Happy Fourth of July everyone! Before jumping into this month’s movies, I wanted to plug a new app gaining some buzz that effortlessly enables my movie addiction. Top Movies – A Zoomable Timeline of Movies by Edward Marks (free on iOS), lays out an interactive list of films from the past 100 years in an easily searchable stream. I’ve been using it to keep track of new releases each month, which was especially useful in the packed month of June. 22 Jump Street led the month’s box office take followed by the loathsome Transformers. The Edge of Tomorrow and Emily Blunt reminded us of the potential for female action stars (not that audiences forgot, but sometimes studios lose track). How to Train Your Dragon 2 and The Rover were greeted with moderate praise (for very different reasons) and They Came Together appears to have been largely forgotten.
JUNE’S MOST ANTICIPATED FILMS:
1. Life Itself
Release Date: July 4, 2014
Director: Steve James (Hoop Dreams (1994), Prefontaine (1997))
One of the most influential film figures of all time (and maybe the most influential person not standing behind a camera or penning scripts), Roger Ebert’s influence on film is inescapable. For me, tracking down Ebert’s reviews (thank you internet), books and articles not only demonstrated that it is possible to invest a life in film but was also the start of my personal investment. This site’s very first blog review featuring 12 Years A Slave mentioned Ebert’s views on Goodfellas (1990), hoping to use his theories as a guide. Since that first day, this site has referenced Ebert several more times including in a post accepting blog awards where I mentioned getting “DVDs in the mail and listen[ing] to Roger Ebert’s commentary on the movies every day after school. I remember listening to him break down Citizen Kane while my brothers played outside like well-adjusted children,” and later in my review of The Wolf of Wall Street I expressed my love for “Scorsese by Ebert,” a book in which my favorite movie critic discusses the films of my favorite director. Needless to say, I will be in the theaters early and often for this film.
2. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Release Date: July 11, 2014
Director: Matt Reeves (Cloverfield (2008))
Starring: Andy Serkis, Keri Russell, Jason Clarke, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Gary Oldman, Judy Greer
Discussions about misused nostalgia aside, the recent reincarnation of The Planet of the Apes series has proven to be a worthwhile reboot (let’s save ourselves the grief of revisiting other failed reboots like RoboCop (2014), The Lone Ranger (2013), Red Dawn (2012), The Karate Kid (2010), Godzilla (1998), and the countless horror revisions like Evil Dead (2013), Straw Dogs (2011), Prom Night (2008), etc. etc. etc.). But don’t forget that when it comes to The Planet of the Apes series, we all (more or less) love Mose’s 1968 original with one hand, while we tacitly agree to hide the later ventures of the Original Series behind our backs. With the great Gary Oldman on board along with Jason Clarke (who delivered one of my favorite recent movie lines, seen here at the beginning of the Zero Dark Thirty trailer), this second installment aims to push the series forward, avoiding the reboot junk bin.
Release Date: July 25, 2014
Director: Brett Ratner (Horrible Bosses (2011), Prison Break (2005), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), 21 (2008))
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, John Hurt, Ian McShane
Nothing is certain when it comes to new releases, but I can say with maximum confidence that there is almost no way this movie can be as bad as this years first Hercules movie. While The Legend of Hercules was aggressively terrible, there’s a strong chance this twin film will be an equal dose of spectacular. Literally, the only reason I make this claim is the presence of Dwayne Johnson who has arms like legs and legs like people. Early evidence suggests that The Rock is approaching critical mass, somehow eclipsing his Pain and Gain (2013) physique. Vegas reports there is a 68% chance that Johnson can arm curl this year’s other Hercules (don’t fact check that).
Release Date: July 25, 2014
Director: Luc Besson (screenwriter/producer for Taken 1-3, Transporter 2 and 3, Columbiana,
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi
Take another look at Besson’s resume. This man has been involved in some serious actions movies. Taken and Transporter? With Scarlett Johansson taking the lead, this movie may reach The Expendables (2010) level of man-appeal. More importantly, Lucy continues the legacy of strong female roles in action movies (see Emily Blunt). Also, Scarlett Johansson may be the most referenced person on this site, which is surprising because I’m still on the fence as to whether or not I like her at all (before Her, I was in the small anti-Scarlett camp. I haven’t seen many likable performances from her since then but the memory of that movie still holds strong.
5. Earth To Echo
Release Date: July 2, 2014
Director: Dave Green
Starring: Teo Halm, Astro, Reese C. Hartwig, Ella Wahlstedt
Appearing to be a mix between Chronicle (2012) and Super 8 (2011), this movie will likely suffer from its cast of mostly child actors. Some movies, like Sandlot (1993), succeed through sheer charm of their actors alone but this movie doesn’t look to chase down that path. The movie will likely be forgotten soon after release but I can always support plots of this vein.
MOST EMOTIONALLY CONFUSING:
The Purge: Anarchy
Release Date: July 18, 2014
Director: James DeMonaco
Starring: Frank Grillo, Zach Gilford, Michael Kenneth Williams, Carmen Ejogo
At first glance this movie, and its predecessor, look terrible. Okay, maybe that holds true on second, third and fourth glances. But on that fifth glance, I can start to convince myself there is something worthwhile under the shameless violence. But really, the shameless violence is what drives the movie. The crux of the concept rests on the question “what would you do if nothing was illegal?” expanding to “what would you do if you could do whatever you wanted?” More respectable outlets have explored this concept with fewer skull masks and burning buses. Maybe The Purge is our modern world’s way of approaching this question. Or maybe it’s just an excuse to watch gratuitous, machete-wielding, shock-inducing violence.
Planes: Fire and Rescue
Release Date: July 18, 2014
Director: Bobs Gannaway
Starring: Dane Cook, Julie Bowen, Ed Harris, Regina King,
Our first sign of bad tidings is the cast featured. All are respectable but the movie doesn’t feature the power-hitters of most animated movies. The second bad sign is that while this looks to be another Pixar fueled Cars-esque film, this is actually a Disney stand-alone movie and Pixar’s hands aren’t involved in the quilting. John Lasseter may have written the story and the characters may appear to be extremely Pixar-y looking but the spirit of Wall-E (2008), Toy Story (1995) and Up (2009) appears to be noticeably absent. Finally, the fact that this movie is a sequel to a spin-off of one of Pixar’s least admired films firmly lands the movie in the “Least Anticipated” bin.
2014 Overall List:
Most Anticipated Film of 2014: X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Least Anticipated Film of 2014: Winter’s Tale
Thanks for reading!