Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Shame-Free Summer Preview

With May just around the corner, film critics are busy listing their picks for the summer movie season and, unsurprisingly, there is little "whoo-woo-ing" or jumping up and down to be found towards the movies slated to debut from May through August. When it comes to selecting a short list of movies that they're maybe, kind of, sort of looking forward to during the coming summer, critics typically spotlight whatever Pixar movie is being released plus a few indie pics expected to bring some relief from all the brain dead blockbusters. And in the interest of making it look like they're not completely above the idea of having fun, they'll toss in a big title or two but usually with the caveat that "as guilty pleasures go, this one might not be too embarrassing..."

Well, this is one fan who shamelessly lives for the summer and week after week of supersized movies (although I'm not completely indiscriminate - Green Lantern looks atrocious). As what we think of as a "summer movie" has slowly encroached upon the rest of the calendar year (even January now hosts its share of FX-laden action and sci-fi) the specialness of summer has dimmed a little but it's still summer, damn it, and there are still some movies so massive that only the summer can hold them.

I'm all for indie films and quirky efforts but I came of age in the late '70s and early '80s, when films like Star Wars, Superman, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Poltergeist and E.T. were released. Those are the experiences I'm chasing after when I go to the movies in the summer (and, frankly, when I go to the movies the rest of the year too). I'll be checking out the likes of The Troll Hunter and Kidnapped this summer but it's unlikely that these smaller films will come to any screens in my area so I'll have to watch them on VOD. That's cool, but nothing beats sitting in a theater with a big bucket of popcorn and for that, I'm most looking forward to the following films:

(in order of release)

Even before the good reviews started to come in for the God of Thunder's movie debut, I was jazzed to see this. Come on - it's a Thor movie! How crazy is that? It's not surprising that Marvel properties like Spider-Man and The X-Men have made it to the big screen but I love that less likely choices for cinematic stardom - characters not so well-known by the general public - are getting the blockbuster treatment. So far, I've dug what Marvel Studios has done since they took control of some of their characters - the first Iron Man (2008) remains their best effort to date (although, a few quibbles aside, I also liked 2008's The Incredible Hulk and last year's Iron Man 2) - but I'm hoping that with The Avengers on the horizon that they'll raise the bar for themselves this summer.

It's entirely possible that I might regret taking the time to watch this one. Please don't think I'm not aware of that. Director Scott Stewart's previous film, Legion (2010), definitely wasn't any great shakes. But I'm willing to take the gamble on a post-apocalyptic western-flavored vampire tale. It looks silly and action-packed so I'm in. Plus, it looks like there's a fight scene staged on top a moving train and that's a movie convention I can never say no to. I just wish that the vampire creatures weren't CG.

Super 8
I'm not a fan of J.J. Abrams but this ode to classic early '80s Spielberg looks promising. I just hope that it'll deliver the monster movie goods. Every Spielberg fan wonders how his planned "scary alien" movie Night Skies (with FX by Rick Baker and, I believe, a John Sayles script) would've turned out had he not decided to abandon that project in favor of E.T.. Almost thirty years later, the period-set Super 8 (produced by Spielberg) might be as close as we get to an answer.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Michael Bay is often portrayed as an enemy to cinema and in some ways I agree but at the same time I have a feeling that this movie will be the absolute last word in giant robots and I can't sit that out.

The second Transformers film got dumped on by almost everybody for being too stupid which I thought was unfair to Bay just because the first movie had been stupid too but yet most people seemed to love it.

If you're going to like one dumb movie, for consistency's sake you shouldn't slam the next dumb movie - especially if they're more or less the same dumb movie. But that's just me. Anyway, all the derision heaped on Revenge of the Fallen might be good news for T:DOTM because I bet Bay felt like he had something to prove with this movie. Even when you're making movies based on a line of kid's toys, you don't want people making snarky comments about your skills.

Captain America: The First Avenger
Besides Super 8, this is the summer movie that even most critics feel safe sticking their necks out for and saying "hey, uh, this looks cool." Because, you know, it does look cool. A lot of people who have never read the comics might think that Cap is just a propaganda tool but he's a much better character than that (if you're not reading the current Cap run by comic scribe Ed Brubaker, check it out) and I really hope that director Joe Johnston and co. can do Marvel's super soldier justice. All I can say is that I love the trailers that have been released so far. The Red Skull! The Howling Commandos! Shield-slinging action! Skinny Steve! GAAAA! I want to see this movie now!!

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
The bitter taste of Tim Burton's 2001 remake (damn - has it really been ten years since that came out?) won't keep me from getting excited about some fresh ape action. Horror fans always like to talk about how they'd fare in the event of a zombie apocalypse but man, surviving a simian uprising is the real challenge.

Zombies are one thing but monkeys can friggin' wreck you.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
I've got my fingers crossed that this remake of the much-loved 1973 TV movie will turn out to be every bit as good as it's being rumored to be. I tend to like the movies that Guillermo del Toro produces more than the ones he directs so DBAOTD's got that going for it, at least. This summer is real light on horror so I hope the few fear flicks that are slated for release will be really strong. Just going by the trailers, I'd say this is gonna be the one to beat.

Conan the Barbarian
No one thinks this looks good - not even the people who made it, I bet - but I don't care. It's Conan. It's in 3-D. How could I even think about passing on it? Because it's by the guy who directed the remakes of Texas Chainsaw and Friday the 13th? Well, yeah...there's that. But hey, I didn't hate either of those movies.

Look, it's like this - the sword and sorcery sub-genre is a sadly missed staple of my movie going youth and a comedy that hearkens back to those films, like Your Highness, just isn't what I've been looking for to scratch that itch. I know this movie isn't going to even come close to the quality of John Milius' original 1982 Conan but it might be as entertaining as 1984's Conan the Destroyer and by Crom, I'd be ok with that.

Fright Night
Because of the talent involved here - specifically screenwriter Marti Noxon, a veteran of Buffy the Vampire Slayer - I'm not willing to write off this remake of the 1985 classic sight unseen. In fact, I'm legitimately interested in it. If nothing else, I get the feeling that this won't be a Twilight-esque depiction of vampires. I think that Colin Farrell's Jerry Dandridge will be a deadlier brand of bloodsucker in the old-school style and that's a welcome thing. I could list the many ways in which this movie simply can't compete with the original - no Roddy McDowell, no Stephen Geoffreys - but I'm hoping it'll have some strong points that are uniquely its own. Is that unlikely? Eh, maybe. But as Dandrige said in the original, you've got to have faith.

Final Destination 5
Other people can get excited for Harry Potter or Pirates 4 but my summer won't be complete until I've seen the latest Final Destination in 3-D. This franchise gets hated on by pretty much everybody as being sub-mental but I'll follow the series for however many installments they're willing to make. With their elaborate, splatter-iffic set-pieces, these are modern day Omen movies without all the tedious Biblical horseshit. And I love that after four sequels, there's never been an attempt on the part of the moviemakers to expand the series' mythology. We never learn why it is that one sap always experiences a psychic vision of death and there's never been any attempt to personify death itself. To me, that's perfect. The theme of every Final Destination film is that life is nothing more than a giant death-trap. With that simple thought as the base, the storylines don't need to be over-embellished. In fact, they can just barely exist and as long as the wise keepers of the franchise continue to understand that, consider me an unapologetic fan.


Bob Ignizio said...

I'm pretty much looking forward to all of these (except the new Transformers flick) as well. Heck, I'm even looking forward to Green Lantern and X-Men: First Class. Will I most likely be disappointed more often than not? Of course. But dammit, I'm at least going in with a positive attitude.

Jeff Allard said...

I know I'll walk out of a few of these movies shaking my head but, yeah, why not go in with the attitude that they'll be fun?

So many critics - sometimes critics on genre-centric sites, even - portray themselves as being barely able to contain their resentment for having to endure a season's worth of summer movies. I don't get it, personally.

Last summer was pretty lame, I'll admit, but this one looks promising. Besides the films I listed, I'm excited for X-Men, too, and Cowboys & Aliens. Green Lantern I'll see but that's the one movie I can't say I'm super-optimistic about.

I think they made a huge mistake in relying so much on CGI (one thing I like about Thor is that it's obvious that they actually have physical sets for a lot of the Asgard scenes) but we'll see how it plays in the film.

Taranaich said...

I know this movie isn't going to even come close to the quality of John Milius' original 1982 Conan

*Robert E. Howard pedant twitches*

but it might be as entertaining as 1984's Conan the Destroyer and by Crom, I'd be ok with that.

Heh, well if you actually enjoyed Destroyer, who knows, maybe you will enjoy this too. There's no way it could be as bad as Kull the Conqueror, though.

Jeff Allard said...

I'll take your word for it as I never caught up with Kull. I do like Destroyer, though, as a comic book-flavored, Saturday matinee style adventure.

And I'm not a reader of Howard's Conan tales (I keep saying that one of these days I'll correct that) so I never felt affronted by whatever liberties Milius took with the source material.