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Off The Couch And Into The Theater: May 2009

Another thirty days have passed and once again I only saw one film from last month's rundown, and once again, it was another Apatow gang-related flick. Adventureland was mediocre, despite Dustin from Pajiba's praises, which may or may not have directly influenced my ability to follow through on my 99% prediction of seeing Observe & Report, which left most major theaters this past Thursday. I'm glad I left myself that one-percent margin. I did see two others in April, one from March's rundown (Sunshine Cleaning, also cloyingly average), and one that will appear in June's edition of this feature (Gigantic, aka the only part of my trip to Utah left undescribed as "majestic"). So far 2009 has left me with witnessing no truly great movies, only a couple good ones (Coraline, and I Love You Man). Surely that will all change when I go see Obsessed with Jerksica tonight. Stringer Bell is gonna get got by Nikki from Heroes.*

Now Playing: This past weekend saw the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine (42%), which despite universally terrible reviews and a massive Internet leak, still managed to rake in over 85 million golden bananas. I'm glad that online piracy can still guarantee a fat paycheck for true artistes like Hugh Jackface, but shuts down independent record stores everyday. And while the X-Men franchise is grasping its last breaths but still propelling forth prequel after prequel (Magneto is now a sure thing next May), the rom-com toolsack 3000 Matthew McConaughay keeps on trucking with output like Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (7%), despite promising turns like in last year's Tropic Thunder (don't care what you say, the movie was mostly great). Thank all that is holy for the indie theaters. Goodbye Solo (60%) doesn't sound particularly grand - in fact it sounds quite sentimental even for my tastes, but the story of a Senegalese family's move to North Carolina should at least be interesting and something new, even though the themes are probably trite and involve a lot of hearstring pulling. Is Anybody There? (62%) might go the same direction with its story of a retired magician befriending his son as they run an old-folks home together, but at least its stars are solid: Michael Caine and Bill Milner from Son of Rambow. And Sin Nombre (64%) is another twist on the immigrant story, this time from Honduras. What makes it the most promising of the bunch is that it's slanted toward a suspense/thriller lens and with rugged cinematography instead of overly glossy, giving it that entertainment edge over the saccharine family drama angle. Too bad it looks like all three of these films are going to be leaving the theaters sooner rather than later.

May 8th: Ugh, we just had our first one and I'm already sick of this one-blockbuster-per-weekend pattern of summer major releases. This upcoming Friday we have Star Trek (73%), whose hype is so ridiculous that it almost makes me want to avoid it altogether, not unlike the Watchmen fiasco of earlier this year. Unfortunately, I kinda got a thing for Zachary Quinto and am genuinely intrigued by J.J. Abrams unique mix of clever and craptastic that I can't help myself (especially if the reviews do turn out to be positive). The only other major release is a low-key Mos Def vehicle called Next Day Air (35%), which I'm just reading about for the first time now. An unintentional cocaine drop-off sets off the comedy, making it sound like Pineapple Express redux, but I have an inexplicable adoration for the central star, so who knows. On to the indies...I thought Anvil: The Story of Anvil (61%) was a Spinal Tap-wannabe mockumentary upon first glance, and many say the filmmakers make it seem like that, but the band is indeed real and fell into obscurity after inspiring some of the original metalheads like Slayer and Metallica, so the story might make for an interesting diversion. And when was the last time we had an actually good music doc? Two Culkin brothers get quirky in Lymelife (56%) with Alec Baldwin as their father, as an outbreak of Lyme disease gets their small-minded hometown all paranoid, and I can't help but get bad Running With Scissors vibes from this, but I do tend to see these kinds of blank-faced tweed jacket romps (see Gigantic), so I can't count it totally out. Lemon Tree (49%) explores the Israel-Palestine conflict through the eyes of GASP! two ordinary woman just trying to live ordinary lives. As one is ordered to have her lemon trees cut down, her neighbor signs on as lawyer to help her fight the government's unnecessary order in the midst of the fighting. Add this to the well-meaning-but-snoozefest pile.

May 15th: One week later the blockbuster-of-the-week formula hits it low point for May with Angels & Demons (70%). Why a percentage so high, you ask? Well once upon a time Qualler, Lady Amy, and myself thought that seeing The Da Vinci Code would be hilarious - a real laugh riot of bad acting, dialogue, and storytelling. We were correct in every estimation except the "laugh riot" part. And I don't learn from my mistakes, so there you have it. The Limits of Control (94%), however, is my second most wanted theater experience for the month, so I guess it all equals out in the end. Jim Jarmusch made my favorite movie of 2005 (Broken Flowers) and while this looks more along the lines of Dead Man (which I do not care for), I still feel intrigued by a mostly improvised spy thriller. Haha jazz filmmaking - oy, it could also be unwatchable. Management (18%) stars Steve Zahn and Jennifer Aniston, a match that sounds so generic I feel like it's already happened. The title isn't helping either. Oh and looks like it's just Zahn pestering Aniston until she falls in love with him. Wow never has making a movie sounded like more of a chore! Damn you Zahn, though, and your insufferable charm that makes this percentage double digits. Another high-profile documentary comes out at the indieplex, which is Tyson (84%), and while I initially wasn't interested by the self-explanatory subject matter, the trailer made it seem really two-sided, which is always nice to see in a doc, so much so that I'm looking forward to it. Tokyo Sonata (67%) doesn't exactly have the best premise in the world (a father loses his job but pretends to go to work everyday to keep it hidden from his family), but the dark comedy-meets-intensely introspective direction seems like it could become an unlikely gem in the summer of boisterious indies and face-punching wide releases.

May 22nd: It could go either way, folks. Terminator Salvation (93%) might be the trainwreck it was assumed to be when the idea was first forming in McG's brain cavity of neon orange crusties. But with Christian Bale and positive script reviews from the nerdiest of Hollywood's nerd factory, it just might be the "real" trilogy capper the series has always needed. Speaking of prospective trilogies, I never saw the original, so I can't imagine I'll be checking out Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (19%). I'm actually quite shocked I never saw the first one, since I am one of the few people who still finds Ben Stiller funny sometimes (I might have a mental disease). Then there's the obligatory seasonal spoof (you might have missed this past winter's Superhero Movie) by the Wayans Bros., Dance Flick (3%), which looks to have a remarkably big budget for something that usually just crapped into theaters without effort. Full confession: I might have also giggled at one of the trailer's jokes, hence the extra percentage boost from the usual spoof percentage of zero or one. And here's the number one anticipated movie of the month: The Brothers Bloom (99%). Written and directed by Rian Johnson, who did the gimmicky-yes-but-brilliantly-so Brick, and starring Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody (who won my respect with The Darjeeling Limited, believe it or not) as conmen who try to do just one last job. Wow that sounds terrible when written out, but so does the premise of Brick when typed out. Johnson has proven he's one of the few new singular voices in film nowadays - now he just has to seal the deal.

May 29th: The new Pixar smash-to-be Up (96%) rounds out the month of huge to-dos and has everyone biting their nails (but not really) because it's the first one to feature strictly average humans as the main characters. I really want to be a naysayer, because that's how I roll and I hated Cars for the exact opposite reason (was I the only kid who thought talking automobiles was far more unrealistic than talking animals?), but I dreamed as a little boy about silly things like tying enough balloons together to whisk me away to the clouds, so I'm on board for this. Something else I can't help but be optimistic about is Sam Raimi's return to horror, Drag Me to Hell (93%). I absolutely loathed the Spider-Man trilogy, but I've watched Evil Dead more than most horror movies, so I'm willing and ready to forgive him. Indie-wise, there's also the Oscar Best Foreign Language Film winner Departures (85%) about an out-of-work cellist who takes a job at a funeral home, which sounds just kooky enough to work (but I can't imagine it being outstanding either), Easy Virtue (26%), a period piece where Jessica Biel is the American that comes and fusses up the lives of some Englishmen and ladies (yawnfest and yet, Jerksica has Colin Firth Syndrome, so there's always a chance), and Steven Soderbergh's quietly released The Girlfriend Experience (61%), in which a Manhattan call girl is followed during the height of the 2008 presidential election. I had a bored kind of admiration for his similarly quiet Bubble from a few years back, so this one has a similar kind of potential, even though the man hasn't made a great film since Solaris. That's right. I said Solaris was great.

*Update: Just got back from Obsessed, this week's date night film. Number of times I laughed inappropriately: 2. Number of action scenes: 1. Number of times I felt suspense of any kind or any tinge of excitement: 0. Approximate number of times I rolled my eyes at an excess of transitional shots of the LA skyline: 321.

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  1. Blogger qualler | 9:12 AM |  

    I saw Brick twice and didn't care for it at all either time, although it might have been because I was annoyed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt's unkempt hair and sloppy dress while talking in film noir speak and begrudgingly recognize that it was a kind of cool little film. I'm major skeptical of Adrian Brody and Mark Rufflebutt, too, but The Bros Bloom looks like it's more up my alley than a brooding JG-L. And JG-L can totally be redeemed if (500) Days of Summer is half as good as the buzz indicates (it kinda sounds like it's more Annie Hall than Garden State, which is definitely better.)

    And Star Trek, I have somewhat of high hopes for you. Don't let me down, Lindelof and Abrams!

  2. Blogger Brigitte | 10:35 AM |  

    OMFG, there's a sequel to Night at the Museum??? how is that possible?

  3. Blogger Lady Amy | 10:52 AM |  

    Not only is there a sequel, there are billboards for it! I saw one in uptown above the bus station. That's a lot of cash to spend on a sequel.

  4. Blogger chris | 12:43 PM |  

    Gigantic made me realize that Zooey Deschanel just isn't a good actress. Also, the trailer for (500) Days did not make me think Annie Hall at all. The main scene showed them talking vapidly about The Smiths in an elevator. It was torturous and only thirty seconds long. But who knows - it can't be worse than Gigantic or Garden State, I suppose.

    Night at the Museum made $250 million. How ridiculous is that? But yeah, any movie that makes over $80mil seems to get a sequel nowadays.

    BRICK RULES! I love brooding!

  5. Blogger qualler | 12:45 PM |  

    Yeah yeah, trailers lie, though -- the actual buzz is much less conventional looking.

  6. Blogger qualler | 3:54 PM |  

    Oh yeah also dial me up for excited for T4 -- isn't it supposed to be the beginning of a new trilogy though instead of a "true" sequel to Terminator and T2?

  7. Blogger chris | 5:26 PM |  

    Ah godblogit, you're right. That sucks. I thought they were just ignoring what happened in T3 to finish it off right.

    YOU STILL NEED TO SEE THE FIRST TWO MOVIES. Uptown Theater May 15 and 22?

  8. Blogger qualler | 5:28 PM |  

    DOY! Or, if we can't make it to the theater, I believe they're replaying on Starz this month.

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