By: Daniel Reynolds
While Hollywood insists that the summer starts in early April, here in Toronto, after the winter we just had, we know warm weather to be just a rumour. Still, studios went through all the trouble of making a bunch of enormous films with equally enormous marketing campaigns. Who are we to let all of those endeavours go to waste?
That’s really what the summer movie season is all about: understanding the good and bad, the healthy and the not-so-healthy, the wants and needs. Each week from now until the end of August, you’ll be bombarded with movie posters, trailers and commercial tie-ins that will urge you to see the big movie of the summer (I feel like this has already been happening with Neighbors since January). But before you spend your hard-earned dollars (or soft-earned, no judgement), I figure it is time to outline exactly what we are getting into.
Hence: The Summer Movie Weekly Wants and Needs Breakdown (we’ll come up with a catchy title later). Just because the marketers want you to watch a specific film on a certain week, it doesn’t mean you need to.
You know, despite turning 60 this year, Godzilla is looking as spry as ever. CGI will do that for even the oldest irradiated sea monster lizard slash nuclear metaphor. This new Godzilla, directed by Gareth Edwards, has everything going for it: monstrous destruction, Bryan Cranston, and the finest trailer of 2014 (seriously, so many chills). For all the people decrying the state of modern film making, isn’t it saying something that our monster movies no longer have Taco Bell tie-ins and music videos starring Puff Daddy? Yeah, I’m ready for the new Godzilla.
Need: The Immigrant
This film has actually been flying well, well under the radar for some time now, which feels strange to say considering it stars Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Renner. The early critical appraisal implies a classic Kazan (Elia, not Zoe) feel, and beautiful cinematography. With James Gray at the helm, The Immigrant looks to delve into– Oh, who am I kidding, I’m still gonna go see Godzilla first.
Want: X-Men: Days of Future Past
You know we are reaching some sort of zenith when even the more intricate, time traveling-based X-Men plots are being blown up into major motion pictures. Days of Future Past has all our old pals: Wolverine, Xavier (times two), Magneto (times two, Mystique (I wonder if Jennifer Lawrence banked on suddenly being a key figure in the X-verse?), Bishop (yeeeeah!),
Gambit, Iceman, Colossus, and more. If the encore of this latest Bryan Singer led bonanza is Age of Apocalypse, then we’ll know for sure that dark times – inspired by the 90s – are ahead.
I have absolutely no empirical data to back this recommendation up. Maybe it’ll be a Disney-fied joke. But come on, look at that trailer! I’m convinced you could have M83 score some knee surgery footage and I would be moved to tears.
Make no mistake, this film is all about the glamourous return of Angelina Jolie. Other than that, we’re looking at a first time director working over tired material. Not even the vaunted Jolie cheekbones will distract me from noticing that this is yet another “dark” twist on an old fairytale. I thought after the re-imaginings of Snow White, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Hansel and Gretel we were done with that craze.
Need: Night Moves
Just for fun I’m going super niche here (if only to steer you away from the soon-to-be disaster A Million Ways to Die in the West). If you’d like to see a complicated movie about a different type of morally conflicted villain, I urge you to check out Kelly Reichardt’s latest film Night Moves. Gene Hackman and Bob Seger aren’t involved, but hey, Jesse Eisenberg!
Want: Edge of Tomorrow
Tom Cruise saves the world. Repeat. Tom Cruise saves the world. Repeat. Tom Cruise saves the world. Repeat.
(The original title for this film All You Need is Kill was infinitely better. At least it didn’t sound like it had been focus tested within an inch of its life.)
Need: The Fault in Our Stars
Um, OK, I’m not actually going to advocate for this film (it doesn’t need my help anyway, what with it having the most liked movie trailer in history), but I do want to offer up at least some semblance of counter-Cruise programming. The Fault in Our Stars does involve a young couple that meet at a cancer support group, though. Soooo, good luck. Fortunately, I have something that will cheer you up.
Want: 22 Jump Street (if over 18); How to Train Your Dragon 2 (if under 18)
We’re looking at a strong week for sequels here for audiences of all ages. On the one hand, the surprisingly strong comedic duo of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill return with 22 Jump Street. And on the other hand, Hill’s old buddy Jay Baruchel returns to voice hero Hiccup in the latest Dragon feature. I don’t have a joke here, these movies will probably be fine.
Need: The Rover
But you know which film will be far greater than fine? This one. I know what you’re thinking: Is this guy really going with a film that stars Robert Pattinson? He is when the film in question is directed by David Michod, the man who gifted us the sublime crime drama Animal Kingdom. That movie was far, far greater than fine, too. Oh yeah, the plot of The Rover involves Guy Pearce, the fall of society and some serious Mad Max vibes. You with me? Yeah you are.
Want: Jersey Boys
I’m told people really enjoy this musical, so I guess that means people will really enjoy the film version of this musical. Get ready for lots of speeches from your parents about how good music was in their day.
Need: Jersey Boys
Clint Eastwood directed it. Go ahead, pick against him. (Also, the only legit counter comes from Think Like a Man Too and a new film from Paul “My Career is Dead” Haggis. May as well just side with Eastwood and save on the bloodshed.)
Want: Transformers: Age of Extinction
Robots. Dinosaurs. Bad Writing. Incomprehensible directing. Mark Wahlberg. Too much.
There, I just saved you 2+ interminable hours.
Or, let’s do humanity a favour and all decide to check out the English language debut of Joon-ho Bong, he of The Host and Mother fame. The film has Captain America, Billy Elliot and, um, the Archangel Gabriel. Plus, it is set on a train that’s traversing a ice aged planet. Did I mention it is based on a comic book? Let’s make this happen, people.
Far be it for me to go against the world on this one, but the case is clear: everyone loves Melissa McCarthy. When that stupid film Identity Thief came out, a great cry was heard, “When will McCarthy get a film worthy of her presence?” Well folks, this one may be it. Directed and co-written by her husband Ben Falcone (a sandwich fan), Tammy is a road trip movie involving a down-on-her-luck woman – on the run from the law, no less – and her grandmother.
Oh, and Susan Sarandon plays the grandmother. Done.
Want: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
I feel like the makers of this new breed of Ape films are really just conspiring to see how ungainly they can make each subsequent title. Next in the series: Rise of the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Followed by the sequel: Setting of the Sun of the Planet of the Universe of the Apes. You see where I’m going with this. It’s tedious.
All you need for this one is the context: Richard Linklater, one of the gems of American filmmaking, started filming this movie when his lead actor, Ellar Coltrane, was 5 years old. He kept filming the movie over the next decade or so to truly capture the passage of time experienced during ‘boyhood’. I mean, are you kidding me? This may be one of the most impressive accomplishments in cinema. I’m there on day one.
Want: Jupiter Ascending
This movie looks ridiculous, right? It’s not just me? Here’s what I can glean: some lowly woman in a future sci-fi fantasy universe is being targeted by its ruler because she may be the realm’s rightful queen. And then a dude shows up with elf ears. Heady stuff, man.
Need: Jupiter Ascending
Just go for it. Go for the ears, and the absurdity, and the dumb title, and Mila Kunis trying her best, and the Wachowskis given exactly zero fucks what anyone thinks about their post-Matrix career. We complain that summer blockbusters have nothing new to show us, that there are too many sequels, prequels and franchises, yet here we are laughing at a film that dares – nay, insanely risks – to just go for it.
If you are scoring at home: The Rock as the lead in your action movie? Plus one. A supporting cast that features Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell (I bet he plays the bad guy), John Hurt and Peter Mullan? Plus One. Basing it on the interpretation of writer Steve Moore? Plus One. Getting Brett Ratner to direct? Minus twenty.
Oh, we were so close.
Need: A Most Wanted Man
Anton Corbijn (director of the cheery films Control and The American) is not exactly the first name that comes to mind when you think “summer movie fun.” However, this film is graced by Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last (non-Hunger Games) role, and is supported by a cast that includes Robin Wright, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe and Daniel Bruhl. I suspect you will not feel happy after watching this film, but you will feel something. And really, that’s the point.
Want: Guardians of the Galaxy
I want to be cynical about this film SO HARD, but I just can’t. The trailer has both John C. Reilly and Peter Serafinowicz in bit parts and somehow is led by Chris Pratt. I am on Team Pratt. If this movie does well and we suddenly get a deluge of Pratt films, well, I won’t be mad. So, who cares if the film is based on a handful of loser Marvel Comics characters? Vin Diesel plays a talking tree. Check. Mate.
I’m reaching here because I want Guardians of the Galaxy to be fun, but I have to give a shout out here to Calvary. If you’ve seen writer/director Michael McDonagh‘s last movie The Guard, then you understand how exciting it is to see another Brendan Gleeson led film from him on the way. Gleeson plays a priest fighting against the metaphorical forces of darkness. This feels somehow appropriate.
Want: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
I want to just post a picture of me at six years old dressed as Michaelangelo here. What more needs to be said? Go away Michael Bay. Just go away.
What’s this? A Luc Besson directed action film about a woman who gradually gains super powers as her brain expands its function beyond mere mortals? AND that woman is played by Scarlett Johansson?
Sorry, I blacked out. What were we talking about?
Want: The Expendables 3
Now we’re getting into the real dog days of summer. Actually, we’re getting into the dog years. Yes, everyone’s favourite gang of
dinosaurs macho men is back and this time there are even more mummified corpses dudes! In addition to Stallone, Statham and other familiar faces from the previous films: Snipes, Ford, Banderas, Gibson and um, Grammer, are all on hand to blow shit up.
Need: The Trip to Italy; Let’s Be Cops
Since The Trip to Italy will probably be in theatres for approximately five minutes, I’ll offer up a 2 for 1 comedy special here. On the one hand, if you’ve seen the loosey-goosey Steve Coogan/Rob Brydon “film” The Trip, then you know what you’re in for with this pseudo-sequel (hopefully, fingers crossed, more dueling Michael Caine impressions). And if you’re a fan of Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr.’s chemistry on New Girl (I’m more of a Schmidt man myself) then why not give Let’s Be Cops a try?
Want: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
I love – love – that the poster for the latest Sin City film, a movie coming out at least five years too late, has Frank Miller‘s name above the title. Look, for awhile there Miller was a veritable godhead. He could do no wrong. He wrote and drew some of the best comic stories of all time. But have you seen anything by Miller lately? Maybe heard him talk in public? Following a time honoured tradition in comics, the former genius is gone, and what’s left is basically wildly incoherent. Go watch The Spirit if you need a reminder of what it means to put Frank Miller’s name above the title.
Now here is a Frank I can support. Michael Fassbender plays a weird musical genius named, you guessed it, Frank. That’s pretty much all I know. Also, Fassbender happens to wear a giant paper mache head at all times in the film.
The words you are looking for are: Hell yeah.
Good lord, I don’t know. Check the listings here. See anything you like? I got nothing. Maybe just save your money and wait for TIFF to start.
Need: Life of Crime
Actually, wait, Life of Crime is based on an Elmore Leonard novel. Now, there are only a few good Leonard adaptations (Out of Sight, Jackie Brown and Get Shorty, being the best three; though, have you seen Mr. Majestyk? Bronson, man. Bronson), but I want to give this one at least a little bit of the benefit of the doubt. That was a long sentence.
Anyway, Life of Crime actually stars two of the characters from Jackie Brown (Ordell Robbie and Louis Gara, both of whom end up dead in that film, whoops!) except now we are looking at John Hawkes and Mos Def (instead of Robert DeNiro and Samuel L. Jackson). Also, this is not written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. I predict it will be passable, and I’ll leave the theatre saying at least once, “What the fuck happened to you, man? Your ass used to be beautiful.”
Touche, summer movies, touche. Not even Elmore Leonard can escape being turned into a prequel.