BOP 25 of Summer 2009: 25-16

April 29, 2009

This was either day #144 or #75 25) 500 Days of Summer

Fox Searchlight has a remarkable ability to take movies that should be tiny little indie flicks that develop a cult following and instead turn them into box office gold. They've accomplished this feat time and again, including movies like Slumdog Millionaire, Juno, Waitress, Little Miss Sunshine, Napoleon Dynamite, Sideways, 28 Days Later, Bend It Like Beckham and Super Troopers. They'll be hoping to keep that track record going as they release the romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer, which has already built significant buzz at the Sundance Film Festival.

Other than the fact that Fox Searchlight seems to have the golden touch when it comes to quality films, we're also thoroughly excited about the pairing of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. We've really appreciated Gordon-Levitt's work in movies like Brick, The Lookout and 10 Things I Hate About You, and though we're still struggling to get past Deshanel's "acting" in last year's The Happening, she's still one of our favorite actresses in the business. In (500) Days of Summer, Gordon-Levitt portrays a hopeless romantic who is head over heels for Deschanel's character, who just doesn't believe in love. The movie fractures time to tell us their story, showing the giddy highs and stormy lows.

We think the potential for good chemistry between the two leads will take (500) Days of Summer to a much higher level than your typical romantic comedy. We still love love, when it comes right down to it. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Act natural 24) Extract

Mike Judge's career trajectory is one of the strangest in the industry. He is somehow simultaneously among the most successful creators of the past 20 years as well as a cautionary tale of corporate mismanagement. His first show, Beavis and Butthead, defined an entire generation of MTV viewers (to be fair, MTV generations are Tweet-sized), but his constant clashes with management led to its premature undoing. His first movie, Office Space, is legitimately one of the funniest of our lifetime, but it was a critical bomb that the studio had no idea how to market. His second television series, King of Hill, has been named by no less than Time Magazine as one of the greatest shows of all time. It has been running on Fox for almost a dozen years now yet the corporation respects it so little that it has been canceled on at least four occasions with the latest one appearing to mean something. Judge's second movie, Idiocracy, was so poorly received by its distributor that the title was given only a cursory (and legally required) release in a few major cities before being dumped on DVD where it has almost instantly become a cult classic. Any project Judge chooses is likely to serve as a lightning rod for love and hate with the love usually coming from consumers and the hate coming from his corporate bosses.

BOP loves a provocateur, and we're even more excited to hear that Judge views Extract as a flip side of the coin to Office Space. That film saw the employees as the heroes and the bosses as the jerks. Extract reverses that premise when the owner of a company finding himself daydreaming about getting away from all of the leeches who take advantage of his success. The project had been gestating for a few years when Judge realized in watching Arrested Development that comic chameleon Jason Bateman would be perfect in the lead role. That would be enough for most of BOP's staff, but Forgetting Sarah Marshall's Mila Kunis, SNL cast member Kristen Wiig, Kevin Smith trainee Ben Affleck and Mr. Whammy David Koechner are all a part of this eclectic, potentially hysterical cast. And as Mike Judge himself points out, if this one fails, he won't have anyone else to blame for a change. He chose the studio, Miramax, and he has final cut on the film, a first. It will be a fascinating change of pace to see a Mike Judge production where he has been in control the entire time. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Just *desperate* for Project Runway for return 23) Bruno

If you're a fan of movies, you're wise by now to the ways of Sacha Baron Cohen. There's not a chance in the world that you might be taken in by one of his characters in an "interview" because obviously, you've seen him and you know exactly what he looks like and are aware of all his tricks. Right?

Nonetheless, there is still apparently a large portion of the world that has no idea who Sacha Baron Cohen is. Even with Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazhekstan making $128.1 million and an additional $133.1 million overseas, there is still a wide, untapped group of unsuspecting people for Cohen to take advantage of.

This time around, he leaves the Borat persona behind for the flamboyantly gay Australian reporter who questions people about such subjects as fashion, entertainment, homosexuality and celebrities. While we're not sure if Bruno has the same wide-ranging appeal as Borat (which was a surprise in and of itself), we do know that Cohen has a fan base that will follow him to any number of films. We're anxious to see what his does this time around. (Kim Hollis/BOP)

I've gone back in time to when dinosaurs weren't just confined to zoos 22) Year One

In the realm of historical comedies, the list of films is small. You have Caveman, History of the World Part 1, 10000 BC (wait, that wasn't a comedy?) and now, entering into this rarely tapped vein of humor, Year One.

As one of the summer's highest profile pure zany comedies, it would catch our attention simply for the deep cast, starting with the two top line stars, Jack Black and Michael Cera, who play the hapless cavemen Zed and Oh, a pair banished from their tribe. They're backed up by a veritable indie all-star team of comedians and actors, such as Paul Rudd, David Cross, Hank Azaria and Chris Mintz-Plasse as various Biblical figures that they bump into in a variety of wacky situations.

To add to that pedigree we have the world bestriding Judd Apatow as producer, though that's in a more hands-off role. Instead, creative responsibility really falls to Harold Ramis, who we've all been very patient with in waiting for him to recreate something close to his 1980s and 1990s success. But it's been 16 years since Groundhog Day and we're not going to wait forever.

A lot is going to depend on how well the two leads mix. Black and Cera make for an interestingly paired comedy team, combining the ultra-manic with the painfully-reserved. This is either going to work brilliantly or seem like two entirely different films, but early clips are strangely schizophrenic and seemingly unable to decide between dumb slapstick and clever references. Consider us interested but put it on the wait and see pile for now. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
Stop! In the name of love 21) Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

Variations on the classic Charles Dickens tale, A Christmas Carol, have permeated throughout television and movies since the advent of those technologies. A staggering percentage of long time network series have aped the idea of exploring a central character's impact, be that negative or positive, on the lives of others. Movie classics such as Scrooged! have celebrated the yuletide setting while modernizing its themes while television series as diverse as Moonlighting and Supernatural have created some of their most popular and highest rated programs with that same theme. The universality of one person's causal impact on others is undeniable. As a premise, there is perhaps none better at defining a character than how their actions permeated through the lives of friends and family. It is arguably Dickens' finest storytelling accomplishment. And that means he is probably rolling in his grave at the idea that the guy who did Mean Girls is doing a romantic comedy about it starring Matthew freakin' McConaughey.

BOP isn't letting knowledge stop us from selecting it from our list, though. We think that this could be a very good romcom in spite of Nekkid Bongo Boy. The cast is the key to that belief. Michael Douglas in the role of a has-been playboy is masterful, and Jennifer Garner as his dream girl helps, of course. The one to watch here is Superbad's Emma Stone as the spirit who helps McConaughey navigate the treacherous waters of his romantic entanglements. BOP thinks she has a solid chance to be the next Anna Faris (her co-star in The House Bunny), which isn't praise we throw out haphazardly. She's a huge talent and this could be her breakout role. Or it could Run of the Mill McConaughey Romantic Comedy #8. It could go either way. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Worst remake of Cube ever 20) The Hangover

Most movies about bachelor parties revolve, quite naturally, around the groom. But what happens when you lose the guy who's the main attraction?

That's the somewhat novel approach of The Hangover, the latest movie from Old School director Todd Phillips. Centering around a trio of friends after a particularly wild night in Vegas, they wake up with a cryptic series of clues in their room – a tiger, a baby, a missing tooth, a wedding ring and Mike Tyson. And oh yeah, their best friend, due to get married in two days, is nowhere to be found. Somehow they'll have to peer through their alcohol-hazed memories to figure out just what the hell happened to them and where the groom-to-be is.

Like Old School, The Hangover has the potential to be a star-making turn for its cast, which includes Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis, the latter of whom is most likely to be its Will Ferrell breakout character. But with a lot of solid gags in the trailer based around typical male misbehavior, The Hangover seems like it has a strong overall package and may very well wind up as the buzz film of the summer. At least Warner Bros. hopes so, as they've taken the nearly unprecedented step of giving the film a sequel greenlight before the first film has even hit theatres. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
Hooray for tofurkey! 19) Julie & Julia

Meryl Streep had a pretty darned good year in 2008. After leading the cast of Mamma Mia! to become a huge and surprising worldwide hit ($601 million), she then went on to earn an Academy Award nomination for her lead performance in Doubt. When it comes to the hottest actresses in Hollywood, Streep has to be in the conversation, and she can deliver both box office and critical acclaim.

The career ascension of Amy Adams has been something to behold, too. After receiving an Oscar nomination for her wonderful supporting role in Junebug, people really started to notice Adams and give her roles with some heft. After a smaller role in the Will Ferrell film Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, she burst into the public consciousness with her adorable turn as Giselle in Disney's Enchanted. In 2009, she was nominated for another Academy Award, this time for her supporting turn alongside the aforementioned Streep in Doubt. Adams has proven to be an immensely likable and versatile actress, moving within comedy and drama with equal skill.

Now, Streep and Adams are together again, though not as nuns this time. Instead, this movie is all about the food. Adams plays a young woman who makes it her mission to get through every single recipe in famed chef Julia Child's cookbook Mastering the Art of Cooking, and documents her experiences in a blog. Her life becomes intertwined with Child's, and we're sure lots of other inspirational and amusing stuff happens, particularly since the movie is written and directed by Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle).

We know from experience that Streep and Adams are great together, and we're excited to see how the pairing works in a different genre. It's an intriguing story, and with shows like Top Chef and Hell's Kitchen showing such popularity, it's a movie that should attract a lot of attention and offer a smart alternative for the female demographic. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Major Tom 18) Moon

Among the actors who make the crew here at BOP sit up and pay attention to a project, Sam Rockwell is right near the top, thanks to his superb and quirky performances in nearly every role he's tasked to. In Moon, we have a near perfect marriage between actor and role designed to pique our interest.

Rockwell stars as Sam Bell, a lonely astronaut on the far side of the moon, harvesting energy to send back to Earth, accompanied only by the artificial intelligence of his computer (an uncredited Kevin Spacey, who also seems perfectly suited for this). Near the end of his three-year stint in the moon base, Bell discovers a dark secret about the company he works for, and that his return to Earth isn't quite a given, for a reason that he never could have guessed.

A paranoid thriller that deals with technology in a way that harkens back to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Moon comes to us with accumulated buzz from its Sundance debut. The first full length feature for Duncan Jones (aka Zowie Bowie), it's not destined to be a blockbuster by any means (since it's pretty much a one-man show for Rockwell), but with its deceptively simple premise, Moon may be one of the more challenging small films of the summer. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
Yeesh, she didn't wash her neck 17) Drag Me to Hell

Long, long before he was helming movies that center around a spandex-wearing guy bitten by a radioactive spider, Sam Raimi made his name in the business as a director of horror. In fact, he's responsible for three of the greatest and most iconic scary movies ever, - Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness. If you don't know about these movies, seriously, why are you reading this site? It's possible you don't understand what we're talking about a full 70% of the time.

Raimi is taking a break from movies about the webslinger to go back to these roots. Sure, his Ghost House pictures has been the production house for such stuff as The Grudge, Boogeyman and 30 Days of Night, but with Drag Me to Hell, it's really Raimi behind the camera. And since he co-wrote with his brother, Ivan, we can be confident that the story will have a nice touch of creativity and originality.

The movie stars Alison Lohman as a young woman who is looking ahead to get ahead in her job as a loan officer at a bank. To that end, she makes a decision to deny an elderly woman an extension on her home loan. Of course, this elderly woman has the capability to curse our young heroine straight to hell, or at least hell on Earth. This makes for lots of opportunities for scares and gore the way only Raimi can do it. When I saw Evil Dead back when it was still new and fresh, the gore made me squeamish and the story terrified the dickens out of me. It's more campy now, admittedly, so the chance to see Raimi do a more updated horror tale is tantalizing. We're hopeful that he can deliver something special. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Critics of the film will be dealt with swiftly 16) G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

The moment the movie adaptation of Transformers was greenlighted, it was an inevitability that this film would happen as well. G.I. Joe and Transformers were the cornerstone programs of 1980s boys who loved action cartoons. Sure, there were other shows like He-Man and there were knockoff programs such as Go-Bots, but G.I. Joe and Transformers stood above the rest. They have been inexorably linked ever since, and the moment Michael Bay took on Transformers, G.I. Joe's arrival was clearly just around the corner.

Now that it's here, we do have some concerns. Let's be honest about the fact that the costume images floating around for G.I. Joe are absolutely ridiculous and the fact that the show's premise has been stretched out to make it much less xenophobic is rather shameless. There is an attempt here to be jingoistic while still grabbing as many international box office dollars as possible. "Foreigners are bad guys" is out as a philosophy, because foreigners have more money. So, Cobra is going to be a little bit English (Christopher Eccleston and Sienna Miller), a little bit middle-eastern (Arnold Vosloo), a little bit Korean (Lee Byung-hun from the fascinating Three Extremes), and, just to be politically correct, a little bit Hollywood (recovering child actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt). The end result is a much more ethnically diverse cast of characters than Sergeant Slaughter used to beat up.

Even so, the trailer for this is white hot, a surprising turn of events for a film with some rather lousy early buzz. We're cautiously optimistic that the G. I. Joe movie is going to be as good as our fond childhood memories of it require. Then again, we've been brainwashed by HASBRO since an early age to believe that all things Joe rock, so we're probably not the least bit reliable on this subject. (David Mumpower/BOP)

BOP 25 of Summer Selections 15-6
BOP 25 of Summer Selections 5-1



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