Stock up on sunscreen and hit up the beaches and theme Toxic Officeparks this summer, friends, because there isn’t going to be much reason to stay inside plastered in front of the tube. Joining the handful of returning summer programs, this year we get an eclectic mix of half-hearted new reality shows, yawn-inducing procedurals, and a couple almost interesting game shows. Perhaps it may be best just to pick up Dan Brown’s new book “Inferno” and find out what Robert Langdon has been up too since “The Lost Symbol.”
“The Goodwin Games”
(Premieres Monday, May 20th)
The estranged grown children of a wealthy deceased man return home to compete for the inheritance that he left them through a personalized game of Trivial Pursuit. Along the way, they discover the people their father wanted them to become and must also compete against a family outsider, named executor of the fortune. The show was pushed back until summer and given a reduced episode order of thirteen to ten so it doesn’t seem Fox has much hope in it from the start.
“Toxic Office: Does Someone Have to Go?”
(Premieres Thursday May 23, 9:00PM)
The boardroom doors will open and the reins of real companies will be passed along to the employees as they make the tough decisions that their bosses don’t know need to be made. That is, they will be given the power to terminate co-workers who don’t perform up to standard or are somehow hurting the company.
Serena and Venus Williams in VENUS AND SERENA, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. Photo credit: Getty Images
Is it worth $10? Yes
“The ghetto‘ll make you real strong, real tough. Make you think you can do anything, and you will.” Like many statements and actions of patriarch Richard Williams, this comment is debatable. In the highly seductive documentary “Venus and Serena,” Mr. Williams also admits to formulating a 78-page plan for his daughters’ tennis careers, as a business investment, before they were even born. Creepy as that may seem, as the film progresses, it becomes impossible not to applaud him for his indispensable role in the women’s astonishing success.
Co-directors Maiken Baird and Michelle Major somehow avoid making this a movie about controversies. It’s surprisingly balanced in its approach, touching on the tough and more light-hearted issues. Not such an easy task considering the potential: race in tennis, sibling rivalry, parents pushing kids too hard in sports, the Williams sisters’ “bad attitudes,” money, etc. All these topics are addressed, but the film isn’t bogged down with them. Some of the best moments here come from interviews with the button-cute 11 year-old Venus and 10 year-old Serena. An insightful sequence focuses on the grown women’s love-lives and shows the slightly romantically clueless sisters in rare flirtatious and confidential modes. For what some might call a tennis documentary, Baird and Major create a loose, fun, and free-spirited film.
Reality - Oscilloscope Laboratories
Is it worth $10? Yes
Grand Prize Winner at the Festival de Cannes, the Italian-language film “Reality” is a comedy/drama so light on its feet that, at times, it feels like it will float off the screen. That’s not to say the subject matter is always light—it most definitely is not. Besides the comedic adventure of fortyish Luciano (Aniello Arena) trying to become a contestant on the Italian version of the “Big Brother” TV show, there are some good, hard looks here at issues like depression, family dynamics, and spirituality.
The story begins to take shape when Luciano meets Enzo, a TV personality whose résumé includes having spent 18 days in the “Big Brother” house. One of Luciano’s grade-school-age daughters idolizes Enzo. An owner-operator of a fish stand, Luciano feels at once inadequate and inspired in the presence of this TV man. The seed is thus planted for the fishmonger’s foray into the world of reality television.
Star Trek Into Darkness - Paramount
Is it worth $15 (3D)? Yes
“Star Trek Into Darkness” is a true film-going experience, and an awesome one at that. If you thought director J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot to the sci-fi franchise was a fluke, think again: Any movie that can have me genuinely laughing, then give me sweaty palms during tense moments and goose bumps during emotional high points, is a substantial accomplishment.
This movie is fun. It starts on a remote red planet on which Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Bones (Karl Urban) are fleeing a group of primitive natives. On the starship Enterprise first officer Spock (Zachary Quinto), communications specialist Uhura (Zoe Saldana), pilot Sulu (John Cho), chief engineer Scotty (Simon Pegg) and young ensign Chekov (Anton Yelchin) keep a close eye on the proceedings.
I recently took advantage of Director Shane BlackNew York City's deep and rich repertory of cinema options to take in a small art film in search of a wider audience: Iron Man Three. Because it barely even grossed $175 million its opening weekend, I'm sure the filmmakers and cast will appreciate the exposure I'm giving it here, so, y'know, you're welcome Shane Black/RDJ/Gwyneth Paltrow/Guy Pearce/Ben Kingsley/James Badge Dale/et al. Hope this helps.
So, yeah. There's probably been enough written about the Iron Man pictures and the Avengers solo movies and the much ballyhooed Whedonized team-up one from last summer, and there's definitely been enough if you're a curmudgeonly fuck like me who sprains his balls sighing whenever a new comic book movie gets greenlit. It's not that I don't like comic books. I liked them a lot when I was in junior high, and I still like them a bit (in theory, mostly, it's been a while since I actually bought one). I respect what comics as a form afford artists and writers creatively: the possibilities of interplay between visual art and text are endless. Even the traditions of comics, literally tied to the pulps as they are, are in some regard more liberating than they are restricting, because comics writers are restricted only by the limits of their imaginations.
BUT. HOWEVER. ON THE OTHER HAND. CONVERSELY. The annals of comic book history are home to a lot of really stupid shit. And the orthodoxy of comics fandom leads to a lot of that really stupid shit being regarded with a reverence based more on the fact that it already exists than on its actual merits. And every time a new comic book movie comes out, we have to sit through months of bullshit about whether x fleeting image in y teaser trailer bears sufficient resemblance to z thing that appeared in a comic book forty years ago. This brings us to my single favorite part of Iron Man Three, a lovely little fuck you to fandom derp, which will require spoilers to discuss in any kind of detail so forewarned is forearmed and all that jazz, but in general speaks to the picture's deft balance between totally being an Iron Man movie in all the important ways while not slavishly adhering to a bunch of silly bullshit.
Independence Day Poster
Finally some plot details are known about the direction Roland Emmerich (“The Patriot”) intends to take the announced “Independence Day” sequels. Joblo is reporting that Emmerich talked about the differences between the aliens and humans at a screening recently, “That’s actually what we (him and co-writer Dean Devlin) talked a lot about. The mythology of why did the aliens come in the first place, what is the bigger story of this whole thing? And we talked a lot about swarm intelligence. And [the humans] are individual intelligence. Even though we kill each other and have wars against each other, we have something special. We have this domino human spirit to believe in good and overcoming enemies. And it’s a little bit about that and when you get a bigger mythology going, I think then you have the chance to do not only one or two or three but you can create a series and that’s what we want to do.” Jeff Goldblum (“Jurassic Park”) also confirmed that there is a place for him in the sequels should he want to return (basically if he likes the script and the money is right). It is still unknown if Will Smith will return. I think this could be a fun summer flick that I would love to see, but only if they get the entire original surviving cast to reprise their roles.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre - Lionsgate
“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” There was an original and three sequels. Then there was a remake, which had one sequel. Now this week sees the Blu-Ray release of a combination reboot/sequel called “Texas Chainsaw 3D,” which ignores all of the sequels and remakes and picks up where the original film left off.
Unfortunately, it’s just another assembly line bloodbath of various young people meeting gruesome ends, and not much else. As critic Matthew Kaiser put it, “The film disappoints in so many aspects. All of the victim’s deaths are rationalized through some misdeed during the movie, so their impact on the audience is minimal. There is no true depth in the writing as all we are given is a typical splatter fest. The most regrettable part is that a slight twist in the end makes a sequel to this drab nonsense possible. You also never feel the grit and grime the original had. There was just something about the grainy b-film vibe and shocking realism that made that film work. One of the most blaring and never addressed issues is that Heather is a baby when she is found during the fire 40 years ago, yet she is only about 26 years old in the film. Huh? Of course the date of the original massacre is not addressed this time, but to me that’s a slap in the face to all fans of the original and people with more than two brain cells. The only bright spot is Leatherface himself (Dan Yeager), played with menace and a psychotic in-bred cannibalistic charm.” Skip It.