Quick previews of nine films premiering in July, August, and September.
How’s your summer going? Enjoying the heat wave? The first official day of summer was just a couple of weeks ago, June 21, though of course it felt like that time of year, both in the climate and in our culture, for weeks before that. The summer movie season continues to go through its ups and downs, with slam dunk hits like The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and Toy Story 3 raking in cash hand over fist, with more predictably lucrative fare like Grown Ups and The Last Airbender also making bank.
We still believe it’s been a paltry summer for film, with not even a surprise like last year’s Moon to break up the doldrums. Still, there’s hope on the horizon. The following films all come out in the next few weeks, some in limited but most with wide release schedules planned. We’ve tried to include a range of tastes.
Salt - (July 23) When CIA covert operative Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is accused by a Soviet defector of plotting to kill the president, she goes on the run to try and clear her good name and get to the truth. Directed by Philip Noyce (The Quiet American) from a script by Kurt Wimmer (Street Kings) and Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential). Our take: This is the third time in five years Jolie has played a spy/assassin, and we kind of think she could slink her way through a part like this in her sleep. Also on familiar ground are the always-welcome Liev Shreiber as Salt’s colleague and the ubiquitous Chiwetel Ejiofor as a fellow agent. We’re lukewarm at best about this one: for all our complaints about wanting more films for grown-ups, this seems like an auto-pilot effort by all involved.
Get Low (Limited July 30) – A notorious mountain man (Robert Duvall) plans to attend his own funeral with the help of a wily funeral director. Old secrets and grudges come to light as the event turns into a local sensation. Our take: High hopes for this one, as we suspect it could be the oddball surprise of the year given the talent both veteran and emerging involved. We’re anxious for more Murray after cracking up at his beyond-meta cameo in last year’s Zombieland, and Duvall all but owns the copyright on these kind of grizzled roles. Academy Award-winning short film director Aaron Schneider (Two Soldiers) makes his feature debut, with a script co-written by C. Gaby Mitchell (Fallen Angels) and Chris Provenzano (Mad Men) from a story by newcomer Scott Seeke. Read our full preview here.
Middle Men (August 6) Set in the far-flung past of 1995 (We were in college!), the based on a true story reveals how an otherwise upstanding businessman (Luke Wilson) started the first online billing company to deal exclusively with the adult entertainment industry. Along the way he gets involved with porn starlets, Russian gangsters, federal agents, and any variety of con artists. Our take: We are shocked to learn that pornography is available on the Internet. Seriously, with a cast full of underseen stars – including James Caan, Kevin Pollak, and the mighty Robert Forster – and an offbeat subject, there’s no end to the Boogie Nights-like potential of director George Gallo’s (Midnight Run) latest effort. Wilson is a natural for roles such as this, and anything to get him off those embarrassing cell phone ads is all right by us. The following trailer is redband, meaning it’s NSFW.
Eat, Pray, Love (August 13) – Based on the gargantuan best-selling memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert, the story centers on a newly divorced woman (Julia Roberts) who embarks on a journey around the world to find happiness and contentment. Our Take: We imagine August multiplexes including the twi-hards viewing Eclipse for the third time while their moms check out this sort-of comeback for Roberts one theatre over. Glee mastermind Ryan Murphy is likely exactly the right choice to adapt the material, while the supporting cast including Javier Bardem, James Franco and Billy Crudup means plenty of eye candy for its target demographic.
The Expendables (August 13) – A team of mercenaries is sent to a South America country on a mission to kill its ruthless dictator, even as other forces including a traitor in their midst conspire against them. Our take: Overkill is the name of the game for Sly Stallone’s latest trifecta effort, both in the plot and special effects and also in the tough-guy roundup casting. A good thing, too: pretty much everyone involved could use a career tune-up, and a group effort like this makes good sense. Too, it’s irresistable for anybody that grew up watching action movies on cable. One question, though: Was Chuck Norris busy?
The American (September 1) - A professional hitman and weapons maker (George Clooney) flees to the remote mountains of Italy before awaiting his next, final assignment. While holed up in a tiny village he befriends a priest and romances a local girl, either of whom might offer salvation. Our take: The flip side to The Expendables in so many ways, Anton Corbijn’s second feature effort looks to be a more deliberate and cerebral take on some familiar genre tropes. Clooney has our attention as usual, though much like Jolie it wouldn’t hurt him to lay off the spy and smooth criminal parts for a little while. Read our full preview here.
The Adjustment Bureau (September 17) – A rising politician (Matt Damon) begins a fledgling but powerful romance with a ballerina (Emily Blunt), even while shadowy and mysterious forces rearrange reality so as to keep them apart. Loosely based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, adapted and directed by George Nolfi (The Bourne Ultimatum.), and co-starring Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Terrence Stamp, Daniel Dae Kim and Shohreh Aghdashloo. Our take: Damon has as much claim to the title ”America’s Leading Man” as anybody else right now, Blunt is a rising star worth watching, and brainy, romantic science fiction is always a welcome sight. Nevertheless, if Inception disappoints this film could likewise fail to connect with audiences.
The Town (September 17) – The leader of a gang of thieves (Ben Affleck) struggles with feelings of responsibility and attraction for a bank manager (Rebecca Hall) traumatized by one of his heists. Meanwhile an FBI agent (Jon Hamm) pursues her as well, all the while closing in on the thieves. Our take: Has Affleck made a modern-day, grittier Tequila Sunrise? Damon’s former partner returns to their hometown of Boston for this character drama that opens the same day and also features a Mad Men star in a prominent role. Affleck’s earlier writing-directing effort Gone Baby Gone was a pleasant surprise, but for no good reason we’re less enthused about him directing himself. Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) also co-stars as Affleck’s henchman.
Buried (September 24) – A civilian truck driver working in Iraq (Ryan Reynolds) is taken hostage by terrorists and buried alive with only a knife, a cell phone, and a lighter. Initially suffering from amnesia, he begins to piece together his fragmented memories as his day’s worth of air slowly runs out. Our take: This effort by Spanish director Rodrigo Cortes seems an unusual choice for Reynolds, who up until now (and the upcoming Green Lantern) has stayed largely away from heavier concepts. There’s a Hitchcockian feel even to just the basic story pitch, and Cortes has reportedly followed that muse towards including plenty of innovative camera angles and perspectives to help tighten the tension. If audiences are willing to buy the former Van Wilder in such grim surroundings the film could be a surprise hit.
- Michael Kabel