So… this is the summer, huh?
We’re kind of off to a rough start.
Read on for more on this weekend’s offerings!
So, the big dog this weekend is ‘Robin Hood,’ a movie that looks so rudderless and boring that I didn’t even bother to see it early. I mean, is there anything appealing about this thing? From the way it’s been marketed, it looks like one giant slog. An almost-50-year-old Russell Crowe as the youthful and spry Robin Hood, who robs from the rich to give to the poor? Zzzz… Even director Ridley Scott, who once seemed like a visionary of cinematic awe, has kind of gone slack in the years between here and ‘Blade Runner.’ (If you remain impressed by ‘Gladiator,’ then you are probably high.) Far from the creative world-builder he once was, Ridley seems like a studio gun-for-hire, with little interest in the detail and plot specifics that made him such a galvanizing force earlier in his career. These are things we’ve got to accept as a collective, so we can learn from them and move on.
The only thing that had me even mildly interested in ‘Robin Hood’ was the appearance of Mark Strong in the cast. But then again, the other night I was conned into watching ‘Babylon A.D.‘ on cable because I saw his name in the cast, and I regretted that almost instantaneously.
I was much more interested in the movie when it was called ‘Nottingham’ and had Robin Hood assuming the identity of the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham to maintain law and order. (Maybe the extensive rewriting of that script by ‘L.A. Confidential‘ scribe Brian Helgeland contributed to the film’s almost $250 million production budget. Yikes.)
Since I haven’t seen ‘Robin Hood’ (and, again, apologies), let’s take a look at what the critics have to say. Well, with only six reviews tallied on Metacritic (a more discerning aggregator than Rotten Tomatoes), it has an above-average score of 62. But I’d like to quote the title of A.O. Scott’s review in today’s ‘New York Times’: “Rob the Rich? Give to the Poor? Puh-leeze!” Scott seems to get to the heart of most of the criticisms of the movie by calling it “long, bloody and self-serious.” I’ve heard this from a bunch of people who have seen it. Apparently Scott and his creative team forgot that summer movies are supposed to be, you know, fun. (When I see the movie, I’ll weigh in for sure.)
The only other major releases this weekend are a pair of seemingly lame duck American romantic comedies. First up is Fox Searchlight’s ‘Just Wright,’ which seems like an “urban” version of the tired romantic comedy that has been boring white audiences for years and years. Roger Ebert liked it, but beyond that it hasn’t gotten much critical love. (It current has a Metacritic rating of 35. Ouch.) The other movie opening is Summit’s ‘Letters to Juliet,’ which continues Amanda Seyfried’s recent trend of being in movies which involve letters (following ‘Dear John’ earlier this year). Despite a somewhat impressive cast, which includes Vanessa Redgrave, Gael Garcia Bernal and veteran character actor Franco Nero, this looks like a dud too. And given its PG-13 rating, we probably won’t see Amanda shedding her clothes, like in this year’s unintentionally hilarious erotic thriller, ‘Chloe.’
But not all is lost! If you’re in New York or L.A. please go see ‘Looking for Eric.’ It’s a small, heartfelt little drama from Ken Loach that played at Cannes last year. (He’s got another movie at Cannes this year – dude does not slow down!) The film stars Steve Evets (the former bassist for The Fall, incidentally) who lives a crummy little English life. He’s a mailman. His wife is gone. And he has a couple of unruly teenage sons (one black, one white – this is never really explained but you kind of go with it). To escape from the loneliness and depression of his life, he imagines having conversations with his favorite soccer star (or “footballer” if you will), Eric Cantona. All I know about Eric Cantona I learned from this movie; apparently he was a French soccer star who went to play for some English team and kicked an unbelievable amount of ass. There’s not an overabundance of plot, per se. (But there’s too much plot in ‘Iron Man 2,’ so maybe it all evens out). The movie is warm and engaging and often quite funny. It’s amazing that Loach, at the tender age of 73, is still directing such emotionally acute motion pictures. This is one worth seeking out.
So, hope is not lost. Consider going to ‘Looking for Eric’ your own bit of Robin Hood-like vigilantism – robbing from the big rich studios and giving to the poor independents. Yeah, let’s go with that.