Coming Soon: Zombies… and Heroes… and Dwarves… Oh My!

I know your eyes are up there... sigh

Like August, January and February are deserts in terms of pop culture.  The movies released in these months account for little more than the dumping grounds for studios… while people are paying attention to the previous year’s crop of Oscar fare, we get the dregs of filmdom heaped upon us.  Same goes for books and video games… very little to entertain us.  Television is a different story thanks to February being a ratings sweep month, but a wasteland for other venues.

What we can do during these cold, shut-in wintry days is to read some entertainment blogs (thank you for reading) and watch some trailers in anticipation of a lush, populated pop cultural landscape… and based on what I have been seeing… 2012 looks like it will be a year of riches for those so inclined.

The Walking Dead – Season 2.5 on AMC (February 12, 2012)

Potential spoilers here if you are not caught up… just letting you know.

First up, my perennial favorite, The Walking Dead.  After an uneven and, at times, frustrating first season, The Walking Dead returned last year with the first half of it’s second season.  If there was an award for “most improved”, TWD would have earned that in spades.  Characters were better fleshed out, storylines were tightened up and the zombie action gave way to more quiet reflective moments between the still-living… in addition to watching everyone’s favorite ass-wipe Shane slowly and gloriously unravel.

The second half of season two begins this Sunday, and after the shocking events of the seventh episode when a zombified Sophia stepped out of the barn of the undead, the fallout from those events should be spectacular… and if the rumors I’ve heard regarding who will live and die in the next six episodes come to pass, this season will finish with a bang.

The second season will also be notable for a particular zombie that will show up… more on that at a later date…

The Lorax (March 2, 2012)

I like Dr. Suess.  My kids like Dr. Suess.  I like that my kids like Dr. Suess.  I like that my kids know the difference between a good adaptation (Horton Hears a Who) and a craptacular adaptation (The Cat in the Hat).  The Lorax, which we all adore in book form and thoroughly enjoy the made for TV movie adaptation, has been given the CGI treatment… I don’t know if it’s the style of animation, if it’s the casting (Danny DeVito as the Lorax… perfect) or if it’s simply the song being used in the trailer… either way, I’m looking forward to this film.

I know most people have a knee jerk reaction to any beloved childhood story being made in a movie… and I’m certain I’m guilty of having done that in the past… but The Lorax?  A perfect story of environmental awareness and stewardship that deserves to be updated and its message spread far and wide.  Count me as someone who will be first in line.

 

John Carter (March 9, 2012)

Based on a series of novels written by Edgar Rice Burroughs of Tarzan fame, John Carter has quite the pedigree… as well as a built-in fan base.  What I’m unsure of is whether or not that fan base, who I believe generally will be asked to spend their social security checks in order to see this film, will turn out for this.  I can’t help but feel that a story of a Civil War vet going to Mars may not hold up as well in this day and age.  I’m including it in this list as more of a hedge bet than anything else… it may be good… it may not… I can’t really get excited for this.  I feel like I should… I just can’t.

The Hunger Games (March 23, 2012)

I have already written enough about how I am anticipating this film… loved the books, and I think the casting for this film is, more or less, fantastic… so I won’t rant and rave too much on this.  My only real concern is that they have been putting too much promotional material out there and have ratcheted up anticipation to the point that there are only two possibilities… either a massive cultural phenomenon, or complete and utter disappointment.  I’m rooting for the first… fearful of the second.  Only a month and a half before we find out.

Game of Thrones – Season 2 on HBO (April 1, 2012)

Of all the franchises, adaptations, remakes, etc… Game of Thrones may be the heftiest and, for me, the most anticipated.  Since last year’s first season and having read the many thousands of pages contained in the current five novels Game of Thrones is based on (the book series is A Song of Ice and Fire… the first novel was A Game of Thrones [note the A]… the second book is A Clash of Kings… the second season is still Game of Thrones.  Got that?  You will be quizzed), to say that I’m looking forward to this show continuing would be the understatement of the year.

What will Jon Snow find north of the wall?  What will happen to Arya now that she is on the run with Yoren?  Will Sansa still have to marry King Dick-wad after he lopped off her daddy’s noggin?  Tyrion is now the hand… I’m sure that will go well.  So many questions… and knowing the answers ahead of time does little to diminish the thrill of seeing how it will all be presented.

What I do know is that everything will be amped up this season.  The set-up for this world is relatively complete… now begins the true game of thrones.  We will finally meet King Robert and Renly’s older brother Stannis… we will meet his red priestess Melisandre… we will meet… well, we will meet many new people and journey to some new locations.  Plus, there are now dragons… I’m sure that won’t come into play. [wink wink… nudge nudge]

Marvel’s The Avengers (May 4, 2012)

Beginning with 300, March has become the first official month of the summer movie season… but everyone knows the summer doesn’t truly get started until May (don’t bother with your calendar… the pop culture machine will not be stifled by your lowly three month seasons based on the earth’s tilt and blah blah blah).  The Hunger Games may have whetted your appetites… but The Avengers will be the first course of what will be many courses clad in spandex and masks.

Yes, the Marvel juggernaut (not to be confuses with Marvel’s Juggernaut) that is The Avengers is finally launching after what may be the longest running build up in film history.  With the first post credit appearance of Nick Fury in Iron Man, and continuing with each new character film (Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America) in addition to a few sidebar characters (The Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow), The Avengers is Marvel’s answer to the Justice League… a collection of super heroes created to fight evil.  Prior to last summers flurry of super hero films I could not have cared less about The Avengers… after Thor and the Cap’n, I’m in.  Of course… as I mentioned earlier… this is just the first course, the entrée and dessert will arrive in July.

Oh yeah… Joss Whedon directed this.

The Dictator (May 11, 2012)

If zombies, superheroes, medieval soap operas and cartoons aren’t your bag… a) what are you doing reading this blog, b) perhaps a comedy is in order, or c) summer must really suck for you, Tilda Swinton will return in the fall most assuredly.  Fortunately, Sacha Baron Cohen returns in yet another chameleonic role as a Middle East dictator visiting the U.S. in The Dictator.

When I first read about this film I got very exciting believing this to be a remake of Charlie Chaplin’s 1939 classic The Great Dictator… alas, our modern day Peter Sellers is going for the silly again.  As a fan of Ali G and Borat, I look forward to what form of satire Cohen will bring to table.  In a very bad year to be a dictator (Ghadafi (sp?), Kim Jong Il, bin Laden [I know… not a dictator… but a dick nonetheless]), the time is ripe to pick this particular low hanging fruit.  My question is whether or not the fruit may be hanging a bit too low.  Cohen is a masterful comic mind… I only hope he keeps the crotch punching to a minimum and actually offers up something controversial and thought provoking.

Prometheus (June 8, 2012)

Ridley Scott has made two science fiction films in his long and storied career… Alien and Blade RunnerPrometheus will be his third.  Although long rumored to be an Alien prequel, subsequently denied, then marginally admitting that the end of this film will share some DNA with Alien… it has been a mystery.  When the most recent trailer was released, that mystery was somewhat alleviated by the appearance of a very familiar space ship and imagery of the space jockey.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go watch Alien again… then watch the trailer for Prometheus.

Anticipation does not begin to describe how excited I am about this film.  In fact, Bryan Fuller continues to refer to it as ALIENTICIPATION in his Twitter feed… I couldn’t agree more.  Starring Noomi Rapace (the original Lisbeth Salander), Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Guy Pierce, Idris freaking Elba and Patrick Wilson… with a cast like that, Ridley Scott at the helm and, as they say, Alien DNA… I can’t imagine this film being anything other than stupendous.

Brave (June 22, 2012)

Now that Pixar has had its first bomb with Cars 2 (I love living in a world where a movie can make almost $200 million in domestic box office and be considered a bomb) I imagine one type of pressure is off, the pressure to always be perfect, and another all new form is present… the pressure to recapture your great name.  Let’s not kid ourselves… Pixar is awesome and I have no doubt that whatever “magic” they seemed to lose with Cars 2 has more to do with our expectations and less to do with quality on their end.  Pixar makes great animated movies… some are for kids, some are for us.  What will Brave be?

Like most of their films, the trailers are misleading… this story seems somewhat straightforward… but I doubt it.  A young girl, Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald), feels stifled by the role that society and culture has thrust upon her… she’s rebellious, outspoken, and probably a bit brave.  Just a guess.  A lot of Scots, a few kilt jokes and a great shock of red hair… Brave looks fantastic.

I was originally going to simply say, “Pixar.  New.  Go.”  I can stand by that.

The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3, 2012)

OK… July brings us into official lycra season.  Yes, this is our second course in what is shaping up to be the summer of the superhero (not to be mistaken with this previous summer of the superhero).  Perhaps you are thinking this is the fourth in the Spider-Man series… that would be logical, the first was only in 2002 and the most recent only five years hence… but, no.  The Amazing Spider-Man is a complete reboot.  Why?, you may be asking.  The only adequate answer I can think of is, The Dark Knight, that’s why.

After seeing what a brooding anti-hero superhero could look like, I imagine the first thought on the minds of those who make movies was, “Holy crap, we can go dark!”  Thus, we get Andrew Garfield (the guy who was not Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network) as our new Peter Parker and ditching Mary Jane for Spidey’s original flame Gwen Stacy (the always lovely and fantastic Emma Stone) in another retelling of the Spider-Man origin story.  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a billion times… I love me a good origin story… and if we can move away from Tobey Maguire’s somewhat “aww-shucks” rendering of our favorite web-slinger, I’m all for it.  I enjoyed the first two Spider-Men (Mans?), but am very much looking forward to seeing what a difference a decade can make.

I will have much more to say on this subject when I see the movie itself.

The Dark Knight Rises (July 20, 2012)

Finally… The Dark Knight Rises.  After rebooting, reinvigorating and reimagining one of the most well known and redone superhero franchises this side of Superman, Christopher Nolan will deliver the final installment of his Dark Knight trilogy.  This is not a trilogy that can be easily tossed off as another superhero franchise… this is more.  This is incredible film making, stupendous story telling and a document of social ills and the corruption of power.  Think I’m overplaying this?  Perhaps.  Watch the first two again and tell me there isn’t more going on than just a vigilante in a costume.  This is not Burton’s style over substance… this is not West’s camp… and this is not Miller’s angry diatribe against the left… this is an arc of what it means to be a hero when the hero wants nothing more than to not have to be a hero.

This is another example of how to promote a new film… give out a little information, but not too much.  We know very little of the plot of the story… we know a few of the characters… Selena Kyle, aka Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and Bane (Tom Hardy).   What we know of the story is that Bane is the head of a terrorist organization that causes Batman, after being out of commission for eight years after the events of The Dark Knight (he took the blame for the crimes Two-Face committed in order for Harvey Dent to be viewed as Gotham’s White Knight), to get back into the ass kicking game one last time.  If you know the Bane story line from the comics… you know how this will end.  The question then is, to what degree and how will it come about?

We may never know how much of The Dark Knight’s success had to do with both Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker and his untimely and horribly unfortunate death… but I don’t imagine this film will be diminished.  Batman Begins and The Dark Knight both stand as remarkable films (after playing Batman: Arkham Asylum I rewatched both of them with my daughters, so they are fresh in my mind… and after not having seen either in a while I was doubly impressed with how well they both stand up)… I have no doubt The Dark Knight Rises will be a fantastic coda to a sensational trilogy.

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