Monthly Preview: June 2014

calendar2One thing that only just occurred to me is that so far, 2014 has gotten progressively better from month to month, with each lunar cycle bringing us even more quality films than the last. That certainly bodes well for June’s offerings, which are many and varied. While I’m less excited for these films than I’ve been for months past (or for next month’s, for that matter), it’s still a great selection that covers a nice cross-section of my interests and favorite talents. But let’s take a closer look:

Edge of Tomorrow: I REALLY want Edge of Tomorrow to be great. Not just good, GREAT. Unlike many others, I still like Tom Cruise, and while I wish he still did more movies like Magnolia I certainly won’t turn up my nose at his commitment to these high-concept sci-fi movies of his. But even more appealing to me here is Emily Blunt, who looks like a total badass in ways we’ve never really seen from her before, and the overarching WW2-esque aesthetic to the proceedings. While I don’t think it’ll go much further than being a really well-crafted action film, I really want Doug Liman and company to surprise me and deliver an emotionally resonant military science fiction story. Early reviews seem to suggest I won’t be disappointed, so fingers crossed.

The Sacrament: As I think I’ve said in the past on this blog, I’m not a huge fan of the found footage format. It’s especially frustrating when first-time filmmakers (such as Matt Reeves or Josh Trank) use it, as it undercuts any chance for them to establish a visual aesthetic of their own. But in the case of The Sacrament, it’s Ti West’s sixth full-length film, and it’s such a massive stylistic shift from his previous work that I’m curious how he pulls it off, and what about this particular story called for the found footage approach. Besides that, I’m always for a good Christian-cult story, and the trailer does convey the proper unnerving tone. I’ve also heard great things about the central villain performance by character actor Gene Jones (who you’d probably know as the gas station owner that Chigurh plays the coin toss game with in No Country for Old Men). So I guess we’ll see if found footage can help or hurt all of those pieces coming together to tell a truly creepy story.

22 Jump Street: Phil Lord and Chris Miller already have a place on my Favorite Movies of 2014 list with their impressive Lego Movie, and I hope they can conquer another impossible task- making a good comedy sequel- with 22 Jump Street. The trailer already has a good vibe making fun of the repetitive nature of comedy sequels (something that even Anchorman 2 fell prey to), and hopefully the rest of the movie follows suit while still giving Schmidt and Jenko emotional arcs worth caring about. Lord and Miller haven’t let me down yet, and with a cast like this one at their disposal I’d like to think this won’t be the time that they do. Plus they’re bringing back Dave Franco, who’s surprisingly becoming one of the more reliable comedic actors out there, so that certainly can’t be a bad thing. Now if only they could find some way to bring back Jake Johnson as the oblivious principal…

How to Train Your Dragon 2: While Dreamworks Animation has always been considered the goofball, obnoxious little brother to Pixar, they’ve had a couple of films that legitimately work, including the original How to Train Your Dragon. However, outside Kung Fu Panda 2, the vast majority of their sequels have tended to be subpar, reductive efforts. Hopefully this long-awaited sequel will not follow that path. While the trailers have unfortunately spoiled a major plot turn in this sequel, one that the filmmakers had no intention of broadcasting, that very spoiler illustrates a clear emotional journey in this film that should build on what was done in the last film very nicely. And on top of that, the filmmakers (led by writer/director Dean DeBlois) have clearly put a great deal of effort into expanding the world they established in the first film. Those are two key elements that any sequel needs to be successful, and the animation looks as good as ever, so here’s hoping this one lives up to expectations set by its predecessor. (And I think we’ll be featuring How to Train Your Dragon in Movie of the Week any day now, so keep your eyes peeled for that one!)

The Rover: I liked David Michod’s Animal Kingdom. I like Guy Pearce. I like Robert Pattinson(‘s attempts to be a Serious Actor instead of Twilight Heartthrob Guy). I like post-apocalyptic road movies. So yeah, it’s safe to say I’ll probably like The Rover on some level or another. Early word is that it’s unrelentingly grim, which I’d say is about right for the premise, but to me the primary thing is that Michod needs to be able to maintain the slow-burn tension throughout the story. If that is missing than the movie will turn into a terrible slog, and I’d hate to see that happen. But Michod has good story sense if Animal Kingdom is any indication, so I’m sure I’ll at least appreciate The Rover, even if I don’t flat-out enjoy it.

Jersey Boys: I’ve never been a big fan of Clint Eastwood as a director; especially in the 2000s as he’s become a generally bland Oscar-bait filmmaker who’s only as good as his (usually mediocre) material. But in this case I’m feeling a little more positive, if only because his material in this case is more fun and has more personality than usual. I’ll be curious to see how the no-name cast holds up, and whether Christopher Walken can play closer to what he did in Catch Me If You Can than his usual late-career phone-in. While I’d rather have seen Jon Favreau’s take on the material, this still looks like a fun time, even if it’s not anything revelatory.

Snowpiercer:  Bong Joon-ho is still an incredibly underrated filmmaker in this country, and hopefully if he ever gets the chance to shift over to Hollywood it’ll be for his own project that he gets to do his way. But if that isn’t an option, at least we still get smart and gorgeous movies like The Host, Memories of Murder, and (presumably) Snowpiercer too. One of my most- (and longest-) anticipated movies of the last couple of years, Bong’s latest finally arrives in the US without editorial interference, something I’m already grateful for. Combining Bong’s terrific talent with this great roster of actors (Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton and John Hurt among others) and the pointed political commentary you can’t help but notice in the premise alone, and I see a perfect cocktail of thrilling and smart coming along just in time for my birthday.

They Came Together: I only got my first exposure to David Wain a few months ago when my girlfriend Shiran showed me Role Models, so my excitement for this movie is even bigger than it already was with this cast and premise. Doing a parody of romcoms can be difficult without just essentially making a romcom, as several of my college classmates learned, but I’m hopeful this talented crew can make it work. Based on the trailer it seems like Wain is on the right track, and I’d hope that someone with his comedic reputation can stick the landing. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be over here putting off watching Wet Hot American Summer for another day.

I only recently watched the trailer for Borgman, and it looks like a truly bizarre foreign thriller, though probably one I won’t connect with as much; same thing goes for indie sci-fi The Signal, which looks like it has a lot going on with a tiny budget but is probably a little too obtuse; and I have no real reason to be hesitant about Obvious Child, but at the moment I’m also not super excited about it, so hopefully I will be proven to be shortsighted on that one, and Jenny Slate can start getting a ton more work in the process.

So that’s June for you, folks! I already can’t wait for July, when some of the big guns finally hit the screen.

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