Don't know what to do this weekend? Here are four cinematic options, two to look for at your local indieplex, and two summer blockbusters I'm just getting around to seeing at my local $1.50 theater.
I'm gonna spare you the synopsis of each film--check out the trailer, or look it up on IMDB if you're really curious:
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Rated PG-13 for awesome violence and some couple-lovin
Finally! A Wolverine feature! Wolvie's my favorite X-Men character, as he is for many fans of the comics/films. Hugh Jackman has always been the perfect mix of rage and humanity to play this frustrated, broken, violent character. In this film, he shines. It's not a great movie--clearly not a "Marvel" movie, as Will says. (Essentially, there are two production companies who put out X-Men movies; this is from the lesser of the two.) But I tell ya what--if you want a rip-roaring actioner starring your favorite clawed mutant, you could do worse. (X-Men 3.) The film itself feels rushed; I wished it spent more time with some of the other X-Men Universe characters that are introduced and quickly ushered off-screen. (Dom!) Two I really wanted to see more of were Gambit and pre-mouthzip Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds!). Looking forward to hopefully future screen-time for both characters. The one great improvement that this movie makes on past X-Men films is casting the great Liev Schrieber as Sabretooth. Seriously. Amazing actor. If you don't agree, you clearly haven't seen his work, or are incapable of recognizing talent. This dude is legit. And he brings this character so much depth and menace that he ascends to even footing with Wolvie.
Verdict: It's a popcorn movie, not necessarily a good X-Men movie, but a pretty good comic book movie and worth a rental for some great performances that transcend a weak script.
Rated PG-13 for flesh-ripping violence and brutal robot mayhem
Just saw this tonight. Loads of fun. Here's the deal for you Terminator fans: It's no Judgment Day. Of course it isn't. T2 will always be the unattainable benchmark for this series. But T:S is better than the other two films. I was discussing this with the guys tonight--it's like the first three Terminator films were the "Judgment Day" trilogy--they all focused on preventing it from happening. In "Salvation," there was no time travel, and the whole film was about the survival of the humans. It was focused squarely on "The Resistance." And that made it less of a "Terminator" movie, perhaps, but also more entertaining as an action movie. Christian Bale is great. He's always great, and he's great in this one. He conveys John Connor's determination to carry this colossal persona and set of expectations, as much as it seems to crush him emotionally. He can't just be a soldier, or a leader; he's got to be "The One." (Similar to Harry's Potter's dilemma, I guess.) But the rest of the cast in T:S is also very capable, including Bryce Dallas Howard, Michael Ironside, and Helena Bonham Carter. (Really? Yes.)
Verdict: Big, loud CGI-fest that allows the director to play in the "Terminator" sandbox. Solid cast, good pacing, and good effects. Worth a rental for Terminator fans, or fans of the genre.
Rated PG-13 (?) for manly booty and some blood
A man, alone for three years, working a mining job. Can't blame him for starting to see things. Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an astronaut on a mining mission, in this deliberate, beautifully-shot and expertly-directed film. The clear influences are "2001" and films like "Das Boot." The film has a claustrophobic feel at times, as the main action of the story takes place on a single station, a few connected rooms. In this story, Sam is two weeks from going home to his wife and little girl, who he has not been able to talk to (on a "live" feed) in three years. Then he has an accident, and... that's all i'm going to tell you. There's a sentient computer named Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey) who is Sam's only company in the station--at least until... but anyway. The big "twist" of the film is revealed pretty early on, but it's not about the twist as much as the unfolding of the information, and how Sam processes it. It's really a great performance by Rockwell, who's becoming an actor I seek out at the cineplex.
Verdict: Good story (even if predictable), fantastic performance, and interesting themes with a lot of subtext worth mulling over. Check it out at the theater or on video, but definitely see it.
(500) Days of Summer
Rated PG-13 for language, sexual content/dialogue, and heartbreak
"This is a story about boy meets girl... This is a story about love--but this is NOT a love story." So saith the narrator in this cleverly-written, playfully-directed, and wonderfully-acted romantic dramedy about a boy and girl and the slippery nature of love and relationships. Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are two of my favorite young(ish) actors in Hollywood, and this may be my favorite film for both of them. I will give this a deeply-felt but conditional recommendation: the film deals with love and sex in a pretty frank manner, but without being what I'd consider gratuitous, and the consequences of some of these choices are obvious. Nothing's free and easy here. And that may be one of the best elements of the movie. While there are many fanciful, stylized bits, the emotional core of the film is DEAD-ON realistic. Every decision the characters made actually made sense, based on how they were set up. In other words, there weren't out of character moments, there weren't blatantly contrived rom-com cliches, and the resolution you are given isn't common, but feels earned. I will say it without reservation: I really, really loved this movie. Not everyone will, but many of you could.
Verdict: If you can do so with clear conscience, go see this film, and pay whatever the theater asks of you, because it's worth every penny.