summer movies 2011

F, Marry, Kill: The Summer Movie Edition

We all know the F, Marry, Kill game, in which one is presented with three fantasy (or nightmare) hookups — celebrities or acquaintances — and forced to assign them, one apiece, to the titular categories, based on what you’d do to them. Gracious! Such a crass and objectifying pastime! But not if you do it to movies! So Vulture has applied the party game to this summer’s batch of blockbusters, docs, and dramas: We’ve divided up 57 of the most hyped or anticipated films of the season into micro-genres of three films each, and forced ourselves to put one in each category, metaphorically. Which would we fuck? (As in, we’ll go see it having been dazzled by the flashy marketing, even if we know we’ll slink out of it afterward, ashamed of ourselves, and will never speak of it again.) Which would we marry? (We’re unapologetically looking forward to it, and are convinced we’ll be happy rewatching it for years to come.) And which would we kill? (We’d rather sit at home by ourselves than go near it.) Check out our tough choices, and let us know if you agree.

Murdering The Change-Up (August 5) is a no-brainer: Sure, the ever-charming Jason Bateman is the ever-charming Jason Bateman, but it’d take a lot more to make a body-switching comedy with diarrhea jokes seem palatable. Meanwhile, it wasn’t only millions of moviegoers worldwide who loved The Hangover: Director Todd Phillips appears to have been so enamored with his creation, he’s done his best to slavishly ape it for the sequel. The greatness of the original means a one-night-stand with The Hangover Part II (May 26) is still obligatory, but for long-term commitment look to 30 Minutes or Less (August 12), an unlikely action comedy from Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer, featuring Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari as a reluctant bank-heist duo.
Cameron Diaz plays a student-neglecting educator longing for a boob job and Justin Timberlake in Bad Teacher (June 24). If this doesn’t sound immediately appealing, the very funny and promising trailer indicates that Diaz may just have found the right role for her particular, prickly comedic strengths. And, on the heels of Bridesmaids, if Bad Teacher does well, it will help ice the idea that women can’t sell comedies, which is an idea we can really commit to. Less enticing: Horrible Bosses (July 8), in which Jennifer Aniston cameos as one of the titular bosses, and a man-eating emasculator to boot. While we applaud Aniston’s decision not to play another doe-eyed sad sack, there’s a whole swath of more nuanced territory between Madonna and whore she might want to explore. But that has to default to kill because Justin Timberlake’s Friends With Benefits (July 22), co-starring Mila Kunis, is basically a reboot of this year’s Kutcher-Portman rom-com No Strings Attached, and as such, totally great for a one-night stand at the Cineplex.
The Cars franchise may not be as treasured as the Toy Story one, but Cars 2 (June 24) is still a Pixar creation, and nothing more reliably pleasurable than that exists in all of movie-dom. Kung Fu Panda 2 (May 26) should be nearly as fun, which means we’re in the awkward position of having to kill Winnie the Pooh (July 15). We feel horrible about this, but it’s the game.
Back away, Ginny Weasley: We’re marrying Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (July 15), and there’s nothing you can do about it. Yes, we’ll cop to a bout of cold feet while watching the underwhelming first installment of Deathly Hallows, but we have too much invested in this relationship to quit now. Though if we were to sneak out for a quickie, Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon trilogy-ender (June 29) is exactly the sort of eye candy we’d bring home from the bar, even if we would never introduce it to our parents. And so it goes that the superfluous Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World (August 19) takes a dirt nap. (Meanwhile, its prolific director Robert Rodriguez may want to take an actual nap.)
Conan the Barbarian (August 19), a calculatedly derivative rehashing, may end up being good, clean swords-and-sandals fun. But this is a competitive field: Both the remake Fright Night (also August 19), which pits Anton Yelchin’s suburban teen hero against Colin Farrell’s vampire-next-door, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes (August 5), in which super-smart scientist James Franco makes murderous monkeys (oops!), pack significant promise. And while Farrell’s performance seems truly terrifying, the edge (thanks in large part to the super-creepy scene in the trailer where the apes go pillaging through a packed highway) goes to Planet.
Another tough category, meaning not even the nostalgic charms of seeing Tom Hanks – as a wide-eyed bumpkin undergoing a delayed coming-of-age via adult education – shacking up with Julia Roberts in Larry Crowne (July 1) can’t quite hang. More enticing: Our Idiot Brother (August 26), with Paul Rudd as a lovable fool (he goes to jail after peddling weed to a cop in uniform) and a gaggle of top-notch actresses (Emily Mortimer, Elizabeth Banks, Rashida Jones, and Zooey Deschanel). Most enticing: Crazy, Stupid, Love (July 29) with oft-shirtless Ryan Gosling teaching Steve Carell how to swag it out all while falling for the ascendant Emma Stone.
Spy drama The Debt (August 31) has been on the shelf for a long time, but with a cast that includes Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, and rising star Jessica Chastain, maybe there’s never been a better time to marry in. Then there’s Beautiful Boy (June 3), with Maria Bello and Michael Sheen wrestling with the fact that their son killed himself after committing a Columbine-like slaughter: Yes, the similarly themed Cannes entry We Need to Talk About Kevin may have stolen some of Boy’s thunder, but we suspect we’d still rather morosely F it than Chris Weitz’s A Better Life (June 24), an inspirational tale about illegal immigrants in L.A. Sorry, Chris: That’s the price you pay for New Moon and The Golden Compass.
At Sundance, we loved The Future (July 29) — Miranda July’s sad and precious comedy about flailing thirtysomethings — and we’re still waiting for it to accept our marriage proposal. That would make it okay for us to have a brief affair with Beginners (June 3), right? After all, July is married to Beginners director Mike Mills, so she’d probably be cool with keeping it in the family. And since we’ve made space for the Ewan McGregor–starring dramedy (about a man who learns simultaneously that his elderly dad has cancer and is gay), we must, alas, mercy-kill Terri (July 1), the sweet sad-sack comedy with John C. Reilly as a guidance counselor to an overweight outcast. It’s nothing personal, Terri — maybe we can meet up in the afterlife?
We hear great things about Submarine (June 3), a dark coming-of-age comedy from The It Crowd’s Richard Ayoade, and though the buzz on The Trip (June 10) is less rapturous, that clip of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon doing their best Michael Caine impressions is worth a few rolls in the hay. By default, we have to say sorry to The Guard (July 29): We’ll check out this crime caper (with Don Cheadle as an FBI pursuing a drug-smuggling ring in Ireland with Brendan Gleeson) when it comes out on video.
In The Art of Getting By (June 17), Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, all grown up) plays a Holden Caulfield descendant, a “Teflon slacker” who skips out on high school while falling for Emma Roberts. It’s tween coming of age, which is slightly preferable to Disney Channel coming of age; for that see Monte Carlo (July 1), in which Selena Gomez’s character gets mistaken for a celebrity, and Leighton Meester and Cory Monteith have supporting parts. (Mind blowingly, Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman were once attached to co-star in this.) And both of these are much preferable subgenres to the dreaded preteen coming of age — represented by the actually-for-kids Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer (June 10).
The buzz was rancid at Sundance for The Ledge (July 8), which sees Charlie Hunnam pondering religion and suicide — so we’re not about to coax him off the movie’s title object. We much preferred Vera Farmiga’s thoughtful directorial debut, Higher Ground (August 12), which casts her as a woman bursting with spiritual questions, but we’d still F Salvation Boulevard (July 15), where Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear star in the story of a religious huckster.
The classy Steven Spielberg homage Super 8 (June 10) is a must-see: There’s the pedigree, sure, but we also want to find out what J.J. Abrams’s top-secret marauding aliens look like. Cowboys & Aliens (July 29) is apparently more straight-laced than the mindless popcorn entertainment suggested by the title, but we could pay $12.50 to watch beautiful people Daniel Craig and Olivia Wilde cautiously slice up and then carefully chew cucumbers for two hours and probably not complain too much about it afterward. Meanwhile, Another Earth (July 22) has a tantalizing premise – a second planet, identical to our own, is discovered – but it’s an indie, meaning less holy-shit special effects and more ennui.
The Fast and the Furious series may be king when it comes to movie franchises that have succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations, but the underrated Final Destination flicks are a commendable second; the latest installment (number 5, out August 12) will proudly refrain from reinventing the wheel while offering at least one innovatively gruesome death you’ll be acting out to your friends for weeks afterwards. For something with more sustenance, there’s Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (August 26), a haunted-house creep-out starring Katie Holmes and co-written by Guillermo del Toro. Meanwhile, Apollo 18 (also Augsut 26) drags out the Blair Witch found-footage trope – this time, astronauts get attacked on the moon – but we’re getting a little tired of that gimmick.
Anne Hathaway follows up Love and Other Drugs with another slightly more-serious-than-usual romance with tragic overtones. In One Day (August 19), based on David Nicholls’s best-seller, audiences will check in with Hathaway and Jim Sturgess on the same day every year. If this sounds like a cloying conceit (or Hathaway’s British accent is giving you pause), consider the film is director Lone Scherfig’s follow-up to the great An Education — and it’s gotta be more fun than Parkinson’s. Meanwhile, The Help (August 12), based on the best-selling novel set in Jim Crow Mississippi, looks utterly paternalistic, but we’d spend the night with Emma Stone in anything, even these era-appropriate spit curls. That leaves the relatively somber Brighton Rock (release date TBD), based on the Graham Greene novel and starring Sam Riley as a two-bit thug. It’s got a higher-brow literary pedigree than the others, but it’s been delayed countless time (and may well be again): Word has it that it’s no fun.
X-Men: First Class (June 3) is superheroes by way of Mad Men: all the explosions, but with sleeker duds and more serious conversations. Plus a cast that includes Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, and Betty Draper herself, January Jones? We’ll commit. Looking not quite as classy, but much, much more muscular, Captain America: The First Avenger (July 22) is another period piece, starring Chris Evans as a wisecracking and — did we mention? — extremely jacked superhero. It edges out The Green Lantern (June 17) for the F spot: Lantern has been besieged by special-effects troubles from the beginning, and affords its leading man, Ryan Reynolds, neither the chance to rock a three-piece suit nor the opportunity to go grow muscles right before our very eyes.
Ridley Scott and Kevin Macdonald cut YouTube footage shot on July 24, 2010 all around the world into the documentary Life in a Day (July 24). You gotta marry something with that kind of dedication. Egyptian-American comedian Ahmed Ahmed’s documentary Just Like Us (June 10) follows a diverse group of comedians (largely of Arab descent, but Whitney Cummings is here too) as they tour Dubai, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. While there will likely be pauses for social and political commentary, we know that too much time spent with comedians trying to one-up each other has the potential to be exhausting. But no such conscious clowning is likely in the doc Magic Trip (August 5), which chronicles the epic sixties cross-country road trip of Neal Cassady, Ken Kesey, and his Merry Pranksters. The alcohol and acid will do all the work. In other words, F Magic Trip.
It saddens us to say, but the endless infighting surrounding Michael Rapaport’s A Tribe Called Quest doc means Beats Rhymes & Life (July 8) gets the chop despite its rightly revered subject matter. Meanwhile, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop (June 24) captures the populist hero at a fascinating time (during his post-NBC, pre-TBS stage tour) and promises to reveal the rarely seen “Mean Conan” – but it still gets beat out by Page One: Inside the New York Times (also June 24), which offers a full year inside the hallowed institution as it undergoes epic upheaval.
The Devil’s Double (July 29) is a sleazy, sexy star vehicle that casts Dominic Cooper in dual roles as Uday Hussein and his double, and it’s undeniably alluring and intense enough for a solid F. That leaves two worthy documentary contenders for our deep affection, and since we’ve already seen it, we’re more inclined to marry Project Nim (July 8) — the true, sad story of a chimp taught sign language — than the “beauty queen gone berserk” tale Tabloid (July 15), but that’s only because polygamy isn’t legal here.
We’ve got a deep and abiding affection for the simple little book that Mr. Popper’s Penguins (June 17) is based on, so we’re going to say “marry” and hope for the best. (Our deep and abiding affection for Carla Gugino also does not hurt.) We are going to F The Smurfs (which may be illegal; we’ll find out on its release date, July 29) because even though the whole thing is reminiscent of Yogi Bear, we still like human leads Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, and Sofia Vergara. But we’ve got to kill off Kevin James in Zookeeper (July 8), a T.G.I. Friday’s ad made feature-length.
F, Marry, Kill: The Summer Movie Edition