My interest in summer movies, it seems, is directly proportional to my age. As I march steadfastly toward soft food and cataracts, I find that every year I care less and less about summer blockbusters. When I was younger, June and July were when I saw the best movies of the year. They promised invading aliens, massive explosions and Will Smith. The traditional emotions associated with summer, those of freedom, love and unlimited ammo are still present. Those values are splashed across billboards and trailers annually and will continue in perpetuity.
As I age though, my summer loves have shifted towards autumn reflection and winter sadness. Now, the films I look forward to are released between November and February. This isn’t to say that summer is devoid of worthwhile film experiences. It’s just that the best stories are more wistful than overbearing. Blockbusters are about spectacle; they leave little room for contemplation. This summer is no different. There are a few films that may be marvels of visual technique, but still hold on to the important story element. There are also a few indie films that might be worth attention. Below, you’ll find my picks for summer movies that may be more than worth the ticket price.
The Cave of Forgotten Dreams
I would be remiss if I didn’t include a film from the Arts and Education Council’s Independent Film Series. Like the last one, the AEC is using tugg.com to bring us the best in independent films that ordinarily don’t come to a city like ours. “The Cave of Forgotten Dreams” is a Werner Herzog film that gives audiences a once-in-a-lifetime look into the Chauvet Cave in Southern France, an incredible natural structure where some of the world’s oldest cave paintings are found. This film is presented in 3D in order to show audiences the unique contours of the cave walls and the artistry needed to effectively use that space. While I am generally skeptical of the use of 3D, here it was used for a specific and understandable reason, rather than for throwing various objects at the screen. In order for this film to be brought here, the AEC has to sell 80 tickets by May 30. So please, for the sakes of documentary fans across our fair city, go buy a ticket.
Ridley Scott returns to his roots in the sci-fi/horror genre with a film about deadly aliens. Whether this film is a prequel to his popular “Alien” franchise is debatable at this point (it is, then it isn’t, then it is—I can’t really keep track), but the trailers show a definite return to the dark, claustrophobic fear atmosphere that defined the series. Assuming that Scott has created an original story (or at least a new monster), “Prometheus” will hopefully make for an engaging, edge-of-your-seat experience that summer movies are known for. Delightfully, the film has received an “R” rating, meaning that the violence won’t be toned down for teen audiences; I think the film will be better served by staying true to the franchise with excessive blood and gore.
Safety Not Guaranteed
Here we have a film that has an unfortunate release date. It is opening against “Prometheus,” one of the biggest films of the summer, and as a result won’t be seen by many people. It’s based on a popular Internet meme involving an actual classified ad from a man seeking a time travel companion. The respondent needs to “bring [their] own weapons” as the man “has only done this once before.” It stars the charming and sardonic Aubrey Plaza as part of an investigative team for a magazine seeking out the man who placed the advertisement. As with all indie comedies, this one will likely be eccentric and understated. It may not hit immediately, but with any luck, those that seek it out will be pleasantly surprised.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
With the Mayan apocalypse fast approaching, “end-of-the-world” films are going to be fairly commonplace. Last year, we had great ones like “Melancholia” and “Take Shelter.” Those are serious and complicated films. This one, starring Steve Carrell and Keira Knightly, is a more lighthearted take on annihilation. The trailer indicates a film that shows the sad and desperate alongside the absurd and farcical; sometimes it takes a comedy to really show every aspect of humanity. It’s an interesting idea from a first-time director, one that is full of great opportunities for wonderful storytelling. There is a strong chance here for an honest and charismatic film.
The Dark Knight Rises
“The Dark Knight Rises” is this summer’s only challenger to “The Avengers” domination in terms of box office return. They are films with wildly different tones, despite falling under the mutual umbrella of comic book movies. Christopher Nolan has taken the Batman franchise and returned it to the darkness from which it spawned. Where The Avengers are notably heroic, Nolan’s Batman has been at times unsettling and dangerous. This film concludes the trilogy that redefined the character for most audiences and confirmed what fans have known all along about the Caped Crusader. These films have been as realistic as possible and “The Dark Knight Rises” will be no different. Expect a compelling conclusion to a powerful series.
There are, of course, other films that I didn’t have room to expand on here. Films such as Disney’s “Brave” and “The Amazing Spider-man” are sure to be crowd pleasers. Other films like “Ruby Sparks” and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” are bound to touch a chord with smaller groups of movie goers. And of course, the Arts and Education Council will continue to pull great independent films into our theaters. So, don’t worry so much about going outside this summer; it’s hot and people might try to talk to you. Go see a movie instead.
John DeVore will appear on Channel 12 WDEF-TV’s “Prime News at 7” on May 30 to discuss upcoming summer movies.