Another Labor Day brings the close to another movie summer season, one that was, if almost totally devoid of fun, top-shelf blockbusters, devoid as well of anything tremendously bad. In its place comes the month that heralds the Toronto and Venice Film Festivals, thereby ringing in the official start of awards season; otherwise it’s just a repeat of February or April, months that largely serve as a receiving area for movies that nobody has quite enough faith in to give them a proper release date. I will confess to thinking enough of the new releases have enough promise, usually in the trashiest possible way, for me to be more excited about this month than I was for any of the tentpoles. But this is only because I am perverse.
At any rate, perversity and perversity alone can explain why Shark Night 3D is so near the top of my Must-See list for the month. I have made no secret of my belief that tacky and stupid 3-D is the only kind of 3-D of any real merit, and a movie that title is apt to be both of those adjectives – if it has even a trace of the energy of Piranha 3D, on whose bandwagon it is so clearly jumping, I’ll be a happy schlock fan. The only thing keeping down my enthusiasm is that PG-13 rating, which can be no good sign, not at all.
Making it a double weekend of absolute trash, we also get Apollo 18, a found-footage horror film about killer aliens on the moon. Color me doubtful. And more than a little insulted on behalf of the actual Apollo astronauts.
There are two actual, legitimate films coming out in wide release, both of them genre-type movies that are probably looking to get into the year-end awards derby early, before the glut of tastefully literary prestige pictures crowds them out. The first is Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, a celebrity-packed dark thriller about a disease that kills the whole world. Making it officially one of the sub-themes of 2011 cinema, after Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Longtime readers are aware that I would follow Soderbergh off the edge of a cliff, and the magnificently grim trailer leaves me with no reason to doubt my faith now.
There’s also Warrior, which has that uplifting sports movie thing going on that means, I suppose, that they think it’s going to get awards play, but nothing about it, other than the presence of the always-reliable Tom Hardy, makes it look like much of anything. Porn industry comedy Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star is assuredly not looking for awards, and I for one have about no tolerance whatsoever for Nick Swardson, but I guess it has that whole big market segment that thought Boogie Nights would have been perfect if it was a farce to look forward to.
I was just talking about the two actual movies, and here’s the other one: Drive, starring Best Actor of His Generation Ryan Gosling and winner of the Best Director award at Cannes for Nicolas Winding Refn. It’s a crime thriller of some sort – based on the orgasmic hype, I decided early on to learn as little as I possibly could about this one going in – and the trailer is outstandingly lo-fi for something that is meant to sell a movie to a mass audience.
It shares space with an inordinately tepid-looking post-feminist comedy starring professional post-feminist Sarah Jessica Parker, I Don’t Know How She Does It, and a remake of Straw Dogs of all random things – aren’t we still, as a culture, arguing about the original? Why even bother?
Speaking of “why bother”, Disney didn’t get the memo that 3-D is on the way out, and is proudly unveiling a converted version of The Lion King, to get us all revved up for its Blu-Ray debut at the start of October. Those of us who made the questionable decision to see Cars 2 in 3-D have had the privilege of seeing the iconic “Circle of Life” number in its new multidimensional glory, and know just how fucking awful the conversion of 2-D cel animation into 3-D looks. 90 minutes of that for $14 is literally nothing more than asking you to pay for the privilege of having a migraine.
I think the reason I’m actually kind of excited for this month is that every single weekend, there’s something I’m genuinely looking forward to, even if it’s only in the hope of some fun, no-brow trash. Case in point: Killer Elite, which pretty much just looks like The Jason Statham & Clive Owen Action Movie, which is also the title of the dream I have every single night of my life.
(Being a diehard Jason Statham fan really sucks sometimes).
It enters wide release alongside two based-on-life stories: Dolphin Tale, one of those cloyingly tender family movies about wild animals and hugs, and Moneyball, a tale of number-crunching and sports management that was a lot more exciting before the proficient but hardly soul-stirring director of Capote took over. But hey, Brad Pitt makes good choices.
The film that’s probably going to win the weekend, though, is Abduction, which assembles a mouth-watering cast of Maria Bello, Jason Isaacs, Alfred Molina, and the always-welcome Sigourney Weaver, and then ruins it all by trying to turn Taylor Lautner into an action star. Perhaps we will be lucky, and it will be hilariously incompetent. Perhaps.
A busy month wraps up with four quiet movies in wide release: 50/50, in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt battles cancer – and I love that actor so much, but I won’t pretend that the concept doesn’t put me on the defensive; an Anna Faris comedy, What’s Your Number? that looks at least slightly better than most of what she wastes her talent on; Dream House, a psychological thriller directed by Jim Sheridan, who for my money is one of the most reliable filmmakers presently working – though none of his films have been flat-out masterpieces, they’ve all been at least pretty good; and Courageous, a feel-good movie that’s making not even the slightest attempt to cast its nets outside of the faith-based set.
The biggest news, of course, is that after an ungodly time in post-production, Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret is supposedly finally getting a release date, eleven years after You Can Count On Me came along and knocked us all on our collective ass. I’ll believe it when the end credits start to role, and not a second earlier.