Well, folks, my most anticipated film of the year is releasing this week, so naturally I’m very excited. Or at least, I WOULD be if it wasn’t only showing in New York and Los Angeles. Grr…
Nope, it’s not The Hangover: Part II, though I’m sure general audiences are quite excited for it. I won’t waste any space giving a plot synopsis, since it’s pretty much the same as the first film; just replace “Las Vegas” with “Thailand.” Mainly for that reason, critics have been unsparing in their condemnation of this sequel, calling it a near-carbon copy of the original with none of the freshness or energy. Well, the freshness and energy seen by most other people, as I thought the first film was mean-spirited junk. But hey, I’m clearly in the minority, as this surefire formula (and make no mistake, it IS a formula) for success is set to take Memorial Day weekend by storm. The online buzz and advance tickets have been huge, and I’ll be shocked if this doesn’t end up with at least $100 million by Sunday.
No, neither is it Kung Fu Panda 2, although the first one is still one of the best things Dreamworks Animation ever produced. Now the Dragon Warrior, Po must face an even greater threat to China along with his friends in the Furious Five, as well as discover his mysterious origins. Reviews have been mostly positive, though critics seem split on whether the film surpasses its predecessor. The increased emotional heft to the story has been praised by some as heartfelt, while others are claiming that the sentimental elements make the movie less fun overall. Parents who are understandably wary of letting their kids see the raunch-fest of The Hangover: Part II will probably find the simultaneous release of this film as a relief, and should be reflected in a very strong $85-90 million opening.
The anticipated release I’m speaking of is, of course, Terrence Malick’s Palme d’Or champ The Tree of Life. It almost seems redundant to write any more than I already have about this unbelievably ambitious production, but suffice it to say that it aims to cover a lot of ground, using an ostensibly simple father-son relationship as a backdrop for inquiry on the nature of humanity, goodness, and existence itself. Many prognosticators, including our own Clayton Davis, have pegged it as a serious Best Picture contender. As most of you have probably read by now, I’m a little more skeptical of its awards prospects, but this is almost guaranteed to be one of the most talked-about films of the year regardless. Already it has garnered some vocal adherents. Many of the early reviews have called it every superlative you can think of, from “masterpiece” to “divine,” and the praise for its visual splendor are near-unanimous. Of course, like his other works, some just don’t gel with Malick’s style and have also expressed impatience with what they feel is an unclear and at times ponderous narrative. Those who are not fortunate enough to live in New York or Los Angeles can take solace in the fact that The Tree of Life will be expanding throughout the month and have a wide release on July 8th. Anyone who can see it on opening weekend are more than encouraged to share their thoughts right here on The Awards Circuit.