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Summer Movie Preview

Posted by May 23rd, 2007 No Comments »

spider3It’s Hollywood’s favorite time of year: summer. A time when the film industry is far enough removed from the pomp and circumstance of the Academy Awards that they can dust off their biggest and brawniest (if not brainiest) fare, and roll out the parade of summer blockbusters.

At least, that was the protocol until a few down years left industry insiders wondering if theatres were on their way to extinction. After much hand-wringing over declining box office figures, rising DVD sales and a burgeoning film piracy industry, Hollywoodd appears poised to have an historically strong summer, thanks to the time-tested formula of familiar faces and dependable franchises.

So, without further ado, here are a few "sure things" and some potential dark horses for the summer movie season.



It’s Hollywood’s favorite time of year: summer. A time when the film industry is far enough removed from the pomp and circumstance of the Academy Awards that they can dust off their biggest and brawniest (if not brainiest) fare, and roll out the parade of summer blockbusters.

At least, that was the protocol until a few down years left industry insiders wondering if theatres were on their way to extinction. After much hand-wringing over declining box office figures, rising DVD sales and a burgeoning film piracy industry, Hollywoodd appears poised to have an historically strong summer, thanks to the time-tested formula of familiar faces and dependable franchises.

So, without further ado, here are a few "sure things" and some potential dark horses for the summer movie season.

Spiderman 3 (May 4)

spider3The third installment of the film industry’s biggest (and best) superhero franchise finds Spidey’s alter-ego Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) finally content, embracing the web slinger’s widespread fame and settling down with long-time squeeze Mary Jane Parker (Kirsten Dunst). If we know anything about the lives of superheroes, it’s that contentment is always short-lived. So the only question is, who or what will disrupt Peter’s happiness? Will it be Harry Osborn (James Franco), still out to avenge his father’s death, which he blames Peter for? Will it be Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), otherwise known as the Sandman, who, aside from being the man who really killed Peter’s uncle Ben, also happens to be the newest villain to threaten the safety of New York City? Or, perhaps it will be Venom, the otherworldly entity that first attaches itself to Peter (threatening the stability of his relationship with Mary Jane and his status as New York’s number one good-guy), and then to Peter’s occupational nemesis, Eddie Brock, adding yet another villain to the mix? How about all of the above? Throw in Peter’s expanding ego (after all, one can only save so many lives before it goes to his head), a dissatisfied Mary Jane, and the obligatory familial drama with Peter’s Aunt Mae, and you’ve got a recipe for what the film industry hopes will be the biggest opening weekend in history. The only question is whether Spidy 3’s several intersecting storylines and bloated running time (140 minutes) will be too much for an impatient, action-starved audience to handle. As long as co-writer/director Sam Raimi is still at the helm, the outlook remains very promising.

28 Weeks Later (May 11)

28weeksThe sequel to 28 Days Later, director Danny Boyle’s gripping reinvention of the zombie flick genre, 28 Weeks Later hopes to pick up right where Boyle’s film left off. 28 Weeks Later begins seven months (hence the title) after the Rage virus has spread throughout London, as the US Army helps to restore order and has quarantined the entire city (I detect a none-too-subtle dose of social commentary). Naturally, everything goes horribly wrong and a tight-knit family (Robert Carlyle stars as the beleaguered but determined father) must band together in hopes of escaping the clutches of bloodthirsty zombies. It’s a can’t-miss, right? Well, here’s the thing: Boyle is no longer in the director’s chair and Alex Garland, who penned the screenplay for 28 Days Later, is nowhere in sight. At best, 28 Weeks Later will be a fresh take on a story that didn’t really require a fresh take. At worst, we’ll be looking at the second coming of Blair Witch Project: Book of Shadows. Recommendation: remain cautiously optimistic.

shrek3Shrek the Third (May 18)

We know the story well enough by now: a cast of quirky villains threaten the happiness of Shrek (Mike Myers), Fiona (Cameron Diaz), and their lovable cohort Donkey (Eddie Murphy). Fairy tale satire, pop-culture references, fart jokes and some sort of beauty-isn’t-just-skin-deep moral will transpire. Critics will applaud because the franchise is "smarter" than most kid-friendly fare and audiences will turn out in droves because, well, because kids will watch anything. What else is your family going to do this summer, sit around and relate to one another? Long live Shrek!

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (May 25)

If anyone’s going to give Spidey a run for his box office money this summer, it will be Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and his band of not-so-merry men. In the franchise’s third installment, Jack, with cohorts Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), teams up with Captain Barbossa’s (Geoffrey Rush) crew in a trans-continental battle against assorted demonic villains (Chow-Yun Fat, Bill Nighy) and stuffy royalty-types (Jonathan Pryce). If nothing else, Pirates will be worth the price of admission for Keith Richards’ turn as Sparrow’s father. Considering Richards hasn’t spoken a discernable word of English in the last three decades, I’m guessing "cameo" might be an overstatement for his role. Director Gore Verbinksi will provide plenty of visual stimulation, and Depp is always a joy to watch, but one has to wonder if Pirates will suffer from being released a week after Shrek and only three weeks removed from Spiderman. This will actually mark the first time in history that three films with such lofty box office expectations will have been released within three weeks of one another.

Eagle vs. Shark (June 1 – Limited Release)

Remember Napoleon Dynamite? This is that, except set in New Zealand. Two quirky characters collide in a fable of romance and revenge, complete with annoying vocal inflection, big hair and tacky wardrobe. Remember how delightful it was to hear every nineteen year old in the country parrot the Napoleon Dynamite voice for three months following that film’s release? Well, imagine that, but with an accent. Critics and festivals love this film, the teenage crowd will embrace it, and those select few who remember when it took more than an annoying character and a quirky catch phrase to make an enjoyable comedy will want to bury their head in a bucket of popcorn until the hype dies down.

Oceans 13

 The entire cast from the first two Oceans installments has returned, along with director Stephen Soderbergh and, to a man, they all promise that this film will more than compensate for the disappointing Oceans 12. In the franchise’s third installment, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his gang exact revenge on a shifty entrepreneur (Al Pacino) who backstabbed one of their boys. This time, they’ve got former nemesis Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) on their side, adding that sinister edge the gang had so sorely needed. Will Clooney and Brad Pitt (as Rusty Ryan) be able to match the chemistry they achieved in Oceans 11? Will newcomer Ellen Barkin provide the sexy sizzle Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones couldn’t deliver? Will Andy Garcia be able to out-Pacino the real Pacino? Soderbergh has promised more action, more comedy, more charm and more surprises this time around. Here’s one thing we know for sure: with both Garcia and Pacino on hand, this Oceans will definitely be louder than the first two.

 I Could Never Be Your Woman (June 15)

The newest offering from writer/director Amy Heckerling, the mind behind Clueless and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, features Paul Rudd as a man who falls for an older woman (Michelle Pheiffer) whose daughter (Saoirse Ronan) also happens to be falling in love for the first time. Add a cast that includes Tracy Ullman (as Mother Nature!), Henry Winkler, John Lovitz and Fred Willard, and Heckerling appears to have a recipe for success. Rudd is nearly a can’t-miss at this point, and Pheiffer will undoubtedly benefit from working alongside comedy vets like Ullman and Willard. As long as Woman avoids trappings of your average romantic comedy, Heckerling is in good shape.

 Live Free or Die Hard (June 29)

John McClane is back! After being subjected to Sylvester Stallone’s disturbing return to the ring in Rocky Balboa, and faced with the prospect of watching Harrison Ford hobble around in another edition of the Indiana Jones saga, audiences will welcome the sight of Bruce Willis (as McClane), an action hero who has aged well, and seemingly without the aid of Botox. The shortage of a bankable action star (at least one who doesn’t wear some sort of costume) is something Hollywood has tried to address with everyone from professional wrestlers (The Rock) to, well, other professional wrestlers (John Cena, Stone Cold Steve Austin). Maybe Willis and his ever-present smirk are exactly what audiences have been waiting for.

1408 (July 13)

Based on a story by Stephen King, 1408 stars John Cusak as an avid student of the paranormal who, after losing his daughter (and, subsequently, his faith in all that is otherworldly), attempts to spend the night in a legendary hotel room (number 1408, naturally) that has claimed the lives of fifty-plus occupants throughout the years. Samuel Jackson adds his talents as a predictably weary (and wary) hotel manager who attempts to prevent Cusak’s inevitable demise. No word yet on whether Jackson screams expletive-laden tirades at Cusak or the cast of apparitions inhabiting room 1408, but it’s a safe bet that King’s material, in such capable hands, will be good for a few good scares.

 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (July 13)

The fifth chapter in the Harry Potter saga chronicles Harry’s (Daniel Radcliffe) difficult fifth year at Hogwarts, during which he must study for his OWL exams, attempt to ward off the Ministry of Magic (who have gradually taken control of the school), warn the authorities about the imminent return of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), and attempt to uncover the root of good friend Hermoine’s (Emma Watson) silent, secretive summer. Things are changing in Harry’s life indeed, and word is this is the franchise’s darkest film to date. One thing is certain to remain consistent: no matter what the outcome, J.K. Rowling is a very, very rich woman.

The Bourne Ultimatum (August 3)

 Matt Damon returns as Jason Bourne, the ex-fighting-machine-turned-political-dissident. In this, the third installment of the Bourne franchise, the United States government tries once again to track him down, this time after an especially messy shootout in Moscow. Director Paul Greengrass is back, after directing The Bourne Supremacy (Doug Liman helmed The Bourne Identity), as is the majority of the cast from the previous films (Brian Cox, Chris Cooper, Joan Allen and Julia Stiles, to name a few). The film hinges on Bourne’s attempt to uncover "the final secrets of his identity," so it appears as though this will be the final installment in a gripping, engrossing trilogy. However, if Bruce Willis and Sly Stallone have taught us anything, it’s this: if the money’s right, we’ll see Jason Bourne again. (Pun absolutely intended.)

 Superbad (August 17)

Take Michael Cera (best known as George Michael Bluth from television’s Arrested Development) and Jonah Hill (coming off an hilarious turn in Accepted), put them together in a coming-of-age comedy about two nerdy high school seniors who set out to lose their inhibitions in one last summer of fun before they head off to college, and what have you got? If the advance buzz and R rating are any indication, you’ve got this year’s answer to The 40 Year Old Virgin. Unless, of course, that honor goes to Knocked Up (June 1), which was actually written and directed by Judd Apatow, the man responsible for Virgin. Either way, Superbad looks good enough to keep audiences laughing well into fall.

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Kasey Anderson is a regular NadaMucho.com contributor as well as a rock star. This piece also appeared in the Bellingham Weekly.


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