The Fourth of July has been a heavy-hitting weekend for the movie industry for quite some time. It has all the elements that make it one of the Top 2 or 3 weekends of the year for Hollywood, alongside Memorial Day and Thanksgiving.
This year its no different, except for the sheer variety of the movies being offered up. First you have the comedy "License to Wed" which -- despite the fact it looks incredibly lame -- features a proven favorite (Robin Williams) in a role perfectly suited for his bombastic, ad-libbing comedy skills.
Then you have the 800 lb. gorilla of the holiday, and maybe the entire summer, in "Transformers." I've seen it and it was a true cinematic experience. With so many CGI-heavy 'event' pictures being made these days, you don't really get to experience something so ... BIG very often anymore. But Transformers felt different to me. And no, I'm not one of those super-Transformers fans from the 80s. When the toys came out I was 13 and was just starting to stiff-arm myself away from my geeky pre-teen passions. That said, the moment in the film where all the Autobots are revealed was one of the best 'Geek-Out' moments EVER. Trust me when I say this is not a movie you want to see in an empty theater. This movie is meant to be shared with an audience full of Ringer Tee-wearing, toy-collecting fanboys. Oh, and don't sit close to the screen. You'll thank me for it later.
But while I think Transformers is definitely THE MOVIE to see this weekend, running a close second would be "Rescue Dawn" starring Christian Bale. Based on a true story, it has you on edge 5 minutes into the picture. Bale is always good but here's he's surreal. He plays Dieter Dengler just different enough so that you know this is not some cookie-cutter escape drama. Bale's POW is a picture of madness, but also one of dogged determination. The best thing about is that Bale plays him with wild eyes and Texas-sized intestinal fortitude, and makes the audience believe that nothing will keep him from escaping.
Because its such a dominating performance, Bale's work will overshadow everyone else, which is too bad because Steve Zahn really impresses with his work as a fellow prisoner. This could be the role that breaks him out of the goofy sidekick prison he's been trapped in his whole career.
Director Werner Herzog was born to make this movie. And his fingerprints are all over the film because it just ... FEELS DIFFERENT. In the hands of most of the filmmakers in the studio system, this would have been a by-the-books Prisoner of War drama. But Herzog does just enough to give it a wholly unique rhythm, keeping you from getting too comfortable with the pacing of the movie -- which then puts you in perfect position for the several SHOCKING scenes in the picture.
Excellent movie, one that I hope doesn't get buried in the avalanche of blockbusters this summer.
And you heard it here first - Christian Bale will get an Oscar nod for this role.
And you can hear a really good interview with Mr. Bale on Reel Talk this weekend - or check it out online at www.wnbc.com/reeltalk.