Admittedly one easily admits to a touch of moonglow within the ol' noggin when contemplating discussing the upcoming summer films while the frost is on the windowsills. But hey . . . when one considers the price of a ticket these days, maybe getting some discussion going will inspire some of you to beat the rush to the bank to arrange for an entertainment loan.
(Besides, the talking drums tell me Netflix is raising its rates. I believe the technical term for this is cutting off one's nose to spite one's face.)
So there's definitely a speck on the hillside, a dot on the road, and we'll all just pause to take a peek and see what's going to hit us. And I'm going to take a slight break from my usual method of film-by-film dissection and try to adopt a more conversational and relaxed tone. Not being particularly experimental, you understand, but I'm writing this while hoping the sinus headache fades and, whereas I'm of a mind to be conversational, I don't feel too overly analytical. Bear with me, pumpkins.
(On the plus side, however, I finally managed to see Karl Hartl's 1933 film "F.P.1 Antwortet Nicht" after decades of patient searching. If I can only figure out how to cheerfully discuss a now-obscure black-and-white German language science-fiction film without having you people throw rocks at me I'll put it down on my list of future items for this column.)
Anyway . . .
As usual the summer is cheek-to-jowl with cutesy Pixarish animated features (e.g. "Monsters University", "Despicable Me 2", "Turbo", "Smurfs 2", "Planes" ad-frickin' infinitum ad-razzerfrazzert nauseam!). And this is why I shouldn't write these things while my head is pounding, boogie chillun. My mellow is about mashed anyway, and news like this doesn't help. Once again I take the cat-o-nine tails to the dead Percheron and cry where . . . o where is the cutting edge animated features with the sophisticated storylines? Marjane Satrapi, Christian Volckman, Nina Paley, Adam Elliot . . . c'mon, guys, where are you? Or maybe it's just the local attitude and, when it comes to full-length animated features, the word is out that if it can't be Happy Mealed then it's not worth promoting.
(I swear, come the Revolution . . .)
Zack Snyder's "Man of Steel" naturally tickles my interest (although I'll be much more interested in seeing how it does among the Superman film fan base, most of whom still need to be weaned away from the Cult of Reeve*), but I find myself much more interested in Louis Leterrier's upcoming "Now You See Me". On the surface this looks like a stylish upgrade of Robert Mandel's "F/X", only with stage magicians instead of special-effects people. Beyond the surface (which is Uncle Mikeyspeak for "Morgan Freeman's in the cast") this looks to be a complicated thriller which might be worth some popcorn. Besides, I've been wanting to see more of Mark Ruffalo in action, and this looks like the place.
(*Yeah, and I'm going to spike the lynch mob right now. Indisputable Point Number One: I am not totally exonerating Bryan Singer for "Superman Returns". Indisputable Point Number Two: I fully liked Christopher Reeve and believed him to be a fine actor. But now we arrive at the Possibly Disputable Point: the fact that any live-action Superman movie is hamstrung by the fans who get all dewy-eyed by memories of Reeve. To which I say I'm heartily sorry but let's face the fact that the man is dead and perhaps it's time to move on.)
Big Question: can M. Night Shyamalan recover his mojo with "After Earth"? I pretty much know what Certain People would give me as a Big Answer, and admittedly I'm hedging my bets. Even though "The Village" telegraphed the ending real the heck early on in the film I gave it something of a pass because of the overall execution. I have a sneaking suspicion the same situation will arise with "After Earth" because . . . speaking here as an old-time science-fiction warhorse . . . I'm willing to bet I can write the ending to the film. We'll see. But I may pass this up in favor of, say, Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing". Why? Play it in your heads, pumpkins. It's Shakespeare done by Joss Whedon. Smack! Drool! It especially pleases me because I've been in the mood for a real comedy for quite some time now. And I mean a real comedy as opposed to a two-hour presentation of comments which failed to raise a chuckle when they were heard in the dressing room during 7th grade gym. Snookitrash prolefeed. Meanwhile Pedro Almodovar's "I'm So Excited", which is in the wings, seems to be an excellent and witty little comedy (and, since it's a foreign film, that means there's little chance I'll see it. Hell, I'm still waiting for "The Skin I Live In"). And that's Mister Film Snob to you.
(I know, I know . . . you're thinking that if it were up to me we'd be watching nothing but obscure foreign black-and-white science-fiction films from the 1930s and earlier. Could be worse.)
(Besides, I liked "Harlem Nights".)
"But Uncle Mikey," you proclaim. "What about "World War Z"?"
Well, what about it? Young Son has duly given the Max Brooks source novel a doubtless well-deserved "uh" (which, from him, is equivalent to an endorsement from the "New York Times"), but whether or not Marc Forster can pull off a watchable film version is anyone's guess. On the one hand he did "Stranger Than Fiction", which I liked. On the other hand he did "Quantum of Solace", which was one of the more unwatchable James Bond films. I tell myself I'll see just about anything Brad Pitt is in, but I might have to toss a coin on this one. And while I'm tossing coins, Gore Verbinski's "The Lone Ranger" might be grounds for another flip. So many voices in my head are screaming "Wrong-O, Mary Lou" about this one . . . but could it be possible that Verbinski knows something we don't?
Speaking of directors knowing something we don't, I liked James Mangold's "Walk the Line". Question: can he do anything worthwhile with a comic book property such as "The Wolverine"? The screenplay is by Mark Bomback, who has yet to really impress me, so that slurpy sound you're hearing is me with my tongue speculatively in cheek.
(Mine, that is.)
The tongue continues in place when contemplating Noam Munro's "300: Rise of an Empire". Yes, this is a sequel to 2006's "300", so it has a guaranteed audience. And Rodrigo Santoro is reprising his eminently watchable role of Xerxes. But Munro's still too much of an untried quantity. Apparently someone at the studio feels highly enough to trust him with what could be a high-profile project . . . but we'll see, we'll see.
On that note I'm going to hang up the speculation for the time being. Perhaps bring in an update or two as we get closer to summer (or as any opinions I've already tossed out start to jell). Of course you people out there can make up your minds. I only hope I'm making the trip to the box office a tad more enjoyable (if not argumentative).