Jonah Hex


Jonah Hex

You have to wonder if Josh Brolin didn't just take a blowtorch to his career.

(Warner Brothers) Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett, Michael Shannon, Tom Wopat, Aidan Quinn, Wes Bentley, John Gallagher Jr., Julia Jones, Luke James Fleischmann, Rio Hackford, Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Directed by Jimmy Hayward

We all have a reason to get up out of bed every morning. Be it love, career or cause, there is something that motivates us to keep going even when the going gets rough. For some that cause is vengeance.

Jonah Hex (Brolin) was an officer in the Confederate Army under the command of General Quentin Turnbull (Malkovich) but when the General ordered the burning of a hospital with innocent women and children inside it. Jonah balks at this and betrays Turnbull to the Union Army. As a result of this, Hex is forced to kill Jeb Turnbull (Morgan), the son of the General.

As you might guess, the General doesn’t cotton to this very well. He finds Jonah and ties him to a cross, then makes him watch as he burns Jonah’s wife and son to death. That General Turnbull, he sure has a thing for burning women and children alive. Just in case Jonah forgets who is responsible for the death of his family, General puts a branding iron on the side of Jonah’s face while the General’s Irish right hand man Burke (Fassbender) holds him down.

Jonah is left on the cross to die, but was rescued by members of the Crow nation whose medicine men were able to bring back Jonah to this side. Jonah came back hideously scarred but with the ability to converse with the dead. That comes in handy since the dead can see where those they trafficked with in life are.

Jonah becomes a bounty hunter but after killing a corrupt mayor and his sheriff in the lovely mining town (if you can really call it that) of Stunk Crick, he finds himself with a bounty on his own head. Naturally, he does what any self-respecting bounty hunter would do in a situation like that – go visit a prostitute with a heart of gold, namely the fetching Lilah (Fox) who carries a torch for Jonah. She also carries a derringer and a knife. She may have a heart of gold but she’s also practical.

Their rendezvous is interrupted by about a dozen Union soldiers (Jonah’s withering bon mot – “How many men are you seein’ today?”) who get Jonah’s co-operation by telling him three words; Quentin Turnbull’s alive.

You see, everybody had assumed that Turnbull had perished in a hotel fire but it turns out that he had faked his death. You’d think someone able to communicate with the dead would have better intel about who had passed on and who hadn’t. In any case, the U.S. Army had determined that Turnbull was assembling a superweapon designed by Eli Whitney, inventor of the Cotton Gin and was planning to use it against the United States on the occasion of its Centennial celebration. President Ulysses Grant (Quinn) thinks that Jonah Hex is the best bet at stopping that wacky General, who not only likes to burn women and children but sure can’t let go of a grudge. Can someone who has cheated death so often do so once again?

I really wanted to love this movie, and I had high hopes that I would. After all, Josh Brolin has been hot as of late, with terrific performances in No Country for Old Men, W. And Milk all increasing his bankability as an actor. This looked to create his genre profile and maybe put a franchise character under his belt.

Alas, it is not to be. While the script writers Neveldine and Taylor are some of the most innovative action film writers in the business (they wrote and directed both Crank films), they missed the mark here. Early on there’s a nifty animated sequence, and the dead guy interrogation sequences are pretty cool, but this feels slopped together. The heavy metal score gives it a kind of steampunk feel but the doomsday weapon, which features a kind of rotating cannon firing device that shoots big iron balls that are detonated by an orange glowing bocce ball, is nonsensical and not really impressive.

As kind of an aside, I think there’s a trend here that any movie that depicts Ulysses Grant as president turns into a major bomb – first there was The Legend of the Lone Ranger, then the misfire that was the remake of Wild, Wild West and now the box office receipts for this one were anemic. Screenwriters, take note.

Brolin does a credible enough job as Hex, mainly having to squint, snarl and drawl his lines in a Clint Eastwood-esque rasp. You get a sense of his pain and his violent nature, and while Neveldine and Taylor do try to give Hex a bit of backstory, Brolin’s narration gives us more insight into the character than we might have had otherwise.

Malkovich is a capable villain, although this is probably not his best bad guy role (that would be In the Line of Fire) and Fox is easy enough on the eyes in her Victorian boudoir fashions that she wears throughout.

There are lots of explosions – most of the budget seems to have gone to pyro. It’s a shame we didn’t see more story here. The movie clocks in at a mere 81 minutes, so there was room for more exposition but I get the impression that story was sacrificed for pacing here.

Jonah Hex comes from the realm of DC Comics and I find it somewhat surprising that the powers-that-be at DC have elected to greenlight a film about what has to be characterized as one of their minor characters over better-known characters such as Wonder Woman, the Flash and the Teen Titans, none of which have had a chance to shine on the big screen as of yet. Given the talent both in front of and behind the camera, I would have expected a better movie than the one we got here, which does little to establish DC Comics as a player in Hollywood the way Marvel Comics is. It’s too bad; the story of Jonah Hex is a compelling one and with a little more focus, this could have been a really good movie instead of a mediocre one.

REASONS TO GO: The movie isn’t as bad as you heard it is.

REASONS TO STAY: It’s still a mess. Story seems to have been sacrificed at the altar of pacing.

FAMILY VALUES: A good deal of violence, a little bit of bad language and a little bit of sexual innuendo. Okay for teens but probably not for much younger than that.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Along with veteran film composer Marco Beltrami, heavy metal band Mastodon composed the film’s score.

HOME OR THEATER: Chances are this will be gone from theaters by next weekend but quite frankly it’ll look a lot better on the big screen than the small.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

TOMORROW: Burma VJ

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New Releases for the Week of June 18, 2010


June 18, 2010

Woody and Buzz, together again at last.

TOY STORY 3

(Disney/Pixar) Starring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Michael Keaton, R. Lee Ermey. Directed by Lee Unkrich

If you think that there is a glut of computer animated features, you have Toy Story to blame. That was the very first all-computer animated feature. It established Pixar as a major player in Hollywood and spawned an equally successful sequel; the only one Pixar has made to date. Now, they’re going the three-quel route with Andy having grown up and gone to college. His mom donates the toys to a day care center, which turns out to be bad news as there is some nefarious goings on there. Still, Andy wants Woody back, which seems a little creepy for a college boy. Still, after nearly a decade’s absence, Buzz, Woody and the gang are back which is cause for celebration in itself.

See the trailer, featurettes, clips and promos here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D and IMAX 3D

Rating: G

Jonah Hex

(Warner Brothers) Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Michael Shannon. This DC comics adaptation pits a disfigured cowboy and bounty hunter out to gain revenge against the man who maimed him and killed his family. There are elements of the supernatural involved in this gritty western which is based on a character not very well known outside of comic book fandom; it’s surprising, given that better known characters like Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Arrow and Swamp Thing are all languishing in development hell that this got greenlit, and even more surprising that Warner Brothers has not promoted it very heavily. Still, the trailer looks very promising.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (For intense sequences of violence and action, disturbing images and sexual content)

Please Give

(Sony Classics) Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Amanda Peet, Rebecca Hall. A Manhattan couple purchases the apartment next door in order to eventually expand their own apartment. However, the elderly woman who resides there has to die first, which leads to a good deal of liberal guilt and as the couple begin to get involved with the lives of the elderly woman and her granddaughters, their own lives and ambitions begin the evolve. This is the latest film from director Nicole Holofcener who also directed the wonderful Friends With Money. It opened in limited release elsewhere in April.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for language, some sexual content and nudity)

Four-Warned: June 2010


Jonah Hex

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. JONAH HEX (1.1)
2. TOY STORY 3 (1.3)
3. KNIGHT AND DAY (1.6)
4. GROWN UPS (2.1)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)

1. WINTER’S BONE (1.0)
2. ONDINE (2.2)
3. COCO CHANEL & IGOR STRAVINSKY (2.4)
TIE. THE KILLER INSIDE ME (2.4)

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

JUNE 4, 2010

CROPSEY (Cinema Purgatorio) Genre: Documentary. A journalist delves into what had been an urban legend about a child murderer that turns out to be frighteningly close to the truth. Release Strategy: New York only. RATING: 2.9 Sounds fascinating, but definitely a New York story.
GET HIM TO THE GREEK (Universal) Genre: Comedy. A record label fluky tries to get a rock star from England to a concert at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.1 Aldous Snow was great in Forgetting Sarah Marshall but do I want to see a movie all about him?
KILLERS (Lionsgate) Genre: Action Comedy. A woman discovers that her new husband is actually a trained assassin. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 Sort of like Mr. and Mrs. Smith without the Mrs. Smith.
MARMADUKE (20th Century Fox) Genre: Family Comedy. A Great Dane discovers that the world is what you make of it, even if you’re just too big. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.8 The trailer for this actually talked me out of wanting to see this.
ONDINE (Magnolia) Genre: Romantic Fantasy. An Irish fisherman picks up what he believes to be a mermaid in his nets. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 A little Irish never hurt anybody.
SPLICE (Warner Brothers) Genre: Sci-Fi Horror. A pair of gene splicers fuse the DNA of humans with animals with horrific results. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.3 The new trailer reminded me of Species and not in a bad way.

JUNE 11, 2010

THE A-TEAM (20th Century Fox) Genre: Action. A Special Forces team wrongly accused breaks out of military prison and becomes do-gooders for hire. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 I’m wondering if this concept hasn’t been done to death by now.
COCO CHANEL AND IGOR STRAVINSKY (Sony Classics) Genre: Romantic Drama. A French fashion designer and Russian composer undertake a torrid love affair, Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Gorgeous music, wonderful fashions and a scandalous affair – what more could you want?
JOAN RIVERS – A PIECE OF WORK (IFC) Genre: Documentary. The legendary comedienne undergoes trials and tribulations as she fights to keep her place in the entertainment hierarchy. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 4.0 I simply am not a fan of Ms. Rivers, so a documentary on her holds no interest for me whatsoever.
THE KARATE KID (Columbia) Genre: Family Action. A young American boy living in China is taken under the wing of a handyman who teaches him Kung Fu – and about life. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.4 Was this a movie that really needed to be remade?
KINGS OF THE EVENING (Indican) Genre: Urban Drama. During the Great Depression, men compete in an underground contest for a title and five dollars. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.5 Don’t know enough about this movie to get excited about it.
MADMOISELLE CHAMBON (Lorber) Genre: Romance. An unlikely relationship blossoms between a shy elementary school teacher and a gruff contractor. Release Strategy: New York only. RATING: 2.4 Nobody does great romance movies like the French.
ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE UNDEAD (Indican) Genre: Horror Comedy. The star of an off-Broadway adaptation of Hamlet is really a vampire. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 Shakespeare, Vampires and the Holy Grail. Throw in Broadway and you’ve got a deal!
WINTER’S BONE (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Indie Drama. A bleak look at Appalachian meth cookers and a young woman’s fight to keep her land. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 The best movie I’ve seen this year.

JUNE 18, 2010

8: THE MORMON’S PROPOSITION (Red Flag) Genre: Documentary. An examination of how the Mormon Church has been intimately involved with anti-gay legislation, particularly California’s notorious Proposition 8. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 I’m sure that this will make for fascinating viewing, but are the Mormons the only religious organization that battled gay rights legislation?
CYRUS (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Indie Comedy. A single mom’s new boyfriend has to contend with her slacker adult son. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 John C. Reilly vs. Jonah Hill for the heart of Marisa Tomei? Sounds like a winner to me!
I AM LOVE (Magnolia) Genre: Indie Drama. A wealthy Milanese family is shaken to its corner when the wife of the patriarch has an affair with her son’s partner. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Yes it sounds a bit on the soap opera side but the trailer looked magnificent.
JONAH HEX (Warner Brothers) Genre: Supernatural Western. DC Comics adaptation about a gunslinger with infernal powers seeking revenge on the rancher who wronged him. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.1 Josh Brolin is inspired casting for the title character.
THE KILLER INSIDE ME (IFC) Genre: Film Noir. Based on pulp writer Jim Thompson’s novel, a sheriff involved in a love triangle finds his own homicidal tendencies surfacing. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Great trailer, but wondering if Casey Affleck is the right guy for Noir.
LET IT RAIN (IFC) Genre: French Drama. A housekeeper’s son decides to film a documentary on the lady of the house’s daughter, a feminist politician – leading to chaos. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 An interesting concept, but haven’t seen a lot of ink on this release yet.
TOY STORY 3 (Disney/Pixar) Genre: Animated Feature. When Andy goes off to college, Woody and the gang get donated to a day care center. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.3 It’s been a decade since the last one; is the magic still there?

JUNE 25, 2010

DOGTOOTH (Kino International) Genre: Drama. Three teenagers confined to a country estate by control freak parents are visited by a security guard who shakes the family to its core. Release Strategy: New York only. RATING: 3.3 I haven’t seen a whole lot of Greek cinema, so this might well be worth checking out.
GROWN UPS (Columbia) Genre: Comedy. A youth championship basketball team reunites as adults at a summer camp to celebrate the passing of their coach. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 An All-Star cast makes this a comedy worth looking into.
KNIGHT AND DAY (20th Century Fox) Genre: Action Comedy. A woman goes on a blind date with a man who turns out to be a spy who has rescuing the world on his mind. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 Tom Cruise needs a hit and this figures to be it.
RESTREPO (National Geographic) Genre: Documentary. Acclaimed journalists Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger spend a year with a U.S. platoon in one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 A powerful look at what it’s like to wage war in the 21st century.
SOUTH OF THE BORDER (Cinema Libre) Genre: Documentary. Filmmaker Oliver Stone does a documentary on controversial Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Chavez gets excoriated by the Republicans; this is a response from a man who clearly admires him.

WILD GRASS (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. A stolen wallet leads to obsession and romance. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Director Alain Resnais made some of the most innovative films of the French New Wave.

JUNE 30, 2010

LOVE RANCH (E1 Entertainment) Genre: Period Drama. A heavyweight prizefighter becomes part of a love triangle in one of the first legal brothels in Nevada. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 I wonder who cast Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci as a married couple?
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE (Summit) Genre: Vampire Romance. Bella is torn between her vampire love and her werewolf friend while an old enemy plots revenge. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 3.3 And the hysteria continues…

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES

Killers, Splice, The A-Team, The Karate Kid, Winter’s Bone, Jonah Hex, Toy Story 3, Grown Ups, Knight and Day

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.