Saturday, April 26, 2014

Wood's Stock Summer Movie Preview 2014

First things first, this is not a comprehensive summer movie preview. If you're looking for a full list of the upcoming releases I, for one, would recommend picking up a copy of last week's Entertainment Weekly (look for the one with XMen on the cover).

Instead, here's a short list of lesser-known films that may otherwise slip through the cracks of the big-budget action tentpoles that make up the majority of the summer season. And to be clear, we here at Wood's Stock love big-budget action tentpoles and are giddy with excitement over Guardians of the Galaxy, pleasantly curious about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, anxiously optimistic about The Edge of Tomorrow and are really, really, hoping we don't get burned again by Godzilla.

But a cinematic diet that consists entirely of popcorn is unhealthy, so here's some pallette cleansing comedies and independent films to keep an eye on over the next four months. *Note* unlike last year, the summer indie films have been slow to put out their theatrical trailers. Throw me a frickin bone, amirite?



Boyhood

In the latest film from Richard Linklater, the director of the 'Before' trilogy, we see the story of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) as he ages from a young boy to a young man. This isn't achieved by clever casting or digital trickery a la Benjamin Button, it's the result of an ambitious strategy that saw the cast and crew of Boyhood reunite intermittently  to film the movie over the space of 12 years, literally capturing the passage of time.

It's a gimmick, to be sure, but one that by most accounts has been combined with a thoughtful, emotional script to pay of large dividends as a singularly unique cinematic experience. And if anyone can pull it off it's Linklater, who has proved with the Before films a penchant for storytelling that appears effortlessly natural, mining the seeming mundanities of everyday relationships for dramatic gold.

Also, bonus points for using Family of the Year's "Hero" for the trailer track (hey, didn't One Wood Uke cover that once?)

Boyhood opens in limited release on July 11

17

Magic in the Moonlight

In keeping with director Woody Allen's style, relatively little is known about Magic in the Moonlight, which is set in 1920's France and stars Emma Stone and Colin Firth and oh, who am I kidding, I'm already sold.

The latest scandal notwithstanding, Allen has been on fire the last few years. Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine were phenomenal and the relatively meh reception toward To Rome With Love seems, in hindsight, to have been a classic case of too-high expectations. Also remember when I said Emma Stone and Colin Firth? and Woody Allen? AND FRANCE?

Magic in the Moonlight opens on July 25.



The Fault in our Stars

You've probably already read the book, and if you haven't then you've probably been told innumerable times by your YA-reading friends that OMG YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK OMG SO SAD SO GOOD I JUST CAN'T RIGHT NOW!

Frankly, I didn't love it, but I recognize the appeal and I've said many times before that while I'm not personally drawn to YA literature I nonetheless appreciate the film adaptations it inspires (see: Nick and Norah, Perks, It's Kind of a Funny Story, Spectacular Now, etc.).

'Fault' stars it-girl Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort as two cancer-stricken teens who meet in a support group, fall helplessly into young love and then, well you can probably guess but it's all about the journey or something, right? The script and the book it's based on were both written by John Green, who is something of a deity among YA circles, so fans shouldn't have much to worry about and newcomers should bring tissues.

'Fault' opens on June 6.



A Million Ways to Die in the West

I've always had a soft spot for the humor of Seth McFarlane, which bounces between high-brow and low-brow gags that trade crass vulgarity and dry wit in equal measure (the horrendous CBS sitcom 'Dads' being the exception that proves the rule). Take, for example, the much-discussed "We Saw Your Boobs" number during last year's Oscars. It either perpetuated Hollywood sexism and male gaze or it actually subverted Hollywood sexism by criticizing male gaze, but still delivered an impressively-staged piece of musical theater that benefited from McFarlane's natural aptitude for showtunes.

And now there's 'West,' McFarlane's live-action follow-up to the funnier-than-it-had-any-right-to-be 'Ted.' Only this time, instead of inhabiting a stuffed animal, McFarlane's actual face will appear on the big screen as Albert, a wise guy ahead of his time living in the American West circa 1882. The plot has something to do with Albert being challenged by a gunslinger (Liam Neeson, natch!) and wooing Charlie Theron, but it's safe to assume that "plot" will be frequently set aside in service of comedic vignettes that largely revolve around accidental and unnecessary death.

A Million Ways to Die in the West opens on May 30.

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