'In A World...,' 'Iron Man 3' and my summer at the movies
On Saturday, I saw my sixth and almost certainly final movie of the summer: "In A World...," the indie comedy written by, directed by, and starring Lake Bell, about an aspiring voice actress trying to break into the male-dominated world of movie trailer narration. It is, as that description would suggest, a small movie, but also a smart, funny, and at times very poignant one. It also fits into a rich tradition of actors whom the business doesn't quite know what to do with — Bell tends to be cast as the strange woman the hero abandons for his true love interest — deciding that the best way to show what they can do is to write a showcase for themselves. Sylvester Stallone did it with "Rocky," Jon Favreau with "Swingers" (which was also showcasing his buddy Vince), Matt Damon and Ben Affleck with "Good Will Hunting," and here Bell has written the best part anyone's ever given her. There are the usual glitches of any first-time feature director, but Bell demonstrates — and pardon the terrible pun, given the subject matter, but it's the best word that applies here — a real voice as both writer and director. It's a movie that's about something, in addition to having a lot of good jokes, a sweet romance, etc.
(Fienberg wrote a much longer review of the movie — which has a cast peppered with Bell's "Childrens Hospital" pals like Ken Marino, Rob Corddry, Nick Offerman and Michaela Watkins, plus Sy Ableman himself, Fred Melamed — when he saw it at Sundance. Like him, I'm glad she let Jason O'Mara play Irish for once; like most foreigners playing American, he's vastly more interesting when he's talking like himself.)
I bring up "In A World..." not only to praise it, but to open up a discussion about the summer movie season. I don't go to the movies that much these days, and six films — "In a World...," "The Spectacular Now," "The Way Way Back," "The Heat," "This Is The End" and "Iron Man 3" — feels like a high number for me post-kids. I didn't get to see everything I wanted to — "Star Trek Into Darkness," "Man of Steel," "Pacific Rim" and a few others will have to wait for home viewing options — but I wound up enjoying every movie I saw, both the big studio movies and the micro-budget indies.
"The Heat," for instance, could have just coasted on Melissa McCarthy doing slapstick, but it takes the time to develop a funny and three-dimensional relationship between her and Sandra Bullock, and it's the rare action comedy that's able to neatly balance the jokes, the shootouts and the pathos. "This Is The End" could have been a very expensive in-joke among the Apatow Family Players, but it has an actual story to tell about friendship, and the jokes work (and are impressively sick and twisted). "Iron Man 3" is, like most superhero sequels, too busy, but the Shane Black/Robert Downey Jr. reunion brought just enough wise-ass "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" flavor into the sequel to make me happy and erase memories of the second movie.
As for the other indies, the half of "The Way Way Back" that's blatantly aping "Meatballs" (with Sam Rockwell as Bill Murray and Liam James as Rudy) was a lot of fun, and the psychodrama back at the beach house worked well enough, with Steve Carell making a surprisingly plausible heel. And "The Spectacular Now"(*) not only features interesting supporting turns from TV favorite actors like Andre Royo (Bubbs as guidance counselor!), Bob Odenkirk (Saul Goodman, haberdasher!) and, especially, Kyle Chandler (mean-ass drunk Coach!), but told a great, non-formulaic teen love story and was a fantastic showcase for Miles Teller.
(*) Full disclosure: I worked at the college newspaper with co-screenwriter Scott Neustadter.
So I came away from my time at the cinema happy this summer. I know based on the mixed reaction to some of the bigger films (including a few I mentioned above that are on my to-do list) not everybody had as strong a batting average with their own viewing choices. So if we can talk about the films you saw this summer — the good, the bad, and the ugly — without major spoilers for those who haven't seen them yet (I feel like I already know much too much about how "Man of Steel" ends, for instance), now seems like a good day to try.
What did you see? What did you like? What did you wish you'd never bought a ticket for? And what came and went from theaters before you had a chance to see it?
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by. It has deep soul, a wicked sense of humor, and Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
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