Friday, May 2, 2014

A Fistful of Summer Anticipation 2014 (Brad's Picks)


So, technically, the Summer Movie Season starts this weekend with the release of Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  That seems phony baloney to me.  We're already a month into Summer Movies thanks to April's Captain America - The Winter Soldier.  In fact, I don't think this world is ever NOT in the Summer Movie Season.  We've been marching towards this moment since Jaws lined the blocks.  Now, we could all hang are heads and moan at the loss of Big Budget Drama Dramas like Citizen Kane or Kramer vs Kramer.....or we could all just admit to ourselves that we never liked those films in the first place.  I kid!  I kid!  I love Citizen Kane like all self-respecting film freaks should, and I love the little films, the art films, and the serious films as much as I do the spandexed ones.  But I'm a film freak born out of Star Wars, and I will always be a genre boy at heart.  So Jaws gave us B Movies with A Budgets and I've lived my entire life joyfully under its spell.  


2014 has been a lot of fun so far, and as I look at the Summer calendar, I find myself giddy with anticipation.  I feel much better about this year's crop than last; I feel no nagging trepidation in regards to any of the films listed below.  No Star Treks Into Darkness.  No Pacific Rims.  And dear god, hopefully no Prometheuses, as that's a disappointment I'm still kinda in denial over.  Sure, I can't really claim that I'm overjoyed to see the over-stuffed Amazing Spider Man 2 or X-Men Days of Future Past.  In the era of Marvel Studios and the geekgasm of The Avengers, it's hard to take these missed marks coming from Sony & 20th Century Fox.  The Suits, try as they might, don't seem to have an understanding of their characters in the same fashion as Marvel.  I'll be there opening night (got my ASM2 tix already), but the jonzing is simply not there.  Prove me wrong Electro, but I was not impressed by the previous film or any of the 19 millions film trailers you've assaulted the internet with so far.


But I love crap!  And there looks to be a lot of silly movies coming out over the next four months to keep my inner hipster cackling.  The Expendables 3!  THREE!?!?!  How is that possible?  The first two films are so wonderfully dumb, and 99% of my enjoyment is stolen straight from a nostalgia for those beautifully barbarian 80s.  However, that warm fuzzy memory seems poisoned these days.  Dullards like The Last Stand, Bullet To The Head, Escape Plan, and Sabotage have spoiled the childhood sheen a little bit.  Nine years ago, Robert Rodriguez brought Frank Miller's hardboiled terror noir comic Sin City to the masses, and it was a visual feast of unapologetic hedonism.  I have very mixed feelings in regards to that film (Jessica Alba's Nancy as Stripper Goddess?  Uh no), and after a string of DIY disasters I'm not sure I really care for another round.  Transformers Part IV?  Dinobots.  That's cool.  Maybe.  I recently rewatched Michael Bay's autobot behemoths, and I found them culturally fascinating but mostly boring.  Still, the insanity of Pain & Gain is fresh in my noggin and I'll be there for the next wave of Baysplosions.


Crap could turn to gold, or it could just sit there stinking.  Wading through Trans4ormers, Maleficent, Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesHercules, etc may leave even the staunchest of Blockbuster Enthusiasts queasy from the sour popcorn dreams.  That's certainly how I felt last September.  This year though, we do have a train of Little Engines That Could hiding under the tentpoles.  I am really excited to see Joe Lansdale's novel Cold in July adapted for the movies; I might not have dropped Michael C Hall into the lead role but Sam Shepherd & Don Johnson are inspired casting.  Filming over the course of 12 years, I am really curious to see how Richard Linklater's Boyhood tackles a coming of age in real time.  Luc Besson promises a return to female ass kickery with Scarlet Johansson and Lucy.  The Weinstein's can't keep a good Korean director down, as Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer finally barrels into theaters.  And I am crazy excited to see The Wachowskis tackle John Carter of Mars with Jupiter Ascending.  Don't hate.  These guys are the perfect choice to elevate Flash Gordon family adventure into big dollar mainstream acceptance.  Looks silly?  Sure.  But werewolf Channing Tatum for the win.


And speaking of the adorable genius of Channing Tatum, let's get to this Summer's Big Guns....


5.  22 Jump Street:  Wow.  What a difference a few years can make.  Not too long ago, I had no problem mocking the acting chops of Channing Tatum.  GI Joe - Rise of Cobra...yeash.  But the man kept working.  And he got a whole lot better.  The 21 Jump Street reboot was a serious revelation for me.  Not only did it transform disdain for Tatum into an uncontrollable man-crushing adoration, but it proved directors Phil Lord & Chris Miller to be the saviors of lost causes.  Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, Jump Street, The Lego Movie.  These guys prove that talent can turn any needless cashgrab into art.  Give them Ghostbusters 3.  Give them Freddy vs Jason vs Ash.  Give them Before Watchmen.  Give them whatever, I will anticipate it.  And I sure as hell will show up for another outing between Jenko & Schmidt.  "Fuck You Science!"


4.  All You Need Is Kill (a.k.a. Edge of Tomorrow):  On paper this sci-fi Groundhog Day has very little appeal.  But then you see Tom Cruise in that mech suit...and then Emily Blunt unsheathes a crazy large Warhammer 40K broadsword, and suddenly I'm jittering in my seat.  It's no secret around here that I have a soft spot for late-in-life Tom Cruise pictures.  Knight & Day, Jack Reacher, Oblivion.  Haters gonna hate, f 'em.  The man does earnest, and that's essential to whacked out worlds like this one.  Doug Liman might not be your go-to action director, but the man loves his wonky high concepts, and I'm hoping he's finally struck gold with this robotech thriller.


3.  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:  Apes on Horses!  Apes on Horses!  That's it.  Done.  Oh, you want more reasons to see this film?  How about the fact that we're finally getting to the hell of living on the Planet of the Apes.  Rises's origin story wasn't half bad, but James Franco was checked out for most of the film and he was easily upstaged by a computer monkey - er, ape.  Andy Sirkis also happened to deliver the best we've seen yet from mo-cap performance, and I have a feeling he's going to hit Oscar heights with this new & improved rebel leader Cesar.  End of the World stories are fun enough, but the Post-Apocalypse has always been the more interesting tale for me.  The Last Men vs The New Apes.  War.  Yes.  Jason Clarke?  Yeah, forget Franco.  Matt Reaves is a director dying to prove his talents, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is going to be the film where the rest of the world sits up and notices.


2.  Godzilla:  I spent several months prepping for Captain America - The Winter Soldier.  And boy did that fanboy fetishizing pay off in a big, big way.  Gareth Edwards's Godzilla remake is the next film to entice me into crazed backlog devouring.  I've always been a big fan of the original film, but I'm a late comer when it comes to Mothra, Rodan, Gigan, and friends.  As I've been picking away at the various rubber suits, I'd love to say that my inner kid has been reawakened...but that kid has never been asleep.  I'm a proud stunted youth, and I spend the majority of my time reveling in the art of cartoons, comics, and movies.  Duh.  But that stomp towards the remake has certainly kept the inner kid satiated.  Not just goofy fun.  There is a thrilling display of imagination in those films.  Ishiro Honda may not have had the budget or even the talent to deliver badass monster movies, but he certainly had the freedom to dream whatever kooky world he wanted.  He never let a reality roadblock get in the way of telling a King Kong story.  Now Edwards, he's got the budget.  And based on Monsters, he's got the talent.  I have high hopes that this Godzilla is going to deliver in a way that no other Monster Movie has.  Bold talk.  Bold hope.  I had a similar dream for Pacific Rim.  I like what I'm seeing from the trailers.  Fingers crossed.


1.  The Guardians of the Galaxy:  Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Thor.  You may have thought it was all leading up to The Avengers, but you'd be wrong.  All Marvel Studios has built has been leading to The Guardians of the Galaxy.  They've sold the world on Super Heros.  Now, if we're going to continue down this rabbit hole, we need to branch out into the weirder, wilder stories of the four color realm.  Iron Man 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 14, 20.  How long can that character hold our interest?  If James Bond is any indication, at least 40 years.  But Marvel has a whole helluva lot more characters to offer, and I want more from them than just capes & cowls.  Guardians of the Galaxy looks like it could be an energetic mix of Star Wars knockoffs.  Take the best of Ice Pirates, blend in some Buck Rogers, and a little dash of Krull and you've got what could be a rollicking time out at the movies.  But talking trees?  Rocket Raccoons?  Is the world ready?  I am.  Whatever blood James Gunn squeezes from this stone, I beg of you, please go out and see Guardians opening weekend.  We want more than Captain America Part 15, right?  We want Doctor Strange.  We want Black Panther.  We want another Howard The Duck.


--Brad

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