Maybe I’m just burned out from a long and relatively disappointing summer, but this has to be the least-exciting group of releases I’ve seen in a while. There have been plenty of weekends where only one or two new films are coming out and I haven’t been all that interested in them. But this weekend has four films in wide release and I just can’t bring myself to give a damn about any of them. A couple of them have that “possible train wreck” sense of intrigue to them, but that still isn’t something that’s going to make me put down my ten dollars. It’s definitely a Redbox to the rescue weekend.
Let’s start with Paranoia. I think I saw one trailer for this ever. And that was months ago. I got the impression this was a fall release, but here it is dropping in mid-August to almost no fanfare, despite some creditable names in the cast like Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman. It’s currently getting savaged on Rotten Tomatoes, with a 3% Fresh rating, so maybe there’s a reason they stopped the advertising for it. And poor Liam Hemsworth. His brother Chris gets to fly around being Thor, and Liam gets to … marry Miley Cyrus, I guess. That’s going to make for an awkward Christmas in the Hemsworth household.
I wasn’t all that crazy about the original Kick-Ass. It felt like a bit of a one-trick pony that performed its trick very early on, kept doing it hoping you’d eventually think it was cool, then went on past that point until it just became noise. The only highlight for me was Chloe Moretz’s spirited turn as Hit-Girl, a spark of life in an otherwise shrug-worthy film. For the sequel, the most interesting aspect has been Jim Carrey’s distancing himself from the project in the wake of Sandy Hook. Which he’s got every right to do, even if I think it’s odd to behave as if Sandy Hook was the first time gun violence was ever a prominent issue. It smacks more of a PR move than a genuine stand, an attempt by Carrey to avoid criticism for the movie’s violence. And I’m sure his conscience isn’t keeping him from cashing the paycheck.
Ashton Kutcher recently gave a speech at the Teen Choice Awards that was genuinely heartfelt and flew in the face of the hunky doofus persona he seems to so eagerly cultivate. It gave me a bit more respect for the guy. Just not enough to get me to want to see him play Steve Jobs for two hours. Despite some early reviews saying he’s not that bad, from the clips I’ve seen, it’s totally Kutcher up there. There’s a bit of a resemblance to Jobs, sure, but I’m just not buying that Kutcher can get me involved enough to overcome what looks like a standard biopic. Besides, Aaron Sorkin has his own Steve Job project coming, one in which each of the film’s three scenes take place in real time before a major Apple product launch. With that enticing premise on the horizon, it’s hard to muster up much excitement for this attempt.
Finally, there’s the awkwardly, last-minute-ly titled Lee Daniels’ The Butler. One incorrectly placed apostrophe away from making us wonder who this Lee Daniel playing the butler is. Thanks to Warner Brothers somehow thinking we all fondly remember some silent film from 1916, the title got changed, but fortunately not the completely gonzo celebrity version of the Hall of Presidents the film offers up. Mork as Eisenhower! Cyclops as JFK! Sabretooth as LBJ! Lloyd Dobler as Nixon! And Snape as Reagan! Hell, make that X-Men movie right now. I’m just sorry we don’t seem to be getting Ford, Carter, either of the Bushes or Clinton. It could be the It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World of presidential movies! Instead, we’re getting what’s likely an overly earnest story where the entirety of the civil rights movement is whittled down to the experiences of one person. Which may not necessarily be a bad thing, but the sideshow casting is bound to overshadow it.
And that really wraps up the summer season. We’re not even going out with a bang with some big releases for Labor Day. We’re just sort of trickling away, much like many of the big releases did. Hell, I thought The Lone Ranger would be a hit from sheer habit, but it didn’t even break $100 million, and is all but gone from theaters after only six weeks. Even the films that made money nobody seemed particularly excited about. It was more like people latched onto something they finally liked even just a little bit. Add in the nearly back-to-back onslaught of releases that really prevents anything but the most extraordinary performers from any kind of long-term success, and this summer feels like a total blur to me. We might be reaching a tipping point, where studios decide the profits are there regardless of the season, and start sprinkling their tent poles throughout the year rather than jamming them all into this three-month rush. I for one would welcome the breather.