Opening August 17th: Why Are We Surprised?

When I hopped on Twitter it was the first thing that hit me in the face today, people are liking Expendables 2 and others are surprised by it. Sure, no one is surprised if a 45 year old who made his way through college watching Cobra, Running Man, The Commando, Delta Force, Terminator, Die Hard, Lion Heart and so many more GREAT action flicks that I could fill up an entire post listing them (yes, I am now inspired to do the greatest action flicks of the 80’s list) is excited about Expendables 2, it was made for us. No, what is shocking is that a lot of people are liking it, 64% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes (better than Total Recall and Bourne Legacy) kind of liking it. Women saying “I’m embarrassed to admit it, but it was really fun” kind of liking it. Absurd “best movie of the summer” exaggerated proclamations kind of liking it. But why are we surprised by this? Why are we surprised that a group of individuals who have proven they know how to make this kind of movie have made it well? I’m surprised by the surprise. It makes no sense.
The internet is filled with surprise this week, surprise that should not be. People are surprised ParaNorman doesn’t quite make it to Coraline depth but like Coraline may actually play better to adults than children (did you watch the trailer?). People are surprised Prascilla Presley attended the 35th Anniversary of the Kings death at Graceland (ok, maybe that was a little surprising). People are surprised that Sparkle chose not to screen the film in advance (fortunately no one is shocked that their apparently isn’t any plot). People are surprised that the GOP is letting Donald Trump actually be involved in their convention (at least I am shocked by that). People are shocked that The Odd Life of Timothy Green was one of only 2 movies to not be certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes of the 8 films being released this week (9 movies actually, but like I said Sparkle wasn’t reviewed and therefore didn’t have a score, although it may now… yup and it is actually better than The Odd Life of Timothy Green even if it is still rotten at 59%). Fortunately no one acted surprised to find at that Cosmopolis was moody, its directed by David Cronenberg so of course its moody. The world may be full of surprises, but none of this weeks films should shock us.

Expendables 2
Interest Level: 9 maybe even 10
Are You The 45 Year Old From The First Paragraph: Yes I Am
Things go boom. Lots and lots of things go boom. Men hold and shoot guns with one hand that are clearly not designed to be held and shot with one hand. Sly mumbles. Jean Claude and Arnold still have surprisingly thick accents given they have now lived in the United States 30+ years. Jet Li moves quickly. Your wife and/or girlfriend will look longingly at Jason Statham and his shirt will come off. You will say to yourself “boy, that one kid kind of looks like Thor” until you find out they are brothers (your wife and/or girlfriend may stare at him a bit too). You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’ll be better than Cats (an old joke, but that seemed appropriate with this movie).
ParaNorman
Interest Level: 7 (see legend, my son really wants to see it)
OK, Will Your Son Actually Like It: Not As Much As He Thinks He Will
Who knew that kids were clamoring for scary/supernatural animated features? I sure didn’t, but what other conclusion can I draw from  the ParaNorman/Frankenweenie combo whose trailers have been showing before every family film throughout the summer (if you have kids you know what I mean). Do either of these movies really look like kids movies? I may actually enjoy them both (particularly Frankenweenie, I’m looking forward to that) and my son doesn’t hate the scary, but I’ve got to think that the visuals alone will freak out most kids (if not in the theaters then at home that night when they are trying to go to bed). Monster House didn’t do as well as the studios had hoped, neither did Coraline, why do this one? As I said above, it goes for a Coraline level of insight but doesn’t quite get there, but that is a high “there” to get to.
Sparkle
Interest Level: 3
Were You A Witney Houston Fan: A Young Witney, Absolutely
Set in the 1960’s, this is the story of three sisters who form a singing group and become a Motown-esque sensation, but fame and success aren’t all they are cracked up to be as the pressures and temptations begin to fracture their once close-knit family… SERIOUSLY! Why didn’t you just call it Dream Girls 2: Sparkly? If Witney Houston hadn’t tragically passed away don’t ya think this is a direct to video? Look, I have no doubt the musical numbers are terrific, and I am pretty sure I don’t care.
The Odd Life Of Timothy Green
Interest Level: 3
What Was The Last Thing You Like Jennifer Garner In: Juno and before that Alias and that is about it
I have absolutely no doubt that Jennifer Garner is a lovely person and maybe she even has a great sense of humor, but you would never know it from her movie choices. She only plays cold, humorless people. Even when she tried a comedy like in Juno or Catch and Release she played the humorless character. So, when you see the trailers to The Odd Life of Timothy Green, the kind of movie that desperately needs someone likable with a gift for light comedy, and you see Jennifer Garner is the lead, what do you think? That this is a movie that feels like it has missed the target on tone and takes itself way too seriously? If yes then you would be correct.
Cosmopolis
Interest Level: 8
Favorite Cronenberg Movie: A History of Violence, but The Dead Zone is amazing and Naked Lunch was a trip
This is not a new observation but I do find it interesting that both Cronenberg and Scorsese both finally won Academy Awards for two of their least amazing films (Crash for Cronenberg, The Departed for Scorsese). Truthfully, Cronenberg is one of those directors that always seems to fall through the cracks in the conversations of the great directors of the last 30 or 40 years, and that is too bad because his filmography more than warrants inclusion into any such discussion (goto IMDB and check it out, you’ll be impressed). This looks like a classic Cronenberg story, a young billionaire riding in his limo across Manhattan finds his night thrust into a life changing journey. Maybe his movies aren’t for everyone, but I haven’t missed one in years and even though this one stars the Twilight boy my streak wont end here.
Compliance
Interest Level: 8
Is It For Everyone: No Way
The manager of a fast food restaurant gets a call from the corporate offices about possible theft at her location, what happens after that is chilling, at times disturbing and utterly shocking when you find out it is based on something that really happened. This is one of those movies that came to Sundance and generated a lot of buzz (living in Utah I hear the Sundance buzz) so I have been looking forward to it. You will know in about 30 seconds from the trailer if this is the kind of movie you like.
Robot & Frank
Interest Level: 6
Wasn’t This A Sundance Movie Too: Yup
This is one of those smaller movies that is chalk full of actors I like. Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Ana Gasteyer, Jeremy Sisto, Jeremy Strong, I like all of them. It has a kind of fun plot too about a retired jewel thief who teaches his robot how to steal (watch the trailer, it does the plot more justice than I just did). Look, there is nothing groundbreaking here, but it should be fun, at times funny and any time you get Susan Sarandon playing off Frank Langella you can’t go too wrong.
The Awakening
Interest Level: 6
Do You Watch Ghost Hunters: Nope
If I did love Ghost Hunters I suspect I would be even more excited about this movie, and I am already quite interested. Rebecca Hall plays an author who reveals ghost sightings as hoaxes in 1920’s England. She is called to a boarding school where her own beliefs are tested. This feels a little bit like The Others and The Woman in Black and from a quality point of view it falls somewhere in the middle. It was a solid performer in England (it was released in 2011 there) and it has the look of a dark horse “late summer mild hit” here.
Why Stop Now
Interest Level: 4
Interest Level Based Solely On The Trailer: 8
Great trailer! This comedy has been out on VOD for a while and is now kind of dumped into a few theaters in a week that is filled with buzzier indy fare for reasons that don’t make any sense to me (this also was a Sundance flick, but it generated almost no conversation). It does have a good cast (Jesse Eisenberg, Melissa Leo, Tracy Morgan), a solid “hook” (watch the trailer, it reveals it better than I can) and like I said a terrific trailer (and actually solid if not spectacular reviews). VOD is where it has been and where it should be viewed, but it may be worth $5.99 one night.
Conclusion
Sneaky great week of movies. 6 movies certified fresh by Rotten Tomatoes (that’s a lot). It feels like Sundance in August with Compliance, Robot & Frank and Why Stop Now all coming out this week. Wait a second. Did I just express some degree of surprise? #?!%@!&! Now the whole post is ruined!
But hey, what do I know, I’m fat.