Transformers: The Dark of the Moon: Now that Michael Bay has completed the traditional empty apology publicity tour, his movies can go back to being exactly what they always are: long, loud, visually stimulating, vaguely-to-extremely racist, expensive-looking, and featuring comedy stylings that would not be out of place on an early-days UPN sitcom. I’m just glad that Michael Bay keeps busy with Transformers movies; think of the novels, comics, or original screenplays he could otherwise be ruining! (Well, ok, probably just comics or screenplays. Dude doesn’t strike me as a reader. Wesleyan alumnus holla!) I’ve been suckered into every single damn Transformers movie by an awesome trailer, because Bay movies are nothing if good raw materials for an ass-kicking trailer. Supposedly the last hour of this movie is a visually stunning destructo-thon, which, look, I’m eager to see, but wow, six or seven hours (running total since 2007) of clumsiness and bombast is an awful long time to wait to see Transformers throw buildings at each other. The good news is that if you don’t want to see Transformers throw buildings at each other at all, there are actually some viable-looking alternatives this weekend; I recall with a shiver last year’s July 4th weekend, which offered Eclipse and The Last Airbender. Of course, youngsters are still targeted, even outside of the robot purview.
Terri: Michael Joshua Rowin finds this slice-of-coming-of-age-ish indie sketch overly familiar, but I don’t know, maybe I just haven’t seen that many after-school specials? (Has anyone in the past twenty years or so?) The new Azazel Jacobs film suffers a little from indie-movie refusal-to-show-or-tell—I don’t quite understand why so many filmmakers feel that closed-off muteness about certain details, like what happened to the parents of a young teenager who lives with his mentally failing uncle, is an automatic signifier of Real Life. That said, newcomer Jacob Wysocki avoids inexpressive indie-kid syndrome as the withdrawn, overweight Terri, who strikes up a tentative friendship with Mr. Fitzgerald, an assistant principal played with the perfect mix of dorkiness and bravado by John C. Reilly. Reilly’s return to indies after a stint in broad comedy has done him good: funnier, more confident, and well-equipped for grounded scene-stealing.
Monte Carlo: If you’re looking for a glossier, prettier, airier, emptier teen-bonding experience, though, Monte Carlo is there to entice your inner tween away from Terri. But I have to say: despite not being particularly funny or dramatic, and adhering to the broad outlines of the teenagers getting in mix-ups abroad (with the chaste, innocent appetites of kids half their age), Monte Carlo is a lot better than I thought it would be. Maybe it’s because Thomas Bezucha, who made The Family Stone, directed it with at least one eye on actual human relationships, even amidst a lot of froth; as silly and inconsequential as it is, the dynamic between Selena Gomez (the just-graduated senior), Leighton Meester (the icy, older step-sister), and Katie Cassidy (the best friend of Gomez, but also a onetime peer of Meester’s) feels agreeable and believable. Bezucha also treats Monte Carlo like a real movie, rather than an extended sitcom pilot; it’s nicely composed and edited for something that’s basically a remake of The Lizzie McGuire Movie. It doesn’t add up to much, but if you’ve got a ten-year-old daughter or niece or whatever, you could do a lot worse. Mega-bonus points for not making Gomez’s plot-required celebrity doppelganger a singer (like Gomez is IRL!) or shoehorning in songs from the new S-Go album.
Larry Crowne: Tom Hanks wrote and directed That Thing You Do!, a charming little comedy-drama about a one-hit wonder rock band in the 60s [which featured a pantheon Steve Zahn performance. -Ed.]. That movie came out about fifteen years ago and I’m not sure why it’s taken so long for Hanks to make another feature; he’s got a light, confident touch and it would’ve been a better use of his time than those awful Dan Brown movies (as would’ve, I don’t know, opening a birdhouse-construction business). Larry Crowne, if anything, looks even more mild and minor than the previous Hanks film, but I’m relieved that it gets him back into comedy and away from World War II and NASA. Seriously, if there was ever a World War involving NASA, can you imagine how many movies and TV shows Hanks would produce about it? The major potential drawback here is Julia Roberts. I’ll fully cop to a huge anti-Roberts bias, but I’ll also claim justification; she hasn’t been as charming as her reputation says she can be since, well, I’ll go with Hook, although her performance in Full Frontal is pretty good, and she’s not nuanced enough as an actress to get by playing smug and sour so often. Hanks, you can do better.
The Perfect Host: I missed an opportunity to catch a screening of this Hitchcocky sounding thriller, about a crime hideout turned dinner party turned something else apparently quite suspenseful, and now I’m sort of regretting it, as it sounds vaguely reminiscent (or maybe I’m just being lazy and thinking about a similar title) of the underrated A Perfect Getaway, albeit with a lower budget and less Jovovichtasticness [And less Zahn Like Donkey Kong, too. -Ed.].