Your Weekend at the Movies Trying to Figure Out Whether G.I. Joe Will Be Really Bad, or Just Meh-Bad

08/07/2009 8:21 AM |

Your Film Editor definitely owned this action figure.
  • Your Film Editor definitely owned this action figure.

The transition from the big-gunned movies of the week to the B-list leftovers of August has been smoother and, as such, more appropriate this year; summer movie excitement in the traditional sense has been on a steady decline since that Harry Potter movie a couple of weeks ago. But August is underrated: sometimes the dog days can be downright freeing, from the expectations of the modern mega-movie. Then again, sometimes they bring the summer’s second movie based on a toy line.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: Here’s how I was able to actually court disappointment with G.I. Joe: Since the first trailer, I was convinced this would be the craptacular movie of the summer, a cartoony goulash of quantity-over-quality effects, nonsensical world-saving, and limp wisecracking, with Brick star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, brick-like Tatum Channing O’Tatum, Dennis “Rewind That!” Quaid, and Sienna Miller’s ass all along for the ride (yes, half the principle cast of Stop-Loss has reconvened to make a movie based on toy guns). Perversely, I was very much looking forward to it.

But since a month or two ago, the buzz bottomed out, and the general consensus among those who have seen it seems to be that of course few movies could be as fantastically, mythically terrible as what we had been conditioned to expect, and this one is even sort of fun if your expectations aren’t too high. No no no no no. I’m usually quite able to sincerely enjoy movies other people wrap in their own overdeveloped senses of irony and/or superiority, but I don’t want G.I. Joe to succeed on its own terms. I want a spectacular, Mystery Science Theater 3000-level fiasco. Now it turns out I might just get another bad movie. A glimmer of hope: it’s not screening for critics! Just internet nerds. Still, that sounds suspiciously like some kind of twisted form of confidence, which, in an equally twisted way, I find a little disappointing.

Julie & Julia: I don’t usually trust Nora Ephron, but this movie looks relatively can’t-miss as far as its chick-baiting genre, namely because the boys seem to be kept at a minimum in favor of more Meryl Streep (as Julia Child studying cooking in France) and my personal favorite more of anything, more Amy Adams (as the working girl who cooks her way through Child’s recipes in modern-day Manhattan). It may look a little bland, but it’s also a blessed relief that this isn’t a musical romantic comedy a la Mamma Mia, because Ephron is relieved from the pressure of being funny, romantic, or catchy.

A Perfect Getaway: It’s possible that out of all of the big-studio releases this weekend, A Perfect Getaway has the most legitimate shot at doing right by its genre (The L’s Henry Stewart certainly thinks so), or at least it’s neck and neck with the Streep/Adams team-up. It has kind of a rad B-movie cast: Timothy Olyphant back in delightfully sleazy mode after a couple of misguided attempts at blandness; exploitation goddess Milla Jovovich; genial everystoner Steve Zahn; and Marley Shelton from Planet Terror. It was written and directed by David Twohy, a decent B-picture craftsman, or at least Pitch Black was cool. Apparently it’s some kind of deadly game of cat and mouse or something. Labor Day comes early this year?

Paper Heart: Charlyne Yi was the chick in Knocked Up who played Martin Starr’s girlfriend, and asked Katherine Heigl if she wanted to trade men. Now she has her own little movie which, like that brief performance, has her walking the lines between cute and irritating, natural and affected, endearing and completely amateurish. It’s a pseudo-documentary in which Yi, who “doesn’t believe in love” but apparently does believe in saying stuff that should embarrass anyone over seventeen, interviews regular folks about the subject while stumbling into a relationship with noted comic actor Michael Cera, kindasorta playing himself. The movie has its moments — like Yi’s Michel Gondry-ish reenactments of real love stories — but doesn’t really justify its existence as a feature. I don’t know what else it should’ve been, though; it would make a similarly undernourished (if funny and good-natured — hey, like Cera!) reality show. I guess it would’ve made a cute short subject. At eighty-some minutes, it’s too much of an ok thing.

Cold Souls: At first it sounds an awful lot like a Being John Malkovich knockoff: Paul Giamattai plays himself and gets involved with some deadpan metaphysics, specifically the black-market sale of the soul he was keeping on ice to ease his world-weary, actorly pain. Actually, it doesn’t even really stop sounding like that; you just become slightly more convinced that a Being John Malkovich knockoff might be a good idea, because the trailer makes the movie look restrained and amusing, rather than a Stranger Than Fiction-style co-opting of Charlie Kaufman’s dark, searching humor. Then again, our own Michael Rowin remains unconvinced.