Summer Movie Preview: July 2014

Movies should really draw me on the strength of their casts or their production teams or their intriguing premises. But in looking at the movies featured in July, I realized that most of them caught my attention because of some external meta factor about the movies themselves. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Who knows?!? I'm sure that many filmmakers don't much care how their movie sparks interest, as long as it does. Now that my attention is drawn, do I actually want to see the damn thing? Well, that's where the handy categories of Must-See, Rental, TBD, and Pass come in. Let's take a look!

July 2

Tammy: Melissa McCarthy movies can be difficult to predict. When she's utilized well, the results can be hilarious. When it's a string of fatty-fall-down-go-boom jokes...not so much. I'm heartened by the fact that she and her husband wrote this one, which is about a woman who gets fired and discovers her husband is cheating, then goes on a wacky cross-country trip with her drunk grandma (Susan Sarandon). That plot could tilt to either grand fun or insufferable annoyance. I'm an optimistic sort of chap, so I'm hoping it turns out well. That doesn't mean I'm going in without gauging its word-of-mouth first, though. (TBD)

July 4

Life Itself: Film criticism isn't what it used to be. People like to blame the decline of print media for that, but I think the biggest reason is the democratization of opinion. Very little information is given out as factual news anymore. It's all up for debate. This has positive and negative effects, but when it comes to film criticism, paid professionals are now being drowned out by the public; any asshole can start a blog to talk about what he thinks about movies. Ahem. Roger Ebert was perhaps the last great film critic of our time, and this documentary about his life is pretty much required viewing. I didn't always agree with Ebert's take on certain movies, but he always took a measured, thoughtful approach to his arguments, and I am very much looking forward to getting a better sense of his career. (Must-See)

July 11

Boyhood: Richard Linklater's latest coming-of-age drama is getting all sorts of press, not for the story in the movie, but for the story of the movie. Rather than cast different actors to show the struggles of a family through different stages of a child maturing, Linklater used the same kid, and took twelve years to film. Nobody knew what type of person this particular child actor would mature into, and I have to think the movie's script evolved to fit him, which is intriguing. People who have seen this at festivals are pretty ecstatic over it, and anyone who's seen me rhapsodize over the Up Series should be able to guess how I'm approaching this movie: I'm all over it. (Must-See)

A Long Way Down: This is one of the few July movies that actually drew me in with its premise: Four suicidal people meet on a New York City rooftop and (apparently) help each other work out their issues. The cast includes Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots, and Aaron Paul. I have seen absolutely no marketing for this thing, which isn't a great omen. This seems like one of those movies that will become a lot clearer once I read a review or two. (TBD)

July 18

Jupiter Ascending: I should note that this movie's release date is no longer July 18. In fact, it's been pushed all the way back to February of next year. not an encouraging sign. It's a shame, because when the Wachowskis put their minds to it, their movies can be endlessly fascinating and ambitious, if not rousing successes. For those of us who are bored with the usual sequels and mindless blockbusters, this film, about an alien bounty hunter (Channing Tatum) who's tasked with hopping planets to rescue a human janitor (Mila Kunis) sounds like a breath of fresh air. Now it's been moved to the movie calendar's equivalent of a landfill. I honestly don't know if that's because the movie has deep problems, or if Hollywood just can't figure out how to market stories like these. I guess we'll see next year. (TBD)

Wish I Was Here: As I alluded to in the intro paragraph, this is one of those movies that is more interesting for the story behind the production than the movie itself. This is Zach Braff's second relationship drama, though this time, it's about difficult familial relationships. Braff plays a struggling actor who homeschools his kids when their sick, rich grandfather (Mandy Patinkin) must divert funds from the kids' education funds to his cancer treatments. The movie got a lot of backing from Kickstarter fans, setting off various discussions and arguments about what artists are "owed" from the movie-going public. Honestly, this movie doesn't sound particularly good to me, and I can't remember a single detail of Garden State, so I'll likely let this slip by, though I'll be interested to see what other people think. (Pass)

July 25

Magic in the Moonlight: All Woody Allen movies are not created equal, but they're all at least worth looking into. The casts are always strong, and this upcoming one is no exception. Colin Firth plays an Englishman in France who wants to expose a fraudulent mystic (Emma Stone), who's being assisted by her mother (Marcia Gay Harden). Things get complicated when love blooms. I don't know that I need to rush out to a theater to see this, but assuming it gets decent reviews, it's a perfect Netflix evening in the making. (Rental)


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