By: Daniel Reynolds
Here’s what we learned from the films of May: if the demand for a sequel is great enough, a film will prosper even if its quality level is lower than the original (really, that’s more of a maxim); the Rock is ready to be the biggest movie star (if only literally since he is legit huge); never underestimate the creative abilities of a 70-year-old Australian director (or Tom Hardy); and Cameron Crowe is done (done-r than done).
June is when we’re supposed to get our traditional first blast of summer films (after the pre-blast of May, and the teaser of April). So, we’ve got movies featuring spies, dinosaurs and the physical manifestations of emotions. There’s also a touch of Sundance, of Pet Sounds, and a movie that involves the leader of the free world in a position (and played by an actor) you would not expect.
Phew. It’s a lot to take in. And I didn’t even impart the most important lesson: no actor can credibly sell an overly optimistic, high concept sci-fi film, even if his name is George Clooney. Sad face. Let’s get to the picks.
I’m in the camp that believes a little Melissa McCarthy goes a long way. She excelled in Bridesmaids because she didn’t have to be everywhere. Now, I haven’t seen The Heat, McCarthy’s last project with Paul Feig, but I did smell the stench coming off Identity Thief and Tammy. It was just too much McCarthy. Still, Feig has shown again and again a deft comic touch, and McCarthy (along with Rose Byrne, and Jason Statham, and Jude Law) can still sell me on this. Being 94 percent on the Tomatometer also doesn’t hurt.
Runner-Up: Love & Mercy
Musical biopics almost always follow the exact same arc: genius discovered, rise to prominence, haunted by demons, fall from grace, delightful comeback/tribute. We know this melody by heart now. So, it is fair to say I want to be cynical about this Brian Wilson (of the Beach Boys) movie because I feel like I’ve already seen it. (And because Paul Dano – fair – and John Cusack – huh? – play Wilson at different stages of his life.) Be all of that as it may, Wilson’s life actually does adhere to the arc of the musical biopic and his re-emergence into public life is appropriately inspiring. Plus, the music is great.
Winner: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Sundance darling alert! Kidding aside, while I know very little about this film outside of its trailer (and a couple of sightings of familiar faces in Nick Offerman and Connie Britton), it is hitting all of my emotional buttons. Coming of age story about an awkward teen? Check. Best friends tooling around and making goofy movies together? Check. Dying girl with cancer? Umm. From what I’m told, it’s an uplifting film!
Runner-Up: Jurassic World
Or just go watch the film with Chris Pratt on a motorcycle, leading a charge of velociraptors. Or that.
Winner: Inside Out
Pixar. High concept. Brilliant voice cast. At this point, I recommend you go see any Pixar movie that doesn’t have a number at the end of its title (unless it’s Toy Story). While I feel like the company has lost some of its special magic as of late, they still make some of the best and most visually astounding animated films out there. When the concept is as original as this one (emotions being acted out within the body of a young girl), you just have to go with it.
How often do we see coming of age stories about awkward black young people these days? Dope stands out on that qualifier alone. (Plus, it has ASAP Rocky in it.) I originally was turned off the film by noted critic Wesley Morris who accused its director, Rick Famuyiwa, of “feeding [the audience] black shit white people like.” It’s a, um, strong take. At this point, I’m interested to see how bad or offensive it could actually be, while hoping it hits that same “coming of age” sweet spot I tend to enjoy.
Winner: Big Game
File this one under “WTF?” A kid in Finland is sent to survive 24 hours alone in the wild when a plane crash brings him face to face with… the President of the United States. And he’s played by Samuel L. Jackson. Dangerous characters are quick in their pursuit. Look, there aren’t a lot of other quality films floating around this week, but I’d go see this based on that absurd premise alone.
Runner-Up: Not Ted 2
June’s Bonus Limited Screening Pick: Slow West
I hinted at it last month, but June is when we’ll actually see John Maclean’s Slow West. It’s a western film about a kid (Kodi Smit-McPhee) looking for the woman he loves. Sure. But also, Michael Fassbender and Ben Mendelsohn are in it. And if you haven’t wanted to see them in a western, I’m not sure what to tell you. Also, the time is now to get in on Fassbender’s big year because he’s about to be in every movie (Macbeth, The Light Between Oceans, Steve Jobs).
God speed everyone, and happy watching.