Tampa Movie Weekend: Summer Movie Season Kicks in With “Iron Man 3”; Also: “The Sapphires”; New Digital System at Tampa Theatre

If summer movies are gonna be all superheroes and giant robots, then I’m gonna sleep until Labor Day.

But seriously, the summer movie season officially kicks in with two much-hyped 3-D releases: “Iron Man 3,” with Robert Downey, Jr. again cracking wise and creatively defeating villains, and, next week, something that might appeal to adults — the apparently gaudy, Baz Luhrmann-directed adaptation of Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” So it’s nice to see some “small” films, including the likes of “Mud” and “The Sapphires” (below) sneaking their way onto local screens from time to time, even during the Season of Scorch.

(For a smart preview of the movies’ silly season, check out Bill Gibron’s piece at PopMatters)

Opening this week:

“Iron Man 3,” in which our hero (Robert Downey Jr.) defeats half-human, half-robot baddies apparently under the leadership of a sort-of Middle Eastern radical Islamic fundamentalist type called the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley); the related crimes, including bomb blasts in public places, are particularly unsettling in the wake of the Boston terrorist attack. Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) does some butt kicking this time. No spoilers here, but one scene reminded me a little of the flying Elvises (Elvi?) in “Honeymoon in Vegas.” Just saying. The watchable cast also includes Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Jon Favreau, Miguel Ferrer and a woefully under-used Rebecca Hall (“Barcelona”).

the sapphiresAlso opening: All the other studios apparently were too skeered to open any major movies against “IM3.” Wimps. Locally, though, Tampa Theatre is showing “The Sapphires.” The film, based on a true story, follows the rise of a quartet of Australian Aboriginal female singers determined to launch their career with performances for U.S. troops in Vietnam. Chris O’Dowd co-stars as the Irish musician and R&B devotee who helps manage the group.

The music-packed film will have the benefit of being presented on Tampa Theatre’s newly installed $150k digital picture and audio system, which made its debut at the Art Deco movie house Tuesday night with a screening of “Samsara.” More info here

The Truth About Glee?

The most truthful line in press coverage of Glee: The 3D Concert Movie comes courtesy of USA Today‘s two-star review.

“And never has a movie had less need for 3-D other than to jack up prices,” Scott Bowles wrote in a piece published Friday.

At least critics and other viewers aren’t being snookered: Glee, a spin-off of the popular TV series, has been almost universally panned, with a Metascore of 50 at Metacritic and a 60% Tomatometer rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

And it’s tanking at the box office, finishing #11 for the weekend, with only $5.5 million (on 2,040 screens!)

Not even a Gwyneth Paltrow cameo could save the thing.

Tampa Movie Weekend – 3.06.09

All the hype this weekend is focused on the bloody arrival of dysfunctional-superhero saga Watchmen, as grim, brutal and overlong a movie as likely to play the multiplexes this year (read my review).

Better news: The third annual Gasparilla International Film Festival continues through Saturday. The Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival continues through March 15.

And still playing Tampa Bay area screens are gorgeous looking animated movie Coraline and quite a few 2008 films that landed Oscar wins and nominations, or should have notched Academy Awards attention.

All of the latter group — including Slumdog Millionaire, Defiance, Gran Torino, The Wrestler, The Reader, Milk, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Waltz With Bashir, Frost/Nixon, Rachel Getting Married and The Dark Knight — are far more satisfying than Watchmen.

fanboys-vader-poster-fullsizeAlso opening 3/6:

Fanboys, the tale of five Star Wars fanatics who break into George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch in 1998 to steal a print of Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace (released in 1999). The road-trip¬† comedy includes a brawl between Star Wars fans and Trekkies. Seth Rogen makes a cameo, as do Princess Leia, er, Carrie Fisher and fellow Star Wars cast member Billy Dee Williams; William Shatner (Captain Kirk, of Star Trek); and Kevin Smith.¬† “The most appealing aspect of the movie is that the guys and gal at the center of it don’t just love the Star Wars saga for its own sake,” Michael Sragow writes in the Baltimore Sun. “They love the way they feel about each other when they’re escaping into its universe and sharing all the wonder and the trivia.

Alternatives:

  • Tampa TheatreTwo Lovers , the well-reviewed new drama starring Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw; cast also includes Isabella Rossellini and Elias Koteas (through March 11)
  • Beach Theatre (St. Petersburg Beach) – Slumdog Millionaire
  • Burns Court (Sarasota) – Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, Waltz with Bashir, Two Lovers