Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

See what I did there. I made it clever…ish.

Anyway, this year’s January-April look back is going to be structured a bit differently. The reason? The usual format doesn’t really fit because, at this venture, I haven’t really seen anything that out-and-out sucked. Plus, for some time I’ve been meaning to post an explanation of the grades I give out, and the reasons that go into them, and it seemed like under the circumstances, this is a great time to do so. So with a twist, here’s how the first four months of 2010 struck me on the movie front, as well as a look at the movies I’m most looking forward to this summer. I hope you enjoy!

Brian’s Grading System
=A+ (4 Stars out of 4)– Craft, story & storytelling merge to the highest levels of the artform. It doesn’t have to be perfect- it just has to sweep one off their feet as they’re watching. See Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island” and Dreamworks’ “How to Train Your Dragon”.

=A (3 1/2 Stars)– There’s not quite enough heft to stand up to the cream of the crop, but damn if films here don’t come awfully close. See Matthew Vaughn’s “Kick-Ass”, Roman Polanski’s “The Ghost Writer”, and the raunchy and riotous “Hot Tub Time Machine”.

=A- (3 Stars)– Artistic ambitions fall short here, but entertainment value is still high. If you find a film rated this on my favorites list, that shows how well it worked. See Paul Greengrass’ “Green Zone”, the low-budget dark comedy “Spoiler Alert!”, Mel Gibson’s return to acting “Edge of Darkness”, Joe Johnston’s “The Wolfman”, the surreal comedy “Youth in Revolt”, and Tim Burton’s beautiful and odd “Alice in Wonderland”.

=B+ (3 Stars)– Still a lot of fun, which is very rarely enough to make my favorites’ list, but art this is not. Strictly entertainment. See the horror remake “The Crazies”, the silly Steve Carrell-Tina Fey comedy “Date Night”, the vampire thriller “Daybreakers”, and the tear-jerker “Dear John”.

=B (2 1/2 Stars)– Has some entertainment value, but also a lot of flaws that you can’t really overlook. Still worth recommending, though. See the Hughes’ Brothers’ “The Book of Eli” and Kevin Smith’s “Cop Out”.

=B- (2 1/2 Stars)– Slightly entertaining. Barely makes the grade. Almost not worth recommending. Almost. See “Death at a Funeral” and “When in Rome”.

=C+ (2 Stars)– Still has some intrigue, but overall too flawed to recommend. See “Repo Man”, “Clash of the Titans”, and “To Save a Life”.

=C (2 Stars)– I have a soft spot for parts of it, but otherwise, not worth your time. See “The Bounty Hunter”.

=C- (2 Stars)– Still has some good left in it, but trust me, you can do better. No films yet here.

=D+ (1 1/2 Stars)– Barely below C- level; might have something going for it, but still pretty bad. No films yet this year.

=D (1 1/2 Stars)– Too bad to care that the soundtrack rocks it, or that T&A is ample. Just not worth thinking about. No films yet.

=D- (1 1/2 Stars)– Maybe one good thing here. The rest is dreadful. No films yet.

=F (1 Star)– The bottom of the barrel. The worst of the worst. Nothing but trash belongs here. No films have gotten here yet.

8 Movies to Watch This Summer
1. “Toy Story 3” (6/18)- Pixar’s been on a creative high with their last three films, and trust me when I say, I’m not just saying that because of the Oscars for “Ratatouille,” “Wall-E,” and “Up” (all three are among my favorite movies of all-time). So yes, compared to those genuine originals, returning to the “Toy Story” well after 11 years seems like playing it safe, except the 1999 sequel is one of the rare ones to exceed the original, and to write it, Pixar picked up “Little Miss Sunshine” Oscar winner Michael Arndt to take the duties while Pixar vet Lee Unkrich directs. The gang is all back, Michael Keaton is playing Ken, and the trailers have been fantastic. Gotta see it. Now please.

2. “Predators” (7/7)- I’ll admit to having a soft spot for last year’s “We Love the ’80s” reboot of “Friday the 13th,” but mainly because it felt less like a later Jason movie and more like John McTiernan’s “Predator.” Well, guess what’s getting a sequel this year? That’s right- this isn’t a remake but a bona-fide sequel to that classic. But from the looks I’ve seen, it looks like producer Robert Rodriguez and his creative team have a kick-ass return to form for this ugly mo-fo, making my disdain for “Predator 2” and those lousy “AvP” movies seem like a distant memory…

3. “Inception” (7/16)- So yeah, here’s the thing about Christopher Nolan’s latest head-trip. Does anyone really know what it’s about? The tag line says “The mind is the scene of the crime,” but that could mean a number of things. Still, after the megablockbuster “The Dark Knight,” Nolan’s got my confidence. He’s also got a cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard, and a trailer that was- truth be told- mindblowing to watch. Can you say biggest-budget for an art film ever?

4. “The Complete ‘Metropolis'” (N/A)- I don’t know when exactly it’ll hit Atlanta theatres, but with Kino planning a summer reissue of this iconic Fritz Lang masterpiece- a 1927 sci-fi epic that’s inspired everything from “Blade Runner” to “Dark City” to “The Matrix”- on the books somewhere, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I was excited about this brand-new restoration, which adds 25 newly-unearthed minutes to this classic.

5. “Best Worst Movie” (7/23)- Ok, it started its’ theatrical run in April, but it’s not hitting Atlanta until July, so I’m including it. What this flick is, however, is a geek-friendly documentary look back at the making of a phenomenon, and a phenomenally-bad film, in the cult classic “Troll 2.” I’ve seen “Troll 2” a few times, and it’s definitely better with friends (or RiffTrax), but anyone who isn’t looking forward to this campy festival fave isn’t a true nerd.

6. “Iron Man 2” (5/7)- Two years after they launched a new blockbuster franchise, and relaunched a star’s career, Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. team up again to bring narcissistic superhero Tony Stark back into the fray, with Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash and Scarlett Johannsson’s Black Widow mixing things up with Iron Man. The last trailer added action to intrigue for a sequel that looks to take its’ place with the best comic book sequels as an instant classic, though let’s be honest, now fanboys are more curious to see how this further lays the groundwork for Marvel’s 2012 mega-epic “The Avengers,” which just got a director (some fella named Joss Whedon; anyone heard of him? πŸ™‚ ). Still, I can think of worse ways to start off the summer.

7. “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” (8/13)- Let me keep this simple: the premise, a regular Joe who has to defeat a girl’s seven evil ex-boyfriends to win her love, rocks. The cast, with Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the girl, and support from the likes of Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Chris Evans, and Jason Schwartzman, rolls. And the director, “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz’s” Edgar Wright, is an original voice who couldn’t make an uninteresting film if he wanted to. Did I mention the first trailer was awesome?

8. “The Expendables” (8/20)- So many franchises from the ’80s are in some state of “reboot/sequel/remake” potential that it’s a breath of fresh air to find Sylvester Stallone- who’s already brought his iconic Rocky and Rambo back to audiences- not necessarily bring back a particular character but the feel in this story of mercenaries on a mission. Just one look at the kick-ass trailer and the names in the cast- joining Stallone are Jet Li, Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Dolph Lundgren, and cameos by his Planet Hollywood partners Willis and the Governator- and it makes one want to put in “The Running Man” or “Commando” again and relish in the man-pecs…

Also on my radar: Beyond the films mentioned above, there’s not a lot that’s got my geek-juices flowing this summer. I don’t care if “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” (6/30) is supposed to be more “guy-friendly” than the previous films- I just want it to be good (the hiring of Oscar-winner Bill Condon bodes well for “Breaking Dawn”). That said, my best wishes go to the following flicks: “The Other Guys” (8/6), from Will Ferrell and Adam McKay and a supporting cast that includes Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Mark Wahlberg and Samuel L. Jackson- the trailer killed me w/ “Date Night”; “Knight and Day” (6/25), an action thriller starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz that looks like a great throwback to such successful efforts in decades past- think “Lethal Weapon” and the “Bourne” trilogy; “Salt” (7/23), a political spy thriller with Angelina Jolie directed by “Patriot Games” and “The Quiet American” filmmaker Phillip Noyce- that’s a good thing; “Grown Ups” (6/25), this summer’s obligatory Adam Sandler comedy, with the Sand man, Chris Rock, Kevin James, David Spade, and Rob Schneider as life-long friends getting together for a reunion- I’m sorry, but it looks funny; “The Last Airbender” (7/2), with M. Night Shyamalan trying to save his career by bringing the fan-fave anime series “Avatar: The Last Airbender” to the screen- I’m certainly hoping for the best; “Letters to Juliet” (5/14), a sweet-looking rom-com starring Amanda Seyfried as a writer whose letter brings hope to a long-lost love…and her own life; “Robin Hood” (5/14), with Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott going all “Gladiator” on the oft-told myth- I’ll always support these guys, even if the trailers haven’t won me over that much yet; “The A-Team” (6/11), with “Narc” and “Smokin’ Aces” director Joe Carnahan bringing the ’80s show to the big-screen with a pitch-perfect team of actors and sense of fun; “Dinner With Schmucks” (7/23), with Jay Roach directing Paul Rudd and Steve Carell in a comedy whose premise looks just silly enough to work; and “Piranha 3-D” (8/27), a horror remake that looks just ridiculous enough to end the summer on the highest of guilty pleasure notes.

Viva La Resistance!

Brian Skutle
www.sonic-cinema.com
www.myspace.com/brianskutle
www.myspace.com/cinemanouveau

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