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Off The Couch And Into The Theater: May 2011


I'm a little behind in presenting the box office hopefuls for the month of May, but honestly, you're not missing much. I just can't get myself excited about a lot of these, though many of them will hover at least slightly above the 50% "Do I Wanna See It?" percentage mark. This April I saw a lot of films thanks to the awesome Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Fest (I would like to pimp the MN-made documentaryAbsence/Presence, the MN short Good Morning Beautiful, and the Korean iPhone-filmed short Night Fishingwhile I'm at it), but only a couple actually released nationwide. Scream 4 was fun and wormy, but it felt so self-aware that its artifice leaked through more than ever, though it was certainly a step up from the forgettable third entry in the franchise. Source Code, similarly, was fun as hell, but it bordered on the saccharine a bit more than a psycho-sci-fi head trip should. That said, it was still the best mainstream film of the genre in quite a while. With the summer looming, I'm sure I'll see at least a few more than that this month, but first let's preview the releases (with the aforementioned percentages), starting with what's already in theaters as of this past Friday...

Now Playing: The advantage of doing this feature late is that we can get a better sense of the buzz through opening weekend reviews, and it seems like a sure bet that our first big superhero flick of the summer, Thor (61%), is totally okay. This makes sense, as Kenneth Branagh is never incapable as a director, even if comic book adaptations are out of his wheelhouse, but in the end, it's still a big dumb iteration on the big dumb blockbuster, so it can't be art or anything. Or can it? Next, Something Borrowed (14%) seems to be one of those particularly annoying generic romantic comedies because it looks like it just stuffs the cast full of actors that are good at making the I'm-smiling-like-a-friend-but-I-might-be-the-one face, such as Jim from The Office, or the oh-crap-I-might-have-just-made-the-biggest-mistake-of-my-life face, such as Ginnifer Goodwin from Big Loveor Kate Hudson. Jumping the Broom (14%), meanwhile is of the brand of generic African-American comedies, named after the African-originated ceremonial wedding tradition, and very specifically was not advertised to me, unlike the former more vanilla version. Cave of Forgotten Dreams (89%) is famed Grizzly Man and Fitzcarraldodirector Werner Herzog's latest documentary endeavor, and so will likely be pretentious, serene, and breathtaking. Some theaters are showing it in 3D, but not here in Minneapolis - sad face. Bill Cunningham New York (42%) was recommended by Blogulator reader Laura of LKc Style, so despite it being about fashion, her endorsement is enough to get me interested in this documentary about the quirky life of a dude who photographs every person wearing interesting clothing that he meet. And from the director of Wendy & Lucy, one of my faves of 2009, comes Meek's Cutoff (98%), also starring Michelle Williams, this time as a wandering settler left stranded in 1845 Oregon. I usually have a "no old clothes" movie policy, but I will definitely break it for this combination of Gerry and Oregon Trail.


May 13th: Judd Apatow makes his big return with Bridesmaids (96%), in which he tells the world that he can make bloated quasi-realist comedies with female ensembles too, you know. We'll see, Judd. We'll see. Priest(32%) features Paul Bettany in a 3D comic book adaptation about a scary minister who vows revenge something something. Ever since commercials for Legend and The Da Vinci Code, I've found Bettany too unsettling for mine eyes. One of the Best Foreign Language Film nominees from earlier this year, Incendies (21%) follows a pair of twins who journey into the Middle East to find out more about their roots and heritage. It looks gorgeously filmed in a dusty hue, but that's about it. Hesher (93%) stars everyone's favorite golden boy Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a hippie loser who gets into some kind of unspecified thrilling adventures with Natalie Portman. It's kinda retro-looking and I'm a sucker for that, lack of plot notwithstanding. Everything Must Go (99%) is a loose adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story, aka my favorite writer evah, so it's pretty much a given. Will Ferrell as the protagonist puts me off a bit, even with Stranger Than Fiction in his past, but I'm still willing to see what he does with the existential divorcee who puts everything on his lawn for sale and befriends a neighbor kid. An acclaimed Cannes selection, Le Quattro Volte (27%) lets the viewer live an old man's final days on top of a hill herding goats. It looks like Wes Anderson and Terrence Malick had a cinematography baby for this one, but it still feels too sparse, even for me, to get too excited.


May 20th: I just realize when I saw the trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (10%) that Jack Sparrow is apparently now the main character of the franchise. What happened to Orlando Bloom? Wait a second; I don't care. Meanwhile, the number one movie lady of my life, Jodie Foster, has this little devil of a film called The Beaver (100%) in which allegedly some anti-Semitic misogynist goes crazy and pretends to be a plush beaver puppet for 90 minutes. Oh, Jodie. How will you get yourself out of this pickle? By being beautiful, that's how. Fork Over Knives (8%) is 2011's obligatory vegan documentary, in which another douche with a camera goads us with a fantasy land where big business doesn't put animals and processed fats into our nation's food supply. Eyeroll to the max. Dumbstruck (0%) is a documentary about ventriloquism. The only people who will see it are those who watch both America's Got Talent and Werner Herzog docs. And lastly in the mandatory documentary trio of art-house-filler for the week is Circo (11%), which at least looks visually stunning, as it covers the past, present, and uncertain future of a Mexican circus troupe. But still, Jodie trumps all on the 20th, yo.


May 27th: On inevitable but unnecessary sequel weekend, The Hangover Part II (53%) is one of those movies I know I'll see, and likely pretty soon after its release date, but I already have no idea why. I disliked the first one and don't see the next to be any different, and yet I will walk mouth agape to the box office and say, "one for the funny haha please." What's wrong with me? Conversely, while I also am still not sure why I saw the first Kung Fu Panda, I think I'll be able to stay away from Kung Fu Panda 2 (15%), because I'm pretty sure I was catatonic during the first one. Speaking of catatonia, I think Woody Allen is just that, because Midnight in Paris (62%), his latest film, is just as one-note as any of his recent flicks that aren't Vicky Cristina Barcelona. However, I am still a Owen Wilson sucker, and the logline from IMDb, which states something about "the illusion that a life different from your own is better" slays me like old school Woody used to. Queen to Play (17%) features Kevin Kline in his first French-speaking role, which makes me feel completely neutral, but it's about chess, and damn if I haven't seen a chess flick since The Search for Bobby Fischer, so who knows - I see a Nerdflix sick day in my future. Skateland (49%) is the kind of movie that might benefit from a more well-known cast, as it is an ensemble piece about a 70s skating rink and the drama that intersects therein, but who knows, maybe the hot young unknowns will wow. But likely they're just pretty faces. The Double Hour (53%) is an Italian Venice Film Festival big winner mystery, which is a genre that does not get enough play without veering into thriller, horror, or crime. About a couple who begin to find out some dark truths about each other, twists will happen, and as long as they're not convoluted or trite, I'm at least interested. And The First Grader (74%) sounds a bit too sweet to be a true story, but basically it's Billy Madison but with a Kenyan senior citizen who is determined to go back and get the education he never received. Talk about fish out of water!

Per usual, thx to Switchblade Comb for giving the deets on the monthly indie-plex releases!

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