We’re only a few hours from packing up the old family wagon and heading out for the obligatory trip to Niagara Falls to watch water pouring over the side of a cliff. Should be amazing. But before hitting the road we’ve got some flicks to cover. It’s action superstars, kids born in gardens, kids fighting the undead and teenage singing sensations.

Just remember, I'm not reviewing these movies, but rather predicting where they'll end up on the Tomatometer. Let's take a look at what This Rotten Week has to offer.

The Expendables 2
When we look back at the contributions of the “Action” film genre on our greater American psyche what will we think about ourselves? We’ll see a group of movies (and people) intent on displaying our nation’s unending desire, as a culturally enriched population, to see well-oiled and muscularly-defined dudes with caveman wit using submachine guns (and the occasional knife) to singlehandedly lay waste to any number of evil mustachio-ed bad guys who threaten our peaceful way of life. Thank you Stallone, Arnie and crew. You are national heroes. USA! USA!

And if the action film is a reflection of our national id, from which we derive viewing pleasure, The Expendables franchise is our ego on display. Recognizing what it is that defines us as Americans. A full collection of greased-up dudes, an all-star cast if you will, putting their collective talents on display in one big orgy of action. Again, USA! USA!

It’s predecessor, The Expendables (40%), finished right where one would expect. Below the fifty percent mark, but still out of the basement. There’s simply too much star (umm, fire) power, and guilty pleasures to finish as a total stinker. That being said, the second installment will hang around its predecessor. Simon West (The Mechanic-53% When a Stranger Calls-9%) directs these ass kickers as they do things that allow them plenty of boom boom time. It won’t be great, but hey guilty pleasures rarely are. The Rotten Watch for The Expendables 2 is 41%


The Odd Life of Timothy Green
For all those folks out there wondering, let me end the debate right here once and for all with a controversial statement. I am very much in favor of the Grow a Kid in Your Backyard Garden-lobby. I’m Pro Life in this case. Now we just need Home Depot to start carrying Scott’s Baby Fertilizer in their Outdoor section (stocked right next to the Infant Miracle Gro and Pacifier Patch products) Then a movie like The Odd Life of Timothy Green will become a wonderful reality.

And while sprouting a kid out back might be off in the distant future (and far less painful than the real thing), Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton give us a glimpse of what can happen when stuffing a box full of kiddie wish notes, burying it out back and waking up with a ten year old the next morning. From there it’s a family story that looks pretty freaking emotional and inspiring. Hey, I’m a sucker for this environmental stuff.

Peter Hedges wrote and directed this family fertilization story. He’s also given us the Rotten Family Favorite: Dan in Real Life (64%) as well as Pieces of April (84%). Those are two flicks have occasional sappiness, but I think Hedges’ style lines right up with a Walt Disney Studio production. Meaning heavy on the family spirit and feel-good-ed-ness. I mean it’s about a kid shooting up out of the garden and scoring the winning goal in a soccer game. That’s a winner in my mushy book. The Rotten Watch for The Odd Life of Timothy Green is 75%


ParaNorman
Ah the undead. The never-ending well from which we can always grab entertaining fare. It’s remarkable really. At no point in human existence will zombies, ghosts or ghouls disappear from our cinematic culture. It literally can’t happen. No amount of movies will ever exhaust this seemingly bottomless source of material. There’s always a new undead story to tell. And once you realize this inevitable truth, the world becomes easier to swallow. Believe me.

Which makes it so refreshing when moviemakers can still find new ways to relay a “same old” idea . ParaNorman might be an example of this creativity. For instance, take Katey Rich’s tweet:

ParaNorman: I loved it so much I want to hug it. It's Goonies with more wit and soul, and astonishing animation.

This is not an angle I take lightly. She mentions Goonies for Christ’s sake. Goonies who never say die! That’s hallowed, pop culture ground. And other critics who’ve taken to the stop-motion film share a similar theme: it has childlike awesomeness and innocence amidst the undead. Those who’ve disliked the flick have done so with flimsiness, offering razor thin negativity which doesn’t seem sustainable over the course of a hundred or so reviews.

Laika, the studio who rocked Coraline (90%), Sam Fell (Tales of Despereaux-56% Flushed Away-72%) and Chris Butler (fairly new to the game) put this flick together. They’ve apparently taken the undead and kept the genre, ahem, alive with a supernatural, albeit normal kid, leading us against the onslaught of the Dead. See? It never gets old if done the right way. The Rotten Watch for ParaNorman is 81%


Sparkle
Not considering myself a Motown fan by any stretch of the imagination, I’m not sure I necessarily fall into this film’s wheelhouse. But man that Whitney Houston could sing huh? She might be worth the price of admission considering this was her final role before passing away.

As a person who saw Bodyguard (32%) in the theaters (yup, you read that right) it’s amazing to me Houston hadn’t been in a flick since The Preacher’s Wife (63%) in 1996. That’s a long time away from the camera, and though she had many an issue, she wasn’t a complete slouch in the acting department. And those pipes. Yikes. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your motivation), Houston died only few months after this flick wrapped filming. I can imagine a scenario where both box office and critical reception benefit from her demise. It’s not something I root for, but a reality nonetheless.

Sparkle, directed by Salim Akil (Jumping the Broom-54%), is a remake of the 1976 film of the same name and follows a group of sisters who take the music scene by storm in Motown Detroit. From there it appears everything you’d expect from seedy managers, infighting, egos, limos, lounges, and a motherly Houston crushing a solo or two. I don’t expect great things here, but can’t imagine it bombing. The Rotten Watch for Sparkle is 54%


RESULTS


Recapping last week:

Not great. Not great at all. It’s been a rough summer around the Rotten Offices. Last week was a moderate disaster and the mood is darkening. First off:

The Bourne Legacy (Predicted: 74% Actual: 52%)

The Campaign (Predicted: 49% Actual: 66%)

were two flicks I was off by just enough on to consider them losses. In fairness, I was warned about going too low and not trusting Ferrell and Galifianakis turning out a funny, political flick. I basically ignored said advice and the score was off. Bourne I stand by considering the franchises’s history, but it still missed the mark.

Meanwhile, Nitro Circus: The Movie 3D (Predicted: 61% Actual: 10%) was an epic disaster. I probably based too much of my score on the the Jackass movies, not factoring that this is a totally different crew and team. Off by fifty-one percent is about as bad as it gets.

Finally, Hope Springs (Predicted: 85% Actual: 77%) gets within ten percent. I had a little of a head start here so it’s only a half a win. I can’t even get too pumped about it. Sigh.

Next time around we’ve got college experiments gone bad, high speed chases, and bike messengers. It’s going to be a Rotten Week!

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