10 Films to See This Summer Besides The Dark Knight Rises & The Avengers

I don’t have any reviews for this weekend. I went to a Renaissance Faire, hung out with friends and family, and I didn’t particularly want to see The Lucky One (It’s Nicolas Sparks, so it’s probably stupid, and was dragged out 45 minutes longer than needed to be by a previously unmentioned terminal disease related subplot) or Think Like A Man (looked OK, like Tyler Perry without the pandering stereotypes, but… I wasn’t interested).

So with no reviews, time for the stock filler of a TOP TEN LIST! Top 10 Films To See This Summer Besides The Dark Knight Rises & The Avengers. Those are obviously the big ones, everyone already knows about them, everybody will probably go see them. I will. I hope you do, too. You don’t need to be told about them. Here are the films that aren’t those ones that you should see this summer. It’s all releases, May through August. May starts the summer movie season, if not the solar season.

Chernobyl Diaries – May 25th

I’ve made quite a bit of fun at the expense of Oren Peli. And in my defense… not all of it’s completely undue. From the ret-conning of the Paranormal Activity plots as the sequels progress, to the lather, rinse, repeat method those films utilize to churn a new one out every year… But I was quite taken with his TV show The River, and am disappointed we won’t be getting more (though Netflix has expressed interest in picking it up and releasing new episodes). It was less of a “found footage” and more of a “Well… it was a film crew, so they shot everything.” And there was more of a narrative arc than Paranormal Activity. Which is why I’m looking forward to Chernobyl Diaries. There’s an actual plot driving this horror offering,  his crew is opting for the handheld look over the found footage look. Handheld usually means shaky-cam, which I’m definitely not a fan of. But there’s just something about Peli and his brand of horror that I can’t get enough of. Maybe it’s that it brought us out of the torture-porn era. I don’t know. But I like his stuff, and I’m actually looking forward to this one.

Prometheus – June 8th

I know this is some how being branded as an Alien prequel, which is a move I’m on the fence about. I’m all for Ridley Scott’s return to sci-fi, he’s directed two of the most influential films in the genre (the other being, of course, Blade Runner). I was listening to an interview with Prometheus writer Damon Lindelof, and as he describes it, it’s more a film that exists in the same universe and crosses over with plot/characters, but as a narrative, has little to do with the other property, in the same vein as the works of Stephen King or Quentin Tarantino. That is an easier pill to swallow concerning this film. More so… Scott directing a script penned by Lindelof, featuring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and Guy Pearce… I’m having trouble finding any fault in there.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – June 22nd

Say what you will about Wanted, I liked it, as well as director Timur Bekmambetov’s Russian horror/fantasy epics Night Watch and Day Watch. But even that’s not what has me most excited about this adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel (which if you haven’t read, I suggest you do. You’ve got 2 months to read it. GO! NOW!). Nor is it the phenomenal cast that includes Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper, Alan Tudyk, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Anthony Mackie. No, it’s the fact that this film is a) being made, and b) getting a summer tent-pole release. This is a property that is way on the extreme of genre works, and doesn’t quite have that broad, mainstream appeal. Not that that’s a bad thing. It just sets a (good) precedent for genre films to get a wider audience, and if it’s any good, could lead to more exciting films in the pipe-line.

Brave – June 22nd

Pixar has a lot of making up to do. Cars 2 was a positively dreadful film. It was a quick grab at cash. They had built up this reputation for lovingly putting quality films into the world, and almost destroyed that notion with Cars 2. That said… they look to be well on their way back into all our good graces with Brave, their first film featuring a female lead. It’s the closest they’ve come to Disney’s classic princess film model, but since this is Pixar, we know it will be anything but. Maybe I’m biased because I’m for anything that involves Scotland. With Brenda Chapman at the helm, who directed the better-than-it-gets-credit-for Prince of Egypt and a good strong voice cast, I think Pixar will return to glory with Brave.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World – June 22nd

There’s something about a people centric, apocalypse themed comedy that just screams “WHY WASN’T THIS MADE SOONER?!” There’s something sweet and charming about the trailer that grabs me and makes me want to see it. Just to see Steve Carell and Keira Knightly play off one another would be worth the ticket price alone, but then add in the brilliant ensemble supporting cast of Nancy Walls, Patton Oswalt, T.J. Miller, Gillian Jacobs, Connie Britton, Rob Corddry and many more, and this a sure-fire crowd pleaser. To top it off, it’s non-franchise, non-sequel, non-book, non-unoriginal… everything the internet forums could possibly want in a film.

The Amazing Spider-Man – July 3rd

Swing the pendulum the other way from Seeking a Friend…, here comes a reboot of a franchise we last saw just 5 short years ago, Spider-Man. The first and second Raimi/Maguire Spider-Man films were what ushered in comic-book era of films. They’re still landmarks in the genre and stand as some of the best of the super-hero films. The third one was a ridiculous piece of crap that did it’s best to undo all that the first two had built up. I still don’t know how I feel about a reboot this soon after the previous franchise… but director Marc Webb helmed the fantastic (500) Days of Summer a few years back, and with Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans and Denis Leary (a particularly inspired bit of casting for Cpt. Stacy) in roles, and studying the trailer like the good little Spider-fan I am, it’s hard not to feel excited about it.

Savages – July 6th

Where 09 was the year of Sam Worthington, 2012 seems to be the year the studios are trying to push Taylor Kitsch. Two big budget action films (the bomb John Carter and May’s Battleship, which let’s say bombs, too, probably), and a stylized Oliver Stone drug drama. I’m not alone in not buying Taylor Kitsch as the next big thing, but it’ll be cool if he’s able to get a Emile Hirsch thing going. Flying under the radar, but doing consistently solid work. That’s why I’m looking forward to Savages. I like Oliver Stone, though he has been hit & mostly miss for the past decade or so. But when a good ensemble cast (including Kitsch and Hirsch, Aaron Johnson, Blake Lively, John Travolta, Salma Hayek, Uma Thurman and Benicio del Toro) and solid script come together, he can actually make quite the compelling film.

Ted – July 13th

Seth MacFarlane’s a love him or hate him kinda guy (as far as his career goes). There’s not much middle ground. I enjoy his work. Sure Family Guy isn’t the same show we fell in love with in 1999, and The Cleveland Show has been a gigantic piece of shit since day 1, but American Dad has actually gotten much better since its freshman season. And if you haven’t listened to his 2011 album “Music Is Better Than Words,” do so, right now, it’s amazing. Anyway, now we get to see how his comedic stylings translate to the big screen. I’m sure we won’t get cutaway gags, and rapid fire pop culture references, but that bawdiness, that crudeness, yet still something faintly intelligent, will all be there. And it’s Mark Funkybunchberg talking to a teddy bear! That’s hilarious. If you’re on the fence about Wahlberg doing comedy, see I Heart Huckabees (which would have been lost without him) and The Other Guys.

The Bourne Legacy – August 13th

I’m a huge fan of the Bourne franchise, as it completely revitalized the spy genre which limped through the post-Cold War 90s trying to find its relevance. What excites me is that this builds on the established story, bringing back established characters Noah Vosen and Pam Landy (David Straitharn and Joan Allen, respectively) while introducing us to Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), another agent in the Treadstone project who’s “gone rogue.” I’m most intrigued by the addition of both Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton, two phenomenal actors who we haven’t heard much from lately. Tony Gilroy steps up from writer to director, as he has written all of the Bourne films to-date. I’m approaching with caution, only because it lacks Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass, who built the franchise.

Lawless – August – 31st

Lawless
Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy in Lawless

I still don’t know if it’s Lawless or The Wettest County in the World, but last I checked it was Lawless, so that’s what we’ll call it from here on out. But this is a new Prohibition Era film from John Hillcoat, longtime collaborator with Nick Cave, and director of The Proposition in 05 and The Road in 09, both fantastic and you should definitely check those out. Tom Hardy and Guy Pearce anchor a cast that also features Shia “I Hate the 80s” LaBeouf, Mia Wasikowska and recent Oscar nominees Gary Oldman and Jessica Chastain. It’s got a solid pedigree, with a script from Nick Cave (who wrote a script for a Gladiator sequel I would actually want to see, see item #1). This could be one of those quite summer releases that’ll gain some traction heading into the Oscar race, let’s just hope it doesn’t get tragically left in the dust like 2011’s Drive.

Reviews: Mirror Mirror & Wrath of the Titans

Mirror Mirror
Lily Collins as Snow White in Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror

3.5 stars

Starring Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, Armie Hammer and Nathan Lane

Fairy tales, particularly Snow White have become a new hot thing. Grimm on NBC, Once Upon A Time on ABC, another Snow White film out in June and a few Beauty & The Beast projects in the works.  Mirror Mirror gets the jump on the cinematic offerings with Indian director Tarsem Singh’s take on the classic story.

Singh’s got an interesting eye. His films have a unique visual style that’s aesthetically pleasing and immersive. I really enjoyed his 2000 debut, The Cell, and 2006’s The Fall. This film is just as enjoyable, with a fun quirkiness that doesn’t feel insulting to the source material, or the audience.

What I liked most about the first Shrek film is its ability blend in modern jokes with the medieval back drop. In that respect, Mirror Mirror is a live action Shrek, though not as unrelenting with the wink & nod.

The relatively green Lily Collins is absolutely engaging as Snow White, perfectly capturing the wide-eyed innocence and optimism, and balancing that with the she-warrior the character becomes to battle the Evil Queen. Already, I can tell I enjoy her performance more than Kristen Stewart’s blank reading of lines in June’s Snow White and the Huntsman. Collins is just so sweet.

I quite enjoyed Julia Roberts tapping into her sinister side for the Evil Queen. It’s a side of her we haven’t really seen before, and there’s a delightful campiness to it. Armie Hammer is charismatic and wonderfully witty as Prince Alcott.

Unfortunately, no matter how visually pleasing the film is, nor how entertainingly funny the actors performances are, the film never quite reaches the level of being “Must See.” It’s a good piece of cinematic fluff, but is ultimately forgettable. Though I am hoping it gives both Hammer and Collins a push towards more solid work. Do see it if you’re so inclined, but you’ll be OK to wait to check it out as a rental.

Wrath of the Titans
Wrath of the Titans

Wrath of the Titans

1 star

Starring Sam Worthington, Rosamund Pike, Toby Kebell, Edgar Ramirez, Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes

Ahhhh unnecessary sequels. I didn’t particularly care for the first one. It was passable, but underwhelming, and the 3D was terrible. It was one of the last films I elected to see in 3D. That was general consensus 2 years ago, so naturally they made a sequel.

I have nothing against Sam Worthington, he’s a perfectly capable actor, but it doesn’t seem like the push to make him the next big thing will come to fruition. I just don’t buy him as Perseus, the half-god, half-human son of Zeus. I don’t know what it is, but he just doesn’t have that spark.

Wrath ends up being a complete waste of everyone’s talents. There isn’t a single member of the principle cast whose work I don’t enjoy, especially the prestige British actors. I suppose even they must have blemishes on their filmographies, and they can’t always do the important stuff. Big budget pays out big, too. It’s just… It was an exercise in wasting time.

The most confounding performance was Bill Nighy. I honestly didn’t think it would have been possible for him to retread his Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean, but the mannerisms are quite similar, to the point that I think he didn’t even bother coming up with a new way of playing Hephaestus because he knew that this movie was going to pass mostly unseen. I will give major kudos to Edgar Ramirez for being a total badass Ares, and in a better film he would have been more exciting.

The film is a loud display of action sequences and fight scenes with not enough meat on its bones to make it worthwhile. I wouldn’t even recommend waiting for the rental. It’s completely skipable.

 

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