Thursday, June 30, 2011
The Halfway Point
So here we are, the halfway point of any given year is always an odd time. There is that sense of where has six months already gone, while there is also that sense that it is only six months away from a new year and a new beginning for film. This post here is not to simply give a full summation of the first half of 2011, but to also highlight some films coming out over the next six months that I think have potential to be some of the best of 2011. So let's get going.
Now, I don't see every movie that comes out in theaters, nor do I pretend to, but I have seen at least 90% of the major releases so far this year, and the output as of this point has been mediocre at best. There have been a few stinkers, a slew of so-so entertainments, and only one movie that I would actually go on record as calling fantastic. This past six months of moviegoing has been a wasted exercise, with many movies that were heavily hyped failing to deliver. Alas, all we can do is reflect and look forward to the coming six months and hope that they have more to offer.
As it is, the first six months of a year are always slower than the last six months in terms of film output, but the biggest disappointment was May and June. You don't usually expect May or June to be bum months at the movies, so when May and June don't really deliver on the must see entertainment fields of war, it's sad. The thing is, there has yet to be a must see movie this entire year, so far, a movie that I felt that everyone I know must see or else they'll be missing out. X-Men: First Class came close, but there has been nothing as of right now like Avatar or The Dark Knight, that is a movie that you must see in order to keep up with the conversation. However, to be fair, there are six months of film left in this year.
The next six months seem brighter, and we don't have to look that far to see if the second half of 2011 will be better than the first half, since July starts tomorrow! July will bring the conclusion to the Harry Potter franchise, while giving us The First Avenger: Captain America (which has been shaping up nicely thanks to trailers and promotions) and ending with Cowboys & Aliens, which I am still on the fence as to whether or not it will be any good, but the premise is intriguing and I love the stars (in particular Harrison Ford). Looking at the way July plays out, there is at least one major release per week worth seeing.
August kicks off with the final big budget blockbuster of the Summer, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which I think looks like an insanely good time at the movies. Other than that, aside from a few prestige films, like The Help and Lone Scherfig's follow-up to An Education, One Day, August is a dry spell. September will see the sequel to one of my favorite comedies of all-time, Johnny English Reborn, whether or not it's good, I don't really care. Then, the release of the Cannes' hit, Drive, which is a genre exercise that managed to find critical appeal, which is odd for a car chase movie about a Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver. It could be an early Oscar flick, or it could just be a lot of fun, but the talents of Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan are enough to make this one movie worth looking forward to.
Then, October tries to bring back a little of the blockbuster edge lost at the end of Summer with three movies: Real Steel, The Thing, and The Three Musketeers. Up first is Real Steel, which is essentially a rock 'em, sock 'em robots movie, but the movie looks incredibly awesome, with hints at an emotional story tied in with this tale that is hinting at some of the finer effects work of the year. Then, there is the remake of The Thing. Obviously an attempt to create some scares in October, whether or not it will be a worthy remake, I don't know, but there isn't much else to watch. Finally, there's Paul W.S. Anderson's take on the Dumas' classic, The Three Musketeers. The story seems to be taking a few liberties from the source material, but the action has been so ratcheted up from any other adaptation I have ever seen, I don't think I'll really care.
Finally we reach November, when the movie season gets interesting, with the combination of the big budget Holiday blockbusters and the movies vying for Oscar attention. Aardman Animations, the creators of Chicken Run, are giving us the story of Santa Claus's son, Arthur, in Arthur Christmas, which looks to be a fun and entertaining Christmas flick, while director Tarsem makes his first movie since the cinematic masterpiece, The Fall, with the Immortals. I don't know whether or not another Greek epic was what is needed, but Tarsem is a visual maestro, so it should at least be enjoyable to look at. Then, there is the Oscar contender, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which could finally do something for Gary Oldman in the Oscar race. Think about it, a movie based off of a popular intelligence novel from the 1970s, with a highly respectable cast and crew, this could be one to watch. Then, there is Scorsese's adaptation of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a kid's book classic that is actually one of my favorite books period, detailing a fictionalized idea of the early days of cinema while combining that with a rip-roaring children's mystery adventure. A kid's movie from Scorsese, for the first time since The Age of Innocence I can watch one of his flicks without hearing the f'bomb every other word. Finally, there is The Muppets. Their long awaited return to the big screen comes courtesy of Jason Segel, who is a Muppet fanboy, but the songs from Flight of the Conchords, Brett McKenzie are what has me most excited.
December will bring about the final push towards Oscar season, and I personally cannot get excited for David Fincher's remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The source material has never appealed to me, so this movie doesn't seem to be doing anything for me. With that said, there are a few sequels coming out that have some promise. First up, is Guy Ritchie's follow-up to Sherlock Holmes, which was an honest to goodness surprise in 2009, a movie I ranked as my 8th favorite movie of that year, then there is The Incredibles director Brad Bird making his first foray into live action with Mission Impossible-Ghost Protocol. I have actually dug all of the Mission Impossible movies, and with J.J. Abrams still acting as producer, and Brad Bird's already proven track record as a storyteller, this should be one worth seeing.
Then the year ends with two big Christmas presents for a Spielberg fan, two Steven Spielberg movies within two weeks! First up is the motion capture adventure, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. Produced by Peter Jackson, directed by Spielberg, and a feel of adventure that most of Spielberg's movies since the 80s have lacked, make this one to look out for. And finally, Spielberg makes another play at his third Oscar with War Horse, an adaptation of the Tony winning play and popular children's book classic. The cinematography looks stunning, and the story just screams Spielberg. This may just be the movie I am most looking forward to for the rest of the year. So here's the trailer:
While it is only the halfway point, here is hoping that 2011 will get much better from here on out. If any of the movies that I have talked about above though succeed, then there should not be any worrying.
[P.S. For a complete rundown of the ratings of every movie I have seen this year, check 'em out in order from ratings A-F:
X-Men: First Class - A+
The Tree of Life - A-
Rango - B+
The Adjustment Bureau - B
Midnight in Paris - B-
Super 8 - C+
Kung Fu Panda 2 - C
Thor - D+
Green Lantern - F
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - F
and Gnomeo & Juliet - F]