Big-Deal Movies I'm Most Excited About
Godzilla (May 16)
A little something about me: I've always loved that adorable, roaring Japanese monster from beneath the sea. More on that closer to this new film's release date, but, for now, let's just say that I've been excited about director Gareth Edwards' (Monsters) reboot from the second it was announced. Why? Not because of the almighty Bryan Cranston's presence, or even that of my future wife Elizabeth Olsen (it can happen)—it's because Godzilla 2014 just has to be better than the 1998 piece of cinematic fecal matter that starred Matthew Broderick, featured a fucking Diddy theme song, and handled Jurassic Park's idea bank with the old five-finger discount. This Godzilla's trailers and commercials basically confirm that belief, too. Lifelong Gojira stans like myself deserve this, folks. We've been so damn patient.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July 11)
Two summers ago, a bunch of talking, scarily evolved apes blindsided me. The film was Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and I didn't expect anything from it—for Caesar's sake, it starred James "I'll Make Anything" Franco and had little to no buzz before its release. But then the movie opened, I saw it, and I fell in love. With Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the tone gets pitch-black darker, Andy Serkis gets more emotional depth to play with as the ten-years-grizzled ape leader Caesar, and one of my favorite directors, Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In), gets to bring real panache and elegance to a summer popcorn movie. Excuse me while I listen to Da Lynch Mob's "Goin' Bananas" while re-watching Dawn's teaser trailer on mute.
22 Jump Street (June 13)
Comedy fans, you're in for a real treat next week when the Seth Rogen/Zac Efron flick Neighbors opens—I saw it during SXSW back in early March, and it's by far the funniest new movie I've since…well, 21 Jump Street (2012). Hence why I'm so ready for the inevitable sequel, 22 Jump Street, which brings back everyone who made the first movie such an unexpected laugh-riot gem: stars Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and screenwriter Michael Bacall. This time, they're undercover-fighting crime in college, and by the looks of the film's red-band trailers, they're still funny as sin. Watching Jonah Hill's "L.A. Mexican gangbanger" impersonation in 22 Jump Street's preview was the hardest I've laughed since…yup, Neighbors at SXSW.
Indie Movies I'm Most Excited About
Cold in July (May 23)
Confession: I'm cheating with this one. See, I've already had the pleasure of experiencing untouchable indie genre director Jim Mickle's (seek out Stake Land and We are What We Are) latest film, Cold in July, and I'm here to tell you that it's seriously brilliant. Michael C. Hall shakes the stink of Dexter's series finale off playing an average guy in Texas who, out of nervousness, shoots an intruder to death in his living room one night, and then the dead guy's ex-con father shows up, and things gets a bit crazy. And Mickle, adapting writer Joe R. Lansdale's same-named novel, channels the everyman carnage through a strong, lovingly revisionist '80s cinema sheen and a vibrant synthesizer score that's pure early John Carpenter. So, yeah, you should be excited about Cold in July. Hell, I'm ridiculously eager to see it for the second time.
The Rover (June 20)
Here's the thing about glistening vampire actor/teenybopper pin-up Robert Pattinson—a bunch of seriously talented filmmakers love the guy. Taking a break from his ongoing partnership with director David Cronenberg, Pattinson lined himself up with buzz-heavy Australian director David Michod (Animal Kingdom) to shoot this futuristic crime drama along with the always on-point Guy Pearce. The Rover, per its trailer, looks and feels like a stripped-down Mad Max, with Pearce playing a guy hunting down a group of bad dudes across a post-apocalyptic Aussie desert. Pattinson's on-board as a gang member who switches sides to help Pearce's character. And by doing so, he'll make all of you Twilight haters eat crow—which, come to think of it, either he or Pearce might very well do in this movie.
I Origins (July 18)
With all of the superheroes, skyscraper-sized monsters, and pizza-loving turtles populating theaters this summer, it'll be nice to dial things back a bit with a quiet, cerebral little science fiction picture. I Origins will hopefully serve that purpose nicely. Indie director Mike Cahill's follow-up to his underrated Another Earth, I Origins puts Michael Pitt back into the spotlight yard after his Boardwalk Empire exit, and, since Pitt's a dynamite actor, that's a very good thing. As for the film itself, Cahill's sophomore flick is said to be a thoughtful, challenging piece of metaphysical storytelling in which Pitt's character becomes obsessed with a beautiful women's eyes, leading he and the audience down a "meaning of life" rabbit hole. Hey, summer movies can't all be idiotic comedies about sex tapes—as in, the idiotic-looking Sex Tape, starring Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz.
Movies I Think Will Suck
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (August 8)
Look, I get that millions of younger Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans are stoked about this Michael-Bay-produced TMNT revision. They're not at all concerned about how the Turtles themselves look way too much like WWE-ready Shreks in the film's first trailer, or that Megan Fox (playing April O'Neill) can't act, or that this movie is directed by the consistently bad Jonathan Liebesman (see, at your own peril: Battle: Los Angeles and Wrath of the Titans). The problem I have is, well, I do care about those factors. And as much the 10-year-old me wants to get pumped for another live-action Ninja Turtles film, present-day me knows more about cinema than I did back in the fourth grade. And I'm also still scarred by those wretched Scooby Doo movies with Freddie Prinze, Jr.
Hercules (July 25)
The obvious target here is Hercules director Brett Ratner, the universally maligned filmmaker who, to be fair, isn't bad when he's going smaller scale, like when he made the respectable 2002 Hannibal Lecter film Red Dragon. Give Ratner an inflated budget, however, and he's absolutely one of the worst there is in Hollywood, proven in clunkers like X-Men: The Last Stand and the unnecessary Rush Hour 3. Despite Dwayne Johnson's ever-likable charisma, and the fact that the man formerly known as The Rock was practically born to play this hulking Greek demigod, it's impossible to not expect another excuse to throw shade at the Rat-man.
Jupiter Ascending (July 18)
This one's a double-edged sword. On the one end, knowing that the progressively minded Wachowskis were actually given $150 million to make an ambitious, fairly ridiculous sounding sci-fi movie of this magnitude after the box office tanking of their equally risky Cloud Atlas should make originality lovers such as myself applaud. On the other hand, though, it's tough to maintain that enthusiasm once you see Channing Tatum looking like the Keebler elves' muscular older brother. Of all this summer's $100-plus films, Jupiter Ascending seems like the surest bet to flop harder than Rick Ross falling off a diving board.
The Biggest Question Marks for Me
Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (August 22)
The first Sin City movie, released in 2005? It's undeniably badass, with some of the coolest comic-book-come-to-life visuals in movie history and a stacked cast including Mickey Rourke and Benicio del Toro getting extra pulpy and Jessica Alba, well, looking absurdly beautiful. The chance to revisit Rodriguez and Frank Miller's black-and-white noir universe—now with more Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green, and Juno Temple—should be cause for celebration, right? Four or five years ago, sure, but not after painfully enduring through Rodriguez's most recent productions. Currently on a precipitous fall-off, Rodriguez's last two movies, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World and Machete Kills were brutal (in all of the wrong ways), topped only by his superfluous From Dusk Till Dawn TV series in terms of disappointment. It's difficult to trust the guy anymore.
Deliver Us From Evil (July 2)
Every summer needs that one Hollywood-issued horror film that's much better than mainstream genre skeptics expected and emerges as one of the season's biggest hits. Last year, it was The Conjuring. Can Deliver Us From Evil be 2014's answer? I really do hope so, namely because its director, Scott Derrickson, delivered the masterfully creepy 2012 gem Sinister, a.k.a. one of my personal favorite horror films of the last five years. And this film's trailer certainly has enough hardcore imagery to generate optimism. What's the problem, then? It's yet another movie about exorcists and people possessed by demons, and, frankly, I'm losing patience with that trope. Hopefully Derrickson has more to offer than what we've seen in every other exorcism movie in the last half-decade or so. I think he does, but cynicism still lurks.
As Above, So Below (August 15)
Until a week ago, I had no clue As Above, So Below existed, and I'm the kind of horror fanatic who spends an obsessive amount of time reading about what's next for the genre. The trailer for this one appeared online out of nowhere last Thursday, and, man, is it effective. So effective, in fact, that the film's tired use of found-footage doesn't seem like a negative. The premise doesn't hurt, either—As Above, So Below follows a team of explorers trudging through the catacombs beneath Paris' streets and, if the trailer isn't being deceptive, happen upon the "Gates of Hell" and meet a fate that's a cross between Event Horizon and The Descent. Also giving me good vibes about this: it's directed by John Erick Dowdle, who'll forever get a pass from me for not fucking up Quarantine, the solid American remake of the 2007 Spanish found-footage masterwork [REC].