Summer movies: The best of the rest

Carly at the Movies column by Carl Larsen

Now that the summer blockbusters have begun falling about our ears (some with surprising accuracy), let us quickly retreat to our bomb shelter and plan our forthcoming Cineplex excursions with care.

In other words: Now that Indy Jones has landed, is there anything left to see besides more summer frou-frou, shoot-em-ups, car chases, and movies-for-morons? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind. Of course there are good movies on the way! And just to prove it, here’s a list of the top ten potentially-interesting film releases (though you might have to look carefully for some of them) atwixt now and the Let’s Get Serious Fall Oscar Nom Season:

Well, “Wall-E” just opened, didn’t it? And seeing that this computer animated tale of a lonely robot is from Pixar, and was written and directed by Andrew (No Relation) Stanton – the guy who did “Finding Nemo” – you should be rushing to the theater instead of reading this. I mean, you’ve got to go by SOMEthing, and track record is good enough for bookies, ain’t it? From all I’ve heard, “Wall-E” is just great entertainment for young and old alike.

The summer movie I’m most looking forward to opens at the Visulite in Staunton on the 4th of July. It’s “Mongol,” a Russian film that’s the first in a proposed trilogy about that murderous fun-loving crackpot, Genghis Khan, who swept out of Asia in the 11th century, riding on a teeny-tiny pony, and durn near conquered the whole known world. But the movie is billed as an old-fashioned epic-type thingy, and that makes it nearly irresistible for us geezers who still long for “Spartacus” and the like. The coming attractions are way-cool, too.

Also appearing early in July is that rarity, an Annual Summer Will Smith Film That Looks Fun. It’s called “Hancock,” and the venerable Will plays a homeless guy with attitude who becomes a superhero. Nice twist, and let’s hope it holds up to the coming attractions. One warning: The script was cobbled together by five different writers, including director Peter Berg.

Mid-July will bring us “Mama Mia!” and Meryl Streep singing her guts out. Now we’ll see if she really can do ANYthing. If it flops, can’t blame it on the music: It’s all ABBA, and based on the Broadway smash musical that had joyous playgoers (yours truly included) dancing in the aisles.

Also opening on July 18, that film aimed directly at the Morbidly Curious, “The Dark Knight.” Christian Bale returns as Batman, and with an A-List supporting cast. But the big whoop-te-doodle is the late Heath Ledger playing a version of the Joker that’ll shiver your timbers. From the coming attractions, it’s obvious he’s makeup-deficiency and a much darker whack-job than either Jack Nicholson or Burgess Meredith was previously in that role.

The one to watch for in July, far as I’m concerned, is “Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America.” Sounds like a History Channel documentary, but it’s first-time writer/director Tony Stone’s tale of two 11th century Vikings who do some exploring in North America. If that doesn’t get the hearts of all us armchair archaeologists’ hearts a-pumpin, what will? I’m always hoping for something along the lines of “Quest for Fire” with these indy-type historical films, so we’ll see.

August will start off with what sounds like a cute politically oriented comedy. Kevin Costner, playing a slacker dad, finds himself THE deciding vote in the next election. The candidates are played by Kelsey Grammar and Dennis Hopper and the whole frothy, hopefully-snide thing is called “Swing Vote.”

Woody Allen Haters, take note: Your unfavorite filmmaker’s 41st film is opening in August, and it’s called “Vicky Christina Barcelona.” Along for the ride are Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem in what looks (in the trailers, anyway) like a pretty raunchy hunk o’ work. Not sure the Shenandoah Valley Woody Allen Ban will be in effect, so I’m mentioning it so all you fellow Woody fans can keep an eye peeled.

Mention “Emma Thompson,” and I’m available. She’s coming up in August, in the remake of “Brideshead Revisited.” I somehow missed the much-lauded 1981 TV version with Jeremy Irons, so gonna catch up on my Kulture Kwota with this one. As far as I’m concerned, Emma Thompson can do no wrong. Period.

Finally, I’m curious about a high-concept film coming along called “Henry Poole is Here.” See if it doesn’t intrigue you, too. Here’s the setup: Luke Wilson has just about given up on life, when his neighbor spots the face of Jesus on Wilson’s stucco wall. Radha Mitchell co-stars. Does that setup catch your fancy? A bit off-beat, eh? Worth a try.

Not a bad list, eh? Ten flicks, and it’s about ten weeks until September. Pass the popcorn, please.

 

Carl Larsen is a regular contributor to The Augusta Free Press. Look for his At the Movies column on Mondays.

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