Summer is slowly winding down, giving Hollywood just a few more weeks to unload the last of its annual sequels, prequels and remakes before Oscar season begins in earnest. The bad news, for some: School will be back in session soon. The good news: August packs a promising lineup of big-screen spectacles, including:
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Aug. 5)
The primates: James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Andy Serkis
There’s nothing in Hobo with a Shotgun that you haven’t seen before in Lloyd Kaufman’s Troma pictures and the grindhouse films of the ’70s, save for perhaps better production values and an impressively grizzled Rutger Hauer.
That’s not to say Jason Eisener’s feature debut, inspired by the fake trailer he contributed to Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse during its 2007 Canadian theatrical run, is less than elegant in its simplicity. But there are far better reasons that “elegant” and Eisener’s Shotgun should never appear in the same sentence.
It might be one of the first films conceived as a trailer and later expanded into a feature. Machete, Robert Rodriguez’s story of a Rambo-like ex-Federale betrayed by his bosses and out for revenge, began as a tongue-in-cheek teaser for Grindhouse, the director’s 2007 homage to ’70s exploitation fare. But it soon evolved into something more.
“Once we made the trailer, I thought that was as far as it was going to go,” says Rodriguez, 42, who cast cousin and longtime friend Danny Trejo as the titular tough guy at the center of his cheerfully gruesome thriller, which opened Friday.
It began as a joke, two minutes of over-the-top mayhem tacked onto the agreeably bloated Grindhouse double feature, a trailer touting a coming attraction that would never be coming. Yet Machete struck a nerve, at least in the mind of director Robert Rodriguez, and three years later the joke, stretched out to nearly two hours, is reborn as a feature.
At 40, Simon Pegg is too old to play Scott Pilgrim, the painfully ordinary 22-year-old bassist of the fledgling garage-rock trio Sex Bob-omb. Still rebounding from a painful breakup – he’s the dumpee – Scott finds an effusive “Scottaholic” in high-schooler Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), who soothes his tattered ego but otherwise fails to engage him. For all his affectations, he’s an aimless schlub.
Ladies and gentlemen, set your DVRs. At the Movies, the beacon of televised film criticism founded by Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel in 1975, is about to undergo a much-needed makeover.
For those who have followed the syndicated weekly show since Ebert and latter-day partner Richard Roeper left Disney-ABC Domestic Television last summer, the introduction of Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott as the latest pair of critics to occupy the vaunted balcony should come as welcome news.