I went to sleep the other night with the radio locked on Coast to Coast AM, with thoughts of genetically modified foods and aliens from other dimensions drifting through my dreams only to wake up to the Home and Garden show. The first thing I heard was “I picked the caterpillar off the leaf and threw it on the ant bed.” The announcer retorts laughingly “That cruel.”
“Put them ants to work,” replies the caller. Honestly the imagery of this live radio conversation that has broken through the fog of my hypnopompic dreariness is worthy of Bunuel and Peckinpah combined. The reality of nature is harsh and rarely addressed in movies. Let’s face it, our national cinema is concerned with pretty faces blowing away dubious villains. Compare the fact that June has two studio movies whose plots revolve around hot chicks that get involved with lean and buff spies to a country like Iran that imprisons film directors like Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Nourizad for the simple reason that they make cool films. It would be like America imprisoning Jim Jarmusch or the Coen Brothers because they made a film that challenges a viewer to think in a manner perpendicular to the way people think when they go see, say, Iron Man 2 or Sex and the City 2. Get used to it, life is unusual.
The docket of films for June looks like the bargain bin of DVDs in three months at the local grocery store. It’s a pile-up on the freeway of movie releases the first weekend in June. The first of the spy fantasy flicks, Killers, joins two of the blandest actors ever, Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl, in a PG-13 actioner that assumes that women on vacation on the continent will swoon over any guy who works out every day. Meanwhile Get Him To the Greek pits the ever-expanding Jonah Hill against the luckiest dude ever born Russell Brand (aka UK sex addict who happens to be engaged to Katy Perry – I mean is this a fucked up world or what?). In a move of wise proportions the producers also cast Rose Byrne as if to say it won’t be a total loss, much less an attempt to duplicate the unexplainable success of The Hangover. But wait, here comes Marmaduke, with the voice of Owen Wilson. And, there’s the DNA-monster thriller Splice, which could redefine your whole meaning of existence.
The second weekend of June promises mindless explosions with the Liam Neeson led A Team with an extra helping of porridge via the remake of The Karate Kid. I will never dis anything starring Jackie Chan, one of cinema’s greatest assets, however lame the reboot.
By mid-month we’re treading through murky waters indeed with Toy Story 3 (in 3D natch) and Jonah Hex, where the wild, wild west and the supernatural are combined. Hang on to you seat because this is the start of a western renaissance wherein next year at this time we’ll be seeing Aliens & Cowboys directed by no less than John Favreau the poster boy director of mediocre but fulfilling action sequences.
By month’s end we’ve arrived at Grown Ups, an Adam Sandler vehicle (and that always bodes a hit or miss). Also on the last weekend is the 20th Century Fox release Knight and Day, another spy thriller this time with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. But wait, can you hold your breath for The Twilight Saga: Eclipse on the Wednesday before July 4? (By the way Independence Day falls on a Sunday and that just screams for a seven-day vacation.)
On a slightly smaller scale some lower profile films will file into single engagements at area art houses. Please Give captures the ennui of middle class life in Manhattan with moving performances from Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt and Amanda Peet. Bollywood gains a foothold in America with films from India now opening globally around the world. Kites will play at a handful of Houston venues and features one of India’s biggest stars Hrithik Roshan. Other exclusive titles include Mother and Child from director Rodrigo Garcia (son of famed Columbian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez); Women Without Men, a film from Iran set during that country’s turbulent early 50s; Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema examines corruption in the underworld of Johannesburg (and features some actors from District 9); and Harry Brown stars Michael Caine as an old school vigilante. Sweetgrass, a cool and unassuming documentary about herding sheep was pushed back from May and will play at the Angelika in mid June. Like the singer warbled, the song remains the same.
– Michael Bergeron