The summer movie season first began back in 1975, when Jaws made the theater the place to be in June, July and August. Two years later, Memorial Day Weekend became the starting date of the season with the release (on May 25th, 1977) of a little film called simply Star Wars. Since that time summer has been the time for blockbuster movies while in the fall movies aim for Oscar gold. There are exceptions, but that’s the general rule.
This year the season started three weeks early, with the release of The Avengers. It’s now grossed well over a billion dollars worldwide, and become the 4th highest grossing movie in US history. It also capsized a Battleship and drove a stake through Dark Shadows’ heart. This weekend, Men In Black III comes out. Will it be more successful fighting aliens than The Avengers? We’ll see. For the rest of the summer, there are a number of movies I’m anxious to watch. Let’s start with the elephant on the schedule…
The Dark Knight Rises: After George Clooney’s major misstep with Batman and Robin, the series looked brain-dead. Then Christopher Nolan worked his magic and resuscitated Bruce Wayne with the intelligent, inventive Batman Begins. The second installment in his trilogy, The Dark Knight, had a complexity and depth beyond any other superhero movie to that date. With its stellar cast and Heath Ledger’s amazing performance as the Joker, it set the bar for the genre. Now, with The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan has added to the cast three veterans of Inception (Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Marion Cotillard) along with Anne Hathaway as an uncampy Catwoman. Can you say two billion-dollar movies this summer? I knew you could.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: With a cast that includes Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson and Bill Nighy, directed by John Madden, this may be the anti-summer movie – an English comedy set in India. Like sorbet, it could be the perfect choice for cleansing your palette.
Brave: Only a few movies have the confidence to simply show a scene from the movie as its trailer. Brave showed that bravery, presenting an archery contest that was magical. This is Pixar’s first female hero after a dozen hit movies. It looks like they’ve hit the bull’s-eye.
Prometheus: Ridley Scott has made two science fiction movies, both of them seminal films: Blade Runner and Alien. Now he’s made a third. With Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender, it should be amazing.
Rock of Ages: Tom Cruise as a 1980’s hair band rocker? This one’s a bit iffy for me. It is based on a Broadway musical, and Cruise can surprise. We shall see.
Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World: If the world’s going to be incinerated by an asteroid, getting to spend your last hours with Steve Carell and Keira Knightley sounds like a good idea.
The Amazing Spider-Man: Spider-Man 3 destroyed the goodwill generated by the first two Tobey Maguire movies. Watching him do his Saturday Night Fever strut along the New York City streets was truly cringe-worthy. Now we have a reboot with Andrew Garfield wearing the red and blue tights. The director Marc Webb has mostly done TV and video, but his one movie credit is the delightful and inventive (500) Days of Summer. This movie also features Emma Stone (always a plus) as Gwen Stacy, and Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Uncle Ben and Aunt May. Perhaps this is Spidey’s Batman Begins. I hope so.
Savages: Third time’s the charm? Taylor Kitsch has starred in two mega-bombs in just six months, John Carter and Battleship. He must be feeling shell shocked by now. Here though, he’s under the direction of Oliver Stone, with a supporting cast that includes John Travolta, Benicio Del Toro, Blake Lively, and Selma Hayek. The movie also cost only $48 million to make, a fraction of the budgets for Kitsch’s bombs. Here’s hoping.
Neighborhood Watch: Last year, a small-budget English film called Attack the Block made a major splash with its story of a London youth gang fighting an alien invasion. Now Hollywood has taken the rough premise and made a comedy. A group of volunteer crime fighters try to defeat alien invaders, with Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill saving the day. This is another iffy one for me, but I’ll reserve judgment for now.
Ruby Sparks: In 2006, the directing team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris made the off-off-beat and delightful Little Miss Sunshine. Now they’re back with a story of a novelist whose character, his dream woman, comes to life. While the Pygmalion legend goes back to the ancient Greeks, it’s still a good story, as George Bernard Shaw and Lehner & Loewe would attest.
Total Recall: Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 over-the-top sci-fi adventure, starring Ah-nold himself, was popular. Now Len Wiseman (Live Free or Die Hard) returns the story to its roots, Philip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.” The cast (Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston, John Cho, Jessica Biel) is first rate. Dick’s imagination is responsible for Blade Runner, The Adjustment Bureau, Minority Report and A Scanner Darkly. Going back to the source material seems like a very good plan.
The Bourne Legacy: The original three Bournes completely remade the visual style of the spy movie, with intense action captured by handheld cameras and sharper cuts than a samurai sword. (Casino Royale learned the new form and gave James Bond his best film in decades.) With Matt Damon passing on a fourth movie, Universal turned to Tony Gilroy for help. Gilroy wrote the first three movies, and he also wrote and directed Michael Clayton as well as the twisty Julia Roberts/Clive Owen industrial espionage movie, Duplicity. Gilroy opened up the story, focusing on another assassin from the Treadstone project who goes rogue. With Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton joining Joan Allen, David Stathairn and Albert Finney from the previous movie, this team is definitely not second-string.
Hope Springs: Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as a married couple undergoing counseling from Steve Carell, under the direction of David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada)? That’s enough to get me into a theater seat.
Lawless: Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf play Prohibition-era bootleggers battling a villainous G-man played by Guy Pearce. The story is based on a historical novel, “The Wettest County in the World,” that had a strong element of real history in it. With Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, and Mia Wasikowska also in the movie, it’s a 100 proof cast.