After a slight hiccup last week, I am back to preview the new releases for the end of July!
Genre buffs have been hotly anticipating Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens, pitting a band of gunslingers and a hostile extra-terrestrial force against each other in 19th Century New Mexico. I have to admit, the premise sounds kind of fun in a tongue-and-cheek way, but some critics have been harsh on what they see as clumsy oscillation between irreverent parody and serious homage. Despite mixed reviews, the film certainly looks like it has all the ingredients to conquer the box office. It has two big-name stars, tons of CGI, a popcorn filmmaker whose Iron Man was a major success, and serious internet buzz. On the other hand, I’m getting the feeling that Cowboys & Aliens has too narrow an appeal. Like Snakes on a Plane or Grindhouse, a film that turns-off mainstream moviegoers in its effort to court the fanboys usually sinks at the box office. I think strong promotion will keep this from totally failing, but I peg it at a disappointing $30-35 million.
A film I’ve personally been hotly anticipating for some time now is Crazy, Stupid, Love. What was shaping up to be a genuine romantic comedy with an across-the-board terrific cast seems to be mostly confirmed by critics. Though a few say that it doesn’t live up to its potential, others assert the film is saved by its earnestness and performances. There was a part of me that wondered if this could be a sleeper hit with the Academy; sneaking into Best Original Screenplay à la My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but it would have to explode in a big way to overcome the good-but-not-great critical reception. Online activity is outpacing most comparable rom-coms of past years, so I’ll give it a good $20-25 million by Sunday.
If you’re a smurfing idiot, or you have to take some smurfing toddlers to a pic to keep them distracted for a while, then The Smurfs In 3D may be for you. This smurfed-up live action adaptation of the popular 80’s TV series sees our little blue friends chased by Gargamel through a portal into New York City…with wacky results! To the surprise of precisely no one, the film has been critically smurfed; reviews are placing it among the lowest-low of cash-grab kiddie flicks. After the slumps of Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Zookeeper and Winnie the Pooh, one would think that – sans Cars 2 – kid-friendly flicks aren’t “in” this season. But audiences have a fascinating ability to be attracted to the most cynical of studio projects, and I’m going to begrudgingly predict a $23-28 million weekend take.
There are quite a few well-received limited releases opening this weekend, including yet another genre clique versus alien invaders movie. Replace “cowboys” with “tough inner city kids” and you roughly have Attack the Block, which critics have hailed as possessing the comic energy missing from Favreau’s film, while also deftly exploring marginalized Brit youths with wit and subtlety.
Also in limited release is Miranda July’s sophomore effort The Future, which is about…actually, I’m having a hard time getting a concrete synopsis. From what I can tell, it’s a romantic drama/sci-fi/fantasy film about a couple who adopts a stray cat with reality-bending powers or something…anyway, reviews have been understandably befuddled by such a strange movie but also delighted by its whimsy and formal daring. Such a weird movie will have a hard time courting Academy voters, but it could attract a cult following over time.
Finally, über-Irish actor Brendan Gleeson receives some of the best reviews of his career as The Guard. John Michael McDonagh (interestingly enough, the brother of In Bruges director Martin McDonagh) helms this dark comedy about a – shall we say, “unorthodox” – policeman who teams up with a straight-laced FBI agent (Don Cheadle) to take down an international drug trafficking ring. Critics report having a blast with the film’s dark, abrasive humor and on-screen chemistry between Cheadle and Gleeson; the latter of whom may get some Oscar buzz depending on how audiences receive the film. It seems sort of “small” to gain that kind of traction in my opinion, though a Golden Globe and Independent Spirit Award nomination are certainly in the cards.
Tell us what you think of these films on The Awards Circuit!