Just this once, we're going to skip our usual state-of-the-cinematic-art preamble and get right into the product-by-product armchair quarterbacking you've come to know and (profess to) love. To be perfectly blunt, the movie calendar is at that annual desperation stage when changes and trends come almost too fast for a journalist to anticipate while still meeting deadline. Why, if we weren't so good at reading tea leaves, we would have been totally blindsided by some of the stories that are lighting up the blogs right now — like Midnight Meat Train hacking its way to No. 4 on the all-time box-office chart. Or Abigail Breslin being identified as the real anthrax mailer. Who knew, right?
Expect a somewhat saner pace to reassert itself next issue, when we'll bring you our exclusive interview with Bernie Mac.
Opening Friday, Aug. 22
Zaniness ensues when an Arizona drama teacher (Steve Coogan) has his students mount a musical sequel to Shakespeare's classic tragedy. The flick's Sundance showing moved Focus Features to quickly write a check for $10 million, but how's it going to play in front of real people? Well, we've seen the pleasantly careening trailer dumbfound a supposedly sophisticated big-city audience into stone-cold silence … which means we're probably going to love the thing, if nobody else does. (R)
In this Florida Film Festival encore, writer-director Scott Prendergast steps into the oversized blue togs of a 32-year-old nonentity who has to humiliate himself by taking a thankless job as a costumed character. Like anybody in Orlando would know anything about that. (at Enzian Theater, Maitland; PG-13)
Just when you got used to the idea of Ice Cube being America's No. 1 onscreen dad, he changes up his game by playing the uncle (aha!) of the Pop Warner football league's first female quarterback. Oh, and the movie is directed by Fred Durst. If you laid any bets back in the '90s that this pair would one day position themselves as kings of heartwarming family comedy, your winnings are waiting for you in a grain silo somewhere. (PG)
Having lost the title of the World's Most Shameless Video Game Adapter to Uwe Boll, director Paul W.S. Anderson turns his attention to eviscerating the seminal '70s crapfest Death Race 2000. It's hard to say what's the most inadvertently hilarious attribute of the clips we've seen so far — the bleached-out cinematography, the busload of hip-swingin' female prisoners or the 1,000,000th use of "Welcome to the Jungle" as soundtrack music. Yes, that Chinese Democracy holdup has prevented all of us from getting on with our lives. (R)
The House Bunny
With Amy Poehler doing her part as an ACLU lawyer in this week's Hamlet 2, the timing isn't right for Anna Faris to prove our longstanding thesis that she's the Poehler for thinking men who don't care if they come across as thinking men. "Thankless" seems a suitable adjective for Faris' role as an excommunicated Playboy bunny who becomes the mentor to a struggling sorority. On the other hand, it's from the writing team behind Legally Blonde (the good one). So maybe Broadway awaits? (PG-13)
Opening Wednesday, Aug. 27
Hollywood keeps insisting that Don Cheadle is going to happen; thus, his central role as a person of interest in this intrigue-laden tale of international espionage. Leading the manhunt is Guy Pearce, another hard-working and talented fella who deserves to escape also-ran status. Then again, a few weeks ago we were saying the same thing about John Edwards. (PG-13)
Available Tuesday, Aug. 26
Never Say Macbeth
Not-so-coincidentally arriving the same week as Hamlet 2, the low-budget festival comedy Never Say Macbeth shows what happens when somebody utters that name you're never supposed to say in a theater. (No, not "Clay Aiken"; the other one.) A cast stocked with Left Coast stage veterans was lauded by the L.A. Weekly for pulling off "a sweet satire of our theatre." And it's a proven fact that nobody has a better sense of humor than people who end the spelling of theater with an "e."
Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas — 2-disc Collector's Edition
The stop-motion doesn't stop as the beloved animated fable returns with a whole bunch of new features — including commentaries, a digital copy of the film and a tour of Disneyland's Nightmare-themed "Haunted Mansion Holiday." There's even a coffin-shaped "Ultimate Collector's" set that comes with a talking Jack Skellington bust. What does it say? Probably that "Haunted Mansion Holiday" is never coming to Orlando, so quit your dreaming and get a job.
Available Tuesday, Aug. 26
Quantum of Solace: The Complete James Bond Short Stories
In advance of the least excitingly titled action movie ever, brush up on all of those Ian Fleming obscurities the Broccoli family started "adapting" when they had run out of actual novels to firstname.lastname@example.org