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Weekend Movies: A Blockbuster, a Romance, a Family Flick and a Slew of Indies

Although August is usually peppered with a few hits, the end of July marks the descent of popcorn pictures and the dregs of the not-too-spectacular summer flicks. True, there are still big movies like ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’, ‘Fright Night’ and ‘Colombiana’ coming, but none of those quite fit the bill as “Summer Blockbusters.” This coming weekend is basically it. Even then, it’s a sort of let-down.

After being teased for more than a year, Jon Favreau’s first post-’Iron Man’ film ‘Cowboys & Aliens‘ finally rides onto the big screen. Based on the Platinum Studios comic book, ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ applies a twist to the Western genre by making the cowboy’s enemies a group of UFO-flying, human-kidnapping extraterrestrials. When our anti-hero central character (Daniel Craig) wakes up with amnesia and an alien metallic doohickey locked around his wrist, he must team up with his arch nemesis to unlock his past, save the townsfolk and send those aliens packing.

Like I said in my review earlier today, with a title that only contains the words “cowboys” and “aliens,” you’d expect the movie to have a fair share of both. Instead, it should be called ‘Cowboys Who Eventually Fight Some Aliens’. The entire movie plays off like a classic Western where the enemies are replaced with rarely-seen aliens. The character development is all there, but it definitely lacks more appearances by the titled alien characters. It isn’t until the final act that we get the goods.

Considering there aren’t many young audiences familiar with the Western genre, I’m worried about how ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ will perform during its opening weekend. My guess is that many adults will see the much-advertised ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love.‘ instead. (Try not to get grammatically confused by the period at the end of the title – It’s annoying). Surprisingly, it is the best release of the weekend.

‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’. tells two stories – one about a married couple whose marriage has fallen apart after nearly 25 years, and another of a young, budding romance. The bulk of the movie belongs to the failed couple played by Steve Carell and Julianne Moore. Yes, Carell plays a mix of his ‘Dan in Real Life’ and ’40-Year-Old Virgin’ characters, but he does it so well that it’s excusable.

The exciting young love story is held up by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, but it doesn’t play a big enough part of the film to win over younger audiences. Instead, ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’. is a more of a cautionary, hope-inspiring romantic dramedy for married couples of any age – and a strong one at that. It’s completely honest and entertaining. The clever script is more than enough to separate ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’. from the pack of typical adult rom-coms.

When the first trailer for ‘The Smurfs‘ appeared online, I said: “They couldn’t pay me enough to watch that.” And that’s absolutely true! Instead of screening ‘The Smurfs’, I opted for a screening of a movie opening two weeks later. My apologies to Sony, Hank Azaria, NPH, Sofia Vergara, Alan Cumming, Katy Perry, Fred Armisen, George Lopez, Anton Yelchin, Jeff Foxworthy, Wolfgang Puck, B.J. Novac, Pee-wee Herman and anyone else who gets a big payday from this movie. I already had to sit through ‘Hop’ this year and there’s no way I’m going to make that mistake again.

Anyone receiving ‘Attack the Block‘ in your market this weekend, I am severely jealous of you. This inner city alien attack sci-fi comedy is right up my alley. Produced by Edgar Wright and starring Nick Frost, I cannot wait for this to open in Salt Lake City.

Also opening in limited release alongside ‘Attack the Block’ are four Sundance 2011 films. The only one of the four that I didn’t see at Sundance was ‘The Devil’s Double‘, a dark look into life of Saddam Hussein’s family told through the eyes of his son’s body double.

Then we have Miranda July’s odd, quirky and highly unlikeable ‘The Future‘. Narrated by a cat, ‘The Future’ takes you through the super-douchey lives of a couple caught up in their own hipster douchebaggery. Honestly, don’t waste your time. [Ed.: I absolutely despised this movie. –JZ]

Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle star in ‘The Guard‘. If you enjoy British gangster films like ‘Snatch’ and ‘In Bruges’, then do not miss this one. When a small town on the shore of the UK becomes an unloading port for bullheaded drug importers, a lazy, disrespectful and mouthy guard (police officer) is forced to work with American agents to put a stop to it.

The final noteworthy Sundance release opening this weekend is ‘Life in a Day‘, a unique documentary that many of you might have seen or participated in already. The film is compiled of footage from average people across the globe who were asked to document one particular day in their lives. Some of you very well may have submitted footage. When the film premiered at Sundance, it was also simultaneously broadcast for free on YouTube, bringing the Sundance experience into your homes. National Geographic Entertainment bought the distribution rights to ‘Life in a Day’ prior to its premiere. If you have the opportunity to see it, don’t miss it. ‘Life in a Day’ is a five-star film that deserves to be seen by everyone. (Aaron raved about it too.)

5 comments

  1. I was looking at Attack The Block. Its playing at the Alamo Drafthouse. I don’t think I am going to drive 4 hours to see a movie tonight. Actually really surprised its not showing in Dallas with all the independant theaters we have around here.

  2. EM

    Luke, I agree with you about The Smurfs. Seeing the trailer once was more than enough. Unfortunately, I went to a second movie where the trailer was again shown; so, I simply averted my gaze by bowing my head until it was over. Alas, that’s not the only trailer I have reacted to thus. There seems to be no shortage of truly obnoxious movie trailers, made utterly worse by the scale of the silver screen and by the miracle of surround sound.

  3. “The Smurfs” has received abysmal reviews; word on the street is it’s even worse than “Cars 2″ and likely to emerge as the “winner” in the “Worst Movie of the Summer” poll. I feel so bad for our national hero, Peyo. Luckily, he isn’t around anymore to see his beloved blue guys being massacred on the silver screen. His widow, however, still has to see it all.

    Here’s hoping “Tintin” will fare better.

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