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Off The Couch And Into The Theater: August 2010

The last month of summer is a strange one: there are still a few high profile films that many have been waiting for, but there are also an absurd amount of duds that the studios are trying to get in under the radar before they start worrying about Oscar bait. Same thing for the arthouses - gotta get in those random documentaries and milquetoast indies before they have to start cramming in the ones with real award potential. There's so much of this overstuffing going on that August 20th alone sees a total of ten releases in a single week. Oy vey! However, during July I saw 5.5 movies, a huge step up from my previously usual 1-2, so maybe I'll be able to withstand the windstorm of film that is coming upon us! As a quick recap: Winter's Bone is the year's best movie thus far, Best Worst Movie is the best documentary (but only if you've seen Troll 2, the actual best worst movie of all time), The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a semi-queasy but entertaining thriller, The Kids Are All Right is all right - the acting makes up for the writes-itself plot, Knight And Day was so mediocre that I could only laugh at Tom Cruise's face for the first half-hour or so, and Twilight: Eclipse was mostly talked through at the drive-in, so I have no fair opinion, other than that there were so many "talking seriously" scenes! Anyway, here are your August releases (with "Do I Wanna See It?" percentages in parentheses)...

Aug 6th: Our annual Will Ferrell comedy, The Other Guys (93%), has the most potential of a Ferrell movie in a long time, because while director Adam McKay was responsible for the putrid Stepbrothers, he also did Anchorman, so there's still hope, and Mark Wahlberg is very promising, as The Departed showed he can handle being a comedic cop. While I'm not totally sure how effective the 3D will be, Step Up 3D (48%) looks like it could actually be a fun gimmick movie, more so than its predecessors, simply because the pop 'n' lock will be up in my face, though probably not impressive enough to get me to put down $15. Skinny Luke Wilson returns with Middle Men (59%), about the dudes who started the internet porn industry, who apparently also helped popularize online consumerism in general; could be an insightful look at what happens to people when they stumble upon a newfound method of limitless capitalism, but it likely will just be a middling (ha!) comedy. Twelve (36%) sees troubled/derided filmmaker Joel Schumacher trying to make a serious film about Chace Crawford of Gossip Girl and 50 Cent (plus Kiefer Sutherland as the narrator!) being young men in the drug game dealing with murder and being framed for it, which is kind of yawntastic, but I've always been oddly curious with Schumacher, because he has made both great (St. Elmo's Fire, Flatliners) and terrible (The Number 23, Batman Forever) movies. Great Directors (60%) seems like a good simple idea for film geeks, as it's basically an analysis of the creative minds of ten notable living filmmakers, but the subjects of the documentary are largely men who haven't had a critical hit in a long while (Sayles, Frears, Loach), with the arguable exception of David Lynch, so I'm not sure how compelling it will be. Extra Man (39%) stars Kevin Kline, who I often find insufferable for inexplicable reasons, as a poor guy whose job is to accompany old ladies to fancy dinner parties. He moves in with Paul Dano and odd couple blah blah. I like Dano though and Lady Amy has a mega crush, so I would likely sit through it. The French film Farewell (51%) isn't another waify minimalist romance, which is good, but rather a spy film about U.S./Soviet relations during The Cold War, with some French intelligence agents being stuck in the middle. They wish their politics were full of intrigue like ours and Russia's!

Aug 13th: Julia Roberts is poised for a comeback with Eat Pray Love (22%), which though directed by Ryan Murphy of Nip/Tuck and Glee, looks oddly like a plain Jane of a movie, just inserting Roberts' usual strong but naive type into various landscapes to see if she can find herself through men (my guess is she chooses herself). Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (97%) proves yet again that Michael Cera's reign of geekdom has many more legs than anyone ever thought possible, especially when you add a goofy plot about ex-boyfriend supervillains directed by Edgar Wright of Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, based on an acclaimed set of graphic novels. The Expendables (83%) is like the short story I wrote in the 4th grade "When All The Cartoons Meet" except with action stars like Sly Stallone, Bruce Willis, Jet Li, Ahnold, and more; it will be kinda fun and kinda dumb, but will try too hard ultimately to be the be-all, end-all action flick. While Wildest Dream: The Conquest of Everest (10%) is yet another mountain climbing documentary, it has one interesting thing going for it - it tells side by side the two stories of men that ascended Everest (the latter of which found the former's remains). Everyone Else (8%) is our obligatory love affair film, this time focusing on a two couples who vacation together with sexy but conflictual quadrangle results. Todd Solondz (director of Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness) both creeps me out and fascinates me, so his new film Life During Wartime (91%), will lure me at least to Nerdflix if not to the movie theater, though a cast of both Michael K. Williams (Omar of The Wire) and Paul Reubens (Pee Wee!) dealing with love and loss definitely gets me excited. And Get Low (86%) brings us Bill Murray as a 1930s Tennessee hermit who plans his funeral before he dies. Gimmicky premise? Yes. Bill Murray in old clothes being mopey? I'm there.

Aug 20th: A magical English babysitter (where have I seen that before?) watches over some brats in Nanny McPhee Returns (1%), though I don't quite remember her ever being here in the first place. If My Bloody Valentine 3D was the first of the new wave of 3D, hopefully Piranha 3D (77%) will end it all by being the second and last good use of the technology, though once again it will still not be worth $15 to see holograms of killer fish jumping at yo' face. Vampires Suck (GROAN%) comes to us from the makers of Epic Movie and Disaster Movie, etc. and this time tackles the controversial subject of vampire movies, but also of course treats it as another opportunity to throw in every possible pop culture reference that wasn't used in the last movie, so expect a pop icon that dresses funny to be staked in the heart! Lottery Ticket (4%) stars Bow Wow, Ice Cube, and other rappers as neighbors who prey upon their fellow projects-dweller when he wins...well you can figure out the rest. Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman are best friends in The Switch (54%), which is yet another artificial insemination laff-fest, this time with the dude "switching" his sperm with the sperm donor's so he gets his BFF preggers. Good thing Jeff Goldblum plays Bateman's cohort, otherwise I'd try to stay away from this one. Mesrine: Killer Instinct (56%) is a French gangster movie chronicling that country's version of Al Capone, which like all gangster movies not by Scorsese, could be a surprise, but will likely be mediocre. Swedish film Patrik Age 1.5 (63%) has a cute concept that if successful will surely get remade in America: a gay couple attempt to adopt an 18-month-old, but due to a typo get a 15-year-old who is all sorts of trouble - will they be able to get along by the end of the movie?! I don't really care, but it has character-driven potential. Winnebago Man (89%) is a documentary about the man from the infamous YouTube clip, which could very well be a failed experiment in exploring the finer facets of a disturbed man that wowed millions of viral vid fanatics, but if the stars align, could be endlessly fascinating. In French and Russian, The Concert (13%), is an underdog story about a down-and-out symphony conductor who gathers up his crew of musicians thirty years later for an emotional reunion. And lastly in this claustrophobic week of releases, The Dry Land (49%) retells the story of a soldier returning from war, and while that's one of the most prevalent stories nowadays, the cast is mind-scratching: Wilder Valderrama of That 70s Show, Ethan Supplee of My Name Is Earl/Boy Meets World, American Ferrera of Ugly Betty, and Jason Ritter of Parenthood. Weird.

Aug 27th: T.I., Idris Elba (Stringer Bell of The Wire), and Paul Walker are planning (yawn) the perfect heist in Takers (9%), which has been shelved over and over again, so it's pretty safe to assume it's not going to "take" much at the box office. Going The Distance (21%) takes the rom-com formula and twists it just a bit to show the struggles of a long-distance relationship between Drew Barrymore and real life off/on again boy toy Justin Long, directed by documentarian Nanette Burstein of American Teen. I tend to hate Barrymore, but I appreciate (especially this month) when a trite genre is twisted in even the least bit of ways. The Last Exorcism (44%) does this as well, but really just combines two tired subgenres: it's a mockumentary-style horror flick, covering a priest's career-ending exorcism instead of a trip through the woods looking for a witch or retreating the Big Apple from a nebulous monster. Guy Pearce returns, hopefully magnetic as always, in Animal Kingdom (92%), as a detective who attempts to properly guide the life of a teenager who's embroiled in a life of organized crime, kinda like if Henry Hill's life in GoodFellas got interrupted by the feds in the first instead of final act. The complete the trifecta of Wire alums in August films, Dominic West (McNulty) suits up in armor for Centurion (6%), which is just 300 without the wacky camera angles, Gladiator without Russell Crowe's beard, and reminds me for the umpteenth time why Roman war movies just ain't m bag. And there's no savior at the end of this narrative, as Cairo Time (4%) finds Patricia Clarkson (who I normally can't resist) as a woman waiting for her husband in Cairo as she gets involved with another man. Why does every one of these posts end with me yelling "snoozefest!"?

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