Don’t look now, but the summer movie season starts … well, actually, it's already begun. Seriously: It kicked off when Thor opened at theaters and drive-ins everywhere. But, truth to tell, I’m much more keyed up to sample 10 other warm-weather releases. And not all of them are standard-issue Hollywood blockbusters.
In order of their release dates, they are:
Everything Must Go — Will Ferrell’s effectively subtle and affectingly sincere performance in 2006’s criminally underrated Stranger Than Fiction indicated his ability to work in a (relatively) serious vein. So I’m eager to see how he handles what appears to be an even more demanding role in this dramedy based on a Raymond Carver short story, about a chronic screw-up who comes home one day to find his wife has locked him out of their house, cut off his credit cards, and dumped all his possessions onto the front lawn.
The sad sack responds by stocking up on beer, planting himself in a chair – and throwing the mother of all yard sales. (Friday)
Midnight in Paris — Over the years, Woody Allen has employed actors as diverse as Michael Caine (Hannah and Her Sisters), Kenneth Branagh (Celebrity) and Larry David (Whatever Works) to serve as his on-screen doppelgangers. In his latest film, however, Allen boldly goes where no Allen film has gone before by casting Texas native Owen Wilson, of all people, as his alter ego. No kidding.
As the Woodman admitted to Entertainment Weekly, the dude-ish, dreamy-voice Wilson “seems like he’d be more natural with a surfboard in his hand.” So it’ll be interesting to see how Wilson pulls off his lead role as an author whose life is dramatically transformed while he’s vacationing in Paris with his fiancée (Rachel McAdams). (May 20)
The Hangover, Part II — Can director Todd Phillips make lightning strike twice? As a major fan of the 2009 hit comedy that inspired this sequel, I’m dearly hoping for another wild and raunchy romp that will keep me laughing at the top of my lungs for a couple of hours. (May 26)
Super 8 — The first teaser trailer got me stoked, but the creative talents – director J.J. Abrams (Star Trek), producer Steven Spielberg – got me hooked. The plot has something to do with small-town teenagers making an amateur movie, and something else to do with an apprehended extraterrestrial that breaks free after a massive train wreck. It’s set in 1979 – and it looks pretty damn spectacular. (June 10)
Larry Crowne — Fifteen years after his debut effort as a feature filmmaker — 1996’s disarmingly charming That Thing You Do! — Tom Hanks once again does duty as director and actor while reuniting with Julia Roberts (his Charlie Wilson’s War co-star) for a dramedy about attractive opposites: He’s a can-do optimist, recently laid off from his job at a big-box retailer, who enrolls at a junior college to improve his career prospects, and she’s an ill-tempered professor who’s increasingly dissatisfied with her work and her marriage.
Will they bring out the best in each other? I sure hope so. (July 1)
Horrible Bosses — Jennifer Aniston in an image-shattering role as a sexually aggressive dentist who blackmails a male employee (Charlie Day of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) into getting horizontal? Man, I am so there. (July 8)
Captain America: The First Avenger — As the flammable Johnny Storm (a.k.a. The Human Torch) in two Fantastic Four flicks, Chris Evans struck me as an exhilarating exception to the rule regarding most super heroes in most comic book movies: He actually enjoyed being able to do derring-do.
For that reason alone, I want to see his take on another notable in the Marvel Comics universe, the shield-slinging, butt-kicking Captain America, in a movie that dramatizes the character’s salad days as a WWII-era scientifically enhanced commando. Another promising sign: The film was directed by Joe Johnston, who demonstrated a flair for pitting all-American comic-book heroes against dastardly Nazi bad guys two decades ago in The Rocketeer. (July 22)
Cowboys & Aliens — When the lovely and talented Jen Yamato of Movieline.com asked what summer movie I’m most geeked about seeing, I didn’t hesitate to admit that Cowboys & Aliens is at the very top of my must-see list. Actually, I was already excited even before I interviewed several folks connected with the film while researching my upcoming cover story for (no kidding) Cowboys & Indians magazine.
But something co-scriptwriter Alex Kurtzman said really boosted the must-see quotient for me: “What we’ve done, essentially, is set up this very serious, very stark, very dangerous world with all the conventions that apply to a traditional Western. And into the middle of that world, we drop aliens — and then have people react the way people in that world would have reacted.”
All that plus the spectacle of James Bond (Daniel Craig) riding hard and slapping leather alongside Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford). Cowabunga. (July 29)
One Day — Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, two of the most attractive talents working in movies today, are the well-nigh irresistible main attractions in a movie — directed by Lone Scherfig (An Education) — that sounds a bit like a contemporary reprise of Same Time, Next Year. (It’s actually an adaptation of a critically acclaimed novel by David Nicholls, but still …)
Every July 15 over a 20-year period, former college classmates Emma (Hathaway) and Dexter (Sturgess) get together to talk about how their lives and careers are progressing (or stalling). I’m going to go way out on a limb and predict that, sooner or later, they opt to spend a lot more time with each other. (Aug. 19)
The Debt — It’s a thriller about retired Mossad agents forced to re-evaluate a 30-year-old mission, and it’s directed by John Madden of Shakespeare in Love fame. But, really, they had me as soon as they said Helen Mirren was one of the stars.
Yes, I admit it: That is all it takes to, ahem, arouse my interest. (Aug. 31)