With the first month of the summer movie season in the books, let’s see where we stand. Iron Man 3 became the fifth-highest grossing film of all-time; The Great Gatsby defied critical response to become an unlikely audience and box-office friendly success. Star Trek Into Darkness did not sit well with the purists of Star Trek aficionados, especially as it pertains to arguably the greatest film in the franchise (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). The Hangover Part III was one hangover too many, and Fast & Furious 6 defies logic when trying to explain why this series is more popular than ever. And then you have the arthouse favorite Before Midnight proving that the best sequel of the summer isn’t a computer effects-heavy spectacle.
Now in June, it took more handwringing than usual when deciding the best films to see in theaters. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are those out there that are more than willing to plunk down $10+ on tickets to see the latest Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson yukfest, The Internship, but honestly, this month is pretty barren when it comes to big event films (save for one). But it is an interesting month to seek out smaller, unique films, plus one meta-comedy that will make you see a certain group of comedic actors in a different, albeit pre-planned variant, light.
Sometimes a film can have a great concept and flounder when it comes to putting it together for a final product. The Purge, in theory, sounds like a fun, interesting, original concept. In a dystopian future, the world is a peaceful place with crime and murder at an all-time low and the reason for this is because one day a year, for 12 hours, everything is legal. That’s right, your neighbour never returned your lawn mower and you’re not happy about it? You’re free to go over there and break his kneecaps for it so long as it happens during this “open period.”
The main story focuses on a family who ends up being taken hostage during this time period. The two stars of the film are Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey, who are the parents in the family that’s held hostage. Writer/director James DeMonaco is no stranger to thrillers, having written films like The Negotiator and the remake of Assault on Precinct 13. Both of those films are quite entertaining, and both take place mostly in one location, which bodes well for The Purge.
Why You Should See It: While it won’t be setting any records, The Purge definitely offers something different in terms of entertainment at the box-office. For those looking for something a bit darker, or a bit more visceral than the usual summer fare, The Purge is what you should be seeing to kick off the month of June. (Brendan Campbell)
Arriving the same weekend as The Purge is another thriller, but one with real-world consequences. It also happens to be a documentary. Just like last month where I recommended Sarah Polley’s doc Stories We Tell, I’m back recommending yet another nonfictional work. And before you ask, yes, I love the fictional stuff that Hollywood churns out; it’s just that this sounds like such an interesting expose on something that has been taking place for years, if not decades.
Produced in conjunction with Jeremy Scahill’s investigative novel, Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield, a massive 500-page work full of tons of information and the sources to back it up, I unfortunately haven’t had to time to crack it open and devour it. For those who would like the Cliff’s Notes version, this documentary seems to be it.
Both the doc and novel revolve around a new classification of foot soldiers that operate under orders from the White House to hunt down, capture, or kill individuals designated by the President as enemies. These soldiers are picked from Navy SEALs, Delta Force, former Blackwater and other private security contractors, the CIA’s Special Activities Division, and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).
Why You Should See It: The success of Dirty Wars will depend on the legitimacy of its interview subjects (including some generals and U.S.-backed warlords who go on camera and on record for the first time, plus survivors of drone attacks and the family of an American citizen targeted for assassination) and the consequences that come from a war landscape that continues to evolve while also spinning out of control. (Travis Leamons)
Man of Steel
There’s only one real blockbuster to be excited for this summer: Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.
Now before you levy complaints about needing to reboot Superman once again after Superman Returns, well let me tell you a few things. One: Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns was seven years ago. It’s also the reason why two superhero franchises went off the rails (Supes and X-Men – Singer’s decision to make Superman Returns meant that we got Brett Ratner to shepherd X-Men: The Last Stand). Two: The reboot/retelling of Superman’s origin comes with the guidance of Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer, two men who presented Batman in a real-world environment where he had his equivalent to James Bond’s Q to give him practical weapons and accessories (not just a suit with “bat nipples”).
Why You Should See It: Zack Snyder, a filmmaker who is highly skilled at depicting the hero’s journey (as he did with 300 and Watchmen), is looking to recreate Superman for a modern world.
What I love about the trailers and ads so far is that Snyder is delving into the mythos of the hero into two main viewpoints. His earth father (Kevin Costner) who wants him to just be a normal guy, nothing more, because he fears that the people won’t accept him for what he is. His actual father (Russell Crowe) sees him as being someone for people to aspire to, to be the hero humanity needs. It’s something we haven’t seen out of the character in a cinematic way; Snyder’s delving into the heart of the character, of the contrast between viewpoints that define Superman.
Snyder’s original ideas may be bland but his ability to get into the mythos of other’s creations is his niche. And I can’t wait to see him explore Superman. (Scott Sawitz)
This Is the End
In 2007, the short film Jay and Seth Vs. The Apocalypse was made by the comedy team of Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Jason Stone, and the trailer became a Youtube sensation soon after it was posted. The result of this six years later is the film This Is The End, which stars Rogen, James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Michael Cera, and Craig Robinson – along with quite a few more Hollywood names.
The premise is that these guys are all at a party at James Franco’s house, and while there the Apocalypse happens and they all have to figure out what to do to survive. The film obviously falls into the meta-realm, as everyone involved play themselves and hilarity ensues.
Why You Should See It: Really, this is a no-brainer when it comes to a “can’t miss” comedy film. These guys are all great comedic actors, and this is a film where they’re just letting lose and having fun – and that alone should be worth the price of admission.
Like Armageddon and Deep Impact, or Volcano and Dante’s Peak, This Is the End comes out just before another Apocalyptic comedy in Edgar Wright’s The World’s End, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost; however, all this really means is that we win as the audience, because both films should be incredibly funny and offer something completely different when it comes to delivery and context. Bring on the Apocalypse! (BC)
Last month, the movie community was in a thither when the first trailer dropped for Paul Greengrass’s Captain Phillips. Starring Tom Hanks in the titular role, the film is a based-on-a-true-story account of a ship that was taken over by Somali pirates and the captain that was taken hostage. A Hijacking, a Danish drama, is similar in situation, in which the cargo ship MV Rozen is hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. What should be your typical hostage situation becomes a cynical game of life and death involving the CEO of the shipping company wanting to negotiate with the pirates directly instead of a negotiator go-between.
Why You Should See It: What intrigues me about Tobias Lindholm’s A Hijacking is how we have a story involving those held captive by Somali pirates and the CEO that wants to have a lowball the pirates for their lives. Considering the life of a business owner, and the fact that everyone loves a bargain, it’s no surprise that a shipping company would have a set allocated amount to retrieving its property, including the lives of the crew on board. But when you are dealing with pirates, who aren’t your normal white-collar business types, the idea of a CEO driving a hard bargain seems like a no win situation. We shall see later this month when Magnolia Pictures releases the film into theaters and makes it available as VOD. (TL)