Here’s the next instalment of my Summer Movie Preview. It’s the same format as the one I did for May, except I’m adding my own synopses, rather than the studio ones. I just found that most of the “official” synopses were too long, and in some cases, it seemed like they gave away too much of the movie.
There are actually some pretty good looking releases coming out in June. Is it just me, or is 2011 shaping up to be a good summer movie season? So much was made about last summer’s atrocious offerings, but there have already been several well-reviewed blockbusters (Bridesmaids, Fast Five, Thor), and with promising-looking fare like X-Men, Super 8, and Crazy Stupid Love coming up, I’m actually pretty happy with how the summer is shaping up!
= Possible awards contender
= Times Like Those pick
= Probable cash cow
= Indie with breakthrough potential
= Looks like a turd
Starring: Michael Sheen, Maria Bello, Kyle Gallner
Director: Shawn Ku
Synopsis: Sheen and Bello play a married couple with a rocky relationship. This tenuous bond is then tested to the extreme following a traumatic event involving their teenage son.
My Take: This isn’t going to be a major release, but I always like to highlight the work of Michael Sheen, who manages to be everywhere (even in Tron!) but still remains woefully underrated. This bleak-sounding drama got fairly strong reviews out of TIFF, and Sheen earned praise from many critics. (Limited release)
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Melanie Laurent
Director: Mike Mills
Synopsis: McGregor plays the son of Plummer and must deal with his father’s revelations that he is gay and battling cancer.
My Take: The trailer is utterly charming, and hopefully the rest of the film will live up to it. Plummer could be the first Oscar contender of the year, but he’ll have to sustain the momentum for quite a while. I’m also interested to see McGregor in a mature character study like this – I think he has the low-key charm to pull it off. (Limited release)
Starring: Craig Roberts, Sally Hawkins, Paddy Considine
Director: Richard Ayoade
Synopsis: 15-year-old Oliver tries to lose his virginity before his next birthday, and also chase away his mom’s ex-boyfriend.
My Take: This quirky-looking British comedy is by first-time director Ayoade (better known as an actor on the UK series The IT Crowd), but it already has some nice buzz around it. The young star, Craig Roberts (who already made his debut to American audiences this year in Jane Eyre) is getting good reviews, and Sally Hawkins is a welcome addition to any movie. (Limited release)
X-Men: First Class
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, January Jones, Rose Byrne, Kevin Bacon, Zoe Kravitz, Caleb Landry Jones, Lucas Till, Oliver Platt
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Synopsis: Before they were Professor X and Megneto, Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr were two really good-looking, totally not-bald guys who weren’t always trying to kill each other. And X-Men: First Class tells the origin story of the X-Men mutants set against a Cold War backdrop.
My Take: If you’re bored by all of the human-interest indie movies coming out this work, don’t worry! No summer week at the theatre would be complete without a new blow-shit-up blockbuster. This one just happens to look better than most of them, because it’s got a kick-ass (pun intended) cast. The trailers look pretty good, and I appreciate the retro-type vibe they’re going for. This is probably the only superhero movie of the year that I’m excited for.
Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer
(I refuse to provide a picture, because all of them were too annoying.)
Starring: Jordana Beatty, Heather Graham, Parris Mosteller
Director: John Schultz
Synopsis: It’s like Bezus and Ramona, but without Selena Gomez.
My Take: This movie was clearly not made for my demographic. But just from the poster, I’m going to wager that it’s not particularly well-made, even for what it’s trying to be.
Starring: Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney, AJ Michalka, Noah Emmerich
Director: J.J. Abrams
Synopsis: A small town is shaken up by mysterious happenings following a nearby train crash.
My Take: I’m not really into the stereotypical “nerd” culture (I don’t read comic books or watch Doctor Who or any Joss Whedon shows, etc.) but J.J. Abrams is the one man who can bring out some of my truly geeky tendencies. So naturally, I was intrigued by the secretive film project that he planned to follow-up Star Trek. I still don’t really know what it’s about (and I think that’s a good thing), but it looks pretty awesome, in an E.T. kind of way. Elle Fanning is one of my favourite young actresses, and I will watch Coach Taylor Kyle Chandler in anything. Probably my most anticipated film of the summer.
The Art of Getting By
Starring: Freddie Highmore, Emma Roberts, Michael Angarano, Elizabeth Reaser, Alicia Silverstone
Director: Gavin Wiesen
Synopsis: Misanthropic teenager George (Highmore) falls for his unlikely friend, Sally (Roberts).
My Take: This is the kind of movie that I tend to love, but somehow the idea of the story didn’t really appeal to me. (Maybe I didn’t buy Highmore as some kind of misunderstood poet-y type? I dunno.) But after watching the trailer, I am kind of excited. It does look a little clichéd, but in a very sweet way.
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong
Director: Martin Campbell
Synopsis: Pilot Hal Jordan (Reynolds) finds a ring that grants him super powers, but also the responsibility of keeping order in the universe.
My Take: This might be an irrational reaction, but I was kind of mad when I heard that Peter Sarsgaard was going to be in this movie. The filmmakers completely wasted his talent in a ho-hum role in Knight & Day, and I fear the same will happen here. I like Reynolds, and Campbell directed the hell out of Casino Royale, but I am not excited at all for this.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Starring: Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury, Phillip Baker Hall
Director: Mark Waters
Synopsis: Based on the popular children’s book, Mr. Popper’s Penguins tells the story of a businessman who must care for six penguins.
My Take: Wait, this is a real thing?
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel
Director: Jake Kasdan
Synopsis: A rebellious teacher reeks havoc in a middle school, and some romantic stuff probably ensues.
My Take: The premise couldn’t be less inspired, but the trailer seemed charming enough. Diaz can be good at screwy kinds of roles like this, and it’s nice to still see her getting lead roles. As well, Timberlake is proving to be a charismatic actor, and Jason Segel always brings the perfect balance of warmth and zaniness to his work. I’m mostly interested in this movie for him.
Starring: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine, Cheech Marin, Jason Isaacs, Bonnie Hunt
Director: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis
Synopsis: Cars abroad!
My Take: I didn’t care for the first one, and I can’t see how a second instalment is necessary.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Starring: Shia LaBouef, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel, John Malkovich
Director: Michael Bay
Synopsis: I’m just going to paste the studio synopsis, because it literally makes no sense to me (and, sadly, I’ve seen both of the previous films):
“The Autobots learn of a Cybertronian spacecraft hidden on the Moon, and race against the Decepticons to reach it and to learn its secrets”
My Take: There’s something about the Transformers franchise that makes me optimistic with each new instalment, as ridiculous as that always proves to be. I didn’t think the first film was very good, and the second one was literally one of the worst, most incomprehensible films of recent memory. I think I may have slipped into a comatose state while watching it. Yet I can’t help but be a little bit hopeful for this. I think it’s because of the potential that the series has. Michael Bay knows how to create a spectacle. Now, if only he knew how to create a spectacle that didn’t involve indecipherable extreme close-ups on action, editing that caters exclusively to the ADD set, shameless objectification of women, and arguably racist stereotypes. Who knows – maybe this will be the one. (Also, LaBouef has gone on record saying he had some problems with the second film, and he claims that the script for Dark Side of the Moon is the best of the series yet. Take from that what you will.)