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John’s Critic’s Pick: To Rome with Love (June 22, Limited)
No filmmaker over the past few years has been quite as busy as 76-year-old Woody Allen. As such, he hasn't always knocked it out of the park, but he did with his last film, Midnight in Paris, which earned the director Best Picture and Best Director nominations from the Academy. Although To Rome with Love doesn't look quite as fresh, Allen is riding a wave of goodwill with me, so it’s getting the benefit of the doubt.
As has been the case recently with Allen's films, To Rome with Love (previously titled The Bop Decameron and Nero Fiddled) follows the romantic exploits and personal drama within a group of mostly upper-class Americans living or traveling in Europe. Allen himself appears on camera for the first time since 2006's Scoop. We also get a healthy dose of Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Alec Baldwin, Greta Gerwig, Roberto Benigni, and perhaps most excitingly, Penelope Cruz, who of course won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar appearing in Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
The trailer says little about the film's central focus, but the same was true for Midnight in Paris. If the film is half as clever and entertaining as that, it'll be a nice indie treat amongst the noise of summer.
Directed by Woody Allen
Other Notable Comedies and Family Films This Summer-That's My Boy (June 15) starring Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg and Leighton Meester. Directed by Sean Anders.
7. Snow White & The Huntsman (June 1)
Universal felt it had a hot script on its hands in Evan Daugherty’s twist on the “Snow White” legend, which sees the huntsman hired to kill Snow White saving her and training her to overtake the evil queen. The studio then handed it to Rupert Sanders. Like fellow directors Neill Blomkamp (District 9) and Noam Murro (the upcoming 300 sequel), Sanders received the keys to this blockbuster thanks to his work on a Halo commercial spot, which seems to be all the clout a budding filmmaker needs these days.
Led to believe we had a swashbuckling action-comedy on our hands, most of us at Player Affinity were floored by the dark tone of the first trailer and the epic “Lord of the Rings” quality, with visual effects that evoked Guillermo del Toro or Tarsem Singh (who coincidentally directed this year’s first “Snow White” film, Mirror, Mirror).
Charlize Theron looks positively tantalizing as the soul-sucking Queen Ravenna, and with Chris Hemsworth trading Mjolnir for a wood-chopping axe, boys and young men won’t care too much that Twilight star Kristen Stewart plays the “fairest of them all.” All in all, in a summer with some films that carry exceptionally high expectations, “Huntsman” could exceed its relatively low bar. ~Steven
Directed by Rupert Sanders
6. The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3)
Five years after Spider-Man 3 disappointed the masses (and effectively killed the Sam Raimi superhero dynasty), Columbia is going with a “if it’s broke, fix it” approach by doing away with everything already established and starting over from scratch. Although the obvious query has long been whether we actually need another Spider-Man origin story so soon, but everything we’ve seen so far tells us this reboot will provide all the CGI spectacle but with a decidedly grittier edge.
Andrew Garfield takes over the web-reigns from Tobey Maguire, and Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane has been replaced with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacey (a bump in acting caliber if you ask me) all while telling the supposedly “untold story” of how all things Spidey came to be. That angle appears to pertain to the as-of-yet-untouched tragedy that is the death of Peter Parker’s parents and not simply on the demise of Uncle Ben as was the motivating factor in the original.
Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man offers some more down-to-earth stunts (even with the inclusion of the very CGI Lizard as the films antagonist), the introduction of some gunplay and more bare-knuckle arachnid badassery that does a fine job of making it clear this is no Raimi "Spider-Man” (be that a good thing or not). ~Simon
Directed by Marc Webb
Simon’s Critic’s Pick: G.I. Joe: Retaliation (June 29)
Existing as quite the minority when it comes to this franchise (I do believe I was the only one who enjoyed the original “G.I. Joe,” even if it was on a very superficial level) you could imagine I am looking forward to the sequel seeing as it looks better in every regard.
For this second bout of buff macho-man versus the evil Cobra organization, the focus is on new addition Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and is a perfect fit for this testosterone-heavy franchise. We also get a John McClane-esque Bruce Willis’ role as the original “Joe”. What could go wrong?
Channing Tatum’s Duke (who was the lead in the original) is mostly absent from the trailers indicating he may have a secondary role, dies early on, or his exclusion is just a by-product of Paramount trying to rebrand the series. My bet is a combination of all three, with Duke likely popping up at the climax to save the day, having been written off as dead for the majority of the running time.
“Retaliation” director Jon Chu, replacing Stephen Sommers (The Mummy), appears to be going for a far less cartoonish angle, but the trailers still promise plenty of quip-filled dialogue, ludicrous gadgets and vehicles (including, but not limited to, a motorcycle that doubles as a series of missiles) and sword fights for good measure. Essentially, this is the kind of movie you’ll either certainly see (and like) or will avoid like the plague.
Directed by Jon Chu
5. The Bourne Legacy (Aug. 3)
The “Bourne” trilogy is the most acclaimed and consistent action movie franchise in years, so it’s made a lot of fans uneasy that Bourne’s reputation is being put at stake by the aptly titled fourth film, The Bourne Legacy. With both star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass having nothing to do with the project, is there any reason to hope that this latest foray into the world of shady governments and deadly assassins will be anything but a letdown?
Surprisingly, the answer is a resounding “yes.” For starters, series mastermind Tony Gilroy is once more responsible for the script. Not only that, he’ll also be the one behind the camera this time, and if his brilliant work on 2007’s Michael Clayton is any indicator, he’ll bring the kind of stable action direction that queasy viewers have been demanding since The Bourne Supremacy.
Mix in Jeremy Renner as the lead, some familiar faces in Brian Cox and Joan Allen, as well as new additions Edward Norton and Rachel Weisz, and you’ve got the recipe for a sequel that’s looking to do anything but cash-in. Plot details are scarce, but expect rogue agents, hostile sniping (in the office and on the field), and maybe a household object or two converted into a murder weapon. ~Sam
Directed by Tony Gilroy
Sam’s Critic’s Pick: Total Recall (Aug. 3)
The last month of summer will kick off with a battle between two updates of beloved action flicks starring absent-minded spies. And while the new Bourne at least knows he’s a secret agent, Colin Farrell is among many surprised to find out he has a history as an ass-kicking operative in the remake of 1990’s Total Recall.
Keeping the same cast of characters and story set-up but ditching the Martian setting, Total Recall follows a blue-collar working stiff living in the grimy, corporate-controlled future. When he dabbles a little in memory tampering, he finds out he’s been living a lie, and a pretty lame one at that, as the discovery of his deadly true origins makes him the target of multiple nefarious factions, including the woman he thought was his wife (Kate Beckinsale).
Live Free or Die Hard and Underworld director Len Wiseman is hopingyou’ll ignore the absence of Schwarzenegger for the re-imagining, andinstead enjoy the company of Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston and Billy Nighy, to name a few. Emerging script-writing talent James Vanderbilt had a hand in modernizing the Phillip K. Dick short story for today’s audience, so there’s a chance that Total Recall might beat Prometheus for biggest sci-fi adventure of the season.
Directed by Len Wiseman
4. Brave (June 22)
When thinking of Disney and Pixar, one thinks of all the great films they’ve made together. However, last summer’s Cars 2 – a sequel to the tepidly critiqued yet financially gargantuan Cars – left a bad taste in the mouths of many. One can hope that their next film, the original tale Brave, cleans out the dirty aftertaste.
Disney/Pixar has become rather comfortable with stories driven by humans thanks to highly lauded efforts The Incredibles and Up. They make yet another huge creative leap with Brave, as it is their first ever movie led by a female character. Voiced by Kelly Macdonald, Princess Merida leads the action-oriented story in which she must eradicate a dark curse and make her own fate instead of taking the path that was previously decided for her.
The premise already comes across as quite ambitious with its exciting female protagonist, especially for Disney, a studio often criticized for how it portrays women in its children's films. With a cast of fine British actors and great story, it seems as if Disney/Pixar has another masterpiece up its sleeve. ~Julian
Directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman
Julian’s Critic’s Pick: Rock of Ages (June 15)
When thinking about the 1980s, rock music should instantly comes to mind. Whether it’s the pop-laden hair metal of Bon Jovi or the no-holds-barred brashness of Guns N’ Roses, it’s nearly impossible to find another era in which rock music was so popular.
Based on the Broadway musical of the same name, Rock of Ages promises a great nostalgia trip, centering on the 1980s rock scene in Los Angeles. It stars proven vocalists such as Mary J. Blige, Julianne Hough, and Catherine Zeta-Jones — and Tom Cruise. Yes, that Tom Cruise will belt out Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” as fictional rocker Stacee Jaxx.
Growing up listening to my local rock station, I’m really crossing my fingers for Rock of Ages. From what I’ve gathered, the film rests on the shoulders of Hough, who can beautifully carry a tune and dance like no tomorrow but remains unproven in regards to her acting (in my mind at least). Hopefully she plays off of her singing and dancing to turn in some great work. If nothing else, Rock of Ages will finally answer the age-old question of how well Tom Cruise can sing rock music.
Directed by Adam Shankman
3. Prometheus (June 8)
Ever since Ridley Scott announced Prometheus would be his next film, the question on everyone's mind was "How, if at all, would this film connect to the world of Alien, Scott's 1979 sci-fi/horror masterpiece?" After a Comic-Con panel that killed last summer and a seemingly endless series of jaw-dropping trailers, perhaps the new question should be "Will this film be better than Alien?"
Details remain scarce regarding the plot and characters, but what we know is this: A group of scientists and archeologists discover a connection between some of Earth's most ancient civilizations—a symbol written on caves around the planet that these individuals interpret as proof of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. A team goes into space in search of this life form, but their expectations are quickly shattered, and they find themselves fighting for their lives and those of everyone on Earth.
The reasons we're anticipating Prometheus seem endless. The trailers, of course, really sold everyone. There's nothing like seeing incredible footage for the first time, and the marketers behind Prometheus just keep wowing us every few weeks with something new. Scott also has a pedigree unparalleled by perhaps every other director with a film out this summer not named Christopher Nolan. The “Alien” world is one film fans have been eager to revisit for years. The cast (Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce) is extremely accomplished. And the element of mystery is stronger for this film than most other summer 2012 titles. ~John
Directed by Ridley Scott
Other Notable Sci Fi/Thriller/Horror Films This Summer-Chernobyl Diaries (May 25) from Paranormal Activity producer Oren Peli
Max’s Critic’s Pick: Battleship (May 18)
First it was comic books getting the film treatment. Then it was theme park rides. Now it’s … board games? Apparently so, as Universal is pulling out all the stops they can to build their own "Transformers"-like action franchise based on the longstanding Hasbro board game.
The premise (haha) is simple enough: Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), his brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgard), his girfriend Samantha (Brooklyn Decker) and superior Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson) are all taking part in some dumb ceremony in an undisclosed location. Who knows? Who cares? Aliens show up and start wreaking all kinds of hell, trapping the U.S. forces within a barrier of some kind and causing tons of explosions.
Again, sounds like a mess, but given the reception Battleship has gotten overseas (prior to a U.S. release), it's turned into a lucrative one as it has already amassed $100-plus million. It's surprising how so much talent behind Friday Night Lights, one of the best written, acted and nuanced shows in T.V. history, got together and made a bombastic action flick. It could be horrible (decent chance it will be), but few other releases this summer exemplify the explosiveness of the summer blockbuster stereotype.
Directed by Peter Berg
2. The Avengers (May 4)
Movie geeks might recall the summer of 2008, when Marvel Studios, which had just launched its first successful independent superhero film in Iron Man, announced a four-year plan to launch two new superhero franchises (for Thor and Captain America) which would culminate with an “Avengers” movie in 2012. What seemed like a dream of the future is finally here.
For Marvel to announce this and then follow through with 100 percent timeliness and impeccable quality has to be considered one of the best deliveries from a production studio ever. Their commitment to bringing these characters to the screen in ways that will please fans old and new has been impressive and The Avengers will surely celebrate all of that.
The Avengers is the ultimate superhero geek fantasy, the one movie as a kid you would talk about with your friends but in the back of your mind knew would never actually happen, so you pretended it did with your action figures instead. The fact that Whedon appears to have succeeded in balancing all these major stars and characters is another matter, but the bottom line is that this film is a celebration of superhero movies, one we should all kick back and enjoy. ~Steven
Directed by Joss Whedon
1. The Dark Knight Rises (July 20)
The Dark Knight Rises. *shudder*
Despite being only a few months away, much of the details surrounding the film’s story have been kept under wraps, specifically at Christopher Nolan's insistence (the tease!).
We know that the third film is set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight. We know Batman has taken the fall for Harvey Dent/Two-Face's murderous rampage. We know that some form of class warfare is brewing. We know Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) is on the scene. We know that Bane (Tom Hardy) has every intention of ripping Gotham to the ground. We know that "the Legend Ends" tagline of the marketing campaign is driving us insane. Past that, we don't truly know what is going to happen in Nolan's final Batman film ever. And that is all kinds of awesome.
If The Avengers is the start of a new chapter in film history, The Dark Knight Rises is the close of a great one. When Nolan came along with Batman Begins, he redefined not only the Batman film series-—one in desperate need of saving—but comic-to-film adaptations and the concept of the "series reboot" altogether. With "Rises" comes the anticipation of how far Nolan will push the Batman/Bane conflict and where his trilogy will leave the genre of comic-based films for the future. Add on the fact that the film will contain over an hour of footage shot with an IMAX camera—a record for a Hollywood feature—and The Dark Knight Rises promises to be an exhilarating experience from an entertainment and historical perspective. ~Max
Directed by Christopher Nolan