Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May Movie Melee

The sun is shining, the temperature’s rising, and the summer movie season is in full swing! I saw a great many movies in the month of May, which means we’ve got lots to discuss -- let’s get right into it, shall we?

stuck_between_stationsSTUCK BETWEEN STATIONS -- A few fun facts about this movie: First, I saw it at the Tribeca Film Festival, and in fact, it was the very LAST film screened at the festival, late on a Sunday night. Second, it marked the first time I was given a “press pass” with VIP access, handed to me personally by writer/director Brady Kiernan. Third, while I was in the theatre watching this movie, Navy SEAL Team 6 was in the process of killing Osama bin Laden, a fact of which I was unaware until I got home over an hour after it happened. So clearly, the circumstances surrounding my watching this movie were significant; unfortunately, the movie itself was not. Loosely inspired by the song “Stuck Between Stations” by the Hold Steady, it’s the story of Casper (Sam Rosen, who also co-wrote), a soldier who, on his last night of leave, reunites with his former high school crush, Rebecca (Zoe Lister Jones). After meeting cute (or re-meeting, as the case may be), the two of them embark on an all-night stroll through the streets of Minneapolis, partaking in various shenanigans (a weird carnival party here, a stealth burglary there, encounters with strange former classmates everywhere), revealing their innermost thoughts & secrets, coming to terms with their personal issues (war trauma for him; career-threatening love affair for her), and slowly but surely falling for each other. It’s all very BEFORE SUNRISE-esque, but not even in the same stratosphere as Linklater’s classic: Performances are wooden, dialogue often feels forced, and the film relies too much on clichés and episodic moments that never really ring true. The film is well-shot, though... and who knows, maybe this sort of thing happens every night in Minneapolis (home to Kiernan and Rosen and, for that matter, the Hold Steady), in which case the film may be the quintessential love letter to that city. So it has that going for it.

ThorTHOR -- Yet another comic book superhero movie that I knew nothing about before I saw it, and in this case, I think it really hurt the film. The problem with THOR is that it has a very involved backstory -- so much so that if you don't have some preexisting connection to the material, it's very difficult to get sucked in. I feel like hundreds of pages of comic books would be necessary to really understand what the hell was going on and why. (This is in direct contrast to a movie like IRON MAN -- another one I knew very little about -- which has a more fundamental story and thus could more easily tap into a universal movie audience. Also, note that the upcoming GREEN LANTERN, which has similar dense, other-worldly mythos as THOR, is attempting to ease moviegoers into it with an explanatory trailer that has actually piqued my interest more than previous, less-focused trailers. Wise move!) I'm sure that THOR fanboys were geeking out big-time when they saw Asgard on the big screen in all its CGI glory, but aside from the bridge that reminded me of the Rainbow Road track in Mario Kart, that world didn't do much for me. What I'm trying to say is, I didn't care about THOR before and I still don't. Also doesn't help that there were approximately zero memorable scenes, action sequences or lines of dialogue, and performances were mediocre across the board -- led, of course, by Natalie Portman in what seems like her eleventeenth crappy movie of the year. Easily the most underwhelming AVENGERS-themed film so far. NEXT!

The-People-Vs-George-LucasTHE PEOPLE vs. GEORGE LUCAS -- A documentary that details the intense love-hate relationship between Star Wars fans and the maker, George Lucas. I was a little skeptical about this, because at this point, I feel like “prequel haters” really need to get over it. Are the movies good? No. But is there a lot to like? I think so. People need to embrace the good stuff and just close their eyes, put their fingers in their ears and go “LALALALA” during the Jar-Jar and Anakin/Padme romance scenes. After all, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the Dark Side... but that’s a discussion for another blog post. As for the doc, it does indeed contain a lot of fanboy whining about the prequels and the original trilogy special editions -- but it also provides some context, discussing the influence that Lucas had on an entire generation, not just from an entertainment standpoint, but creatively (the documentary is actually interspersed with some pretty cool fan-made films, cartoons, spoofs, etc.). So, when Lucas went back and tinkered with the original films (Han shoots first, ugh) and altered existing mythology (midichlorians, sigh), people felt a legitimate sense of betrayal. It’s a complicated thing that only true die-hard fans (not just of Star Wars, but of anything) could possibly understand... and even though I have worked through my own anger and now choose to focus on the positive, it still hits home. Damn you, George Lucas... just provide the original, unaltered theatrical versions of the original trilogy on the upcoming Blu-Ray release and much of this animosity would be erased. How hard is that!

hesherHESHER -- Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Hesher, the greatest long-haired, head-banging, ne’er-do-well, stoner, fairy godmother in movie history. Honestly, my favorite way to categorize this crazy film is to think MARY POPPINS meets BEAVIS & BUTT-HEAD. See, there’s a kid named T.J. who lives with his depressed father (Rainn Wilson, bearded and very un-Schrute-like) and grandmother (fantastic, unrecognizable Piper Laurie) in the wake of his mother’s tragic death. When Hesher moves in, suddenly and uninvited, no one can figure out how to make him leave and eventually they just kind of deal with it. But his dangerous, who-gives-a-shit attitude throws them for a loop and he becomes both an antagonizing AND thought-provoking presence for everyone. Also in the mix is a cute, awkward grocery store clerk, played by Natalie Portman (slightly better than she has been recently). While the film’s inspired moments come in ebbs and flows, Gordon-Levitt’s performance is out of control and riveting -- with films like this, BRICK, (500) DAYS OF SUMMER and INCEPTION under his belt, he’s become as good an actor as anyone in his generation, and I would die happy if Ron Howard & Co. would cast him as Eddie Dean in the upcoming DARK TOWER adaptations (also, Zoe Saldana as Susannah, please... but I digress).

Cost-of-a-SoulCOST OF A SOUL -- Apparently this movie was the winner of AMC’s Big Break Movie Contest... and if this was the best entry they received, my heart goes out to the judges who had to sit through them all. It’s the story of two soldiers, Tommy and DD, who return to their wretched North Philly homes and attempt to re-assimilate themselves into real life. However, in this hellhole of a neighborhood, real life is not much better than the war zones of Iraq. That’s just the tip of the vast iceberg of clichés that comprise this film. Tommy is a traumatized military interrogator who attempts to reconcile with his wife & daughter (whose names, unsubtly, are Faith and Hope), only to get roped back into working for the local Irish crime lord, who is a parody of pretty much every crime lord in every movie ever. DD, meanwhile, is a clean-cut African-American war hero who must try to save his crumbling family AND realize his dream of becoming a professional sax player. Suffice to say that the film tries WAY too hard to deliver an Important Message, and fails in pretty much every conceivable way. Then it goes completely off the deep end with a last-act bloodbath that should make fans of THE DEPARTED laugh out loud. And just to make the proceedings as unbearable as possible, writer/director Sean Kirkpatrick is waaaaaay too enamored with harsh extreme close-ups. Zoom out, dude!

EverythingMustGoEVERYTHING MUST GO -- The main reason to see this movie is to see Will Ferrell in a rare understated performance, quite possibly one of the best instances of pure acting in his career. He plays Nick Halsey, a struggling alcoholic, who, as the story begins, is having a very bad day. He loses his job thanks to a booze-fueled mishap and comes home to find that his wife has thrown all of his belongings on the front lawn and locked him out of the house. At first Nick is indignant and decides to set up shop on the lawn, drinking himself into a stupor -- but eventually, with a little help from friendly neighbors, he takes the opportunity to cleanse his life of unnecessary clutter, both literally and figuratively. The film clearly strives to be some kind of quirky character study, but despite the solid setup, it mostly just kind of plods along uninterestingly. Fortunately, the performances rise above the material: C.J. Wallace (who, it turns out, is Biggie Smalls’ son) is great as a lonely neighborhood kid who strikes up a friendship with Nick, and you can never go wrong with Rebecca Hall and Laura Dern. And then there’s Ferrell, who shows, as I’ve long suspected, that he may actually have a Bill Murray-style comedic/dramatic career ahead of him when he outgrows the wacky stuff that has been his forte so far. (Though I hope he’s still got a couple more ANCHORMANs and OLD SCHOOLs left in him, too!)

Pirates-of-the-Caribbean-On-Stranger-TidesPIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES -- I don’t know, maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but here’s another movie that has been generally lambasted by critics that I actually enjoyed. Or maybe my taste in movies is just getting shittier as the years go by. Whatever the case, while the fourth installment of the PIRATES saga is a step down from the original trilogy, it’s still a lot of fun. Captain Jack Sparrow remains one of the great characters of Johnny Depp’s career (perhaps second only to Hunter S. Thompson... though Edward Scissorhands is up there, too). Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom are gone, so this is a pirates’ tale through and through, and we are treated to an IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD-style race between Sparrow, Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush, still perfectly cast), the dastardly Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and others to track down the Fountain of Youth. Penelope Cruz is also along for the ride as a sexy Spanish pirate, whose chemistry with Depp is odd but works. There’s a sub-plot involving a young priest and a captured mermaid (cutie Astrid Berges-Frisbey) that I could have done without, but the mermaids themselves are pretty cool and provide the film’s most memorable action sequence. I’m sure another sequel is inevitable, possibly a whole trilogy... but Disney should also keep in mind that they’re on borrowed time at this point, since by all powers of the universe, a movie based on a theme park ride should never have been good to begin with. The PIRATES films have defied those odds so far, but eventually I fear they will fall upon the chamber that contains the bullet. Until then... arrr!

Midnight_in_ParisMIDNIGHT IN PARIS -- Back in the day, Woody Allen made films that remain some of the most quintessential love letters to New York City that have ever been written. More recently, however, it is pretty safe to say that LEAVING New York may be the best move Allen could have made at this stage of his career, because his European tour has been a glorious cinematic rebirth. The brilliant MIDNIGHT IN PARIS tells the story of Gil (Owen Wilson, perfectly cast), a struggling writer who visits Paris with his fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams, surprisingly miscast), and can’t help but get swept up in his preconceived notions about the city’s romance and beauty. He is particularly enamored with Paris in the 1920s and taking walks in the rain; unfortunately, Inez doesn’t share these frivolous thoughts, preferring to shop for expensive furniture and listen to her douchebag ex-boyfriend (a very bearded Michael Sheen) pontificate about God knows what. So, Gil takes late-night walks through the streets of Paris on his own -- and when the clock strikes midnight, he finds himself magically transported to the ‘20s, hobnobbing with such luminaries as Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso and Stein; falling in love with a gorgeous French woman named Adriana (Marion Cotillard, at her most irresistible); and experiencing his own creative and emotional rebirth. It’s a story of pure whimsy -- utterly enchanting, entertaining, hilarious and thought-provoking: After all, who hasn’t fantasized about whether they would have been more suited to another time and place? The motley crew of literary and artistic figures is tremendous and impeccably cast -- kind of like Woody Allen’s take on BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE. And yes, it is a love letter to the City of Lights with gorgeous, postcard-esque visuals that made me want to run to the airport and hop on the next flight. Definitely one of Allen’s finest movies in recent years, and -- big words, I know -- quite possibly of all time.

beautiful-boyBEAUTIFUL BOY -- This film tell the all-too-familiar story of a school shooting from the oft-overlooked perspective of the shooter’s parents, played with heartbreaking poignancy by Maria Bello and Michael Sheen. As the movie begins, the couple is having problems of their own and on the brink of separation. When they hear the news of a deadly shooting at their son’s college, they fear for his safety -- and when the cops arrive and inform them that, in fact, the news is much, much worse... well, it’s a gut-wrenching moment. From there, they must endure the harsh aftermath: An inescapable media frenzy, awkward pity from family and friends, and their own ravaging feelings of grief and guilt -- especially as it becomes more and more clear that their son’s problems had been simmering for some time right under their noses. Can they set aside their marital difficulties to overcome this tragedy and perhaps rediscover their love for each other? Or is the whole thing too much to bear and the beginning of a downward spiral for both of them? A powerful, complex, hard-to-watch film, anchored by two outstanding lead performances.

kung-fu-panda-2KUNG-FU PANDA 2 -- The first KUNG-FU PANDA was surprisingly fun, as non-Pixar animated fare goes, and it made lots of money, so a sequel was pretty much a given. Jack Black is back as Po, the bumbling, perpetually-hungry panda who has fulfilled his destiny to become the Dragon Warrior, protector of China along with his ragtag ass-kicking animal friends, the Furious Five. There is nothing overtly bad or offensive about the sequel: There’s some additional character development involving Po’s relationship with his adopted father and new-found need to learn about his origins. There’s a crafty new villain (voiced by Gary Oldman) who uses the discovery of fireworks to create the ultimate weapon (also, he apparently spearheaded a panda genocide -- surprisingly dark plot detail for a kids’ film). Supporting cast is a who’s who of big names ranging from Angelina Jolie to Dustin Hoffman to freakin’ Jean Claude van Damme. There are some fun, kiddie-friendly kung-fu action sequences. Animation is solid, especially some nifty, Tartakovsky-inspired flashback scenes (I’d recommend NOT seeing it in 3D, though -- not sure if it was just my theatre or what, but the glasses seemed to made the picture seem even darker than usual). But somehow, all of these parts do not add up to a whole that is anywhere near as satisfying as the original -- the sequel just sort of exists for the sake of existing and will likely be forgotten very quickly -- at least until the inevitable KUNG-FU PANDA 3.

attack_the_blockATTACK THE BLOCK -- Simply put: This movie is awesome. The story of a London street gang that must defend their ‘hood from an alien invasion -- a glorious conglomeration of THE GOONIES and BOYZ N THE HOOD with a splash of SHAUN OF THE DEAD and a big infusion of early John Carpenter with its ‘80s action/horror vibe. The film begins with a mugging at the hands of a gang of young hoodlums, led by stoic Moses. Suddenly, an unidentified object comes hurtling out of the sky and crashes into a nearby car. The gang checks it out and discover a bizarre, large-toothed creature, which they manage to kill. Next thing they know, their neighborhood (or “block” in the local parlance) is besieged by aliens and all-out war begins, with Moses leading the resistance. The film is darkly funny, moves at a relentless pace, contains excellent performances from a bunch of unknown kid actors and features outstanding low-budget special effects -- the aliens are legitimately scary, hulking black masses with no discernable features except for a huge mouthful of glowing blue teeth. Director Joe Cornish has a great eye for action and character development (Moses, with his transformation from street thug to full-fledged hero, is seriously one of the best new characters of the year so far) so it’s no surprise that he was recruited by Spielberg and Jackson to work on THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN films. All in all, this film is a geek’s paradise -- one of those movies that defies description and must be seen to be believed. Apparently there is some question as to whether or not it will get a real theatrical release, which is preposterous if the crowd reaction at my advance screening is any indication -- so hopefully it will invade a theatre near you in the not-too-distant future. Allow it!

Lastly, in case you missed them earlier in the month, I also reviewed THE BEAVER and PRIEST on Cinemit.com, as well as THE HANGOVER PART II. So yeah... it’s been a busy month of movie-watching... and to think, the summer has only just begun!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

THE HANGOVER PART II: More of the Same... and That’s a Good Thing

hangover-part-2THE HANGOVER PART II has been almost universally panned by critics (only 35% on RottenTomatoes at the moment), the most-noted reason being that it is a soulless carbon copy of the first one. And it’s true, the sequel follows the original formula almost beat-for-beat: This time, Stu (Ed Helms) is the one getting married, and the gang gathers in Thailand for the wedding. They go down to the beach for one celebratory beer... only to wake up the next morning in a dilapidated Bangkok hotel, fucked up beyond recognition, with no memory of how they got there. Using whatever clues they can find, they retrace their steps to figure out what the hell happened and track down their missing companion, encountering all manner of insanity along the way. Familiar territory, sure, but what most naysayers can’t seem to grasp is that this is not an act of soullessness or laziness or lack of creativity on director/co-writer Todd Phillips’ part -- it is clearly by design, playing with the incredulous notion that these guys could manage to get themselves involved in the exact same situation again, despite the fact that they are well aware of what happened last time and consciously try to avoid such a debacle (for instance, Stu, now ultra-paranoid and scarred for life after Vegas, won’t drink anything unless it is sealed to avoid being roofied). The first time around, shit happened and it was crazy... but this time, it feels like some kind of nightmarish déjà vu. That setup is hilarious in its own right.

And really, it’s not an EXACT carbon copy. One of the things that made the first HANGOVER so great was the element of surprise, but now that advantage is gone because we pretty much expect the worst. So the only thing they could do was go completely bat-shit insane and try to surpass even our most depraved expectations. Vegas is a city of sin & vice, dangerous if things get out of control, but mostly just fun -- but Bangkok is more sinful, more dangerous and definitely more bizarre. The basic formula may be intact, but the events are MUCH crazier, raunchier, dirtier, sweatier, darker and, at times, downright disturbing. We're treated to shenanigans involving a missing finger, a monkey, a creepy tattoo artist, a wheelchair-bound monk, Thai hookers, Paul Giamatti, everybody’s favorite crazy Asian stereotype (Mr. Chow, bitches!), guns, drugs, and more penises than meet the eye. It’s a wild scene. Laughs are plentiful, but there were also plenty of instances where I found myself cringing in revulsion and/or disbelief -- a plus in my book.

wolfpackThe trifecta of Helms, Bradley Cooper and Zack Galifianakis have settled into their roles nicely and their chemistry really helps elevate the material -- when a joke or sequence is good, it’s REALLY good, and when it misfires, it doesn’t take long to regain its footing. Groom-to-be Stu is now battling the demons that the Vegas trip introduced and lives in a state of fear and repression. Phil (Cooper) is pretty much the same guy -- cool, confident and desperately seeking a good time to escape the drudgery of family life. Alan (Galifianakis) is even more of a loose cannon this time -- pretty much a complete sociopath whose throwaway quips and mannerisms and little bits of insanity may require several viewings to fully absorb. One thing that surprised me during my Friday night screening was the crowd reaction -- cheering the title cards and the first appearances of the characters and etc.... it was a STAR WARS-esque level of audience love. May not be too much of a stretch to suggest that, as far as slapstick comedy trios are concerned, the Wolf Pack has become this generation’s Three Stooges.

The first HANGOVER is a modern classic that found its way into my Top 10 of 2009 -- a perfect storm of comedic brilliance that could never be fully recaptured. THE HANGOVER PART II is not as good or as consistently awesome... but it is still pretty damn funny and hits all the right marks. Hell, I wouldn’t even mind seeing these crazy bastards come back for a third installment, following the same formula one last time. I guess it would have to involve Alan’s wedding... perhaps set in Eastern Europe for some HOSTEL-like craziness? Or maybe the jungles of Africa. Or the dark side of the Moon. Wherever the Wolf Pack ends up next, I, for one, will be happy to follow -- they’re the three best friends that anybody could have!

Friday, May 13, 2011

So, a PRIEST and a Vampire Walk Into a Bar….

Re-post of my review that originally appeared on Cinemit.com. Go there and sign up for advance screenings, contests, discussions and more movie-related goodness.

Seems like we’ve been hearing about PRIEST for a really long time. Wish I could say that it is worth the wait, but unfortunately, it is bad in pretty much every way that a movie can be bad: Bad acting, bad dialogue, bad visuals -- but worst of all, it is an egregious waste of what could have been a good story.

Paul Bettany is Priest, a retired warrior from the last Vampire War, who is forced to defy the ruling Church and return to action in order to rescue his niece from the clutches of a new vampire army. It’s an intriguing concept: A stylized, post-apocalyptic vampire-western fusion with a religious twist. The opening animated prologue, which explains the centuries-long history of human-vampire conflict and the rise of the Priest warrior as our only hope for survival, is by far the most interesting part of the film. The great war, the Church’s rise to power, the rise & fall of the Priests, the animosity between Paul Bettany’s Priest and Christopher Plummer’s Monsignor, etc. -- that’s the movie I want to see. As it stands, the story we are given betrays its own originality and devolves into much of the same cliché-riddled ridiculousness we’ve seen time and time again.

Bettany can be a fine actor, but he is now 0-for-2 in the “religious figure wages war to save humanity” sub-genre (see also: LEGION, also directed by Scott Charles Stewart). Maggie Q is sexy in a Trinity-from-THE MATRIX kind of way as a fellow warrior, but not worth the price of admission. Cam Gigandet is laughably bad as Priest’s hotshot gunslinger companion, and while Karl Urban does his darnedest to chew the scenery as the big vampire boss man, his performance is sabotaged by the awful, clunky, at times redundant dialogue that permeates the entire film. Effects are mostly cheesy and uninspired; there are a smattering of cool-looking backdrops and action moments, but nothing that will take your breath away (and the 3D adds very little to the visual experience -- yet another case of pointless post-conversion).

I’ve never read Hyung Min-Woo’s graphic novel series, so I cannot comment on how PRIEST fares as an adaptation. But as a movie, it is a prime example of a missed opportunity and a big summer dud. May God have mercy on the filmmakers’ souls.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mel Gibson is Great in Jodie Foster’s BEAVER… wait, what?

Re-post of my review that originally appeared on Cinemit.com. Go there and sign up for advance screenings, contests, discussions and more movie-related goodness.

The Beaver

THE BEAVER is the story of a troubled man named Walter Black who, much like the actor portraying him, has hit rock bottom. He's battling depression, his business is in shambles and his relationship with his family is strained. One sad, drunken night, he decides to end it all and is literally pulled back from the edge by the unlikeliest of saviors: a beaver puppet that he found in a dumpster and put on his hand without really knowing why. The puppet immediately becomes Walter's alter ego and calls itself the Beaver. Walter speaks as the Beaver, treats the Beaver as if it is another living entity and requires that others do the same. With its strong Cockney accent, offbeat sense of humor and dominant presence, the Beaver becomes the guiding force that Walter thinks he needs to get through life.

It sounds crazy and it is crazy. Walter's family knows it's crazy -- his wife, Meredith (Jodie Foster, great as always; she also directs) plays along for his sake, even when the Beaver joins them in bed. His youngest son loves the Beaver and its antics -- his dad has never been this fun. His struggling company (a toy manufacturer that apparently is so renowned that its business dealings make headline news on NY1 -- an odd quirk of the film) is surprisingly accepting of having a Beaver for a boss, especially when the Beaver's ideas put them back in the black. Only Walter's eldest son, Porter (Anton Yelchin) wants nothing to do with his father and has problems of his own. If this film had been played as a comedy, it could not possibly have worked. Instead, it takes itself seriously enough that Walter's problems seem heartbreakingly real, and the Beaver, entertaining as it may be at first, becomes an increasingly ominous presence.

Mel Gibson's personal problems have been well-documented, but there is no denying that the man can still act. His performances are spectacular and run the gamut of emotions. As Walter, Gibson looks haggard, tired, defeated -- which may not be so far off from real life. But as the Beaver, he discovers a spark of enthusiasm, creativity, charisma and indeed, deviousness -- and while the whole thing is kind of ridiculous on a surface level, it is far more convincing than it might have been in other hands. Whether or not Gibson ever regains his past glory remains to be seen, but this is a step in the right direction.

THE BEAVER is not a perfect film -- in particular, a sub-plot involving Porter and a cool-but-mysterious cheerleader (recent Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence) who may or may not be his kindred spirit feels out of place -- but it is worth checking out. This weekend will undoubtedly be dominated by blockbusters: FAST FIVE, THOR and even SOMETHING BORROWED. But if you don't want to deal with those crowds or just feel like kicking off your summer movie experience in a different way... leave it to THE BEAVER.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ben’s Super Happy Fun 2011 Summer Movie Preview

SUMMER IS UPON US! At least, as far as movies are concerned. Or maybe it already began with the release of FAST FIVE last weekend? Nah... I'm a traditionalist, and that means the summer movie season begins the first weekend in May! We've got a potentially solid mix of blockbusters in store, including a gaggle of big-name superheroes, ass-kicking robots, flamboyant pirates, Spielbergian nostalgia, dueling wizards and one hungover pack of wolves -- plus lots of intriguing indies and under-the-radar gems and stuff that sounds flat-out weird. I know I'm excited... and now, here's a long-winded rundown of some titles that have caught my eye:

thorTHOR (May 6) -- Hard to think about Thor and not think about ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING, but I am nevertheless intrigued by this Marvel superhero offering, directed by Kenneth Branagh, of all people. Also co-stars the suddenly-ubiquitous Natalie Portman, who seems to be trying a little bit of everything these days... and continues to suck at all of them.

SOMETHING BORROWED (May 6) -- I think Ginnifer Goodwin is very cute, and I do not overtly dislike Kate Hudson... but this chick flick looks pretty bad, despite the fact that it is directed by the guy who did THE GIRL NEXT DOOR (if only he’d involved Elisha Cuthbert somehow).

THE BEAVER (May 6) -- Mel Gibson tries once again to rebuild his career, this time as a troubled man who starts speaking through a beaver hand puppet in order to save himself. Directed by (and co-starring) Jodie Foster, I saw this tonight and it is as crazy as it sounds -- but also works (review coming soon).

LAST NIGHT (May 6) -- Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington star as a married couple who, while apart for a night in NYC, find themselves faced with temptation. I have an unabashed crush on Keira and it sounds like this one could be sexy.

the-people-vs-george-lucas-movieTHE PEOPLE vs. GEORGE LUCAS (May 6) -- A documentary that examines the love-hate relationship that Star Wars fans have with George Lucas following the perceived failure of the special editions, prequels, etc. I, however, am a Star Wars apologist, so I’ll probably just get pissed off by all this nay-saying. I got your back, George!

BRIDESMAIDS (May 13) -- Kristen Wiig finally gets her first legit starring role in this hard-R-rated chick flick that lampoons the crazy process of being a Maid of Honor. Produced by Judd Apatow and featuring a stellar supporting cast, it’s some funny stuff -- read my review HERE.

PRIEST (May 13) -- Seems like this movie has been in the works for a long, long time, but here it finally is. Paul Bettany stars as a kick-ass Priest who must wage war against vampires and other unholy things. The power of Christ compels you to see this... I guess?

HesherHESHER (May 13) -- I saw the trailer for this one, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s long-haired, nasty, dangerous metal-head reminded me of Beavis & Butt-head for some reason, though I’m sure that’s not remotely accurate. Also stars Rainn Wilson with a beard, and Natalie Portman (her fifth movie in 2011, for those keeping count), undoubtedly the weak link once again.

EVERYTHING MUST GO (May 13) -- Alcoholic Will Ferrell comes home one day to find that his wife has locked him out of the house and thrown all his stuff on the lawn, so he decides to hold a yard sale to rid his life of crap both literally and figuratively. Could be a good vehicle for Ferrell to do his thing AND show some acting chops.

a-serbian-filmA SERBIAN FILM (May 13) -- One of the most controversial movies in recent memory, it’s about an aging porn star who agrees to star in an art film, only to find that he has gotten involved in a snuff film featuring rape, pedophilia, necrophilia and God knows what unspeakable nastiness. Supposedly it is very, very graphic and very, very fucked up and could put my horror film desensitization to the ultimate test.

PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (May 20) -- Generally speaking, fourth installments are rarely good ideas. Trilogies are just so much tidier! But the PIRATES movies have far surpassed all reasonable expectations already, the trailers look awesome and Captain Jack Sparrow remains Johnny Depp’s best role since Hunter S. Thompson. I’m all for this one.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (May 20) -- Woody Allen continues the European tour that has revitalized his career, this time stopping in Paris with new friends Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams (who could be a perfect fit) and Marion Cotillard. Very interested in this one.

the-hangover-iiTHE HANGOVER PART II (May 26) -- THE WOLFPACK IS BACK, BABY! I am crazy excited for this sequel, even though there’s no way that they can possibly capture lightning in a bottle again. Or can they? The first HANGOVER is a modern classic so I’ll give these crazy bastards the benefit of the doubt.

KUNG-FU PANDA 2 (May 26) -- The first KUNG-FU PANDA was surprisingly good & fun, so of course, they have to run it into the ground with a sequel. It will be worth it, though, if Jack Black uses the paycheck to finance an epic Tenacious D reunion album/tour. Make it happen, Jables!

THE TREE OF LIFE (May 27) -- A Terrence Malick film is always an Event with a capital E, and this is his first since 2005’s THE NEW WORLD (which in turn was his first since 1998’s THE THIN RED LINE). Something about a family in the 1950s and the loss of innocence and the history of the world, starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. Will surely be incredible.

melancholiaMELANCHOLIA (May TBA) -- Here’s the IMDb summary for this one: “Two sisters find their relationship challenged as a nearby planet threatens to collide into the Earth.” Now consider that it is written & directed by Lars von Trier. Hear that? That’s the sound of your mind being fucked. Insanity, starring Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg, awaits.

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (June 3) -- I enjoyed the X-Men trilogy for the most part, but I would not consider myself to be a big X-Men fan, therefore I was not exactly clamoring for an X-Men prequel. Trailers looks good, though, and it seems to be well-cast (Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique FTW!), so I’ll keep an open mind.

BEAUTIFUL BOY (June 3) -- Michael Sheen and Maria Bello play parents whose lives are thrown for a loop when their son shoots up his school and kills himself. Interesting perspective on a tough subject.

Super8SUPER 8 (June 10) -- J.J. Abrams invokes old-school Spielberg, with the assistance of Spielberg, in this alien invasion yarn. I literally got chills when I saw the trailer because it reminded me so much of, say, E.T. Not even really sure what it is about, but it is easily one of the most anticipated movies of the summer.

TROLLHUNTER (June 10) -- I saw this at the Tribeca Film Festival and it immediately leapt to the top of my favorite movies of 2011 so far. It’s a Norwegian faux documentary about a man who hunts trolls for the government, and friends, IT IS AWESOME. Must be seen to be believed, but for now, read my review HERE.

GREEN LANTERN (June 17) -- Yet another superhero that I know absolutely nothing about, and I haven’t been particularly overwhelmed by the trailers, either. Ryan Reynolds stars in the titular role, and Blake Lively is in it, too, so at the very least, you know there will be some physically fit physiques on display.

MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS (June 17) -- Jim Carrey as a ruthless real estate developer whose icy heart is warmed when he inherits a bunch of penguins. A flock of penguins? A pride of penguins? I don’t know. But Jim Carrey rules.

cars-2CARS 2 (June 24) -- After 15+ years of touting Pixar’s virtues from the peak of the highest mountains, I gotta admit, I am kinda underwhelmed by the thought of this sequel to what I consider their “worst” film. Granted, an underwhelming Pixar film could still very easily be the best animated film of the year, but this is the very first time I’ve ever had even the slightest inkling of doubt. I feel weird!

BAD TEACHER (June 24) -- I like the idea of a black comedy starring Cameron Diaz as a lewd, foul-mouthed high school teacher. I also like that her co-stars are Jason Segel and Justin Timberlake. Trailer looks pretty funny; this could be the surprise R-rated comedy gem of the summer.

transformers-dark-of-moonTRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON (July 1) -- As much as I consider the TRANSFORMERS films to be two of my favorite guilty pleasures of the past few years, I admit that #2 was pretty bad overall. Michael Bay admits it, too, and you know what? I believe him. I believe that he has something to prove with #3 and I, for one, am F’ING PSYCHED to see what awesome badassery he has in store. AUTOBOTS, TRANSFORM AND ROLL OUT!

LARRY CROWNE (July 1) -- No idea what this is about, but for God’s sake, it stars Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, and it’s Tom Hanks’ first directorial effort since 1996’s THAT THING YOU DO, one of my favorite movies of all time. I’m in.

HORRIBLE BOSSES (July 8) -- Jason Bateman, Jason Sudekis and Charlie Day plot to kill their respective bosses, played by Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston. OFFICE SPACE 2K11? Perhaps!

hp7-2HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 (July 15) -- The eighth and final installment of one of the all-time great movie sagas is unquestionably my most anticipated movie of 2011, and quite possibly my most anticipated movie since STAR WARS: EPISODE III. I will be seeing this at midnight in IMAX 3D and it is going to fucking rule.

WINNIE THE POOH (July 15) -- The idea of Disney bringing back Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and the rest of the gang in an all-new hand-drawn adventure in the Hundred Acre Wood makes me ridiculously happy. The trailer looks like pure joy. So psyched for this.

anotherearthANOTHER EARTH (July 20) -- I am intrigued by this indie sci-fi flick in which a planet identical to Earth is discovered on the same night that a woman kills a family in a drunk driving accident. Sounds like a feel-good movie if I ever saw one!

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (July 22) -- Gotta wonder if the death of Osama bin Laden will catapult this comic book adaptation to the top of the summer heap? Play up the patriotism and the American public could eat it up like so many Freedom Fries. Seriously, though, this looks damn good.

FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS (July 22) -- Pff, I liked this movie, which stars Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake as would-be fuck-buddies, a lot better when it starred Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher and was called NO STRINGS ATTACHED! No, wait... I hated that movie... and this looks like shite, too.

cowboys-and-aliensCOWBOYS AND ALIENS (July 29) -- Jon Favreau directs Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford in a sci-fi western that, by all powers of the universe, should kick all unholy ass. Definitely looking forward to this one.

CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE (July 29) -- I automatically resent this movie because it’s probably part of what made Steve Carell leave THE OFFICE. But it has an amazing cast (Carell, Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei) and looks great, so I GUESS I’ll see it. Also, anyone else think that Kevin Bacon is only in there to help keep the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game fresh?

THE SMURFS (July 29) -- Simply horrific. Neil Patrick Harris, what are you thinking?!

THE FUTURE (July 29) -- Miranda July’s first film since 2005’s ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW, a tiny film that left a big impression on anyone who saw it, for better or worse.... ))<>(( This one, about a couple who adopts a stray cat with life-changing results, sounds weird, and probably is.

Rise of the planet of the ApesRISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (August 5) -- James Franco vs. an army of damn, dirty, super-intelligent apes portrayed by motion-capture master Andy Serkis! Didn’t think much of this until I saw the trailer and was kind of taken aback by the atmosphere. Now I’m down with the apes.

THE CHANGE-UP (August 5) -- It’s, like, FREAKY FRIDAY with Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds, from the writers of THE HANGOVER and the director of WEDDING CRASHERS. I think that’s all we need to know!

HIGHER GROUND (August 12) -- The subject matter sounds somewhat religious, which does not appeal to me, but two words guarantee that I will see this movie as soon as it opens: VERA FARMIGA, who stars and directs. Love her!

dont_be_afraid_of_the_darkDON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK (August 12) -- Saw the trailer for this recently and was creeped out by some of the visuals. That it’s co-written and produced by Guillermo del Toro just adds fuel to the notion that we may actually get a halfway decent late-summer horror flick!

30 MINUTES OR LESS (August 12) -- Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride and Aziz Ansari in an R-rated bank heist comedy? Say no more!

CONAN THE BARBARIAN (August 19) -- Really?

SPY KIDS 4: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD (August 19) -- Really??


a-good-old-fashioned-orgyA GOOD OLD FASHIONED ORGY (August 26) -- Jason Sudekis attempts to get all his thirty-something high school friends together for a big orgy as one last hurrah before they all go off and get married and have kids and stuff. Hmmm, that gives me an idea.... (KIDDING!) (Or am I...?) (Yes.)

OUR IDIOT BROTHER (August 26) -- Paul Rudd plays a long-haired, bearded, hapless stoner who ends up crashing with his three sisters (Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, and Elizabeth Banks... damn good genes in that family) and, like, hijinks ensue, I guess. I don’t rightly know... but this movie had me at Paul Rudd.

THE DEBT (August 31) -- Been seeing the trailer for this for a long time. Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and CIARAN HINDS portray elder versions of Mossad agents who hunted hidden Nazis in the ‘60s, and must later tie up some loose ends. Yes, folks, it’s a new addition in the ever-popular KICK-ASS JEWS sub-genre (see such films as MUNICH and DEFIANCE).

Aaaaand there we have it. Lots of good stuff... and some not-so-good stuff that I will undoubtedly see anyway. Should be an interesting summer at the movies, so be sure to mark your calendars and plan your vacations accordingly. The games begin this Friday!