Thursday, May 08, 2014

Summer of Meh?

Normally the summer season heralds the end of the spring drought for movie lovers, as Hollywood rolls out its splashiest, flashiest, if not necessarily its best, offerings - candy for the eyes rather than the brain. You may not be edified, but unless you're a confirmed film snob, you'll probably be entertained. So imagine my dismay as I surveyed this summer's slate and realized that there's only *one* movie I'm truly excited about and only a few I'm even interested in seeing at all. What's up with that, Hollywood? Better hope that the springtime rule of low expectations holds true for the summer, too.

With that caveat, here are five movies that I'm looking forward to this summer, in order of release date:


X-Men generations unite! I don't know much about this one other than that it involves a time-traveling Wolverine who's tasked by old Professor X and Magneto to warn their younger selves about an impending threat to (what else?) the survival of their species. Which means we get Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, AND James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender all in the same movie. Sold! (Meanwhile, the studio suits are probably sweating bullets over the recent sex abuse allegations against director Bryan Singer - but for better or worse, they shouldn't affect the movie's box office performance.)


My most anticipated film of the summer, by a large margin. Written and directed by John Carney, the guy who brought us the wonderful little indie musical "Once," it's once again set in the music world, only with a bit more gloss: Mark Ruffalo plays a failing record label executive whose career and family are falling apart when he crosses paths with a young female singer-songwriter (Keira Knightley) who's been ditched by her more successful former musical & romantic partner (played, very appropriately, by Adam Levine) and finds new inspiration in guiding and working with her. Catherine Keener and Hailie Steinfeld ("True Grit," "Ender's Game") also appear as Ruffalo's estranged wife and daughter.

BOYHOOD (July 11)

Richard Linklater's fictional version of the "Seven Up" series? To show a little boy growing up, Linklater filmed the movie starring the same actors (including Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as the boy's parents) at various intervals over the course of 12(!) years. Interesting concept, though that doesn't mean the film itself will be interesting. But I trust the Linkman, who brought us the "Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight" series and, before that, films as varied as "Waking Life," "School of Rock," and "Dazed and Confused."


Philip Seymour Hoffman's last lead performance? What a sad thought. But I've little doubt it will be a memorable one, as a German spy tracking a terrorism suspect in a film based on a recent (as in post-9/11) John Le Carre novel. Co-stars Daniel Bruhl ("Rush," "The Fifth Estate," "Inglourious Basterds," "Goodbye Lenin").

GET ON UP (Aug. 1)

Yes, biopics are generally plodding affairs, and the lead performances usually straddle the line uncomfortably between acting and impersonation. But *musical* biopics at least have the joy of good music and the curiosity factor of whether the actor (in this case, Chadwick Boseman, who played another, very different historical figure - Jackie Robinson - in last year's "42") can channel his or her subject's special star quality.'s James Brown, yo.

OTHER FILMS I'M TRACKING, MAY SEE IF REVIEWS ARE GOOD: Chef (Jon Favreau directs and stars as a down-and-out chef who tries to revive his career by starting a food truck); Million Dollar Arm (Jon Hamm stars as a down-and-out sports agent who tries to revive his career by recruiting Indian cricket players as pitching prospects; side note: what's with all the movies about middle-aged men trying to revive their failing careers?); The Immigrant (directed by the severely underrated James Gray, a probably dark tale of a poor N.Y. immigrant in the 1920s (Marion Cotillard) who falls prey to a pimp played by Joaquin Phoenix); The Fault in Our Stars (based on the bestselling three-hankie young adult novel about a girl dying of cancer - played by the luminous Shailene Woodley - who falls in love with a fellow cancer patient); 22 Jump Street (what can I say, I mostly enjoyed the first one, and I have a soft spot for Channing Tatum); Jersey Boys (based on the musical, directed by Clint Eastwood); Lucy (ScarJo stars as ordinary woman who accidentally gains superhuman powers after ingesting a drug she was supposed to be transporting; directed by Luc Besson, who may be uneven as a filmmaker but does know how to give us strong action heroines).


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