongst hoards of comic book lovers.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Jim Carrey plays a misguided businessdude (sigh) with no time for his hard-suffering wife (blech) and his delightful children (snore). After his dad keels over during a trip to Antarctica, Misguided Businessdude inherits six penguins. While his character’s priorities are straightened out, Carrey snags a hefty paycheck for dancing around with computer generated birds while uptight old ladies exclaim, “Who’s responsible for this?!” Unsurprisingly, this opus was brought to you by director Mark Waters, who helmed “Freaky Friday.” The second one.
The Art of Getting By(Romance, PG-13)
I wasn’t a beautiful, socially comfortable high school girl or an artistic, sullen insecure boy, but this story about a beautiful, socially comfortable high school girl (Emma Roberts) making super besties with an artistic, sullen, insecure boy (Freddie Highmore) seems a little … completely unbelievable. I’m going to assume newbie writer-director Gavin Wiesen was strong-armed into this implausible plotline.
To avoid jail time in the States, Shaun skips town to hide out in a Tokyo slum with his pops. Soon, he’s mixed in with tough men, loose women and the reckless art of drift racing. Oh wait, sorry. That’s a “Fast and Furious” sequel. This is a Disney Pixar sequel about a bunch of friendly, talking cars. Guess that would explain the G rating.
The pedigree here looks iffy (“Year One” writer, Gene Stupnitsky, and “Orange County” director, Jake Kasdan) but Cameron Diaz as a sailor-mouthed middle-school teacher hell-bent on acquiring the wallet and heart of the new sub (Justin Timberlake) looks kinda funny. It doesn’t hurt that Jason Segal plays the doofus gym teacher who refuses to walk away nicely after she kicks him in the teeth.
Turtle: The Incredible Journey
This doc follows a loggerhead turtle from Florida to Africa and back … if you happen to like that sort of thing. (Editor’s note: We do happen to like that kind of thing; Ms. Fritz has been duly warned not to her anti-turtlist attitudes out of future film previews.)
A Better Life
This story of a Mexican immigrant working as a gardener in East L.A. to improve his present and secure his son’s (José Julián) future is only getting a limited release from Summit Entertainment for now. But Demián Bichir’s performance looks amazing and the story itself appears to be a straightforward tale of noble suffering, all wrapped up in the accidental purchase of a stolen truck. So long as director Chris Weitz (“About a Boy,” “New Moon”) avoided melodramatics and vampires, this film could be a winner.
A Little Help
Jenna Fischer is great, but this movie is about a newly widowed dental hygienist (Fischer) hooking up with her sister’s husband (Rob Benedict), creating boundaries for her meddlesome mother (Lesley Ann Warren), and figuring out how to manage her suddenly sullen teen (Daniel Yelsky) was still directed by “King of Queens” creator, Michael J. Weithorn, and that sounds like trouble.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
In the allegedly final clash of the titaniums, Decepticons and Autobots race to the moon to uncover the secrets of a grounded spacecraft while Shia LeBeouf drags his new girlfriend (Victoria Secret model, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) through collapsing cities. Based on the trailer, I’m guessing her direction notes were: leave your mouth slightly open at all times, but don’t say a word. Should be a real think piece.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been traipsing about Paris with my besties, when — after I’m mistaken for a British heiress — we’re all whisked away to Monte Carlo to get rich, foreign boyfriends. Finally, our story hits the screen. Starring Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester and Katie Cassidy.
Not only does your mom go to college, but so does Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) after getting the pink slip at his longtime retail job. Unlike your mom, Crowne starts rockin’ leather pants and dating his teacher, Julia Roberts. Hanks directed, and co-wrote with Nia “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” Vardalos.
Finally, a summer movie that doesn’t feel like a summer movie. An official selection for both the Sundance Film Festival and SXSW, this flick by indie director, Azazel Jacobs, stars John C. Reilly as a soft-hearted vice-principal at a small town high school who takes a 15 year-old, perpetually pajama-clad, overweight outcast (Jacob Wysocki) under his wing. Wondering about the R rating? “Rated R for sexual content, language and some drug and alcohol use — all involving teens.” Sounds about right.
Kevin James plays a zookeeper desperate to win the hand of hottie Leslie Bibb — but in order to do so he must leave his beloved job and go work at a car dealership. This so saddens the animals, they break a secret animal oath and begin speaking to him. In English. Unfortunately, they use this power to ask if T.G.I. Friday’s is as incredible as it looks. Jim Breuer also stars, but probably not as Goat Boy.
Paul Giamatti — in a hairdo Anton Chigurh would wince at — plays evil King John, a greedy SOB wresting control of castles left and right. But James Purefoy and his Knights Templar Boys ain’t havin’ it, even if they do only have twenty men to defend their castle. In the trailer, Purefoy claims he fights so that Lady Isabelle (Kate Mara) doesn’t have to. Exactly 13 seconds later, she’s running around the garden with a mace.
Dental hygienist Charlie Day tires of his boss’ (Jennifer Aniston) sexual harassment. Jason Sudeikis can’t believe the big cheese at his chemical company forced him to fire the heftiest workers. And corporate monkey, Jason Bateman, has a promotion dangled and snatched away by his jefe diablo, Kevin Spacey. Fed up, the three men plot the deaths of their head honchos with the help of ex-con Jamie Foxx. I’m in.
Director John Carpenter (“Halloween,” “Escape From New York” and “Big Trouble in Little China”) brings on the freaky pulp in this film about a girl (Amber Heard) wrongly left to rot in a psychiatric hospital filled with creepy staffers and other pretty, lady-style patients. The girls while the long hours away plotting breakouts, running from a murderous ghost and taking long, hot showers together.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II
THE END OF ‘ARRY POTTAH?!?! Aye! Harry, Ron and Hermione (Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson) run about destroying the last of Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) life-sustaining horcruxes in order to release the evil wizard’s chokehold on both the magical and non-magical worlds. David Yates, who helmed the previous three films, directs again. I’ll be spending the week before the film’s release re-reading the books and re-watching the films while wearing a handmade wizard hat and speaking in a terrible, loud British accent. Sorry, everybody.
Winnie the Pooh
Winnie the Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings) and the gang run around looking for a new tail for Eeyore (Bud Luckey) and rescuing Christopher Robin (Jack Boulter) from an imaginary threat. John Cleese narrates. Pooh has Stephen Slesinger’s red shirt from the 30’s but looks like the 60’s Disney adaptation of A.A. Milne’s stories from the 20’s, which means absolutely nothing the moment the story starts. It’s no wonder the silly old bear is still around.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Wayne Wang (“The Joy Luck Club”) directs this film adaptation of Lisa See’s best selling novel about two 19th century Chinese girls (Bingbing Li and Gianna Jun) who use a secret code to keep their lifelong friendship alive amidst tragedy and cultural pressures. Throughout the film, one of the girls’ modern day descendants (Vivian Wu) retells the story through the novel she writes, and reflects upon her own friendships.
Despite an allegedly lukewarm reception at the Sundance Film Festival, this film (based on the novel by Larry Beinhart) nabbed distribution anyhow, perhaps due to its cast. The film looks pretty solid on paper: Pierce Brosnan stars as Pastor Dan, a devious man who uses his spiritual currency to both push a real estate development and ruin the life of one of his previous followers — Greg Kinnear — primarily through pinning on him the shooting of a rival author (Ed Harris.) Also stars Jennifer Connelley, Marisa Tomei and Jim Gaffigan.
Captain America: The First Avenger
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a wisp of a man so frustrated his puny body keeps him from enlisting in WWII that he joins an experimental program designed to turn weaklings into hulking beefcakes. It works. Stanley Tucci stars as Dr. Abraham Erskine and Hugo Weaving plays The Red Skull. Joe Johnston (“Hidalgo”) directs.
Friends with Benefits(Comedy, NR)
If you think you’ve already seen this movie — the one about the platonic pals who think a little Bacchus in the relationship won’t affect anything — you’re probably right; it was called “No Strings Attached” and starred Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher and that silly song by The Bravery, “Ours.” But if you wanna watch it again, this time with Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis and that silly song by Semisonic, “Closing Time,” knock yerself out.
Newbie Evan Glodell wrote, directed and acted in this indie film about dudes (Glodell, Tyler Dawson and Jessie Wiseman) who build flamethrowers and race around in their souped-up muscle car, praying for the apocalypse. The hope here is their gang, Mother Medusa, will take over. (Basically these guys wanna be Mad Max.) Then a girl messes everything up. Glodell previously worked as a cinematographer and although he didn’t receive shooting credit (Joel Hodge did), Glodell built a camera using vintage parts, a Macbook Pro and a car inverter (among other things), giving the nihilistic tale of vengeance a strange, old look.
Let’s do a little bit of movie math, shall we? Take “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” director, Raja Gosnell, add sickeningly sweet 1980s cartoon characters, divide the mess into half live action and half CG stuff, multiply the whole thing by the power of 3D and then try not to barf. I loved the Smurfs when I was ten and if you’re ten, this might be up your alley. Otherwise, I’m thinking this sounds like a big blue mess, with or without Neil Patrick Harris. NPH can’t fix everything, as demonstrated by “Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.”
Cowboys and Aliens
At first, this mix sounded like grape jelly and American cheese: separate = fine; together = gross-out. Now it sounds like vodka and sweet pickles: different, weird, but totally awesome. Director John Favreau has successfully helmed diverse films (the dark comedy “Made,” the fluffy kid flick “Elf,” and the blockbuster “Iron Man,”) so he may balance the genres in an interesting way. The setup: a posse of cowboys (led by Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig) stand strong against an alien invasion in 1873. Obviously, things went really well since we’re all still here! Haha! Yeah!
This movie focuses on a neurotic, age-obsessed couple (director/writer Miranda July and Hamish Linklater) in their mid-thirties, who decide to adopt a cat — a cat that alters the space-time continuum. (Yeah, feel free to read that again.) I don’t know why it would warrant a feature film; everyone knows that’s what cats do. But I won’t miss this oddity; the dialogue alone makes a screening worthwhile.
Crazy, Stupid, Love
Steve Carell, freshly released into the wild by his ex-wife, Julianne Moore, teams up with dating savant, Ryan Gosling. Gosling reinvents Carell in his own image, but regardless of how much tail Carell is able to bring home, he still wants his old lady. I’m guessing it’ll be overly sentimental, and I will like it anyhow.
There’s a solid chance this film (due to its sketchy release date info) may not make it into theatres anywhere nearby. And that’d be okay since it’s about the self-obsessed (read: incessantly recording themselves) Quintanilla family’s brutal murder by some funky ghost-thing. Sounds like a bad “Blair Witch” rip-off.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Remember when Charlton Heston sank to his knees on a beach (after fighting for his life against smart monkeys) and screamed to the half-submerged Statue of Liberty, “You maniacs!” and then “Blahblahblah!” and “Damn you all to hell!”? Ever wonder what we were in trouble for? Me neither. But if you wanna find out, here’s your prequel — looks like it’s all James Franco’s fault.
This is listed as a comedy, but body-swapping movies should really be a genre of their own. (And don’t tend to be funny.) In this flick directed by David Dobkin, married with kids (read: miserable) Jason Bateman swaps with Ryan Reynolds’ man-whore. Hijinks allegedly ensue when Reynolds has to change a diaper. I’m guessing Bateman gets to wear one.
It ain’t heavy; it’s my Oscar-shy drama, booked for the summer. Should you decide to watch “The Change-Up” and then feel the need to cleanse the palate, try this drama about a Nebraska cop (Rachel Weisz) peacekeeping in Bosnia who uncovers a sex scandal and finds herself in dutch with the U.N. Also stars Vanessa Redgrave, David Strathairn and Monica Bellucci.
Final Destination 5
In this sequel, suspension bridge accident survivors are offed in freshly horrifying ways. Until everybody understands that you can’t cheat death, we’re going to have to keep watching these movies. Pay attention this time, guys.
30 Minutes or Less
Loveable nerd Jesse Eisenberg and his “Zombieland” director, Ruben Fleischer, meet again for what looks like another funky, intelligent comedy. Eisenberg plays a pizza delivery dude, hijacked by two newbie criminals (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson), who strap a bomb to the kid’s chest and give him a day to rob a bank on their behalf.
Our Idiot Brother
I choose yes. Paul Rudd plays a pathological idealist freshly released from prison for giving glaucoma meds to a cop. Next stop: his sisters’ couches (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer.) He soon grates everyone’s nerves with bon mots such as: “Well, I gotta get back to work on the tom-ion. It’s a cross pollination between a tomato and onion … think of the time it’ll save when you’re making spaghetti sauce.” The movie might be as lame as the tom-ion, but four months after the script was picked up, principal photography was finished. Then it hit Sundance and now it’s on its way to theaters. So we’re either looking at a solid film, or the pet project of a gazillionaire, but I suspect Rudd will stick the landing regardless.
Everybody knows childhood trauma causes folks grow up to be sexy assassins. Cataleya saw her parents murdered — in front of her! — when she was nine. Michael Vartan (the love-addled handler of Jennifer Garner’s spy on “Alias”) wades into comfortable territory, swapping Sidney Bristow for Cataleya Restrepo (Zoe Saldana). The movie might be slick and gritty, yet earnest. Or it might be just another excuse to watch a skinny girl wander around in a cat-suit with a gun.
Three Mossad agents kill a Nazi War criminal (a sadistic surgeon) in 1966, but discover thirty years later a secret they buried during the mission is coming to light. I expect this remake of the 2007 Israeli film of the same name (by Assaf Bernstein) to be dark, quickly paced and well acted (it stars Helen Mirren, Ciarán Hinds and Tom Wilkinson as the older versions of the agents.) Directed by John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”) not John Madden (“Madden NFL.”)