May is here again and it’s the start of another summer movie season. This Friday The Avengers kicks off four months of big budgets, big stars and big hype destined to leave us exhausted come September. To help plan your summer movie experience, PCN brings you a list of fifteen films we are most looking forward to. From multi-million dollar franchises to smaller independent features, we take a look at the most interesting and exciting pictures headed your way from May through August.
Note: The Avengers is excluded here because it’s already been screened, with our review coming tomorrow.
15. Premium Rush
Release date: August 24th
A bike courier who picks up a suspicious package spends the length of the movie running from a corrupt cop intent on siezing said package. Sounds like a run of the mill action thriller and it might be, but consider the talent behind and in front of the camera. Joseph Gordon Levitt dons the bike helmet and must outrun sleazy Michael Shannon as the cop. If that’s not a recipe for good times, the director is David Koepp, whose own Stir of Echoes is one of the most underrated thrillers of the last fifteen years. The trailers also suggest this is one to keep your eyes on.
14, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days
Release date: August 3rd
Is it strange to have this third dip into the kid-book adaptation well end up on a list of hotly anticipated summer movies? Not if you have seen the previous two Wimpy Kids, which delievered crowd-pleasing awkward humor and frantic, adolescent truths in a warm-hearted and charming voice. Picking back up with Greg, Rowley and Greg’s addled parents–a terrific Steve Zahn and Rachel Harris–should be a nice summer vacation from the big loud blockbusters.
13. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Release date: June 22nd
I find it hard to completely rule out a big-budget summer film that takes seriously the idea that our 16th President was a vamp-killing badass. The lack of camp may turn out to be Lincoln’s own cross to bear if director Timur Bekmambetov and lead actor Ben Walker can’t give the material a fun spin. The first trailers have looked promising. I’m not comvinced this is going to be a good movie, but there’s not much that could keep me from finding out in a theater.
12. Ruby Sparks
Release date: July 25th
So Paul Dano creates Zoe Kazan as a character and then she becomes a person of flesh and blood, still held by the laws of his screenwriting instincts? Look beyond the obvious indie ‘high concept’ and there’s a refreshing idea for a smart romantic comedy in there somewhere. I can’t tell now if the film is reaching towards The Purple Rose of Cairo or Stranger than Fiction, but if it ends up in the ballpark of either one–quality-wise–I’ll be a happy camper. This is the quirky balm this event-heavy summer might need, and it looks more vintage Woody Allen than Allen’s new film, To Rome With Love, does.
Release date: June 22nd
Up until Cars 2, Pixar had a perfect track record with me. Brave has more going for it upfront than that film; human characters, a rich,mythological setting, and a visual palette that should be gorgeous to behold on the cinema screem. Whether or not this tale of a Celtic princess fighting against her fate returns Pixar to its roots remains to be seen. The more recent extended trailer finally shook that feeling of How To Train Your Dragon, except with bears.
10. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Release date: June 22nd
A meteor heads towards the Earth, signalling the end of all things, and Steve Carell finds himself on a road trip with Kiera Knightley seeking out his highschool sweetheart. Maybe it’s my unhealthy affection for Night of the Comet, but I’m really looking forward to this. Apocalyptic movies and mismatched couple rom-coms have had a rough time at the theater as of late, so melding the two fizzled genres into one slightly fresh (at least not totally stale) whole is something to be excited for. This marks the first time feature from Lorene Scarfaria, the writer of the decent Nick and Norah’s Infinite Play List. Although I suspect the ending is headed for an inevitable cop-out, part of the fun of tuning in will be to see how brave they get with the premise.
9. Snow White and the Huntsman
Release date: June 1st
If you haven’t wandered outside the Twilight ghetto, you may not know that Kristen Stewart can be quite a fine actress; look no further than The Runaways, Welcome to the Rileys and Fierce People. That being said, is she a good enough actress to pull off being the ‘fairest in the land’ when her immediate competition is Charlize Theron’s smoking hot evil queen? Not quite, but I’m not going to let that sink what otherwise looks like the real successor to those daffy gothic sword-and-sworcery epics from the 1980s. There’s more than a touch of Ridley Scott’s Legend hanging around in the new trailers and if Snow White can blend that visual opulence with the humanity of some of Sir Ridley’s more grounded swashbucklers than this could be a surprise hit.
8. The Sound of My Voice
Release date: April 27th in limited released
Although it’s already playing a few cities here in the states—and helps close out the London Sci-Fi Festival this week—Zal Batmanglij’s sci-fi thriller doesn’t open wide for a few weeks yet. Brit Marling, the indie wunderkind who starred and co-wrote last summer’s Another Earth returns to speculative fiction territory with Voice, again co-scripting a tale where she’s front and center as the main attraction. Here she’s a frail but charismatic cult leader wh claims she has come from the future. When two journalists infilitrate her inner circle, they get a clearer look into what drives the group and Marling’s prophet. A tad more sinister than Earth, Voice looks like another small-scale blast of thought-provoking genre fiction.
7. The Dark Knight Rises
Release date: July 20th
I love Batman as a character and even if we haven’t gotten the take I really want to see–a period piece set in the 40′s with Bats playing detective in a noir-esque universe–I’ve been mostly happy with the Nolan installments. The Dark Knight is neither as flawless as its rabid supporters say, nor as throwaway as its detractors claim–many of them seemingly taking offense at the overhype more than at the film itself. Will Rises be more of the same or will it escalate the story even further than Dark Knight? My concern is that in an effort for spectacle, Nolan will move the film too far outside the Batman himself, whose struggle has been central to this series.
Release date: August 17th
There’s seemingly something special being hidden deep down within Paranorman, which lays on the kid-friendly creepy with a creative visual look that summons memories of Coraline and Monster House while being something unique unto itself. The appealing plot hook –what if a horror obsessed kid actually saw and interacted with the supernatural?—yields some beautifully macabre mayhem and looks like it could easily be this generation’s Monster Squad. Gotta respect the idea to run Season of the Witch over the early trailers too.
5, Moonrise Kingdom
Release date: May 25th
The worlds of Wes Anderson are either a welcome getaway or an irritating detour for film buffs. If you adore, as I do, Anderson’s beguuiling mix of picture-book naivette and middle-aged angst then Moonrise Kingdom is probably a no-brainer for you. A pair of starstruck kids run off into the woods while the adults in their New England town go looking for them. The usual suspects are here and there’s a dreamlike quirkiness that reminds of Anderson’s last outing, the underrated and family-oriented Fantastic Mr. Fox. Mainstays like Owen Wilson and Bill Murray are joined by Ed Norton and Bruce Willis. I’m thrilled that Anderson finally gets to be a summertime contender and the setting and premise are perfect for the season.
4. Safety Not Guaranteed
Release date: June 8th
More independent science-fiction with a time travel twist, Safety Not Guaranteed is intriguing because of the question marks behind its brilliant but vague plot-hook. There’s a personal ad, taken out by shaggy but endearing Mark Duplass, that requests a partner for time travel on condition that they ‘bring their own weapons’ and understand that safety is not guaranteed. Like a friendlier, goofier play on Sound of My Voice, reporters led by Parks and Rec’s Aubrey Plaza contact Duplass to learn what exactly he plans to do on his time travelling jaunt. They don’t take him seriously at first, but then a romance blossoms between Duplass and Plaza and there’s word that the film’s last third breaks out into some spectacular sci-fi craziness.
Release date: August 31st
Release date: August 31st
John Hillcoat is not a name synonymous with summer escapism, but if you want near-mythic tales of brutal, blood-soaked drama, then he’s your man. While The Proposition and The Road are dark films with a bit too much grit in their crawl, they are also examples of an uncompromising artist who can find fearsome beauty in the extremes of the human struggle. Lawless, a title neutered from the source material’s quirkier moniker, The Wettest County in the World, is a prohibition drama sporting a top-notch cast that includes Jessica Chastain, Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman, Mia Wiaskowski and someone with the improbable name of Shia Lebeouf, whom I’m sure I’ve seen in something before but just can’t place her. The first trailer looked fantastic, and there’s hope that if Michael Mann’s similarly-themed Public Enemies can find a summer audience so can Hillcoat’s burnished historical fiction.
Release date: June 8th
Aliens? No aliens? Maybe a little Alien? Some Weyland without the Yutani? Can Ridley Scott really go back home to the Alien universe and truly create something that isn’t beholden to the franchise? Questions, questions and more questions surround Prometheus, but I’m optimistic and excited. Whatever Ridley is putting together here, it’s a tad more ambitious than just some quick cash-grab designed to profit from the Alien name. I’m thrilled to get one more lofty fantasy from the director who gave us two of the very best entries the genre has to offer. The waiting is the hardest part of Prometheus.
1. Beasts of the Southern Wild
Release date: June 27th
Benh Zeitlin’s magical realist fairytale earned top honors at the Sundance Film Festival this year, and by all accounts it’s a fantastic and dramatically rich film. Hushpuppy is a young girl living in a bayou town known as The Bathtub when a storm comes through and floods out the area. Told as the story of a father and his child, Beasts of the Southern Wild also hints at the invisible world of childhood fears and insecurities with a race of prehistoric creatures called the aurochs, who have risen due to the melting of the ice caps and are marching across the country headed for the Bathtub. Taking the hint from previous summers, where films like The Fall, Moon or Tree of Life ended up topping the season for me, I’m preemptively choosing this as it’s closest to my own sensibilities and the one most likely to still be standing tall when the dust settles in September.