Kick Ass Summer Preview
The next four months will be critical for Hollywood - or at least for the people who run it. After last year's prolonged box office slump the studios have upped the ante, spending more money on more big movies than ever before.
But does bigger mean better? And now that the studio heads are on the collective block, will audiences stand up and be counted, or stay in and watch the footie? Only time (and the England squad's form and fitness) will tell.
So far, the only title that really seems to have caught people's imagination is Snakes on a Plane, a prospect that's generated so much internet buzz the studio went back and maxxed up the sssss-factor to make sure the flick did what it says on the tin.
With this much at stake nobody really wants unpleasant surprises, so there's a definite bias towards the tried and tested in the schedules. In fact if you really want to get up to speed for this summer's movies you should start by stocking up your rental queue with the hit pix that inspired so many sequels and remakes in the first place: The Poseidon Adventure (1972), The Omen (1976), Superman (1978), etcetera.
In the meantime, here's our lowdown on the movies we're most looking forward to - and the ones they're looking back at...
THE SUMMER TOP 10:
Why is this the must-see movie of the summer? Because it's a Pixar movie, and Pixar is the only studio with a hundred percent hit record. Better yet, it's written and directed by John Lasseter, Pixar's guiding light, the man who directed both Toy Story movies and A Bug's Life. Add to that, whatever you think of real gas-guzzlers, toy cars are irresistibly cool, especially when they're voiced by the likes of Owen Wilson, John Ratzenberger and Paul Newman.
released July 28th
Ordinarily a big screen version of a once trendy 80s cop show would not float my boat. And Colin Farrell stepping in for Don Johnson is just a little too appropriate for comfort. But this comes from writer-director Michael Mann, folks: Heat, Collateral, Manhunter. Mann is to crime thrillers what James Brown is to soul music and Frank Lloyd Wright is to modernist architecture. As Jamie Foxx puts it in the trailer, 'Smooth, that's how we do it.'
released August 4th
This one I already saw at Sundance, and if there's a more original movie out this summer I'd love to hear about it. Gael Garcia Bernal plays a Billy Liar-type whose fantasies spiral out of control when he falls in love with his next door neighbour, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg. It's the dream child of the brilliant pop video director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind).
released July 28th
This was at Sundance too, and it's the funniest movie I've seen so far this year. The first film by Jason Reitman (son of Ivan), it's a scathing black comedy starring Aaron Eckhart as Nick Naylor, an acidic, amoral but highly intelligent lobbyist for the tobacco industry. This decidedly non PC satire affronted many American critics, but it's not really about tobacco, it's about how the developed world is spinning out of control.
released June 16
Why? Because the first film fully delivered (it scores an outstanding 6 on the LOVEFiLM users' rating), all the elements have reassembled for second helpings (and thirds, later in the year), and the addition of Bill Nighy as bad guy Davy Jones is simply inspired. Yo ho!
released July 6th
This is the movie everyone thinks is going to set the bar for the summer. And everyone is probably right. Superman is Superman after all, even if Brandon Routh (the actor who pulls on the blue body suit) is an unknown quality. Director Bryan Singer proved he can do quality comic book movies with the first two X-Men pictures - and he claims that Richard Donner's original Superman film with Christopher Reeve was his model for those. Judging by the first trailer, expect a seriously messianic movie. Meanwhile X Men 3 is left in the not so capable hands of Brett 'Rush Hour' Ratner.
released July 14th
'Once a guy stood all day shaking bugs from his hair.' Philip K Dick's novels don't translate easily into film, but they do intrigue the best filmmakers. Richard Linklater joins a list that includes Ridley Scott, Paul Verhoeven and Steven Spielberg with this sci-fi thriller. He has used the same Rotoscope technique he experimented with in Waking Life - maybe it was the only way he could get an animated performance out of Keanu Reeves? If it comes off it could be really something, but advance word is not as hot as we hoped.
released August 18th
Fresh from Cannes, where it screens later this month, the latest from Pedro Almodovar marks the long awaited return of his first, greatest muse, Carmen Maura - here playing a ghost who comes back to help her daughters and grandchild (Penelope Cruz, Lola Duenas and Johana Cobo). It opened in Spain in March and it sounds like Almodovar's fans have something to look forward to.
released August 25th
Admittedly, we're going to miss Shelley Winters. But this remake of the 1972 film (based on Paul Gallico's novel) is helmed by Wolfgang 'Das Boot' Petersen, which inspires a certain amount of confidence. Look for a masterclass in scene stealing from Richard Dreyfuss, Kurt Russell reasserting himself on the big screen, and discount cruise packages later in the year as reservations fall off.
released June 2nd
One way or another I've caught the trailer for this four times now and it makes me giggle every time - there's just something about those hairy dwarf tag wrestlers…. Jack Black plays a Mexican monk who moonlights as a masked wrestler. Mike White (School of Rock; Chuck & Buck) wrote the script, and Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) directs.
released August 11th
More dates for your diary:
THIS WEEK'S NEWSLETTER FEATURES: