Monthly Preview: July 2014

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This was SUPPOSED to be the month that the Wachowskis’ space opera Jupiter Ascending hit theaters, but then it got delayed until next February because the universe felt like screwing me over. Despite that gigantic disappointment, July looks like another good month (if only on the quality scale, as opposed to quantity), and hopefully the 2014 gravy train can keep on rolling a little bit longer. So let’s see what Hollywood has on tap for my birthday month, huh?

Tammy: Melissa McCarthy has been doing very well for herself since I graduated college, even if the overall narrative results have ranged from great (Bridesmaids) to good (The Heat) to “looked like crap” (Identity Thief). But hopefully with McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone in the driver’s seat, Tammy will avoid the lowest-common-denominator settings and hit something a little smarter and nuanced… even if the trailer doesn’t show it. But at the very least, McCarthy will probably bring the funny again, so it should make for a fun ride right around my birthday.

Life Itself: For me, Roger Ebert was a respectable but unremarked-on constant, who I would occasionally read and think “Wow he’s a damn good writer” before not reading him again for 6-8 months. But even so, I still felt the sense of loss when he passed away, and that feeling and respect is amplified tenfold when watching the trailer for Life Itself. An apparently emotional and passionate examination of a man who was emotional and passionate about movies, just the trailer choked me up, and I’m sure the movie will resonate with me now more than ever as I continue my own critical writing. I’m also sure that by the time the movie is done I’ll be scouring the Internet to read old Ebert reviews, and finally give the master the attention he always deserved from me.

Boyhood: It seems to me that Richard Linklater tends to fly under the radar until he doesn’t, and that he’s perfectly content with that. Which makes the fact that he did something as ambitious and epic as Boyhood all that more surprising. The idea of shooting a film over 15 years so that the characters age for real is just as logistically impressive as any huge blockbuster, and it’s an even bigger artistic challenge in my mind because a film like this is completely dependent on character and emotion, which is not only hard to gauge years apart but also much easier to screw up (unlike a blockbuster which can coast by on bland characters and subpar plotting if the effects are good enough). Regardless of how good it was, this would be something worth seeing just for the sheer effort, but the fact that its reviews have been pretty consistently positive only cements it as a must-see.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: I remember being (what felt like) one of the few optimists about Rise of the Planet of the Apes before it came out and ended up being good, so it’s nice to see everyone else just as pumped for Dawn as I am. And when the film is an improvement on its predecessor in multiple ways on paper (Matt Reeves over Rupert Wyatt, Jason Clarke over James Franco), and it looks as good as it does in these trailers, I think we’re well on our way to an excitingly epic film, and hopefully a couple more after that. In particular, I’m excited to see Andy Serkis provide another brilliant performance as Caesar, and see how they develop this growing ape society. I’ve always figured that Dawn would end up being a sleeper for me this year, but the closer it gets the more unequivocal my excitement gets… but I’m sure it will live up to my increasingly lofty expectations.

A Most Wanted Man: Well, here we are, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final non-Hunger Games movie, and thankfully it looks like a knockout. The combination of Anton Corbijn and John Le Carre is kinda perfect, and besides PSH it’s got a solid cast and a really mature tone and tense atmosphere, even in the trailers. Should be a smart, engaging bit of adult fare in the middle of summer tentpole season, which is always appreciated, even by a blockbuster frequenter like myself. Regardless how the film turns out (though I assume the answer will be “very well”), I’m sure this will be another brilliant Hoffman performance to celebrate and appreciate, and that’s more than enough to earn my attention.

I haven’t seen any of Scott Derrickson’s work so far, and horror isn’t my favorite genre, but Deliver Us From Evil still seems like an interesting, procedural-laced take on exorcism movies  (despite the grandiose “threat to the city” trailer and the inexplicable presence of Joel McHale and Olivia Munn), and the solid one-two punch of Eric Bana and Edgar Ramirez doesn’t hurt; Sex Tape doesn’t look like anything revolutionary, and the Cloud jokes in the trailer already feel tired, but the bevy of talented people keep me intrigued; normally I’d have zero interest in Joe Swanberg or Lena Dunham doing anything, but after Drinking Buddies I find myself a little curious about Happy Christmas, though I’m certainly not doing cartwheels in anticipation either; and finally, I’m glad to see Luc Besson back behind the camera for Lucy, which seems like a great meld of La Femme Nikita’s high-concept thriller and Fifth Element’s loopy cosmic thematics, but I also recognize it could be really REALLY dumb.

So that’s it for July. 31 days until August, the swan song of the blockbuster season, and one movie in particular that I’m sure will be one of my favorites of the year.

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