Archive for the ‘Traffic Control’ Category

 
So here we are, all together again for another round of fun and adventure.  Catch up on “Traffic Control” from January, February, March, April, May, and June.
 
This column features my individualized rundown of each month’s theatrical releases, with a quick synopsis and a quicker explanation of why I color-coded each title the way I did. My color-coding is explained as follows:
 
PURPLE – Can’t wait.
GREEN – Worth a look, or better.
YELLOW – Use caution.
RED – Bound to be disappointing, or worse.
BROWN – Crap. Guaranteed.
 
Please note: Release dates are subject to change. (Especially towards the second half of the year.)
 
Please also note: Occasionally my opinions change. I’m not too proud that I can’t admit to be wrong sometimes. In fact, when it’s a negative opinion, I welcome having my mind changed. (However, if your name is Justin Timberlake or Kevin James, your work is officially cut out for you there.)
 
As always, I encourage everyone reading to be an independent thinker. Don’t take my word for it, or anyone else’s. Don’t let anyone discourage you from liking what you like (that’s generally speaking – some things genuinely don’t deserve to be liked.)
 
What you get from me, as ever, is just one opinion, but from a guy who happens to have seen more movies than most anybody, who has studied this stuff and thought about it more often than is healthy, and who has just enough first-hand experience to have seen something about how it works, and therefore has a bit more informed of an opinion than many elsewhere on the internet.
 
So let’s go, July.
 
 
JULY
 
 
 
 
 
IMDB SaysAgainst the backdrop of the space race between the U.S.S.R. and the USA, the alliance between Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and Optimus Prime (Robert Z’Dar) is put to the test against a common enemy: Shockwave (Oprah Winfrey).
 
In My Opinion: I’ve said it all here and here. I was an early advocate of Michael Bay’s talent (loved The Rock and even enjoyed Armageddon a bunch), but then he made Pearl Harbor and I grew up. It’s not enough anymore for me to defend the guy because he shoots pretty explosions. That’s all he’s got, apparently. Without interesting characters or any semblance of storytelling craft, or at least some inspired weirdness, I’m looking for the door. There’s also too much racist stereotyping and homophobia in this guy’s movies for me to be willing to stand by them.  Doesn’t help that, just like M. Night Shyamalan, Bay is letting his movies grow longer while the level of coherence continues to decrease. I want to be a fan, because there’s some real talent there, but there’s just no way to argue that the movies are worthwhile.
 
Word so far is that this third Transformers movie is “the best one of all three.” When anyone says that, this is what I hear: “Great news! Today was the first time in three days I didn’t find blood in my stool!”  
Still sounds like crap to me. 
 
 
 
Larry Crowne (July 1)
 
IMDB SaysUnclear of his next steps after losing his job at a big-box retailer, Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks) enrolls at his local college, where he finds a niche among the school’s community of outcasts, and a connection with a teacher (Julia Roberts) who has lost her passion for life.
 
In My Opinion: I love Tom Hanks as much as anybody else does, but I won’t be the first or the last to note that Larry Crowne (not Harry Brown) looks a whole lot like the 1990s Hollywood time-machine version of NBC’s Community. And in that case, Gillian Jacobs + Alison Brie > Julia Roberts. 
 
 
 
Monte Carlo  (July 1)
 
IMDB SaysThree young women (Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, and Katie Cassidy) vacationing in Paris find themselves whisked away to Monte Carlo after one of the girls is mistaken for a British heiress.
 
In My Opinion: It’s probably more than enough that I need to know that this movie exists. I shouldn’t be forced to have an opinion on it.
 
 
 
Terri (July 1)
 
IMDB SaysA comedy centered on the relationship between oversized teen misfit Terri (Jacob Wysocki) and his well-meaning vice principal (John C. Reilly) who takes an interest in him.
 
In My Opinion: That description constitutes as much as I know about this unfortunately-titled movie, but the involvement of John C. Reilly makes it worth a look, even if that’s not until this hits Netflix.
 
 
 
Zookeeper  (July 8 )
 
IMDB SaysA group of zoo animals decide to break their code of silence in order to help their lovable zookeeper (Kevin James) find love — without opting to leave his current job for something more illustrious.
 
In My Opinion: Is “lovable” part of the comedy premise? There are a lot of great talents with billing on this poster, but Kevin James is not one of them. Or if he is any kind of talent, he’s sure been hiding his light for a long time, under a steady string of flat, simplistic, and thoroughly uninspired movies. There’s every chance that Kevin James is a decent, amiable guy in real life, and he certainly has very powerful friends, but please look at this resume and then try to make any logical argument that any of these movies were worth leaving the house for.
 
 
 
Horrible Bosses  (July 8 )
 
IMDB SaysThree friends (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis) make a pact to rid the world of their respective bosses (Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, and Colin Farrell).
 
In My Opinion: Yeah, okay.  The movie that wants to convince us that Jennifer Aniston sexual harassment would be unpleasant.  Could go any which way, this thing.  Director Seth Gordon made the terrific The King Of Kong and then he made the not-terrific Four Christmases. (He’s also worked on a bunch of very good TV shows, so let’s stay positive.) This is also kind of a mega-cast, with Jason Bateman being a particular actor who’s always fun to watch. He makes movies worthwhile when they might not have entirely been, otherwise – see Smokin’ Aces, State Of Play, Extract and The Switch for some evidence. A good comedy is always welcome; here’s hoping this is one.
 
 
 
Project Nim (July 8 )
 
IMDB SaysA documentary (from Man On Wire director James Marsh) on a 1970s experiment that aimed to show that a chimpanzee, if raised and nurtured like a human child, could learn to communicate with language.
 
In My Opinion: I’ve been hearing and reading great things about this movie for a while now, and I’m really curious to see it. This is like the real-world Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. And you guys know I’m looking forward to that.
 
 
 
 
IMDB SaysA documentary (from character actor Michael Rapaport) on legendary hip-hop troupe A Tribe Called Quest, from their formation in the mid-1980s, through their 1990s heyday, to their troubled reunion and unclear future.
 
In My Opinion: Yes please.
 
 
 
 
The Ward (July 8 )
 
IMDB Says:  In the isolation ward at the North Bend Psychiatric Hospital, a troubled new arrival (Amber Heard) is spooked by a ghostly presence that no one else will admit to seeing. As her peers begin to disappear, she takes it upon herself to uncover the ward’s dark secret.
 
In My OpinionThis is the first movie in ten years from John Carpenter, one of my favorite film directors of all time. And my feelings about Amber Heard are best expressed here. My greatest fear, as I wait to get a look at this horror film, is that I won’t love it.
 
 
 
Ironclad (July 8 ) (Are these all really coming out on the same weekend?)
 
IMDB Says:  In 13th-century England, a small group of Knights Templar fight to defend Rochester Castle against the tyrannical King John (Paul Giamatti).
 
In My Opinion: Haven’t heard much advance good or bad, but this movie stars Paul Giamatti, Brian Cox, Charles Dance, and Kate Mara, and I will watch a movie with those people any day of the week.
 
 
 
 
IMDB Says:  The end begins as Harry, Ron, and Hermione return to Hogwarts to find and destroy the final horcruxes. But when Voldemort finds out about their mission, the battle we’ve all known has been coming — Harry vs. Voldemort — looms large on the horizon. And who will triumph?
 
In My Opinion: Blue? Yup. No color coding here.  I have no opinion on anything Harry Potter. I have no idea what any of that plot stuff I just copied and pasted means, and I don’t care, but I don’t mind if you do. I have no hate for Harry Potter and I have no love for Harry Potter. There is only true, pure, beautiful neutrality.
 
 
 
 
Winnie the Pooh  (July 15)
 
IMDB Says:  While out looking for some honey, Winnie the Pooh is pulled into a quest to save Christopher Robin from an imaginary culprit.
 
In My Opinion: Could be nice. 
 
What? Do you really expect me to say anything sarcastic about Winnie The Pooh? I do think it’s a little strange that they’re opening it against the Harry Potter juggernaut, but then again I know which one I’m going to be dragged by my beloved small people to see. Our dollars go towards Pooh.
 
 
 
 
IMDB Says:  After being deemed unfit for military service during WWII, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America, the Sentinel of Liberty — a superhero dedicated to defending America’s ideals. His first mission: to combat the Nazi propaganda effort headed by Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), also known as the Red Skull.
 
In My Opinion: I’m in such a weird zone with this movie. I’m one of the few who really liked director Joe Johnston’s last movie. I think he’s a fine choice to make a Captain America movie. This was the character I loved most, after Spider-Man, in my Marvel Zombie days. This movie seems to be taking the approach I always wanted to see with a Captain America movie, which is to go in the high-energy, globe-spanning Indiana Jones direction. The villain is a Nazi skeleton. The love interest is just lovely. There’s so much promise, yet my heart contains few butterflies. I feel like I do when I’m looking forward to a date with a girl who looks and sounds like just my type, yet I have reservations I can’t quite place. Maybe I’m just too demanding. Maybe I’m just like my father – too bold. Maybe you’re just like my mother – she’s never satisfied. Why do we scream at each other? 
 
 
 
 
IMDB Says:  While trying to avoid the clichés of Hollywood romantic comedies, Dylan (Justin Timberlake) and Jamie (Mila Kunis) soon discover however that adding the act of sex to their friendship does lead to complications.
 
In My Opinion: Here’s what I don’t get. So Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis made Black Swan, and then they each ran off to make a sex comedy with a douchebag. Natalie did No Strings Attached, and now here’s Mila with hers. What did Black Swan DO to those girls?!?
 
 
 
Cowboys & Aliens  (July 29)
 
IMDB Says:  In Silver City, Arizona, Apache Indians and Western settlers must lay their differences aside when an alien spaceship crash lands in their city.
 
In My Opinion: Doesn’t feel right. It’s just too transparently high-concept. The cast is pretty cool and I’m a huge fan of anything Western, but you know what? I would kind of like to see another movie like Made from Jon Favreau. Made was his directorial debut and it was a smart, snappy comedy of manners. Cowboys & Aliens is Favreau’s fifth movie in a row primarily pitched to adolescents. They’re all fine movies, but this particular director has an entire other skill set that is going entirely untapped. All of that said: It sure would be nice to see Harrison Ford in a fun movie again.
 
 
 
The Smurfs (July 29)
 
IMDB Says:  The little blue creatures of Smurf village move to New York City after the evil wizard Gargamel chases them out of their mushroom-like homes in the forest.
 
In My Opinion: These feature-length versions of already-crappy nostalgia properties (Garfield, Scooby Doo, Alvin & The Chipmunks, Yogi Bear) are exhausting on a cellular level. They all use the same formula: pop songs of the moment, TV actors of the moment, talented actors who are just picking up the paycheck, and inappropriate bathroom humor. So generic, so loud, so unnecessary. Why not skip the movie and just have the Happy Meal liquefied and injected directly into your veins? Travelling all the way to a movie theater seems like too much damn work.
 
 
 
Attack the Block (July 29)
 
IMDB Says:  Moses (John Boyega) and the rest of his teen gang look to protect Wyndham Tower — their housing estate — from an alien invasion.
 
In My Opinion: You might not be able to tell just from that one-line description, but this is by far the most awesome movie I’ve seen so far this year. I’ve already written about it once and I’ll do it again. I’ll keep doing it until as many of you have seen Attack The Block as have inevitably seen Transformers 3, because where so many would-be entertaining movies this summer have failed and will fail at the task, Attack The Block is every single thing that a summer movie should be. It’s a stone classic, ready-fitted for the time capsule. Believe it.
 
 
 
 
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So here we are, all together again for another round of fun and adventure.  Catch up on “Traffic Control” from January, February, March, April, and May.

As always, this column features my individualized rundown of each month’s theatrical releases, with a quick synopsis and a quicker explanation of why I color-coded each title the way I did. My color-coding is explained as follows:

PURPLE – Can’t wait.

GREEN – Worth a look, or better.

YELLOW – Use caution.

RED – Bound to be disappointing, or worse.

BROWN – Crap. Guaranteed.

Please note: Release dates are subject to change. (Especially towards the second half of the year.)

Please also note: Occasionally my opinions change. I’m not too proud that I can’t admit to be wrong sometimes. In fact, when it’s a negative opinion, I welcome having my mind changed. (However, if your name is Justin Timberlake or Kevin James, your work is officially cut out for you there.)

As always, I encourage everyone reading to be an independent thinker. Don’t take my word for it, or anyone else’s. Don’t let anyone discourage you from liking what you like (that’s generally speaking – some things genuinely don’t deserve to be liked.)

What you get from me, as ever, is just one opinion, but from a guy who happens to have seen more movies than most anybody, who has studied this stuff and thought about it more often than is healthy, and who has just enough first-hand experience to have seen something about how it works, and therefore has a bit more informed of an opinion than many elsewhere on the internet.

So let’s go, June.

JUNE

_____________________________________________

 

X-Men: First Class (June 3)

I’ve heard a few good things about this movie, but while I’ll have to believe it when/if I see it, I won’t go on too long about my reservations.  Hopefully, those will be proven wrong, and hopefully having these reservations will have been a waste of time that I was right to refrain from voicing.  This little prelude is already too long.  Anyway, this new X-Men movie was directed by Matthew Vaughn, who I had been rooting for as a director until I saw Kick-Ass, which was my vote for worst movie of 2010.  He’s still a step up from Bryan Singer (blasphemy?) and Brett Ratner, and at least he had the good sense to cast Michael Fassbender, a movie star any day now, and James McAvoy, who I can’t seem to dislike no matter how much girls I know swoon over him, in the lead roles of Magneto and Professor X.  The real question is, did 20th Century Fox realize how badly they dropped the ball with X-Men Origins: Wolverine (my worst movie of 2009), or did they take its huge box office as a message that these movies don’t have to be good to be successful?  And even if the studio allowed Vaughn to make a good movie, did he?

 

Beginners (June 3)

IMDB saysAt the age of 75, Hal (Christopher Plummer) decides to tell his son, Oliver (Ewan McGregor) that he (a) has terminal cancer and (b) is a gay man with a younger lover.

In my opinion: This is a movie to be positive and curious about.  Christopher Plummer is one of those actors who is widely revered, yet not quite revered enough.  I believe he was Academy-Award-nominated in 2010, and he won a small army of awards in 1999 for his role in The Insider, but he’s not a household name the way that contemporaries such as Anthony Hopkins and Al Pacino are.  He works with visionary directors such as Terrence Malick (The New World) and Terry Gilliam (The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus), but he still has to turn up in forgettable garbage like last month’s Priest.  You take Christopher Plummer and add Ewan McGregor, a great actor who doesn’t seem to work quite enough quite prominently enough (though he was fantastic in the under-seen I Love You Phillip Morris), and you don’t even need a plot summary to be intrigued.

 

Submarine (June 3)

IMDB says15-year-old Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) has two objectives: To lose his virginity before his next birthday, and to extinguish the flame between his mother (Sally Hawkins) and an ex-lover (Paddy Considine) who has resurfaced in her life.

In my opinion:  Well I literally know nothing about this movie except for what you just read, and except for the fact that I know that it’s been a huge success at film festivals already.  I also know that Paddy Considine is a terrific character actor who seems to almost always end up in movies that are worth seeing, so I’ll be looking out for Submarine when it gets near NYC.

 

Super 8 (June 10)

Is this the eighth sequel to James Gunn’s most recent movie?  No, I’m just an idiot. Everybody knows that this is the new J.J. Abrams movie, the one where he keeps getting compared to Steven Spielberg (who produced Super 8).  Gotta admit, that’s probably a more flattering comparison than getting compared to me, which has to have happened more than once.  It’s the surname.  Sorry dude.  I was born into this.  Anyway, this movie is about a bunch of kids in a small town who are shooting home movies (the title refers to the outdated kind of film stock which both Spielberg and Abrams grew up using) when a train crash unleashes extra-normal phenomena.  The trailers have been pretty fun and very promising.  I don’t know if J.J. is the new Spielberg, but I sure like his style.  This will be worth looking at.

Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer (June 10)

IMDB saysWhen her parents take an unexpected trip to California, third-grader Judy Moody (Jordana Beatty) creates a series of dares in order to have the most thrilling summer of her life. Her way-cool Aunt Opal (Heather Graham) and little brother Stink (Parris Mosteller) join in the adventures.

In my opinion:  This clearly isn’t for me in any way.  My niece and I saw the trailer in front of Rango, and while I can’t speak for her, I can say that it annoyed the shit out of me.  The trailer was about five minutes long and it was shriller than a bunch of Justin Bieber fans out-screeching a gang of Lady Gaga fans.  If you have to see a kids movie this weekend, I cannot fathom why you wouldn’t go for Super 8 instead.  Do that.  Raise cooler children.

Trollhunter  (June 10)

IMDB says:  After learning that real-life trolls exist after years of being covered up by a government conspiracy, a group of Norwegian film students set out to catch the creatures on camera.

Now here is the trailer:

Knowing what you know about me, how much do you think I am looking forward to seeing this movie…?

The Trip (June 10)

This movie reunites the brilliant Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.  Here is where I explain, using words, why this is so worth seeing:  [persuasive article]

And here is an example of said comedic brilliance in action:

Green Lantern (June 17)

This is the one where Ryan Reynolds makes his bid for the A-list by playing a superhero whose magic ring gives him amazing powers, and helps him meet a lot of wacky alien buddies.  I’ve written more than enough pre-release speculation on this movie for my own tastes.  (Ahem and a-hem.)  I can’t imagine how this movie can work, but you never know, I guess.  Some of the recent posters have been so bizarre that I’ve had brief flashes of willingness, even enthusiastically so, to check out the movie.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins  (June 17)

Mark Waters (Mean Girls) directs Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino (pictured all the way up top), and Angela Lansbury, amongst hordes of penguins, in this kids movie which is supposedly based on a beloved childrens’ book.  I’ve never heard of it, but good for them.  I saw the trailer in front of Kung Fu Panda 2, and I’m not sure what to tell you but I can attest to the fact that there are at least two penguin fart jokes in the movie.

 

Bad Teacher (June 24)

I like director Jake Kasdan’s work a lot (he’s made underrated movies such as Zero Effect and The TV Set, and also several episodes of Freaks & Geeks), but there are a couple of hurdles here, in this dark comedy about an elementary school teacher played by Cameron Diaz, who goes on a caustic, alcoholic, sexual rampage through her innocent environment.  One issue is that this is one of the hardest kinds of comedies to make:  For every cynical, black-hearted, and brilliant Bad Santa, there are dozens of movies that are imposters.  The other issue is Justin Timberlake.  I just can’t stand the guy, sorry.  Everybody has their no-fly zones, and this is one of mine.  I like Jason Segel though!  Hope he gets Cameron in the end.  Let me know.

 

Cars 2 (June 24)

Here is a movie for all those folks who love Pixar movies, but felt strongly that the one thing that Pixar has been lacking was much more Larry The Cable Guy.  I’m not one of you, but go forth and enjoy!

So anyway, that’s June.  Exhausting, I know.  We’re only one-third through it, too.  See you back here again in the early days of July, for the return of this column.

And if you want a daily dose of me, check these fine places:

https://demonsresume.wordpress.com/

http://twitter.com/jonnyabomb

 

Traffic Control is landing late this month, unfortunately.  Computer problems the likes of which I have never before experienced have descended upon me, thoroughly disrupting my movie-talking mojo.  But, finally, I made it home to you. 

[Catch up on “Traffic Control” from January, February, March, and April.]

As always, this column features my individualized rundown of each month’s theatrical releases, with a quick synopsis and a quicker, super-opinionated explanation of why I color-coded each title the way I did. My color-coding is explained as follows:

PURPLE – Can’t wait.

GREEN – Worth a look, or better.

YELLOW – Use caution.

RED – Bound to be disappointing, or worse.

BROWN – Crap. Guaranteed.

Please note: Release dates are subject to change. (Especially towards the second half of the year.)

Please also note: Occasionally my opinions change. I’m not too proud that I can’t admit to be wrong sometimes. In fact, when it’s a negative opinion, I welcome having my mind changed. (However, if your name is Justin Timberlake or Kevin James, your work is officially cut out for you there.)

As always, I encourage everyone reading to be an independent thinker. Don’t take my word for it, or anyone else’s. Don’t let anyone discourage you from liking what you like (that’s generally speaking – some things genuinely don’t deserve to be liked.)

What you get from me, as ever, is just one opinion, but an opinion from a guy who happens to have seen more movies than most anybody, who has studied this stuff and thought about it more often than is healthy, and who has just enough first-hand experience to have seen something about how it works, and therefore has a bit more informed of an opinion than many folks elsewhere on the internet.

So, May. Let’s get down to it.

May 6


The Beaver

IMDB saysA troubled husband and executive (Mel Gibson) adopts a beaver hand-puppet as his sole means of communicating.

I said (the last time I wrote about The Beaver, back when it was supposed to come out on March 23rd): 

I have been tracking this movie for what seems like forever.  [Read some of my previous coverage here and here.]  Now – theoretically – it’s almost here.  This movie looks like the best kind of mistake; not that I ever root for anyone’s public embarrassment, but come on, it’s Mel Gibson with his hand inside a puppet for two hours, and we’re expected to take it seriously.  I can’t wait to see how this plays out. 

My enthusiasm has totally dimmed since then.  Seemingly, once the moronic dream became a reality and this movie actually reached multiplexes, I lost all will to go see it.  Maybe I need to find a beaver puppet in a dumpster to inspire me.

Hobo With A Shotgun

IMDB says:  A homeless vigilante (Rutger Hauer) blows away crooked cops, pedophile Santas, and other scumbags with his trusty pump-action shotgun.

I say:  Instant cult classic.  Hobo With A Shotgun is the kind of movie that can and should only ever appeal to a very narrow audience, but the 3% of you who will get this movie will LOVE it.

An Invisible Sign

IMDB saysMona Gray (Jessica Alba) is a 20-year-old loner who, as a child, turned to math for salvation after her father became ill. As an adult, Mona now teaches the subject and must help her students through their own crises.

I say:  Sounds like a serious-minded indie drama about a troubled young woman.  As much as I truly do adore her, this isn’t the kind of thing that usually goes well for Jessica Alba.

Jumping The Broom

IMDB saysTwo very different families converge on Martha’s Vineyard one weekend for a wedding (between Idlewild’s Paula Patton and Avatar’s Laz Alonso).

I say:  It’s refreshing to see a wedding movie that isn’t entirely filled up with white people.  The trailer has a ton of broad humor, but Tyler Perry isn’t involved so there’s hope.  And with Patton and Alonso, not to mention Angela Bassett, Meagan Good, and Loretta Devine, this movie has a very likable cast.  Also, it has Mike Epps.

Last Night

IMDB saysThe story follows a married couple, apart for a night while the husband takes a business trip with a colleague to whom he’s attracted. While he’s resisting temptation, his wife encounters her past love.

I say:  This is the kind of movie that you probably would have heard about if it were worth going out of your way to see.  Keira Knightley is often a good sign, but Sam Worthington may not be.  We really haven’t seen him outside of a massive spectacle movie stacked with special effects.  Also, the plot suggests the kind of flick that normally isn’t too exciting.  But Eva Mendes is in it saying words, so for me it may still be worth a look.

Passion Play

IMDB saysAn angel (Megan Fox) under the thumb of a ruthless gangster (Bill Murray) is saved by a trumpet player (Mickey Rourke) down on his luck.

I say:  As Bill Murray said on Letterman last week, “it’s an art film.”  Murray did this movie as a favor to its writer/director, veteran screenwriter Mitch Glazer.  Reading into his words, the movie might be one that has earned its dismissive reviews.  Whatever.  If it’s an art film, it’s an art film starring Bill Murray, Megan Fox, and Mickey Rourke.  As a tremendous fan of those guys and of oddball cinema, you couldn’t keep me away. 

Something Borrowed

IMDB saysFriendships are tested and secrets come to the surface when terminally single Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) falls for Dex (Colin Egglesfield), her best friend Darcy (Kate Hudson)’s fiancé.

I say:  Apparently the “something” in the title refers to the plot.

There Be Dragons

IMDB saysArising out of the horror of the Spanish Civil War, a candidate for canonization is investigated by a journalist who discovers his own estranged father had a deep, dark and devastating connection to the saint’s life.

I say:  Huh?  Also:  Wes Bentley.  Beware.  Also:  Every time I see this title, I think of the same joke.  And no, I’m not going to say it.

Thor

IMDB saysThe powerful but arrogant warrior Thor (Chris Hemsworth)is cast out of the fantastic realm of Asgard and sent to live amongst humans on Earth, where he soon becomes one of their finest defenders.

I say:  This was never meant to be my thing.  (Gauge the level of my apathy here and here.)  As of this writing, I still haven’t seen it, but it’s a hit.  Mainstream audiences have fallen in love with a giant man in a winged helmet and hooker boots who swings a giant mallet.  Vindication for the steelworkers of America!

May 13

The Big Bang

IMDB saysA private detective is hired to find a missing stripper. A simple job turns complicated when everyone he questions ends up dead.

I say:  A crime thriller starring Antonio Banderas, James Van Der Beek, and Snoop Doggy Dogg.  Listen, I can handle anything as long as it’s not that show about the four queeny nerds.  And as long as it’s not followed by Mike & Molly.

Bridesmaids

IMDB saysPicked as her best friend’s maid of honor, lovelorn and broke Annie (Kristen Wiig) looks to bluff her way through the expensive and bizarre rituals with an oddball group of bridesmaids.

I say:  I’m dying to see it, honestly.  Lady-driven comedies usually star Kate Hudson and suck shit, but they don’t have to.  So far, this looks to be the proof.  Plus, Kristen Wiig just seems like a nice person to me.  Good things should happen to nice people.

Everything Must Go

IMDB saysWhen an alcoholic relapses, causing him to lose his wife and his job, he holds a yard sale on his front lawn in an attempt to start over. A new neighbor might be the key to his return to form.

I say:  An adaptation of a Raymond Carver story, starring Will Ferrell and an interesting supporting cast including Christopher Wallace, the son of the late Notorious B.I.G.  Well, maybe!  Why not give it a look?

The First Grader

IMDB saysNaomie Harris (Miami Vice, 28 Days Later) toplines the true story of an 84 year-old Kenyan villager and ex Mau Mau freedom fighter who fights for his right to go to school for the first time to get the education he could never afford.

I say:  You had me at Naomie Harris.

Go For It!

IMDB saysWay too much. It’s just a fucking dance movie.

I say:  We’ve seen it before, but into every movie year is born a competitive dance movie that panders to “urban audiences”, so here’s your You Got Served, teenagers of 2011!

Hesher

IMDB saysHesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a loner. He hates the world and everyone in it. He has long greasy hair and homemade tattoos. He is malnourished and smokes a lot of cigarettes. He likes fire and blowing things up.

I say:  Netflix.

 

The High Cost Of Living

IMDB saysThis shit, which mentions how a pregnant woman is saved by a guardian angel who comes in the form of Zach Braff.

I say:  Away with thee!  (I have a special cross that was molded by wise monks, made precisely with the purpose of repelling Zach Braff movies.)

Priest

IMDB saysA priest (Paul Bettany) disobeys church law to track down the vampires who kidnapped his niece.

I say:  From the makers of Legion comes this generic garbage.  One thing I like about it is that it has a great cast (including the downright regal Christopher Plummer) who will hopefully get a good paycheck that they can use to help fund their smaller, worthier projects.

P.S.  Bet it does great overseas.

Skateland

IMDB saysIn the early 1980s, in small-town Texas, dramatic events force a 19-year-old skating rink manager (Shiloh Fernandez) to look at his life in a very new way.

I say:  Apparently, this movie stars someone named Shiloh Fernandez, who I’d like to punch in the name.  But let’s be optimistic.  Hey, it could be this generation’s Rad!

May 20

 

 

Cost Of A Soul

IMDB saysA gritty tale of two veterans who return home from Iraq to the war-zone of their own slum neighborhood. Their lives collide as their own families become entangled in a web of crime and corruption.

I say:  No matter what, that’s a cool poster.

Midnight In Paris

IMDB saysWoody Allen directs a romantic comedy about a family traveling to the French capital for business. The party includes a young engaged couple (Rachel McAdams & Owen Wilson) forced to confront the illusion that a life different from their own is better.

I say:  Wait.  Owen Wilson?  Rachel McAdams?  Is it possible that Woody Allen went and made a sequel to Wedding Crashers?

Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

IMDB saysJack Sparrow and Barbossa embark on a quest to find the elusive fountain of youth, only to discover that Blackbeard and his daughter are after it too.

I say:  Look at that fucking poster.  There’s no way this movie is any good.  Mermaids?  Do I care?  More importantly: do you?  Sure looks as though the idea well has run dry.  As I got into a little bit here, I’ve never been much a fan of this series even in its best moments, but now it’s just a naked attempt to wring revenue from a creatively-worn-out franchise.  Frankly I expect better from Johnny Depp.  Time to take some risks again, my friend.  I love you and so does everybody else, but you can’t possibly be turned on by putting on that bandanna and scabbard this many times.

 

May 26

The Hangover Part 2

IMDB saysPhil, Stu, and Alan travel to Bangkok for Stu’s wedding only to find themselves in another post-blackout misadventure.

I say:  This is an encouraging summary because it doesn’t include Doug. But he’s in all the trailers, which worries me.  I liked the first movie but not quite as much as everybody else did.  Does that matter?  This is easy money.  I like the change of setting and I particularly like that tagline (“Bangkok has them now”), and I’m of the opinion that Zach Galifianakis is never boring, so I’m in.

Kung Fu Panda 2

IMDB saysPo joins forces with a group of new kung-fu masters to take on an old enemy with a deadly new weapon.

I say:  The first movie was arguably the best movie from Dreamworks Animation to date.  Either way, it was a big hit around my house.  I’ll be seeing this one no matter how I feel about it, so it’s a good thing I don’t mind.  (Don’t really need that panda crotch shot up there though.)

May 27

The Tree Of Life

IMDB saysThe story centers around a family with three boys in the 1950s. The eldest son (played as an adult by Sean Penn) witnesses the loss of innocence.

I say:  I can hardly resist watching the trailer again right now.  What a special thing to be getting a new Terence Malick film in 2011, and what a much-needed splash of cool water it is sure to be, in this overheated summer of sequels and superheroes and silliness.  Malick is the poet laureate of cinema, and I’m sorry if that sounds pretentious because really, my job here is to choose every word carefully enough to encourage you to see all of his movies at the nearest possible moment.

__________________________

So those are your choices for May.  I’ve bent your ear for long enough so I’ll do a quick outro, but always remember that you can get more of my thoughts and opinions (and apologies) on a daily basis on my Twitter feed, as well as by staying tuned to this website right here!

 

 

So here we are again, again.  Catch up on “Traffic Control” from January, February, and March.

This column features my individualized rundown of each month’s theatrical releases, with a quick synopsis and a quicker explanation of why I color-coded each title the way I did. My color-coding is explained as follows:

PURPLE – Can’t wait.

GREEN – Worth a look, or better.

YELLOW – Use caution.

RED – Bound to be disappointing, or worse.

BROWN – Crap. Guaranteed.

Please note: Release dates are subject to change. (Especially towards the second half of the year.)

Please also note: Occasionally my opinions change. I’m not too proud that I can’t admit to be wrong sometimes. In fact, when it’s a negative opinion, I welcome having my mind changed. (However, if your name is Justin Timberlake or Kevin James, your work is officially cut out for you there.)

As always, I encourage everyone reading to be an independent thinker. Don’t take my word for it, or anyone else’s. Don’t let anyone discourage you from liking what you like (that’s generally speaking – some things genuinely don’t deserve to be liked.)

What you get from me, as ever, is just one opinion, but from a guy who happens to have seen more movies than most anybody, who has studied this stuff and thought about it more often than is healthy, and who has just enough first-hand experience to have seen something about how it works, and therefore has a bit more informed of an opinion than many elsewhere on the internet.

So let’s go, April.

APRIL

Source Code (April 1)

It’s the next sci-fi movie from Duncan Jones, who made the excellent and under-seen Moon in 2009.  Jake Gyllenhaal stars, alongside Vera Farmiga and Michelle Monaghan, two of the best actresses working in film today.  The time-jumping premise sounds like a high-wire act, but it seems worth the risk.

 

Insidious (April 1)

A horror movie from the production team behind Saw (not a great sign), starring Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne (much better sign).  I’ve heard mixed-to-positive reviews so far, generally much better than expected.  There’s not a lot of horror to be had this month.  You make the call.

 

Super (April 1)

Rainn Wilson (The Office) and Ellen Page (Inception) play misfits who embark on a second life as costumed crimefighters in the newest feature from Slither’s James Gunn.  The sad thing about Super is that it keeps getting mentioned alongside last year’s awful Kick-Ass.  It’s so much better and weirder than that.  Look for my review later on today!

 

Hop (April 1)

Russell Brand.  Skip.  (For me, it’s not that easy.  I have to see this one.  Help me.)

 

Rubber (April 1, NY/LA/Austin) 

A tire named Robert goes on a murderous rampage in this experimental horror film, a good bet for a future cult classic.  Hey Robert, how do you feel about Easter bunnies who have the voice of Russell Brand?

 

    

Your Highness (April 8)

Star (and co-writer) Danny McBride, co-writer Ben Best, and director David Gordon Green last worked together on HBO’s Eastbound & Down.  With co-star James Franco, they made Pineapple Express.  With Zooey Deschanel, Natalie Portman, and a medieval knights-and-wizards premise, this is an absolute necessity.

 

Hanna (April 8)

The director of Atonement reunites with his young star to make this thriller, which looks for all the world like Luc Besson made it.  It seems to be a blend between La Femme Nikita and Leon/ The Professional.  It also looks like a pretty well-done homage to those movies, and with a score by The Chemical Brothers, this could turn out to be very much worth your time.

 

Arthur (April 8)

Russell Brand.  Skip.  The trailers for this remake of the beloved Dudley Moore comedy are so shrill and irritating that it makes me want to punch myself in the dick.  Just to make a statement.

 

Born to Be Wild (April 8)

This is a documentary, to be released in 3D and IMAX, about orangutans and elephants and the people who help protect these awesome but threatened species.  Morgan Freeman narrates.  My niece is all over this one, and I’ll be happy to see it too.

 

Meek’s Cutoff (April 8, limited)

I’ve heard great things about the work of director Kelly Reichardt, but haven’t had the chance to catch up yet.  Her latest, again starring Michelle Williams, is a period piece about the harrowing days of the Oregon Trail.  The poster is awesome, and I have a similar good feeling about the quality of the movie.

 

 

 

Scream 4 (April 15)

Zero interest.  The time for these movies have passed.  The first Scream mattered to me, but they lost me with the second, and in the intervening decade, I’ve become increasingly impatient with movies where beautiful young girls are stabbed to death in ironic scenes of pseudo-suspense.  And Community’s Alison Brie is in this latest one, inevitably as murder-fodder.  I simply won’t sit for a movie where sweet Annie Edison is stabbed to death.  It’s not happening.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

       

Right?

 

Rio (April 15)

An animated movie from “the creators of” the Pixar also-ran Ice Age franchise about escaped pet macaws who fly down to Brazil.  The voice cast includes Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, and Jamie Foxx, none of whom I have a problem with, although I do feel as if we’ve had a lot of them in the past two years.  There’s also a voice from Will.I.Am from The Black-Eyed Peas, which I actively despise, so this probably isn’t going to be easy.  But I have to do it, so I’ll let y’all know how it goes.

 

Soul Surfer (April 15)

From IMDB: “A teenage surfer girl summons the courage to go back into the ocean after losing an arm in a shark attack.”  You may have heard about this story.  I would like to tread lightly here, because I don’t mean to make light of a real person’s real suffering.  But this movie looks like a hilariously earnest piece of… um… treacle.  It took somewhere in the area of eight writers (and Baywatch producers) to bring this story to screen.  The huge-mulleted Native American gentleman from Lorenzo Lamas’s 1990s syndicated opus Renegade is in the trailer.  So is Kevin Sorbo from Hercules.  And American Idol’s Carrie Underwood.  You’ll forgive me if I don’t have great faith in these people to convey the seriousness of Bethany Hamilton’s real-life struggle.  But the dickhead side of me cannot wait to see how they filmed the shark attack.  Because I saw them get a lot of practice doing it on Baywatch.  And it was glorious.

 

 

Apollo 18 (April 22)

The “found footage” approach to horror, established by the remarkably overrated Blair Witch Project and continuing with the similarly incident-free Paranormal Activity, continues with this tale of the supposed final manned voyage to the moon.  I’m sure this idea seemed like a no-brainer to the writers and producers pitching it, and you never know, it could be interesting.  But to my way of thinkind, those aforementioned movies are not promising ones to be grouped alongside.

 

Madea’s Big Happy Family (April 22)

People who love movies hate Tyler Perry movies.  The reason is because he is terrible at making movies.  I don’t begrudge the man his success, and you have to respect him as a businessman.  But that certainly doesn’t mean he has any innate skill or lasting value in front of or behind a camera.  Unlike many of his detractors, I’ve seen several of Tyler Perry’s movies.  Which makes it all the more egregious that he’s wasted opportunities with some tremendous talent who deserve better showcases and more leading roles.  (Taraji Henson, Gabrielle Union, Kerry Washington, Anika Noni Rose, Derek Luke, Brian White, Idris Elba, Michael Jai White, etc., etc., etc.)  It can fairly be argued that Tyler Perry serves an audience, but I personally believe that every audience deserves better than what Tyler Perry gives them.  If I were him, I’d be embarrassed at plenty of the stuff he’s put out in the world.  Then I’d take a little time off, listen to the way that people actually speak, go watch the great movies, take some screenwriting courses, and try a little harder.

 

Water for Elephants (April 22)

Love Reese Witherspoon, love elephants, love Ken Foree (he’s in it!), really like Christoph Waltz (from Inglourious Basterds), like the idea that director Francis Lawrence went from Constantine to I Am Legend to this, and I’ll tell you something else: I don’t mind that Robert Pattinson kid.  I know a lot of people in my peer group despise him, but it’s not his fault he got cast in a shitty vampire franchise.  Who wouldn’t take that job?  This is one of the movies that will tell whether the guy from Twilight can really act.  Why not give him the benefit of the doubt?

  [no poster yet: so here’s Wheelchair cat!] 

Born to Be a Star (April 22)

I like Nick Swardson as a comedian and especially as a maker of short-form web videos (Gay Robot, Wheelchair Cat, etc.: right up my alley), but he hasn’t had the chance yet to hit his potential in movies.  He’s in tight with Sandler, so he always gets throwaway roles in Sandler’s movies, but none that have really registered.  This is Swardson’s first starring vehicle, as a clueless guy who moves to Hollywood to become a porn star.  I don’t know.  Trey Parker and Matt Stone tried that premise before (with Orgazmo) and couldn’t really make it work.  Much as I like Sandler and Swardson, they are a lot more mainstream and a lot less dedicated to anarchy than Parker & Stone are.  I really don’t know if I need to see a tamer version of this premise.

 

    

Fast Five (April 29)

This franchise got a lot more interesting to me when Justin Lin took over.  Lin, a sometime Community director, took over with the fun Tokyo Drift.  After the decent Fast & Furious, he brings us this, the All-Star game of the franchise, bringing together characters from all four previous movies (Diesel, Walker, Brewster, Tyrese, Ludacris, etc.).  It’s so much of a buffet that they went back in continuity to resurrect Sung Kang, the very likable actor from Tokyo Drift who I always hoped would get another shot in a mainstream movie.  And of course, in Fast Five this crew is pitted against a goateed Dwayne Johnson, the perfect adversary.  As much as his last movie, Faster, kind of sucked, I think the actor formerly known as “The Rock” will be a great fit for this movie.  Like an old issue of Marvel Team-Up, this could be a lot of fun.

  [no poster yet, so here’s some random movie that looks similar enough] 

What’s Your Number? (April 29)

IMDB says: “A woman (Anna Faris) looks back at the past twenty men she’s had relationships with in her life and wonders if one of them might be her one true love.”  I say:  Not much, really.  Here comes Anna Faris in an attempt to knock Kate Hudson off of her dippy-blond romantic-comedy perch.  Good luck to her, I guess.  Couldn’t do worse!

 

Prom (April 29)

It’s a Disney teen movie about a high school prom.  I’m signed up for a screening, somehow.  I can’t imagine that this movie and I have much of anything in common, but we’ll find out soon enough – let’s just hope I’m not arrested for lurking around the theater.

So anyway, that’s April.  See you here again in May for the return of this column, but if you want a good dose of daily me, keep it locked to this station.

So here we are again, again.  Catch up on “Traffic Control” from January and February.

This column features my individualized rundown of each month’s theatrical releases, with a quick synopsis and a quicker explanation of why I color-coded each title the way I did. My color-coding is explained as follows:

PURPLE – Can’t wait.

GREEN – Worth a look, or better.

YELLOW – Use caution.

RED – Bound to be disappointing, or worse.

BROWN – Crap. Guaranteed.

Please note: Release dates are subject to change. (Especially towards the second half of the year.)

Please also note: Occasionally my opinions change. I’m not too proud that I can’t admit to be wrong sometimes. In fact, when it’s a negative opinion, I welcome having my mind changed. (However, if your name is Justin Timberlake or Kevin James, your work is officially cut out for you there.)

As always, I encourage everyone reading to be an independent thinker. Don’t take my word for it, or anyone else’s. Don’t let anyone discourage you from liking what you like (that’s generally speaking – some things genuinely don’t deserve to be liked.)

What you get from me, as ever, is just one opinion, but from a guy who happens to have seen more movies than most anybody, who has studied this stuff and thought about it more often than is healthy, and who has just enough first-hand experience to have seen something about how it works, and therefore has a bit more informed of an opinion than many elsewhere on the internet.

So let’s go, March.

MARCH

 

Rango (March 4)

It’s a computer-animated movie from Pirates director Gore Verbinski, with Johnny Depp doing the voice for a chameleon who wanders into a Western-style animal town in the California desert.  I’m the designated movie companion for my three-year-old niece, so it’s already going to happen.  I’m going to see Rango.  I can only hope that it’s good for at least one of us, if not both.

 

The Adjustment Bureau (March 4)

Matt Damon is a pretty good indicator of quality.  Emily Blunt is a pretty good indicator of pretty.  Otherwise I actually don’t know what to expect.  This is an adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story.  When that happens, sometimes you get Blade Runner, and often you don’t.  Still, this one is absolutely worth giving a fair chance.

 

Take Me Home Tonight (March 4)

I like Topher Grace, but I’m just not interested in this 1980s period piece/ romantic comedy/ vanity project of his.  Main reason is this Dan Fogler guy, who serves as the comedy relief.  Bad movies keep trying to sell him as the next Jack Black.  I gave the guy a chance.  I saw Balls Of Fury, etc.  And I don’t get it.  Tries way too hard.  You can see the strain show.  Maybe I never should have watched this.  It bothers me too much.  Somewhere out there is footage of Mike Epps as Richard Pryor.  That’s probably worse, but probably not by much.

Happythankyoumoreplease (March 4)

God, no.  I’ve been giving this one the benefit of the doubt in my mind because the cast features many actors I like a lot, such as Kate Mara, Malin Akerman, Richard Jenkins, and Tony Hale.  But the title makes me want to punch a hipster in the face.  The writer/director is Ted from How I Met Your Mother, the weak link on that show, pulling a Zach Braff in Garden State by also starring, as a writer who brings home a little black kid he finds on the subway.  IMDB says, “Captures a generational moment – young people on the cusp of truly growing up, tiring of their reflexive cynicism, each in their own ways struggling to connect and define what it means to love and be loved.”  If you want to cure me of my reflexive cynicism, this is not the way to do it.

 

Kill The Irishman (March 11)

IMDB says: “The true story of Danny Greene, a tough Irish thug working for mobsters in Cleveland during the 1970’s.”  Sounds promising enough, but now let me tell you about the cast: Ray Stevenson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Val Kilmer, Christopher Walken, Linda Cardellini (Freaks & Geeks), Tony Darrow (Goodfellas), Robert Davi (Die Hard), Fionnula Flanagan (Lost), Bob Gunton (The Shawshank Redemption), Jason Butler Harner (Changeling), Vinnie Jones, Laura Ramsey (Middle Men), Steve Schirripa (The Sopranos), Paul Sorvino, and Mike Starr, among others.  There is potential for greatness here.  A friend of mine has seen it already and says it’s good, and we can trust him.  So at the very least, it’s good.

 

Battle: Los Angeles (March 11)

It’s an alien invasion movie, but one that’s been sold with an unusually unconventional, even thoughtful ad campaign.  It’s not based on a comic book or a video game, but a real event.  I’m hesitant only because I’ve seen a lot of bad alien invasion movies, but this one seems worth a try.

 

Jane Eyre (March 11)

A literary adaptation, from a centuries-old Charlotte Bronte novel.  Normally I look at these movies like they’re English class.  I wasn’t an ideal student there and I probably still am not.  So there will be no rush from me to see this movie, but Michael Fassbender (Centurion) is cool, and the movie looks really good for what it is.

 

Red Riding Hood (March 11)

Leonardo DiCaprio produced this movie, and he knows a little something about how to make good movies.  And the movies that director Catherine Hardwicke made before Twilight are worth seeing.  Gary Oldman, Virginia Madsen, and Julie Christie (!) are in this movie, and so, apparently, is a werewolf.  All good signs. I’m just very wary of this trend of updating fairy tales for teenage audiences.  They’re clearly not made for guys like me, so it’s hard to muster up any enthusiasm.  And if this one works, it will open the door for plenty of bad ones.  (To be fair, that’s happening already.)  So keep your fingers crossed, I guess, and let me know if I should see it.

 

Mars Needs Moms (March 11)

Dan Fogler again.  Animated movie with eerily-animated, overly-detailed human characters.  Not saying I won’t see this one, because obviously I’ll have to, but I’m not looking forward to it.

 

Limitless (March 18)

Director Neil Burger made The Illusionist (the Norton/Giamatti one, not the animated one), which was fun and made me want to see more of his movies.  Limitless stars Bradley Cooper as a writer who gains the ability to use his entire brain, rather than the fraction that humankind normally works with.  Robert DeNiro figures in there somewhere, and so does the excellent character actor Robert John Burke (Rescue Me).  It’s an interesting premise, although there’s a wide margin for error, so I’m curious to see what they do with it.

 

Paul (March 18)

Shaun Of The Dead’s Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, nerds on the way to Comic-Con, meet an alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) in the follow-up to Superbad from director Greg Mottola.  Sigourney Weaver, Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, and Bill Hader (among others) are in this movie.  It will be fun.  The only question is how much.

 

The Lincoln Lawyer (March 18)

It comes from a Michael Connelly book, and he’s a great writer, but it’s a Matthew McConaughey hero-lawyer movie.  The last time that happened, it was A Time To Kill, which is one of the more overrated and clumsily exploitative movies of my lifetime.  It has a terrific supporting cast because these movies always do.  But Atticus Finch aside, I tend not to root for lawyers.  And I tend not to care about Matthew McConaughey, at all, unless he’s doing small parts in comedies, which is really where he’s at his best.

 

Beastly (March 18)

Hey, it’s a modern-day take on an old fairy tale!  In this one, privileged New York teenagers fall in love despite the spell that turns one of them into a monster (looks more like those Alien Nation dudes than the Disney lion-werewolf guy).  I’m definitely curious as to how Neil Patrick Harris fits into all of this, but otherwise, I’m already tired of these teen-actors in modern-day fairy-tale retellings, and I haven’t even watched any of them yet.

 

The Beaver (March 23, limited)

I have been tracking this movie for what seems like forever.  [Read some of my previous coverage here and here.]  Now – theoretically – it’s almost here.  This movie looks like the best kind of mistake; not that I ever root for anyone’s public embarrassment, but come on, it’s Mel Gibson with his hand inside a puppet for two hours, and we’re expected to take it seriously.  I can’t wait to see how this plays out. 

 

Sucker Punch (March 25)

I like what Zack Snyder does in general, and the trailers for this movie make it look like what happened when I was a kid and I used to mix every kind of soda together at the fountain and then drink it and go mad.  I only hesitate because it could either be as fun as it looks and wants to be, or it could be the definitive illustration of “too much of a good thing” and “too good to be true”.

 

Win Win (March 25)

Looks good.  Can’t say anything here I didn’t already say back in February, when I posted the trailer.

 

Miral (March 25)

A film by Julian Schnabel, from the novel by Rula Jebreal, about a Palestinian girl coming of age amidst of the Arab-Israeli conflict.  The very lovely but very not-an-Arab Freida Pinto (from Slumdog Millionaire) takes her first lead role.  That’s something I could watch for two hours, for sure.

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules (March 25)

Do you really care what I have to say about this one?  Even I don’t care about my own opinion here.

 So anyway, that’s March.  All in all, not remotely as rough a month as January was.  Let’s try this optimism thing on and see how it fits. 

TRAFFIC CONTROL: February 2011.

Posted: February 12, 2011 in Traffic Control
 

So here we are again. This column features my individualized rundown of each month’s theatrical releases, with a quick synopsis and a quicker explanation of why I color-coded each title the way I did. My color-coding is explained as follows:

PURPLE – Can’t wait.

GREEN – Worth a look, or better.

YELLOW – Use caution.

RED – Bound to be disappointing, or worse.

BROWN – Crap. Guaranteed.

Please note: Release dates are subject to change. (Especially towards the second half of the year.)

Please also note: Occasionally my opinions change. I’m not too proud that I can’t admit to be wrong sometimes. In fact, when it’s a negative opinion, I welcome having my mind changed. (However, if your name is Justin Timberlake or Kevin James, your work is officially cut out for you there.)

As always, I encourage everyone reading to be an independent thinker. Don’t take my word for it, or anyone else’s. Don’t let anyone discourage you from liking what you like (that’s generally speaking – some things genuinely don’t deserve to be liked.)

What you get from me, as ever, is just one opinion, but from a guy who happens to have seen more movies than most anybody, who has studied this stuff and thought about it more often than is healthy to do, and who has just enough first-hand experience to have seen something about how it works, and therefore has a bit more informed of an opinion than many other dorks elsewhere on the internet.

So let’s go, February.

FEBRUARY

 

 

Sanctum  (February 4)

Avatar ubermind James Cameron produced (but did not write or direct) this re-enactment of a true story of an underwater-diving expedition gone wrong. Most of the advance reviews seem to suggest that the 3D visuals are better than we usually get from the format, but that the story and acting are somewhat lacking. Sound familiar? I like man-vs.-the-elements stories, and this does make me think of Cameron’s underrated underwater epic The Abyss, but haven’t felt the need to run out and see this one, and considering that the theatrical experience is at least half the draw here, that’s not a good sign.

The Roommate  (February 4)

It’s a college-girl version of Single White Female. The director is named Christian E. Christiansen. Billy Zane is in the movie. Amazingly, this did not go straight to Cinemax. With Minka Kelly, Leighton Meester, Aly Michalka, and Danneel Harris (Google them all, fellas), this movie has a higher caliber of PYT than most of its type, but that’s really the only reason to ever look at a movie like this. Wait for cable, if you must.

Frankie and Alice  (February 4)

Halle Berry plays a stripper with multiple-personality disorder, one of whom is racist. I’m sorry, but in one sentence I just convinced myself that I totally need to see this movie. That is an amazing premise, potentially brilliant and hilarious, although I’m sure that the movie treats it with deadly seriousness. Halle Berry has such a weird career – she either makes forgettable studio garbage or serious dramas that are not as good as they desperately want to be (Monster’s Ball being one of the more egregiously rewarded ones). Like every other man with a pulse, I love Halle Berry onscreen, but I also feel that in almost twenty years of stardom, no filmmaker has really figured out how to use her as much more than am incredible visual spectacle who just happens to speak.  I wouldn’t bet that Frankie & Alice is the flick that cracks the code.

Just Go with It  (February 11)

Lazy title, first of all. Now let’s look at that premise: Adam Sandler plays a middle-aged plastic surgeon who goes around telling much-younger women that he’s married so that they’ll sleep with him. When he finally meets one (Sports Illustrated cover model Brooklyn Decker) who he wants to marry, rather than just fuck, he convinces his “less-hot” assistant (Jennifer Aniston) to pose as his wife in order to back up the lies he told. That’s misogynist for a couple different reasons, but it actually offends me more that this movie will inevitably present Sandler with a choice – the younger, bouncier swimsuit model, or the “older,” “less attractive” woman. Well boys, I’m a grown-ass man, so I’d go with Jennifer in a heartbeat – not least because of appearances like this one. But this movie isn’t meant for me, obviously; it’s meant for teenage boys and twenty-something chronic masturbators. It’s just sad that those poor kids are being sent ugly messages about dating and relationships on top of their spank-fodder. Then again, it’s also sad that this movie will make more money than Punch-Drunk Love and Funny People put together: Sandler is still capable of so much better, yet he keeps settling for doing so much less.  

Gnomeo and Juliet  (February 11)

A computer-animated movie – not one of the ones made by Pixar, Dreamworks, or Universal, mind you – that finds Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet being re-enacted by lawn gnomes, to the music of Elton John. You know, if you’re out of ideas, it’s okay to admit it. Really.

Cedar Rapids  (February 11)

Ed Helms from The Office and The Hangover encounters a lot of Midwestern eccentrics at an insurance convention. This one is probably worth a look, as director Miguel Arteta’s last film was last year’s Youth In Revolt, which was seriously underrated. Cedar Rapids also has a deep bench of supporting players, including John C. Reilly, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Root, and Isiah Whitlock Jr. I haven’t liked any of the TV commercials, where Whitlock (best known as Clay Davis on The Wire) makes easy Wire references and Reilly indulges in heavy slapstick, but sometimes TV commercials lay on the simpler elements of a movie in order to sell it. Stay positive!

The Eagle  (February 11)

Kevin Macdonald last made The Last King Of Scotland and State Of Play, both solid movies. Here he brings us a movie about Roman legionnaires, starring the unlikely Jamie Bell (Billy Elliott) and model-turned-actor Channing Tatum. A lot of film geeks dislike Tatum, for all sorts of reasons (his name, his wooden performances in movies like GI Joe), but I saw him in a movie called A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints where he was very effective. A good director can get good work out of just about anybody, and a string of good directors can give an actor a career. Kevin Macdonald is a good director, so we’ll see how Channing Tatum acquits himself. Is he the next Mark Wahlberg? The Eagle is one of the movies that will answer the question.

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never  (February 11)

A concert film and documentary about how a young kid from Canada became a worldwide phenomenon by the age of sixteen. There’s a place for this stuff, and that’s certainly not in front of my eyes. But I have been subjected to the trailer more times than zero, and I’ve heard Justin Bieber rapping from the stage about how no one should let anyone tell them that they can’t follow their dreams, and now I have a question: Who is telling all these kids that they can’t follow their dreams? Are there really jerks out there who are so low that they are putting down little kids and their aspirations? Or is Justin Bieber just exaggerating? I expect it’s the latter, but I get it: What else is Justin Bieber going to talk about? Most people don’t have much to say at sixteen. And it’s really not that hard to be a pretty, talented, white kid in this country. It just isn’t. I really don’t mind Justin Bieber, because I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about him, but I don’t like to encourage empty platitudes about dreams and struggles in infomercials, which is what this thing is going to be. Let me know if I’m wrong.

I Am Number Four  (February 18)

From a young-adult novel co-written by James Frey, the guy who everybody hated a few years ago, comes this huge-budgeted high-school alien love story (the commercial prospects of which prove this statement to be absolutely correct). The presence of cinematographer Guillermo Navarro (Pan’s Labyrinth) and never-bad character actors Timothy Olyphant and Kevin Durand are encouraging; the involvement of Michael Bay and Smallville creators Millar and Gough are not. This clearly wants to be the next Twilight. I’m not interested, but other people surely will be.

Unknown  (February 18)

After the surprise success of Taken in 2009, Liam Neeson is getting back to screens with another late-winter thriller. You’ll keep seeing these as long as people want to see them, which is cool by me – Liam Neeson is great. I was underwhelmed by Taken but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see Liam Neeson out there, kicking ass, a couple times a year at least

Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son  (February 18)

This isn’t even a movie title. “Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son” is not a movie title. It’s a crushingly stupid prefix, tacked in front of the name of a 1987 Dudley Moore/ Kirk Cameron body-switch comedy. The premise is that Martin Lawrence will eventually get too old to dress up in a fat suit and muumuu, so a new younger shouting transvestite needs to be introduced. For one thing, I doubt that Martin Lawrence will ever stop making movies like this, so the new character is unnecessary, and for another thing, there’s no question that this movie is unreleasably bad. Not that that stopped anyone.

Vanishing on 7th Street  (February 18)

I’m interested in this set-up, where a citywide blackout sends a bunch of strangers to seek refuge in a bar, but I don’t think anyone can blame me for some trepidation at the idea of Hayden Christensen (from the Star Wars prequels) in a lead role.

Drive Angry 3D  (February 25)

I had a great time with My Bloody Valentine 3D, the previous movie from this producing team, and this new movie features the ever-crazy Nic Cage, the crazy-hot Amber Heard, and the great William Fichtner as an agent of hell. This looks like trashy, silly fun. I’m so very much into that notion. Here’s the trailer.

Hall Pass  (February 25)

Two guys (Owen Wilson and SNL’s Jason Sudeikis) get a “hall pass” from their wives (Christina Applegate and The Office’s Jenna Fischer) for one week, where they’re allowed to try to have an affair. I really like the cast, but I really hate the premise – emotionally insincere bullshit concocted around a passingly relevant slang phrase – so I wouldn’t recommend paying to see this. See if you can get a hall pass from the ticket office so you don’t have to waste your money.

Shelter  (February 25)

This movie stars the usually-a-good-sign Julianne Moore as a psychiatrist who notices that her patient’s multiple personalities have been murder victims. It was already released in the UK, where it bombed notoriously. So it’s been sitting on the shelf for a while. Those are not good signs. You never know, but sometimes you do. (That’s going to become a recurring phrase for this column, by the way.)

2011 is going to be a huge year for movies. 

History will very likely show that I’m not talking about quality here. I am, however, most definitely talking about quantity. 

2011 is about to hit you with an ungodly amount of cinematic product. This year’s bumper crop of movies is stuffed with sequels, remakes, comic book adaptations, star vanity vehicles, teensploitation titles, and a couple of original ideas here and there which will struggle to capture your attention amidst all those bigger, shinier objects.

I don’t mean to sound cynical, but for the purposes of this here opinion column/series, I compiled a fairly thorough list of the movies on the calendar for 2011, and it’s hard not to be cynical with this bunch. I’m generally generous of spirit and if anything, a wounded optimist, but a man can only take so much Jack Sparrow, neutered romantic comedy, and movies based on cartoons, before he snaps.

It wasn’t always this way. It wasn’t even recently this way…

Last year, I felt genuinely mystified to see so many critics and online opinion-givers who I read and respect, repeatedly griping about 2010 being “a bad year for movies.” Some people sure are hard to please. Personally, I had to struggle some to limit my year-end list of favorites to twenty. I’m sure that many folks feel entitled to movies as good and as diverse as True Grit, Inception, Winter’s Bone, The Other Guys, Monsters, Get Low, The Fighter, 127 Hours, Black Swan, and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (to name just a few) – but I like to stay in the habit of remembering the small miracle that every single well-made, original, heartfelt movie represents. In other words: We were pretty lucky just to get one Inception in a calendar year, let alone all the rest.

If you think that 2010 was such a bad year for movies, yet you somehow expect that what we are going to be presented with throughout 2011 will be that much better, I wish you luck. 

That’s all I can say. Good luck.

Have you been looking at the same trailers as I have? It’s looking pretty dire for the next twelve months.

Going forward, I plan to give you a rundown of each month’s releases, with a quick synopsis and a quicker explanation of why I color-coded each title the way I did. My color-coding is explained as follows:

PURPLE – Can’t wait.

GREEN – Worth a look, or better.

YELLOW – Use caution.

RED – Bound to be disappointing, or worse.

BROWN – Crap. Guaranteed.

Please note: Release dates are subject to change. (Especially towards the second half of the year.)

Please also note: Occasionally my opinions change. I’m not too proud that I can’t admit to be wrong sometimes. In fact, when it’s a negative opinion, I welcome having my mind changed. (However, if your name is Justin Timberlake or Kevin James, your work is officially cut out for you there.)

As always, I encourage everyone reading to be an independent thinker. Don’t take my word for it, or anyone else’s. Don’t let anyone discourage you from liking what you like (that’s generally speaking – some things genuinely don’t deserve to be liked.)

What you get from me, as ever, is just one opinion, but an opinion from a guy who tends to see more movies than most rational people and therefore has a bit more informed of an opinion than many folks elsewhere on the WWW.

Since I didn’t print my January list until now, this will be a trial run. You can compare my color system to Metacritic’s (or Rotten Tomatoes’, if you prefer.) All right, let’s go already.

JANUARY

 

Season of the Witch  (January 7)

Nic Cage and Ron Perlman play medieval knights contending with witchcraft and the Black Plague. From the director of Gone In Sixty Seconds, Swordfish, and Whiteout, this movie sat on the shelf for more than a year. Still haven’t seen it, although some of the reviews were more positive than expected. Sounds worth a rental, but not fifteen bucks plus parking.

Metacritic Score: 28.

 

The Green Hornet  (January 13)

Did see it, and it was super-fun. If 2011 insists on being ‘the year of the superhero movie’, then we can only hope that the superhero movies to come are as enjoyable as this one. (Spoiler warning: They won’t be.) The Green Hornet is surprisingly satisfying, even as, unlike so many oncoming superhero movies threaten to do, it never once stops to take itself overly seriously. Give it a chance, if you haven’t yet. The 3D element is totally unnecessary, but it’s a fun night out at the movies otherwise.

Metacritic Score: 39.

 

The Dilemma  (January 13)

Vince Vaughn is best when paired with an inspired comedic partner (Jon Favreau, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, etc.). Kevin James is no one’s right comedic partner. Ron Howard has made great movies before and he will do so again, but no one can make magic where magic doesn’t grow.  Kevin James negates all potential for greatness. In fact, he should be the shorthand symbol for mediocrity.  

Metacritic Score: 46.

 

Barney’s Version  (January 13)

Out now in very limited release. Haven’t seen it, but Paul Giamatti’s the star. Any movie with Paul Giamatti in any role is worth at least checking out. It’s a rule.

Metacritic Score: 67.

 

 

The Company Men   (January 21)

An impressive cast tackles corporate downsizing in the age of recession, in the debut feature from one of the creators of ER. This movie is getting terrific reviews and Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper are almost always worth watching, although there has been the occasional well-worded and disappointed review that have slowed my rush.

Metacritic Score: 71.

 

No Strings Attached  (January 21)

Director Ivan Reitman made Ghostbusters and Stripes, so he’s one of my personal heroes. But Ashton Kutcher is in this movie. What Kevin James is to mediocrity, Ashton Kutcher is to obnoxiousness. It’s not that I won’t see this movie; it’s that I can’t

Metacritic Score: 51.

 

The Way Back  (January 21)

I’ve seen this movie already, happily enough. A new movie from Peter Weir (Witness, Dead Poets Society, Fearless, The Truman Show) is something that any serious film fan needs to pay attention to, and I’m glad to report that this one is well worth the effort. Unfortunately it’s getting buried theatrically, here in January amongst the garbage and the junk. The Way Back is in limited release here in New York, and it features brave and effective performances from Ed Harris and Colin Farrell, among a bunch of much less famous guys. This movie is one of the best movies I expect to see all year, which is faint praise for a movie that deserves far better. It’s a movie that bestows gratefulness. Having a bad day? Chances are good you’ll get through it. Feel thankful about that.

Metacritic Score: 66.

The Mechanic  (January 28)

A remake of the Charles Bronson non-classic (it’s still a fun movie, but still no classic) where an experienced assassin trains a protégée. I’m not a member of the growing cult of Jason Statham – he’s fine, but not as big a deal as his fans think – and it doesn’t help that he’s taking over the Charles Bronson role here. Pretty much anyone pales in comparison. Ben Foster is a good actor though, and definitely a step up from Jan-Michael Vincent in the original, so this could be worth catching when it hits home screens.

Metacritic Score: 49.

The Rite  (January 28)

Another exorcism movie in January. People will always go to see these movies, so these movies will always get made, but really, why go out in this weather to see this movie when you have The Exorcist on DVD at home? The Rite does have some excellent actors, most notably Anthony Hopkins, along with Ciaran Hinds and Rutger Hauer, but let’s face it, none of those guys are a fail-safe guarantee that a good movie is happening. This entire genre tends to be a waste of time, outside of the one exception to the rule, and the exit polls are backing up that possibly-unfair assumption.

Metacritic Score: 38.

Biutiful  (technically a 2010 movie, but released in the US on January 28, apparently)

It’s a movie by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel). There are no plots here. If you like what Inarritu does, and I do, then you will probably want to seek this movie out. It’s up for Best Foreign Language Film Of The Year, and for Best Actor for Javier Bardem. Personally, I think any movie photographed by Rodrigo Prieto is worth seeing, but I’m also a huge nerd that way.

Metacritic Score: 58.

 

From Prada to Nada  (January 28)

There can be no hope for a movie with this title.

Metacritic Score: 39.

So there it is. January, in movies. Am I wrong? Let me know!