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I'll confess to not being entirely sure if the tacky, link-baiting Game of Thrones reference in the title has crossed back over from being played-out and lame to being funny again. So if it is, in fact, not funny... sorry.

In any case, we are now just about into what is considered the midpoint of the "Summer Movie Season," a nebulous period that now begins sometime in late April and wraps-up whenever you start seeing this or that month's new Jason Statham movie debuting in an actual theater rather than direct to DVD. By now the reigning narratives of Summer 2013 have been largely set in stone; with the big stories being "The Avengers Brand Is Still a License to Print Money" i.e. Iron Man 3, "Women Can Open Action Movies After All" meaning The Heat outgunning White House Down at the box office, and "People Angry At Unnecessarily Gruesome Movies Based on Previously Child-Friendly Characters" meaning Man of Steel and, by Monday, The Lone Ranger. The only questions yet unanswered are whether or not The Wolverine can revive its own moribund franchise and if Pacific Rim can make a big enough impact to change the conversation about the viability of big movies based on original, non-adaptation screenplays.

In other words, we'll soon be heading into Fall; which means that the season of what the entertainment press refers to as "grown-up movies" - but most of us can hopefully recognize as mostly being "award season hopefuls" - will soon be upon us. With that in mind, here's the stuff coming down the pike that I've had my eye on...

ELYSIUM - August 9th

Watch the trailer for Elysium here.
I suppose this is more of a late-Summer entry ("Kick-Ass 2," definitely Summertime fare, debuts a week later), but given its pedigree I must include it here. Director Neil Blomkamp's hotly-anticipated follow-up to his surprise smash-hit debut "District 9" is another hard-edged science fiction actioner with one eye on allegory - this time for immigration: In the future, humanity's wealthy elite live comfy, pampered, disease-free lives on the orbital space colony Elysium, while the rest of us are stuck on filthy, overcrowded Earth - with any attempt at "undocumented" (subtle!) travel to paradise prevented by heavy artillery and an army of robot soldiers. Matt Damon stars as a fed-up laborer from Earth who, faced with a fatal workplace injury, gets outfitted with a strength-enhancing robotic exoskeleton that will enable him to storm Elysium's gates for some good ol' fashioned class warfare. Bad. Ass.

THE BUTLER - August 16th

Watch the trailer for The Butler here.
Previously, the big story on Lee Daniels' autobiography of longtime White House butler Cecil Gaines (initially billed as "The Black Forrest Gump") was the eyebrow-raising weirdness of some of the historical-person casting (yes, that's John Cusack as Nixon) in its first trailers. Now, the big story is that it might have to change its title. Me? I'm just glad to see Forrest Whitaker in another big lead role... and I also want to see just how nutty this thing turns out to be.

Daniels' is a strange presence in Hollywood right now - a filmmaker who so-far specializes in making absurd, trashy exploitation melodramas with above-average casts (Shadowboxer, The Paperboy) that has somehow managed to smuggle his mischievously-perverse sensibilities into the world of middle-brow "prestige pictures" by virtue of the Oprah Winfrey sanctification that accompanied his breakthrough hit Precious: Based on The Novel 'Push' By Saffire. Her Oprahness is back for this one, this time with an onscreen part, but what I want to know is just how much Daniels' gets to indulge the soapy histrionics that seem to be his specialty in regard to the famous First Families set to be on display. I mean, casting Severus Snape as Ronald Reagan (and Jane Fonda as Nancy!) just screams of pretense to provocation, no?

INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 - September 13th

Watch the trailer for Insidious: Chapter 2 here.
Big next couple of years, potentially, for onetime Saw creator James Wan: He's taking over the Fast & Furious franchise from Justin Lin and he has The Conjuring (a film slapped with an R-rating - despite featuring little blood, no sex and no cursing - simply for supposedly being "just too scary" according to the MPAA); but I'm focused on this sequel to his joyfully low-tech haunted-house chiller. The original, about a family that seemingly does the smart thing by immediately moving the hell out of an obviously haunted house only to find that it's not that easy after all, ended on a note that leaves a lot of "HOW?!" questions for a sequel, but frankly, I'm just glad to have a present-day horror franchise so committed to old-school Spook House aesthetics that it opts to depict "The Other Side" using nothing but a blacked-out stage and dry ice fog. Awesome.

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