Sunday, 1 May 2011

Summer Preview

It will be quite the summer of big blockbusters yet again. I love brainless entertainment, but alas, way too many big-budgeted brainmelters tend to, well, suck. Here's my own, unaligned, view on whether this summer's films will be any good or whether they will make any money. They are arranged by the US opening date, so you should check just when are they actually released in your own home country.

May 6th

Director: Kenneth Branagh
Studio: Marvel, Paramount (distribution)

Verily, prepare for battle! Thor is probably my favorite Marvel character that hasn't been featured in a film yet. Although the character and his universe are brilliant, I can understand why it might be a hard sell for the reality- and technology-based superhero film industry.

Thor is the God of Thunder who fights wrongs with his enchanted Uru hammer Mjolnir at both his magical home world Asgard as well as in our home world Midgard. Thor also speaks in strange Shakespearean dialect, which probably sold the concept to world's biggest W.S. fanboy Kenneth Branagh. But alas, ye ol' trash talk has been considerably toned down for the movie. Initially I was also disappointed on the design of the film, as it looks nothing like the viking architecture. But I've since come to terms that it is more representative of Jack Kirby's art, so let's hope the story is also representative of the craziness of his battle scenes as well as the dialogue would be representative of Stan Lee's soap opera storytelling. The trailer looks pretty good, with kickass action and a suitable amount of humour for a film this crazy. The awesomeness extends to the casting as well, as we have Anthony Hopkins playing Odin (essentially the Jewish idea of God - vengeful, petty and easily enraged) and most deliciously Idris Elba playing the Norse warrior Heimdall.  The film will be worth seeing at least because that part of the casting will bug the hell out of some batshit insane neo nazis. Have at thee! Can we have Matt Damon, Danny Trejo and Steven Seagal as the Warriors Three in the sequel?

Predicted Stars: ****
Box Office Win/Fail?: Win!

May 20th

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Director: Rob Marshall
Studio: Disney

I didn't hate the PotC sequels as much as the rest of the world, yet I still don't carry much enthusiasm for another installment. At least this time around they aren't out to make the world's most expensive epic, which is a good start. The continuing misadventures of Jack Sparrow should allow for all sorts of adventures, and it's good that the franchise has gotten a fresh director to bring out a new vision. It's just a pity that that director of Rob Marshall, maker of... not really anything worth mentioning. Some crappy musicals and a racist melodrama, basically. Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio keep on scriptin'. I would and will only watch this for Ian McShane's performance as Blackbeard.

Predicted Stars: **
Box Office Win/Fail: Kids may still like the series, but I'll still go for Mildly Disappointing, here. 

May 27th

The Hangover: Part II
Director: Todd Phillips
Studio: Warner Bros.

Comedy sequels are usually not as funny as the first ones. As the first Hangover was based on various extremities, this can (and probably will) top it in that category and find some even more extreme antics for a boys night out. The setting in Bangkok strongly promises this. Let's hope it is still funny. The first one also had the advantage of being a sleeper hit, as this one is being advertized as a big hit from scratch. So it has that against it. Also, Zach Galifianakis has proved that he can be really, really irritating as well as funny and cuddly, so it's a fine line we're balancing here. Oh, and the celebrity cameos? They've really been done to death as a comedy form all ready. It doesn't work for New Simpsons episodes, I doubt it will work here.

Predicted Stars: ***
Box Office Win/Fail? Win.

Kung Fu Panda 2
Director: Jennifer Yuh
Studio: DreamWorks Animation

I liked the first one, but milking the franchise for too long is what ruined Shrek and it's initial film was better. Oh, DreamWorks. Will you ever learn?

Predicted Stars: **
Box Office Win/Fail?: Win. Folks like CGI critters.

June 3rd

X-Men: First Class
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Studio: 20th Century Fox

The X-Men movies have had a patchy history with movie executives, and the biggest fear concerning the latest installment is the fact that it was produced super-fast in a single year. Well, that and the series' weird continuity.  Nevertheless, Matthew Vaughn seems like a good bet to helm a superhero film, even though and because his last film was Kick-Ass, which took a hearty laugh at them. This also has a groovy premise, as it's the first Marvel film which takes place at the same time the original comic was published - in the swinging '60s.

The Hellfire Club is also a fascinating team of villains to have and they seem to be perfectly cast. Also Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy should have the right amount of charisma to pull off portraying the young Professor X and Magneto. But another problem is the series' odd fixation to throw as many mutants as possible to any given film. Now, it may give the film an epic quality, but the viewer can't really emotionally invest in too many heroes. And Havok, Banshee et al always seemed to be real C-list teammembers to me. I wonder why only Beast and Mystique are around from this "First Class" in the original X-trilogy. Could this film end with a surprising massacre?

Predicted Stars: ***
Box Office Win/Fail: Win at least in the toy merchandize business markets.

June 10th

Super 8
Director: J.J. Abrams
Studio: Paramount, Amblin

Abrams is a master in keeping the details of his blockbusters under wraps. It's true with this one as well. What is know is that the film is supposedly a throwback to the kid-friendly Amblin Entertainment films (produced and/or directed by Steven Spielberg). That's not a bad thing per se. But the title and the trailer reveal that this is another one in the line of mystery konster movies that don't interest me any more after Lost and Cloverfield. Abrams is a good director, and I'm willing to give him the benefit of a doubt, but I'm still not holding too high hopes on this.

Predicted Stars: ***
Box Office Win/Fail: I think this might be a surprise Fail. Other, bigger films, with which people know exactly what they're getting, might steal Super 8's thunder. Recent years have seen plenty of kid's adventure films fail anyway.

June 17th

Green Lantern
Director: Martin Campbell
Studio: Warner Bros.

DC has finally started to catch up on Marvel in bringing its characters on the big screen. After Batman and Superman, it is a good call to make a film about a character that has a small universe onto itself. Green Lantern (Ryan Reynolds) is a superhero that's part of an intergalactic Corps that fight evil with rings that can project anything. The problem with DC (compared to Marvel at least) is that most of its flagpole characters don't really have any personalities beyond their superpowers. Nothing could be more boring than their civilian identities. The same rings true with Green Lantern, who's just another big boyscout character. Thus, it seems they have had to steal the characteristics of Tony Stark to make GL a little more appealing for the movie. I'm not really sold on this one. But I like Ryan Reynolds as much as is allowed for a straight man, Martin Campbell can be a heck of a action director, and the idea of Space Interpol seems cool enough. It will be fun to see weird aliens dressed in Halloween costumes, at least. Let's hope for the best.

Predicted Stars: ***
Box Office Win/Fail?: The crazy alien worlds and merciless Iron Man copying might affect the film, and its marketing hasn't been up to task on the Marvel films, so I'm going to say it's going to go with Lukewarm.

June 24th

Cars 2
Directors: John Lasseter, Brad Lewis
Studio: Disney, Pixar

The least possible excitement I could probably get from an upcoming Pixar movie would be if they made a sequel to their single most (and only) unoriginal, obnoxious and boring film. Which is exactly what they did. I hate Cars and as much as I try to think about it, I can't really see how the sequel could one-up the predecessor Toy Story style. The franchise is ultimately flawed: the world is creepy, and supports excessive consumption and the characters as annoying and racist as the worst comic sidekicks George Lucas and Michael Bay ever imagined. I won't see myself watching this ever. The whole film also reeks of having been made while thinking about all the merchandizing money. I blame Disney executives, not Pixar. At least they'll deliver something genuinely interesting next year.

Predicted Stars: **
Box Office Win/Fail: Are you kidding me? It's probably the most profitable film of the year.

July 1st

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Director: Michael Bay
Studio: Di Bonanventura Pictures, Paramount

Bwa ha ha ha! The robots will have mullets this time!

Predicted stars: *
Box Office Win/Fail?: Win. People will go on paying for Michael Bay movies, no matter what he does that should keep them away.

July 15th

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Director: David Yates
Studio: Village Roadshow Pictures, Warner Bros.

I haven't really followed the films from Part 4 on. I feel the film versions only diminish the joy I got from reading them (once, I might add). So this is the last one in the slavishly faithful series so it probably should be the finale that the series deserves. The trailer looks fine and I heard Part I was decent too. Good for the people that have the patience for these movies. It's probably one of the biggest hits of the summer.

Predicted Stars: ***
Box Office Win/Fail: WIN

July 22nd

The First Avenger: Captain America
Director: Joe Johnston
Studio: Marvel, Paramount (distributor)

One has to wonder why this wasn't put out on the 4th of July? Did they think Transformers was too much of a threat. As I'm not American, Cap certainly isn't among my favorite Marvel heroes. He's too goody two-shoes when he should have the same flaws as America has - rudeness, nosiness, seriously right-wing by his philosophy, being overweight and fighting before thinking. Nevertheless, I became intrigued of this when it was revealed that his adventure takes place during WWII, when the character was first concieved. But then again, the film isn't allowed to use Nazis as villains as a visible Swastika would terminate the toy merchandize. The choice to put the blandest of bland directors Joe Johnston to direct this also doesn't fare well. At least the film has Tommy Lee Jones and Hugo Weaving.

Predicted Stars: **
Box Office Win/Fail?: Win in the US, Fail Internationally.

July 29th

Cowboys & Aliens
Director: Jon Favreau
Studio: Universal, DreamWorks

Besides Thor, my money for the most entertaining film of the summer is are on this film.  I love westerns and having Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford do one seems like a dream come true. To have some aliens thrown to the mix seems like the frosting on the cake. It really is just another one of those ridiculously awsome internet-spurned pairings, but hell if that doesn't seem like a good match. Harrison Ford hasn't been in a kick-ass movie since Air Force One, so he needs this (I'd say he did kick ass in the latest Indy, but the movie as a whole wasn't too hot). Daniel Craig isn't sure whether he'll play James Bond ever again so he needs this. Director Jon Favreau has fallen from the favour of Marvel so he needs this. If everyone involved will want this to be good, then it should bloody well be good, then.

Predicted Stars: ****
Box Office Win/Fail: This has a danger of not being based on any previous property, so it might be a hard sell. I do hope this has a quality that will sell the film, but I fear people will rather flock to see Transformers 3.

The Smurfs
Director: Raja Gosnell
Studio: Sony Pictures

Yawn. Another Alvin and the Chipmunks -style CGI- and live action mixture. Y'know. For kids. Everyone in Hollywood (and probably in America) seems to have forgotten the Smurfs lived in medieval times in the original comics, not modern. At least Hank Azaria seems oddly adapt for playing Gargamel. Expect a lot of jokes about farting (called "smurfing" this time) and blue pieces of shit.

Predicted Stars: *
Box Office Win/Fail: Win, as much as it pains me. I really don't trust audiences to go for quality, do I?

August 5th

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Studio: 20th Century Fox

Having the world come to an end and go on gritty and all rebooted led to good box office scores on The Terminator franchise. So naturally the Hollywood suits figured that they'd do the same to the Planet of the Apes. It's a reboot and gritty origin story. I would've rather had the musical version. I also myself believe that the Apes should've been left in the 60's and 70's. I really can't be bothered with this one. I have a feeling a lot of moviegoers think the same way about this.

Predicted Stars: **
Box Office Win/Fail: I really don't think this has too much going for it. Fail.

August 19th

Conan the Barbarian
Director: Marcus Nispel
Studio: Lionsgate, Nu Image, Millennium Films, Paradox Entertainment

"Conan the Barbarian 2011" is actually the #1 searchword with which people come across this blog. So I promise here and now to do a review of the film when it opens. That being said, I still haven't gotten my hopes up. It's not a bad choice to close the summer period, at least if you're like me and enjoy brutal barbarians steal precious diamonds, attract skimpy-dressed ladies and fight monsters.

Predicted Stars: **
Box Office Win/Fail?: As it has no big stars, no big sale, and it has alienated the fanbase with its wussy PG-13 rating, I'm going to think the box office will only be good if the film is very good. And I have my doubts.

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