Wes Anderson and Woody Allen save summer cinema

Not that sequels prequels, slapstick comedies, superhero flicks, and action/adventure thrillers can’t be intelligent, lol. But still, can we expect anything a cut above? Yes! Some warm-weather flicks are filtering in made by actual artistes with real aspirations, at least judging from the heady descriptions. Some of them are even coming before summer’s official start date. Here are some of the most promising looking options for your summer cinema plans:

Set in 1960s New England, this bit of Wes Anderson wryness—getting strong buzz– has a couple of 12-year-olds running away, leading to the forming of a search party and the accumulation of much communal havoc.  The old-timey cast is credit-heavy (Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand) and there’s apparently not a car chase, body suit, or superhero in sight.

Split from her husband, an uptight, conservative lawyer (Catherine Keener)  takes her kids to the Woodstock house of her ex-hippie mama (Jane Fonda), where a quickie vacation becomes a revelatory summer, as directed by Bruce Beresford. Whoops—culture clash! As an aging bohemian, I’m sort of interested—and the presence of Elizabeth Olsen and Chace Crawford should lure everyone else.

I’ve seen this fascinating relationship drama, with Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen as a perhaps too-happily married couple whose lives are disrupted when wifey meets a dark stranger brimming with the edge of surprise that she’s been craving. Sarah Polley’s film explores the allure (and pitfalls) of the seductive unknown, and proves once again that Williams is one of our finest actresses.

Woody Allen always helps save the summer with his neurotic wit, and this time he’s obviously regained enough confidence to put himself into his own film again. Woody costars with Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin, Greta Gerwig, Judy Davis, and of course Roberto Benigni in a story of romantic adventure in Italia. Mangia.

SPARKLE (August 17th)
All right, this is a personal choice which might not exactly be THE KING’S SPEECH, but it does have stuff going for it. Whitney Houston’s last film, it happens to be a remake of an obscure but sweetly melodramatic ‘70s film about a girl group, a low budget find which I’ve always felt deserved new life. This time around, American Idol’s Jordin Sparks plays the spunky Sparkle, who launches a Motown–style group with her sisters amidst chaos, joy, and tears. I hope they don’t botch it. And if they do, there are plenty of check-your-mind-at-the-door comic book adventures available as a backup!