The blockbuster season is so close you can smell the shrapnel. Luckily for us movie fans the studios have begun trotting out some of the big tentpoles early ever since the year 2011 when Fast Five broke the mold and opened a week before the typical Summer launch which has been the first weekend of May for over a decade. The Vin Diesel-led action-sequel turned out to be a roaring success, even besting final grosses of the almighty Thor which kicked off the ‘season-proper.’ Now the studios are realizing audiences will pay to see a big movie any time of year if the anticipation is there.
I haven’t done this for a few years, but I miss the optimism in looking ahead to the movie season rather than the disappointment in looking back. What movies are on my radar this summer? Actually quite a heap. Nearly every weekend has a movie I’m eager to see which is likely a major problem for studios as supply is very high this season and the competition will be fierce. Hopefully my adoring wife will hold my hand through them all… or most. I’m sure there will be big winners and major losers in this bunch. But the real question is: will there be any surprises? And which am I looking forward to most?
The Dark Horses:
Pain and Gain (4/26): We have seen a lot of Dwayne Johnson lately. And he will be around a lot more yet. With Snitch and the G.I. Joe sequel still in theaters, he’s about to star in an uber-violent action-comedy from Michael Bay about criminal bodybuilders. Johnson co-stars with Mark Wahlberg, Ed Harris and Tony Shaloub. The trailers for the film definitely have some personality and signature Bay visuals—tan human beings drenched in sweat (or is that the camera lens), gunplay, car chases and explosions. But I’m not sold yet. The film looks a little more niche than expected and may play just as well at home if it’s any good at all. TRAILER.
The Great Gatsby (5/10): It’s not the first title that comes to mind when I think ‘summer.’ That might be because the studio moved it from its Christmas award season slot last year to May 10th where there will be less… competition. Right. The trailer looks visually arresting and I’m surprised to see the film getting a 3D release. As a film adaptation directed by Baz Luhrrman and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, this could be fantastic, but I’m not entirely sure it will break out at this time of year. TRAILER.
This is the End (6/12): A slew of comedic actors who’ve all shared the screen together in some capacity star as themselves caught up in an apocalypse. Seth Rogen, Michael Cera, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel, Aziz Ansari, Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel, Mindy Kaling, Danny McBride… Yes, they’re all in this movie and they all play their celebrity selves. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote the film. They also wrote Superbad and Pineapple Express. And Green Hornet… and The Watch… If you are still reading they also wrote Drillbit Taylor (Remember that movie? Owen Wilson was in it. No one saw it…) Their latest movie, looks like an intriguing concept…which could in fact turn out to be The Watch all over again (and that movie was a complete disaster). But the trailers have me convinced this could be funny… or maybe too raunchy for my tastes. Sadly this is one of the few comedy choices we have this coming season so we can only hope. TRAILER.
The Wolverine (7/26): What?? Not in my top ten?? No. Ever since Director Darren Arronofsky famously dropped out of the this dark prequel/sequel/standalone/spinoff or whatever it is, my anticipation went down. I want to see it, but I’m not particularly excited. James Mangold is a capable director. But Walk the Line and Knight and Day aren’t exactly titles that tell me he was the right choice to revive this installment after the dumping ground that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Hugh Jackman has the chops to still deliver a great solo Wolverine movie, and the trailer looks pretty good, but how can a trailer for this movie not ‘look’ good? TRAILER.
Despicable Me 2 (7/3): I have to admit I really enjoyed the original surprise hit featuring the voice talent of Steve Carell. Will this movie be a simple cash grab or a worthy follow-up? I don’t know. Time will tell. Sequels to animated films generally don’t retain the magic of the predecessors, but I have no doubt that the writers could come up with something truly special. Or maybe those yellow minions will be incredibly annoying the second time around. TRAILER.
The Heat (6/28): Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock as hardcore law enforcement? Sounds like comedy to me. But will this movie have enough wit in the script or will it be an onslaught of profanity substituted for genuine ideas? I believe both of these actresses are capable of delivering a very entertaining comedy and would likely make a dynamic pair, but I’m on the fence and entirely not blown away by the trailer. TRAILER.
The Lone Ranger (7/3): This actually looks very entertaining, regardless of the naysayers. This honestly just looks like a fun movie—batty, goofy, action-packed, impressively shot. But it still has an iffy air about it and so it didn’t quite make my top ten list. But Johnny Depp as Tonto strikes me as awesome. Armie Hammer as the Ranger? Hopefully a star is made out of him. Plus Gore Verbinski is directing, and if he can recreate the magic of his first Pirates of the Caribbean film, then we may have something here. TRAILER.
Monsters University (6/21): Pixar Studios have been wanting sequels left and right all of a sudden. It’s been off-putting for me as they typically come up with great original storytelling. The teaser trailer for this Monsters, Inc. prequel also rubbed me the wrong way portraying monster college to children as a mindless wild party atmosphere (just without the booze). Then a follow-up trailer filmed as a university advertisement was a bit more daring and original. I think Monsters Inc was a very solid movie, but I’m not enthused for another. TRAILER.
After Earth (6/7): My biggest question mark of the season… M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth. The studio hasn’t been putting his name in the ads. Why? Because you probably laughed out loud when you read his name. The man has been cursed. At one point in his career everything he touched turned to gold. Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs. He was the next Spielberg. Then… The Village, Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender. Make it stop! After Earth, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller starring Will Smith and Jaden Smith looks both good and bad. I don’t know. I suppose if this wasn’t a Will Smith-starrer I would look the other way. I don’t see it as a resurgence for Shyamalan, but anything is possible. Maybe it’s just that southern drawl in the actors’ voices that has me confused. TRAILER.
World War Z (6/21): I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead TV show mainly because of the high production values and searing drama amongst the human cast. World War Z, which appears to be a very loose adaptation of its novel source, looks like a solid suspenseful ride. But I have my doubts about Marc Forester directing (not to mention the highly-public troubled production)—he was behind Quantum of Solace and Finding Neverland. The zombies look like dodgy CGI creations on speed, sort of like I am Legend. Brad Pitt stars which adds some leading man power, but despite a promising trailer, I have a feeling Forester will deliver a completely digital film that misses the human element, the realism, and the drama. Will I still see it? Um, yeah. TRAILER.
The Top Ten:
10) White House Down (6/28): Okay. I just saw Antonie Fuqua’s version of this movie and it was bad. But come on. The trailer for this Channing Tatum-Jamie Foxx version looks surprisingly good. I’m game for another White House takedown movie even if it stars Channing Tatum because Director Roland ‘Independence Day‘ Emmerich is taking it down… and he has a profitable history in doing so. Hopefully the villains, the heroes, the script, the plot, the visual effects and everything else in between are better than Olympus Has Fallen. TRAILER.
9) Fast & Furious 6 (5/24): Remember how Fast Five came out two years ago and blew away expectations? I have a feeling returning Director Justin Lin will take it to a whole new level with this sixth installment. I can’t believe I’m writing these words. I mean, the awful Tokyo Drift was three movies ago! Actually, Fast Five didn’t blow me away like everyone else, but I did enjoy it enough to be very excited for the entire cast returning for even bigger action, bigger chases, and even further ridiculousness. Just don’t try and follow the titles of these movies, because they only want you to be confused. TRAILER.
8) Elysium (8/9): —UPDATE: The trailer arrived and it did not disappoint. In fact, I should be moving this film higher on my list. It looks great!— I have not seen a single frame of a trailer for this movie, but the production stills have me intrigued enough. Plus the Oscar-nominated hit District 9 was my favorite movie of 2009, and Director Neill Blomkamp is now back with this new sci-fi action-thriller starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. What’s it about? IMDB lists the synopsis as: “Set in the year 2159, where the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth, a man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds.” Sounds good to me! TRAILER.
7) Now You See Me (5/31): This trailer jumped out of nowhere and arrested me at gunpoint. Magicians who rob banks, but for what purpose? Is there something greater going on behind the curtain? Count me in. It has the intrigue of The Prestige with the fun of The Italian Job. Plus the cast is absolutely top notch. Something good in the script must have attracted them all. Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman, Isla Fisher, Michael Caine, Mark Ruffalo. Ticket. Bought. TRAILER.
6) 2 Guns (8/2): An action-comedy in vein of Lethal Weapon starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. It looks action-packed, but most surprisingly, it looks funny! I can’t remember the last time Washington ran for some laughs. This has all the right ingredients for a good-old buddy-action-flick and also looks to be a fresh break from all the comic book heroes and science fiction running amok. TRAILER.
5) Oblivion (4/19): Summer starts very early this year and Tom Cruise is prime set to deliver a sprawling sci-fi actioner about a post-apocalyptic Earth and the aftermath of humanity leaving the planet (which is also the synopsis of After Earth). Joseph Kosinski directed and the man is a visual talent, but can the story also deliver? His previous film was Tron: Legacy which I actually enjoyed a lot. I think Oblivion has grown on my radar the more ads I see for it. Plus Cruise rarely stars in a bad film, especially his big budget fare. I’m in. TRAILER.
4) Pacific Rim (7/12): Okay. I know. Giant robots versus giant monsters battling to the death. I know! But come on. There’s people inside the giant robots manning controls. And Charlie Hunnam who is a force to be reckoned with on Sons of Anarchy has what is potentially his big breakout role here. Plus!—this is a Guillermo del Toro film who is a fantasy genius and he creates incredible creatures and worlds. He’s the man behind Blade II, Pan’s Labyrinth, and the Hellboy movies. I think he’s got us covered. Pacific Rim looks like Transformers meets Godzilla with hopefully more brains than either of those. And it looks awesome!! TRAILER.
3) Iron Man 3 (5/3): This ‘proper’ season kickoff will be huge. Iron Man 3 luckily has the advantage of looking like a sequel to The Avengers (which everyone loved, and that film nearly doubled Iron Man’s previous domestic audience) rather than the mild disappointment that was Iron Man 2 three years ago. New movie. New director. New tone. And it looks like Tony Stark may have a lot to lose this time around. I swear looking back—did anything actually happen in Iron Man 2? Now the chips really start to crumble for Stark and it looks like an absolute blast. TRAILER.
2) Star Trek Into Darkness (5/17): J.J. Abrams is the new deity of dorks. But cool people love him too. So now there really isn’t such a thing as dorks anymore. Abrams is a genius… yes I’m in that camp. And no, I haven’t seen Lost. But his movies get better and better. Mission Impossible III, Star Trek, and Super 8. Soon he will deliver Star Wars Episode VII. But for now let’s talk Star Trek and the upcoming sequel. It looks amazing and I’ve only grown more fond of Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot over the years. He did everything right in making Star Trek accessible to a mainstream audience. The film was action-packed, funny, witty, well-acted, and the nods were everywhere for hardcore fans. But if you missed them as a casual moviegoer, you still loved the movie! So how can I not be ecstatic for the new Star Trek? TRAILER.
1) Man of Steel (6/14): As I’m typing this I feel absolutely blown away that Man of Steel is in my number one spot. I’m not a Superman fan! I just don’t dig the character. I don’t dislike him. I just think he’s not that exciting of a character. He’s basically indestructible, so where is the fun in that? But Christopher Nolan is producing. Zack Snyder of 300 and Watchmen is directing. And the trailers look… amazing. I’m honestly still skeptical, but I can’t deny that I’m most interested to see how this one turns out. Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, and Henry Cavill (as Clark Kent)… that’s a solid cast. The visuals looks great. The emotion looks in place. The story and themes seem to be just right. It has that Nolan-feel. Maybe that’s it. We had this same anticipation experience back in 2006 when Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns was set to usher in a new era for Superman. The movie was a box office disappointment (only because Warner Bros spent way too much on the film because it performed exactly the same as Batman Begins the year prior) and people went from worshiping the film to outright hating it over the years. I don’t know how people keep repeating these phases in moviedom. The same thing happened to Indiana Jones 4 and Terminator 3 and Prometheus… and okay I’ll stop there. But I really think Nolan and Snyder will deliver a Superman movie that finally makes me a fan. TRAILER.