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Thursday, July 3, 2014 12:01 am

Summer movie preview 2014


One look at the weekly box office totals for the first half of 2014 confirms that business is good in the American film industry. Too bad the massive haul the Hollywood studios rake in doesn’t necessarily mean there are quality films to be seen. It’s been a rather bleak year so far with The Grand Budapest Hotel, Captain America: The First Avenger, 22 Jump Street and How to Train Your Dragon 2 being the only truly good films to have played in the area. Here’s hoping that the exceptional art house films Cold in July and Ida eventually make it to town.

Is there hope on the horizon during the summer movie season? At first glance, the usual fare seems to be on tap, with sequels and reboots being the order of the day. Still, the potential to be surprised is always on the horizon and the possibility for this to happen seems more likely this year than any other.

What follows are descriptions of 21 movies from the major Hollywood studios set for wide release between the Fourth of July weekend and Labor Day, as well as a list of 12 indies that seem to be the most promising of the lot and one very special film that I’m looking forward to most of all. Here’s hoping that my dream of seeing more than the status quo on the big screen comes true. 

Deliver Us From Evil (July 2) – You gotta love horror films that are based-on-true-events. Nothing like sitting in a theater wondering “You telling me this really happened?” and “Do they really expect me to be this gullible?” This low-budget shocker is based on the experiences of New York City police officer Ralph Sarcie (Eric Bana) who claims to have investigated a series of crimes committed by people possessed by demons. Sounds silly but if there is a bright spot it’s that this is being directed by Scott Derrickson, who made 2012’s Sinister, which scared the bejesus out of me.

Teo Halm, Astro, Ella Wahlestedt and Reese Hertwig in Earth to Echo.


Earth to Echo
(July 2) – This sci-fi action flick focuses on three boys who discover an alien that’s been stranded on Earth and decide to help him reassemble the key to his spaceship so that he can return home. An obvious rip-off (or is it homage?) of Steven Spielberg’s E.T., this is pitched directly at tweens who’ve never seen the 1982 classic.

Tammy (July 2) – Melissa McCarthy stars as the title character (let’s be real; she’s playing the same role she does every time) as a desperate woman who leaves town with her abrasive grandmother (Susan Sarandon) after she loses her job and finds out her husband has been cheating. It’s been 23 years since Sarandon hit the road with Geena Davis in Thelma and Louise. Something tells me this film won’t be nearly as rewarding.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July 11) – Without question, 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was one of the better reboots in recent memory and set up a promising series of prequels leading up to the 1968 sci-fi classic. This entry finds Caesar (Andy Serkis), the ape who was genetically modified in the previous film, leading a revolt of newly evolved primates as the last remaining humans struggle to survive. With Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke and Keri Russell.

And So It Goes (July 18) – Michael Douglas stars as a ruthless real estate broker who reluctantly asks for help from a neighbor (Diane Keaton) when he’s forced to mind his granddaughter, whom he never knew existed. This is one of the very few films released during the summer featuring leads over the age of 50 so let’s hope it’s good.

Planes: Fire and Rescue (July 18) – Last year’s Planes was a surprise hit for Disney (it was set to go straight to video but was released theatrically when the Mouse House found an unexpected hole in their schedule) so a sequel was inevitable. This time out, air racer Dusty (voice by Dane Cook), finding out that his engine has been damaged and he may not compete again, decides to become an aerial firefighter.

The Purge: Anarchy (July 18) – Last year’s thriller proved a cathartic thrill for audiences as it imagined a near-future where, for one night each year, all laws are suspended and citizens are free to create mayhem at will. This time out, a young couple find themselves fighting for their lives when their car breaks down before they can reach the safety of their home.

Sex Tape (July 18) – Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz, unexpectedly charming together in Bad Teacher, reunite here as a married couple whose sex life has gone stale. (Really Jason?) To spice things up, they decide to tape a session of their lovemaking and before they know it, the recording of their fun time ends up going viral on the Internet. Embarrassment and manic efforts to stop the spread of the recording ensue.

Hercules (July 25) – Dwayne Johnson takes on the role he was born to play as the Greek demigod who becomes a mercenary after having completed his 12 labors.

Lucy (July 25) – Scarlett Johansson stars in this action epic as a woman who’s been given the ability to evolve her mental capabilities far beyond normal, making her a weapon to be reckoned with. While I’d watch this actress do as little as read the phone book, this premise sounds like a real winner.

Get On Up (Aug. 1) – Chadwick Boseman (42) stars as James Brown in this bio-pic that charts the rise of the legendary R&B singer while examining his impoverished childhood as well as his efforts to combat his inner demons. With Mick Jagger as one of the film’s producers, this should have an air of authenticity that other movies of this sort lack.

Guardians of the Galaxy (Aug. 1) – The latest superhero epic from Marvel Studios features a group of little-known star fighters who find themselves the target of a group of mercenaries after they come into possession of a powerful talisman. The film promises to make Chris Pratt of Parks and Recreation a star as it serves as a bridge to Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, out next year.

The Hundred-Foot Journey (Aug. 8) – Helen Mirren stars as the owner of a French restaurant who’s threatened by the presence of an Indian eatery that opens across the street from hers. Pitched towards the same crowd that made The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel a hit and as directed by Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolat), this is sure to feature many heartwarming moments.

Into the Storm (Aug. 8) – The latest found footage feature deals with a group of high school kids who take to filming a tornado when it hits their town as well as the aftermath. Clips from the film promise a special-effects extravaganza, though the timing of the release of this film is a bit questionable.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Aug. 8) – Advances in motion-capture special effects promise to make this latest incarnation of the hard-fighting, pizza-loving heroes on the half-shell more action-packed than ever as they rise to take on their arch-nemesis Shredder. Megan Fox stars as intrepid reporter April O’Neil while Michael “I Like to Blow Things Up Real Good” Bay produces.

Jet Li, Antonio Banderas, Glen Powell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kellan Lutz, Dolph Lundgren, Ronda Rousey, Randy Couture, Victor Ortiz, Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham in The Expendables 3.


The Expendables 3
(Aug. 15) – Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his crew return to take down arms dealer Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), a former member of the group. This franchise for geriatric action stars adds Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas and Wesley Snipes to the fold, making me wonder if Geritol is readily available on the movie’s craft table.

The Giver (Aug. 15) – Lois Lowry’s classic of the youth literature genre finally makes it to the big screen with Jeff Bridges in the title role as an elderly man who retains the memories and feelings of the community he lives in. However, it is time for someone else to take on these responsibilities and when young Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is chosen to do so, he realizes he may not be up to the task. With Meryl Streep, Katie Holmes and Taylor Swift.

If I Stay (Aug. 22) – The always-captivating Chloe Grace Moretz stars as a young woman who’s fallen into a coma after being in a car accident. While having an out-of-body experience, she’s able to see various ways her future could play out and must decide whether to come back to the world of the living or go on to the realm of the dead.

Mickey Rourke as Marv in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.


Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
(Aug. 22) – The long-awaited sequel to the 2005 cult classic takes us back to the monochrome world of the title where thugs roam the streets, dames break their hearts and life is cheap. Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson and Mickey Rourke return with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green and Josh Brolin joining the cast.

When the Game Stands Tall (Aug. 22) – This fact-based sports story looks at the rise of De La Salle High School and its coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel), who inspired players of the institution’s football team to a string of 151 consecutive victories, a record never duplicated in any sport.

The Loft (Aug. 29) – This thriller puts a cryptic spin on the Billy Wilder classic The Apartment as it deals with five friends who rent a studio used for their extramarital affairs, a cozy situation until a dead body is found there and the trust between them begins to fray.

An even dozen indies
Progressive science fiction, an odd Christmas story, a fan-funded film and the annual Woody Allen feature are among the 12 most promising small-budget films to be released in the next two months. Brief descriptions follow along with approximate release dates.

Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olson in Very Good Girls.


Life Itself
(July 4) a documentary from director Steve James (Hope Dreams) examines the life and eventual death of film critic Roger Ebert. This warts-and-all look at the Pulitzer-Prize winning writer has been getting rave reviews on the film festival circuit…Zach Braff’s Wish I Was Here (July 18) finds the actor as a 35 year-old man suffering a mid-life crisis. Here’s hoping the filmmaker’s fans can relate to the character’s angst as they funded this feature themselves through Kickstarter…Mike Cahill’s I Origins (July 18) has been shrouded in a bit of secrecy but early reports indicate it deals with two scientists who uncover ocular patterns that suggest that there may be something to that whole reincarnation thing…Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight (July 25) takes place in the early 1930s and focuses on a famous magician (Colin Firth) who’s summoned by a friend to defraud a comely medium (Emma Stone)…One of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s final film’s, A Most Wanted Man (July 25), is a conspiracy thriller about a Chechen who turns up in Hamburg, Germany, in order to lay claim to his father’s fortune. Trouble is, no one is sure of his true identity…Very Good Girls (July 25) finds Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olson as high school graduates who make a pact to lose their virginity before they leave for college three months later. However, their friendship is tested when they fall for the same fella…Happy Christmas (July 25) stars Anna Kendrick as a directionless young woman who upsets her brother’s routine and family when she moves in with them…Calvary (Aug. 1) looks at a priest (Brendan Gleeson) who suffers a crisis of faith when he’s threatened while hearing a confession…What If (Aug. 1) finds Daniel Radcliffe as a medical student dropout who begins to think that his best friend (Zoe Kazan) may be the love of his life…Life After Beth (Aug. 15) finds a young man (Dane DeHaan) trying up to make up for past wrongs when he tries to win the heart of his girlfriend who has died and risen from the dead…The Trip to Italy (Aug. 15) finds Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon reprising their roles from 2010’s cult comedy The Trip as two friends who try to come to terms with their lives while traveling through Italy to sample the native cuisine…Frank (Aug. 15) finds Michael Fassbender taking on the title role as an oddball musician who takes a young singer under his wing.

Ellar Coltrane and Patricia Arquette in Boyhood.


Not to Be Missed

Director Richard Linklater has never been satisfied with the status quo. Whether it’s fusing live action with animation in a life-like manner in Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly or turning the romantic film on its ear with Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight, his trilogy of movies made over the course of 19 years featuring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as a couple whose love affair goes through various ups and downs, the filmmaker is constantly looking for ways to challenge himself as well as his audience.

His most audacious and potentially rewarding effort to date, Boyhood, is set for release July 18 and promises to be a unique film-going experience. Made over the course of 12 consecutive years, the movie charts the growth and maturation of Mason as he navigates the ups and downs of childhood and his teenage years. What makes the movie unique is that we see the actor portraying Mason, Ellar Coltrane, literally grow up before us. Beginning in the summer of 2002, Linklater assembled the cast, which also includes Patricia Arquette and Hawke, and filmed the story’s first scenes over the course of one week. He continued this for a dozen years, and while the aging process affected everyone in the cast, the changes Coltrane underwent were the most drastic as he goes from being 5 years old to 19 over the movie’s 166 minutes.

While on the surface this may seem like nothing more than a gimmick, the fact that Linklater is constantly striving to provide viewers with unique, emotionally satisfying material bodes well for Boyhood and makes it the film I’m looking forward to the most this summer.  

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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