So the summer is nearly over — not according to that silly Gregorian calendar, but by the say-so of the movie conglomerates that now control space, time and the weather. If you're looking for one mental image to sum up the entire season, we'd humbly suggest it be this: Kevin Costner standing at the back of a theater, basking in his own glory as everybody else races for the exits.
According to the New York Daily News, that's just what happened at the Tribeca premiere of Costner's dead-on-arrival election "comedy" Swing Vote, as the actor — who, the paper was quick to remind, had sunk $20 million of his own money into the flick — spent 45 minutes "smirking" in satisfaction at his own work. Why'd he stop? To contend with the phenomenon of audience members filing out right past him, a mass exodus he reportedly met with the desperate query, "You're coming back, right?"
Dwell on that sentence for a minute. Savor it. Roll it around in your mind. Attempt to fathom what depth of delusion it takes for somebody to miss the essential point that a fleeing audience is not popping out to feed the meter or to go pee out a tenement fire. Those four simple words of Costner's set a standard for entertainment value we'll be doing our best to equal in this column starting next week, as the industry shifts its marketing focus from overblown crap with commercial potential to overblown crap nobody wants to see. Stay tuned.
You are coming back, right?
Opening Friday, Aug. 15
In this would-be shocker, Kiefer Sutherland plays an ex-cop who discovers that the mirrors in his house do not reflect anything he recognizes as reality. Hey, how do you think we've felt every morning for the last 20 years? (R)
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Having recently disparaged his partners Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford for keeping the Indiana Jones ethos stuck in the past — um, what? — George Lucas is closer than ever to being tarred and feathered by his own fan base. Somehow, his best shot at a reprieve is having executive-produced this computer-animated spinoff from his Star Wars prequels, which is designed to placate the diehards who thought those prequels had too much computer animation. OK, we've gotta have that wrong. (PG)
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
In the latest chapter of the ongoing international fantasy that a new Woody Allen movie might not suck at life, Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall all fall under the spell of Spanish painter Javier Bardem. The promo notes for the film laud the Woodman's "open-minded" view of love. Glad to hear he's abandoned his heretofore-rigid perceptions of who should get to bone whom. (PG-13)
Henry Poole Is Here
Uplift at any cost is the agenda of this indie comedy-drama, in which Luke Wilson stars as a recluse whose neighbors help him understand that life isn't so bad after all. Hey, Luke: If you want to send a message to your brother, can't you just pick up a phone and leave the rest of us out of it? (PG)
Fly Me to the Moon
A trio of 3-D houseflies stow away on the historic Apollo 11 mission. What do they find up there? Action! Adventure! And a full-on feast of Space Chimp excrement! (G)
Opening Wednesday, Aug. 20
A generation of viewers who know rock & roll as mere fodder for cowbell-related comedy receive further vindication from this story of a failed drummer (we know, we know: redundant) who gets a second chance at success. The studio moved this one back a month when Batman started kicking everybody's ass; wouldn't it be funny/sad if The Office's Rainn Wilson instead saw his leading-man hopes undermined by a cartoon Mace Windu? (PG-13)
Available Tuesday, Aug. 19
Nixon: Election Year Edition
The shortened director's cut of Alexander gave us hope Oliver Stone had realized the public wants less of him, not more. But here come 28 extra minutes of his 1995 apologia for history's greatest monster, which will no doubt show the "misunderstood" Dickster breaking bread with Mother Teresa while the predatory press corps gets out its lynchin' rope.
The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior
This is the sort of project that makes you pinch yourself to make sure you're still on Earth and not in an episode of The Simpsons. It's a direct-to-video prequel to a spinoff, with UFC Champion Randy Couture replacing Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. And it's directed by Highlander has-been Russell Mulcahy! Hey, where's Rainier Wolfcastle?
Available Tuesday, Aug. 19
Spirited Away: BFI Film Classics
Anime expert Andrew Osmond "unpacks" the 2001 film, hopefully revealing more than two obvious factoids: Hayao Miyazaki is a genius; and "unpacks" is still the most obnoxious phrase in all email@example.com