4 Movies You Should Be Excited About and Why
And so begineth the Summer tentpole movie season. In April.
It’s all been leading to this. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, even The Incredible Hulk. They were all made as set-up for The Avengers. Normally, a studio should be perpetually biting its fingernails with this many properties (and this much star power) coming together in one film. We’re talking about Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, etc., etc., playing a dozen different heroes with as many back-stories. Frankly, there are very few directors who could possibly handle such a project. Joss Whedon appears to have tackled the film with aplomb. Usually working on his own material (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly/Serenity, etc.), Whedon has accomplished much in the past with very little in the way of budget. Now he has blockbuster-sized moneybags at his disposal and the trailers at least look, in a word, awesome. Early feedback is overwhelmingly positive, especially from the actors themselves, who have nothing but praise for the director. Even the story appears to be quality. They’ve run with the idea that these superheroes are all strong personalities, coming from disparate backgrounds, and all accustomed to being in charge; how do you make them work together to defeat a common enemy? The enemy in this case is Thor’s nemesis, Loki, who has brought an alien invasion force bent on subjugation of the human race. Can this group of people, half of whom don’t even have any “super” powers to speak of, get over their differences and save the world? Find out May4.
Joss Whedon is a busy boy. In addition to The Avengers, he co-wrote and produced The Cabin in the Woods which has found its way out of a three-year development hell and onto the big screen. Starring mostly nobodies, unless you count Chris “Thor” Hemsworth (before he was Thor) and Fran Kranz (“Topher” from Whedon’s Dollhouse), Cabin purports to turn the whole “isolated co-ed slaughterhouse” thing on its ear. The film’s marketing tagline, “You think you know the story,” telegraphs its primary conceit. It takes the common horror tropes we’ve gotten used to (and, in many cases, tired of), and with a wink and a nod, twists them into unrecognizable balloon animals, all while eschewing the ghastly (and played-out) torture porn trend. Despite being co-writer and producer (and thus clearly having his fingerprints all over this movie), Whedon is not sitting in the director’s chair on this one. That job goes to first-timer Drew Goddard. Although a newbie director, Goddard is no stranger to hip sci-fi and horror. He was a writer on well-regarded shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (another Whedon property), Lost, Alias, and J.J. Abrams’ 2008 shaky-cam monster movie Cloverfield. Look for a full review on this very site sometime next week; I’m definitely seeing it this weekend. In theaters April 13.
Ridley Scott is considered by many to be the godfather of modern sci-fi filmmaking, which is odd considering he’s only done two sci-fi movies in his almost half-century behind the camera (and neither in the last 30 years). But oh, those two! 1979’s Alien and 1982’s Blade Runner always make the top 5 of any “best sci-fi movies of all time” list. Alien alone has more or less become the template for any man-vs-alien movie made since. In my opinion, Scott hasn’t really made anything earth-shattering in a while. Don’t get me wrong, he’s done good work (Gladiator, Thelma & Louise, Black Hawk Down), but do we really have anything good to say about Robin Hood or G.I. Jane or Kingdom of Heaven? Here’s hoping Prometheus will be Scott’s triumphant return to the sci-fi genre. Prometheus is-but-isn’t a prequel to Alien, so we’re told. Anyone who has seen the trailers might recognize certain visual elements directly lifted from Alien, such as the design of the alien ship and the famous “space jockey.” The story is about a series of matching images found all over the world, in disparate and unrelated civilizations, that lead archaeologists to believe that human life is historically connected to an intelligent civilization elsewhere in the universe. An exploratory team is sent to a distant planet to investigate and possibly colonize. Then the shit hits the fan, apparently. No, really, we haven’t been told much else. There is speculation that an alien civilization seeks to eliminate humanity, or that it might be humanity’s distant ancestor. Whatever the specifics of the story, with a director like Ridley Scott at the helm and talent like Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Guy Pearce, and Michael Fassbender on screen, this movie is almost mathematically incapable of sucking. In theaters June 8.
Speaking of Guy Pearce… I haven’t seen him in much since 2000’s excellent, mind-bending Memento. Sure, he’s had smaller roles in The Hurt Locker, The Road, and The King’s Speech, and a leading part in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, but a nice meaty role hasn’t come his way in a while. Figures he would team up with another filmmaker whose output has sagged of late, Luc Besson, himself known for writing and directing one of the best sci-fi films of the last 20 years, The Fifth Element. Besson is not directing Lockout, only writing and executive producing, but he seems to be bringing some of the canned badassery he had left over from his excellent Leon: The Professional. Besson is also a prolific writer, responsible for 2008’s Taken, the thoroughly underrated Liam “a very special set of skills” Neeson vehicle, and the (I’m told) very cool “Escape from Paris” adventure District B13. Pearce plays a man wrongfully convicted of treason and offered freedom in exchange for rescuing the President’s daughter from a maximum security space prison. “There’s only one man who can get her out. He’s a loose cannon, but he’s the best there is.” (Actual dialogue from the trailer!) Yeah, I know. It sounds awesome. And frankly the Pearce-Besson one-two punch is enough to give me nipple boners. In theaters April 13.