For the last month I have carried a heavy burden of guilt and self-doubt. At times I considered writing a post to specifically address this issue but I was too nervous, too apprehensive. Honestly, I hoped the entire issue would just disappear. Unfortunately it lingers and weighs heavily on my mind the way Batman Forever sinks the filmography of Tommy Lee Jones. So it is time internet. Time I finally confess my sins. One month ago I applied my usual diligence in preparing the month’s Flashforward. In preparation, I perused the usual new release websites, watched dozens of trailers and came up with what I thought was a respectable list. And that turned out to be mostly true. Life Itself received far-reaching praise for its depiction of Roger Ebert’s life and death. Hercules was what we thought it was. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes turned out to be-actually I haven’t seen it yet so no spoilers. From Earth to Echo filled in as the poor man’s version of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (who will visit your nightmares for the next ten years). A great surprise turned out to be the (relatively) solid reviews for The Purge: Anarchy. None of these selections bother me and I stand by my choices. The problem rests with my inclusion of Lucy as one of the most anticipated movies of July. I know what you’re thinking. You’re asking yourself “wait, Lucy as in that terrible looking Scarlett Johansson movie with that offensively stupid plot? The movie that asks and answers the question ‘what if we could use more than 10% of our brains?’ That movie? Where’s my refund? How do I unsubscribe from this joker?” Yes. I know that is (roughly) what you are thinking. My mother always taught me not to ruin an apology with an excuse but she also told me not to spend so much time watching movies so I will go ahead and blame this error on poor research. After seeing an early trailer, the film looked like a sweet action movie where Johansson turns into some Jason Bourne-type after a crazy drug she is muling explodes in her stomach. That is the premise I supported. I hoped that Scarlett Johansson starring in this movie would help bolster the role of female action stars (a cause Emily Blunt helped this year in Edge of Tomorrow). Days after posting, I mentioned my excitement to a friend over coffee. Her bewildered reaction was enough for me to rush to a computer and watch the full trailer. Immediately I felt…betrayed. “What if we could use more than 10% of our brains?” Why is that the plot for a major motion picture? Any other imagined reason could explain Johansson’s new-found abilities. (Very) Long story short, I’m sorry internet. I know some of you enjoyed the movie and thought Johansson carried the flag of female action stars well but I don’t know if I can forgive a plot line so egregious. Sadly I’ll have to add Lucy to the list of poor “most anticipated” choices along with Transcendence and I, Frankenstein (I know, I know). I need to take a clean cinematic shower. Luckily, August appears to have some remedies.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy
Release Date: August 1, 2014
Director: James Gunn (Slither, Super)
Starring: Chris Pratt (The Lego Movie, Parks and Recreation), Dave Bautista (Riddick), Zoe Saldana (Star Trek, Avatar, Columbiana), Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead), Bradley Cooper (The Place Beyond the Pines, American Hustle), Benicio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects)
With a sequel already announced, Marvel’s newest franchise is set to dominate the box office not only this month but in the years to come. With his starring role in the film, it is impossible to deny Chris Pratt’s meteoric ascension in Hollywood starting with “Parks and Rec,” leading to Zero Dark Thirty and now The Lego Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy and the upcoming Jurassic World. Pratt alone provides plenty of charm to pull audiences into theaters but a solid surrounding cast of familiar faces (or rather, familiar voices) ensure the film will succeed both financially and in adding an interesting wrinkle for future Marvel ventures. Like most of Marvel’s other films, GotG infuses equal doses of humor and action and promises to deliver one of the summer’s best movie nights.
2. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Release Date: August 22, 2014
Director: Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller
Starring: Jesica Alba (Machete), Josh Brolin (No Country for Old Men), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, Looper), Eva Green (Casino Royale), Bruce Willis (Die Hard, Looper), Mickey Rourke (Once Upon a Time in Mexico).
While the trailers and promotional posters may have been too risque for the average media outlet, fans are eagerly awaiting Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s newest exploration of the Sin City world. Sin City (2005) has established a name for itself as a visual wonder much like Miller’s other creation 300 (2006). Much of the cast from the original film returns along with plenty of new faces to fill in the hyper-stylized frames seeping with film noir sensibilities. The film will feature multiple interlinking stories and serve as both prequel and sequel to the original.
Release Date: August 15, 2014
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scott McNairy, Michael Fassbender
After premiering in Sundance and showing in the UK earlier this year, the US release date for Frank finally arrives later this month. Starring Michael Fassbender as the titular masked musician, the film has amassed a modest following and received warm reviews. The story follows Gleeson, a young musician who joins Fassbender and Gyllenhaal’s eccentric band the “Soronprfbs”. Trailers and reviews appear to align Frank with indie films like Safety Not Guaranteed, Little Miss Sunshine, and Lars and the Real Girl.
4. Child of God
Release Date: August 1, 2014 (limited)
Director: James Franco
Starring: Scott Haze, James Franco, Tim Blake Nelson, Jim Parrack
Franco continues to quietly amass a solid list of directing credits, picking up festival love along the way. Adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s third novel, his newest film mirrors other adaptations of the author’s work and follows an outcast making his violent way through an isolated world, here at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and not a post-apocalyptic wasteland or west Texas desert. Scott Haze’s performance appears to expand the list of outstanding acting performances derived from a MacCarthy book (obviously not counting The Counselor).
1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Release Date: August 8, 2014
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Starring: Megan Fox, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Noel Fisher, Will Arnett, Danny Woodburn, William Fichtner, Johnny Knoxville, Tony Shalhoub
This film establishes the TMNT franchise as Exhibit A in the trial of overused nostalgia. As much as audiences groaned against 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man reboot, at least people wanted to see more of Spidey. It’s not clear that anyone wanted more of TMNT after their successful live-action run in theaters and not-so-successful animated reboot. At least this movie increases my appreciation for the original. The ghastly newest iteration of turtle-looks leaves me wishing for the good old days of 1990’s puppeteering with Jim Henson. I much prefer Henson’s heroes to these CGI rendered creations.
2. The Expendables 3
Release Date: August 15, 2014
Director: Patrick Hughes
Starring: Old Action Stars, et al.
There’s nothing really to be said about this franchise. Not quite as migraine-inducing as the Transformers series, The Expendables comes pretty close. They deserve a score of roughly 0.7 Transformers units (TU) in terms of nauseating strength. For the record, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) earns a 0.3 TU, and Winter’s Tale (2014) earns a 1.6 TU. One benefit of the series is that it may be single-handedly providing work to every stunt performer, pyrotechnician, and fight choreographer in a 37 country radius.
2014 Overall List:
Most Anticipated Film of 2014: X-Men: Days of Future Past.
I considered replacing X-Men: DOFP with Guardians of the Galaxy but my love and familiarity of the X-Men crew (the characters, the actors, and the actors as the characters) trumps this new flirtation.
Least Anticipated Film of 2014: Winter’s Tale.
There may never be a movie I anticipate less than Winter’s Tale. Even if the cast of the Expendables teamed up with the Transformers to fight a new version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles who serve on a Hasbro Battleship manned by GI Joe characters while Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore work in the ship kitchen and start spontaneous food fights and drop endless one-liners like “that’s a spicy meatball!” and “you can’t bring Iceberg lettuce on a boat! Haven’t you seen Titanic!” Even if that monstrosity was made, I would rather see it on opening night in a room full of high school students than see Winter’s Tale.