With the release of Iron Man, we have the beginning of Summer. Well, it's only the beginning of May, but as far as all of the movie studios are concerned, we're most definitely in the middle of Summer. That means popcorn films coming out the ying-yang, while studio execs sit crossing their fingers hoping their films fill the most seats. If early estimates are any indication, Iron Man has already delivered on it's cash cow promises, but lets take a look at other releases looking to make a splash in the box office this summer break.
Everyone can agree that the Wachowski brothers dropped the ball when they put together the highly uneven sequels to The Matrix, but if the trailers are any indication, their interpretation of Speed Racer looks to be another mind-bending experience of action and fantasy. The colors seem seizure-inducing, but with a cast that includes Lost's Matthew Fox, Christina Ricci, as well as Emile Hirsch in the title role, the star power can't be denied. Hopefully the Wachowski can make up for their past blunders.
INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL
Harrison Ford is pushing 66, but you would never guess it watching him swinging inside warehouses using Indy's nifty whip. Karen Allen reprises her role as Marion Ravenwood, but the newcomers in this third sequel to the classic Raiders of the Lost Arc, are Cate Blanchett as foreign femme fatale named Irina Spalko, and Shia Lebouf as Indy's new whipper-snapper protege named Mutt Williams. With Spielberg back behind the camera, the film is sure to be entertaining, and sure to be a hit. It doesn't seem to matter much the plot of this film, but the idea of Ford back in his ass-kicking ways is enough to make audiences salivate.
YOU DON'T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN
A wise movie man once told me that Adam Sandler is easily the most bankable movie star in Hollywood. More than Will Smith or George Clooney? Yes. His films are simple, don't cost much to make, and usually guaranteed to make over $150 million. Sandler has sampled in serious work like Punch-Drunk Love and Reign Over Me, but films like Zohan--where Sandler plays an Israeli counter-terrorist who decides to move to the US to become a hair stylist--is his bread and butter. Hopefully this film is more in the range of Billy Madison and The Wedding Singer, and less like Click or I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK
I, like most, feel puzzled by this superhero do-over. I never saw Hulk, which was a colossal flop from what I heard, but is making what is basically a slightly edgier version going to be much better? Well, casting Edward Norton as Bruce Banner is certainly taking the material in a different direction. We all know Norton is a brilliant actor, but when are we ever going to see him be brilliant again? Is The Incredible Hulk our oppurtunity, or is this just Norton phoning it in for a Hollywood picture like he did in the horrid Italian Job?
M. Night Shyamalan freaked everybody out with The Sixth Sense, and since then everybody has been complaining about how he hasn't scared us since. To be fair, Unbreakable is a terrific film, I thought, about what it truly means to be a superhero; Signs is filled with suspenseful moments that are ruined by an anticlimactic and nonsensical ending; and The Village did have some moments of cinematic beauty. It's just that none of those films were very... scary. As usual, Shyamalan has a dynamite cast with Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, and John Leguizamo, but can he make anything with it? I'll be in line to see.
Ever since The 40-Year-Old Virgin, I've had a pretty big man-crush on Steve Carrell, which made Evan Almighty that much more painful, and Dan In Real Life that much more lovely. I don't know enough about the original television show to know if Carrell will be able to do justice to Maxwell Smart, but I'm sure his attempts will be hilarious. Co-starring Anne Hathaway as his sexy cohort Agent 99, Dwayne Johnson as the bumbling Agent 23, and Alan Arkin as the Chief, it's primed with a great cast. I have a soft spot for all of those actors (particularly Johnson, who I watched when he was the WWF wrestling star, 'The Rock'), and I hope the vehicle lives up to the names.
No summer, the last few years, is without that one dominant Pixar film that charms the souls of the children, and melts the hearts of adults. WALL-E is meant to be just that, the 2008 version. I'm sure everyone has seen the adorable teaser trailer, and Wall-E the robot seems primed to become the most adorable robot in movie history (easily supplanting Johnny 5 from Short Circuit and R2-D2). The plot seems to deal with Wall-E's contact with alien visitors, and the film is rumored to contain little to no dialogue. That's a gutsy move that only a studio like Pixar could take, since their films are practically guaranteed to fill the seats.
Looking to face off with WALL-E that weekend is Wanted, an action picture which looks to combine to proven movie stars with one rising star. Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman play members of an underground group of assassins who decide to draft a Johnny Nobody played by Scottish star James McAvoy to become part of their group. The idea of seeing McAvoy in a major star vehicle is enticing, since he's an actor that many should have been paying attention to for quite a while already, but perhaps even more exciting is watching Angelina Jolie bounce back from her brilliant turn in A Mighty Heart, and go back into super-sexy spy mode. There's too much to like with this one.
Now, I remember what I said earlier about Sandler, but no other actor has audiences coming out in droves the way Will Smith does. His charm, his dashing looks, and his proven acting ability make him likable to pretty much any demographic. In Hancock, Smith plays a lackadaisical superhero who has taken a serious PR hit because of his raucous, crass behavior. Jason Bateman plays a PR professional who feels he knows how to help his client get back into favor with the public. The plot is no less preposterous then most Smith blockbusters, but one thing's for sure, people will see it.
THE DARK KNIGHT
Much like The Incredible Hulk, director Christopher Nolan's Batman pictures are meant to make you forget the original pictures--which devolved into Jerry Bruckheimer exploitation films--and let the story start over (but at least Nolan waited a few more years). This is Nolan's sequel to his much praised Batman Begins. The film alone would be enough to stir up a hit, but with the unexpected death of the great Heath Ledger, many will flock to the theaters to see his last full performance as The Joker, which early indicators say is brilliant. The film brings back Christian Bale as the caped crusader, and adds Aaron Eckhart and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
The way Starbucks has cornered the market on coffee, equals the way Judd Apatow has been able to dominate the comedy world for the last couple of years. Apatow's Forgetting Sarah Marshall is easily the funniest movie of 2008 so far, but Pineapple Express, which is about an everyman played by Seth Rogan and his drug dealer played by James Franco, who must hit the road after they witness a police officer murder someone, may be even better. It has already been dubbed by some as "Superbad--the college years", and is commandeered by the proven visionary David Gordon Green (director of George Washington).
Ben Stiller has seemed to go under the radar as a pretty competent filmmaker, directing the impressive Reality Bites, the underrated dark comedy The Cable Guy, and the brainless guilty pleasure Zoolander. Stiller steps behind the camera again with Tropic Thunder, a film about a group of inane actors who cannot sufficiently portray soldiers in a war film, and are forced into character when they are thrown into real war conditions. The group of actors are played by Stiller, Jack Black, and the rejuvenated Robert Downey Jr. as a method actor who has severe plastic surgery to make him look like a black man for the war film.