Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Avengers Assmble! A Hello, Mr. Anderson Summer Movie Preview

It's the first week of May, and that can only mean one thing: two more weeks until Mother's Day! No, wait, there WAS something else... Oh, that's right! Hollywood officially kicks off their summer release schedule this weekend, and that means that every film we've seen up to this point - from The Hunger Games to 21 Jump Street to Haywire - was just an appetizer. From now until the end of August, we'll be witness to what executives on the west coast think you want to see on the big screen this summer. The explosions will be bigger, and so will the star power. With bona fide blockbusters every month, Hollywood is trying to make more money in these four months than they will ALL YEAR, and I'm here to guide you through what the season has to offer. As we all know, a movie can be bad whether it's a special effects extravaganza or an indie comedy, so it's important to study what's out there, so as best to justify parting with your hard-earned currency. Read on and enjoy!


Looking for the biggest movie of May? Look no further than the first weekend, which finally sees the release of Marvel's The Avengers, directed by target of fanboy lust Joss Whedon. Long thought to be a film that couldn't be made (alongside DC Comic's multiple failed attempts at a Justice League movie), The Avengers brings together several superheros who have already enjoyed much success in their own solo acts into an epic story of saving the world. It doesn't hurt that they have the star power to draw in even the uninitiated (Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johanssen, Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner), but it would probably be all for nothing were a true comic book fan like Whedon not on the other side of the camera. Besides Joss Whedon's obvious connection to his fans, it's clear that he's not only intimately familiar with what makes these characters tick, but also how to bend things to his needs without breaking the film. By summer's end, this title has the chance be my favorite when all is said and done.

As for the rest of the month... how can it be that a film sequel can be released ten years after its predecessor and yet still look awesome? It didn't work for Scream 4 or American Reunion, but Men in Black 3 seems to have done the impossible by taking the Will Smith vs. aliens concept and making it interesting again. Add in Josh Brolin as a younger iteration of Tommy Lee Jones (who also stars) and you might just be on to something, Barry Sonnenfeld... People tend to ignore Wes Anderson these days, referring to his early works as superior. Still, the trailer for Moonrise Kingdom, with its tale of young love, at least seems interesting, and sports a talented cast that includes Edward Norton, Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton... Already successful overseas but opening the same weekend as The Avengers, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel looks entertaining as a coming-of-age story, so long as you like such tales to happen to men and women in the twilight of their lifespans. With Dame Judy Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy, it certainly doesn't lack for talent... Speaking of coming of age stories, Girl in Progress is either a sensitive tale of the traversal between what it means to be a girl or a woman, or it's a preposterous attempt to get Eva Mendes an Academy Award nomination. My money is on the former... Hysteria refers to the once-common medical diagnosis amongst women, and the British film itself tells an unknown story of the invention of the vibrator. If nothing else, it sounds, um, interesting... Finally, The Intouchables has become a worldwide box office phenomena, with critics and audience all over the world praising this effort. The French film finally makes its way to American shores, and while I'm certain it won't get much love, I'd still like to see what all the fuss is about.

When I first saw the trailer for Battleship, I was shocked at how silly the whole thing looked. The special effects were clearly stolen from the Transformers franchise (the film come from Hasbro, the same as Optimus Prime and ilk), the dialogue was trite, and when all was said and done, the audience laughed (!) when the title popped up on the screen, as surely the idea of a movie based on the board game was some kind of joke. Somehow, someone expects this $200 million juggernaut to make money, despite star Taylor Kitsch's last film John Carter bombing so badly. We'll see... Speaking of unnecessary adaptations, What to Expect When You're Expecting takes the popular pregnancy education book and turns it into a big screen film, but the trailers blatantly seem to be telling the tale of potential parenthood from primarily the mens' point of view. Huh?... I think I was a bigger enthusiast for Sasha Baron Cohen's The Dictator back when I thought it would be another mockumentary piece a la Borat. After seeing the story in action, not so much... the homage to cult classic soap opera Dark Shadows could have been a good movie, had it been directed by anyone other than Tim Burton. A good cast is laid to waste... Want more Russian-inspired horror? Who doesn't!? Chernobyl Diaries mixes last year's The Darkest Hour with The Hills Have Eyes, and I'm not sure who will have it worse; the kids in the film, or the audience who pays to see it. There are a number of indies coming out this month, but unless you REALLY want to see Kate Hudson in cancer dramedy Little Bit of Heaven, Chloe Grace Moretz and Blake Lively in Hick, or Miley Cyrus in LOL, I think they can be safely skipped.


There are a number of good movies coming out this month, but any notion that June will not belong to Ridley Scott's Prometheus is a false hope at best. Originally conceived as a prequel to the Alien franchise, Scott seems to have radically changed everything we might know about the xenomorphs and the universe we think we understand from the movies, books and comics. That alone makes it worth watching, and the quick and subtle connections to the previous entries in the franchise strewn throughout the trailers has not gone unnoticed. Sporting an all-star cast that includes Naomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron and Idris Elba, and looking to capitalize on the latest in 3D film technology, this is easily the film I'm most looking forward to this summer.

While everything beyond Prometheus might seem a haze of varying quality, there are at least a few good films to expect this month. Unlike March's awful Mirror Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman looks to actually be a GOOD take on the Snow White story, with action aplenty, talented acting and a universe seemingly on par with that of the Lord of the Rings trilogy... The next title is Todd's favorite. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: how much more could you possibly need? Based on the book by Seth Graeme-Smith and directed by Wanted's Timur Bekmambetov, the best thing this movie did (besides cast cutie Mary Elizabeth Winstead) might have been passing over Nicolas Cage in giving the lead role of our monster-hunting 16'th US President to unknown Benjamin Walker... Say hello to the Academy Award winner for Best Animated film in Brave, which features a young woman who breaks with her family and culture's customs to forge her own path. I've been giddy for this since I first saw the trailer, and can't wait to see how it turns out... Take Armageddon, make the project a failure and focus instead on the normal people on Earth, and you'll probably get Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, a comedy that pairs Steve Carrell with Keira Knightly as people with one last thing to do before we all die... Rock of Ages might not be a GOOD movie, but the musical looks campy enough to succeed as a parody of the legacy of 80's rock and roll... After the 2010 reboot was deemed to be disgusting fun, sequel Piranha 3DD looks to lower the threshold of crudeness by introducing both flesh-eating fish and David Hasselhoff to a small-town water park... Remember how Coyote Ugly was definitely a chick flick that used beautiful dancing women to shamelessly pander to the potential male audience? Well, Magic Mike is kind of like that, except the dancers are less Victoria's Secret and more Chippendales. Based on the early life of (and starring) Channing Tatum... People Like Us takes two up-and-coming performers (Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks), does NOT force them into a romantic relationship, and feels utterly unlike anything Hollywood usually does. I've only recently seen the trailer, but it looked more than good enough... Potentially good indies include High School (Adrian Brody, Michael Chiklis), Lola Versus (Greta Gerwig), Take this Waltz (Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen), Safety Not Guaranteed (Aubrey Plaza) and Your Sister's Sister (Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt) in films that are definitely taking different tactics in storytelling.

GI Joe: Retaliation looks to be an improvement on 2009's GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, but as anyone who actually sat through that disaster knows, that really isn't saying much. Though it does reboot the entire cast and introduces new characters in Dwayne Johnson's Roadblock and Bruce Willis's General Joseph Colton, there's no reason to believe this will really make it any better, though at least you can say that the first movie succeeded in lowering expectations for the sequel... Insane penguins are all that you can expect to be entertained by in the animated sequel Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted. In fact, if it wasn't for those penguins, I doubt there ever would have been a second one of these... In his follow up to the wonderful Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen injects himself into To Rome with Love, a film told in four vignettes that unfortunately doesn't look funny in the slightest... If Little Nicky had sex with the devil, the resulting spawn would probably resemble That's My Boy, which portrays Adam Sandler as the world's worst father... If I wanted to see Robert Pattison sleep his way through European society, I wouldn't watch Bel Ami, I'd just read "OK" magazine... And we all thought she was gone. Tyler Perry's most famous character returns in Madea's Witness Protection, which looks to take an already washed up premise and force its head underwater until it stops struggling.


Considering this is easily their most popular franchise, you know Warner Brothers wishes Christopher Nolan was sticking around for more after the finale of his Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. Where Batman goes from here is anybody's guess, but there can be no doubt that to this point, Nolan has reinvigorated a genre that had stagnated into incredulity, beginning with his remarkable Batman Begins in 2005. Since then, comic book movies have been taken seriously not only by fans of the source material, but the industry as a whole (even if Heath Ledger hadn't tragically passed away, he still would have earned that Oscar). No longer are comic book movies immediately shunned by non-fans as unimportant wastes of money, as Marvel proved when it released those three movies last year to great success. There are so many questions about the trilogy still in play, but on July 20'th, I'll be there to discover the answers.

In a summer that features The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, it's easy to forget that those are not the only superhero movies coming out. The Amazing Spider-Man returns, rebooting the franchise after the downward turn of the Sam Raimi trilogy. The film casts the talented Andrew Garfield as everybody's favorite web-slinger, and I hope this will get the fanboy love it deserves... Like stoner comedies? Ted might be right up your alley. Mark Wahlberg plays a guy who, as a child, wished that his teddy bear could talk to him. That wish came true, and twenty years later Wahlberg still lives with Ted, voiced by Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane. It sounds like it could be disastrous, but MacFarlane brings on the laughs, and it's difficult not to be charmed by the trailer... I remember when I saw the first Ice Age; it was a decent animated film with a few laughs. Now it's a franchise, and while I'm not wholly enamored with the concept, it could be a good option for taking the kids... Ruby Sparks is the story of a struggling writer (Paul Dano) who somehow creates the girl of his dreams purely from his imagination. Feminists, get out your angry glasses... Robert DeNiro plays a world-renowned psychic in Red Lights, pitted against a couple of investigators (Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver) set out to prove him a fraud... Trishna, starring Immortals's Frieda Pinto and Centurion's Riz Ahmed, is most notable in that it's a retelling of "Tess of the d'Ubervilles" set in India.

Unlike the other months, July doesn't seem to have as many flagrant weaknesses, which is nice because the bad movies do look pretty bad. Chief among them is Savages, based on the book of the same name by Don Winslow. The film does have some things going for it, as Oliver Stone is behind the camera and Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson and Salma Hayek are all talented actors. But the concept - two peaceful marijuana growers and dealers pushed too far when their shared girlfriend is kidnapped by ruthless Colombians - is a bit over the top, and doesn't look like it will play well on the big screen... Step Up Revolution is yet another entry in the epic dance genre. If you don't mind your movies lacking minor things like plot or acting talent or feasibility, go right ahead... Despite his positive turns in Moneyball and 21 Jump Street, it's difficult to imagine Jonah Hill getting many opportunities to carry Neighborhood Watch away from perennial disappointments Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn... The only reason you should be watching the 3D concert movie Katy Perry: Part of Me is if you are Julian, and even that is just a little creepy.


The legacy of Jeremy Renner continues in August with The Bourne Legacy, the continuation of the Bourne series now that Matt Damon has flown the coop. Though Damon and director Paul Greengrass are no longer with the project, there's no reason to believe that the work they began with the surprisingly good Bourne Identity cannot continue, especially since new director Tony Gilroy wrote or co-wrote the entire first trilogy, and Renner is one of the most talented actors to emerge from obscurity in recent years. It's been too long since we've been treated to this kind of spy thriller, and between this and the upcoming 007: Skyfall, things should be righted in the near future.

Of all the trailers you've seen this year, is there any more simply and primordially engrossing than the one for The Expendables 2? Taking an already likable group of action stars - led by legendary names of Stallone, Statham, and Li - and then adding a couple more that you missed the first time around? Top that off with expanded roles for Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzeneggar and you've got yourself a sequel worth watching... On the other side of that is the fantastical story of The Odd Life of Timothy Green, which is similar to Ruby Sparks with the exception that it was produced by Disney, so it will have much more financial backing... I know Colin Farrell doesn't get a lot of respect, but I'm really looking forward to the Total Recall remake, which looks to skew closer to the original Philip K Dick story on which the original was based... The Awakening looks a lot like The Woman in Black from a few months ago; both are British haunted house stories that feel traditional while promising scares in spades. It worked for Women in Black. Maybe it'll work here too... Speaking of horror, ParaNorman is an animated take on the zombie apocalypse story, with a young boy's ability to speak with the dead all that protects the world from an evil witch's curse... Featuring an all-star cast, Lawless is a thriller set during Prohibition in which Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy play brothers whose still operation comes in conflict with both the law and the mob... Hope Springs won't win Meryl Streep another Oscar, but seeing this film - which features she and Tommy Lee Jones getting relationship counseling by Steve Carrell - looks amusing enough to work.

Normally I'm all for anything having to do with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. but action film Premium Rush simply demands too much. The honorable nature of a bike messenger is all that stands between order and chaos? Sorry, I'm not buying it... Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days... do I really have to say anything more? ... What will the Twilight actors do now that the films are almost complete? For Ashley Greene's sake, she'd better hope the answer doesn't include more generic horror titles like The Apparition... Not that nontraditional horror tales would be much better. 7500 might as well be called "The Grudge on a Plane" for all the originality there is. At least Snakes on a Plane had Samuel L Jackson... Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis play rivals in the upcoming political comedy The Campaign. I don't really like any of the creative minds associated with this project, and Ferrell has to earn his way back into my good graces after Casa de mi Padre... Well what do you know? Whitney Houston's last acting job, Sparkle, is a carbon copy of Dreamgirls, down to the casting of an American Idol alumni (winner Jordin Sparks). Somehow I get the feeling Houston will get a best supporting actress nomination for this mess... Red Hood Summer is Spike Lee's return to the streets of New York City. Don't worry if you don't immediately get the film's message, as Lee will casually write it into the dialogue over an over. You know, to make sure you understand... Little is known about The Possession, except that it stars the talented Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick. So if you like those two actors, go right ahead... If a guy breaking out of witness protection to drive his girlfriend to her dream job across the country appeals to you, check out Dax Shephard's directorial debut Hit and Run. If that previous statement doesn't make any sense to you at all...

So what is it YOU are looking forward to this summer? Check in and prepare, as this summer looks to try and quickly outpace 2011, and there were a LOT of good times to be had last year!

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