The temperature here in LA has been pushing the mid-90s the past few days. Summer is essentially upon us, and with that, of course, comes a slew of big summer blockbuster movies. As with any other year, this summer will present us with a heap of terrible mega-budgeted behemoths of films (a third Transformers insult, a very unnecessary fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, a live-action adaptation of The Smurfs for some reason) as well as some high quality films that may fly by under the radar thanks to these larger monstrosities.
Here at FYM, I'll take a look into a few of these smaller films we're excited about along with a couple larger movies that actually look interesting.
Starring: Michelle Williams, Paul Dano
Director: Kelly Reichardt
I'm going to start off by cheating a bit by recommending a spring movie that had a very small release a few weeks ago, but if you look hard enough for it, you can escape the heat and watch a riveting tale about the Oregon Trail. This is no simpleton adaptation of a 90's elementary school computer game, this is Kelly Reichardt's (Wendy and Lucy) gritty, minimalist survival story about a group of pioneers who make the dangerous trek west.
Hobo With a Shotgun
Starring: Rutger Hauer
Director: Jason Eisener
Like last year's fun and under-appreciated Machete, this movie was originally one of the fake trailers included in the Tarantino/Rodriguez grindhouse send-up Grindhouse. It's now gotten the full-length treatment starring the legendary Rutger Hauer. If you're into gritty, post-apocalyptic thrillers set amongst urban decay sprinkled with some absurdist humor, then Hobo With a Shotgun (a title which clearly echoes Snakes On a Plane) is the right movie for you.
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Devin Brochu, Natalie Portman, Rainn Wilson
Director: Spencer Susser
The trailer for Hesher leaves the plot intriguingly vague but showcases what looks like a fascinating and original character piece of a movie. Gordon-Levitt, who apparently has stipulations in his contracts that require him to star exclusively in awesome movies, stars as Hesher, a slacker/stoner metalhead who seems to be an unlikely mentor to young, miserable TJ (Brochu). It seems there will be quite an emotional core to this movie, as well as some Jackass-style stunts and explosions. Who knows what to expect? All I know is I can't wait to see this.
Everything Must Go
Starring: Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall, Laura Dern
Director: Dan Rush
Ferrell has had success before in roles in which he is more subdued than he usually is (Stranger Than Fiction), and this movie apparently takes place in my hometown of Arcadia, California, so I'm doubly intrigued. Smaller-budgeted indie movies about mid-life crises always seem to come and go without much hubbub, but Ferrell's comedic edge, as well as supporting roles from the talented Dern and Hall, might make Everything Must Go more worthwhile than others.
The Tree of Life
Starring: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain
Director: Terrence Malick
Malick's films (The Thin Red Line, Badlands) have always been as focused on the largest questions and mysteries surrounding life itself as they have been few and far between. The Tree of Life is only Malick's sixth full-length film since 1973 but appears to dig the deepest into said mysteries of life and death while seemingly spanning millions of years. Penn stars as a broken middle-aged man struggling with the impacts, both positive and negative, brought on by his parents when he was a young boy. The Tree of Life, quite possibly the ultimate existential crisis movie, looks like one of the most cinematically stunning films in years. This is my most anticipated film of the summer.
X-Men: First Class
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, January Jones, Kevin Bacon
Director: Matthew Vaughn
As a lifelong X-Men fan, it was hard for me to start to see the superb film franchise start to go down in flames with poorly executed critical duds such as X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Even after finding out this new movie would be a prequel set in the 60s with a decent cast and a good director in Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Layer Cake), I was still unconvinced. That changed when the full-length trailers surfaced, showing that First Class is a movie that appears to be more character-driven rather than special effects driven. It's a tale of the dissolution of a great friendship between Charles Xavier and Erik Magnus that will hopefully pack some emotional wallop to go along with some crazy action sequences. Consider me interested, albeit a bit hesitant, about seeing this movie.
Starring: Riley Griffiths, Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler
Director: JJ Abrams
Producer: Stephen Spielberg
Super 8 is a sci-fi nerd dream come true as it teams up Lost co-creator and Star Trek director JJ Abrams with producer Stephen Spielberg. A relatively uninteresting teaser trailer hit theaters a year ago, making Super 8 seem like a generic Cloverfield clone. But earlier this year, a proper trailer, shown above, was released and previewed a sci-fi action-adventure movie that has a similar small town, coming-of-age feel not unlike that of Spielberg classics ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Maybe it's just a hunch, but Super 8 really does feel like it has a glowing heart that other recent big-budgeted science fiction movies rarely have anymore.
Conan O'Brien Can't Stop
Starring: Conan O'Brien
Director: Rodman Flender
Conan O'Brien Can't Stop is a documentary focusing on O'Brien's "Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television" Tour last year which took him on the road across America after having The Tonight Show taken away from him. Expect lots of behind the scenes footage of Conan being Conan and coping with a huge crisis with humor and grace like only he can. Check out the clip above.
Starring: Brit Marling, William Mathoper
Director: Mike Cahill
Thanks to the success of 2009's District 9, there seems to be more and more of these super low budget science fiction movies popping up every now and then (please check out 2010's Monsters on Netflix Instant). Another Earth continues this trend. An exact replica of planet Earth, complete with alternate versions of every person on this planet, appears in space directly next to our Earth, causing people all over our planet to develop deep existential crises. This includes Rhoda, played by Brit Marling, who, after wiping out an entire family in a drunken car crash (except the father, played by Lost's William Mathoper), desires to visit this alternate Earth to see how the parallel version of herself has fared at life. This character-driven science fiction film will get heavy on emotion and light on action, but it's undoubtedly fresh and unlike anything I've heard of in recent memory.
30 Minutes or Less
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson
Director: Ruben Fleischer
The Social Network's Jesse Eisenberg teams up with some of comedy's best players in this frantic bank-heist comedy which follows Eisenberg as a slacker pizza delivery driver forced to rob a bank for a criminal (McBride) or else the bomb strapped his his chest will explode. If you're already a fan of the likes of Ansari, Swardson, and McBride, you can pretty much picture the ridiculousness that will go down over the course of this movie. This could very well be the funniest comedy of the summer.
Our Idiot Brother
Starring: Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, Adam Scott, Steve Coogan
Director: Jesse Peretz
Another strong candidate for funniest comedy of the summer is Our Idiot Brother, a story about a very Californian hippie-slacker (a fuzzy Paul Rudd) who just can't seem to get his life on track and the three sisters (Banks, Deschanel, Mortimer) who have to put up with him. Rounding out a very strong cast are the always hilarious Adam Scott and Steve Coogan in a film that may hit very close to home for certain film bloggers...