Opening June 22nd: What Does Brave Really Mean?

Kid’s Movies, Comedies, Historical Dramas (albeit with vampires), Documentaries, It Doesn’t Matter, All Of This Weeks’s Releases Want To Show Us What Brave Is.

Of course there are a lot of different kinds of bravery and to be fair most movies delve into it in one way or another. In fact, if bravery is simply doing something that you are scared to do, either because it is out of your comfort zone or emotionally risky or truly dangerous, than I suppose all movies, heck all stories, deal with that. Still, few do it as overtly as this weeks flicks attempt to do. I mean, if you were to do a checklist of movie bravery plot points we have nearly all of them covered:

  • Defy parents and striking out on your own? CHECK
  • Facing near certain death? CHECK and CHECK
  • Standing up for what is right in the face of institutional denial? CHECK
  • Risking looking like a fool for love? CHECK
  • Admitting your a liar? CHECK
  • Standing up to bullies? CHECK
  • Fighting monsters? CHECK and CHECK
  • Facing the literal end of the world? CHECK
What’s left? A scary in-laws I suppose. Aliens maybe. Transforming robots who also happen to be aliens. Escaped mental patients in hockey masks carrying knives. OK, so there are a few brave things not covered, but we got a lot of them this week. So again, the question remains, what does brave really mean? To be honest if you don’t know the answer these movies probably won’t answer it for you, but if you like to watch bravery in action this is the weekend to go to the movies.
Brave
Interest Level: 7
Is There Any Doubt That It Will Be Good: Absolutely None
I couldn’t figure out why this has never felt like a Pixar movie to me and then it hit me, Pixar doesn’t do movies about people. Cars, Toys, Robots, Fish but in 12 previous movies only two have been centered around human beings (Up and The Incredibles). Of course those two are two great movies. Still, I’ve got to say this one has never been able to get me really excited about it. The trailers are good, the featurettes are fin, it looks like it will be pretty, but it also looks repetitive and influenced by past films (something very un Pixar). Look, its Pixar so it is going to be good but you might want to think about checking your expectations. Right now Brave has a 69% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, that is somewhere between Cars (74%) and Cars 2 (39%) and nowhere near every other Pixar movie (all over 90%).
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
Interest Level: 6
What Was Your Interest Level When You First Heard About It: 9
It sounded so wonderful. Abraham Lincoln hunting vampires, what a hook?! But then the buzz began to fade. It didn’t turn negative like with John Carter or Dark Shadows it just kind of went away. Why? Well the cast was underwhelming, not only devoid of dynamic stars but also no real up and comers that people were excited about (Rufus Sewel playing the Rufus Sewel part of entitled, evil, pseudo royal brit, he’s great at it but we’ve all seen it 100 times and he’s the only person you would recognize). The Tim Burton shine has lost some brightness after Dark Shadows (and his involvement wasn’t much either). And the previews have no humor in them, you cannot do a movie entitled Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter without humor, it just can’t be done. Look, I’m still going to see it, and I may even love it, but it is clear no one at the studio had any idea how to sell it if they couldn’t get me buzzing about it.
Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World
Interest Level: 6
Another Failure Of Marketing and Promotion: Absolutely
Speaking of a studio not knowing how to sell a movie I give you Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World. A comedy about regret and longing and ultimately hope in the face of the literal end of the world is blessed with the perfect cast for this kind of movie (Steve Carell, Keira Knightly, Patton Oswalt), a director who already has shown the ability to make a quirky, dark, somehow cynical yet hopeful movie (Lorene Scafaria who made a movie I highly recommend, Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist) and it is being released when there are absolutely no other adult comedies worth seeing. Ya know what else, I barely heard about this movie. Sure, in the last week they have thrown a few things out here or there, but honestly this has to be the least buzzed about wide release of the year, and it shouldn’t be. This reminds me of another Steve Carell movie, Dan in Real Life, that was also massively undersold. Maybe studios don’t know how to sell abut comedies that aren’t man/boy movies? I don’t know but it is a shame.
To Rome With Love
Interest Level: 5
How Many 4 Star Woody Allen Movies Are There: 8
As those who read me frequently know I am not a huge fan of the star system, but taking the time to describe how I would rank all of Allen’s work would be counter productive. The point is he has been genius at least 8 times, close to that another 6 or 7 times, and To Rome With Love is not one of those times. Plot and story have never been really consistently great with Woody Allen, even for his best movies. He has always been more about dialogue, people, a world you can get lost in for 2 hours. Obviously I don’t view this as an entirely bad thing, but occasionally, when the plot is so threadbare that calling it a story might be an overstatement, Woody Allen’s movies can devolve into self indulgence, from all accounts that is what has happened with To Rome With Love. There will still be enough of that Woody Allen humor to make parts of it fun, but as a whole not worth the price of admission.
The Invisible War
Interest Level: 8
Are You Excited To Sit Through It: No
An investigative documentary about the epidemic of rape of female soldiers in the U.S. military Kirby Dick’s film will no doubt be unflinching, controversial, upsetting and very well done. It will also, because of its subject matter, be hard to watch in parts (as are all films that show how truly horrible men can sadly be). What I know will happen, though I sincerely wish it would not, is for this film and subject to become part of the up coming election discussion. We should discuss it, address it, and the military should be compelled to do more, but who won’t agree with that, so why do we need to hear politicians state the obvious.
Kumare’
Interest Level: 8
Are You Excited To Sit Through It: Yes
From powerful and disturbing documentary to powerful and interesting and funny documentary, Kumare follows a man who impersonates a wise indian guru and builds a sizable following in Arizona. In the end he must reveal his hoax to his followers and in so doing teach them one last lesson. That sounds like a movie plot, in fact that was a movie plot (The Guru in 2002 with Heather Graham and Marisa Tomei), but here it really happened. This has been on a lot of short lists for the word of mouth sleeper hit of the summer and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that prediction came true.
Grassroots
Interest Level: 4
Did You Know Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Dad Was A Director: Yup
A recently out of work reporter helps his friend run for some political office in some small town starring one of the guys from American Pie. I lied, my interest level is zero. Maybe it is good, maybe it is bad, I just can’t find a reason to care.
Stella Days
Interest Level: 2
Based On The Description: No
The plot fo Stella Days doesn’t sound all that bad… a small town cinema in rural Ireland becomes the setting for a dramatic struggle between faith and passion, Rome and Hollywood and one man and his conscience. That could be decent. It has two good people to top the cast too, Martin Sheen and Stephen Rea. So I should be a little interested right? Mildly curious? Nope. Why? Because everyone who saw this movie in Ireland a year ago (when it was released there) apparently thought it stunk. Because this is one of those exceedingly obvious studio moves, releasing a dog of a movie the week before a huge movie is released that happens to have an actor in common (Martin Sheen is playing Uncle Ben in the new Spider-Man flick). Do yourself a favor and stay away.
Conclusion
You know, I remember a couple of months ago when I was looking at the summer movie schedule and I saw this weekend – Pixar’s summer entry, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, the Steve Carell summer comedy – and I thought “man, that is an awesome weekend.” Now that we are here it sure doesn’t feel that way. The summer feels like it remains in a kind of funk. I’m not sure if it is post The Avengers or pre The Dark Knight Rises, but it is definitely a funk. Wait, here’s a thought, maybe it has nothing to do with battling superheroes, maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with the volume of tepid and so-so movies (Prometheus being the notable exception) that hollywood keeps offering to us. Just a thought.
But hey, what do I know, I’m fat.