Looking to rebound from their first so-so feature, Pixar goes from Brave to their first prequel, Monsters University. In what for many (me included) is the year’s most anticipated animated film, the college days of future Monsters, Inc. VIPs Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (the ubiquitous John Goodman) get their due. Back in the day, the two undergraduate scarers may have been roommates, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re friends. Steve Buscemi reprises his nefarious Randy while new talents include Dave Foley, Sean Hayes, and Nathan Fillion as fellow students and Helen Mirren as the self-explanatory Dean Hardscrabble. I fully expect the Harvard of animation studios (interpret that however you will) to regain its groove with the help of these familiar faces.
World War Z has the kind of troubled production history that, once commonplace, is now strangely rare. Based on the novel by Max “Son of Mel” Brooks, J. Michael Straczynski and later Matthew Michael Carnahan turned this “Oral History of the Zombie War” into a legitimate narrative. Marc Forster (Finding Neverland; Quantum of Solace) signed on early to direct with Brad Pitt as its producer and U.N. investigator star. Then the problems began with Pitt and Forster butting heads, which led to a balooning budget, costly reshoots, and rewrites from Drew Goddard (Cabin in the Woods) and Damon Lindelof (Prometheus). The near-$200 million film has certainly attracted plenty of attention (Pitt introducing numerous screenings helps and/or is a red flag), yet will it recoup its costs…or be any good? At least the trailer looks promising.
After making a crowd- and critic-pleasing blockbuster action film, some directors start planning their next big project. How did Joss Whedon decide to follow up The Avengers? Why, by inviting some actor friends to his house for two weeks to stage a modern production of Much Ado About Nothing, of course. Filmed in black and white and keeping the Shakespearean language intact, these merry pranksters from the Whedonverse have a ball with the classic comedy. As an early treat, you may read my review here.
Sofia Coppola follows up her underrated Somewhere with another tale of the wealthy, but with a twist. Based on actual events, The Bling Ring explores the burglaries of homes belonging to such celebrities as Paris Hilton and Orlando Bloom, “allegedly” enacted by well-off high schoolers. Emma Watson and American Horror Story‘s Taissa Farmiga play two of the supposed burglars and Leslie Mann pops up as Watson’s loopy mother. Look for my review on Friday, though even for you fellow Lost In Translation lovers, I’ll go ahead and encourage you to greatly lower your expectations.
Fleeing the Scene
With the above new slate, the first two of which are also in 3D, some room must be made. Out go the blockbusters of May (The Great Gatsby, Iron Man 3, Fast & Furious 6), a sad pretender who never really stood a chance (After Earth), and an innocent bystander…who was still kind of annoying (Epic). Elsewhere, What Maisie Knew leaves the Fine Arts to make room for Much Ado and apparently I was one of the few cheerleaders for The Internship and The Purge after all, despite the latter being the nation’s top-grossing film two weekends ago.
The gorgeous, Hitchcockian Stoker remains one of the year’s best films (I’ve got it as my current #8), though a sizable chunk of the local population would name Dustin Hoffman’s Quartet as their favorite, considering it stayed in town for months. There’s also Bryan Singer’s lackluster Jack the Giant Slayer…then it goes downhill in a hurry. Surprise of surprises is that Movie 43 is the least of the evils, only because its competition is 21 & Over and The Last Exorcism Part II.
On Netflix Instant
A few suggestions: see how Snoop Dogg became Snoop Lion in the Jamaican pilgrimage documentary Reincarnated; check out the dark comedy Super, in which The Office‘s Rainn Wilson dresses up to fight crime with the help of Ellen Page; celebrate the tenth anniversary of the third American Pie installment, American Wedding; take part in the cult revenge thriller Rolling Thunder, starring William Devane and a young(er) Tommy Lee Jones; slay last year’s horror sequel Silent Hill: Revelation; and the cozy up with romantic heist comedy Flypaper, starring Patrick Dempsey, Ashley Judd, and Jeffrey Tambor.