Yeah, we should have thought of a snappier title.
It's grey and reasonably chilly outside, and yet summer is very much upon us at the movies. Blockbuster season, which, when I was a kid, was pretty much restricted to June, July and August, now begins (with a vengeance?) in early to mid April. It's very much silly season at the movies, and more than ever you can hardly move for the sheer amount of heavily promoted toy adverts, but there are other things out there too.
With this article, Mike (my good friend who writes the excellent E Film Blog , and presents The Picture Show with me) and I have each picked, for each week of the summer between Mid April and the end of June, an alternative to the blockbusters that we think will prove worth seeking out. This doesn't mean that there are no blockbusters we want to see this summer, but if you read about movies online then you've already read a lot of previews of Avengers Assemble and Prometheus, but you probably haven't read about the films below (well, most of them anyway).
You'll find a link to a trailer under every film's title, and throughout this piece you'll see my writing in bold, and Mike's in italics. We'll be back in mid June to cover alternatives to the blockbusters of July and August.
All the dates listed below are current UK release dates, and are of course subject to change.
The Big Release: BATTLESHIP
Mike's Pick: EDGE
Sam's Pick: THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
My concern is the weight of the good reviews, and that if this doesn't immediately wing it's way near the top of my Best of 2012 list (which, to be fair, says only 'The Muppets' right now) it will have to go down as a disappointment. At the very, very least there is good news in that the 3D conversion which was the first reason given for the delay in releasing this film (shot 3 years ago) appears to have been dumped for the cinema release. I'm crossing my fingers for this one.
The Big Release: SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN
Mike's Pick: BREATHING
Sam's Pick: ELLES
The French just seem to do this sort of adult storytelling well, with far less of a tendency to become preachy than American and even British filmmakers often exhibit and that, combined with a quality cast, is why I'm recommending this. Binoche is, of course, always worth watching; an actress who really seems to lack a screen persona and change from role to role, and the younger actresses have both impressed me with recent work, Demoustier in Living on Love Alone, and Kulig as the only thing worth seeing in Pawel Pawlikowski's The Woman in the Fifth. I'm hoping for 3 powerhouse performances here.
The Big Release: MARVEL AVENGERS ASSEMBLE
Mike's Pick: BEING ELMO: A PUPPETEERS JOURNEY
Sam's Pick: DAMSELS IN DISTRESS
I adored it, didn't stop laughing for more than 30 seconds at any one time, and found myself amused, and ultimately charmed, by all the film's characters and all its quirks (right down to footnotes in the credits). There are few films I am more looking forward to watching this summer.
The Big Release: AMERICAN REUNION / BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 3D
Mike's Pick: HARA-KIRI: THE DEATH OF A SAMURAI [3D]
Sam's Pick: GOODBYE FIRST LOVE
What really intrigues me is the tone (which looks refreshingly adult) and the lead. Lola Creton impressed me a great deal in Catherine Breillat's Bluebeard, and from what we've seen of this it appears that she gives a very different, equally strong, performance here. Here's hoping for another coming of age tale to rank with Love Like Poison or Water Lilies.
The Big Release: DARK SHADOWS
Mike's Pick: FAUST
Sam's Pick: JEFF WHO LIVES AT HOME
The Big Release: THE DICTATOR
Mike's Pick: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP
Sam's Pick: THE RAID
Look, I'll appreciate it if it also has, y'know, a plot, and some good acting, but I'll be happy if the film can cash the action sequence cheques the trailer is writing. This is my friend Marcey's favourite film of 2012 so far. I'd like it to be one of mine too.
The Big Release: MEN IN BLACK 3 [3D]
Mike's Pick: MOONRISE KINGDOM
Sam's Pick: FREE MEN
Aside from the interest inherent in time period and story there's an interesting cast: Tahar Rahim, who was indeed great in A Prophet, despite how ridiculously overpraised I found that film and Michael Lonsdale, who brings a quiet gravitas to everything I've seen him in recently, both take leading roles, but the real excitement for me comes from the female lead. Lubna Azabal is an actress I've been shouting about for a few years now, since seeing her in Paradise Now, and for me she's almost a guarantor of quality; a total chameleon who is able to give shattering performances in many different languages. She's in this (seemingly as a Muslim woman Rahim is attracted to – who can blame him?) which means I'm there. This looks likely to be another quality addition to the recent range of European World War 2 cinema.
The Big Release: PROMETHEUS [3D]
Mike's Pick: THE TURIN HORSE
Sam's Pick: HIMIZU
Himizu appears, from the trailer, to be a family drama set in the wake of a natural disaster, but this being Sono it's bound to be a whole lot more besides. Many of his recent stock company appear, so you expect top notch performances, perhaps some contemporary resonance (the film was made in the wake of the Fukushima disaster), and a whole lot of the unexpected. I simply can't wait to see it.
The Big Release: CASA DI MI PADRE
Mike and Sam's Pick: THE INNKEEPERS
Well, I'm making a very heavily qualified recommendation here, based largely on good reports on this film from last year's Frightfest, from people whose opinions on horror I trust implicitly (though some of that same group also said The Innkeepers is terrible). IF you get a ghost story right then they can be brilliant nerve jangling fare, but the trailer suggests to me that this is just the 387th recent identical noises-off horror movie. I hope House of the Devil director Ti West proves me wrong, and in an awful release week this may be as good as it gets, but still, large pinch of salt with this one please.
The Big Release: JACK THE GIANT KILLER [3D] / ROCK OF AGES
Mike's Pick: JAWS
Sam's Pick: POLISSE
For me the question will be how well Maïwenn handles the transition behind the camera, while also playing a prominent role in the film. With good and bad word out of festivals this is one of summer's unknown quantities so far, but I look forward to discovering it.
The Big Release: FIVE YEAR ENGAGEMENT
Mike's Pick: WHERE DO WE GO NOW
Sam's Pick: NOTHING
No, that's not the title of a film. This is one awful, awful looking week of movies right now. I was supposed to recommend Red Lights, but then I watched (and couldn't finish) the awful, awful trailer. So, yeah, fuck all this week.
The Big Release: FRIENDS WITH KIDS
Mike and Sam's Pick: KILLER JOE
There doesn't appear to be a trailer for Killer Joe yet, so I watched a clip (see link under the title above), and that's all I want to see before sitting down. In two minutes it sets up the situation (Emile Hirsch wants to hire Matthew McConaughey to kill his Mother, but has to offer his Sister (Juno Temple) in lieu of a fee), it sets up the stark, black, and perhaps drily funny, tone, it sets up what seems to be an economical style from director William Friedkin, and it hints at tremendous performances from McConaughey (great when he pushes himself) and Hirsch. I don't doubt that Temple and Gina Gershon will also be fantastic and this Southern fried Noir is right at the top of my must see list for 2012. Why can't it be June 29th now?
So, that's the first half of Summer. Watch for reviews of these titles and more besides, and come back in Mid June for the Alternative Summer Preview: Part 2