Every year, I write a summer movie preview anticipating the best- and worst-case scenarios for the most popular upcoming flicks. This is part II for 2014. If you missed it, see part I of the 2014 preview here. See the full 2013 preview here.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July 11)
After four sequels, one remake, two television series, and a “series reboot,” Planet of the Apes somehow, someway still makes gobs of cash for 20th Century Fox. Gary Oldman proves a sensation, dropping the bumbling Commissioner Gordon shtick from Batman and adding some ruthless determination. “No more monkey business,” he deadpans in the film’s opening scene, eliciting cheers from longtime Planet loyalists. Compared to his previous turn as Gollum, Andy Serkis plays head ape Caesar with twice the energy and three times the creepiness. Even Rise of the Planet of the Apes looks tame by comparison. When Dawn tries a bit of subtle commentary on the state of the human race and our treatment of animals, everyone agrees its points are “spot on,” and “not at all sanctimonious or heavy-handed.”
Confused by all the similar Planet of the Apes titles (Battle for the, Escape from the, Rise of the, Dawn of the), most of America assumes Dawn is just a re-release of “some film from the 1970s.” Even illegal downloaders nab Beneath the Planet of the Apes, assuming it’s the latest version. Scrambling to set the public straight, 20th Century Fox releases an emergency ad campaign featuring Gary Oldman. The actor botches the spot, descending back into his bumbling Commissioner Gordon shtick and mumbling his way through the new movie’s title. The film flops, but not before PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals), files a lawsuit, calling the movie “sanctimonious” and “heavy-handed.”
Last year, I wrote a giant summer movie preview in the spirit of Pat Forde's annual Dreams and Nightmares March Madness column. A year later, here is Part I of my 2014 Summer Movie Preview. See part II here!
Godzilla (May 16)
Energized by a sensational Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Godzilla stomps its way past mixed critical reviews to the top of the box office. "Looks like the man can do more than cook meth!” tweet 14 film critics, more or less simultaneously. At a red carpet showing, no one mentions “Heisenberg,” “Jesse Pinkman" or “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” Only one reporter calls Cranston “Walter White.” Meanwhile, a rejuvenated Ken Watanabe (previously, Batman, Inception) nearly steals the show—he hasn’t sounded this profound since The Last Samurai. America forgets that this exact movie has been done ten times before and will be done ten times again.
Godzilla stumbles in its opening weekend, as Cranston’s gruff performance gets buried in an avalanche of negative reviews and poor ticket sales. A week after the premiere, a Good Morning America segment goes sour when Cranston admits his angry, saliva-spewing performance “wasn’t exactly acting.” Meanwhile, Ken Watanabe hasn’t sounded this ridiculous since The Last Samurai. "The arrogance of man is thinking nature is under our control,” he says at a press conference, repeating one of his own lines from the movie. “Relax Ken,” says a reporter, "this is Godzilla, not An Inconvenient Truth.”
On January 18th, I made 86 predictions about the 86th Academy Awards.
See the full prediction post here.
I still feel good about almost all of my picks, but a few things have changed since mid-January. Here's a last-minute update:
1. 12 Years a Slave will win Best Picture. Check.
An American Hustle upset might be brewing, but I don't want to think about it. I'm sticking with 12 Years, which should win.
By its third episode, House of Cards Season 2 settles into a low, satisfying hum, like a commercial airliner cruising at 30,000 feet. We know we’re in good hands, we know where we’re going—we’re just hoping to be pampered along the way. For awhile, the service is delightful. The jokes land, the subplots intrigue, and the plot twists arrive with the precision of an air traffic controller. Few shows know just what it takes to steal 49 more minutes of our attention; fewer still know precisely how often to serve the next in-flight snack, scotch, or scandal. Compare this to the first season’s prop plane of a journey—by turns, harrowing and underwhelming—and you’ll be proud to see how far House of Cards has come.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty wants desperately to be liked. Where other films tell hard truths, Mitty puts things nicely. When Mitty is about to tell a joke, it hastens to warn us before we're tricked. The movie doesn't want to surprise us—it just wants a smile, a pat on the back, and an invitation to the next birthday party with the guys. We're all friends here, right?