In years past, I have used this space to offer my summer box office predictions. I shall no longer do that, having thoroughly embarrassed myself and proven that I have absolutely no concept of what will or will not be popular.
This speaks to the disconnect between me and summer movies, I think. There’s something inside of me yet that still honestly enjoys the concept of a big tentpole movie, getting all excited for it, being in a crowded theater opening night, and so on, and so forth. And yet, when I encounter anyone who waxes enthusiastic about this year’s summer slate, all I can think is, “really?” Lord knows it doesn’t look to have as many flat-out awful films as last year, but there’s not a single blessed thing that I’m actually looking forward to. Even the Pixar film this year doesn’t look like it can possibly be enjoyable. Maybe it’s the effect of having too many big summer releases (remember back in the ’90s, when there were five or six films every season that were the Big Events? And now there’s one every damn week). Maybe it’s CGI fatigue.
God, I hope it’s not just that I’m getting old.
Anyway, the films of May, including the one single solitary movie for this whole four-month wasteland that I am, unabashedly, excited for.
For several years now, the first Friday in May has been given to the big Marvel Studios release; and this year, that would seem to be Thor, in which Marvel’s take on the Norse god is given the red carpet treatment. Thing is, and no offense to the folks who adore the Thor comics (he was my dad’s favorite character in the Marvel stable back in the ’70s, for starters), doesn’t it seem a little bit like Captain America is actually going to be the big Marvel film of the year? Whereas all the good buzz out of Australia and the UK cannot convince me that those fucking awful trailers are hiding a great film in Thor, nor that we should expect a decent superhero movie from director Kenneth Branagh, whose instincts have been fairly consistently wrong for 15 years now – and if you’re not all that fond of his Hamlet, I won’t quibble if we say that his last good movie behind the camera was his debut, Henry V, all the way back in 1989. Not the dude I’d put in charge of my massively expensive franchise-starter, is all I’m saying.
In counter-programming, we’ve got the de rigeur romantic comedy, Something Borrowed, whose advertising makes it look like a parody of everything wrong with the genre: the rival who is a terrible harridan, the sarcastic male friend who gets to hog all of the jokes, Ginnifer Goodwin. I kid Ms. Goodwin, who has only been in 11 movies; but doesn’t it seem like she’s ubiquitous in these things?
Also: Jumping the Broom, another film born of the cynical, and yet hardly unsupportable belief that there needs to be “special” movies for black people, because white people won’t watch “normal” movies with black casts. For my part, Paula Patton and Loretta Devine are two actresses that I admire enough that in all honesty, I’m kind of more excited for this than for Thor.
Limited release: Can Jodie Foster redeem Mel Gibson? Probably not, but it shall be fun to watch them flailing about in the wildly concept-ey The Beaver anyway.
The saddest weekend of the summer, when studios dump their most embarrassingly unmarketable misfire. This year, it’s Priest, another cod-religious horror thriller from the director and star of the deathless Legion; it feels like the trailers have been out for about nine years, and never once made this look like it was even a little bit watchable.
Certain to be at least somewhat better, Bridesmaids finds the Apatow Group making its first movie with a female protagonist, and won’t that be interesting to see? Possibly, given that the producer and his merry men have been silent for nearly a full year, the better to let us rest from their briefly unavoidable shtick, and that the excellent Kristen Wiig is in the lead (though this has not so far helped any of the Tina Fey-led comedies).
On the smaller side of things, Will Ferrell tries his hand at quiet indie dramedy again, this time as a recently fired, recently divorced man selling his whole life in a tag sale: Everything Must Go. It’s a Raymond Carver adaptation, though, so it’s not worth writing off sight-unseen.
It disappoints me when a weekend is flat-out conceded ages before the fact; another reason not to love summer. If you don’t want to see the one big release, you get no other options. And boy howdy, do I not want to see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which adds Ian McShane to the cast, and removes Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, and both of these are choices I can be excited about; but then the trailer comes along and is just a string of tedious-looking moments strung together. And with Gore Verbinski stepping down for director Rob Marshall, who hasn’t yet met a property he couldn’t ruin, my enthusiasm is not high.
Also: new Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris. Some of us will go to the new Woody Allen movie in the face of all reason, because that’s what we do. We deserve only the contempt of other people.
Sequel vs. sequel showdown! One is a cartoon about erratic characters doing exactly what they did the last time around, and the other is Kung Fu Panda 2. Oh, I do have fun with The Hangover, Part II, but seriously: this looks like a profound mistake. It shall rake in money, no doubt, but when the ads rely to such an obscene degree on characters flat-out stating “wow, this reminds me of last time”, you’ve done something wrong. Check this out, scroll down to #2. Fucking eerie, right? Anyway, it’s going to suck on toast, though Kung Fu Panda 2 honestly is the sequel that has both the most reason to be and the best chances for recapturing the spirit of the original – the first honest-to-God good film in DreamWorks Animation’s CG years, no less – of any sequel in this sequel besotted year.
That one movie I said I was unabashedly excited for, by the way? You’ve probably already guessed I was talking about Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life.