Despicable Me


Despicable Me

Gru doesn't quite get the concept of mooning his audience.

(Universal) Starring the voices of Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Julie Andrews, Russell Brand, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Mindy Kaling, Danny McBride, Dana Gaier, Elsie Fisher, Pierre Coffin. Directed by Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin

It’s tough being a world-class villain. Not only do your grand schemes of world domination need to be extravagantly profitable, you always have to fight off some wet-behind-the-ears supervillain who wants to earn a reputation at your expense.

Gru (Carell) is as despicable as they come. He will make a child a balloon animal only to pop it; he’ll use his freeze ray on patrons in front of him in the line at Starbucks, and he’ll steal the Times Square Jumbotron to watch football games on. Unfortunately, there’s a new kid in town, a kid called Vector (Segel) and he’s outdone Gru by stealing the Great Pyramid at Giza.

This heats up Gru’s competitive juices to the boiling point, so he feels a need to one-up his new competition and his answer is elegant in its simplicity – Gru plans to steal the moon. Aided by his vaguely Twinkie-like Minions and his curmudgeonly scientific aide-de-camp Dr. Nefario (Brand, sounding nothing like Aldous Snow), all he needs is a shrink ray and a rocket. The shrink ray he can get – it’s the rocket that’s a problem.

Like any enterprising businessman, Gru goes to the bank to get a loan from the bank, but he can’t exactly walk into the nearest Citibank with a business plan that involves stealing a celestial body. Luckily for Gru, there’s always the Bank of Evil (in one of the film’s cleverest jokes, the front of the bank is emblazoned with “Formerly Lehman Brothers”). Unfortunately, Mr. Perkins (Arnett), the humorless blob of a bank president, is not willing to part with the money. You see, most of Gru’s grand schemes have, while successful, not been terribly profitable. However, if Gru can show the bank the shrink ray, they’ll give him the cash.

Easier said than done. The shrink ray is being tested by a Southeast Asian weapons laboratory, but Gru being nefarious and direct, steals the device by sawing a hole in the roof, sending a minion to manually operate a giant claw to pick up the ray gun and jet away. Hunky dory until Vector shows up to cut a hole in his roof.

Gru needs to retrieve the shrink ray from his archnemesis but infiltrating his modern, heavily defended lair proves to be impossible. However, Gru hits upon the scheme of sending in three orphans – Margo (Cosgrove), Edith (Gaier) and Agnes (Fisher) – to infiltrate the lair under the guise of selling Vector some cookies (cookies are Vector’s Achilles heel). Gru adopts the young tykes, but finds them to be major distractions, highly irritating and somewhat annoying. Can he rein in his young accomplices to carry out his diabolical plot, or will he succumb to the charms of the little girls?

These days computer animated features are a dime a dozen and audiences are demanding more sophistication and better stories. While Pixar continually delivers, the other animated studios are less consistent. This is Universal’s first computer-animated feature and the first in their partnership with Illumination Entertainment (who also have Hop and Flanimals on deck for 2011). So how did they do?

Well, there’s definitely a learning curve. Some of the movie works, but other places not so much. In checking out other reviews, I was amazed that most critics found the last half hour to be the best part of the movie; quite frankly, I was more impressed with the first part, when Gru is acting very much like the missing member of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. As the movie progresses, Gru gets more father-like and softer, losing much of the edge that made him notable early on.

Still, Carell does a good job with the character, vaguely channeling the Soup Nazi. The evil Gru is interesting, but it’s the Minions who steal the show. Certain to become pop culture fixtures for the younger set (in the same way Oompa Loompas did a generation ago), they’re cute and speak in funny voices, with a Looney Tunes-like tendency to do spectacular harm to one another. Don’t be surprised if they show up on a Saturday morning cartoon show in the near future.

The movie gets disappointing towards the end. It’s standard animated feature fare of the heart of a bad guy being melted by adorable little girls. That’s the type of thing Disney was doing 70 years ago. By the time the movie ends, Gru is bestowing good night kisses on his Minions. I can’t see a reason to see a sequel to this; Gru’s too soft, too ordinary. The more despicable Gru is, the better the movie is.

REASONS TO GO: The minions are awesome and Carell makes Gru memorable. There are some moments that are laugh-out-loud funny.

REASONS TO STAY: Typical animated feature fare; definitely skewed towards a younger crowd.

FAMILY VALUES: The movie has a PG rating due to rude humor but in my book, it’s perfectly fine for children of all ages.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The soda cup that the Carnival Barker is drinking from is based on the ones used at Walt Disney World, which has no midway games.

HOME OR THEATER: This is one of those rare instances where a movie is actually enhanced by 3D; unless you have a big screen 3D television, I would suggest a trip to the multiplex.

FINAL RATING: 7/10

TOMORROW: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Advertisements

New Releases for the Week of July 9, 2010


July 9, 2010

The more minions, the merrier!

DESPICABLE ME

(Universal) Starring the voices of Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Danny McBride, Julie Andrews, Miranda Cosgrove. Directed by Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin

Deep beneath a quiet suburban neighborhood lies the unexpected – the vast underground lair of the world’s greatest supervillain, Gru. He and his vast army of minions plot dastardly deeds, some of which they actually pull off. His latest scheme – to steal the moon. However, before he can do that, he must ward off his chief rival for supervillainy, Vector and something even more insidious; three heart-stealing little girls. With vocal talents from members of Judd Apatow’s crew and SNL, this looks to be a big hit.

See the trailer, clips, featurettes and interviews here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG (for rude humor and mild action)

Cyrus

(Fox Searchlight) John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener. John has given up on romance after the dissolution of his marriage; that is, until he meets Molly. The chemistry is obvious and immediate between them, but for some reason she’s reluctant to bring him to her own home. One day he follows her home and meets the other man in her life – her son Cyrus, a 21-year-old musician who has no desire whatsoever to share her with anyone, particularly a boyfriend. Even more particularly, he doesn’t want to share her with John and thus a war of wits is undertaken that will leave only one man standing alongside Molly. Oh yes, it’s a comedy.

See the trailer, clips, featurettes and interviews here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for language and some sexual material)

I Am Love

(Magnolia) Tilda Swinton, Flavio Parenti, Gabrielle Ferzetti, Pippo Delbono. The Recchi family of Milan has long been masters of an industrial empire. The patriarch is married to Emma, a Russian émigré. Cracks in the façade of the family’s domination are beginning to show, however; Edo, the grandson, has no desire to inherit the family legacy and instead opens a restaurant with his friend Antonio. Further complicating matters is that Antonio and Emma fall in love and begin a torrid affair that threatens to bring the powerful family to its knees.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for sexuality and nudity)

Predators

(20th Century Fox) Adrian Brody, Alice Braga, Topher Grace, Laurence Fishburne. Producer Robert Rodriguez takes this sci-fi franchise to a whole new level as he takes some of the most vicious killers on Planet Earth and deposits them on an alien game preserve, there to be hunted down by the most vicious hunter in the universe – the predators. How will they survive and even if they do, how will they get back home?

See the trailer, featurettes and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for strong creature violence and gore, and pervasive language)

Four-Warned: July 2010


July 2010

Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.
The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.
Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief explanation
Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE


1. INCEPTION (1.0)
2. SALT (1.9)
3. DESPICABLE ME (2.1)
4. PREDATORS (2.2)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)


1. WINNEBAGO MAN (2.1)
2. THE WILD HUNT (2.4)
3. THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE (2.5)
TIE. THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT (2.5)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

JULY 2, 2010

THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE (Music Box) Genre: Swedish Thriller. A magazine publisher finds himself in a dangerous investigation of sex trafficking and abuse. Release Strategy: New York only. RATING: 2.5 The sequel to the highly regarded The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
GREAT DIRECTORS (Paladin) Genre: Documentary. Conversations with ten acclaimed and highly individualistic film directors from around the world. Release Strategy: New York (Opening in Los Angeles July 9). RATING: 3.5 Nice idea, but I’m not sure all of the directors on the list could be called “great”.
THE LAST AIRBENDER
(Paramount) Genre: Fantasy. A young boy with the ability to control the four elements must defend his people against an aggressive invasion by the Fire Nation. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 2.6 Director M. Night Shyamalan has been on a cold streak lately and I’m not sure this live action version of a Nickelodeon cartoon is the way to break it.

JULY 8, 2010

GREASE SING-A-LONG (Paramount) Genre: Musical. A classic musical gets re-released with restored prints and song lyrics. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 4.0 The only thing worse than Karaoke or American Idol would be going to a theater full of people singing along to Grease…pass.

JULY 9, 2010

DESPICABLE ME (Universal) Genre: Animated Feature. The world’s greatest criminal mastermind meets his match in three little girls who think he’s their dad. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 Universal is pushing this one hard, and given Steve Carell is voicing the mastermind and the trailers look good, this could be a massive hit.
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT
 (Focus) Genre: Comedy. The two teenaged kids of lesbian parents are determined to find their biological dad, who becomes a part of the family much to the horror of the moms. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 A terrific cast, and a nifty premise redefining what a family is in the 21st century.
PREDATORS
(20th Century Fox) Genre: Sci-Fi Action. A group of human predators are transported to an alien planet to be used as prey for the greatest predators in the universe. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 Does this franchise really need to be rebooted? Since its Robert (Sin City) Rodriguez, I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.
[REC] 2
(Magnet) Genre: Horror. An apartment building where a disease has rendered its residents into unthinking bestial cannibals, a government team investigates to find out a terrifying secret. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 The first one was the basis of the American horror film Quarantine; this one sounds even better.
WINNEBAGO MAN
(Kino International) Genre: Documentary. The story of a Winnebago salesman, whose commercial outtakes became an Internet sensation. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Jack Rebney is one of those people who is interesting enough to deserve his own documentary.

JULY 14, 2010

THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE (Disney) Genre: Fantasy. A sorcerer and his new apprentice are swept into an ancient war between good and evil. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 The jury’s still out on whether this is going to have blockbuster appeal.

JULY 16, 2010

INCEPTION (Warner Brothers) Genre: Science Fiction. A man who specializes in stealing secrets from the dreams of others looks to get out of the racket after one last big score. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.0 Christopher Nolan directing Leo di Caprio? I’d be in even if it was a remake of High School Musical!
KISSES
(Oscilloscope) Genre: Family Drama. A couple of runaways try to survive on the streets of Dublin. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.5 The trailer looks gritty and unsentimental; could be a big winner.
THE WILD HUNT
(Hannover House) Genre: Indie Drama. A young man follows his girlfriend into a medieval re-enactment game that quickly gets out of hand. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Although the geek quotient is surprisingly low considering the subject, the trailer looked pretty intriguing.

JULY 23, 2010

THE CONCERT (Weinstein) Genre: Foreign Comedy. A disgraced ex-orchestra conductor intercepts an invitation meant for his old orchestra and sets out to make a triumphant return to the music scene with an orchestra of his own. Release Strategy: New York/Los Angeles (expanding August 6). RATING: 2.9 A good but underrated cast might make this a sleeper on the indie scene.
COUNTDOWN TO ZERO (Magnolia) Genre: Documentary. With the fall of the Soviet Union, it seemed as if the nuclear threat had passed; this film indicates it hasn’t. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 A chilling look at nuclear weapons in the 21st century.
FAREWELL
(NeoClassics) Genre: Drama. A KGB agent in the 1980s passes secrets to the French ambassador that may well topple the Soviet Empire. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 I don’t know a whole lot about this movie but it sounds interesting.
LIFE DURING WARTIME
(IFC) Genre: Indie Ensemble Dramedy. The specter of war affects a family in unexpected ways. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.8 I’ve never been able to connect with director Todd Solondz but he is an indie icon.
RAMONA AND BEEZUS
(20th Century Fox) Genre: Family. An irrepressible moppet irritates her older sister, but they both must unite to save their family home. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.9 Based on a popular series of children’s books.
SALT
(Columbia) Genre: Action Thriller. A CIA agent is figured as a double agent by a Russian defector and now must discover who’s setting her up. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.9 This could be Angelina Jolie’s best action film since Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
VALHALLA RISING (IFC) Genre: Adventure. A mute warrior escapes captivity and joins a Viking crew who then gets massacred by a mysterious force. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 The trailer makes this look intensely gory and extremely exciting.

JULY 25, 2010

O APOSTOLO 3D (Artefacto) Genre: Animated Feature. A Spanish village labors under a 600-year-old curse. Release Strategy: Limited (3D). RATING: 3.3 iMDB says next to nothing about this, and their American distributor is unknown but Coming Soon lists it so here it is.

JULY 30, 2010


CATS AND DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE (Warner Brothers) Genre: Family. Age-old enemies must learn to work together against a common enemy to save their humans. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 3.5 The first movie was cute but was anybody really waiting to see the sequel after nine years?
CHARLIE ST. CLOUD (Universal) Genre: Drama. A young man with a bright future must re-adjust after a tragic accident changes everything. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.2 Even though Da Queen is not especially fond of Zac Efron, she loves tearjerkers so we’ll probably see it.
DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS (Paramount) Genre: Comedy. An ambitious man’s career hinges on finding the biggest loser to his boss’s dinner party. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.1 Having seen the trailer, the jury’s still out on this one.
THE DRY LAND (Freestyle Releasing) Genre: Indie Drama. A veteran of the Iraqi conflict returns home to West Texas and tries to adjust to civilian life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Could well be the Best Years of Our Lives of our generation.
THE EXTRA MAN (Magnolia) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A young man leaves a rarefied prep school environment for the eccentricities of the Big Apple. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Kevin Kline automatically elevates any movie he’s in by a lot.
GET LOW (Sony Classics) Genre: Dark Comedy. A reclusive hermit plans his own funeral, which he plans to celebrate while he’s still alive – an occasion he plans to reveal a long kept secret. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 The trailer looked amazing; cast includes Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek.
HUGH HEFNER: PLAYBOY, ACTIVIST AND REBEL (Phase 4) Genre: Documentary. The life and times of a man who didn’t just start the sexual revolution; he also tirelessly advocated for racial equality, social justice and human rights. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 Hef is one of my heroes and it’s about time he got recognized for his other contributions to American culture.
TWELVE (Hannover House) Genre: Gritty Urban Drama. A drug dealer on the decadent Upper East Side sees his life turned upside down when his cousin is arrested for murder. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 An impressive cast but the trailer held no magic for me.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
The Last Airbender, Despicable Me, Predators, Inception, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Salt, Charlie St. Cloud

2010 Summer Movie Preview


Ah summertime, when living is easy. A time for napping contentedly in the heat of the day, an ice cold glass of lemonade at your side. The days of baseball and beaches, backyard cookouts and pool parties. The pace of life slows down just a little in the heat of the summer, only to pick up on warm summer nights in amphitheaters, nightclubs and concert halls. It is the season of the theme park, when the kids are out on summer vacation and bored out of their minds. It is a time to look forward to.

The cool darkness of a multiplex beckons seductively in the summer heat and the studios make sure you show up in droves by releasing their biggest, baddest movies of the year. These are the blockbusters, the movies that you’ll be talking about all year long and the ones you’ll want to own on DVD or Blu-Ray when they come out at Christmastime.

In 2009, Hollywood set box office records and the summer season was a big reason for that. Movies like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Up, Star Trek and The Hangover all made the cash registers sing at theaters across the world and the studios raked it in like never before. When times get tough, the tough go to the movies…and so do the not-so-tough.

This year promises to be even better with a glut of spectacles that will fire up the imagination, taking us places like ancient Persia, the Old West, modern China and the human mind itself. We will renew acquaintances with Woody, Iron Man, Shrek and Edward Cullen, while making new friends as well. Directors Ridley Scott, M. Night Shyamalan and Christopher Nolan will be showing off their talent and imagination, while stars like Tom Cruise, Leonardo di Caprio, Russell Crowe and Julia Roberts will hope we love them just a little bit more.

Comic books will continue to be big as we see movies like Iron Man 2, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Jonah Hex while videogames will get their due with Prince of Persia: The Sand of Time. There will be remakes of television shows like The A-Team and movies like The Karate Kid. We’ll see legends like Robin Hood and kids shows like The Last Airbender. Comic strip icons like Marmaduke will wrestle for the box office dollar with new pop culture icons like Twilight: Eclipse.

Hollywood will try to make us laugh with Killers and make us cry with Letters to Juliet. They will thrill us with The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and appeal to the kid in us with Despicable Me. They will blow our minds with Inception, scare us silly with The Last Exorcism and lighten our wallets with Toy Story 3 (you don’t think you’re going to get away with not getting any Woody and Buzz merch this summer do you?) while transporting us to other worlds with Predators. As always, there will be sequels like Sex and the City 2 and buzz-laden indie films like Winter’s Bone and Get Low.

So if you like Jonah Hex, Get Him to the Greek with The Other Guys so they can have Dinner for Schmucks – try to stay light on the Salt. So whether or not you Eat Pray Love make sure you call Nanny McPhee 2 for the Babies because its Grown Ups only in the cinema and that will make things Just Wright.

MAY

Iron Man 2GRAND SLAM

IRON MAN 2

RELEASE DATE: May 7, 2010

STUDIO: Paramount

STARRING: Robert Downey Jr., Gwynneth Paltrow, Mickey Roarke, Don Cheadle, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Garry Shandling, Samuel L. Jackson.

STORY: Now that the world knows Iron Man is Tony Stark, everyone wants his armor but Tony is reluctant to cede control of it to anyone. With his faithful assistant Pepper Potts at his side, he will take on a rival industrialist and a Russian psychopath in this sequel to the 2008 smash.

PROSPECTS: Imprecise as they are, internet polls are saying this is the most-anticipated movie of the summer. Director Jon Favreau did a great job with Iron Man and the fans love him, so they should be flocking to this in droves.

OBSTACLES: There aren’t a lot. Comic fans are notoriously fickle, so Favreau will need to make this one at least as good as the first Iron Man. He should have a talk with Sam Raimi if he doesn’t believe me.

FACTOID: Terrence Howard was replaced as Colonel Jim “Rhodey” Rhodes by Don Cheadle due to a falling out between Howard and Marvel Studios.

HOME RUNS

SHREK FOREVER AFTER

RELEASE DATE: May 21, 2010

STUDIO: DreamWorks Animation

STARRING THE VOICES OF: Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Jon Hamm, Kathy Griffin, Kristin Schaal

STORY: Shrek meets It’s a Wonderful Life as he discovers what Far Far Away would be like if he had never existed.

PROSPECTS: The filmmakers have announced that this will be the last movie in the franchise, so that will get people into the theaters on its own. This is the most popular animated film franchise to date.

OBSTACLES: The public may be getting a bit tired of Shrek as those who were kids when the first one came out are well into their teens and early 20s now.

FACTOID: This will be the first Shrek movie to be released in 3D.

PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME

RELEASE DATE: May 28, 2010

STUDIO: Disney

STARRING: Jake Gyllenhaal, Sir Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton, Alfred Molina, Toby Kebbell, Reece Ritchie

STORY: Based on the 1993 videogame, a young prince of ancient Persia comes into possession of a dagger which when used can reverse time and finds himself allied with a mysterious princess against dark forces that wish to control the dagger and by doing so, rule the world.

PROSPECTS: Producer Jerry Bruckheimer has produced two tentpole franchises for Disney; Pirates of the Caribbean and National Treasure. Judging on the spectacular trailers, this will be his third.

OBSTACLES: Movies based on computer games have traditionally not fared well at the box office.

FACTOID: Rey-Phillip Santos was to have played the part Toby Kebbell plays in the movie, but he was injured in a motorcycle accident while on location and was unable to continue.

INSIDE THE PARK

BABIES

RELEASE DATE: May 7, 2010

STUDIO: Focus Films

STARRING: Ponijao, Bayar, Mari, Hattie

STORY: A documentary following the first year of life of four babies in four disparate places – San Francisco, Tokyo, Mongolia and Namibia.

PROSPECTS: The trailer, which has been playing in theaters for months, has been attracting a whole lot of “awwwws” from women everywhere it has been shown.  

OBSTACLES: There isn’t going to be much of a demand for this from those who aren’t interested in babies per se – that means you, teenaged boy.

FACTOID: There is some maternal nudity in this French-made documentary.

INFIELD SINGLES

MAY 7, 2010

MOTHER AND CHILD (Sony Classics) is a trio of tales that all have to do with the effects of adoption on the lives of three different women; one who gave her child away to adoption, another who was adopted as a child and a third considering adoption for herself. Bring plenty of Kleenex.

MAY 14, 2010

JUST WRIGHT (Fox Searchlight) stars Queen Latifah as a personal trainer who is falling for a pro basketball player she’s rehabilitating from a career-threatening injury, only to find that she has competition for his heart from her best friend, a beautiful, sexy playa who’s more interested in the lifestyle than the love. LETTERS TO JULIET (Summit) has a starry-eyed young American volunteer (Amanda Seyfried) to a group that answers letters from the lovelorn to Juliet (the Shakespearean one) getting involved with a 50-year-old love letter that may prove that true love knows no age. The trailer shows plenty of the absolutely intoxicating Italian countryside. ROBIN HOOD (Universal) reunites star Russell Crowe with director Ridley Scott (Gladiator, A Good Year) in a new re-telling of the legend of Robin of Locksley, the bandit who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Ironically, the very rich studios will be getting a whole lot of money from the much less financially stable general public for this one.

MAY 21, 2010

MACGRUBER (Rogue) is based on the Saturday Night Live spoof of MacGyver. Will Forte is the cool-as-lava agent who can defuse a bomb (as long as it only has three wires) or make one himself out of duct tape and Twinkies. He is called to face down his long-time nemesis who has smuggled nuclear weapons into the United States and intends to detonate them…unless MacGruber can save the day!

MAY 27, 2010

Carrie and her friends once again get into mischief and talk fashion, New York City and sex – and take their act on the road in the chick-est of chick flicks, SEX AND THE CITY 2 (New Line).

MAY 28, 2010

GEORGE A. ROMERO’S SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD (Magnet) is the latest in the horror master’s Living Dead series. Here, two families on a remote island clash over their philosophies on how to deal with the zombies, leading to a remarkably violent confrontation.

JUNE

Toy Story 3GRAND SLAM

TOY STORY 3

RELEASE DATE: June 18, 2009

STUDIO: Disney/Pixar

STARRING THE VOICES OF: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Whoopi Goldberg, Michael Keaton

STORY: When Andy goes off to college, his toys are donated to a child care center. Woody and Buzz find themselves trying to adjust to a new and unfamiliar situation.

PROSPECTS: The movie that started it all gets its third installment, and the Disney publicity machine will leave no stone unturned to make sure a whole new generation of kids gets caught up in Toy Story Mania.

OBSTACLES: Most of the kids who grew up with the Toy Story movies are less likely to see this more than once, if that. Disney will have to rely on attracting new viewers for this to be the massive hit they’re anticipating it will be.

FACTOID: Blake Clark is the new voice of Slinky Dog, replacing the late Jim Varney who passed away in 2009.

HOME RUNS

KNIGHT AND DAY

RELEASE DATE: June 25, 2010

STUDIO: 20th Century Fox

STARRING: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Viola Davis, Maggie Grace, Paul Dano, Olivier Martinez, Mark Blucas

STORY: A blind date turns from Mission: Impossible to The Spy Who Loved Me as an ordinary woman’s life is turned upside down by the spy she is hooked up with.

PROSPECTS: It’s something of a weak month as blockbusters go and this looks to be the best action film in the pack.

OBSTACLES: Cruise doesn’t have the box office cachet he once did, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t good for at least a fair number of butts in seats.

FACTOID: Cruise was looking for an espionage thriller that was unlike his Mission: Impossible films and passed on Salt and The Tourist because he felt they were too much like M:I. He said yes to this movie because of the comedic elements.

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE

RELEASE DATE: June 30, 2010

STUDIO: Summit

STARRING: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Bryce Dallas Howard, Dakota Fanning, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed

STORY: As graduation approaches, Bella Swan must choose between her love for vampire Edward Cullen and her friendship with werewolf Jacob Black, even as a rival vampire is plotting revenge and Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings.

PROSPECTS: Summit is wisely striking while the iron is hot, releasing the third film in the series seven months after the last one. Pre-teen girls and their moms have flocked to the first two movies in the series and there’s no reason to believe that they won’t show up in droves for this one.

OBSTACLES: I don’t see a whole lot of them. Backlash? Only among those who aren’t in the target audience so who cares? Burnout? Not likely.

FACTOID: Because Chris Weitz was too busy completing The Twilight Saga: New Moon, he was unable to direct Eclipse because of the fast turn-around that the studio wanted. David Slade was selected instead to become the third different director in the three-film series.

INSIDE THE PARK

JONAH HEX

RELEASE DATE: June 18, 2010

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Michael Shannon, Michael Fassbender, Aidan Quinn, Julia Jones, David Patrick Kelly

STORY: A scarred gunslinger who has one foot in our world and the other in the next is given an offer he can’t refuse from the U.S. government; all his warrants will be forgiven if he can take out a terrorist who is preparing to unleash hell. Jonah Hex, however, has already been there. This is based on a DC graphic novel.

PROSPECTS: Brolin has been on a roll with excellent work in No Country for Old Men, W. and Milk. Fox is a fanboy favorite and her presence alone might draw some folks into the theater.

OBSTACLES: Westerns haven’t fared well at the box office lately and while comic book films have, this isn’t one of DC’s biggest sellers. This is more of a cult favorite and those can blow hot and cold with fans. The buzz about this movie has been positive but not overwhelming.

FACTOID: Thomas Jane and Emile Hirsch were both considered for the title roll until Josh Brolin got the part.

INFIELD SINGLES

JUNE 4, 2010

GET HIM TO THE GREEK (Universal) has Russell Brand return to his role from Forgetting Sarah Marshall as Aldous Snow, rock legend that intern Jonah Hill is dispatched to fetch to do a show at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. Of course, with a rock star of Snow’s ilk, nothing is really simple. This is the latest comedy from producer Judd Apatow. KILLERS (Lionsgate) stars Katherine Heigl as a newlywed whose husband Ashton Kutcher has a secret – he’s an international hitman. Now that can raise some trust issues, no? MARMADUKE (20th Century Fox) is based on the beloved newspaper comic strip about a lovable Great Dane, with Owen Wilson voicing the title character in this live action flick with CGI elements. Anyone remember Garfield? SPLICE (Warner Brothers) is a dark science fiction thriller which has a couple of brilliant gene splicers creating an ultimate creature using the DNA of animals…and humans. Their new creation turns out to be something uncontrollable as well as deadly. Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley star.

JUNE 11, 2010

THE A-TEAM (20th Century Fox) is a remake of the popular ‘80s television show of the para-military group betrayed and imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit, escaping and becoming mercenaries for hire. Liam Neeson, who apparently is in every single movie coming out this year, takes on the George Peppard role. THE KARATE KID (Columbia) is a remake of the iconic ‘80s film with Jackie Chan assaying the Pat Morita role, Jaden Smith (whose dad Will’s Overbrook Films production shingle is one of the producers of the movie) taking over for Ralph Macchio and China subbing for L.A. COCO CHANEL AND IGOR STRAVINSKY (Sony Classics) is not a remake but rather a biopic in limited release of the legendary clothes designer and music composer’s torrid romance. Finally, WINTER’S BONE (Roadside Attractions) is a movie I saw at the Florida Film Festival that is marvelous, worth seeking out and also coming out in limited release.

JUNE 18, 2010

I AM LOVE (Magnolia) is a highly acclaimed Italian movie opening in limited release starring Tilda Swinton as the wife of a wealthy industrialist whose affair with her brother-in-law’s partner shakes the family to its core.

JUNE 25, 2010

WILD GRASS (Sony Classics) is the latest from legendary French director Alain Resnais, regarding a lost wallet and the romantic directions it leads both the man who finds it and the woman who lost it. It opens up in limited release only, I’m afraid. GROWN UPS (Columbia) is about the summer reunion of a championship basketball coach whose lives have taken wildly divergent paths and yes, it’s a comedy. It boasts an all-star cast of comic superstars including Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, Maya Rudolph, Rob Schneider, David Spade, Maria Bello and Salma Hayek.  

JULY

InceptionGRAND SLAM

INCEPTION

RELEASE DATE: July 16, 2010

STUDIO: Warner Brothers

STARRING: Leonardo di Caprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine

STORY: Very little detail about this movie has been released thus far but director Christopher Nolan describes it as a contemporary science fiction action movie taking place within the architecture of the mind.

PROSPECTS: Nolan’s last movie was the massive hit The Dark Knight and he has deliberately kept this movie as under wraps as possible in order to build up buzz and he has succeeded in doing that big time. The trailer for the movie looks like it has something to do with a corporate cover-up and the imagery is pretty wild.

OBSTACLES: Sometimes too much secrecy can actually hinder a film’s buzz particularly when it’s up against big summer blockbusters like what you see above.

FACTOID: This is Nolan’s first film to be based on entirely original material since 1998’s Following. All his movies since have been based on graphic novels, short stories or books.

HOME RUNS

DESPICABLE ME

RELEASE DATE: July 9, 2010

STUDIO: Universal

STARRING THE VOICES OF: Steve Carell, Russell Brand, Jason Segel, Julie Andrews, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Danny McBride, Miranda Cosgrove

STORY: Gru, the world’s most despicable criminal has another nefarious plan in mind; to steal the moon. Standing in between him and his evil plan are three orphans who see Gru   in a way nobody else does – as a potential father.

PROSPECTS: Everyone who’s seen the trailer has proclaimed this to be one of the funniest animated trailers ever. Universal is promoting the heck out of this.

OBSTACLES: This isn’t coming from an established property (like a children’s book or a graphic novel) and Universal is not used to promoting animated features.

FACTOID: Universal did a special Earth Day trailer for the movie.

THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE

RELEASE DATE: July 16, 2010

STUDIO: Disney

STARRING: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Monica Bellucci, Toby Kebbell, Alice Krige, Ethan Peck

STORY: A centuries-old wizard tries to defend Manhattan against his arch-nemesis but realizes that he needs help. He discovers Dave, an average guy with an unusual amount of potential. Together they must face down the forces of evil and, maybe, get Dave a date.

PROSPECTS: This is the team – Disney Studios, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Jon Turtletaub and star Cage – that made the successful National Treasure franchise. Early trailers look pretty spectacular.

OBSTACLES: The look reminds me a bit of The Shadow and while I liked that movie a lot, I was pretty much alone. Magical franchises that don’t have Harry Potter in them have not done well box office-wise.

FACTOID: This is loosely inspired by the Mickey Mouse short of the same name.

INSIDE THE PARK

CYRUS

RELEASE DATE: July 9, 2010

STUDIO: Fox Searchlight

STARRING: Jonah Hill, Catherine Keener, Marisa Tomei, John C. Reilly, Matt Wash, Katie Aselton, Tim Guinee

STORY: A young man who lives with his mother isn’t eager to share her with her new boyfriend, who in turn is willing to do anything to win the woman he loves. This battle of wits turns into all-out war.

PROSPECTS: An outstanding cast highlights this movie from the studio that had a major success with (500) Days of Summer at the same time.

OBSTACLES: Improvisational comedies can be very hit or miss.

FACTOID: The Duplass brothers, who wrote and directed this, have a respectable indie resume including Baghead and The Puffy Chair.

INFIELD SINGLES

JULY 2, 2010

THE LAST AIRBENDER (Paramount) is a live action version of the hit Nickelodeon animated series from director M. Night Shyamalan. Here the nations of Air, Water, Earth and Fire are at war with one another, have been for more than a century and there’s no rest in sight. The key to peace lies in the hands of Aang, the last Avatar with the power to manipulate all four elements. RESTREPO (National Geographic) is a documentary about a year spent with the Second Platoon in Afghanistan in one of the most strategically crucial valleys in the country as the soldiers attempt to push the Taliban back into the mountains. Although listed for wide release, this may come out in limited release when all is said and done.

JULY 7, 2010

PREDATORS (20th Century Fox) reboots the Predator franchise under the aegis of producer Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Spy Kids, El Mariachi) as elite warriors – and one disgraced physician – find themselves on an alien planet as prey of the Predators. However, these aren’t your daddy’s Predators. Adrien Brody and Laurence Fishburne star.

JULY 23, 2010

SALT (Columbia) is a spy thriller in which CIA operative Evelyn Salt, played by Angelina Jolie, is fingered by a Russian spy as a sleeper agent. Salt must martial her considerable skills to clear her name and discover why she is being framed, figuring out once and for all whether she is who she thinks she is. DINNER WITH SCHMUCKS (Paramount) stars Paul Rudd as an ambitious career builder who needs to capture the attention of his boss. The perfect opportunity presents itself at the annual Dinner for Extraordinary People, where the employee who brings the most eccentric character to the dinner wins a prize. Rudd’s choice is Steve Carell as a quirky, socially inept sort who has a thing about dressing mice up to imitate famous works of art. Who thinks up this stuff?! RAMONA AND BEEZUS (20th Century Fox) is based on the beloved series of children’s books by Beverly Cleary about an exasperated 10-year-old named Beezus and her 4-year-old sister Ramona who live on Klickitat Street.

JULY 30, 2010

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (Universal) is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick (who wrote the sources for Blade Runner and Total Recall, among others) and stars Matt Damon as a Senate candidate who must fight the forces of Fate (yes, with a capital “F”) in order to be with the woman he loves. BEASTLY (CBS) is a retelling of the “Beauty and the Beast” tale set in a contemporary high school milieu. Teen idols Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Hudgens star. CATS AND DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE (Warner Brothers) is a sequel to the 2001 film that chronicles the high-tech agents in the never-ending war between cats and dogs for control of the Earth. GET LOW (Sony Classics), based on a true story, is opening in limited release and is about a Tennessee hermit who decides to play his own funeral party – which he plans to attend while still alive. A superb cast includes Robert Duvall and Bill Murray.

AUGUST

Scott Pilgrim vs the WorldGRAND SLAM

SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD

RELEASE DATE: August 13, 2010

STUDIO: Universal

STARRING: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman

STORY: When rock and roll slacker Scott Pilgrim falls in love, at first things are pretty suh-weet. However, he discovers his latest flame – and true love if his dreams are to be believed – has seven evil ex-boyfriends that he must vanquish in order to claim her for his own, well, he does what any self-respecting 21st century guy would do – he kicks ass and takes names.

PROSPECTS: Based on an acclaimed graphic novel and directed by Edgar Wright (he of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), the movie has accumulated an intense buzz factor.

OBSTACLES: Having Michael Cera as your headlining actor is not a guarantee of big numbers; other than Superbad his movies have generated mediocre box office. The fact that Universal is slating this movie for August doesn’t show a whole lot of confidence in the movie’s prospects.

FACTOID: The original comic by Bryan Lee O’Malley was published as six black and white digest editions by Oni Press. The film Whiteout was also based on a comic book published by Oni Press.

HOME RUN

THE OTHER GUYS

RELEASE DATE: August 6, 2010

STUDIO: Columbia

STARRING: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes, Michael Keaton, Ray Stevenson, Steve Coogan

STORY: You know the cops that always solve the most difficult cases, survive even the most terrifying shootouts and always get that primo parking spot in front of the station? These aren’t those guys – they’re the other guys.

PROSPECTS: Director Adam McKay has Talladega Nights with Ferrell to his credit, and judging from the hysterical trailer, this is a return to form after the whole Step Brothers misstep.

OBSTACLES: Two words: Cop Out.

FACTOID: Paris Hilton has a role in the movie.

THE EXPENDABLES

RELEASE DATE: August 13, 2010

STUDIO: Lionsgate

STARRING: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Steve Austin, Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Randy Couture, Charisma Carpenter, Eric Roberts, Terry Crews

STORY: A group of mercenaries accept a job overthrowing a military dictatorship in a small South American country, only to discover they’ve been betrayed. They will have to survive enormous odds to…wait a minute, haven’t we already seen this movie?

PROSPECTS: Oh yes, gentle reader, you have indeed but this version has nearly every action hero known to man, including the Governator (you read that right). The trailer for this got louder cheers than the movie it was in front of.

OBSTACLES: Yes, there are a ton of action stars in here but there are also a bunch of second raters. Maybe too many stars?

FACTOID: This was Brittany Murphy’s final feature film. Asked to make cameos but unable to for a variety of reasons included Jean-Claude van Damme, Steven Seagal, Robert Knepper, Denis Leary and Danny Trejo.

INSIDE THE PARK

NANNY MCPHEE 2

RELEASE DATE: August 20, 2010

STUDIO: Universal

STARRING: Emma Thompson, Ralph Fiennes, Ewan McGregor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rhys Ifans, Maggie Smith, Asa Butterfield

STORY: In the sequel to the 2005 children’s movie, Thompson returns as the magical nanny who this time comes to the aid of a harried and exhausted mom whose running the family farm while her husband is off at war.

PROSPECTS: Beloved worldwide, the first movie was a big international hit, hence the all-star cast for the second go-round.

OBSTACLES: While the movie was popular overseas, it was only a mild hit here.

FACTOID: Writer/producer Thompson made a sly poke at Pink Floyd’s Animals by flying a pig-shaped battery balloon over Battersea Power Station, just as in the album cover.

INFIELD SINGLES

AUGUST 6, 2010

MIDDLE MEN (Paramount) has a straight arrow businessman develop the first online billing system for the adult entertainment industry, bringing him into a world of porn stars, Russian mobsters, federal agents and fast-talking con man, putting everything he’s built in jeopardy. STEP UP 3D (Touchstone) is the third in the street dancing series and brings the fad global, giving the rest of the world yet another reason to hate us.

AUGUST 13, 2010

EAT PRAY LOVE (Columbia) stars Julia Roberts as a discontented housewife who chucks everything – home, marriage, community standing – to find herself as she travels the world. It’s based on the real life story of Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote a book on her experiences that gives the movie its title.

AUGUST 20, 2010

THE SWITCH (Miramax) features Jennifer Anniston as a single woman who hears her biological clock ticking down to zero and decides to have a baby on her own, despite the objections of her neurotic best friend. Years later when the little tyke begins to show signs of having the same neuroses as the best friend, the awful truth begins to emerge. TAKERS (Screen Gems) is a heist caper that is being pulled by the best team in the business. Things begin to unravel when suspicions rise about the suave character who set up their latest job and with the police bearing down on them, they need to use all their skills to get away scot free, but can trust each other enough to rely on one another to do it? THE LOTTERY TICKET (Warner Brothers) is an urban comedy about the effects of a winning lottery ticket on an African-American neighborhood and specifically on those closest to the guy holding the winning ticket.

AUGUST 27, 2010

GOING THE DISTANCE (New Line) is a romantic comedy that explores that most 21st century of romances – the long distance romance. When the couple involved is Drew Barrymore and Justin Long, you know the cuteness factor is ratcheted up through the roof, even if they are on opposite coasts. THE LAST EXORCISM (Lionsgate) has a fraudulent exorcist bringing a film crew along to document his last “exorcism”. When the possession turns out to be legitimate, the priest – who never believed before – finds that he must find his faith or an innocent child may suffer horrific consequences, and he himself may find himself sharing them. PIRANHA 3D (Dimension) is that most dreaded of horror films, the “re-imagining.” This time, the victim is a cult classic from John Sayles, here unspooled as an outbreak of man-eating prehistoric fish that are unleashed on a resort town full of spring break partiers. Bon appétit.  

So that’s our summer and it’s shaping up to be a pretty good one. As always, be aware that release dates are subject to change, particularly the farther out you go so be sure and check your local listings before going out to the multiplex. For those who think this is it for the blockbusters for 2010, take cheer; the studios are holding several in reserve for the fall which you can check out in our Fall Preview coming out in August. Until then, grab yourself some popcorn and an ice cold soda, settle into your seat and enjoy.