The summer season for a fan of films, generally, is a pleasing one full of romp-y action and adventure titles, sweeping, epic dramas, and eye-popping, 3-D kiddie fare. For the jaded film-goer, though, this season’s schedule seems a bit over saturated with buff beauties patrolling the neighborhoods looking for baddies to exterminate, and while that is just fine (I, myself own hundreds of comic books), I’m looking for a bit more substance within my celluloid screenings this year. So, for those looking past the pirates and mutant miracle workers, here is your 2011 Summer Movie Guide to help you sludge your way past the pitfalls filled with buyer’s remorse. Take my hand.
KUNG FU PANDA 2 (May 26)
For those who missed the first installment, first of all, shame on you–you missed one of the best-animated films of the past ten years. It’s a colorful treat filled with Jack Black’s signature humor, amazing fight sequences (seriously, amazing), and a touching story of living one’s potential that I would put side by side with any superhero origin tale. There are no doubts in my mind that the sequel will be just as good as its predecessor.
THE TREE OF LIFE (May 17)
Terrence Malick is revered in Hollywood and for good reason; he made Badlands and The Thin Red Line, two of the best films of all time. Adding to his legacy is the fact that the Malick only makes a film every twenty years or so, picking his shots like some sort of methodical assassin that never misses. His newest effort is Tree of Life, a drama featuring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. Need I say more?
30 MINUTES OR LESS (August 12)
Which rising star in comedy is hotter than Danny McBride right now? His HBO show Eastbound and Down is a certifiable hit, he fronted the comedy Your Highness (which he wrote and produced) earlier this year, and his bit parts show up in everything from Funny or Die to Attack of the Show. In his newest film, he plays an absent-minded criminal who forces Jesse Eisenberg’s character to rob a bank. I’m sold, but to sweeten the pot, Zombieland director Ruben Fleisher is steering the thing. This could be hit or miss, but I’m betting this one beats out Hangover 2 as best comedy of the summer.
DRIVE (Sept. 16)
Okay, I might be sliding this one under the door when it comes to the summer movie schedule but technically the summer doesn’t end till the third week in September; as far as I’m concerned, this film is worth it. If you don’t know who Nicolas Winding Refn is, don’t worry… you’ll get to know him soon. The man is a force to be reckoned with. As the writer/director of captivating films like Bronson, and the epically visceral Valhalla Rising, Refn is making his stateside debut with Drive, an action drama starring Ryan Gosling. Gosling is a great hands and with Refn in the director’s chair this one has the pedigree to steal some summer heat from the big boys.
ANOTHER EARTH (July 20)
A lot of films are adored at Sundance but a standing ovation at the cinematic gala doesn’t necessarily translate to success at the box office nor upon the notepads of critics. With that said, the 2011 fest yielded some great looking films but if it’s a drama you’re looking for, then look no further than Another Earth. It’s a unique take on the sci-fi genre with the dramatic elements taking precedent over the fantastical ones. The film chronicles the tale of a young woman involved in a fatal accident during a time when a planet identical to ours appears in the atmosphere. It received the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize at Sundance, and is likely to elicit a few tears from the ol’ waterworks. Save this one for date night.
THE TROLL HUNTER (June 10)
A frequent film fanatic loves to watch work that sketches outside the lines, so let’s all take a moment to applaud the purveyors of such fare: international cinema. Let’s face it, American films that push the boundaries are few and far between, the budgets just don’t allow for such risks (not such a bad thing, ask Timur Bekmambetov). In this vain comes The Trollhunter, a film about just that… hunting trolls. Doesn’t sound like much until you see the trailer for this low-budget, “found-footage” Norwegian flick that boasts some impressive visuals despite its resources. This one has cult classic written all over it and it’s my sleeper hit of the summer.
SUPER 8 (June 10)
The jaded cinephile isn’t susceptible to the advances of a sultry Hollywood skirt. I love big booming visuals and sound just as much as the next schlub gnawing on his popcorn kernels. For this summer, though, I’m forgoing all the spandex clad fare for this J.J. Abrams helmed piece concerning extraterrestrials (apparently Steven Spielberg has absorbed Abrams into his alien adoring, film-making fold; there is no escape for you J.J… resistance is futile!). Look for this one to be a fast, and fun ride.
FRIGHT NIGHT (Aug 19)
Ah, the 80’s…watching Betamax films like Commando and Remo Williams in front of a 12-inch television–I miss those days. The original Fright Night happened to be a frequent; its mix of comedy and kitschy horror was a welcome reprieve from the gory, intense slashers of the Madonna era. I’d be lying if I said this pick was less than a hearkened call to my slim, pipelined, cotton shirts but honestly, I’ve been waiting for Colin Farrell to sprinkle the world with the same magic he displayed in In Bruges since that award-winning performance.
If you’re a fan of documentaries, then Man on Wire isn’t a non-familiar term; it received the 2009 Oscar for best documentary and rightfully so–the film was stunning. For director James Marsh’s follow up, he focuses on a 1970’s science project meant to measure the intellectual power of a chimpanzee, our genetic neighbor. If you are having flashes of Matthew Broderick pounding on a plate glass window rest assured… Marsh turned the story of a man crossing a high wire into one of the most compelling dramas of 2009; in his hands stop motion stick figures have chances at nabbing Oscar gold.
THE GREEN LANTERN (June 17)
Okay…I did it. I picked a superhero flick. I have nothing against comic book films. I actually love comic books; I’ve been collecting since I was a wee lad. But even as a youth I didn’t buy a man in tights running around the city saving pedestrians. You see, I’m much more Garth Ennis than Jim Lee. Despite the distinction (please GOD let there be a Preacher film or television series already!), I have to say that Goldeneye was awesome and Casino Royale kicked ass. If you can boast that you’ve helmed the best two bond films in the past 30 years+ then you my friend have quite the distinction. I see director Martin Campbell’s talents making this the best comic book adaptation of the summer.