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Summer Love 

Or summer disappointment? It depends what's playing that week.

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If you do not have mixed feelings about the summer film season, you do not really love movies.

There, we said it.

Every year at this time the central paradox of film — and not just American film — is laid bare. Cinema is an art form built on spectacle. Since the very beginning, we’ve been using film to depict things we cannot depict in real life. In 1906, Georges Méliès filmed a group of proto-astronauts being shot from a cannon and landing on the moon, which had certain otherworldly perils. (Méliès’ exceptional imagination is on display in last year’s Martin Scorcese film Hugo). It took 70 years, but blockbuster cinema — Jaws to Close Encounters to The Abyss to Battleship — is a direct outgrowth of the spirit Méliès and his contemporaries embodied, the spirit of creating realities that are more exciting than our own.

The problem, of course, is that many of these blockbusters completely lack the imagination spectacle requires. They’ve had the imagination sucked out, and replaced with focus-grouping and market analysis. Studios are so consumed with making a ton of money, they often forget the way blockbusters captivate audiences (and attract their money) isn’t by catering to what they know they love, but by giving them something new to love. To wonder at.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t great blockbusters. That’s the whole point here. Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy has been masterfully successful at taking a character we all thought we knew and turning him into something else. The final film (which drops July 20, see p. 24) will probably be just as good as the first two.

It is into these fraught waters that all filmgoers wade every year at this time. Depending on what you see, this can be one of the more enjoyable times of year for film, or one of the worst.

We did our best to help you navigate the season. (Luke Baumgarten)

Freaky Flicks

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It can be difficult to sleep through these hot summer nights. But what if you have air conditioning? What will keep you tossing and turning? Well, how about one of these creepy-ass horror flicks? Hollywood’s renewed love affair with the scary movie isn’t taking the summer off and here’s a sampling of the blood you’ll see on the big screen. (Mike Bookey)

May 25

CHERNOBYL DIARIES

TrailerRated R

Oren Peli might be the next John Carpenter. With the ultra low-budget Paranormal Activity, he redefined the boundaries of the creeper genre and now he’s going beyond the PA franchise by co-writing this found-footage flick about a group of young tourists who decide to go on a tour of Chernobyl, the Ukrainain nuclear plant that melted down in 1986. Apparently, touring the sites of horrific disasters is all the rage these days. But along this totally appropriate tour, the gang starts seeing some freaky shit. Like, babies and ghost babies and stuff like that.

Aug. 24

THE APPARITION

TrailerRated PG-13

When a young couple discovers that a university experiment has created an apparition that is terrorizing their home, what are they to do? You just run around terrified, of course. Oh, and you call an expert to try to help you rid the home of the spirit. At least that’s what happens in this film, starring Ashley Greene, best known as one of the silly vampire siblings in the Twilight series.

Aug. 31

THE POSSESSION

TrailerRated R

This is one of those “based-on-a-true story” movies that clearly has little to do with the actual “true story” it’s purportedly based upon. Or at least I hope, because if this really happened, this is absolutely terrifying. The film tells of a young girl who buys an old box at an estate sale only to become obsessed, and ultimately tormented, by the spirit that dwells within it. Soon, her divorced parents are forced to team up to help get to the bottom of this.

Release TBA

7500

TrailerNot yet rated

Air travel. Sheesh. There’s the hassle at security, the fees for checked baggage, the toosmall bags of peanuts and now, at least in this film, you have to worry about some mysterious supernatural force killing you mid-flight. Director Takashi Shimizu, the man who brought us the utterly disturbing Grudge, has taken his freak-out talents to the friendly skies for this ultra-unsettling film about a cross-oceanic flight that’s taken over by some sort of deadly force.

The Sure Thing: Sequels

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Always the biggest money-makers in a season Hollywood depends on to make most of its money, sequels are blockbusters as brand extension. If one billion-dollar movie is good, then two is great (and three is probably green-lit already). (Luke Baumgarten)

May 25

MEN IN BLACK 3

TrailerRated PG-13

In this third installment of the original fish-out-of-water, aliens-among-us farce, hip alien agent Will Smith goes back in time to help Tommy Lee Jones’ crotchety old alien agent’s past self, who — in the past — is played by the Marlboro-dreamy Josh Brolin. See, with this one, you get aliens and time travel.

June 8

MADAGASCAR 3

TrailerRated PG

More zoological hijinks from everyone’s favorite jail-breaking captivity creatures. Still trying to get home to Manhattan, they find themselves schlepping across Europe. There were no direct flights from that small island off the coast of southeast Africa to New York, it seems. Enough of a premise to warrant the third film where there probably should have only been a half-hour short! But aren’t those penguins crazy? They’re just crazy.

June 29

G.I. JOE: RETALIATION

TrailerNot yet rated

Proof that even blockbusters that don’t bust blocks get sequels. Channing Tatum returns as a generic secret-agent action hero while the part of generic secret-agent action hero’s generic African-American sidekick was taken from Marlon Wayans and given to the Rock.

July 10

ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT

TrailerRated PG-13

Essentially a prehistoric Madagascar, where a motley crew of mammals are set adrift on an iceberg and wind up in a whole new world.

July 17

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

TrailerRated PG-13

The last of writer/director Christopher Nolan’s (thus far excellent) Batman trilogy.

July 31

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS

TrailerRated PG-13

The continuing saga of a nerdy little kid struggling to deal with summer plans going awry. Apparently based on some super popular kids books.

Aug. 17

THE EXPENDABLES 2

TrailerRated PG-13

Sequel to the surprise 2010 hit about over-the-hill black operatives whose signature is campy ultra-violence. If this film spawns as many sequels as writer Sylvester Stallone’s other big endeavors (Rocky, Rambo), dude is going to have to live until he’s 80. Thank God for synthetic human growth hormone.

Building a Franchise

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If film sequels are Hollywood’s heroin, then franchises are its methadone. Generally not quite as good as the thing itself, it still gives you that hot rush of cash flow right into the ol’ revenue stream. There are a lot of different types of franchises: those centered around a character, a director, a board game. Basically anything with national brand recognition is just begging to become a franchise in today’s Hollywood. (Luke Baumgarten)

May 18

BATTLESHIP

Trailer • Rated PG-13

Proof that Hollywood will eventually turn any pre-existing franchise into a film franchise, they took the classic Milton Bradley game and turned it into an aquatic Transformers … and then they cast Rihanna in a role that is the equivalent of Uhura in Star Trek.

June 29

TYLER PERRY’S MADEA’S WITNESS PROTECTION

Trailer • Rated PG-13

Double franchise. Not only is Tyler Perry a schmaltzy dramedy franchise unto himself, but Madea alone — his gender-bending, no-nonsense black grandma alter-ego — has starred in eight films and a few TV episodes.

July 6

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN

Trailer • Rated PG-13

Reboots come and reboots go, and some reboots even happen pretty quickly (see the relatively short turnaround from Eric Bana’s failed turn at Hulk to Ed Norton’s whiff). It’s rare, though, that something as popular as Sam Raimi’s crack at the Spider-Man mythos (starring Tobey Maguire) would get archived in favor of a reboot by a director whose biggest previous credit was 500 Days of Summer starring that kid from The Social Network.

July 27

STEP UP REVOLUTION

Trailer • Rated PG-13

As long as there are teenage girls in the world, there will be breathless dancing movies. Hollywood just figured out that, if you give all your dancing films the same name, they’ll sell more tickets. That’s why they keep calling each season of So You Think You Can Dance, “So You Think You Can Dance.” Synergy.

Aug. 3

THE BOURNE LEGACY

Trailer • Rated PG-13

A different secret agent with a wiped memory has basically the same experience Matt Damon’s character had in the first three Bourne movies. And though they’ve lost Damon, who pretty much carried the franchise, they’ve chosen his successor wisely in Jeremy Renner, who’s already proven capable of carrying an action film (The Hurt Locker), and then they doubled down, getting Ed Norton and Rachel Weisz, serious actors both, to lend credence to the idea that this is still a thinking-man’s spy action-adventure series.

Laugh Tracks

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Something has happened to the summer comedy blockbuster. The last couple summers have been so tightly packed with superheroes, aliens and animated whosie-whatsits that it seems there are fewer and fewer opportunities for even a modest laugher to sneak through the traffic. But last year, Bridesmaids was an absolute smash and its predecessor, 2009’s The Hangover, was the biggest comedy hit of all time. So there is still room for a comedy to make it big, it’s just a smaller window. Here are a few contenders for the blockbuster comedy of the summer. (Mike Bookey)

June 15

THAT’S MY BOY

Trailer • Rated R

Oh look, it’s Adam Sandler! That’s right, the same Adam Sandler who delivered the masterful performance as both Jack and Jill in last year’s Jack and Jill. This time around, he’s playing Donny, a dead-beat dad who knocked up his junior high school teacher when he was just 13. After the teacher went to jail, Donny raised Todd (played by a toned-down Andy Samberg), but hasn’t seen him since Todd smartly left home at 18. Now, years later, Donny comes back into the picture when he realizes that his son is a filthy rich hedge fund manager. It’s no Jack and Jill. And thank God.

July 27

THE WATCH

Trailer • Not yet rated

So yeah, it’s not the best idea to name a movie Neighborhood Watch in light of the fact that the most well-known neighborhood watchman in America is also the country’s most well-known murder suspect. That’s why this film, starring a who’s-who of the comedy world — Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill — recently changed its name to simply The Watch. Controversy aside, this looks promising, considering that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg penned a script directed by Saturday Night Live writer/director Akiva Schaffer, whose last film was a little ditty called Hot Rod. Never seen Hot Rod? Then why are you reading this? Go watch it now.

Aug. 3

CELESTE & JESSE FOREVER

Not yet rated

There have been some rumblings about this film in the indie channels for a bit now, and you should be eager to see what comes of the hype. Rashida Jones (who also wrote the script) and Andy Samberg (again) play a couple who married young and at the age of 30 decide to get divorced. But there’s a twist, of course, in that they want to remain best friends. If movies have taught us anything, it’s that this always works out well and without any hilarious or dramatic consequences.

Aug. 10

HOPE SPRINGS

Trailer • Not yet rated

In this film, Meryl Streep plays a burned-out stoner who befriends her goody-two-shoes neighbor (Tommy Lee Jones) and together the two go on a hilarious cross-country trip getting super high and robbing fast-food restaurants. Just kidding. That just seems a lot more promising than this rom-com in which Streep and Jones play an aging couple whose marriage has lost its spark and have thus begun seeing a marriage counselor (Steve Carell). The stoner comedy would have been a better choice, Meryl.

Aug. 24

HIT AND RUN

Trailer • Not yet rated

So this film is — for real this time — a road trip comedy. Here, we find Dax Shepard writing, directing and staring in a movie about a guy named Charles Bronson (yes, Charles Bronson) who wants to drive his girlfriend (Kristen Bell) to Los Angeles for a job interview so badly that he skips out of witness protection, which is likely the only thing keeping him alive. Of course, things soon go wrong when they hit the road, as things are wont to do on comedic road trips.

Everything Else

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May 16

THE DICTATOR

TrailerRated R

It’s hard to know what to make of Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest. The first trailer made it look like a mere spoof of excessive Middle-Eastern tyrants, while the new one sketches out a riches-to-rags story, as Cohen’s General Aladeen loses his identity and entourage during a state trip to America and has to live as a lowly immigrant. Both, though, kind of make it look like a bad Adam Sandler film (see: Zohan), suggesting it’s unlikely to reach the delirious heights of humor achieved by the more gonzo Borat, or even Bruno. (Joel Smith)

May 18

WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING

Trailer • PG-13

Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Brooklyn Decker, Dennis Quaid, Chris Rock, Matthew Morrison and like 37 other actors get pregnant and deal with it in this ensemble comedy. The women stress about delivery, motherhood, relationships and breastfeeding while the guys in “The Dude Group” brag about their irresponsibility and warn non-dads that fatherhood “is where happiness goes to die” (but probably ultimately confess, in some macho way, that having kids has actually brought their lives new meaning). (JS)

May 25 or later

THE INTOUCHABLES

TrailerUnrated

Pushing the hot-button issue of race in Europe, this multiple-award-winning French film tells the funny, tragic, inspirational (and apparently mostly true) story of the unlikely friendship between a well-to-do white quadriplegic and the Senegal-born street tough who is hired as his live-in caretaker. Francois Cluzet (France’s answer to Dustin Hoffman) is charming, as the patient who wants no pity and who rebuffs friends’ worries about the black man living with him. And the caretaker role earned Omar Sy a Cesar Award for Best Actor in February, beating out The Artist’s Jean Dujardin. (JS)

May 27 or later

MOONRISE KINGDOM

TrailerRated PG-13

After a five-year absence from live-action filmmaking, with a stopover in stop-motion animation, director Wes Anderson, that king of neo-mod nostalgia, has created an ode to young love, dysfunctional families (as always) and the Boy Scouts. Which is to say he and Roman Copolla (Francis Ford’s kid) have written a film about the perils of childhood in suburban white affluence. These are well-ploughed fields for Anderson, but they generally yield fruit — Darjeeling Limited aside. (Luke Baumgarten)

June 8

PROMETHEUS

TrailerNot yet rated

“Big things have small beginnings,” Michael Fasbender says. They also tend to have big casts. Like, say, Charlize Theron and Fasbender and Noomi Rapace. Everyone in Hollywood wanted in on director Ridley Scott’s (Alien) next foray into outer space. What at first seems to be a mission to find the origin of humanity on the moon turns out to be a mission that might end up killing humanity off completely. (LB)

June 15

ROCK OF AGES

TrailerNot yet rated

Things to love about Rock of Ages: Alec Baldwin, Paul Giamatti, Brian Cranston, Twisted Sister, Foreigner, Poison, Journey, Def Leppard, pyrotechnics and boobs being signed. Things to potentially hate: Tom Cruise and the fact that it’s a musical. This Broadway show-turned-feature film captures the glitz and excess of a 1980s rock club, which is totally awesome. Maybe the fact that they’re singing “We’re Not Gonna Take It” will make the pain of it being a musical go away? (Leah Sottile)

June 22

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER

TrailerNot yet rated

I’m not sure how Abraham Lincoln and vampires end up crossing paths in some one’s brain, but whatevs. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is the story of how the president’s mother was murdered by some supernatural beast, which turns Honest Abe into Vindictive Abe as he leaves a trail of blood and decapitated heads and stakes and shit on his quest to kill vampires and their slave owners. He might have said all men were equal, but this movie posits that Lincoln meant to add “except undead ones.” (LS)

June 22

BRAVE

TrailerNot yet rated

Disney has a thing for impetuous princesses that don’t want to get married. This “you go girl” mentality of the 1990s morphed into a “change your fate” sort of heroism. Enter Princess Merida from Pixar’s Brave. The adventure takes place in Scotland where the women are fiery redheads and the woods are filled with magical beasts. When Merida defies her country’s customs and canoodles with a witch instead, all hell breaks loose. Luckily, she’s good with a bow. (Jordy Byrd)

June 22

SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD

TrailerRated R

This is a movie about an asteroid that destroys all of mankind. Fart sound, thumbs down, right? But wait! This doesn’t feature Aerosmith ballads and Morgan Freeman doesn’t play the president. Rather, debut director Lorene Scafaria (she wrote Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) brings us this comedy about a deserted husband (a post-Office Steve Carell) and his neighbor (Keira Knightley) who reluctantly team up to help each other find happiness in the days before an asteroid kills everyone on the planet. Cheer up. It’s funny! (Mike Bookey)

June 29

MAGIC MIKE

TrailerRated R

OK, so Mike (Channing Tatum in full sexy-sex mode) is just a normal guy who likes to build custom furniture and stuff like that, except for one thing: He’s a stripper. Like, a male stripper. Ya know: waving his banana hammock around for bachelorettes and lonely old women. One day, Magic Mike, who is really good at dancing all sexy, needs to take a younger stripper under his wing … but then he goes and falls in love with the guy’s sister. Then he waves his banana hammock some more. (MB)

July 6

SAVAGES

TrailerRated R

The pot-smoking gun-toting masterminds behind Savages know what the modern-day film buff needs: graphic sex, drugs and grisly violence. Pot growers Ben and Chon face off against the Mexican drug cartel — enter Benicio Del Toro and Salma Hayek — who have kidnapped their shared hippy girlfriend (Blake Lively). Like most open relationships, too many people get involved. John Travolta plays a dirty FBI agent and Uma Thurman plays Lively’s mom. Shit gets weird. (JB)

July 13

TED

TrailerRated R

Seth MacFarlane had brought us enough farty, pukey, offensive hilarity to fill the world’s largest toilet with his animated television series Family Guy, but now he’s delivering his first live-action film. Don’t worry, MacFarlane hasn’t grown up. Here, he gives us a loser played by Mark Wahlberg whose childhood teddy bear (voiced by MacFarlane) came to life. Now, the guy is a grown-ass man, but still finds time to drink, smoke weed and say horrible things about women with his fuzzy friend. (MB)

July 20

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

TrailerPG-13

If his streak continues, director Christopher Nolan is actually going to make our collective brains explode with the finale of his Batman trilogy. Eight years after Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has been blamed for Two Face’s wrongdoings, a new terrorist, Bane, is overrunning Gotham. The creepy, fantastic film trailers are chock-full of Bane (Tom Hardy) and Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) as well as Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and oodles of doomworthy violence. (Joe O’Sullivan)

July 27

THE WATCH

TrailerRated R

A concept that probably seemed way funnier when it was green-lit, and way less funny after Trayvon Martin got shot, Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade play a quartet of bored fathers who take it upon themselves to form a neighborhood watch. Luckily the plan is to protect the neighborhood from (possible) alien invaders, not, you know, black people. (LB)

Aug. 3

TOTAL RECALL

TrailerNot yet rated

A remake of the 1990 Schwarzenegger action classic that seems to stray a long way from the source material while still staying kinda close to it. In a dystopian future, a man who wants to escape the drudgery of his life goes to Recall to have fake memories implanted in his mind, only to find that his entire memory is fake (or is it?!) and that he is a spy for either of two mega-nations (or is he?!) that are locked in a deadly war (or are they?!). No trips to Mars in this one, kids. No word on whether there’ll be a lady with three boobs. (LB)

Aug. 10

THE CAMPAIGN

TrailerNot yet rated

In the spirit of the Obama-Romney shitshow-rama election drama we’re about to endure comes a snifter of comic relief. The Campaign features a pair of Southern ignoramuses squaring off over a South Carolina congressional seat. Will the winner be erstwhile GOP pimp Cam Brady (Will Ferrell)? Or will Democratic creep-o Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) prevail? I don’t know, but The Campaign will beat the jeans off of watching months of real politicians. (JO)

Aug. 17

PARANORMAN

TrailerNot yet rated

There’s something up with Norman. He weirds out his sister and his parents. The kids at school push him around. He likes to be alone — it’s easier that way when you have the strange ability to talk to ghosts. But when the undead start to take over the town Norman lives in, everyone turns to him to save the day. This stop-motion animation film, produced by Portland’s own Laika (Coraline), is one of the coolest-looking animated horror-ish films since Nightmare Before Christmas. (LS)

Aug. 17

SPARKLE

TrailerNot yet rated

Long live the late great Whitney Houston. Houston stars in the musical drama Sparkle as the character Emma, a once-professional singer and now churchgoer. Emma is the mother of three daughters who are about to make it big in the 1960s Motown scene. But fame and men taint these choirgirls turned pop stars. Watch for stand-out performances by Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) and Cee-Lo, who plays a lounge-singin’ lovable sleaze bag. (JB)

Aug. 24

PREMIUM RUSH

TrailerNot yet rated

Super dreamy hipster Joseph Gordon- Levitt stars as a fixie-riding thrill-seeking bike messenger couriering packages to and fro the various powerful entities of New York City. When he gets a parcel he shouldn’t have, though, and people start coming after him, and he’s too stubborn to just drop the thing in the nearest trash bin — because he’s such a goddamned dedicated bike messenger that he never fails to complete a job. And so he has to ride for his life. Probably intended to be history’s first serious, gritty, hipster urban action thriller, we can totally see young people of a certain persuasion (hipsters) enjoying this ironically. (LB)

Aug. 31

LAWLESS

TrailerNot yet rated

Lots of tommy guns and tough talkin’ here. Lawless is inspired by supposedly true events that author Matt Bondurant penned in his novel The Wettest County in the World. The Bondurant boys, three bootlegging siblings, try to score it rich during Prohibition in Virginia. The brothers — played by Shia LeBeouf, Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke — go to battle over authorities who invade the back country demanding a cut of their profits. (JO)

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