You know, I really used to look forward to the summer movie season. If nothing else, the coming of May would always herald the biggest, loudest, most spectacular movies of the year- pure cinematic candy to gorge on when escaping the assaultive sun. Sadly, as I’ve gotten older I’ve lost a lot of this sense of fun. It’s not just that I’ve gotten more mature as a moviegoer either. I’m still just as capable of enjoying a well-crafted blockbuster as the next guy, provided it delivers the thrills and doesn’t kill too many brain cells. But what really took away that summer movie magic was when the studios started releasing summer-worthy titles year ‘round. Once Hollywood began putting out a big e-ticket every month or so, summer began to feel less like a special time at the movies.
That said, there are at least a handful of intriguing titles coming to multiplexes this summer. Please notice that I’m talking about multiplexes here. Like many cinephiles I’m looking forward to the release of the Errol Morris’ latest doc, Tabloid, along with the goodies new and classic coming to the Wexner Center over the summer. But all five of my anticipated titles listed below should be coming to a theatre near you, no matter where you are, by the time the kids go back to school in the fall. We’ll begin, of course, with my #1 most anticipated movie of the summer, and proceed in (roughly) descending order of anticipation.
Tree of Life (May)
Come on, like you didn’t see this one coming. Back when this was slated to come out in ’09, it topped my most-anticipated list of that year, and the intervening two years have only increased my eagerness to see this. Terence Malick has yet to falter in my eyes, and this project, which he first began writing in the 1970s, could be his most personal yet. There will always be the contingent of vocal Malick-haters, but they can suck it. In a time when there’s precious little excitement left at the multiplex, Tree of Life is my idea of an Event Movie.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (July)
I have yet to be truly bowled over by a big-screen Potter adaptation, but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t looking forward to this. Part of the reason is because last fall’s installment was one of my favorites of the series to date, doing a bang-up job of condensing the original story while setting up this final entry. And with so much ground yet to cover before the series has wrapped, this one has the potential to be pretty ambitious. I predict this’ll be the top-grossing movie of the summer- and perhaps one of its most satisfying entertainments.
Super 8 (June)
With his first two features as a director, JJ Abrams has proven himself to be a canny assimilator of popular culture. Now with his third film, he offers his take on the eighties-era Spielberg adventure, with a group of small-town kids coming face-to-face with something… strange. This may be the iffiest film on my list, but the trailer is awfully impressive, and Abrams looks to be sure-handed in his re-imagining of Spielberg-esque Americana.
Captain America: The First Avenger (July)
Speaking of Americana, am I the only one who’s looking forward to this more than any other comic-book flick of the summer? I hope not, because while X-Men: First Class looks to be yet another attempt to milk a seemingly dry franchise and Thor doesn’t seem too compelling to me, Captain America is the kind of throwback superhero yarn that could serve as a corrective to heaviness that’s become increasingly prevalent in the genre. And I couldn’t think of a filmmaker better suited to this than Joe Johnston, whose underloved The Rocketeer was another infectious adventure about the straight-arrow good guy. With luck, Captain America will give him the franchise he deserved to get two decades ago.
Kung Fu Panda 2 (May)
What’s that, you say? Pixar has a new movie coming out this summer? Well yes, but that Pixar movie is Cars 2, and as much as I’d like to stand out from the crowd, I can’t help but join the chorus that calls the original Cars the least of Pixar’s films thus far. Meanwhile, Kung Fu Panda is Dreamworks’ best animated film to date, a thoroughly unpretentious action comedy that showcases Jack Black’s best star turn since School of Rock. So while I’m still curious to see what else Pixar can do with the Cars gang, deep down I’m really looking forward to laughing along with Po and the Furious Five. Just as long as it doesn’t get too schmaltzy, I expect that I’ll be laughing a lot, and sometimes when you’re watching a big summer movie, that’s really all you need.