Monthly Preview: May 2014

calendar2Well, here we are, at the start of the official summer Blockbuster Season… and my list of anticipated movies looks a lot like the one from last month. Sure there are a couple of big tentpoles on my list, but by and large the early action movie offerings aren’t really catching my attention too much (you’ll notice- despite my review of it yesterday- that Amazing Spider-man 2 never made it on here). I don’t think there’s any reason for it; there are plenty of good blockbusters out in the wild this year, but not as many as I remember from my teenage years. Thankfully the indie scene is more than willing to offer some alternatives, so there are still some nice options on the table as I wait for the big guns to hit the screen.

The Double: Richard Ayoade continues to be someone just on the periphery of my excitement. I’ve seen a bit of The IT Crowd (courtesy of Shiran) but not all of his TV work, and I keep putting off watching his directorial debut Submarine. But whether or not I rectify those gaps right away, I think The Double will break through for sure. While this sort of story could easily come out half-formed and messy (*cough Enemy cough*), Ayoade seems very sure of himself stylistically and tonally, and Eisenberg seems fully committed to the world being crafted. Plus, there’s Mia Wasikowska, who’s in the middle of a very impressive year, and I have no reason to think it won’t continue here.

God’s Pocket: With the sad loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman, I’ll be especially appreciative of his last few roles, one of which is in God’s Pocket (directed by his former adversary John Slattery). Looking at the trailer, it seems like a melancholy little crime story with some goofy humor mixed in, with an unsurprisingly good turn by Hoffman. While the early reviews suggest that the tonal mix is messy and undercuts the narrative of the film, it still looks solid to me, and worth checking out, if for no other reason than to appreciate one of Hoffman’s last remaining characters.

Neighbors: I think that, for all of the success that has come to the members of the Apatow Comedy Troupe, one of the most undersung members is Nicholas Stoller. Part of the reason for this might be that he’s kept himself relatively eclectic as a storyteller. While Apatow himself has settled into his James L Brooks vibe, and Rogen and Goldberg are making a killing mixing kind-hearted rauch with a variety of subgenre tropes, Stoller has taken a more haphazard route (most notably with the understated, dramatic Five-Year Engagement). But for the time being, he seems to have fully committed to the slapstick vulgarity of Neighbors, and I’m very happy with that. When you add in Zac Efron’s shrewd embracing of his douchey exterior, Rogen’s against-type casting as the young father, and Rose Byrne as Rogen’s partner-in-crime and wife, and I see one hell of a good time. Hopefully one that actually lands on my Favorites of the Year list, my dramatic proclivities be damned.

Godzilla: I don’t think that there was ever a point that I was particularly AGAINST the idea of another American Godzilla, but I also have yet to get excited for this one either. And it’s not like it doesn’t look solid, or have a great cast, or harken back to the same grim, political tone of the 1954 original… it’s just that it’s exactly what I’d expect. This Godzilla looks exactly like what I’d expect a 2014 studio Godzilla would be, just like the 1998 Emmerich version perfectly encapsulates post-Independence Day, pre-Matrix Hollywood blockbusters. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it also gives me less to be excited about in the meantime. But, it does look good…

The Immigrant: Once again, we have another movie that I’ve already seen, but in this case it was over a year ago, and I was really wondering what was going to happen to the latest from James Gray. It’s a very old-school melodrama, handling the tale of a struggling immigrant-turned-prostitute (Marion Cotillard) in a very slow-boil, reserved manner. While it might be a little too safe for some, the cast is great; besides a beautifully vulnerable performance from Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix gives another violently damaged turn, and Jeremy Renner does possibly his best work as a stage magician who might be our protagonist’s salvation. And on top of that, the film looks very nice, with a sepia-toned, carefully-framed look that recalls Luc Sante photographs of the actual 1920s New York. Certainly a good bit of counter-programming not just to the big summer crowd-pleasers, but to the gritty and twisted arthouse fare on this list as well.

Cold in July: My passion for film noir is still burgeoning compared to my obsession with science fiction or superheroes, but it’s a genre that is still incredibly compelling to me (and also a major influence on my own storytelling instincts). After finally getting a look at Cold in July, I was thrilled to find that it’s exactly what I want to see out of a neo-noir, in tone and style. With a distinctively indie cast- including Michael C Hall, Sam Shepherd and Don Johnson- and based on a story from genre maestro Joe R Lansdale, it’s got all the ingredients you’d want, and that’s not even factoring in up-and-comer Jim Mickle as director (whose previous films are all on my To-Watch list), I see an incredibly assured, twisty small-town thriller, and possibly my most-anticipated film for this month.

X-men: Days of Future Past: This one is going to be tough for me. As a big X-men fan, I’ve enjoyed the recent upturn in quality that the film franchise has seen (with both First Class and The Wolverine), and was very excited to see them tackle as outrageous and risky a story as “Days of Future Past”. But then they rehired Bryan Singer- who hasn’t made a good movie in a decade, among other alleged things- and their Quicksilver looks stupid, and Beast can transform back into a normal-looking human, and UGH. For every aspect of this project that excites me, there’s at least one that brings me back down to Earth. But, until I’m given reason otherwise, I guess I’ll just stay optimistic? Right?

Filth: I don’t have much experience with Irvine Welsh’s work, but from what little I have read I know he’s a writer with an incredibly strong voice and no barometer for appropriateness, who has already provided the basis for one great film (Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting). And while Filth will be something much different than Boyle’s film, it seems to be exactly the sort of brash, stylistically vibrant, dirty-ass movie that it needs to be. More than anything, it should be a great, hysterical showcase for James McAvoy, a great actor who’s never seemed to get his due. Should be a nice, absurd movie to cap off this month.

Out on VOD this month is Trust Me, Clark Gregg’s new directorial effort, and while the trailer isn’t anything special and the reviews have been underwhelming I still like Gregg and his cast enough to be interested; I was hopeful for Walk of Shame, particularly seeing Elizabeth Banks in a lead again, but the trailer made the movie look pretty basic, so I’m hesitant to get excited for it; I’m definitely happy to see Jon Favreau return to smaller indie movies with Chef, and I liked the trailer, but the festival reviews painted it as an overlong slog, so here’s hoping those reviews were wrong; I honestly couldn’t tell you why I’m curious about Tracks, other than some solid reviews and the abovementioned talents of Mia Wasikowska, so for now I’ll keep it as an also-ran; and in spite of myself, I’ve started to get curious about Maleficent, and though I don’t have high hopes for it maybe it’ll be a deconstructive fairy tale that isn’t just grittier and live action-ier (yeah yeah I know, let me have my misplaced optimism).

So with the summer now officially underway, let’s see what June has in store for us.

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