Tuesday, April 25, 2006

11 Movies That Hopefully Won’t Suck (And One That Surely Will): A 2006 Summer Movie Preview

With insane prices for both tickets and gas, it now costs my wife and me more than 20 bucks to go see a movie. Sure, that doesn’t sound too bad for one Friday night’s entertainment, but in our heyday, we’d see a movie almost every weekend, even if a new flick didn’t exactly fit our particular interests.
That time is long gone. Unless the movie looks to be something really special, I’d just as soon sit at home in my Man Chair with a “24” DVD—that’s certainly more entertaining than most of the crap coming out of the movie studios the past year (don’t get me started on how fantastic Season Two was).
All that said, this summer actually looks better than usual, especially compared to the pathetic batch that was 2005. Here’s my list of potentials, in order of release:

• “United 93” (Friday)—I haven’t even seen a trailer for this film and I still get goosebumps just thinking about one phrase—“Let’s roll”—and all those simple words imply. Here’s a story of true heroism, a justified celebration of bravery in the face of inconceivable circumstances. Director Paul Greengrass (“The Bourne Supremacy”) went to great lengths not only to reconstruct the details of the lone thwarted 9/11 flight, but also earn the blessing of the families who lost loved ones to terrorism. Some people say it’s too soon for a movie like this, but not for me. We need as many reminders of that horror as we can get.

• “Mission: Impossible III” (May 5)—Under any other circumstances, this engorged summer “blockbuster” would be lucky to make my to-rent list. But with J.J. Abrams, creator of “Alias,” at the helm, I’m there. I’ll suffer through the insufferable Tom Cruise to see what this visionary director does with a big-time budget at his disposal. Throw in Ving Rhames, Laurence Fishburne, Billy Crudup, and, hello, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and we may just have a winner.

• “The Da Vinci Code” (May 19)—Am I the last person in America who hasn’t read this book? I was just holding out for the movie! Actually, I never had any real desire to read Dan Brown’s novel outside of a pop culture consumption standpoint, and that’s primarily why I’ll see the film. I know Brown’s “Code” challenges my personal beliefs, but that’s not a bad thing. Plus, I can always count on Ron Howard and Tom Hanks to deliver (not to mention a stellar supporting cast including three personal faves: Ian McKellen, Alfred Molina, and Paul Bettany). And maybe my lack of plot details will help me review the movie more objectively.

• “X-Men: The Last Stand” (May 26)—New director Brett Ratner (“Rush Hour”) scares me a little, but at this point these movies direct themselves, right? The characters are all so cool and played so well (Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier, Ian McKellen as Magneto, Famke Janssen as Jean Grey, Anna Paquin as Rogue, I could go on …), everything should still be all right for what is considered to be the last in this successful series. I’m looking forward to Kelsey Grammer as Beast and more screen time for Colossus. Hopefully Ratner screw it up.

• “Cars” (June 9)—New. Pixar. Movie.

• “Nacho Libre” (June 16)—Okay, so this one will probably be a rental. But I had to include a movie about Mexican pro wrestling simply for the hilarious press photo of star Jack Black (complete with an Eddie Guerrero-esque mullet/mustache combo) leaping bare-chested from the top rope. Go find this image. You’ll fall off your chair.

• “Superman Returns” (June 30)—Bryan Singer (“X-Men I & II”) as director: Definite plus. Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor: Tremendous positive. Picking up where “Superman II” left off: Good choice. Special effects: Sure to be stellar. Lois Lane as a divorced single mother? Huh? Big negative. Newcomer Brandon Routh as Supes: Who knows?
Yeah, this one’s a toss up.

• “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” (July 7)—Three summers ago, I went to see the original “Pirates” thinking there was no way it could live up to the hype. On the contrary, Johnny Depp & Co. EXCEEDED the hype, with the former’s rickety Capt. Jack Sparrow becoming an instant Hollywood icon on his way to creating one of my favorite popcorn flicks of all time. The big question is, of course: Can he do it again? Plenty of people will spend plenty of money to find out (including me).

• “Lady in the Water” (July 21)—I was also apparently one of the few people in America who actually liked “The Village,” M. Night Shyamalan’s 2004 flop. Although Bryce Dallas Howard also stars in the follow-up, Shyamalan says “Lady” isn’t like any of his other movies. Of course, this from the man who takes pride in twisting his audience’s minds into pretzels. I give him the benefit of the doubt. Plus, Paul Giamatti’s on board, so I’ll go see it regardless.

• “Snakes on a Plane” (Aug. 18)—If you haven’t heard about this movie yet, you must be under a rock with the 400 snakes that take center stage in this B-movie horror/thriller. Ordinarily I’d never see a movie like this. But I’ll make an exception for one thing: Samuel L. $%&@*$ Jackson! Already an Internet tour de force (check out SnakesonaBlog.com), “SoaP” has hit written all over it. The only thing that might hurt it is so much hype so early. This thing is all over the place, and it doesn’t come out for four more months—by that point, we might all hate snakes, Chuck.

• “Clerks II” (Aug. 18)—Or, “Kevin Smith Shamelessly Returns to Previous Success in Hopes of Reviving Flagging Career and Regaining Indie Cred.” Is there any way this turns out well? I’ll definitely wait to hear critics’ reaction before plunking down my 10 bucks for this retread.

And, last but not least, we should torture captured al-Qaida terrorists at Guantanamo Bay with … “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” (June 16). We’d have Osama in 5 minutes or less.

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