Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Look at Summer 2014

It seems that we are back on the usual schedule when it comes to movies: The bad and forgotten films are thrown out in the first months of the year and we gradually move forward and thrive on more bountiful fair. But there have been many interesting caveats, such as the surprising appearances of movies that are highly acclaimed or bonafide masterpieces (i.e. The Lego Movie, The Raid 2, etc.) and the box office drive for Christian-based entertainment. This could lead either to a truly great year in film (unlike last year's debacle) or to a year with which we will laugh about later.

Let's check out and go thoroughly through all of the offerings coming out in the summer months of 2014. I was praying that this year's iteration will be phenomenal after 2013's soul-crushing, depressive season but it seems that the studios have given up on trying to draw in audiences, as there is a distinct lack of tentpole movies. There are some interesting features but, as seen here, a great majority of these films will be coming from independent makers.

May 2 will, of course, follow tradition and feature a big superhero movie, as The Amazing Spider-Man 2 finally hits American shores. The buzz from overseas has been mixed to poor but a majority of critics have said that it improves on the first one in some departments and the main actors are solid. I was not happy with ASM1 at all, though it's not as stupid as say Green Lantern, so it's just second billing at a drive-in for me right now. Hurting my amusement as well is Sony's aggressively economic strategy to spoil the web-crawling franchise with future spin-offs and jamming many villains in one movie. I will, however, gladly watch this first over another supes movie, but we will get to that later. Since this will obviously be #1 and kill the competition, limited released films are the only ones also penned to this date. Belle is sure to get the fogies and Downton Abbey fanatics into theaters, as it liberally recounts the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle, a mixed-raced woman who was brought up in English high society and may have influenced legal rulings regarding the slave trade. Buried away into a handful of cinemas will be Walk of Shame, the Elizabeth Banks comedy where she plays a newscaster trying to find her way through L.A. after a riotous night of partying. This movie has been the bane of my existence recently when it comes to its poster art, first with its standard American mockup and then with the sight-destroying monstrosity made for Spanish-speaking countries. That being said, I've also liked Banks but still strongly feel that she needs a new agent ASAP. The Protector 2 now hits the theatrical circuit after being a digital VOD for some time now. This once again features the legitimately crazy Tony Jaa fighting off punks over elephant-related crimes. Sadly, I haven't heard many great things about this sequel and I am a little concerned about it, especially considering that forever-wooden RZA is one of its "stars". There's also Ida, a drama involving a Polish nun-to-be that looks to be yet another Nazi-related tearjerker.

May 9 is an ideal example when I said the studios got lazy. The line-up for this week is practically bone-dry, as everybody doesn't want to fight off with the second week drop of Spider-Man 2. Neighbors is the only one getting the biggest marketing push. The comedy rests on the tension between a prospering family headed by Seth Rogen and Rosa Byrne and the fraternity that moved in next door, championed by Zac Efron and Dave Franco. I have only heard okay to below things about it since its preview screenings at this year's SXSW. Plus, I don't have much confidence for it since it's helmed by the sadly fading Nicholas Stoller (The Five-Year Engagement) and was written by two unproven screenwriters. The recurring one-gag TV spots involving a CGI airbag prank also doesn't help matters. To bait in desperate family viewers, there's Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return. This is another attempt by a different movie studio to try feeding off the nostalgia of the landmark 1939 MGM classic, despite us all living in a pop culture environment where that strategy has been overdone. This animated feature also is trying to erase the memory of the 1985 cult film Return to Oz, by assuming the position of showing the "true" follow-up adventures of Dorothy, as she finds a way back to Oz in order to save it again alongside new companions. Distributed by Clarius Entertainment(?), I believe this will quickly sour on those dumb enough to purchase a ticket to hear Martin Short and tunes devised by Bryan Adams. But I will gladly sit through that questionable movie when compared to Mom's Night Out, a Christian-influenced female Hangover wannabe. TV actresses Sarah Drew and Patricia Heaton try to have a fun night off from being full-time moms but are quickly swept up by crazy non-alcoholic, non-Elizabeth Shue-related incidents involving trigger-happy cops and a biker played by Trace Adkins of all people. Meanwhile, the dads are going bonkers because they can't handle taking care of kids, am I right? Looks like complete garbage, especially when I found out later that it was crafted by the same two inbreds who gave us October Baby. Elsewhere in art circles, we have several interesting movies to take in. Chef is Jon Favreau's return to being a writer-director after being ousted from the Iron Man franchise and failing with the summer flop Cowboys & Aliens. Somewhat referencing his own life, Favreau plays the main character, a promising food chef who quickly flames out but is rebounding with his traveling food truck. Could be a real treat or something to tide you over with. The Double is more up my alley, the much buzzed about sophomore feature from comedian/director Richard Ayoade. A hit with Sundance critics and slightly based on a Dostoyevsky's novella, Jesse Eisenberg does double duty as two office drones with different lifestyles and successes. I already called its variant poster the best of 2014 so I hope the movie will match that high bar. Speaking of Sundance, God's Pocket, John Slattery's feature film debut, also is being released. Lackluster with critics but prospered when it came to acquiring a distributor (IFC Films), it will coast by with audiences thanks to the presence of the late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman. To make this a Sundance hat trick, the government-and-food documentary Fed Up is set to premiere, right after riding a great deal of publicity when its makers fought off the MPAA over a M&M-influenced poster design. Though to be fair, they were stealing the same design choice of a forgettable sex comedy.

May 16, oh boy, gives us Godzilla. This second attempt at making an American reboot of the Japanese monster could blow up right in my face, especially since it comes from the polarizing director of Monsters, Gareth Edwards. But I will give credit where credit is due because the marketing of this movie ever since the first teaser posters has been truly epic. So many great artworks have been commissioned to pump this one up and the deceptively dark and uncommonly silent trailers and TV spots are amazing. For those who want to skip the popcorn, Million Dollar Arm is the latest sports movie from Disney. It recounts the true story of how a sports agent recruited a couple of Indian boys to transfer their cricket throwing skills to play in the MLB. I roll at my eyes for these types of inspirational flicks but I'll be lying if I didn't say that I've seen and enjoy a great deal of them, especially from the Disney studios. Then, you've got the other notable elements: Jon Hamm and Lake Bell are the headliners, indie darling Tom McCarthy as the screenwriter, and the new story that the film has received the highest scores ever from test audiences. Worthy to give it a shot at glory. There's also The Immigrant, the latest from James Gray (The Yards, We Own The Night) that made somewhat of a splash at last year's Cannes Film Festival. Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jeremy Renner tussle in a love triangle amid an evocatively captured 1920's America.

May 23, oh dear, has X-Men: Days of Future Past. Where to start with this one? X-Men: First Class was a refreshingly different take for the mutant franchise, thanks to the directorial efforts of Matthew Vaughn and the acting skills of people like Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence. However, this doesn't have Vaughn at the helm; we instead have to deal with person non grata Bryan Singer. Though his X-Men films remain watchable today, with X2 still considered one of the best of the superhero genre, his ideas of leather outfits, murky lightning and stilted action choreography have proven to be disastrous in the long run. He himself has also become a calamity, unable to make a good film for over a decade now and just reeling from the money pit that was Jack the Giant Slayer. Then, there's the recent allegations targeting him for his casting couch past. Suffice to say, I don't really want to touch this film with a fifty-foot pole right now. I wasn't impressed by the first trailer and the recent ones are unable to reverse my fears. We'll see how the American public will react in a matter of weeks. Even if you skip the biggest movie of the weekend, there's more filth to go around, thanks to Blended, the latest from Happy Madison Productions and featuring the re-teaming of Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. Do I really need to spell out why this movie looks god awful? You have the uninformative title (which at one point was changed to, no joke, The Familymoon), the distressing presence of Sandler, the stupid and potentially offensive premise of white people being on an African vacation, and the rampant product placement that comes with every Happy Madison movie (Hooters, Dick's Sporting Goods). Please let this horrible blight of films not extend to the limited releases, because there is one very strong pick. Cold in July made some waves at Sundance, being hailed as a Southern-fried thriller that keeps you guessing. Michael C. Hall is an everyman who kills a burglar in his home, only to then be spun around by people like Sam Shepard, Don Johnson, and Michael Rooker. Courtesy of Jim Mickle (Stakeland, We Are What We Are), this looks to be the next Drive. Elsewhere, you have Tracks, an adaptation of Robyn Davidson's memoir of her own camel-riding trip across Australia, and the utterly stupid-sounding Words and Pictures, where Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche school-fight over the importance of either the former or latter titled thing.

May 30 features Maleficent, the film that is trying to keep the dark fairy tale trend alive. It's supposed to be a little like Snow White and the Huntsman in the sense that it features the tale of how the titled villainess came to be. However, the marketing seems to show that this is just a hyped-up live action adaptation of Disney's animated Sleeping Beauty. That begs the question of why anyone will want to see something that is already freely available and more inexpensive to view. Disney seems to be really banking on this one, especially with Angelina Jolie front and center, in order to prove to its shareholders that the idea of Alice in Wonderland 2 is feasible. Meanwhile, A Million Ways to Die in the West will draw in the adults. Seth MacFarlane surprised everyone with Ted but this is a real pickle for him; he and his band of Family Guy writers will have to sell the public on seeing a western film, despite the genre clearly being box office poison for many years now (excluding Django Unchained). Maybe worth a shot but it could certainly backfire. In limited release, Filth finally reaches stateside. Adapted from a book spun by Irvine Welsh, the same man who gave us Trainspotting, it has James McAvoy doing his damnedest to out-dirty Bad Lieutenant. Then you have Night Moves, the latest from Kelly Reichardt (Meek's Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy) where a group of environmentalists try to blow up a dam. Given Reichardt's method of style over substance and the similarities to last year's The East, I think this is a definite skip.

June 6 kicks the new month off with Edge of Tomorrow, another sci-fi action film starring Tom Cruise. This movie is based on a Japanese novel called "All You Need Is Kill", which was the original title before given a vanilla makeover. Unlike practically all online critics, I feel that the original title is more suited for a film done by The Asylum but do feel that its current name is extremely forgettable. Other than the talents of Cruise, the movie wants to draw a crowd with its unique premise: an ordinary army grunt is placed in a Groundhog Day/video game scenario where he must beef up his skills in order to overcome an unwinnable battle. I'm changed my opinion very slightly since the first trailer so I do hope I at least walk away enjoying the picture, less so or on the same level as its spiritual predecessor, Source Code. I do, however, expect this film to play second fiddle and finish in 3rd, right behind the other new wide release. The Fault In Our Stars is the big screen treatment of a highly popular young adult novel. It thankfully doesn't feature a dystopian world but its teenage protagonists are certainly fearful of dying: The weepy drama tells of a blossoming relationship between cancer-stricken patients. Expected to be the next Notebook but with none of that Nicholas Sparks crap, the film looks fine and is sure to further expand the profile of Shailene Woodley. This weekend of limited releases is certainly an eclectic bunch. The indie rom-com Obvious Child gives Jenny Slate a mighty platform, as a struggling stand-up comedian who must deal with an unexpected pregnancy from an one-night stand. Borgman, a 2013 Cannes entry that spooked and unnerved many viewers, is being distributed by a studio that preys on the strange, Drafthouse Films. Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers) continues his disconcerting view of horror with The Sacrament, a found footage film that draws scares from the real-life tragedies orchestrated by cult leader Jim Jones. Mike Myers returns from a long absence from film to direct Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon, a documentary on the life of the mega talent manager. Finally, Trust Me has character actor Clark Gregg triple-threating (writer/director/star) as a failing talent agent for child actors who's looking to rebound with his latest discovery. Despite its large cast, the film looks like a basic cookie-cutter indie and doesn't seem funny at all. Still, it may prove to boost the career for the unknown Saxon Sharbino.

June 13 is to be dominated by How To Train Your Dragon 2. The spoiler-filled trailers are ruining all sense of surprise but I'm still looking very forward to this sequel. I, like many others, was utterly shocked at how great the first film was, particularly with its amazing use of 3D during the flying scenes and the surprising turns in the story. Hopefully, it doesn't prove itself to be another Turbo for Dreamworks Animation. The big test of the weekend will be 22 Jump Street, the sequel to an unexpectedly funny movie and one of the few television adaptations to work on the big screen. The plot is just what was teased at the end of the first one: Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum head off to college to bust another crime ring. This could keep the hot streak for directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller after the major success of The Lego Movie but comedy sequels tend to quickly spoil the formula and prove to piss off audiences majorly. Heading to NY and LA first before an eventual roll-out, The Rover is David Michod's follow-up to the Aussie crime drama Animal Kingdom. Taking place during another dystopian future, Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson try to slowly pick off a gang that spurned them both. Then, there's The Signal. Not to be confused with the 2007 horror film, this weird little oddity seems to be a live-action version of Akira.

June 20 certainly has a black-or-white mentality, as the weekend's viewing audience will clearly be divided by skin color. For the white baby boomers, the jukebox musical adaptation of Jersey Boys comes to bring down the house. Previous jukebox musicals like Mamma Mia! and Rock of Ages have proven to be failures so director Clint Eastwood has to really sell why the life and music of The Four Seasons stand the test of time. Given its trailer and odd framing device, I'm more hesitant than ever. Meanwhile, for black audiences, Think Like a Man Too continues the trials and tribulations of its couples, this time in Las Vegas. Steve Harvey's self-help books and Kevin Hart firing off jokes are sure to be pushed heavily again. This film could be another Why Did I Get Married Too? or The Best Man Holiday and quickly dissipate into the ether after grabbing a bunch of cash or make its pretty flat story work again. I gave the first one a pass because I genuinely liked all of the actors and liked seeing some natural exchanges between them. But it also wasn't very funny and was a long two hours to sit through such easy sitcom perils. Judging from what I've seen, this is going to be as frivolous as Sex and the City 2. In limited release, Third Person has writer-director Paul Haggis seeking to just remake Crash again, as several different characters somehow create a hyperlink story but without the broad strokes of racism. Looks to be a laugh riot when it isn't ponderous. If you are a Broadway snob but want to avoid the musical, you could dare yourself to see Venus in Fur, the French adaptation of the 2010 award-winning play. I say dare not because of the subtitles but because the movie is directed by Roman Polanski.

June 27 is an one film weekend and it is sure to dominated by Transformers: Age of Extinction. Whether it is because I loved Michael Bay's last movie Pain & Gain, so much so that it was my pick for best film of the year, or the Super Bowl trailer or its first official trailer, I'm willing to give this a fair shot. However, I'm still unnerved by the stupid subplot involving Earth politicians wanting to kick the Autobots off the planet. That and Nicola Peltz' acting. While I may gleefully enjoy watching Optimus ride on a Dino-Bot with a big ass sword in his hand, I'm more looking forward to a different kind of sci-fi. Snowpiercer has a quirky but interesting premise: The remaining humans left on Earth all live on a forever moving train but the caste division leads to full-scale mutiny. The South Korean-produced action epic is directed Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Memories of Murder) and features a multi-national cast including Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Jaime Bell, and Tilda Swinton. The movie was hailed as one of the best films of 2013 but its release here has been consistently delayed due to the struggles between Bong and distributor Harvey Weinstein over final cut. It seems that the director has finally won out, so expect to see some political implications in between all of the action set-pieces. Those of you who hate sci-fi and relish reality can instead view Yves Saint Laurent, a biopic of the legendary French fashion designer. Or, if need a laugh, David Wain returns to the big screen with They Came Together, a blistering satire of rom-com conventions, headed by Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd.

July 2 may be the first day for brand new films in July but it is also a warning shot. For some strange reason, the selection of widely-released movies for this entire month all look really meh to bad, as if it lost a bet with August and had to be the "dog days" of summer. Need proof? Check up this line-up for the Fourth of July weekend: Deliver Us From Evil, not to be confused with the equally-named documentary about a child-raping priest, is a "based on a true story" horror flick where a NY cop battles with demons and other supernatural forces. Though it sounds really goofy, the director is Scott Derrickson (Sinister) and I can attest that its trailer has legitimately scared people into seeing it. Earth to Echo, which was previously set to release back on April 25th, still retains its pre-expectations (E.T. premise looks fine but found footage is a big no). The possible money winner of this pack is Tammy, Melissa McCarthy's comedic dream project, which she worked on with her husband Ben Falcone. It's supposed to be a female family road trip but the teaser trailer instead delivers no plot insight and no laughs. I like McCarthy but this film is in the same mediocre boat with the previously mentioned Trust Me.

July 4 only has two films brave enough to open on Independence Day. Begin Again has ex-music executive Mark Ruffalo and struggling musician Kiera Knightley helping each other out by recording an album in the open New York environment. It has the joyous spirit of Once, which makes sense because it was written and directed by John Carney. While that may get all of attention of the crowd, largely thanks to the acting participation of Adam Levine and Cee-Lo Green, I will instead walk with the film lovers and go see Life Itself, the documentary about the vibrant life of film critic Roger Ebert.

July 11 premieres Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which looks to either replace Transformers' spot at the top or fall by the wayside and leave its promising rebooted franchise dead in its tracks. I liked Rise of the Planet of the Apes but I believe a lot of people share my sentiments in that this wasn't necessary to make. Plus, Rise's bait-and-switch trailer burned a lot of bridges with viewers. Rob Reiner though it was a good idea to return to the director's chair, despite not making a good film in nearly 20 years(!), thus we have And So It Goes. Here, Michael Douglas bonds with the granddaughter he never knew he had. Excuse me why I gag on the saccharine. Gabriel Iglesias, the plus-side comedian who sadly is having a really bad year in film, tries to follow Kevin Hart's path to stardom and make his concert film The Fluffy Movie a hit with audiences. But why bother watching yet another special effects flick, cute trash, and a possible less than stellar stand-up act when you can watch film history in action? Boyhood is the hidden project Richard Linklater has been secretly working on with Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, and newcomer Ellar Coltrane and made a surprise premiere at this year's Sundance. The gimmick? The coming of age story was filmed over 12 years, meaning that all of the actors age in real-time as the story continues. Some critics have already warned folks that expectations should be set a bit low, stating that the movie is more focused on the smaller moments of childhood that some might find pointless to show. Still, I can't wait to check it out.

July 18 is surely the weekend for no sane people, as all of the featured films come either from sordid people or previous movies that were booed off the screen. The biggest one is Jupiter Ascending, the latest from the ever quality-descending The Wachowskis. Starring Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum, it is a gloriously expensive YA wannabe, where a female janitor is destined to be the queen of Earth and must be protected from scoundrels by an orange-haired elfish knight. It looks to be another fiasco waiting to happen. After daring to release the DTV film Planes into cinemas and succeeding amid a chorus of jeers, Disney decided that its sequel Planes: Fire and Rescue should be given the same treatment. Dusty avoids the racing scene this time around in order to re-enact his favorite scenes of Always. Like the original, its low budget is sure to make those high ticket prices more egregious. For the adults seeking to avoid children but still wanting to view a continuation of a bad movie, The Purge: Anarchy is for them. The sequel will apparently jump over the pitfalls of the first film and instead follow a new group of characters as they struggle to survive the night while out in the open. I bet that this film will win the weekend, either at #1 or at least be the top earner of all of the new films. The high suck factor continues in the limited releases. Writer-director Mike Cahill (Another Earth) unleashes I Origins, the comma missing sci-fi indie. Some hipster douchebag scientist goes crazy over eye patterns and feels that solving the mystery of the iris will open the gateway to God or something. Just get it out of my sight now before the pretentiousness causes me to explode. Finally, rev up the online trolls and angry Kickstarter backers because Zach Braff's Wish I Was Here opens to the public. When the trailer hit the web at the start of April, Focus Features made sure to remove comments and ratings because there weren't many people still looking forward to the project after getting a first look. It got doubly aggravating when some pointed out that the trailer was a mirror image to Garden State, Braff's extremely overrated debut feature. Expect a lot of furor.

July 25 thankfully is the last weekend of this odd month. Brett Ratner's Hercules, featuring Dwayne Johnson as the titled hero, is desperately trying to avoid the same fate of January's The Legend of Hercules. Maybe worthwhile but the only thing I have liked so far is the title font. Excluding that, absolutely nothing present in the promotion strikes up interest. Banking on being this year's We're the Millers, meaning I will hate it but the rest of America will laugh away, Sex Tape has Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz frantically running all over town after their personal love-making is uploaded to "the cloud". Don't let Diaz' bare breasts fool you; it looks highly substandard at best. Amazingly, a zombie will make its way to the marquee as the awfully titled Step Up All In brings a new entry to the dormant dancing franchise. Once again not being helmed Jon M. Chu, this iteration pulls a Fast Five, as various characters from previous movies return to win a dancing competition in Las Vegas. Unlike Fast Five, this is not going to bring a rebirth to the series, especially with the useless 3D up-charge. Your best weekend pick might possibly be the one at your local art theater: Happy Christmas. Spawned by Joe Swanberg (Drawing Buddies), the indie comedy drew raves at Sundance for Anna Kendrick and the rest of the cast. Or, you can check out the espionage thriller A Most Wanted Man, which brings together director Anton Corbijn (The American), writer John le Carré (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), and Phillp Seymour Hoffman with a German accent.

August 1 truly features the most talked about superhero movie of the year and one of the biggest risks for Marvel Studios since the slow-burn film strategy towards The Avengers. Guardians of the Galaxy is seemingly going to forgo the usual superheroics in order to have a space romp, where the laughs outweigh the lasers. Marvel has two big reasons for the casual market to arrive in droves for this film: First, it will finally answer the question as to who the big purple guy was at the end of The Avengers, along with his connection to a specific gauntlet and a set of stones that have been hinted at in each preceding movie. Secondly, they have a talking raccoon, voiced by Bradley Cooper, who is assured to breakout like he was Star Wars: Episode II Yoda. The only concerns, beyond the fears of following in John Carter's footsteps, are that an uncommercial director is helming it (James Gunn) and the characters are all C-list at best in the comic books. Despite this, it is sure to be the last blockbuster of the season. Also available is Get On Up, the long awaited biopic of music legend James Brown. Chadwick Boseman, who broke through last year by playing another black legend (Jackie Robinson in 42), stars as "The Godfather of Soul". I question its slightly obscure title but it may be a worthy sleeper. If it doesn't feature the moment he curbed riots in Boston after news of MLK's death, I will be very pissed. In limited release, John Michael McDonagh (The Guard) re-teams with Brendan Gleeson for Calvary, a drama about an Irish priest whose life falls apart after hearing a disturbing confession. There's also What If, a.k.a. The F Word. A small hit at last year's Toronto Film Festival, the rom-com has Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan struggling to maintain their "Harry and Sally" friendship.

August 8 delivers what could have been a big summer movie except for many factors: its odd release time, Jonathan Liebesman as the director, Michael Bay focusing on his own project, and the very bad reception to its first trailer. Unfortunately, this film reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is not reversing course any time soon and will most likely end up in second place. I've even heard from many kids who expressed total confusion over the uncanny valley-faced, fat creatures. The other weekend output doesn't fare any better. Lucy has Luc Besson as writer-director, which would mean something if this was still the 90's. Scarlett Johansson stars as a mutated drug mule, whose Limitless-inspired superpowers allows here to do things like see cell phone signals and change out her body parts. Trippy but probably really dumb. In weird casting news, Richard Armitage stars in Into the Storm, a found footage horror film where the danger is Mother Nature, i.e. huge tornadoes. Also available, The Hundred-Foot Journey is for geezers only, as French chef Helen Mirren strikes up a rivalry/relationship with the Indian cooks across the street.

August 13 is one of the few Wednesday releases of this entire summer, so it has to be given to a worthy pic, right? Wrong. Let's Be Cops has Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans, Jr. take a long break from New Girl in order to play as two bros whose fanatic glee while wearing police costumes cause them to illegally pose as real officers of the law. Despite the natural energy between the two guys, this film will probably disappear by next week.

August 15 features the conclusion to Sly Stallone's pet series, The Expendables 3. This time around, actors like Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Kellan Lutz and Ronda Rousey have been brought in, in order to end the franchise with a big mirror match of mercenaries. Given the public reception towards the other action films starting these seniors, this may crash and burn hard as well. After all of the accolades and a protracted production phase, The Giver finally hits the big screen. The teaser trailer sent up some red flags and I fear that the infamous moments of the book will not be present, thus neutering the whole product. As Above, So Below has Quarantine director John Erick Dowdle doing another found footage horror film but with an interesting twist: a group of explorers venture into the French catacombs only to find a gateway to Hell and to their surprisingly vicious childhood memories. The cinematography looks adequately claustrophobic but the last time I saw people filming their dark trip around country landmarks, it was called Chernobyl Diaries. If you want a better horror flick, you might be able to see Life After Beth, the Sundance midnight movie where Dane DeHaan and Audrey Plaza re-enact Warm Bodies but actually make it funny and heartwarming. Comedy seekers can partake with The Trip To Italy, the latest misadventures of Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, and their Michael Caine impressions.

August 22 looks like crap. A pretty blunt assessment but I frankly don't think any of the new pictures are worthy of a ticket purchase. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For will be the audience favorite but the teaser trailer paints it out to be a boring revision of the first film. Eva Green will most likely be the sole redeeming element. For the wussies and crybabies, If I Stay is for them. Yet another YA adaptation, Chloë Gracie Moretz plays an aspiring cellist who becomes a purgatory ghost after a deadly car accident. Looks very cloying but might work as a tear factory for some. For a more laughably tragic story, there's the "based on a true story" sports drama When the Game Stands Tall. A high school's 11-year unbeatable streak in football is snapped and overnight everybody becomes Job. I can't take it seriously, especially with Michael Chiklis' odd grooming habits. Two Sundance films also come out: Love is Strange, the audience favorite about a same-sex couple in turmoil, and Frank, a.k.a. that movie where Michael Fassbender wears a papier-mâché head the entire time.

August 27 is the last Wednesday release and it gives too odd ducklings a pronounced platform. Most people will notice November Man, a spy thriller starring Pierce Brosnan. But the one that caught my eye was Underdogs, an Argentinian animated film that was directed by, of all people, Juan J. Campanella (The Secret In Their Eyes). Now, the title is purely basic and doesn't tell you anything about the film. This is chiefly the fault of Harvey Weinstein's decision-making because the original English title, which certainly makes the film stand firmly out, was Foosball, quite fitting considering the main characters are sentient foosball players. It will sadly be hidden away in theaters and skipped over by the soccer-hating American public but I feel it has the right amount of spirit and imagination to combat against Dreamworks, Sony, and Disney.

August 29 brings us to the last and worst weekend to have your movie be scheduled. Jessabelle is a throwaway horror film set in Louisiana, where a paralyzed young woman is haunted by the ghost of her demonic mother. The Loft is a remake of a Belgian whodunit and is being handled by the same director (Erik Van Looy). Five men discover a dead woman at their hidden apartment and fear that it was committed by either one of them, their significant others, or their mistresses. It very likely will be totally rubbish because these type of remakes tend to falter greatly from their European counterparts. View The Vanishing and 13 for easy examples. As for the limited market, the selection is more vibrant. Life of Crime is the latest adaptation of a work from the late Elmore Leonard and features Mos Def and John Hawkes kidnapping Jennifer Aniston. Waltz with Bashir director Ari Folman unfolds The Congress, a psychedelic opus where Robin Wright, playing herself, tries to revive her aging and tumultuous career by transferring her image into an animated being and bequeathing it to the studios. Count me in. Finally, we have the new slot for One Chance. I really hope this time the damn British crowd-pleaser will come out and go away.

My Top Picks of Summer 2014

1. Godzilla
2. Guardians of the Galaxy
3. Snowpiercer
4. How To Train Your Dragon 2
5. Boyhood
6. Cold In July
7. Life Itself
8. Transformers: Age of Extinction
9. Million Dollar Arm
10. Underdogs

Of course, there are some films not mentioned here or included because I frankly had a hard time determining their release time frame. Also, there is a possibility that any of the featured films will later be delayed.

I hope your movie experiences will be as good as mine, but probably less cynical.

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