Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Summer Movie Preview

By this time of year, every year, my thoughts as a moviegoer are always the same: summer can’t get here soon enough. For most movie lovers, spring is the bleakest season—a dreary, drawn-out four-month period in which Hollywood’s back-shelf merchandise floods the theaters and abandoned prestige pics go to die. Thankfully, the drought invariably ends with the arrival of the first blockbuster of the year, even if it equally invariably involves a franchise hero swimming against a tidal wave of special effects. After all, the formula doesn’t preordain a bad movie, as last year’s “Iron Man” proved.

This year, I suppose the credit for drought-breaker technically belongs to “Wolverine.” However, much as I love Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, and “Friday Night Lights”’ Taylor Kitsch (aka Tim Riggins), the tepid buzz and mostly negative critical reception have already made the “X Men” spinoff look more like a false start. For me, the true summer kickoff flick is the new, retooled “Star Trek,” which opens this week. But the rest of the summer offers a promising and eclectic mix of entertainment, and perhaps most surprisingly, much of it appears to be clustered in August—usually the doldrums for summer movies. On the downside, June looks rather dry, unless the “Transformers” sequel or “Land of the Lost”is the highlight of your summer. Let’s just say they ain’t mine.

In order of opening date, here are my top ten most anticipated summer movies:

“It” director J.J. Abrams attempts to add some hipness factor to a famously un-hip franchise that’s lately been in real danger of sputtering out. His method includes taking the story back to the salad days of the crew of the Enterprise, injecting new blood in the form of a young, up-and-coming cast (including Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Karl Urban, and Zoe Saldana, though also, apparently, Eric Bana, Winona Ryder, and the venerable Leonard Nimoy himself), and generally adding a “Star Wars”-ish vibe to the plot and character development that shows where Abrams’ true fanboyishness resides. As a moderate fan of “Star Trek” (though I’m more of a Next Generation gal) and a much stronger fan of “Star Wars” (Episodes IV-VI only, thank you), I can’t help but be intrigued. And I know I’m not the only one.

I’m a little concerned that this caper film starring Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, my bb Mark Ruffalo, and Rinko Kinkuchi, written and directed by the guy behind “Brick”— doesn't it seem like a winner from that description?—was originally supposed to come out last fall. A delayed release is never, ever a good sign. OTOH, it’s sometimes more reflective of a studio’s lack of faith in the film’s marketability than the actual quality of the product. Or maybe I’m just rationalizing because I really want this movie to be good.

UP (May 29)
I’m tickled by the idea of a house being tied to balloons and floating away to South America. And how many movies for kids do you see that are focused on crotchety old men? If anyone can make it work, it’s the genius pool at Pixar. I have faith.

Probably the movie I’m most looking forward to this summer. The Depression-era cops-and-robbers tale is based on the true story of bank robber John Dillinger, is directed by Michael Mann, and stars Johnny Depp as Dillinger and Christian Bale as the clean-cut FBI agent who tracks him down. With that pedigree, I’m sold. Billy Crudup also appears as J. Edgar Hoover(!), and Oscar winner Marion Cotillard has a role as Dillinger’s love interest.

As someone who’s read the entire Harry Potter series multiple times, I’ve had ambivalent feelings, at best, about the movies—that is, until the last one, “Order of the Phoenix,” which I quite liked. I’m encouraged by the fact that the same director who did “Phoenix,” David Yates, is helming the pivotal sixth installment. I don’t know whether to be encouraged by the fact that The Half-Blood Prince is one of the best books of the series, as I generally find an inverse relationship between how much I love a book and how much I love its screen adaptation.

(500) DAYS OF SUMMER (July 17)
A quirky portrait of a relationship between two twentysomethings played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, this film is already being billed as an “Annie Hall” for the Generation Y set. I don’t know much about the director, Marc Webb. But just the idea of a JGL-Zooey pairing puts a smile on my face—I can’t imagine them being anything less than charming together.

JULIE & JULIA (August 7)
Meryl Streep and Amy Adams star, respectively, as the redoubtable Julia Child and Julie Powell, a young woman who undertook all 500+ recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking and then wrote a bestselling book about the experience. Doesn’t sound exactly ready-made for cinema, and I have my doubts about director Nora Ephron (though I’ll always have “When Harry Met Sally”), but I adore Meryl, Amy, and good stories about good cooking. So I’ll bite.

Ang Lee once again brings his unerring outsider’s eye to a slice of peculiarly American culture—but this time he's in comedic mode. And while today’s moviegoers may associate the director more with such epic-dramatic fare as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Lust/Caution,” and, of course, “Brokeback Mountain,” anyone who’s seen the delightful “Sense & Sensibility” or his even earlier Taiwanese sex comedies (“The Wedding Banquet,” “Eat Drink Man Woman”) can attest that Lee has a wonderful flair for comedy. Stars Comedy Central’s Demetri Martin and an impressive array of supporting talent, including Imelda Staunton, Liev Schreiber, Emile Hirsch, and Paul Dano. Can’t wait!

Based on one of the most riveting, genuinely (and uncheesily) romantic novels I’ve read in a long time, starring yummy Eric Bana as the male lead—what’s not to like about “The Time Traveler’s Wife”? Well, for one, I’m disappointed that Gus van Sant dropped out of directing the film, and for another, I’m not crazy about the casting of Rachel MacAdams as the heroine, Clare (though she does have sweeping-romance cred from “The Notebook,” I suppose). But this is a terrific story, and if the film does any kind of justice to the book, I’ll be there on opening night.

POST GRAD (August 21)
Alexis Bledel channels all the angst of recent college grads everywhere who have to move back home while they Find Themselves. Nothing new in the material here, as far as I can tell. But the movie also stars Zach Gilford (“Friday Night Lights”) as the friend who has a crush on Bledel's character, and I just can’t resist the idea of Rory Gilmore and Matt Saracen together. They might even give Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel a run for their money for the title of Cutest Couple of the Summer.

I’ll also be eyeing the reviews for “Easy Virtue” (while I’m not convinced Jessica Biel belongs in a Noel Coward farce, Kristin Scott Thomas and Colin Firth surely do); “Whatever Works” (if the combo of Woody Allen and Larry David don’t drive me screaming to the hills); “Bruno” (my favorite Sacha Baron Cohen character); “Departures” (the Japanese film that beat out both “The Class” and “Waltz With Bashir” for Best Foreign Film Oscar this year); “Ponyo” (Miyazaki’s latest flight of fancy); and “Inglourious Basterds” (the title alone annoys me, but I can never quite count out Quentin Tarantino). And I just may seek out a guilty pleasure or two in the form of, say, “Dance Flick,” the Wayans Brothers’ latest exercise in spoofery, or “The Ugly Truth”(I like Katherine Heigl, and Gerard Butler cracks me up in the previews). But if do, I’ll certainly be ignoring those reviews.

What are you looking forward to seeing this summer?


Blogger Jan said...

Brothers Bloom will not disappoint.
I have seen it at three film festivals and can't wait to see it again in a stadium theater setting.
Great acting and great fun!

12:18 PM  
Blogger lylee said...

Thanks for the encouraging report! I hope you're right.

5:19 AM  
Blogger Coffee Maker said...

it would seem that Chris Pine's Capt. Kirk encapsulates all that Capt. Kirk was meant to be more than William Shatner's version

1:25 PM  
Blogger EC said...

Wait, Inglorious Basterds isn't on here? Isn't it coming out in August? Tarantino + WWII, WTF.

6:56 PM  
Blogger lylee said...

If you look at the last paragraph, I include "Inglorious Basterds" among the "other films" I'm looking out for but, essentially, waiting for reviews.

1:39 AM  
Blogger EC said...

whoops, i didn't make it quite that far in my skimming.

12:33 PM  
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