So looking at the films opening in June around the Twin Cities, what have I seen, what would I recommend, what am I looking forward to, and what would I avoid at all costs?
Opening last Friday, Snow White and the Huntsman was number one at the box office, beating out the likes of Men in Black 3 and The Avengers, which to me both look better than seeing Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth (who also plays Thor in The Avengers), and Charlize Theron act mean toward everyone in what looks like a bland new twist on the Snow White story. There was another film from a few months ago that also did another take on the Snow White story, called Mirror, Mirror with Julia Roberts. Did we really need two different films on the Snow White story coming out weeks apart from one another? I think I’ll stick with the 1937 Disney animated classic in either case and skip these newer versions.
Speaking of Charlize Theron, as of this Friday, June 8, she can also be seen in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi thriller Prometheus, along with Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender. Whether this is a prequel or not to Scott’s original 1979 terror-in-space epic Alien, we will find out in a few days; count me as someone mildly interested in seeing Prometheus. Judging alone by the numerous film trailers (how did they ever decide to team up with Coors Light to endorse this?), it looks to be much tamer than Alien, but when sci-fi films are done well they are a blast. However, when sci-fi films are not exciting or extremely tedious, not even great acting or outstanding visuals can save them. (Watch for Jay Gabler's Daily Planet review of Prometheus, to be published on Friday.)
Going against Prometheus will be the Dreamworks animated sequel Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. Surprisingly I have not seen that many commercials or press on the film, and it opens in just a few days. Maybe I have not been on the right channels or have picked up the right newspapers, but judging by the title, the main characters will be leaving their Central Park zoo and heading to Europe. The past two films have been entertaining enough and I have a feeling I’ll eventually see Madagascar 3—just not any time soon.
The film opening this Friday that should be sought out, however, is Moonrise Kingdom, the newest film from Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited). This is a must-see, featuring a great cast (Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand) who are all outshined by their younger co-stars: two newcomers, Jared Gilman and Kara Haywood, as young teens who escape from their New England coastal towns and fall in love. Moonrise Kingdom is fragile, whimsical, and a delight from start to finish. (Watch for Jay Gabler's Daily Planet review of Moonrise Kingdom, to be published on Friday.)
Opening on Friday, June 15 is another Adam Sandler man-child comedy, this time co-starring Andy Samberg: That’s My Boy. You have been warned.
Rock of Ages, starring Alec Baldwin, Julianne Hough, and Tom Cruise (in a long-hair wig but still showing off his six-pack abs) get their moment to sing some songs in a movie based on the Broadway musical. Could be fun, in a campy way—at least that's what I am hoping for.
If you are looking for something off the beaten path though, you should check out director Colin Trevorrow’s highly entertaining Sundance sci-fi comedy hit Safety Not Guaranteed. After seeing an ad in a Seattle newspaper—"Looking for someone to time-travel with"—a reporter and his two assistants take a road trip to find out if the person who placed the ad is crazy or a genius. It stars Aubrey Plaza (NBC’s Parks & Recreation), Jake Johnson (Fox’s The New Girl), and Mark Duplass (Your Sister’s Sister). The results are charming, original, and surprisingly, touching.
On Friday, June 22, we will be treated to perhaps the biggest wild card of the month with an adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's unexpected best-selling novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted and the Russian vampire fantasy Night Watch) , starring Benjamin Walker portraying Abraham Lincoln. This Tim-Burton-produced film has some promise and could be highly entertaining pulp or a complete misfire similar to Burton’s last vampire venture, Dark Shadows.
Brave, the latest Pixar animated film, looks to be a great adventure for kids and adults alike. Featuring voice work by Emma Thompson, Kelly Macdonald, Kevin McKidd, and talk show host Craig Ferguson, it's a first for Pixar: a feature film with a female leading the charge. Scottish Princess Merida (voiced by Macdonald from HBO’s Boardwalk Empire) is also a warrior and must defend her kingdom. Pixar rarely lays an egg (Cars 2, anyone?) and most of their films are better than most of the live-action films released every year. Count me in as someone who will be seeing Brave opening weekend.
On the American indie front, Lynn Shelton’s (Humpday, My Effortless Brilliance) fourth feature, Your Sister’s Sister, might be her best film to date and it should be Mark Duplass’s breakout—if Safety Not Guaranteed is not the one to make him a go-to male actor. Leaving Seattle to retreat to a cabin in the Northwest wildness after his brother’s death, Duplass’s Jack encounters Hannah (Rosemary Dewitt) and they hit it off, which only complicates matters once Hannah’s half-sister Iris (Emily Blunt) arrives and Jack has feelings for both sisters. It's refreshing to see a comedy with real emotions and an understanding of difficult relationships handled with superior perfection.
Closing out the end of month on Friday June 29 is the second Steven Sodenbergh (Haywire) film of the year, Magic Mike, based on actor Channing Tatum’s real-life male stripping experiences before he became an A-List actor. Sodenbergh is a name I trust; I have rarely been disappointed in his efforts. The story is supposedly a comedy/drama mix, with Tatum’s character (a veteran in the stripping game) teaching a new recruit the ways of making money, meeting women, and partying, with Matthew McConaughey co-starring as the owner of the strip club.
Image: Brave, courtesy Pixar/Walt Disney