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Steve Salles' Summer Movie Preview
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SUMMER MOVIE PREVIEW 2008
By Steve Salles
Standard Examiner movie critic
Well, apparently you CAN judge a book by its cover (or at least the beautifully rendered front page of the GO section) as you’ll notice superhero movies are the dominant theme for the cinescape of Summer 2008.
With the likes of Iron Man (review inside), Batman, The Incredible Hulk and Hellboy (sorry Heckboy), you’ll also see Hancock (Will Smith) whose superpower seems to be screwing up a lot - and I almost want to put Indiana Jones in this category because of his larger than life persona and Harrison’s super human ability to still look good at 65.
Honestly, I can’t remember being this excited about a summer season, unless you go back to the year I was hired to lifeguard at the Playboy mansion (okay that didn’t really happen but I’d bet it would have been more exciting).
So here’s a breakdown of one of the most anticipated summer movie seasons in recent memory (real or imagined) with the hope that you too can get excited about at least one of these big films.
SPEED RACER - The Wachowski Brothers (creators of “The Matrix”) have returned with another big budget, special effects driven movie based on the Japanese Anime TV series from the Sixties. To me, it looks like a colorful, shiny “Tron” urging middle-aged fans to say “Wow” and “twenty-somethings” to ask - “What’s a Tron?”
WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS . . . - yeah, yeah, yeah . . . is supposed to stay in Vegas. So how did this odd little hiccup manage to sneak out? Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher are living the dream - weekend in Sin City, night of debauchery, wake up married. “Ew!” - they proclaim, right before Ashton drops Cameron’s quarter into the slots for three million dollars. Now a judge orders them to stay together as man and wife. Wait for it, wait for it - nope - still not funny.
YOUNG@HEART - Some really old people sing some fairly new songs, which I thought was just going to play for laughs, but then these cute little biscuits start dying off and it becomes rather teary and poignant.
When you realize how seriously they take these moments of glory in the twilight of their lives it becomes one of the most heartfelt films of the year. Really.
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN - The Pevensie kids may have come out of a closet (okay wardrobe) in their first visit to Narnia, but now with a bigger budget, they return via magical train station (ala Harry Potter) to a much different world of Narnia. Thirteen-hundred years have passed and there’s a whole lot of fighting going on between an evil king and the throne’s rightful heir, Prince Caspian. The Pevensies will be forced to help clean house (or castle) again like their distant, later cousins, the Sopranos.
THEN SHE FOUND ME - Helen Hunt co-writes and directs this story of a baby-hungry school teacher who finds herself between a commitment-phobic husband (Matthew Broderick) and the dad of one of her students (Colin Firth). Life gets complicated when she gets pregnant. And yes, that’s author Salman Rushdie playing her doctor, since writing controversial books has apparently become such a bore.
INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL - The Nazis are out and the Soviets are in, as Dr. Jones is called back into action concerning an archeological find of some significance. There are no loose lips on this story so far, but the trailer shows an action scene being shot in what looks like the same government warehouse that contains the Ark of the Covenant. Could be a coincidence, could be a big tease. Regardless, my face is melting in anticipation!
SON OF RAMBOW - Yes, I know it’s misspelled, but I’m guessing it’s to avoid a copyright confrontation with Mr. Stallone. It’s about two little Brit boys that want to make a home movie about their favorite action hero and how outsiders try to mess it up. It looks cute enough but should come with its own disclaimer - “Kids, don’t try this at home. It takes a grown man to act this badly.”
SEX AND THE CITY - Word on the Gucci grapevine is - someone gets it in this big screen update. No, I mean really buys it. Come on people, I mean somebody DIES! How can this be? Isn’t this supposed to be sexy, clever chitchat on the nuances of life for single women in New York City? What a kill joy! I bet it’s Miranda’s Steve as his emergency wimpectomy goes badly and he melts away into a pool of estrogen. Or it could be somebody else.
THE STRANGERS - What would summer be like without yet another terrifying “inspired by a true story” thriller. More enjoyable? This one features Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman as a cute couple staying in a remote vacation home when someone knocks on the door at 4 am. It’s people with creepy hoods over their heads and I don’t think they’re selling encyclopedias. Vacuums maybe, but definitely not encyclopedias.
THE FALL - From the director of “The Cell” (yikes!) comes the story of a man who no longer wants to live after a terrible accident that’s left him bedridden. He agrees to tell another patient a fantasy tale, if she’ll get him the drugs he needs to check out. But as the two begin to bond through the story, the little girl offers another reality that may help him reach a different ending. Hopefully one that got this project off the shelf where it had been collecting dust for two years.
YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN - Adam Sandler tries to wrap his lips around a Middle Eastern accent as he goes from Mossad operative to New York City hairdresser to retire from the spy game once and for all. But just because he’s Jewish doesn’t mean he can sound like an Israeli. Let’s hope his accent is the least of his worries and would someone please tell his good pal Rob Schneider that he’s embarrassing himself with each new stereotype he tries to portray? It’s getting ridiculous.
KUNG FU PANDA - Jack Black voices the least ferocious Kung Fu master the world has ever known - Po the lazy Panda. But he will learn the skills he needs from the great one - monkey, crane, mantis, viper and tigress. Apparently the lions, tigers and bears oh my - were tied up with a new Broadway run of “Wicked.”
THE INCREDIBLE HULK - It’ll be nearly five years to the day that director Ang Lee put his “poetic” stamp on this revered comicbook character. The problem is - it was boring. Determined not to make that same mistake, actor/writer Edward Norton put a lot of the grit and anger back into the big fella - proving it’s not easy being green, unless you’re the baddest son of a sea biscuit on the planet.
THE HAPPENING - Here comes M. Night Shyamalan being all mysterious again. This time people are dying all over the world and no one knows how or why. Mark Wahlberg takes his family to rural Pennsylvania only to discover that the Amish have turned into vampires? Perhaps not. Well it’s something big - or is it?
GET SMART - Big screen adaptations of beloved old TV shows have made me nervous over the years. This one, strangely, not so much as I like what I’ve seen so far in trailers with Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway. Carell has the look and feel of Don Adams, but there’s something else I’ve noticed. He reminds me even more of a Peter Sellers in a “Pink Panther” movie. Oh Cato, could you imagine the possibilities?
THE LOVE GURU - Hindu leaders are livid that Mike Myers is making fun of their religion, but he insists once they see his movie, they’ll realize there’s nothing funny about it. Let’s hope he knows what he’s doing because in the credits he lists two characters named Guru Satchabigknoba and Guru Tugginmypudha. Oh boy, this guy’s karma is burnt toast.
WALL-E - Okay, I’m just gonna say it - this looks pretty darn cute as a lonely robot left to clean up the mess on Planet Earth for the past 700 years is about to make some new friends. And while his head looks like Johnny 5 from “Short Circuit,” I’m willing to bet he’ll bring a little more to the computer table than his live-action predecessor - mainly because Pixar rules.
WANTED - I have high hopes for this movie not simply because of its stellar cast, but because of its Russian director that did the amazing vampire “Watch” trilogy. This guy knows how to shoot action and the film is full of it. Really. Okay, and it has Jolie, James McAvoy and Morgan Freeman.
HANCOCK (opens Wed. the 2nd) - Will Smith plays a troubled superhero in L.A. with a public relations problem. Every time he tries to help out, he ends up making a bigger mess than if he’d left it alone. Who needs that kind of help? Well, that’s all about to change as he saves a PR guy who believes he can improve Hancock’s image. Will Smith - funny - Fourth of July? I see no problem here.
KITT KITTREDGE: AN AMERICAN GIRL (also opening Wed. the 2nd) - This is a throwback to an earlier time when America was simple, but poor. A young girl’s dream back in the 30’s might be to have an article printed in the local newspaper. Nowadays, she’d be happy to have a scandalous article printed about her. I think an Abigail Breslin playing a girl detective might be refreshing - just as long as the story isn’t a snore or a Nancy Drew rip off.
HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY - With “Pan’s Labyrinth’s” Guillermo del Toro at the helm, you can bet Hellboy will have some serious freak show company around him this time. His usual efforts to save the humans that fear him will also have a twist. What if he has more in common with the bad guys than mankind? Should be loads of fun with a bevy of bizarre creatures to entertain. Sounds like Diddy’s last South Hampton bash.
MEET DAVE - I’m officially worried about Eddie Murphy as I think his Oscar snub last year has sent him into another orbit. Ironically, he plays a spaceship that looks like an ordinary human being and if that’s not odd enough - this human “ship” falls for an Earth girl. Phone home, Eddie. Your shrink would like to have a little chat.
JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH 3D - My favorite part of what looks like a very cheesy movie is when a kid gets a cell phone call from his mom while he’s on an adventure in the CENTER OF THE EARTH! Mine won’t even work on 25th Street! But the rest looks pretty believable as Brandon Fraser hedges his bets against yet another “Mummy” movie opening three weeks later.
THE DARK KNIGHT - Anyone hoping for a best supporting actor Oscar next February will have to stand in line behind the late Heath Ledger as his Joker promises to be one of the best performances of the year. Yeah, I know this is supposed to be about Batman, but I’m afraid he’ll be playing second fiddle to his even darker villainous foe. Let’s hope a good movie emerges from all the darkness.
MAMMA MIA! - On the lighter side, a young bride-to-be faces the dilemma of having her father give her away because her daddy could be one of three men. Naughty mommy Meryl Streep slept with Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard and Colin Firth 18 years ago. The solution? Invite all three and watch the fireworks. Plus, it has lively ABBA music - so I’m guessing an upbeat musical romp, perhaps?
SPACE CHIMPS - Could this title be a bigger kid magnet? Gee, Johnny, what would you like to see this weekend. SPACE CHIMPS!! It’s probably really dumb and full of slapstick shenanigans but parents, this is just one of those animated movies where you’ll have absolutely no choice. Just get in line, get your popcorn and move along quietly. Oh and a note to filmmaker: if this is any longer than 90 minutes - you may want to consider relocation.
X FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE - Series creator Chris Carter promises there will be no awkward alien weirdness this time around, just a good old fashioned bizarre mystery to be unraveled by the now former agents Mulder and Scully. A paranormal event takes place in rural Virginia (what else is new) as women are abducted and human remains are found in snow banks along the road. Okay! That’s what I’m talking about! Welcome back, Fox and Dana.
STEP BROTHERS - We learned a few weeks ago that America doesn’t want to see an R-rated Will Farrell comedy as “Semi-Pro” threw up an air ball. As of this writing, this new movie is also rated R. Let’s see if that’s still true three months from now. Regardless, Farrell and John C. Reilly look hilarious in the trailer. Clean up your act, boys and people will come.
THE LONGSHOTS - Prepare to be inspired, young ladies as you are about to meet one of the first eleven-year-old girls to play Pop Warner football in its 50-plus-year history. Ice Cube will coach “Akeelah and the Bee’s” Keke Palmer to play quarterback in Louisiana. The film is directed by Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst who believes he can go from rock-n-roll to roll-out-and-throw. We shall see.
HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU - Remember the book? Well, here’s the movie that looks at various relationships in various stages with various actors like Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Aniston, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Connelly, Justin Long and Ben Affleck. Ladies, if you need us, we’ll be in the theater next door watching ANYTHING OTHER THAN THIS! Oh, and we’ll be washing your car for the next month or so too. We love you.
THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR - This will probably be that ANYTHING as Brendan Fraser dusts off his pretend Indiana Jones outfit, gets a new wife sidekick (Maria Bello fills in for Rachel Weisz) and they’re off to China to break some terra cotta warrior heads and subdue the fierce Dragon Emperor (Jet Li) who’s been taking a dirt nap for 2,000 years (odds are he’ll be really cranky when he wakes up).
SWING VOTE - I’ve heard of close Presidential elections before, but this one comes down to one good, ol’ boy from Texico, New Mexico as the deciding vote for the entire country. Kevin Costner stars as Bud Johnson, the man in the spotlight who doesn’t give two hoots about politics. Let’s just say he’ll be leaned on mightily in this preposterous, but hopefully interesting look at the state of campaigns in America. Hopefully, this won’t be as long as the real one.
MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN - Don’t know a lick about this movie - other than it might be scary. Just thought the title was an attention grabber.
PINEAPPLE EXPRESS - The Judd Apatow players are at it again this time with Seth Rogen and James Franco as two stoner buddies that witness a hit after taking several hits of their new weed from the Islands. Now they’re on the run so they won’t get snuffed out themselves. Hilarity and munchies ensue.
THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS II - Three years after their first traveling pants adventure, four best friends get ready for their first year in college but decide to keep in touch once again by sharing their experiences of love and other growing experiences. Okay. Again, we’ll be somewhere else looking for Louis Vuitton gift certificates, because you know what dear? No one deserves it more than you.
TROPIC THUNDER - I know this is a strange comparison but when I saw this war movie trailer, I thought of the “Three Amigos.” You know how they go to Santo Poco to put on a show but the locals think they’re for real? This is like that only these guys are soldier actors that have to become genuinen accomplished warriors. Robert Downey Jr. playing a black soldier is either the dumbest or bravest performance you’ll see this year. We’ll just have to wait and see which it is.
HENRY POOLE IS HERE - A cynical man moves back to his old quiet neighborhood to live in complete isolation. But his pesky neighbors start to draw him out and when a strange marking on his wall becomes a local religious icon, Luke Wilson is dragged kicking and screaming back into a world full of hope and love. If he wanted to be left alone in misery, he should have moved to Magna.
BANGKOK DANGEROUS - Nicolas Cage is an assassin. He eats alone. He sleeps alone (bad hygiene?). He’d like to meet a nice girl. His career of choice won’t permit it. He kills. However, he will not kill a good man. Now the hunter becomes the hunted. I will now stop writing in macho short sentences.
THE HOUSE BUNNY - A former playboy bunny (Anna Faris) is kicked out of the mansion for being too old. With no place else to go, she checks out a sorority house and decides to help a bunch of misfit girls with their social skills. Didn’t Amanda Bynes just do this for a fraternity in her recent “Snow White” movie? I bet they all discover their inner beauty that gives them a purposeful direction in life. And in the meantime, many will be scantily clad.
THE ACCIDENTAL HUSBAND - Radio talk show relationship expert Dr. Emma (Uma Thurman) doles out some unwanted advice and as a pay back she becomes married by computer to the guy she offends. Is that even possible? So when she and her real boyfriend go to get a marriage license - turns out she’s already married to a hunky NYC fireman - ah - poor thing. What will she do? Hopefully make us laugh.
BABYLON A.D. - Hey, Vin Diesel! We’ve missed you. Where have you been? Apparently in the future, working as a mercenary protecting a woman who may be about to give birth to a crazy cult’s Messiah. Nice. So, what does something like that pay? Bring back any souvenirs? Like a ray gun or a decent screenplay?
COLLEGE - Catchy, descriptive title. The sequel should be called “Job.” As in, they’ll be forced to get one after making this movie.
It seems some high school seniors have just learned that you can get into a lot of trouble going away from home to where other like-minded juveniles live. Next year, they’ll discover “Prison” where they’ll be housed after their abhorrent behavior is profiled on “Cops.”
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STEVE SALLES' BOTTOM TEN MOVIES OF 2007
Steve Salles' Summer Movie Preview
STEVE SALLES' TOP TEN MOVIES OF 2007
The Bank Job
THE BUCKET LIST
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
The Darjeeling Limited
The Feast of Love
The Forbidden Kingdom
The Game Plan
The Golden Compass
The Heartbreak Kid
The Jane Austen Book Club
The Other Boleyn Girl
The Perfect Holiday
The Seeker: The Dark is Rising
The Spiderwick Chronicles
Then She Found Me
There Will Be Blood
Things We Lost in the Fire
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
We Own the Night
Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins
What Happens in Vegas
Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden
Wild West Comedy Show
Wristcutters: A Love Story
Young at Heart
Coming Out Soon...
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