Speaking of spin-offs, get ready for another avalanche of creatively deficient fare — more than half of the big summer releases are retreads of some sort. In fact, a quick glance at the release schedule reveals precious few studio titles of interest (many of which tt stern-enzi mentions in his summer preview here), headlined by offerings from Michael Mann and Quentin Tarantino.
Personally, I was surprised tt failed to mention Sacha Baron Cohen’s Bruno, the genius comedian’s latest Andy Kaufman-esque excursion in bad taste and questionable ethics. Word is that the first cut of the film, which will be released July 10, yielded an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. Universal Studios is keeping a tight lid the film — as far as I can tell there still isn't an official trailer two months prior to its release, a nearly impossible occurrence in this age of viral Internet marketing.
Sacha Baron Cohen is back as Bruno, a gay fashion correspondent with a weakness for spandex.
And I also admit to a soft spot for the lovingly nostalgic horror flicks of Rob Zombie — I’d much rather catch his second Halloween reboot than the safe, market-tested retreads that surround it this season.
Finally, I noticed that a part live-action, part animated version of The Smurfs is tentatively set for release in December 2010. Now that’s an adaptation worth doing. Seriously. I’m thinking of Scarlett Johansson as Smurfette and Kris Kristofferson as Papa Smurf? And how about Cohen as Gargamel?
BATTLE FOR TERRA — The animated Battle for Terra seeks to capitalize on the 3-D revolution by mixing and matching elements from the Star Wars prequels with Battlestar Gallactica. But somehow nothing about the project jumps off the screen with any sense of wonder, which is too bad because the premise is smart and not too heady to alienate young kids. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens wide today.) — tt stern-enzi (Rated PG.) Grade: C-
BROTHERS AT WAR — Documentary filmmaker Jake Rademacher follows his younger brothers, Joe and Isaac, to Iraq in an effort to find out why they are willing to put their lives on the line to fight a war some say is unnecessary. (Opens today at Mariemont Theatre.) — JG (Rated R.) Review coming soon
GHOST OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST — Matthew McConaughey continues his seemingly never-ending run of vain, self-absorbed characters in this story of a bachelor who is haunted by the ghosts of his myriad past girlfriends. Mark Waters, the guy behind crowd-pleasers The Spiderwick Chronicles, Mean Girls and Freaky Friday, guides a cast that also includes Jennifer Garner and Michael Douglas. (Opens wide today.) — tts (Rated PG-13.) Grade: D
PARIS 36 — Co-writer and director Christophe Barratier taps into deep reservoirs of nostalgia in this period musical drama set in 1936 Paris and refuses to taint the affair with contemporary flourishes to lure in the Baz Luhrmann set. This is a decidedly old-school approach shot with color and clarity that somehow feels like the perfect blend of period and current sensibilities, likely due to solid performances all around. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — tts (PG-13.) Grade: B
SUGAR — Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck follow up their acclaimed indie hit Half Nelson with this tale of a 20-year-old minor-league pitcher (Algenis Perez Soto) from the Dominican Republic trying to make his way in America. Sugar transcends formula by employing a low-key approach, both aesthetically and narratively, to a genre known for bombast and cliché. On a locally relevant note, it features a cameo from former Reds pitcher Jose Rijo who, curiously enough, was recently fired from his job as a scout in the Dominican for allegedly shady dealings with young prospects. (Opens today at Mariemont Theatre.) — JG (Rated R.) Grade: B
WOLVERINE — Wolverine arrives at an interesting moment in the history of the comic-book blockbuster. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight raised the stakes with its quagmire of moral complexity, and the filmmakers here seem to be trying to learn some of its lessons. But after 107 minutes, it doesn’t appear that they learned enough of them. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Scott Renshaw (Rated PG-13.) Grade: C