Good morning friends! Do you know what today is? Nope, neither do I. But if you watched as much NBA basketball as I did this weekend you must also feel the sense of impending doom that permeated the commercial breaks. Cities on fire. Giant Robots. Chris Pratt, a Raccoon, and a Talking Tree. That’s right, it’s almost summer movie season.
Though it has become a more malleable time frame (I mean two “tentpole” releases, Divergent and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, have been out for weeks already), stretching now from the end of March to the end of September, the Summer Movie Season has generally been the slew of big action movies, rom-coms, sequels and comedies from May to August. This has become the classic movie release cycle (along with obvious holiday movies on the holidays and some Lord of the Rings sequel at Christmas) probably because Summer is when our brains are so cooked by the heat outside that we’ll actually agree to pay money to see Jaws 19.
With the sheer volume of movies coming out, it can’t hurt to have someone do a little bit of research for you. After scouring all the releases of the summer I’ve broken down a number of the releases into some easily categorized groups. Without further ado, here’s Funkhouser’s 2014 Summer Movie Guide!
Requisite Superhero-ish Blockbusters
Though not as star studded as next summer (Avengers 2, Batman vs. Superman) this summer has its fair share of superhero movies upcoming. Marvel already released the well regarded Captain America sequel, and in August they’ll release Guardians of the Galaxy (8/1), a space action adventure about a group of misfit heroes including a giant talking tree (voiced by Vin Diesel!) and a genetically advanced Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper!). Directed by James Gunn, this promises to be a sleeper hit of the summer and looks like the proverbial rollicking good time.
In other hero related media we’ve got the probably-going-to-be-terrible-thanks-for-that-Michael-Bay Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (8/8) reboot with Megan Fox as April O’Neal. As someone who grew up loving, LOVING TMNT (my bed spread was all turtles when I was a kid) I’m appalled at the new look and the seeming new direction of this movie. It looks terrible without even a little Vanilla Ice to spice it up. My expectations are low, so maybe it’ll end up exceeding them. You wouldn’t expect it, but my expectations are much higher for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s new version of Hercules (7/25). This movie looks like the epic, who cares about plot, action extravaganza that it ought to be. I can already tell that the one-liners in this movie are going to be epic; it’s going to be the movie that the Clash of the Titans remake always wanted to be.
Of course, this being Funkhouser, the superhero movie we’re most excited for is definitely X-Men: Days of Future Past (5/23). Blending the casts of the 2000’s X-Men trilogy with the younger cast from X-Men: First Class, this movie looks like it’s going to be fun and action-packed. Also, it has J-Law in it as Mystique. In blue body paint. Something I don’t think too many people are complaining about. The rest of the cast is also excellent with the always fantastic James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender reprising their roles. Also, Peter Dinklage (of Tyrion Lannister/Game of Thrones fame) shows up as Bolivar Trask, the main villain. The movie should be good and also, Peter Dinklage.
The city (comma) state Honorary Indie Movies
“Indie movies” have become a strange genre unto the themselves. The pretty much have to be quirky and generally have to be about people with definable “issues.” One of these actually seems to fit that broad categorization, and that would be The Fault in Our Stars (6/6). I can’t claim to have read the book and I know little about the story, but watching that trailer makes me think that they made a check-list of indie movie love story tropes and checked off every single box. No thanks.
Now one that looks like fun in Jon Favreau’s Chef (5/9). The Iron Man director has gathered all of his friends together (Jon Leguizamo, RDJ, Scarlett Johanssen, Dustin Hoffman, and Sofia Vergara) together to make this movie about a chef at a high-end restaurant who quits to open his own food truck. The performances look funny, the concept isn’t tired (yet), and my goodness does the food look good in this movie. Actually, give me a minute while I go get a taco. Mmmmmm taco. Anyway, the combination of great actors, a fresh concept, and the best in food porn photography makes this one a must-see in my book.
Another indie movie coming out with an interesting and fresh concept is Richard Linklater’s Boyhood (7/11). Filmed over a span of 13 years the movie (starring Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) follows a boy growing up in Texas. The movie is about his relationship with his parents, who are divorced, and how it grows as he ages through adolescence. Unlike some other indie movies, this one looks like it could be a very emotional and poignant film without treading the same tired cliches that haunt the genre. This could be a very affecting movie and one that I’m looking forward to seeing.
The “Yes, This is James Franco Radio” James Franco Movies
Ahh, the refreshing Summer actings of one James Edward Franco. While not nearly as prodigious a count of appearances as Summers past, there are still a couple of movies out there for those ravenous Francophiles. The first is the I-swear-I’m-Not-Pretentious movie version of his own book, Palo Alto (5/16). Based on stories about his adolescence, this movie is about high school kids in Palo Alto and their experiences with all of the things we’re told not to do i.e. sex, drugs, and/or rock n’ roll. Franco plays ‘Mr. B’, sounds deliciously mysterious!
There’s another movie called Good People (?) starring our boy and Kate Hudson, that has no release date and no trailer, but is purportedly going to be a summer release. It’s a suspense/thriller about a couple in debt in London and some crazy things they have to do to protect themselves, I guess? Who knows, could be ok, I guess. Franco!
The “Really, They Made Another One?” Group of Sequels
By far the largest contingent of films on this list, mostly because I’m wary of and don’t like most sequels. These are all movies that I’m either highly skeptical of, or down-right do not want to see. There are several unnecessary action sequels, first of all. The biggest of these is Transformers: Age of Extinction (6/27). For the fourth one, they’ve seemingly pulled out all the stops… the same stops they repeatedly have pulled out over the previous three movies. Though Mark Wahlberg is certainly an upgrade over Shia LeBeouf, the rest is par for the course. Autobots, Megatron as a gun, cute looking blonde girl screaming, city destruction, and Dinobots!
Other action sequels include Expendables 3 (8/15) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (8/22). Expendables is all about action excess and you know exactly what you’re going to get from that movie. The one interesting tid-bit, and a possible means by which this movie could elevate itself to a fun action romp, is that Kelsey Grammar (Fraiser!) is going to figure heavily in this one. If he’s a fly-fishing villain (I don’t know if he’s a villain, I just heard that rumored somewhere) who’s calm and still maniacal, this could actually be kind of cool. Sin City 2, on the other hand, feels like it’s going to be an attempt to make lightning strike twice. The same look, same noir-y feel with the same actors going over some hard-boiled crime novel territory. I liked the first one, but I’m not sure that I’m in for another helping. Also, not the biggest Joseph Gordon-Levitt fan (Robin?!? Robin!!! ERGGGHHH!!!).
There are also several of these sequels that, maybe, I’m not on board with because I never saw any of the other ones. This is the group that 22 Jump Street (6/13), The Purge: Anarchy (7/18), and Step Up: All In (7/25) fall into. Out of those three, 22 Jump Street has the most potential to be good. Another buddy comedy starring Jonah Hill and the surprisingly funny Channing Tatum could be funny. I even heard the first one was pretty good, it was just never a concept that struck the right chord with me. The other two, horror run rampant and dance movie danced rampant, don’t do anything for me. Something tells me that if you’ve seen The Purge or any of the Step Up movies, you know exactly what you’re going to get from these. If that’s your bag, you’re probably going to enjoy these movies. (Though in 8 months they’ll be on cable or Netflix so do you really want to spend $10 a ticket on that?)
The last group of sequels I’m not sold on is what I’m going to call the “Pay Us to Babysit Your Children” sequels. There are tons of these movies that come out all year, but the two highest profile ones are How To Train Your Dragon 2 (6/13) and Planes: Fire and Rescue (7/18). The first How to Train Your Dragon wasn’t bad (I have a little brother and tend to see most of these), but there have to be some original concepts out there that they could make instead, right? Sometimes, as an adult, the best you can expect from a kid’s movie is to not be bored. I think How to Train Your Dragon 2 could probably have enough elements that it won’t be the most painful experience you drag your kids to. The same can’t be said for Planes 2. The first Planes felt like Disney/Pixar’s contractual obligation film. It was lazy, boring, and tired. If that was true for the first one, I’m not sure how on earth they’ll have upgraded in time for the devolving concept to be interesting. Might as well just wait for the inevitable Planes: Municipal Utilities.