At the one month mark, the summer report card is looking pretty decent, I daresay. It’s already better than 2013, for damn certain, and we haven’t even gotten to some of the most promising releases of the season. And June in particular has a high concentration of such movies. In my estimation, at least.
Let’s not start out with one of those, though. The Fault in Our Stars is based on a hugely popular YA novel that has gotten those “even as an adult reader, I loved this book” reviews that pass for literary culture in the West nowadays. I confess: I made it three chapters in, concluded that it was not a book for me, and that rather than push myself to complete something that I’d be seeing onscreen anyway (really, is there any chance of it not winning the box office race this weekend?), I’d just put it away and be glad that lots of people with different needs from my own have received pleasure from it. That being said, I couldn’t possibly be looking forward to it any less, particularly given my dim view of Shailene Woodley’s acting ability.
But ignore my thoughts anyway, because what I am looking forward to is Edge of Tomorrow, a Tom Cruise sci-fi picture. Like, honestly and truly, I have high hopes. High-ish. Anyway, sometimes you want to see well-designed mechas exploding, and sometimes you really want them to do so while pretty people have photogenic dirt on their faces. And with Cruise and Emily Blunt headlining, this will surely do that.
Amidst the usual numbers of arthouse releases, we find the first U.S. screenings of Borgman, a movie that I would enthusiastically and urgently push everyone to see – I caught it at the Chicago International Film Festival last year, and barring something extraordinarily surprising, you’ll be seeing it on my 2014 Top 10. So please, check it out.
Two sequels to two genuinely delightful originals, both of them representing very different question marks. In the case of 22 Jump Street, is it possible that it can possibly re-capture the energy of the first movie, when it cannot have the same sense of surprise to it? If it comes even close, though, that means that directors Phil Miller and Christopher Lord will be 4-for-4 making great comedies from dodgy concepts, and will officially be on my list of filmmakers that I will follow to the ends of the earth. Then we have How to Train Your Dragon 2, the sequel to DreamWorks Animation’s best film to date, with one-half of its authorial team returning, and while I feel like I should be excited, I can’t help but feel like the ad campaign is selling me a movie I don’t want: one that’s longer on vistas and epic storytelling than character and sweetly bent humor, the things that made the first one so great. Time will tell, but for right now there’s nothing all summer – all year! – that I’m anticipating with such a mix of enthusiasm and ambivalence.
Think Like a Man was surprisingly charming and all, but Think Like a Man Too – fuck that title, incidentally – seems like a willfully bad idea. Getting all that chemistry to work a second time, when the plot clearly involves broader, wackier comedy (pro-tip: going to Vegas is never a creatively fresh idea), seems entirely impossible, and while it will undoubtedly make a huge pile of money, I can’t imagine it being half as good. But stranger things have happened.
Like Clint Eastwood making a musical. Even as “blue collar guys” a musical as the film adaptation of the quintessential jukebox musical hit Jersey Boys. I’ll see it – I’ll see it opening night, probably – but if it’s even tolerably good, I’ll be shocked.
Limited release: I wasn’t able to see Norte, the End of History at all during its festival run last year, but I’m eager to catch up with it; 250 minutes is the kind of running time that zips past “dear God, that’s too long” right back into “okay, I have to see what that’s all about”. And while I feel like Roman Polanksi’s career is in its irreversible wind-down phase, his latest, Venus in Furs, is out for anyone who cares.
Now the robots transform into dinosaurs. Give Michael Bay your money.
In terms of sci-fi for humans with souls, brains, or just a desire not to be pummeled into fatigue by sound design, the untampered-with version of Snowpiercer by the endlessly reliable Korean director Bong Joon-ho starts its “buried by Harvey Weinstein” micro-tour of North America this weekend. And it is unquestionably the film I am most excited for all summer, assuming it actually makes it to theaters outside of New York and Los Angeles.