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BOP 25 of Summer 2010: 25-16

By BOP Staff

May 5, 2010

The summer movie season of 2010 is upon us, starting with the release of Iron Man 2 on Friday. We are less enthusiastic about the depth of the releases this year relative to previous ones. The unveiling of our first ten selections will reflect this as some of the choices (MacGruber) proved wildly divisive (seriously, MacGruber?) and caused people to question the sanity of some of their fellow voters. Fortunately, a little civil war is good for the troops every now and again. Those who survive the bloodshed will have learned a valuable lesson in democracy. The point is that the voting process revealed that we are wildly passionate about three summer releases, quite enthusiastic about four more, at least moderately jazzed for another half dozen or so, and consider the rest of the summer releases an exercise in mediocrity. Prove us wrong, Hollywood! As is usually the case, the list will be posted with 10 entries today, 10 more tomorrow, and the final five on Friday.
There's only going to be half that man to pull up. 25) Piranha 3-D

If you go to your local library (remember those?) and look in periodicals archived on microfiche (I know you don't remember those), you will find an old issue of Premiere from the late 1990s wherein BOP's Dan Krovich coins his ever-popular catchphrase, "Animals eating humans = $$$". His inspiration for this philosophy was his all-time favorite movie, Piranha, along with his second favorite movie, Jaws. Free advice: if Dan ever asks you to go deep sea fishing with him, don't go. It's probably a trap. The man likes to watch humans be devoured by sea critters. He's not right in the head. But I'm getting off-point here.

Circling back to why this matters, over the years, Dan has gradually won some of his fellow BOPers to his side on the point. Quality human-as-dinner movies like Lake Placid and Deep Blue Sea enabled us to appreciate the artistry of a properly implemented devouring. Fast forward to today, conveniently skipping over Primeval, Slither and that lousy Anaconda sequel, and we have all of this shiny, new 3-D technology to enjoy in our horror movies. We have a former star of Jaws, Richard Dreyfuss, looking for any work he can get these days. And we still have sharp-toothed Characidae with a taste for human flesh. That means we have a chance at an epic B-movie taking the form of a major studio release. This is rarefied air and we are breathlessly counting down the moments until piranhas get hungry in a third dimension. (David Mumpower)
Can't...concentrate. 24) Micmacs

After bringing to screen such films as Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children, Amélie and A Very Long Engagement, French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet has earned a reputation as a quirky filmmaker with films that are fantastical and bearing a distinct style. For those who have seen Jeunet's work, it's evident that his filming techniques and visual flair is as distinct as someone like Tim Burton or Wes Anderson.

His newest film will be coming to North American shores this summer, and it looks as funny and fanciful as anything Jeunet has ever created in the past. Micmacs (originally known as Micmacs à tire-larigot, or "Non-Stop Madness," in France) is said to be a satire on the arms trade. If you're thinking, "uh oh; that didn't work for War, Inc. a couple of years ago," you're right. Then again, War, Inc. never looked as refreshingly unique as Micmacs.

The story follows a lonely man named Bazil. Orphaned when his father was killed by a roadside bomb while serving in the military, Bazil is searching for himself. One day, he is hit by a stray bullet during a drive-by shooting. He comes out of the hospital both jobless and out of cash, but befriends an ex-con and salvage artist named Tire-Larigot. Bazil accompanies Tire-Larigot to a junkyard, where he lives with a wacky group of misfits who are odd but clever. Soon, Bazil settles in with this "family," making their home ever more pleasant by making art from the scrap heap. Even as he creates "beautiful" things, Bazil is also plotting revenge against the arms manufacturers he deems as responsible for his father's death and the bullet to his own head.

If Micmacs sounds outrageous and surreal, that conception isn't too far off. That's the appeal of Jeunet, though. He can take an unexpected situation and turn it into a story that is touching, romantic and pleasurable. Given the rapturous response the film has already received in its international release, there's every reason to believe he has succeeded again. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
It looks like the movie should be matchete*s*. 23) Machete

One of the most fun parts of the Tarantino/Rodriguez double feature Grindhouse was the intermission featuring a series of fake trailers for upcoming films that shared the schlock aesthetic. Turns out some of them weren't so fake. One of the more popular ones, and probably the most obvious choice for a spinoff was Machete, starring Danny Trejo as a vengeful ex-Federale with a score to settle.

Deliberately aiming for the 1970s B-movie look, with excessive gore, cheesy action and copious gratuitous nudity, it's a Cinemax special come to life and thrown up on the big screen. Why would we even care? Well, it's Robert Rodriguez, and he's roped in an all-star cast of bad-asses, including Robert DeNiro, Steven Seagal, Cheech Marin and Michelle Rodriguez, as well as Jessica Alba and what's left of Lindsay Lohan for eye-candy. Can you resist such deliberate craziness? Well, Grindhouse kind of bombed, so probably you can. But then there's Danny Trejo chopping up dudes with big-assed knives. Even if we may not all rush out to this film, we still love the idea that someone's willing to throw money at such a ridiculous project. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)




Are you my daddy or my boyfriend? The New World confused me. 22) Ondine

Colin Farrell is a changed man. He was once known for his heavy partying and was one of cinema's most notorious bad boys. After a quick start where a breakout performance in Joel Schumacher's Tigerland got him enough attention to propel him as a hot commodity, Farrell's star came crashing back to Earth. Movies like Alexander, The New World and even Miami Vice were considered flops. On top of all that, Farrell had a sex tape scandal that captured the world's attention even as it became apparent that his issues with drug and alcohol addiction might keep him from ever ascending to his full potential.

Now, out of rehab and living a quiet life as the father of two sons - one of whom suffers from a neurogenetic disorder called Angelman Syndrome, Farrell's movie choices seem to mirror his personal ones. He returned to film on his own terms as an angst-riddled hitman in the indie flick In Bruges, and even took home a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for his efforts. He followed up that stellar performance (and if you haven't seen it, rent the movie now) with a less showy role in Crazy Heart, where Farrell was third banana to Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal. What would come next? If you guessed that he'd star in an Irish romance about a mermaid (and if you did, I'd like you to call me with the lottery numbers), you're right!

Ondine is the story of Syracuse, an Irish fisherman who discovers a woman in his net whom he believes to be a mermaid or a selkie (a similar creature to a mermaid but of Irish folklore origins). As she begins to become more accepted into the small Irish town, people begin to speculate about her origins, while Syracuse falls for her. His daughter becomes convinced that Ondine is a magical creature. Like so many fairy tales, though, things can take a turn for the dark, and Ondine's story is no exception.
Farrell had to learn an entirely different Irish accent for the movie, but his chemistry with his co-star Alicja Bachleda-Curus is real, as they've been dating since they met during filming of Ondine. The film has inspired a significant amount of discussion as it has already seen release in Ireland and played at some festivals. Modern fairy tales can be a delight when done well, and we're hopeful that Ondine can be such a film. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
I wonder what historical document he's hiding in that trenchcoat. 21) The Sorcerer's Apprentice

These days, any discussion of an entire season of box office cannot exist without mention of that most dreaded of words, "reimagining." Sometimes, the idea is worthwhile, such as the white-hot fast zombies update, Dawn of the Dead. Other times - okay, most times - the result is Bewitched. Or Planet of the Apes. Or Land of the Lost. I could add Or statements infinitum, but I'm thankfully not in Programming 101 any more, so I'll stop there. The point is that despite the definition of the phrase, most reimaginings lack imagination. They are rote affairs chock full of a colorless paint by numbers approach. Then, there is the rare instance where, if anything, an idea has to been taken too far in its reimagining.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice falls into that category of going way, way, waaaaaay out on a limb. Seriously, Mickey Mouse is replaced by Nicolas freakin' Cage. No, wait, that's not even right. Mickey Mouse is replaced by that kid from Undeclared and She's Out of My League. You don't even know that kid's name unless you're his relative or his representation. We'll just call him the voice of the lousy Viking in How to Train Your Dragon and go from there. That anonymous dude is going to take on Mickey Mouse's role as a fledgling conjurer who quickly gets in over his head. Whether or not there will be wonderful musical accompaniment remains to be seen. What we do know for certain is that The Sorcerer's Apprentice looks a lot more like Wanted than the animated movie it is theoretically updating, Fantasia. Nic Cage has burned us too many times to get uber-excited about this, but we are unabashedly intrigued by the glossy trailer. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Ordinarily, we'd take the angry mob, but the kid does look tough. 20) The Last Airbender

Albert Einstein famously defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. BOP's continued support of the works of M. Night Shyamalan has probably crossed over into the realm of insanity. Even though we have buried his last two projects, Lady in the Water and The Happening, for being cinematic abominations, here we go again. We are once more getting our hopes up about a Shyamalan project that will probably wind up breaking our hearts. In our defense, the failing auteur cheated this time. He picked a project near and dear to several of our hearts.

Upon its debut in 2005, Avatar: The Last Airbender was immediately hailed as an animated adventure triumph by those on our staff who watched it. Over the course of its 61 episode run, we were surprised and delight by the maturity of its subject matter as well as the satisfying conclusion to the story arc. The idea of a movie adaptation has always been tantalizing to our group and if that means getting our hopes up again that Lucy will let us kick the football, so be it. Three films ago, everyone was convinced that Shyamalan would prove to be the greatest director of his generation. An action movie based upon a story that he did not create may be just the kick in the pants he needs to get back on track once more. And if not, we can not-so-quietly resent him forever for blowing this one. (David Mumpower/BOP)
He's the least believable action hero since, well, Nic Cage. 19) Predators

Follow this lineage of action stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny Glover... Adrien Brody? That's the throughline for the leads of the stand-alone Predator movies, which get their third entry this summer with the cleverly named Predators ("we worked all night, but it was worth it!"). The second of our entries on this list having something to do with Robert Rodriguez, Predators moves the action off-world, with some of Earth's most fearsome killers kidnapped to serve as the prey in an interstellar game preserve. Those killers include Brody (eh), Laurence Fishburne (better), Danny Trejo (great), Walton Goggins (interesting) and Topher Grace (????), as they attempt to survive not just each other, but also the hordes of heavily armed aliens looking for the ultimate trophies.

Returning to the jungle setting of the original film, and ignoring the just okay Predator 2 and the regrettable Alien vs. Predator films, Predators looks like a call back to '80s-style balls-out action, and Rodriguez's presence as writer and producer gives hope that there might be some quality control here. We're not expecting classic material here, but there's got to be some life in this franchise just yet. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
Ugliest threesome ever. 18) Cyrus

Over the past few years, the Duplass brothers have helped to define indie cinema. Together, Mark and Jay have written and directed The Puffy Chair and Baghead, and Mark has also been a featured performer in such stuff as Humpday and Greenberg. They return with Cyrus, a slightly more mainstream comedy - though still probably not for wide consumption. Fox Searchlight Pictures, the studio that has been able to build such indie hits as Crazy Heart, (500) Days of Summer, Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler and Juno, will lead the charge for the brothers' latest project.

Cyrus stars John C. Reilly as...John. Recently divorced, lonely and finding it difficult to adjust to the changes in his life, he meets a woman named Molly (Marisa Tomei) at a party. Thinking that perhaps she's the ideal person to help him start over, he strikes up a relationship with her. The only problem is Molly's son, Cyrus (Jonah Hill), who is determined to make John's attempted romance a complete failure - and even causes problems unintentionally.

As one might expect from a Duplass film, Cyrus looks decidedly offbeat. Reilly's easygoing everyman is appealing in that he's highly relatable. He hasn't had the easiest transition to leading man, but perhaps a smaller film is a setting that will enable him - and Cyrus - to succeed. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
FYI: Horse thieves should never look back. 17) Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Few existing videogame franchises may trace their lineage all the way back to the 1980s. Most of the ones that have survived the test of time are inconic properties that offer unforgettable characters with immediately recognizable names like Mario and known vocations such as plumber. Prince of Persia is not like that. We are talking about a nameless member of the royal family whose primary responsibility is to perform some vague task involving sand and time that sounds like either something from a Kansas lyric or a Days of Our Lives intro. For this reason, Prince of Persia has never garnered the acclaim it has deserved, at least in terms of sales. The videogames themselves have been hailed as masterpieces with 2003's reinvention of the character being the blueprint example.

Ever since the release of the critically acclaimed The Sands of Time, rumors of a movie adaptation have existed. Studio execs saw the concept of a hero able to alter the various permutations of fate as a slam dunk, even if the videogame sales have never directly signified stellar consumer support. In 2010, we finally get to see whether the movie can do what the games never have: sell out early and often. And no one knows how to make a sale more than Jerry Bruckheimer, who is the producer hoping to turn Prince of Persia into another Pirates of the Caribbean-sized franchise for Disney. That's ambitious talk and the trailers have yet to blow us away, but director Mike Newell handled the adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire better than BOP had dreamed possible. As such, we are putting our faith in him that Prince of Persia can be another instance where he "gets" what makes the games great and translates that perfectly for movie audiences. Since this is the guy who put Robert Pattinson on the map, we're not putting it past him that he can turn Bubble Boy Jake Gyllenhaal into an action hero. (David Mumpower/BOP)
We know who the people are who voted for this and we're mad at them. 16) MacGruber

During the '90s, you couldn't throw a rock without hitting a movie based on a Saturday Night Live sketch. Ranging from the great (Wayne's World) to the regrettable (Coneheads) to the "what the hell were they thinking" (It's Pat), SNL films were a reliable source of what you might call "comedy" for about ten years, before their stars decided that striking out with original material was more likely to bear fruit (imagine Will Ferrell settling for a Spartans movie). As such, it's been almost ten years since a sketch has made the leap to the big screen. And lucky us, it's MacGruber.

Basically a straight-up parody of MacGyver, it stars Will Forte as a .., well, there's no other word than MacGyveresque special operative who's called into action to use his skills at creating spy tools out of random household objects in order to save the world from nuclear destruction. What were mildly amusing sketches usually topped out a minute in length before ending in an explosion. The chances of this carrying well over 90 minutes aren't fantastic, but the techno-spy thriller is a genre that's ripe for parody. Could this turn into another Austin Powers? It's not probable, but we're willing to give it a chance. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)


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