With warm weather, comes great responsibility. Yes, it’s that time of year again. The studios are getting ready to cash in on the latest blockblusters, as struggling parents attempt to pacify their screaming brats and students attempt to while away their atrociously long summer holiday with trips to the local multiplex. The summer season is both an easy and tough market for Hollywood and it’s friends. While big audiences can be attracted, there is also much competition. Every studio saves their best all purpose blockbusters for the summer months, and this year is no different. Coming our way is the usual host of superhero adaptations, long-awaited sequels and pleasing family friendly animations. Summer is a predictable season in this sense, but that doesn’t mean that all the films need be.
Now, any seasoned veteran of the summer cinema season will know that picking the best of the bunch can be a minefield. The majority of people won’t have the money (or the time) to see every film that is rammed into the public eye through relentless advertising and promotions, so being able to pick out the good eggs is an essential skill. Because believe me, even the ‘biggest’ blockbusters can be absolute turds (I refer you to the Transformers franchise). The Reel Thing is here to help you get started on the road to cinema glory, and will hopefully give you honest and successful guidance.
But before I go on, a small warning: I am not advocating that these are the films you should definitely see or not see. Everyone has different likes and opinions, but hopefully this guide will give you a starting point with which to begin your own summer cinema-going experience. I haven’t seen any of these films, so I’m just going on what I have seen from trailers, what I’ve read and just general intuition as a film goon. I might be completely wrong about some of these, but that is half the fun of blockbuster season.
I have divided the guide into three sections:
1. Get yourself a ticket and some popcorn man! (aka the ones to watch)
2. The ‘take a chance on me’ films (aka ones that could go either way)
3. Ones to avoid like the bubonic plague (aka run away…FAST)
So without further ado, The Reel Thing presents it’s Spring/Summer 2012 guide!
Get yourself a ticket and some popcorn man!:
American Reunion (2nd May): After a couple of absolute duds (The Naked Mile still haunts me) the American Pie franchise is returning to it’s roots, and thank god. Jim, Michelle and the whole original gang are back together for their high school reunion and I for one couldn’t be happier that they somehow managed to attract the entirety of the original cast back for this nostalgia fest. Of course, this is a franchise that doesn’t float everyone’s boat and I get that. It’s crude, the storylines are somewhat simplistic (guys want sex, guys embark on a series of gross out gags on route to guys getting sex) and some of the characters cement the American douchebag stereotype quite nicely. However, I grew up with the first 3 American Pie films. I remember being 13, at sleepovers watching these films that were rated 15 and definitely didn’t have good morals (Sex, booze, sex…you get the picture). I remember listening to the American Pie soundtracks on my walkman. And I remember that every time I watch American Pie I remember that first time I saw Jim humping the pie. What a glorious bit of cinema. And I think some of my gross out humour is in part thanks to these guys, so hallelujah for the reunion. It’s probably going to be a film that is only really good to fans of the original 3, because it will just be like a trip down memory lane. But I’m excited, and if you love them too you should be getting ready to ‘hang out with your wang out!’*
*The Reel Thing does not advocate indecent exposure whilst watching this film. Save it for the pie people.
Dark Shadows (11th May): This is my 2nd most anticipated film of the summer. I am ridiculously excited for this re-imagining of the classic 1960s television series and here’s why: Tim Burton? Check. Johnny Depp? Check. Helena Bonham Carter? Check. Creepy-kooky storyline? Check. Enough said really. (If that isn’t enough then maybe Christopher Lee floats your boat. He’s in it too. GAH I’M SO EXCITED)
The Dictator (18th May): Sacha Baron Cohen is back again, with another mockumentary style film which is probably going to make a whole load of people hate/sue him. I highly doubt it will top the brilliance of Borat, but The Dictator has already announced his presence by scattering the’ ashes’ of Kim Jong-Il all over that peacock Ryan Seacrest on the Oscars 2012 red carpet. If that is anything to go by, Cohen won’t be holding back in this film and I’m sure his comic tyrant will perform many more cringe-inducing yet hilarious stunts in the run up to the film’s release. I fully expect to be gasping for air in the cinema with this one, so if you’ve got an awareness of the world (i.e. you watch or read the news) and have a sense of humour (big ask for some, I know..) I expect this one will be of interest to you. Cohen’s observations are always spot on and exploited expertly for the amusement of the world. Long live Sacha Baron Cohen.
Snow White and the Huntsman (1st June): I was pretty sceptical about this one. It stars Miss Kristen ‘doom and gloom’ Stewart and so therefore filled me with dread. And then I was shown the trailer. And I watched Into the Wild (where Stewart actually manages to be pretty good). Suddenly a film that probably would have been in the third section of this guide was catapulted into potential glory. So what changed my mind, apart from discovering that Kristen Stewart could act? Well, the trailer says it all really. It’s bad-ass Snow White. Snow White with an attitude and a whole load of ass-kicking rage. This will be the second Snow White adaptation of the Spring/Summer period, with the Julia Roberts/Lily Roberts flick Mirror, Mirror preceding it by a few weeks. That film doesn’t look half as good as this one though, and Charlize Theron’s Evil Queen looks way more terrifying than Julia’s (plus the dwarves in Snow White and the Huntsman look like they’ve been taking tips from Gimli and not Walt Disney. LotR win). So I’m (somewhat unbelievably) backing Kristen Stewart here. If you’re going to see one Snow White movie this season, wait till June 1st.
The Five Year Engagement (22nd June): I’m not usually one to go for films that centre around the idea of marriage. There is a high chance that my vomit reflex will be put to good use. However, this film actually looks pretty funny, mainly because it is produced by the legend that is Judd Apatow (the man behind such gems as Superbad, Knocked Up, Anchorman and Bridesmaids) and written by and staring (one of) my future husband(s) Jason Segal (the man who also revived my close personal friends The Muppets recently). I’ve yet to find news of another film that might be this summer’s Bridesmaids so this one could be it. It also stars the delightful Emily Blunt, who I have been a fan of since her under-appreciated turn in The Devil Wears Prada. The story centres around a couple’s relationship as it becomes more strained when their marriage is continually put back, so does still have the potential for a little vom. But with Segal’s goonish brilliance I think we might be safe from any serious need for a large vom bucket.
The Amazing Spiderman (4th July): I’m a comic book geek. I love those crazy masked crusaders and their even crazier adventures. There’s always been something really appealing about dressing up and running about kicking ass. Of course, doing this in reality will get you either arrested or locked up in a mental facility. Thankfully, a true staple of the Summer blockbuster season is the Superhero flick. By the time July roles around we will have already seen The Avengers, but for me it will be The Amazing Spiderman that presses my little geeky buttons and lets me live vicariously true the truly adorkable Peter Parker. I adore the Sam Raimi Spiderman films of the not so distant noughties. So when I heard the franchise was getting a reboot I did wonder why, and especially why so soon? Sure Spiderman 2 and Spiderman 3 were a little dodgy in places but in comparison to some of the superhero tripe we’ve been fed over the past few years (e.g. The Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Hulk) they still stand out as examples of how to do a superhero film and not mess it up. From the trailer this reboot does look like it will do something different though. It apparently is sticking more closely to the source material than Raimi’s first Spiderman did, looking more at how much the radioactive change affects teenage Peter Parker. I’m a fan of sticking to the source material, especially when you also stick the delicious Andrew Garfield in that tight-fitting Spidey suit. Plus, if that’s not enough my girl crush Emma Stone steps into the role of damsel in distress Mary Jane, but somehow I don’t think she’ll be as much of a big sissy as Kirsten Dunst was. So look out, here comes the (slightly new and possibly improved) Spiderman!
The Dark Knight Rises (20th July): If I have to explain to you why this is my most anticipated film of the summer, and why the majority of the world will probably agree with me, then you don’t deserve to be reading this and you should immediately go purchase yourself Batman Begins and The Dark Knight (as well as everything else Christopher Nolan has ever done) and educate yourself. Mere words cannot begin to describe how amazing this film will be. Christopher Nolan saved Batman from being an eternal laughing stock (Joel Schumacher should be ashamed of himself for the atrocity that was Batman and Robin). So you can keep your Avengers, hell you can even keep your Amazing Spiderman (only briefly though, I still love you Spidey). THIS is how comic book adaptations should be done. This film has depth, it has emotions and it’s extremely dark (even without Heath Ledger’s chilling Joker). Nolan’s cinematography and direction is unparalleled. Christian Bale is the ultimate Dark Knight. And heck, Anne Hathaway might even be a decent Catwoman, if the trailer is anything to go by. Absolutely, 100% not to be missed. This will be the final Nolan-Batman film so fill your boots while you can kids. Nothing will ever come close to this.
Ted (3rd August): So after you’ve seen The Dark Knight Rises at least 5 times, August comes knocking and brings us Ted, my tip for the underdog of the Summer. Seth MacFarlane (of Family Guy fame) takes writer and director credits on this one, which is his first feature length directorial effort. The story centres around Marc Wahlberg’s John, who’s childhood wish for his teddy to come to life comes true. The teddy (which I can imagine is going to be a vulgar little thing, given that the film has already been rated R in the States) stays with John into his adult life, where he starts to become a hindrance to John’s ability to grow up. Also staring the very funny and unbelievably hot Mila Kunis, I think Ted is going to be one of those hidden gems, and will help to save August from being a completely worthless month (more on that in section 3).
Brave (17th August): Pixar’s newest creation is, thankfully, not another sequel to Cars and therefore should be pretty damn amazing. I predict tears, laughter and more tears. Nothing gets grown men weeping like a Pixar film, and for that Pixar are my personal heroes. Coming out over a month later in the UK than in the US, we’ll finally be able to see Brave in August. If you haven’t already seen the trailer, the basic premise is that a young Scottish girl must discover the true meaning of bravery after she is cursed. The film has a real Celtic feel to it, and with Billy Connelly lending his voice I imagine it will be a very popular with adults and children alike. It’s Pixar’s first attempt at a fairytale type film and will be having it’s European premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival on the 30th June (get your tickets now Pixar fans). As Pixar can do very little wrong (we’ll just ignore that Cars I and II happened), I can’t imagine this film will be anything but animation heaven.
The ‘take a chance on me’ films:
This section is devoted to films that I’m not sure about. They have the potential to be great, but also have just as much chance of being utter disasters. All have features that would normally put them in the great bracket, but having seen the trailers I’m not 100% sold on them just yet. The following films are probably ones that you will go to see because a friend/partner/parent asks you to accompany them and you can’t think of a really good reason to really argue against their choice. Either that, or it’s raining outside and you’ve already seen all the truly great films from the previous section. So here are my films to take a chance on this summer. Don’t expect too much, and you might just enjoy yourself:
Men in Black III (25th May): Don’t get me wrong. I love Men in Black. I love Will Smith. I love talking alien-pugs. But Men in Black II wasn’t the greatest sequel and I’m just a bit sceptical that a third instalment is completely necessary. Especially one in 3D… The first Men in Black was spot on in terms of a balance between comedy and action and had an awesome theme song. The second lacked the first’s narrative focus and Tommy Lee Jones just seemed a bit off key in that sequel. However, the jury will remain out on the third for the time being. The trailer doesn’t look awful, and I probably will end up seeing this of my own free will because of Mr Smith and a surprisingly awesome looking supporting cast. Joined by Josh Brolin, Emma Thompson and Bill Hader (as Andy Warhol…AWESOME?!), Smith’s Agent J is sent back to 1969 to save Agent K and the earth from alien destruction. Now, I know. The storyline sounds a bit sketchy and lame. But the screenplay was co-written by Etan Cohen and Steven Spielberg is on duty as executive producer, so redeeming features are plentiful. It will just be a matter of whether the film can live up to them, or whether we’ll have another Transformers situation on our hands…
Rock of Ages (15th June): Yes, this is an adaptation of that 80s rock musical that has only very recently come onto the West End. My, that was quick wasn’t it?! Actually, the film has been in production for a while (since 2010) so really it pre-dates Shayne Ward’s West End extravaganza. The film, thankfully, features some actors with far more talent than X Factor’s Mr Ward. Staring a whole host of big names such as Catherine Zita Jones, Alec Baldwin, Mary J Blige and crazy old Tom Cruise, the cast list might install some confidence that this rock-musical might be worth it’s weight in spandex-coated gold. However, the cast also boasts Russell Brand….and therefore gets relegated to the hit or miss section. Russell isn’t the only reason for it’s relegation though. I’ve not seen the musical yet, but the musical choices in it will be of an acquired taste. If you enjoy Bon Jovi, Journey and the like then I imagine you’ll be pretty happy with the musical styling of the film. If you don’t, I dare say this film might be akin to torture and it may be best to stay away. In terms of musicals, I don’t this film will break the mould or develop the genre in anyway, but it could be 2 hours of mindless fun to while away a rainy afternoon this June.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2nd August): I recently saw the trailer for this in the cinema and was torn between utter despair and a weird sense of admiration. Lincoln is a bit of a popular figure in the film world at the moment. Robert Redford’s recent film The Conspirator charted the aftermath of Mr Lincoln’s assassination, and good old Stevie Spielberg is currently working on his own Lincoln biopic originally entitled Lincoln, which is due for release this Winter. So for a film to take such a serious figure and stick him into a vampire movie is quite brave, and might just pay off. Of course, this film is trying to cash in on the latest vampire craze created by certain films and television shows. Hopefully it will be less Twilight and more True Blood with it’s representation of the undead, therefore making it bad-ass and not just really lame. It has the potential to be an unexpectedly brilliant horror movie. The book on which the movie is based is widely regarded as a triumph, re-imagining the American president as a vampire hunter with humour, heart and a heck load of bite. Where this film will fall is if it takes itself too seriously. Last summer’s Fright Night benefited from poking a bit of fun at itself, and I think ABVH will do well to take note. Of course, Tim Burton is producer on the adaptation, so it will probably be a bit kooky. And I think if this film is going to be successful, the kook factor will be a big part of it. Additionally, if the thought of 3D vampires fills you with glee then you’ll probably get your kicks easily from this film.
And the ones to avoid like the bubonic plague:
August is looking like the month when everyone should run for the hills and avoid their local multiplex, which is a shame considering that by August the British Summer has run out of all it’s good weather and generally a trip to the cinema is in order as the heavens open to soak our picnics. If you haven’t booked your summer holiday yet, may I suggest you book it for August. Get out of the country. Just go. Because hitting our screens will be a whole host of depressing bland sequels, generally from franchises which really should have just died quietly in a deep dark hole after their first outing.
GI Joe: Retaliation (3rd August): Dear Channing Tatum, please go and jump off a bridge. Into some shark infested waters preferably…. I swear I haven’t seen one decent film that this guy has made. Maybe I’ve missed his best films (I admit I am yet to see 21 Jump Street and I hear that it’s quite a hoot) but genuinely I just think this guy is brought onto films that have shoddy scripts because his presence (read: his biceps and chiselled good looks) guarantees that teenage girls (and probably soppy menopausal middle aged women) will flock to see it. Even if it is a movie based on an American kids action-figure-doll thing generally associated with little boys. Tatum reprises his role as Captain Duke Hauser in GI Joe’s second outing, supported by a poorly placed Bruce Willis. The one redeeming feature that I can find about this film is that it also features Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson as a character called ‘Roadblock’. As an old WWF/WWE fan, The Rock’s presence can usually redeem even the fishiest of films, especially if he breaks out the iconic ‘People’s Eyebrow.’ Though on this occasion even that won’t be enough to get me into a cinema to see this sinking ship. Next thing will be live action Barbie films…*shudder*. Please don’t. Really. No-one needs to see that.
Step Up 4 (10th August): Yes, everyone’s ‘favourite’ dancing franchise is back this summer for it’s fourth full length motion picture. Seriously, just stop making these guys. The first one was passable. The second had some urban heart and some killer moves. I can’t even remember the third (and I know I’ve been subjected to it) so that really says a lot for how necessary it is to make yet another film about a guy and a girl coming together through the medium of dance. These movies have amazing dance sequences but the storylines and acting are generally atrocious. As a dancer I do enjoy watching the dance sequences that end all the Step Up movies, but thankfully I don’t have to endure the painful experience of their narratives thanks to the wonders of youtube. Basically the people behind Step Up should stick to making crazy cool dance shorts for youtube. There is your forte, so please stop polluting our cinemas with your stereotypical ‘storylines.’
The Bourne Legacy (17th August): What is probably my most outrageous and controversial pick for films to avoid, The Bourne Legacy makes this list for several reasons. Numero Uno is most definitely the lack of Matt Damon. Now, of course Jeremy ‘Hurt Locker‘ Renner isn’t playing Damon’s Jason Bourne, so it’s not exactly like he’s trying to steal Damon’s limelight. However, I just can’t help feeling that Bourne is one franchise that should have ended on a high note with the exquisite The Bourne Ultimatum. I can’t see what will be achieved by introducing Bourne’s ‘legacy’ in Jeremy Renner’s new character. According to the trailer ‘Jason Bourne was just the tip of the iceberg.’ Bourne may be the tip, but that also makes him the top and so extending his ‘legacy’ is only going to do more harm than good. I have a personal attachment to the first three Bourne films, so perhaps I’m being unfairly harsh on the franchise’s reboot. However, reason numero dos also sounds my alarm bells. If Doug Liman or Paul Greengrass had been back on board as director for this one I would have perhaps been more inclined towards it. However, they aren’t and stepping into their rather large shoes is Tony Gilroy. Gilroy acted as screenwriter on the previous three films, however as a director has only directed two films before; Michael Clayton and Duplicity. They were average films and thus I’m finding it hard to believe that The Bourne Legacy will be anything but average. And for that reason I am choosing to avoid it. To me The Bourne Legacy is not happening and the franchise ended where it should have with Greengrass’s brilliantly intense Ultimatum. I suggest you imagine the same.
The Expendables 2 (17th August): I didn’t see the first one. I don’t intend on seeing this one. I know all I need to from the painful trailer which was recently thrust at me on a visit to the cinema. It features every single action star known to man (Van Damme, Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Li, Norris, Stathem, Willis, and er, Djokovic….) in one giant hotpot of explosions, punches and ridiculous dialogue. I imagine this movie franchise was some poor chap’s wet dream and will unfortunately lack both comedy and intelligence so should therefore be avoided. Bringing too many stars together like this is just going to make the film ridiculous. It’s not big, and it’s not clever. SO JUST DON’T.
So there we have it folks. If you’ve made you’re way through all that, then I thank you for taking the time to read it all, and hopefully you’ll thank me when you make well informed cinema-going choices this summer. If I hear about any other films on the grapevine that I think deserve some air time I will post some more musings nearer to the actual summer, and stay tuned for my actual verdict on the summer’s big films in my reviews section.
In a few months I’ll also give you the low-down on Autumn/Winter 2012. Here’s a small preview: HOBBIT. HOBBIT. HOBBIT. GO SEE IT MY PRECIOUS.