May 23, 2007

Summer Movie Preview: The Good Stuff

Everyone knows that this summer's shaping up to be another exercise in unoriginality, with special effects-laden sequels, remakes of previous films and 80s cartoons, another animated film about penguins (enough with the penguins already!), adaptations of books, adaptations of tv shows, etc., etc. Of course, there will be indie movies for those of us lucky enough to live in and around New York and L.A., a refreshing break from this eye candy monotony, but what about good wide releases? Yes, believe it or not, there ARE islands of hope amid the sea of uninspired flicks premiering this summer, and I am your intrepid guide. Read on for a preview of three of the most promising, under-the-radar films coming soon to a theater near you!

June 1st sees the release of "Knocked Up," an R-rated comedy from Judd Apatow starring the brilliantly funny Seth Rogen. Fans of "Freaks and Geeks" (a show I can never give enough love) will recall Rogen from his turn as the dryly humorous stoner Ken, a show on which Apatow worked as producer, director and writer. More recently, Rogen starred in Apatow's hilarious and surprisingly sweet "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," delivering memorable advice to "wait until the seed grows into a plant, then fuck the plant". The premise of their latest joint endeavor is similarly raunchy and oriented towards grown-ups - Rogen and Katherine Heigl play a mismatched couple whose one-night stand ends with her unexpected pregnancy and their decision to try this whole "parenting" thing together. The promise of Rogen's and Apatow's supremely funny talents (not to mention those of Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, and fellow "F&G" alums Jason Segel and Martin Starr) on display, once again showing that sex can be hilarious and emotional, not just crass and immature, is unbelievably, cream-your-pants exciting. Yes, I did just make a crude sexual reference.

The rest of June and all of July is dead to me. And by that I mean, this is the time to check out all those big exciting movies I just ranted about avoiding but that we all really want to see anyway, because what's summer if not a time to let our gray matter slowly ooze out through our ears? Or you could, I dunno, read something. Okay, at least pick up Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Then *drumroll* August comes to save us all with a one-two punch of awesome movies. Neil Gaiman's "Stardust" premieres on August 10 - although, for the sake of honesty, I should mention that he just wrote the graphic novel the flick was based on. Of course, being Gaiman, the story was fantastic, beautifully illustrated by Charles Vess, as it tells the charming, dark story of a young man's quest to find a fallen star for his lady love. This journey involves, as many do, an evil witch (Michelle Pfeiffer), a captain of a flying boat (Robert de Niro), and a dying king (Peter O'Toole) and his scheming sons. The buzz surrounding the flick is that the impression given off by the trailer of some bizarre, nonsensical, special-effects laden fantasy is completely undermined by the reality - namely, that the movie is a romantic, funny, gorgeous adventure in the vein of "The Princess Bride," and which deserves to be the surprise hit of the summer. Commence

Next super-cool film to debut in August is "Superbad," arriving August 17. Co-written by Seth Rogen - yes, the very same man who's comedic genius I was just extolling - and starring the ridiculously talented Michael Cera - known to fans as the awkward, dorky, hysterically funny George-Michael from "Arrested Development" - this is another film bearing an impressive comic pedigree. The director, Greg Mottola, even directed some episodes of "AD" and "Undeclared" (Judd Apatow's short-lived follow-up to "F&G," set in college and starring...Seth Rogen! Who was also a writer for the show. When he was 18). At the most basic level, it's a teen sex comedy, about two dorks who plan to impress girls and get laid by bringing booze to a party. I know, it sounds lame, but trust me - watch the trailer. YouTube videos of Rogen and Cera. Then tell me this doesn't sound awesomely funny.

So there you have it. Three wide-release flicks to get excited for, that aren't a variation on the same schlock Hollywood keeps feeding us. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to make plans to catch "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" this weekend.

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