Back in 1991, your esteemed Grierson & Leitch, then both 16 years old, sat down with this issue of Entertainment Weekly and planned out our holidays. We did not have Box Office Mojo's release calendar, and the Mattoon, Illinois local newspaper wouldn't tell you what movies were playing at the Cinema 1-2-3 until the day before they opened. Entertainment Weekly knew movies that were coming out months from now, movies we had never heard of before. It was our Bible and our roadmap and our Sputnik to the outside world.
Out of outdated, misguided deference to those halcyon, sexless days, we still pick up our Summer Movie Preview edition of EW every year. It's the one issue that feels vital, the one we can spread out in front of us and see, with vivid, depressing clarity, what the next four months of our lives entail.
In the wake of last week's open salivating over The Dark Knight Rises, we thought we'd have both of us list the 10 summer movies we are most anticipating and the ones we're most dreading. Summer movies are more about anticipation than payoff, so this seems almost more true to the spirit of the season than actually writing about the films. Though we'll be doing that too.
We used the Entertainment Weekly Summer Movie Preview release calendar, of course.
1. The Dark Knight Rises. I think I made this pretty clear here, but let's not forget that Alfred almost cries in the trailer. I still think it's kind of amazing that Michael freaking Caine plays Alfred.
2. To Rome With Love. I wouldn't be much of a Woody Allen fan if I didn't pick this No. 2. I'm also extremely curious to see if he'll continue to go for a wider audience — like he obviously did with Midnight In Paris, his protests aside — or if he'll crawl back into the Upper West Side Whatever Works attic. Plus, he's acting in this film, for the first time in six years.
3. Prometheus. All right, all right, I give, I give: The relentless (and relentlessly terrific) marketing campaign has won me over. I still don't care if it's an Alien prequel or not.
4. Compliance. This was the truly creepy breakout from the Sundance Film Festival, and its premise grabs you immediately: A disembodied voice/prank caller pretending to be a cop forces a restaurant employee to debase and torture a fellow employee. What will we do if we believe an authority figure wants us to do it? This was also Grierson's favorite film from Sundance.
5. The Avengers. I'll never quite be convinced that they needed four different movies to set this up—the dullest parts of Iron Man 2 are all the scenes with S.H.I.E.L.D.- and I'm not enough of a comic book guy to geek out in the appropriate, expected fashion...but this is made by smart people who know what they're doing. Plus, I can't wait to see Mark Ruffalo as the world's most shrugging, mumbling Hulk.
7. Safety Not Guaranteed. Another Sundance hit with an intriguing premise—magazine staffers profile an eccentric who claims to be able to travel back in time—and a beguiling main couple played by Mark Duplass and Parks & Recreation's Aubrey Plaza. This is your Brooklyn date movie, I suspect.
8. The Amazing Spider-Man. Pretty sure—certain, actually—that we don't need another Spider-Man movie, and I'm a (500) Days of Summer non-believer. But Andrew Garfield might be the most exciting young actor working right now, so we're more than willing to give him, and it, a chance. No emo dance scenes, though, please.
9. Savages. I'm probably remembering high school too fondly, but I'm desperate for Oliver Stone to remember he's Oliver Stone and start fucking shit up again. This twisted drug romance—with a crazy cast that includes Blake Lively, Uma Thurman, John Travolta, Benicio Del Toro, Taylor Kitsch and Salma Hayek and is about someone producing The Greatest Marijuana Ever Created—might be his last chance, ever.
10. Total Recall. It appears to be appropriately different from Arnold Country, but I'm less atwitter about the sci-fi reinvention and more amped for Bryan Cranston as the bad guy.
1. The Dictator. Wait, we're not gonna be embarrassed about Sacha Baron Cohen in five years the way we are about Roberto Benigni now, are we? Are we?
2. Men In Black 3 That Will Smith took four years off from movies, and this was the first movie he did when he came back, tells you all you need to know about Will Smith anymore. And good Lord, those "viral" ads.
3. That's My Boy. Adam Sandler going R-rated. I bet he still doesn't change his shirt when he walks on set.
4. Ted. That the Family Guy guy is making a movie about a "foul-mouthed" teddy bear is not encouraging. That Mark Wahlberg — who has the comedic self-awareness of a cantaloupe—is his lead has me wondering if I can watch this with headphones on.
A quick note: I'm not including movies I've already seen at festivals that are really great and that you should definitely see, like Safety Not Guaranteed, Take This Waltz, Your Sister's Sister and Compliance. I'm also leaving off The Avengers, which I saw early and can't yet say anything about. So, these are the 10 movies I'm most excited about that I have yet to catch.
1. The Dark Knight Rises. I agree with everything Will said about The Dark Knight. That movie made my Top 10 of the last decade, so, yes, my expectations are pretty high for this new film. Between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale have delivered one of the most exciting and compelling franchises in recent years. (Yes, I prefer these films to the Lord of the Rings movies.) I am scared they will somehow screw it up, but they haven't stepped wrong yet.
2. Moonrise Kingdom. I'm one of those weirdos who thinks Wes Anderson's movies have actually gotten better as he's moved along in his career. The Darjeeling Limited features one of Adrien Brody's best performances—Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman are pretty great in it, too—and The Fantastic Mr. Fox is the best kids movie in recent memory, because it's not really for kids. Moonrise Kingdom is Anderson's return to live action, and he's got some familiar faces alongside first-timers Bruce Willis and Edward Norton. Those who hate Anderson will roll their eyes. I can't wait.
3. Magic Mike. Of late, Steven Soderbergh has made one head-scratching decision after another. He makes a film about prostitution starring a porn actress (The Girlfriend Experience), he does a goofy true-story comedy about a perpetual liar (The Informant!), and then he decides to make a hand-to-hand combat action movie with an MMA star (Haywire). But I loved all three of those films. So now he thinks the world needs a male-stripper comedy starring Channing Tatum. Where do I put my two bucks?
4. Brave. I've been sour on Pixar recently. Wall-E was amazing, but Up and Toy Story 3 were only OK. And the less said about Cars 2 the better. That's why I'm oddly optimistic about Brave, which at least seems like the beloved animation studio is swinging for the fences again, as opposed to making sure they sell a ton of toys, which they'll probably do anyway. Yes, Brave is also their first film to feature a central female protagonist, but I'm more intrigued by the storybook quality to the animation.
5. The Amazing Spider-Man. Don't tell anyone, but I never really loved the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man films. Kinda fun, sorta silly and dopey. That's why, even though it's a familiar strategy now, I'm glad that The Amazing Spider-Man is going in a darker direction. And it may be stupid to admit this, but I'm really rooting for Andrew Garfield. He's been terrific in everything from Boy A to Never Let Me Go to The Social Network.
6. The Campaign. Or: C'mon, Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, Make This One Good. I remain Team Ferrell, but I'd like the guy to deliver a really great comedy. It's been too far long since I've truly and unconditionally loved one of his movies. As for Galifianakis, he sure looked bored in The Hangover Part II and Due Date, huh? Still, The Campaign seems like an ideal fit for both of them. Now they just need to be funny in it.
7. Prometheus. OK, fine, you're excited by the trailer. And the movie has lots of great people in it. But have we forgotten than Ridley Scott hasn't made a great film since Black Hawk Down? That was 11 years ago. My hopes are high for Prometheus, but I just wanted to throw that out there. The man has broken our hearts before.
8. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. You ever get the feeling Jim Carrey looks at Steve Carell's career and its mixture of comedy and drama and thinks, "That should have been me?" Seeking a Friend may drown in its own quirkiness, but this could be the summer's one smart romantic comedy for grownups. (I'm a little worried about Carell's other summer movie, Hope Springs.) Extra points if the world actually does end in the film.
9. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. My hunch is AL:VH will either be really fun in a dumb way, or it'll be just plain dumb. But unlike a lot of this summer's action movies, this one seems defiantly funky and weird. I genuinely don't know what to expect, which is why I'm so curious about it.
10. The Bourne Legacy. Hollywood has decided Jeremy Renner is going to be an action star. He's in The Avengers. He was in the newest Mission: Impossible, if unimpressively. And now he's expected to take over the Bourne series from Matt Damon (albeit playing a different character). Now we'll get to see how much of the greatness of the Bourne films had to do with Damon and Paul Greengrass, the director of the last two installments, and how much was the work of Tony Gilroy, who moves up from co-writing the previous movies to directing this one.
1. That's My Boy. At least it's not Grown Ups 2, which will come our way next summer.
2. The Dictator. I love Borat. I was mildly amused by Bruno. I'm already sick of The Dictator, and it hasn't even opened yet.
3. Men In Black 3 You know about all the problems this film has had, right? Now ask yourself: Did I really like Men in Black II? And even if I did, was I dying for a sequel 10 years later? Someone should tell Will Smith that we really don't need him anymore—that's what Jay Pharoah is for.
4. What to Expect When You're Expecting. What's more hilarious than a pregnancy-advice book?
5. Ice Age: Continental Drift. These movies keep coming, and yet Men of a Certain Age got cancelled. Ray Romano's life is very strange.
Grierson & Leitch is a regular column about the movies. Follow us on Twitter, @griersonleitch. Top image by Jim Cooke.