Sunday, May 17, 2009

Black Sheep's Summer Longin' (Part Two)

The summer movie season is often pretty top heavy, with studios packing all their bigger fare is at the beginning and letting some of their untested hopefuls trickle in near the end. I always prefer the later days of summer myself. Sure, it’s winding down but I always find that it just forces you to be in the moment and appreciate that summer is still upon you rather than focus on its inevitable departure. And, aside from the return of Quentin Tarantino (INGLORIOUS BASTERDS), there is plenty to help you carry the feeling of a warm summer night well into the fall.

500 DAYS OF SUMMER Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber Directed by Marc Webb Starring Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt Release Date 07/17 I’m pretty sure that summer consists of about 100 or so days and not 500 but I’m not so great with math so I don’t want to make any bold statements. I do know that this Sundance favorite from first time feature filmmaker, Marc Webb, has the potential to capture many a heart. On paper, it doesn’t sound so fresh. We’ve got a guy who falls in love with a girl and the big twist here is that he’s a romantic and she’s a realist. From the trailer though, it seems to me that Webb may have figured out how romance and realism need to learn to work together to make a successful relationship. The film also boasts two of today’s most promising younger actors, Zooey Deschanel and Gordon Joseph-Levitt, so you know you are in for a good time one way or another. The question is, will you still be having as much fun the next morning.

FUNNY PEOPLE Written and Directed by Judd Apatow (KNOCKED UP) Starring Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen and Leslie Mann Release Date 07/31 You may not know this, and the trailer is actually smart enough to point it out, but comedy juggernaut, Judd Apatow, has actually only made two movies himself. They are THE FORTY YEAR OLD VIRGIN and KNOCKED UP. No, he didn’t make SUPERBAD; no, he didn’t make FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL or PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. Everyone just assumes he does because his name is always tossed around in the trailer just because he is associated in some way with the film. FUNNY PEOPLE is his third film and, not only does it look sharp, but it seems much more subtle than overtly comedic. Apatow understands that life isn’t easy but he also gets that it’s pretty darn funny even when it sucks. This is what makes him the most authentic comedy writer to come around in years and what makes everyone want to be him.

TAKING WOODSTOCK Written by James Schamus Directed by Ang Lee (BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN) Starring Demitri Martin, Emile Hirsch and Liev Schreiber Release Date 08/14 This is an example of my total bias when it comes to certain directors. To watch the preview for this film, I wouldn’t say that it necessarily looks like a masterpiece but this is Ang Lee. This is the man behind THE ICE STORM, CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON and BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. I love these movies. Sure, he also made THE INCREDIBLE HULK (the first one) and LUST, CAUTION. These weren’t great and everyone is entitled to make a few mistakes along the way. And yes, it is entirely possible that TAKING WOODSTOCK will go the wrong way but I am always willing to give Mr. Lee the benefit of the doubt. The cast is intriguing, the sexuality is ambiguous and the setting is ripe with potential and sweaty young people. I remain optimistic.

JULIE & JULIA Written and Directed by Nora Ephron (SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE) Starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams Release Date 08/07 If you ask Meryl Streep how she feels about her newfound box office clout, she will tell you that she is more surprised than anyone and doesn’t have any explanation for it. I say that as if it is that easy to just run into her and ask her such a plain question but I did read that somewhere. In recent summers, with THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA and MAMMA MIA!, Streep has become the queen of summer counterprogamming and a champion for female driven box office success. Her latest reunites her with DOUBT co-star Amy Adams and is based on two real life stories – that of famous chef, Julia Child (Streep) and a woman who became famous by drawing inspiration from Child, Julie Powell (Adams). To watch Streep as Child, you can almost smell her next Oscar nod and potential win considering how long it’s been since she last took one home. You know Hollywood is waiting for the right moment to give her her third trophy and they may not need to wait much longer.

PAPER HEART Written by Nicolas Jasenovec and Charlyne Yi Directed by Nicolas Jasenovec Starring Charlyne Yi and Michael Cera Release Date 08/07 Now this one has me hooked. Charlyne Yi is this tiny little lady, small in stature but big on awkward hilarity. Maybe you remember her as Jodi, one of Seth Rogen’s peculiar housemates in KNOCKED UP. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter. She is now the subject of a faux documentary called PAPER HEART. In it, she plays herself and is on a mission to understand love as she herself has never experienced it. Being herself, she has the chance to speak to many a friend in the film industry, like Rogen and Demitri Martin (who makes his major acting debut in TAKING WOODSTOCK, incidentally). She also comes across Michael Cera along the way. In real life, Cera is Yi’s boyfriend. In the movie, they meet and fall in love while she is supposed to be making a movie about how elusive that darn emotion is. It’s self-referential heaven! And I will watch Cera is just about anything. That said, I’m still not sold on YEAR ONE yet.

So, as you can see there are plenty of reasons to forego a game of soccer in the park or a trip to a theme park with the family this summer. In fact, why bother with beautiful weather and beautiful people soaking in said beautiful weather when you can run to the nearest theatre and enjoy the air conditioning all by your lonesome? Hmmm … I think I need to get out more.

Have a safe and happy summer!

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