The PopMatters Summer Movie Preview – May 2013

Within the first two weeks of the 2013 summer season, we’ll see two of the most highly anticipated releases of the year. We’ll also get more Hangover, some F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the (hopeful) return of M. Night Shyamalan to the ranks of legitimate filmmaker.

 

Director: Shane Black

Film: Iron Man 3

Cast: Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Stephanie Szostak, James Badge Dale, Jon Favreau, Ben Kingsley

MPAA rating: PG-13

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3 May
Iron Man 3

It’s going to be hard to top the international success of the billion-dollar plus box office smash, The Avengers, but Shane Black wants to try. Picking up for an MIA Jon Favreau (who handled the first two films), we are promised a “darker” and more “edgy” installment of the superhero series. From the trailers, it appears Black has managed the near impossible. He’s kept the aspects of Tony Stark we’ve come to love, while adding enough action and menace to up the wow factor. So watch out DC. Marvel’s continued dominance of the comic book genre appears certain come the first week of May.

 

Director: Ariel Vromen

Film: The Iceman

Cast: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta, Chris Evans

MPAA rating: R

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3 May
The Iceman

It has Michael Shannon as the notorious contract killer Richard Kuklinski and was a hit at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival. Now it’s finally getting a wide release, just in time to get stomped on by a billionaire philanthropist in a metal suit. While there have been documentaries featuring the hitman himself declaring his dedication to death, it will be interesting to see Shannon bring some internal life to the unrepentant psycho whose claimed to have murdered between 100 and 250 people. Some find the casting and the approach by relative novice Ariel Vroman to be a bit lacking, but it still sounds intriguing.

 

Director: Xan Cassavetes

Film: Kiss of the Damned

Cast: Josephine de La Baume, Roxane Mesquida, Milo Ventimiglia, Anna Mouglalis

MPAA rating: R

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3 May
Kiss of the Damned

The vampire genre has been in a tailspin ever since Twilight took the “bite” out of those blood thirsty neckbiters. Writer/director (and daughter of John ) Xan Cassevetes wants to change all that. Mimicing the ’70s style of European horror, the female filmmaker replaces panicky puppy love with real adult erotica, turning a tale of forbidden love and supernatural beings into a revisionist retro groove. Though slow in pace and old school in scares, there’s enough passion and pain to make even the most ardent fan of Stephenie Meyer stand up and take notice.

 

Director: Scott McGehee, David Siegel

Film: What Maisie Knew

Cast: Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgård, Onata Aprile, Joanna Vanderham, Steve Coogan

MPAA rating: R

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3 May
What Maisie Knew

Based on a 1897 book by Henry James, this tale of divorce and dysfunction has been given a modern update by filmmakers Scott McGehee and David Siegel (The Deep End, Bee Season). Keeping the novel’s perspective, the story of a marriage in freefall is presented almost exclusively from the title character’s six-year-old vantage point. The storyline remains a bit specious, with each parent partnering up with people who you know don’t fit their flustered psychological profile, while Maisie herself seems an afterthought in a sad game of guardian one-upmanship. Buzz is favorable, even for those who find the film flawed.

10 May

Director: Baz Lurhmann

Film: The Great Gatsby

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher,. Jason Clarke, Amitabh Bachchan

MPAA rating: PG-13

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10 May
The Great Gatsby

Baz Lurhmann, the man behind Moulin Rouge and William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet hasn’t made a feature length film since 2008’s Australia. He’s back now, with his over-the-top take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famed Jazz Age parable. As with many books considered classics by scholars and social circles, Gatsby has always had it detractors. Various unsuccessful film versions (including a mid-’70s dud starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow) have further dulled its literary luster. The trailers have been promising extravagance and style, and we are huge fan of this period in Leonard DiCaprio’s career. It’s Luhrmann we’re unsure of.

 

Director: Tina Gordon Chism

Film: Peeples

Cast: Kerry Washington, Craig Robinson, David Alan Grier, Diahann Carrol

MPAA rating: R

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10 May
Peeples

Something strange happened to this film on the way to an early summer release. Tyler Perry, still smarting from the one two punch of Alex Cross and Temptation, became “invested” in the project, and now his name is plastered all over a new ad campaign. No matter who is “presenting” this film, or the various other title changes involved, it’s the content that counts, and with the frequently hilarious Craig Robinson as the working man fiancé of a well to do debutante, satiric sparks might just fly. On the other hand, this kind of material has been done to death, and usually without much success.

 

Director: Nicolás López

Film: Aftershock

Cast: Eli Roth, Andrea Osvárt, Ariel Levy, Nicolas Martinez, Lorenza Izzo, Natasha Yarovenko

MPAA rating: R

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10 May
Aftershock

Eli Roth appears to be more interested in appearances in front of the camera than creating more craven horror films (Hostel, Cabin Fever) behind it. From roles in Tarantino flicks (Death Proof, Inglourious Basterds) to helping out some fellow fright fans (he produced the horrible The Last Exorcism) he needs to stop that star bit and get back to the blood. In this case, he’s Gringo in this weird take on a South American earthquake. As part of a group of nightclubbing party addicts who watch society disintegrate post-disaster, he stars as well as helping with the script. The trailer teases of the atrocities to come.

 

Director: Philipp Stölzl

Film: Erased

Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Olga Kurylenko, Liana Liberato

MPAA rating: R

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10 May
Erased

Before it was bought by the Weinstein Company and, as usual, retitled, The Expatriate did decent business oversees. Some considered it a poor man’s Bourne Identity, but for the most part, star Aaron Eckhart pulls off the role of a ex-CIA agent on the run, hoping his past won’t catch up to his rebellious teenage daughter. While filmmaker Philipp Stölzl got his start in music videos, the German director’s North Face earned some minor international acclaim. Here, he seems out of his element, needing to borrow heavily from genre efforts before to keep his thriller from falling apart.

 

Director: Ben Wheatley

Film: Sightseers

Cast: Alice Lowe, Steve Oram

MPAA rating: R

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10 May
Sightseers

As the follow-up feature to his crazy quilt genre crossover Kill List, Ben Wheatley has decided to go on holiday, literally. Telling the story of two caravan campers who turn their dysfunctional relationship into a desire to murder anyone who doesn’t share their sullied world view, the filmmaker finds deeply dark humor in such sad subjects as vacant British landscapes and brazen bloodletting. As his leads, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram give new meaning to the term “antisocial,” lashing out in ways that even a hardened psychopath would consider extreme. Still, thanks to Wheatley’s work behind the scenes, everything is daft and delirious.

 

Director: Zack Bernbaum

Film: And Now a Word from Our Sponsor

Cast: Bruce Greenwood, Parker Posey, Callum Blue, Ryhs Ward

MPAA rating: R

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10 May
And Now a Word From Our Sponsor

First time feature filmmaker Zack Bernbaum has come up with an unique concept for his quirky corporate satire. Ad man CEO Bruce Greenwood disappears only to later be discovered in a hospital. When he wakes, he can only speak in slogans. That’s right, his entire dialogue is derived from Madison Avenue campaigns. Parker Posey tries to figure out what happened, while her costar wears out his welcome with one recognizable commercial catchphrase after another. The trailer teases that there is a bigger message here, but one fears that this is more gimmick than golden opportunity to take down our materialistic age.

15-17 May

Director: J.J. Abrams

Film: Star Trek: Into Darkness

Cast: John Cho, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Peter Weller, Anton Yelchin

MPAA rating: R

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15 May
Star Trek: Into Darkness

Along with Iron Man 3, this is one of summer 2013’s most anticipated movies. When he took over the reins for this decidedly DOA franchise a few years back, many wondered if J.J. Abrams could breathe new life into the old sci-fi stock. One amazing blockbuster later and both fans and newbies can’t wait for the continuing voyages of this new/old Starship Enterprise. With a far more varied canvas (the trailer has both Starfleet Command and the noted interstellar vessel down for the count) and a very viable villain, we could be in for another amazing installment in the film franchise.

 

Director: Noah Baumbach

Film: Frances Ha

Cast: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver, Hannah Dunne, Michael Esper

MPAA rating: R

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17 May
Frances Ha

When he works with others, Noah Baumbach has been known to come up trumps. This is especially true of his collaborations with Wes Anderson (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Fantastic Mr. Fox). On his own, he’s made some intriguing films (Kicking and Screaming, The Squid and the Whale) as well as some less than enticing entries (Margo at the Wedding, Greenberg). This time around, he teams up with gal pal Greta Gerwig for a dramatic comedy about a dancer. Sounds interesting, but Baumbach has a tendency to employ snark where sentiment would fit better.

 

Director: Sarah Polley

Film: Stories We Tell

Cast: Rebecca Jenkins

MPAA rating: R

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17 May
Stories We Tell

Sarah Polley has graduated from child star (she was the little girl giving Baron Munchausen what for in Terry Gilliam’s fairytale masterpiece) to genre actress (the Dawn of the Dead remake) to acclaimed filmmaker (Away from Her, Take this Waltz). Now she turns the camera on her own family and the secrets they’ve been burying for decades. This documentary, which also features recreations by an actress as Polley’s Mom, has been getting remarkable reviews from around the festival circuit. Whether it can stand up to the Summer season onslaught is another story all together.

 

Director: Craig Zisk

Film: The English Teacher

Cast: Julianne Moore, Greg Kinnear, Michael Angarano, Nathan Lane, Lily Collins

MPAA rating: PG-13

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17 May
The English Teacher

Currently playing On Demand and making a minor theatrical bow in the coming weeks, this weird character study seems to center on a Miss Brodie like instructor who helps a former student realize his dreams of being a playwright. The trailer seems to imply there is some sort of slight sexual awakening involved. It seems unfair for someone as talented as Julianne Moore to be involved in such a narrative but she apparently wants to steer clear of blockbuster/popcorn movie career choices. First time feature filmmaker Craig Zisk has a lot of TV credits, but no real experience behind the cinematic lens. We’ll hope for the best.

24 May

Director: Justin Lin

Film: Fast and Furious 6

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez, Sung Kang, Chris Bridges, Luke Evans, Gina Carano, John Ortiz

MPAA rating: PG-13

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24 May
Fast and Furious 6

When last we left this franchise, it was practically dead in the water. Then part five took the car racing theme to demented, dizzying heights, adding the Rock and a heist angle to the RPMs and MPGs. Now, Universal has already got the next two installments primed and ready to roll. Everyone is back (including a presumable dead Michelle Rodriguez whose appearance was hinted at in a teaser at the end of the last installment) and the story involves pardons for past crimes in return for the taking down of a cruel criminal mastermind… and his female second-in-command. Guess who?

 

Director: Todd Phillips

Film: The Hangover III

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong, Heather Graham, Jeffrey Tambor, Justin Bartha, John Goodman

MPAA rating: R

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24 May
The Hangover III

Who knew this was a planned trilogy? One assumes director Todd Philips is pulling a bit of a Wachowski here, turning a huge initial hit ala The Matrix into a mildly cohesive three part arc. In this return to Vegas, the Wolf Pack are dealing with more than mad criminals. Sure, there’s a pissed off mobster (in the form of John Goodman) and borderline hate crime Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong) is back as well. But in this final piece of the Hangover puzzle, Zach Galifianakis’ Alan Garner is off his meds and running on his own internal insanity. Yikes!

 

Director: Chris Wedge

Film: Epic

Cast: Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Amanda Seyfried, Christoph Waltz, Aziz Ansari, Chris O’Dowd, Pitbull, Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler, Beyoncé Knowles

MPAA rating: PG

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24 May
Epic

There’s a problem with naming your animated film Epic. It becomes a shorthanded way for critics to either compliment, or complain about, the final product. Apparently, the title author William Joyce gave to his saga — The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs — wasn’t commercial enough for the masterminds behind the Ice Age films. Yes, Blue Sky is back and looking for another profitable franchise, adapting the Rolie Polie Olie writer’s work of young reader fantasy. After the way in which his The Guardians of Childhood was handled by Dreamworks (the excellent Rise of the Guardians), this could be good.

 

Director: Richard Linklater

Film: Before Midnight

Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

MPAA rating: R

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24 May
Before Midnight

It’s like the fictional version of the Up! series. Every nine years, writer/director Richard Linklater (Slacker, Dazed and Confused) meets up with actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy to tell the story of Jessie and Celine, and what their life is like now that they are finally a couple. For some, the talky walking tours of various international locales (Paris, Greece) offer up clear character studies of modern relationships. Others have not been so impressed. Early buzz has this is, perhaps, the best installment in the series. Of course, one wonders if we’ll see another Before in another nine years.

31 May

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Film: After Earth

Cast: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Sophie Okonedo

MPAA rating: PG-13

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31 May
After Earth

Something is definitely up with this movie. Either it’s so good that the previous July release date was scrapped for an early, end of May opening, or Columbia Pictures smells a stinker and wants to get the pain over and done with before the real summer movie season starts. Whatever the case, this is ridiculed former next Steven Spielberg M. Night Shyamalan’s chance at redemption, and things are looking up. For one, he is working from someone else’s script (though he did have some input). Two, he has box office superstar Will Smith in tow (and, unfortunately, his talentless son Jaden). Third, the special effects look great. Could be another Avatar. Could be another Ishtar.

 

Director: Louis Leterrier

Film: Now You See Me

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Mélanie Laurent, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman

MPAA rating: PG-13

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31 May
Now You See Me

A group of high profile magicians are amazing audiences with what appears to be a series of white collar crimes (bank heists, money funneling). So it’s up to a hardened FBI agent (Mark Ruffalo) to find out what’s really going on. Up front, we love the premise. When done right, magic can be the foundation to an amazing movie masterwork (like Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige). The weak link here is director Louis Leterrier. Outside of the Transporter films, his takes on The Incredible Hulk and Clash of the Titans were not well received. Still, with a cast including Jesse Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman, and Woody Harrellson, we’re optimistic.

 

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Film: The Kings of Summer

Cast: Nick Offerman, Moises Arias, Nick Robinson

MPAA rating: R

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31 May
The Kings of Summer

Kids hate their parents, that’s a given. Teenagers, especially, want to flee their family in order to have the freedom to discover who they really are. Thus we have a slightly unique spin on the storyline with this first time feature film from TV director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and screenwriter Chris Galleta. The plot centers around a desire by three friends to run away from home, build their own house deep in the woods, and live off the land. Naturally, comical coming of age hijinx supposedly ensue. The trailer teases what eventually happens, but here’s hoping the story doesn’t turn all sloppy and sentimental.

 

Director: James DeMonaco

Film: The Purge

Cast: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Adelaide Kane, Max Burkholder, Edwin Hodge, Rhys Wakefield

MPAA rating: R

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31 May
The Purge

While attending a screening of Rob Zombie’s Lords of Salem, a trailer for this thriller was revealed. And then, another ad, this time for something called You’re Next. Apparently, the concept of well to do people being picked on by outside intruders is the new genre trend. Here, the US has come up with a way of lowering crime (?) and unemployment (??) by allowing all citizens one 12-hour police-less crime spree per year. We then meet Ethan Hawke, his family, and his well armed palatial mansion. A mistake leads to a version of Assault on Precinct 13, which, oddly enough, Hawke starred in as well (the remake, that is).

 

Director: James Marsh

Film: Shadow Dancer

Cast: Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough, Gillian Anderson, Aidan Gillen

MPAA rating: R

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31 May
Shadow Dancers

So, this is the film Clive Owen chose to be in over Sin City 2? Arguably, this story about the “Troubles” in 1990s Britain has some resonance, especially those who remember the NRA’s reign of terror. But this small, relatively intimate thriller doesn’t really have the star power, or narrative thrust, to win over a clueless US public. Owen may be marching to his own outsider instincts, but for someone who once turned Alfonso Cuarón’s amazing Children of Men into a must-see piece of speculative specialness, choices like this one don’t help heighten his profile.

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