I've heard the refrain over and over now, from all sorts of people.
"This is the worst summer ever."
Admittedly, the summer movie season just got started, but people are already starting to freak out, afraid that they're in for 16 weeks of "Prince Of Persia" and crummy "Shrek" sequels. Even when I try to name films they might like, I can tell they're starting to feel like the summer is a total loss.
So instead of dwelling on this year's disappointments so far, let's take a quick look at what we can expect from June, and why this month just might save 2010's summer for most audiences.
Pretty much any flavor of film you might want will be represented by the new releases hitting screens in the next 30 days. I've seen a good sampling of them so far (including the first great sequel of the year), and to me, it looks like you've got a lot of opportunity for genuine pleasure in theaters ahead of you.
There are movies that I'll admit give me pause when I see the ads for them. "Killers" and "Marmaduke" both look to make this coming weekend a difficult one for viewers, and I think "Grown-Ups" later in the month seems fairly dire. But I'm willing to bet there are Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl fans who are genuinely excited to see what looks to me to be a weak sauce retread of "True Lies" or "Mr. & Mrs. Smith." I'm equally willing to bet that kids are going to get suckered into dragging their parents along to see the dancing talking doggies for "Marmaduke". And Adam Sandler has long since proven himself to be critic-proof, no matter how terrible a film of his looks to be, and adding Chris Rock and Kevin James to the mix should only make the film even more of a powerhouse when it's released.
If those look like the low points of the month, that's a fairly small list, and most of the other major June releases at least seem promising. I just put up my review of "Get Him To The Greek," which I recommend, and I reviewed "Splice" when I saw it at this year's Sundance Film Festival. I'll actually have some video interviews for "Splice" up this week, and if you want to check it out a night early, then join me at the Egyptian Theater this Thursday night, where I'll be moderating a Q&A with writer/director Vincenzo Natali about the film.
'80s action-movie nostalgia continues with the release of Joe Carnahan's bigscreen update of "The A-Team," and based on the early footage we've seen, it looks ludicrous, big and absurd. If I have any hesitation, it's based on the way everyone looks like they're wearing Halloween costumes of the characters originally played by the actors on the TV show. Another remake that a studio is banking on this summer is Sony's updated "The Karate Kid," which garnered surprisingly strong buzz coming out of ShoWest this year. Evidently, the film works well on its own, and considering the target audience is made up of kids whose parents were in middle school when the original came out, comparisons may not be an issue.
Anyone worried about sequel fatigue kicking in on "Toy Story 3" should relax. I can't elaborate, but I can assure you that the film more than lives up to the legacy of the first two films, and that Pixar continues to seem more like a cabal of crazy sorcerers than a movie studio. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. is probably working with a team of crazy sorcerers to perform whatever sacrifices they have to make in order to guarantee that "Jonah Hex" is a hit. It's a big gamble for a studio to make a Western at all these days, but to throw in elements of the supernatural and to make a movie out of a barely-known comic book character seems like they're trying a whole bunch of things at once, and we'll see if that collision of things works out.
Another of this year's Sundance titles that I liked a lot was the new comedy from the Duplass Brothers, "Cyrus," which makes the second Jonah Hill title being released this June. I urge you to check it out, if only so that the Duplass Brothers get a big enough theatrical hit that they can keep making their idiosyncratic pictures in the future. I don't think "Cyrus" will speak to everyone, but I hope audiences give it a chance. Meanwhile, "Knight And Day" looks like the last great hope for Tom Cruise to convince everyone that the Great Big Crazy of a few years ago was just a temporary glitch, a hiccup in his decades-long reign as a major movie star. It's strange how much "Knight And Day" looks like "Killers" with an exponentially bigger budget, but I guess it's appropriate that the month starts with one and ends with the other, as some sort of comment on a lack of originality in Hollywood.
Oh... wait. Technically the month ends on June 30, with the release of "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse." We'll talk more about that one as the end of the month approaches.
If you're not seeing much on the big Hollywood list that excites you, there are a number of limited releases this month worth seeking out. "Winter's Bone" features an exceptional performance from Jennifer Lawrence, and if you don't know who she is yet, you will. Neil Jordan's story of a fisherman who falls in love with a mermaid, "Ondine," is on VOD and in theaters, while the creepy documentary "Cropsey" will give bad dreams to anyone who tracks it down. "The Nature of Existence" is a look at the world's religions from the director of "Trekkies," and "Whiz Kids" is exactly what it sounds like, a film about over-achieving youngsters. Other documentaries this month include the military documentary, "Restrepo," a companion to the recent book by Sebastian Junger, "8: The Mormon Proposition," which looks at a recent law passed in California and the political and religious powers behind it and "Joan Rivers: A Piece Of Work," one of the first in-depth looks at the entertainer and her work. Julie Davis returns after a long hiatus with her romantic-comedy-in-the-porn-industry "Finding Bliss," and we get our second film about the fashion icon in two years with "Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky." Alan Renais returns to arthouse screens with "Wild Grass," and Taylor Hackford and his real-life wife Helen Mirren head to Nevada for some legalized prostitution in "Love Ranch." The dazzling and difficult "Dogtooth" is finally hitting theaters, while Tilda Swinton toplines the sumptuous Italian movie "I Am Love," and Michael Winterbottom's controversial thriller "The Killer Inside Me" is out as well, and I'll have a review of that and an interview with Winterbottom before the film hits screens.
So when you look at it that way, June's got a lot to offer. I'll also be covering the Los Angeles Film Festival this month, so hopefully I'll have a fistful of reviews from the fest that will fill the month out even more, along with more editions of Film Nerd 2.0, The Motion/Captured Must-See Project, The Basics, Saturday Night At The Movies, and coverage of what's hitting home video.
Yeah... I think there's plenty of movie geek to keep me rolling in June. How about you?
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