April is coming to a close and another big, flashy Marvel movie is on the horizon. You know what that means? Summer is here! And frankly, it's been a long dull build to the popcorn season. I've seen 31 new movies this year, and the best I can say is that most of them have been "pretty good." But the idea that my favorite film of the year so far is Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects is utterly baffling. Don't get me wrong, I love that movie, but at least 2012 had The Grey, The Raid, Cabin in the Woods, & 21 Jump Street by this point. I'm starting to get a little nervous that 2013 is shaping up to be an even more lackluster year in cinema. But before I jump on board the boo-hoo-choo-choo, I gotta state that I'm pretty damn excited for the upcoming offerings. My brain is in a happy place as far as movies are concerned. Maybe it's the Martin Scorsese-a-thon I'm currently at the start of, or my dip into the well of Roger Ebert's The Great Movies, or my recent feast on the Django Unchained blu ray - whatever it is, I am craving the big budget entertainment storming towards us.
Yes! Even the undoubtable garbage brewing from the depths of Hollywood. I am excited for White House Down - now, not to the point where it's going to make my Top 5 list, but I just want to demonstrate the headspace my brain is currently occupying. Roland Emmerich has made another movie. The man who brought us the abominations of Matthew Broderick's Godzilla and the cgi snooze of 10,000 BC has partnered Channing Tatum's buff Secret Agent Man with Jaime Foxx's brainy POTUS. That Django & Jenko buddy cop combo is incredibly appealing and I'm genuinely enthused to see those two PG-13ing the hell outta the Flag Burning Scum invading my home town. I expect much tearful violence as monuments fall and terrorists get shot.
So if I'm even a little excited for White House Down, than I am absolutely climbing the walls for Zach Snyder's Man of Steel. I can't say that I'm the biggest Superman fan - I enjoyed the first two Christopher Reeve flicks like the rest of the universe, and I even enjoyed Bryan Singer's pornographically nostalgic take on the character. But despite a few trips into the comic books (no one my age missed The Death of Superman, I enjoyed Jeph Loeb & Tim Sales' Superman For All Seasons, & I certainly adore Grant Morriosn & Frank Quietly's All Star Superman) I really know nothing about the character. As IGN's Keeping It Reel revealed, he's Jesus Christ With Super Powers (and a cape). Flys around. Saves people. Punches aliens in the face. So give me that. Less pining for humanity, and more punch 'em ups. Zach Snyder is the perfect guy for the job. I've enjoyed all of his films (with the exception of the painfully dull Sucker Punch) and I think he's going to deliver the action film this character so desperately needs right now.
Yet, Man of Steel does not make the cut. There are still dozens of movies I want to see more this summer than Kal-El's big screen return. We've got Fast & Furious 6 promising even more mind boggling stunts than the previous mondo gonzo Fast Five. The music video orgy of Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby. The CGI tumbling of Brad Pitt's doomed World War Z adaptation. The World's End reteams the comic geniuses of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, & Nick Frost for what should be the best Apocalypse on screen this summer even if James Franco & pals are determined to yuck it up with This Is The End. And then we have The Lone Ranger. A film I want so desperately to be entertaining, but everything I'm seeing from the trailers tells me other wise. I want big Cowboy Westerns to attract audiences. I want that genre to reign supreme again. Gore Virbinski & Johnny Depp certainly seem to want the same thing, but is this more goof than cool? I'm thinking so. And I'm afraid it's gonna John Carter all over the box office.
So, those are the films I'm stoked for, but what are the films I'm wetting myself in uncontainable joy to see? Drumroll please....
5. Iron Man 3: I enjoy the first two Iron Man films just fine. The first flick is a solid comic book origin story that succeeds solely on the undeniably charming performance of Robert Downey Jr. The second film buckles a bit under the weight of the world building conducted by Marvel Studios, but there is more good than bad. But there are at least two reasons why Iron Man 3 hits my Anticipation List over the previous flicks mentioned. 1) It's the first sequel to Joss Whedon's The Avengers aka my 2nd favorite film of last year. That flick threw down the gauntlet. All other super hero films are going to be judged by the Comic Book bliss elicited from the Cap/Iron Man/Thor/Hulk team-up. Where can you possibly go with a solo picture? 2) Shane Black at the helm. Jon Favreau is a good director. He deserves all the props given to him for the establishment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But Shane Black has a deeply dark wit in his pen (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout) and his directorial debut (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) proved that he knows the secret to Robert Downey's success and he's a visual stylist to boot. Next Friday can't get here soon enough.
4. Elysium: Neil Blomkamp's District 9 is one of my favorite films of the last ten years. That alone would put his follow-up on the list. The fact that we're getting another socially conscious science-fiction film in which horrible violence gets bestowed upon Matt Damon's exoskeleton by Cyborg Samurai Sharlto Copley makes is just icing on the cake. From everything I've heard the little we've seen in the first trailer just scratches the surface of the screenplay, and I'm going to do my darndest not to have much more spoiled. And, yeah, William Fichtner also co-stars. Hells to the yeah.
3. Star Trek Into Darkness: There is a lot of dread mixed into the anticipation with this one. But that's no different than when JJ Abrams' 2009 sequel hit. Do I want another Kirk vs. Bad Guy movie? Not really. Especially if it's a Khan spin-off/knock-off. I'm with Matt. I'd like more exploration in my Trek. But the last trailer for Into Darkness struck me hard. Bruce Greenwood: "I believe in you, Jim" & Kirk turning to crew "I'm sorry." That hit a chord. The big mysterious Federation ship. Interesting. Peter Weller's jackass admiral. Ok. Klingons with crazy helmets. Yeah, I can dig it. As long as they get the relationships right amongst the Enterprise's crew, I'll be perfectly happy with another action Star Trek with a massive budget. But I'm also hoping I'll be more than "happy." Again, the 2009 Star Trek really did pluck all the right Trekkie heartstrings and I'm hopeful Into Darkness will do the same thing.
2. Pacific Rim: It has been nearly five years since Guillermo Del Toro directed a movie, and that was Hellboy II - one of the most disappointing experiences I've had in a theater. But whatever unfortunate adaptation choices that film suffered under, I can at least say that The Golden Army looked beautiful and is one of the finest examples of blending between practical & digital effects. And if you take that film out of Del Toro's cannon (& chunks of Mimic), than I've thoroughly enjoyed everything the man touches - yes, even & maybe especially, Secondhand Lions (he has a Special Thanks credit). What footage I saw at last year's Comic Con immediately restored my faith in Del Toro, but I also don't want my enthusiasm to run away from me - after all, Prometheus looked abso-lutely-freaking-amazing at Hall H in 2011. Still, Giant Robots vs. Hulking Kaiju!!!!!!! Yes!!!!!!!! At the very least it's gotta be better than Robot Jox and I love that crap film.
1. Only God Forgives: Just watch the trailer. Thai Boxing. Sword Wielding Gangsters. Karaoke. Uzi Drive-Bys. Chopstick Impalements. Kristen Scott Thomas Terminator. And Ryan Gosling's Clenched Fists. I might not have realized it a few months ago, but Only God Forgives contains everything I've ever wanted to see on screen. Gosling & director Nicholas Winding Refn understand my base desires and they deliver them with slick, cold, style. My prediction is that this film ranks of my absolute favorites come Awards time, and I would not be surprised if this ends up my favorite film of 2013.