14 summer movies to get a lil excited about… [pt1]

Summertime… and the livin’ is easy…


~ The Tree of Life ~

THE TREE OF LIFE - May 27th

So quite an obvious one to start, but no one can argue it doesn’t deserve its place here. To put it bluntly, I don’t remember a more highly-anticipated arthouse film than the long-delayed The Tree of Life, only the fifth feature film of Terence Malick‘s 38-year career.

So what’s it all about? Who the hell really knows. “Life” it seems… The 1950s. The midwest. Sean Penn as Brad Pitt’s son. Innocence. Evolution. A lost soul in a modern word. Reconciliation. Hope… And potentially some dinosaurs too.

It’s rare that a movie with a summer release gets talked up as an Oscar candidate. That type of thing usually only happens after its release if the movie is good enough to really stand out, e.g. Hurt Locker, Inception, Up, The Kids are Alright. But the amount of column inches dedicated to Malick’s little film about life suggests this will almost certainly be a contender come awards season next January.

The road to its release has been pretty entertaining, with disputes over distribution keeping everyone entertained as we waited for the first trailer to arrive last month. Since then we’ve found out that the film will in indeed have its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, which starts later this week – grab your last minute flight to the Croisette now!

The film had an original UK release date of last Friday, May 4th but this was, unsurprisingly, cancelled for a variety of reasons. Perhaps most pertinent of which was that a release before the Cannes premiere would have rendered it ineligible for the illustrious prize of the Palme D’Or. The Cannes premiere will be followed with a theatrical release in North America 2 weeks later on May 27th.

So while certain parts of the world know when they’ll be able to try and tackle The Tree of Life, there are lots of places where things are a little more uncertain. It’s unknown when, or how, Icon Entertainment will get their shit together for the UK and Irish market.

In the meantime, watch the trailer below and spend some time on Fox Searchlight’s official site for the film. It’s ridiculous. You can also pass the time by reading all about the troubled production and release delays at the film’s wikipedia page and the Hollywood Reporter.

[sidenote: Having had Badlands and Days of Heaven on my must-see list for a long time, I'm in the midst of a little self-curated Malick retrospective so should probably do a post on that when i'm done. The fact he only has 4 features available for viewing makes things easy. Badlands (1973), Days of Heaven (1978), The Thin Red Line (1998) and The New World (2005). It's certainly less daunting than a Samuel L. Jackson marathon...]


~ What’s Your Number? ~

WHAT'S YOUR NUMBER? - Sept 30th

So this one isn’t out until the last day of September meaning it is no way a summer movie and should have no place on my list. It also doesn’t even have a poster yet, hence the set photograph (which is actually kind of awesome in it’s own weird way, no?) above.

BUT… For some inexplicable reason I may be more excited about this than a lot of the more traditional blockbusters we’re gonna be force-fed this summer (I’m looking at you ElCaptainoAmericanoAvengerHarryPottersLastHurrahTransformerMoonyFilum-GreenLanternandtheDodgyMaskEtcEtc).

The trailer only arrived last week sometime but suggested this should be a whole lot better than the traditional rom-com fare we’re usually subjected to during the autumn. Often these movies live or die by the cast involved, so to get an unconventional troop like Anna Faris, Chris Evans (yes I know he’s in another kind of important movie this summer, Captain Canada or something like that), Andy Samberg and Zachary Quinto is pretty cool.

Anna Faris has had a pretty weird career to date, making herself known to mainstream audiences in Scary Movie, Lost in Translation and Brokeback Mountain but her comedic exploits, as showcased in The House Bunny and alongside Seth Rogen in the much-maligned but under-rated Observe and Report, have received less attention. But the New Yorker says she’s easily one the funniest female actress working today (or something to that effect, I can’t afford to subscribe so only get the digital edition extract…), and in fact may even be “funny like a guy”. But that’s part of the wider gender debate so let’s not tackle it now. For the moment, have a giggle at the trailer… Doesn’t it look fun!


~ Melancholia ~

MELANCHOLIA - november 4th

OK, so it looks like I’m taking the piss now. A movie that doesn’t hit theatres until November? Well… that US and Canada release date was just recently announced and I have a hunch that Magnolia might bring that date forward to be in line with it’s UK release date of July 1st. But all going well I will see it in Ireland during my summer “vacation” anyway, rendering it a summer movie for me.

And aside from the release date, surely a movie that deals with the destruction of the earth is quintessential summer fare? Doom and gloom-monger Lars Von Trier has come out and said that he considers all of his previous films to end happily, and that Melancholia will be the first with an unhappy ending. Not really sure if he’s actually seen many of his other films if that’s his analysis but how and ever.

Anyway bottom line, not a huge amount was known about the film until a stunning trailer arrived a few weeks ago. It blew my mind and I doubt I was the only one. And I’m pretty excited about seeing Keifer Sutherland on the big screen in a proper film again as The Sentinel and Mirrors were both a bit pants. And add to that an against-type casting for Kirsten Dunst, performances from two Skarsgårds (True Blood’s Alexander and father Stellan) and one of my favourite veterans, John Hurt, also puts in a shift. Explosive. Literally.


~ Bridesmaids ~

BRIDESMAIDS - May 13th

I firmly believe Kristen Wiig is the funniest woman on television today. Sacrilige! What about Tina Fey! Or Amy Poehler? Sarah Silverman! Yer woman from Flight of the Conchords! Jo Brand?! Kay Burley?!?!

All very amusing, but nowhere near as laugh-inducing as the shining light of the current Saturday Night Live cast, Ms Wiig.

And so, after strong performances in Paul, MacGruber, All Good Things and Whip It and scene-stealing bit parts in Knocked Up and Bored to Death, she is ready to make her bow as a leading lady. I have no idea how to feel about her getting a break-through though… sad that more work will mean her departure from SNL….. or jealous that soon enough the whole world will have tuned in to her awesomeness making me feel less special! Oh Kristen!

This is all sounding a little obsessive. Perhaps I should step back and breath a little.

OK, I’m back now. Splashed a little water on my face. Ready to type again. Tap tap tap.

So. Bridesmaids is the story of Annie, a perennial singleton who is picked as her best friend’s maid of honor. Not knowing how to handle the pressure, she does her best to bluff her way through the expensive and wacky rituals with an oddball group of bridesmaids in tow. Fun stuff.

The movie is directed by Paul Feig, creator of Freaks and Geeks, and produced by Judd Apatow, executive producer of Freaks and Geeks and the man behind some of Hollywood’s most successful comedies from the last decade. Wiig wrote the screenplay with her friend, the relatively unknown actress Annie Mumolo.

The trailer is gas, the supporting cast all look awesome, it’s got properly-credentialed people behind the camera, Simon Pegg loved it and Wiigy is front and centre on the poster. Surely this can’t be anything but brilliant? Right?

[sidenote: Wonderful profile from the New York Times - Can Kristen Wiig turn on the charm?]


~ Kung Fu Panda 2 ~

KUNG FU PANDA 2 - May 26th

What? A sequel? An animated sequel?! What sort of list is this!

The first Kung Fu Panda is a gem. Much like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and How to Train Your Dragon, it got shafted in the award ceremonies by Pixar’s more well-rounded and heart-rending animations. While I’m not dissing the power and emotional majesty of Wall-E, Up or Toy Story 3, sometimes it’s OK for animated films just to be dumb, funny and silly.

And Jack Black’s original Kung Fu Panda sure was stupid. Let the official promotion blurb sell it to you.

In the Valley of Peace, Po the Panda finds himself chosen as the Dragon Warrior despite the fact that he is obese and a complete novice at martial arts.

Brilliant. Here’s its sequel:

Po joins forces with a group of new kung-fu masters to take on an old enemy with a deadly new weapon.

See it’s funny cause he’s a fat panda doing marshall arts!! And this one adds Jean-Claude Van Damme to an already impressive cast with surnames like Jolie, Oldman, Rogen, Chan, Hoffman and Liu. Wonderful.


~ Project Nim ~

PROJECT NIM - July 8th

James Marsh‘s follow up to the academy award-winning documentary Man on Wire tells the story of Nim Chimpsky, a chimpanzee taken from its mother at birth and raised like a human child by a family in a brownstone apartment building on the upper West Side of New York in the 1970s. The chimp became the subject of landmark experiments that aimed to prove an ape could learn to communicate using sign language if brought up in a human environment.

The movie opened the Sundance film festival, and played at the Hot Docs festival here in Toronto last week. Unfortunately tickets sold out before I could get my hands on one. As a documentary-maker, when you win an oscar you’re elevated to the top of the league with the Michael Moores, Morgan Spurlocks and Errol Morris’ of this world. This means your films get picked up for pretty wide releases and your new films show up in “hot for summer!” features in mainstream magazines like Entertainment Weekly, EMPIRE and Time. This promotion means the chance for more bums on seats. Bums on seats means $$$. $$$ means better budget and promotion for your next film. The circle continues.

So while festival-buzz is all well and good, thankfully every review, preview or feature on the story suggests this is going to be a very special film. Marsh proved with Man on Wire that he’s most adept when dealing with a charismatic subject like Philippe Petit, so surely Nim’s story has every right to turn out chimply marvelous.


~ Rise of the Planet of the Apes ~

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES - Aug 5th

And now to a movie that will is sure to be a prime-mate of Project Nim’s at the box-office.

OK, I better stop with the monkey business.

I’m done I swear…

So I don’t think I’ve ever seen all of the original Planet of the Apes. I guess I’ve seem bits of it on TV on a Sunday afternoon, but either way I’ve done OK in life without being surprised when it all pans out to reveal the Statue of Liberty. Wait, did I just ruin the movie for myself and my millions of readers? Sorry.

So here we are ten years after the much-maligned Tim Burton remake and it looks like 20th Century Fox is squeezing whatever it can out of the franchise by making a prequel to a new series of Apes films. Surely it’s not going to be worth the ticket price? Sure the best thing they can put on the poster (which is so badly designed I didn’t include it above) is “from the visual effects company for Avatar“….

Director Ruper Wyatt has only directed one feature before – 2008′s The Escapist, a functional prison thriller. The screenplay for Rise of the Planet of the Apes is by the in-experienced married duo of Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa, the only thing of note on either of their CVs is a credit for Silver for writing the wonderful The Hand that Rocks The Cradle all the way back in the heady days of 1992. Weird. The film’s lead role goes to a post-Oscars James Franco, no longer as immune to bad press or reviews as he was before the evening of February 27th.

So… a guy who is the process of burning himself out, and untried director, a debuting screen-writing duo and a tired franchise no one cares about anymore. A recipe for disaster! Right?

Well… after tuning into a live WETA Digital featurette unveiling some of the characters (it was a rainy Monday evening, OK?), my interest was piqued. The trailer that subsequently arrived the next day sold me.

Franco is part of an ensemble cast that includes Brian Cox, John Lithgow and Frieda Pinto. The film features motion capture for the lead ape from Andy Serkis (the man behind Gollum, King Kong and Tintin’s Captain Haddock), playing the part of Caesar here. I think we could well have one of the critical surprises of the summer on our hands here.

But if it does all turn out to be crap, it’s going to be fun to see it on the big screen and go “oooooh doesn’t the money look so real and creeeeepy!!! I wanna hug him cept he’d probably bite me! GAH!

Lol.

So part 2 of this post will be online as soon as I get time to finish it. In the meantime, any anticipated summer movies, post em below!

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