It’s a very rare thing that I want to see all the movies that are coming out, especially since there are some seriously craptastic things being produced these days. And as this summer fades in to autumn’s chill, you’re running out of time to take advantage of the long days and sweat-soaked nights. Spend an afternoon in the sun and then soak up all the AC your pores can hold in the darkness of a movie theater. This week, you can choose from “Dinner for Schmucks,” “Charlie St. Cloud,” “The Extra Man,” “The Dry Land” and “Spoken Word.”
The Movie: “Dinner for Schmucks”
The Trailer: Douchey preppy business men play a game where whoever can invite the biggest idiot to dinner wins certain advantages with their boss. For Tim (Paul Rudd), it means a promotion. When he literally runs into Barry (Steve Carell) in his car, Barry is picking up a dead rodent for his religious taxidermy tableaux. Tim brings Barry to the dinner to compete with the other crazies, including Zach Galifianakis.
The Hitch: Based on the French film “The Dinner Game, which is based on the French play Le Le Dîner de Cons, director Jay Roach called the original film “nearly perfect,” so you can imagine there were some big shoes to fill. And though it might not have the subtlety of the French version, which didn’t need to even stage the dinner scene, there are some good moments in this interpretation. I suspect, however, that the numerous trailers have already given most of those away. Still, Carell and Galifianakis can make anything funny and I suspect that they will.
The Movie: “Charlie St. Cloud”
The Trailer: Charlie St. Cloud (Zac Efron) is a competitive sailor whose little brother Sam (Charlie Tahan) was killed in a car crash, while Charlie was driving. Instead of going to Stanford and sailing in the big leagues, Charlie stays home and gets a job at the graveyard. He starts talking to his brother’s ghost and playing catch with him in a clearing in the woods, “keeping him alive” by hanging out with him daily. Even when a girl (Amanda Crew) comes along who seems to be Charlie’s soul mate, he doesn’t want to leave his brother until her sailboat goes missing.
The Hitch: It’s sad enough when talented, intelligent and wildly attractive people never leave their home towns but when it’s because they’re wracked with guilt over their little brother’s death, it’s tragic. I’m just not sure that Zac Efron can pull off brooding … he mostly just comes off as staring. Still, it looks like a bittersweet story that hopefully ends less tragically than it begins.
The Movie: “The Extra Man”
The Trailer: Henry (Kevin Kline) is an eccentric older man who brings wealthy women to social events. Louis (Paul Dano) is a lonely young man who is forced to leave his job at a Princeton prep school and moves to New York. Louis rents a room in Henry’s apartment and falls in love with his co-worker, Mary (Katie Holmes), and starts learning to be Henry’s brand of gentleman.
The Hitch: This seems to be a perfect role for Kevin Kline, who seems to shine when he has the chance to be a bit flamboyant. And for some reason, I totally love Paul Dano and his quiet, spot-on performances. The movie is also based on a book by Jonathan Ames, creator of HBO’s “Bored to Death,” which guarantees a particularly awesome breed of comedy.
The Movie: “The Dry Land”
The Trailer: James (Ryan ONan) comes home to Texas from Iraq, and while his wife (America Ferrera), mother (Melissa Leo), and best friend (Jason Ritter) are happy to have him back, they don’t understand what he’s going through. James suffers from violent hallucinations and goes to see his army buddy (Wilmer Valderrama) who helps him process his experiences in Iraq.
The Hitch: It’s a bleak reminder that soldiers are still in Iraq and when they come home, they’ll probably have to deal with some post-traumatic-stress-disorder and re-acclimation. As if it weren’t hard enough over here. America Ferrera looks as beautiful as ever as his wife, who fears what her husband’s become. Ferrera also happens to be engaged to the writer/director of the flick, Ryan Piers Williams. Honestly, I haven’t had much desire to watch movies about our involvement in Iraq, but this one looks pretty good!
The Movie: “Spoken Word”
The Trailer: Cruz Montoya (Kuno Becker) is a big shot West Coast spoken word poet who gets called home to New Mexico when he finds out his father (Ruben Blades) is fatally ill. Cruz heads home and quickly falls back into his old bad habits, managing a hip-hop club in Santa Fe, hanging with his old friends and abusing drugs. He loses his poetic voice and almost his life before rebuilding his relationships with his family and his father.
The Hitch: This is a rarely portrayed, authentic glimpse of Latino culture living in the Southwest, and in New Mexico particularly. There’s a reason people from Santa Fe (like myself) call it the “Land of Entrapment.” The script was co-written by poet Joe Ray Sandoval, who I had a big ol’ crush on in high school when he spoke to my English class. It’s only playing in a few theaters right now, but if it’s in your area, try to catch a showing.