Friday, April 27, 2012

Every year about this time, it’s the calm before the theatrical storm. Things are winding up in Hollywood, as the studios prepare for their marketing onslaught.

Should we, the movie viewing public, be getting excited? What can we expect this summer? What spectacles are headed our way? You can take stock of all the blockbusters they have pinned their hopes and bank accounts on below. So many movies and A-list actors… you might spend half your summertime in the dark!

What are you looking forward to?

Marvel’s The Avengers: Releasing May 4th
• Director – Joss Whedon
• Starring – Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L Jackson, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, and Don Cheatle
Written and directed by cult sensation Joss Whedon, The Avengers is already being hailed as an awesome slice of superhero sandwich bread. It has a little of what most movie lovers want; action, suspense, good actors, a hot starlet, all directed by the god of the Whedonverse, which will bring his fans in droves, whether they like Marvel or not, to the theatre. The joyful geekbuzz about this movie is reaching a deafening level. Whether that populist love means the critical powers-that-be will kick it with their big metal boots remains to be seen.

Dark Shadows: Releasing May 10th
• Director – Tim Burton
• Starring – Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Cloe Moretz, Eva Green, Jonny Lee Miller, Michelle Pfeiffer
Based on the hallowed 1966-1971 gothic soap opera, Burton opted for a broad comedic interpretation that leans more towards splatstick than the slow European vibe of the original. The screenplay is written by Seth Graham Smith (Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter) and has Burton muse Johnny Depp in the starring role of Barnabas Collins. Will he be received well and with open arms, as he was as Jack Sparrow, or rejected as he was as Willy Wonka? Will his portrayal be seen as an abomination of Johathan Frid’s work? At the very least we can all expect something original.

Men In Black III: Releasing May 25th
• Director – Barry Sonnenfeld
• Starring – Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin
J (Will Smith) travels back in time to the 1960s, to stop an alien from killing K (Tommy Lee Jones) and changing history. Josh Brolin does a great Tommy Lee as the younger K, and seeing him do that deadpan is almost enough to drive us into the theatre. Lack of promotion is a bit surprising, since the release is around the corner, but maybe the studio thinks it will sell itself. Ohhhh, K!

Snow White and the Huntsman: Releasing June 1st
• Director – Rupert Sanders
• Starring – Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Ian McShane, Eddie Izzard, Bob Hoskins, Sam Claflin
Snow White, aided by the huntsman who has been sent to kill her, starts a rebellion and takes on the evil queen. This darker version of the two released this year is likely to ride the considerable coattails of TV’s Grimm and Once Upon A Time, both of which lean to the darker side of the fairy tale continuum.

Prometheus: Releasing June 8th
• Director – Ridley Scott
• Starring – Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, Noomi Rapace
The plot has been a closely guarded secret akin to Burger King’s secret sauce. It is also so hotly anticipated, bloggers routinely mention their 30-year wait. In the same universe as Alien, or as Scott says, sharing “strands of Alien’s DNA, so to speak”, it predates the Aliens movies, and has no direct connection to their storylines, but will involve a scientific expedition (like Alien) that runs into trouble when they discover an advanced extraterrestrial race which threatens humanity’s existence… and Michael Fassbender.

Rock of Ages: Releasing June 15th
• Director – Adam Shankman
• Starring – Tom Cruise, Paul Giamatti, Alec Baldwin, Julianne Hough, Mary J Blige
Based on the successful stage play, Rock of Ages revolves around stars, from rising to faded and jaded, dealing with fame in the hairband infested 1980s. Hits from that era are sprinkled or, rather, shouted throughout. The budget for hairspray and extensions alone had to be significant. Calling all Gleeks and Smash fans…

Brave: Releasing June 22nd
• Director – Brenda Chapman and Mark Andrews
• Starring – Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane
Brave is Pixar’s much anticipated 3D computer animated fantasy adventure. It features a plucky redheaded archer named Merida who goes against tradition and custom and inadvertently gets cursed, leading her to the challenge of undoing it before it’s too late. If this redhead does as well as Disney’s last one, she’s going to raise the film to the top of the box office and keep it there. Sounds like something for children and adults alike to celebrate.

Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter: Releasing June 22nd
• Director – Timur Bekmambetov
• Starring – Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, Alan Tudyk
The title says it all… As someone who read this novel when it was first released, I have defended and explained its concept repeatedly. While the previews are absurd, I am hopeful the inventiveness of this alt-reality will come across and the film will be successful. With Wanted’s Bekmambetov at the helm it can go either way. It does feature some up and coming talent but has Prometheus, Brave, and the lesser known but promising Seeking A Friend For the End of The World to fight with at the box office on opening weekend.

The Amazing Spiderman: Releasing July 3rd
• Director – Marc Webb
• Starring – Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Sally Field, Dennis Leary, Martin Sheen, Campbell Scott
Andrew Garfield, who heads the new class of Hollywood A-listers, will play the teenaged Spidey to Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy, his first girlfriend. Many more up to date special effects and a strong cast may cease the eye rolls inherent to yet another Spiderman release.

Savages: Releasing July 6th
• Director – Oliver Stone
• Starring – Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, Blake Lively, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Demian Bichir
Two pretty twenty-somethings, with their even prettier shared slacker girlfriend, contend with the Baha Cartel wanting to take over retailing their thriving gateway drug empire. Kidnapping and ultra-violence ensue. Oliver Stone is bringing the bestseller and literary cult favorite by Don Winslow to the screen, which suggests bad things will go to worse, as per his usual fare. Could be a sleeper hit, which would be great for Taylor Kitsch, who will still be smarting from John Carter and Battleship.

Dark Knight Rises: Releasing July 20th
• Director – Christopher Nolan
• Starring – Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson
This movie’s tagline reads “The legend ends.” Nolan, known on the Batman set as “the governor,” said he wants to finish his interpretation of this classic comic book character’s story “in the biggest way possible,” and he wants it to be a “spectacle.” It will be one of the biggest movies of the year at the box office, and early buzz suggests it will be worthy. Lots of explosions and darkness.

The Bourne Legacy: Releasing August 3rd
• Director – Tony Gilroy
• Starring – Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Joan Allen, Scott Glenn, Albert Finney, David Strathairn, Stacey Keach
The screenwriter who adapted the first three films directs the fourth in the Bourne film series, with Renner as a different character dealing with the ramifications of the Treadstone conspiracy. Oscar nominated Renner was in the last and well reviewed Mission Impossible, and plays Hawkeye in The Avengers. Unless this is awful, it will cement his A-list status.

Total Recall: Releasing August 3rd
• Director – Len Wiseman
• Starring – Colin Farrell, Bryan Cranston, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bill Nighy
Wiseman, of the Underworld movies, and Live Free or Die Hard, remakes the 1990 Schwarzenegger sci-fi action flick, which was based on the short story by Philip K Dick, We Can Remember It for You Wholesale. So far it has gotten good buzz, but with anything less than stellar reviews, it could fall through the blockbuster cracks.

Paranorman: Releasing August 17th
• Director – Chris Butler and Sam Fell
• Starring – Kodi Smit-McPhee, Casey Affleck, John Goodman, Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann
In this stop-motion animated feature, Norman, a freaky yet delightful little kid who communicates with the dead, takes on a host of evil creatures including zombies, ghosts, and grown-ups, to save his town from a curse. Norman goes about it with a little help from his friends, both dead and alive, one of whom tells him, “There’s nothing wrong with being scared, as long as you don’t let it change who you are.” Words to end a curse by…

Sure, there are always “little” movies, but they are usually smart enough to steer clear of summer for release, and fall and winter is when the Academy sees most of what they’ll consider for Oscar nomination. The summer belongs to the big studios, with the film equivalent of a beach read. Step into the dark cold of the theatre, enjoy the spectacle, have a barbecue, repeat.