It's not looking like a banner week for new releases, unless you're an animation buff, and even then, it looks like a toss-up at the moment. But at least there's a variety of questionable choices.
Monsters vs. Aliens: Kids finally get their own take on the mid-aughts "versus" films that, for a brief time, seemed poised to make the middle of August fun forever (who could forget Freddy vs. Jason, Alien vs. Predator, or Sam Jackson vs. Snakes?). Monsters vs. Aliens lacks a titular brand name, but it does have eternal also-rans DreamWorks Animation and their rotating company of over/underqualified voice talent. This cartoon's crop of celebrities leans toward the comedy elite: Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Laurie, Will Arnett, John Krasinski, Ed Helms, Rainn Wilson, Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Renee Zellweger (her third DW voicing gig) and Seth Rogen (his third for DW and fifth overall). Some of them may have voiceover talent — Arnett and Rogen in particular have wonderfully distinct inflection — but this being animation, the emphasis should be on the creature designs, which look above-average, while the humans are just as ugly as they are in most DreamWorks cartoons (though not as hideous as most that come out of the Nickelodeon factory, which had a hand in this one too). DreamWorks puts out so much product with so much less consistency than Pixar that I feel it's necessary to do a quick rundown of where I stand, so: mild yays to Kung Fu Panda and Bee Movie; shrugs to Madagascar and Over the Hedge; and yawning and/or gagging sounds for Shrek sequels, Shark Tale, and Madagascar 2. The directors of MvA worked on too many of the latter, though some of the writers did time on The Simpsons and Larry Sanders. DreamWorks does, then, offer one thing over a Pixar experience: suspense over whether or not the movie will suck!
12 Rounds: If I had to commit to one guaranteed bad movie this weekend, it would surely be the latest from wrestler-turned-actor John Cena, who you might better know as Not the Rock, or Cro-Magnon Matt Damon. In Cena's first action non-hit, The Marine, he was a rogue marine whose wife is kidnapped by bad guys, incurring his wrath. In 12 Rounds, he's a rogue cop whose wife is kidnapped by bad guys, incurring his, wait for it, forgiveness! No, sorry, my mistake: wrath! The ads completely undersell the movie by tagging it as "from the director of Die Hard 2." Fuck that noise. This is un film de Renny Harlin, which means it's from the director of Deep Blue Mothereffing Sea (and, fine, a bunch of other recent awful movies [Cliffhanger! Cutthroat Island! Et cetera! -Ed.]). What's worse for Harlin: that he's directing a John Cena movie, or that this is actually sort of a profile upgrade from his last three or four projects?
The Haunting in Connecticut: I love how this movie sounds like a regional theater production of The Haunting, though the "real" ghost story sounds more like The Amityville Horror. I wouldn't be surprised to see it doing some Amityville-sized surprise (which is to say moderate but profitable) business, though attempts to class up horror movies fall flat with the teenage core audience as often as they succeed in roping in a few additional over-25s. Finally, let me paraphrase a wisecrack from my significant other about the non-scariness of this premise: "So the house is haunted, go sleep on your yacht."
Spinning into Butter: I had never heard of this movie until I saw the trailer at the Landmark Sunshine. From the trailer, I was able to ascertain that it stars a glammed-down Sarah Jessica Parker as a college professor; that it concerns campus hate crimes and/or political correctness in some way; that it was almost certainly based on a play or written by a playwright; and that it looks like it was shot on VHS tape in abandoned hallways, project-for-high-school-Spanish-style. It's all capped by a hall-of-famer bad indie title, the appearance of which — post-trailer-spoiled titular line, no less! — gave my audience the biggest trailer-capping guffaw since Wassup Rockers. Further lazy-man's research on IMDB reveals that apparently a bunch of this movie was shot on Governor's Island (which I guess makes sense; it does look like a college campus out there) and supposedly incurred over $90,000 in debt... to its actors and crew. Essentially, there's almost no chance that seeing Spinning into Butter will be as entertaining as talking about how, seriously, there's this serious and debt-heavy movie about campus race relations called Spinning into Butter.