Greetings, dear readers! Time for another preview of the new releases this weekend:
First up in wide release is Cameron Diaz being a Bad Teacher. The film, directed by Jake Kasdan of Walk Hard and The TV Set, is about a crude, substance-abusing middle school teacher who decides to woo the new substitute (Justin Timberlake) into being her sugar daddy. Things get complicated when she faces competition with a rival teacher (Lucy Punch) for his heart, as well as the unwanted advances of the gym teacher (Jason Segal). Interestingly, Diaz is just the first of two “good girl” actresses behaving badly this summer; Jennifer Aniston is also going a similar route for the upcoming Horrible Bosses. But despite the film’s creators and star promoting Bad Teacher as a gleefully offensive comedy, most critics are complaining that the film just isn’t as edgy as it thinks it is. Still, coming off the heels of the incredibly successful also-female-centric-raunchy-comedy Bridesmaids and the star power of Diaz herself should net the film a decent-sized $20-25 million weekend gross.
Those looking for something more family friendly have Pixar to turn to this week. Cars 2 continues the adventures of Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), this time with McQueen competing in the World Grand Prix and his tow truck friend getting caught up in some sort of spy mission. I have written before on my doubts about this film, not least of which having to do with the first Cars being subpar. Now, I admit to being harder on most of Pixar’s films than others (I do not, for example, believe that they have batted 1000 as many critics would assert), but even the major critics appear to be very disappointed in this one, and it could be well on its way to being their first ever “Rotten” film on Rotten Tomatoes. That shouldn’t deter its box office take too much; after all, this IS Pixar we’re talking about, here. Combined with the astonishing sales of Cars-related merchandise and I can’t imagine this film making anything less than $65-70 million at the end of the weekend.
In limited release, Chris Weitz takes a break from lousy franchise films with A Better Life, starring Demian Bichir as an illegal immigrant facing numerous struggles including raising a son and dodging immigration enforcement officials in Los Angeles. Most critics seem to agree that the film transcends its tired story with genuine conviction and an affecting performance from Bichir. I wouldn’t hold my breath for About a Boy-level success, though. It hasn’t been getting flat-out ecstatic reviews and there are plenty of harrowing dramas in the coming months.
Also among the limited releases is the documentary Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, a backstage chronicle of O’Brien’s 32-city comedy tour in the immediate wake of his widely-publicized departure from NBC’s “The Tonight Show.” Many critics are finding the behind-the-scenes drama more engaging than Conan’s actual routines, and despite some issues praise the film overall as an engaging portrait of the exhausting drive of show business. The Academy has historically been lukewarm on comedy tour documentaries, but a nomination is not impossible…
Finally, we have Michael Rowe’s Leap Year, winner of the Caméra d’Or at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival. The erotic drama, about a depressed woman who enters a torrid sexual affair with a sadist, has been praised as harrowing but bracingly insightful about loneliness, depression, and modern life. Though such a shoestring-budgeted arthouse film has almost no chance of being a serious Oscar player, the raves could make it emerge as a small critical darling and possibly a Spirit Award nomination for Monica del Carmen’s acclaimed performance.
Plenty of new (and hopefully better from last week’s) releases, it seems. Let us know which one you saw right here on The Awards Circuit!