Thursday, May 3, 2012

Summer Movie Preview Spectacular! Part Three - "The Dark Knight Rises," "Amazing Spider-Man," "Bourne Legacy," and more!

This Friday, the summer movie season officially kicks off with the release of Marvel’s “The Avengers,” and it’s shaping up to be one of the most exciting film calendars in recent memory.  To help you navigate the storm of blockbusters on the horizon, I’ve put together a comprehensive guide to all the major releases hitting screens over the next four months, publishing over three days exclusively on

Today, the preview concludes with a look at all the releases for the months of July and August, complete with posters, embedded movie trailers, and my thoughts on the hype behind each film.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this feature, and have tons of fun at “The Avengers” this weekend!

Read the Summer Movie Preview Spectacular! Part Three After the jump…

 The Amazing 
Release Date: July 3rd

Directed by Marc Webb; Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, and Sally Field

I reserve the right to wind up hating this film, because even the things that have me excited could go disastrously wrong, but for now, “The Amazing Spider-Man” is one of my most anticipated films of the summer.  I don’t object one iota to rebooting the Spider-Man series; comic-books start new runs or alternate continuities all the time, and much as I love the Raimi films, I don’t think they’re sacred.  Starting over gives the filmmakers a chance to simultaneously move the character back towards his comic-book roots (mechanical web shooters, Gwen Stacey, sarcastic wit, etc.) while striking out in unexpected new directions (Peter diving into his parent’s history).  Marc Webb hasn’t directed a blockbuster before, by his debut feature, “500 Days of Summer,” showcases so much of what I’d like to see in a Spider-Man film: interesting visuals, strong comic timing, wonderful character work, creative pacing, and more.  If he can effectively direct action, then he’s good to go, and he get bonus points right out of the gate for his impeccable casting: Andrew Garfield is a great young actor who seems perfectly suited to play Peter Parker (though I still really, really wish the role had been given to “Community” star Donald Glover, who fans petitioned to get an audition before racism won another day), and I can’t think of another actress working today more fit to play Gwen than Emma Stone.  Again, the film could go south in a hurry, but until we know for sure, I have high hopes for this one. 

Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D
Release Date: July 4th

Directed by Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz; Starring Katy Perry

The latest in a string of concert/biographical documentaries about modern pop stars, in the same vein as the Miley Cyrus and Justin Beiber movies.  The difference is that I’ll probably see this one, because while I’m ashamed to admit it, Perry is a guilty pleasure of mine.  Her music isn’t good, per se, but when I need substance-free pop as my work soundtrack, something I can listen to without engaging any of my mental faculties, I enjoy her stuff.  And much as people enjoy making fun of Perry, I don’t think she’s ever given the world a reason to dislike her; she can be perfectly charming and funny in public or during TV appearances, and she always seems to be in on the joke her music naturally creates.  As for paying to see a film about her, it helps that she’s gorgeous, often scantly clad, and will be presented in 3D.  Just sayin’.

Ice Age 4: Continental Drift
Release Date: July 13th 

Directed by Steve Martino and Mike Thurmeier; Starring Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, and Peter Dinklage

I have nothing against the “Ice Age” series – it’s innocuous enough, not offensively bad like many of the DreamWorks franchises – but I’ve also lost every shred of interest I once had.  The original film was something genuinely special, but the sequels felt like cheap direct-to-video knock-offs at best, and I have no creative expectations whatsoever for Part 4.  But I’m sure the kids will enjoy it, Sid will be just as endearingly silly as ever, disgusting amounts of money will be made at the box office, and as long as they don’t do another story about dinosaurs in the ice age (seriously, WTF?), children may actually learn something about prehistoric nature.  Personally, the only thing that might get me into the theatre is the presence of Peter Dinklage as the film’s villain.  I don’t normally go for celebrity casting in animated films but….have you seen Game of Thrones this season?  Seriously.  Peter Dinklage is awesome. 

Release Date: July 13th

Directed by Seth MacFarlane; Starring Mark Whalberg, Mila Kunis, and Seth MacFarlane

I gave up on Family Guy a long time ago, and I’ve disliked everything else MacFarlane has done in his career, but “Ted” could turn out to be a pleasant surprise.  I have no idea whether or not it can sustain a feature film, but the premise is actually creative, something that can’t be said about so many MacFarlane productions.  A young boy’s teddy bear is magically brought to life and stays with him to adulthood, where the boy is now played by Mark Whalberg and the bear, Ted, is a foul-mouthed stoner getting in the way of Wahlberg’s long-term relationship with Mila Kunis.  I love Whalberg in comedy mode, and I’ll watch Kunis in just about anything, so that alone gets me on board, but I also like what I’m seeing so far of Ted himself.  He sounds just like any given Family Guy character, yes, but with a personality and edge that seems more interesting (or, at least, less tired and worn out) to me than Peter, Brian, or Stewie.  This is going to be a major test for MacFarlane.  If he can turn this fun premise into a cohesive, entertaining narrative, he’ll prove he has what it takes to be a filmmaker; if it turns out to be a string of unrelated pop culture non-sequiters, then I honestly can’t see audiences responding, and he’ll just have to go back to Family Guy until that horse has been beaten to death.  But for now, I’m hesitantly looking forward to this one. 

The Dark Knight Rises
Release Date: July 20th

Directed by Christopher Nolan; Starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman,
Morgan Freeman, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Do I really need to explain this one?  It’s easily my most anticipated film of the summer, and were it not for Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit,” of the year as well.  Naming “The Dark Knight” the best film of 2008 was the easiest top-ten list choice I’ve ever made, and it remains one of my all-time favorite movies, so to say I’m psyched for “The Dark Knight Rises” is an understatement.  Everything we’re seeing so far only makes me more excited.  Bane and Catwoman are fantastic choices of villains, with Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway providing note-perfect casting, and Nolan’s insistence on positioning this as a definitive end to the series means there will be real stakes to every inch of the finished product.  That’s something so rare in blockbuster filmmaking these days, but as we know, Christopher Nolan has never enjoyed playing by the rules.  Add in all the excellent returning cast members and a full-hour of IMAX footage, and I can barely believe this is actually happening.

Oh, and the new trailer they just released – embedded below – is one of the single greatest film trailers I have EVER seen.  The quiet, the reserve, the sense of calm before an earth-shattering storm…there is something ethereally beautiful about this trailer, and it’s made me even MORE excited than I was just a few days ago.  July 20th can’t come soon enough. 

Neighborhood Watch
Release Date: July 27th

Directed by Akiva Schaffer; Starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and Richard Ayoade

Four lazy neighborhood watch volunteers band together to defend their homes from an alien invasion.  Hilarity (and explosions) ensues.  Wow.  What a creative premise.  In case my sarcasm isn’t coming across, let me put it this way: “Neighborhood Watch” looks like either a boring retread of many tired comedy tropes or a middle-aged-white-person remake of “Attack the Block.”  Either way, I’m not interested.  I like Jonah Hill, but this doesn’t look like a particularly good project for the newly-minted Oscar nominee, and it’s been a long time since I liked anything Stiller or Vaughn were involved with.

The Bourne Legacy
Release Date: August 3rd 

Directed by Tony Gilroy; Starring Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Joan Allen, and Albert Finney

This, on the other hand?  Oh hell yeah.  The Jason Bourne series is one of my all-time favorites, and alongside “Toy Story,” it stands as one of only two trilogies where I feel that every film is better than the last.  “Ultimatum” was a perfect conclusion to Jason’s story, and for that reason, I’ve never wanted a sequel.  Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass apparently agreed, and refused to come back for a fourth go-round.  Now, I would normally be wary of Universal continuing without the franchise’s key creative forces, but I think they’ve found a spectacular solution that should keep audiences satisfied and money pouring in: Tony Gilroy, who wrote all the “Bourne” films as well as writing and directing “Michael Clayton” and “Duplicity” – both of which I really, really like – pens and helms this spin-off project, in which Treadstone reacts to the events of the original Bourne trilogy and Jeremy Renner steps in as a new Jason-esque agent, Aaron Cross.  I have complete faith in Gilroy, Renner is a fantastic actor, and Edward Norton’s presence as the antagonist excites me to no end, so I’ve been on board for months.  The stylish poster and clever teaser trailer only solidified my anticipation.  There’s a possibility this could crash and burn without Damon or Greengrass, but for now, I’m actually surprised at how much I’m looking forward to this.  

Total Recall
Release Date: August 3rd 

Directed by Len Wiseman; Starring Colin Farrell, 
Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale, Bill Nighy, and Bryan Cranston

I’ve never seen the original “Total Recall,” never read Philip K. Dick’s short story, and know very little about this project, so my opinion here is probably useless.  If a director more proven than Len Wiseman – who does solid studio work but not much else – were attached, I would be excited just to see how they handle Dick’s cinematically tricky work, but as it stands, I don’t know what to make of this project yet.  It’s got a really great cast and the trailer exhibits some interesting visuals, but will this wind up as something fresh and fascinating, or a generic studio actioner?  Time will tell.

The Campaign
Release Date: August 10th

Directed by Jay Roach; Starring Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis

None of the people involved in this project have proven themselves infallible, but they’ve all earned the benefit of the doubt, and the premise is so irresistibly timely that I’m definitely looking forward to this one.  Ferrell and Galifianakis play rival politicians trying to win a House of Representatives seat in North Carolina, and though that’s not a premise that can sustain two solid hours of comedy, if they add some potent (or, better yet, insightful) political commentary into the mix, this should be very fun.  I expect Ferrell and Galifianakis to play off each other well, and Roach is a great choice for director.  Between “Austin Powers” and “Meet the Parents,” his comedy chops aren’t in question, and with two HBO political dramas under his belt, I’m sure he’ll also have something sharp to say about American politics.  With the November election sure to be a disgusting dog fight on absolutely every level, we’re going to need laughs to hold back the pain, and “The Campaign” may give us just that. 

The Expendables 2
Release Date: August 17th

Directed by Simon West; Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger

Despite loving Sylvester Stallone and a lot of the action stars assembled on screen, I didn’t like the first “Expendables,” and the sequel looks like more of the same in every possible way, except with Norris and Van Damme added into the mix (cool!) and Stallone out of the director’s chair (Boo!).  That last part really does worry me, because Stallone is a fantastic director, and with a better script, there’s no reason he couldn’t drastically improve on the original.  Simon West – of “Con Air” and “Laura Craft” – inspires no confidence in me.  We haven’t seen any real footage yet, with the marketing focusing almost exclusively on the ‘names’ assembled, and that’s not nearly enough to get me interested. 

Release Date: August 17th

Directed by Sam Fell and Chris Butler; Starring Kodi Smitt-McPhee, Casey Affleck,
John Goodman, Jeff Garlin, Bernard Hill, Anna Kendrick, and Leslie Mann

I hope I live to see at least one American stop-motion animated film that isn’t a supernatural, Burton-esque, mainstream-alienating family horror film, but in all fairness, “ParaNorman” looks like a pretty darn good supernatural, Burton-esque, mainstream-alienating family horror film.  The film revolves around Norman, a young social outcast who can see dead people (yeah, yeah, I know) and must save his town when it is attacked by the undead.  This is the same team that did “Coraline,” one of my favorite films of 2009, the animation looks gorgeous, I like the voice cast, and from what I’ve seen so far, the movie has a lot of heart.  The only thing seriously working against “ParaNorman” so far is how derivative it looks – I don’t have a sense yet of any original ‘hook’ in the film – but if it’s good, I’m perfectly willing to ignore that. 

Premium Rush
Release Date: August 24th

Directed by David Koepp; Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon,
Jamie Chung, and Dania Ramirez

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as a New York bicycle messenger who must use all his cycling skills to outrun a corrupt cop looking to get his hands on Levitt’s latest pick-up, a mysterious envelope.  With a premise so inherently prone to silliness, this could easily be terrible, but if it works, it could also be pretty awesome.  The trailer showcases some legitimately cool cycling choreography, and I’m excited to see Levitt, who just gets better with each movie he’s in, and Shannon, such a great villainous performer, go head to head.  The real question mark here is David Koepp, who’s had an admirably long career writing a lot of very solid studio films without directing anything particularly notable (or profitable).  This is one of the bigger shots he’s ever had in the director’s chair, and if he pulls it off, I would both like and expect to see more of him in the future. 

Release Date: August 31st

Directed by John Hillcoat; Starring Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke,
Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, and Guy Pearce

Formerly titled “The Wettest County in the World,” then just “The Wettest County,” and now “Lawless,” John Hillcoat’s latest drama chronicles three brothers running a bootlegging business in prohibition-era Virginia.  I respected Hillcoat’s last film, “The Road,” more than I actually liked it, but he’s undoubtedly a strong visual craftsman, he’s working with a great cast - hello Jessica Chastain! It’s been like three whole months since we last saw you! – and there’s plenty of dramatic potential in the premise.  Color me cautiously optimistic about this one. 

What are you excited for this summer?  What are you dreading?  Are you already in line for "The Avengers?" Sound off in the comments!

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