Yes, it's finally time for summer movies, aimed at the crotch like a powerful kick from the talking mule who helps the nerdy kid win the big football game and acquire the love of the popular girl with the eating disorder. Where would we waste our youth without them?
The sequel has a long literary history, beginning in 2000 B.C. with Adam and Eve Part 2: Snakes on the Plains of Gehenna and continuing up to this year's Rush Hour 3: The Search for Chris Tucker. Seriously: There's a six-year gap in Chris Tucker's career since Rush Hour 2. Is he so selective that he refuses to do any films that are not good enough to be part of the Rush Hour series? And did you know that he got $25 million to star in Rush Hour 3? That's $25 million for a guy who hasn't made a movie in six years. Yahoo Serious should be enraged.
Strangely, there's going to be a sequel to Eddie Murphy's Daddy Day Care called Daddy Day Camp. Even stranger: Murphy declined to appear in this film. Imagine how bad a movie would have to be for Eddie Murphy to turn it down. Unsurprisingly, Cuba Gooding Jr. stepped in to the Murphy part. Gooding either has the lowest standards in the world, or his agent has been playing a hilarious, 10-year-long joke on him.
In the tradition of Weekend at Bernie's 2, i.e., making sequels to movies that sucked, we have Mr. Bean's Holiday. This is just another example of what the right-wingers think of as European nihilism: endlessly producing movies about the inability of a white man to walk four feet without falling down.
Steven Soderbergh is hilarious. He's made some of the best art films of the last decade, and then every other year, he thinks, "If only I could get Scott Caan, Celine Dion and Bernie Mac in a room together," and he makes one of these Ocean's films. The latest one is Ocean's 13, which means that he can still pull a George Lucas and make Ocean's 1 through 10.
There's also Part 3 of the Bourne series, The Bourne Ultimatum. Paul Greengrass (United 93) again directs, and Matt Damon stars as the amnesiac spy. Everyone liked the last Bourne movie, although the shaky camera kind of bugged us. Look for more shakiness and Matt Damon doing what Damon does best: kicking serious ass!
Bruce Willis hairs up for another Die Hard sequel. This time, they got director Len Wiseman, who was props assistant on Men in Black, assistant props on Independence Day and property assistant on Stargate. Expect some awesome props! Live Free or Die Hard also stars Timothy Olyphant, who's oh-so-dreamy on Deadwood, and Jeffrey Wright, who rocked Syriana.
COMIC BOOKS AND FANTASY
Almost all of the comic-book/fantasy movies this summer are sequels. One exception is Stardust, adapted from Neil Gaiman's fantasy comic of the same name. The real concern here is that all the kids whose hippie parents named them Stardust will have to suffer through three months of jokes about being a princess from outer space.
We're not so sure about Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. The last FF movie did that thing where it attached its lips and applied suction. What's that called again? This one has a much better trailer, and it seems to be a take on the classic Galactus story from Fantastic Four No. 48. We know that, because we're both virgins.
The most anticipated movie of the year is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Strangely, it's directed by David Yates, whose previous work includes Sex Traffic and The Sins. Expect Harry Potter to grow way the hell up in this episode.
There's a theory that people go to comedies in order to laugh. This is called the "comedy is funny" theory. And yet, in Hollywood, this theory is often ignored in favor of the theory that people go to comedies in order to see feces.
In the likely-to-be-stupid category is Delta Farce, starring Larry the Cable Guy. Little known fact: Larry is actually an alternate identity for Noam Chomsky. Then there's Hot Rod, which might not be stupid. It stars Andy Samberg of Saturday Night Live and "Lazy Sunday" fame. It's either about fast cars or burning penises. Or both. Going for "most stupidest" prize is I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, about two guys who have to pretend to be gay-married in order to get benefits from their job. What kind of job? Blowjob! Ha ha ha! Homosexuality is automatically funny!
The only big Teen Comedy opening this summer is Superbad. You have to have balls of steel to name a comedy "Superbad," so mega-props on that. It stars Seth Rogen, and it's produced by Judd Apatow, so it's got some 40 Year Old Virgin cred.
Apatow and Rogen are also teaming up in the nonstupid/nonteen category for Knocked Up. It's about a one-night stand that produces, through a mysterious biological process, a miniature human being.
Wristcutters: A Love Story is about how crazy ha ha funny suicide is. It's got some great advance word and was written by Goran Dukic, who also wrote Posebni Gosti and Mirta Uti Statistiku. At least those sound funny.
Then there's Evan Almighty, a sequel to Bruce Almighty that dumps box-office-poison Jim Carrey for critic's darling Steve Carell. This one rips off a plot from some ancient Middle Eastern book wherein God tells a guy to build an ark. Not sure of the name of the original text, but no doubt, it's hilarious.
Penelope looks promising. Christina Ricci stars as a rich girl with a pig's nose who seeks love. The hot cast includes James McAvoy (Last King of Scotland), Catherine O'Hara (Best in Show, A Mighty Wind) and Reese Witherspoon (everything).
Jessica Alba stretches out, though not literally, so calm down, in The Ten, a comedy based on that part of the Bible where God tells you not to covet and stuff. That'll be hard, what with stars Gretchen Mol, Famke Janssen, Justin Theroux and Paul Rudd being so damn covetable.
There are three Touching Comedies on the big slate this summer: First, The Comebacks, about a college football team. It's directed by Tom Brady! We can only hope that it's not scheduled against a comedy directed by Peyton Manning. Wait ... it's a different Tom Brady. Never mind.
Next, there's Martian Child, starring John Cusack as a guy who acts like John Cusack. Many years ago, John Cusack was granted the power to play one role perfectly. Since he only appears in films especially written for John Cusack, this one could be good in spite of the sappy plot: A little boy who think he's a Martian is adopted by a caring nurturer who writes science fiction. We're not sure if Cusack plays the science-fiction writer or the little boy, but either way, expect the laughter of human warmth.
Finally, there's Charlie Bartlett, which has the best buzz of any of the summer laffers. Jon Poll, executive producer of The 40 Year Old Virgin, directs this story of a high school student who becomes the school's unofficial psychotherapist. If anything is funny, it's mental illness.
ROMANTIC COMEDY: STUPID CATEGORY
A successful romantic film requires deft writing, tactful direction and charismatic lead actors. Romantic comedy needs all of the above plus laughs. Is it any wonder so many rely on contrived sitcom premises?
Among the most egregiously goofy: Blind Dating sounds like a script thought up by a room full of stoners: What if you went on a blind date ... and it turned out your date was blind?! Chris Pine stars as the sightless man whose dates are upset that he can't compliment them on their shoes. But love, it turns out, is blind, and things work out when he meets a woman (Anjali Jay) who teaches him to use his third eye ... for love!
Zach Braff of My Garden State of Feelings and My Last Kiss of Feelings gets a little less emo in The Ex. He plays a guy whose girlfriend is played by Amanda Peet, who, let's face it, would never go out with a guy who looks like Zach Braff. Braff gets a job at the same ad agency where Peet's ex-boyfriend works, and this ex decides to show Braff how he rolls ... because he's in a wheelchair! Really puts the "dis" back in "disabled."
In an effort to make the critic's job easy, the latest Matthew Perry comedy is titled Numb. Perry plays a depressed screenwriter who finds that the cure to his chronic sadness might just be ... love. This one's written and directed by Harris Goldberg, who also wrote Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, so he probably knows a lot about depression.
In Good Luck Chuck, Dane Cook plays Chuck, a man whose ex-lovers always seem to find marital bliss after they dump him. When word of this magical pattern gets out, every woman in town enlists Chuck to do something rhymey. ("Chuck, Chuck, bo buck, banana, fana ...") The only way to stop this horrible curse is by dating a woman with perpetual bad luck (Jessica Alba) to balance out the curse. It's hard to imagine that Alba is bad luck, unless that old wives' tale about spontaneous erections being bad luck is true.
ROMANTIC COMEDY: POIGNANT CATEGORY
Among the less-gimmicky romantic comedies: Waitress, directed by the late Adrienne Shelley, has gotten tremendous advance word and may be the sleeper hit of the summer. Keri Russell discovers she's pregnant by her loutish husband and falls for her small town's amiable new doctor. It co-stars Andy Griffith, who is, apparently, immortal.
Eagle vs. Shark is supposed to be this summer's Napoleon Dynamite, affecting the tone, style and basic theme of that film. If New Zealanders fumbling for love through blank stares and small-time delusions is your thing, Eagle vs. Shark may the upbeat antidote to 2005's The Squid and the Whale Get an Annulment.
I Could Never Be Your Woman is the latest older-woman/younger-man romantic comedy. Middle-aged Michelle Pfeiffer tries to get her groove back with the strangely homoerotic Paul Rudd. That said, in the preview, Rudd is so vivacious--like an anti-Keanu--that he might save the film from becoming Dance With Me 2.
In Wedding Daze, a young couple, disillusioned by previous relationships, decide to rush into marriage after only a few dates. Jason Biggs' resume isn't terribly promising (He invented pie-bonking!), but Isla Fisher, the up-and-coming, or just coming, actress who stole Wedding Crashers with one hand, could make this worth seeing. (She was terrific in The Lookout, too.)
If movie genres are a continuum, with slapstick comedy on one end and horror on the other end, there must be a place where the genres come full circle, and they call it "Horroromedy." The classics of this rarely attempted niche include Shaun of the Dead and Patch Adams II: Cancer of Cuteness.
This summer's sure-thing horroromedy? Black Sheep, wherein sheep become the bloodthirsty killers we've always known they wanted to be. Imagine the killer-rabbit scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail drawn out to a feature-length film. Now imagine blood-curdling baaaaas. If only DeForest Kelley were alive to see this.
Coming in second place likely will be Fido, a Canadian movie about suburbanites who turn zombies into domestic servants. That means it's not just a horroromedy; it's a zombedy! Will zombies do the jobs illegal immigrants won't? If so, expect a good review from Lou Dobbs!
In deference to our new American policy, horror these days is all about torture. I'm sure Hostel II: Pillow Mint of Death, Saw 19: Pull (Off) My Finger and 24 Season 7: Jack Bauer's Abu Ghraib Vacation are just around the corner, but until then, we have this summer's stock.
1408 is a good pick because it stars John Cusack, whose movies often fail to suck. As in many other Stephen King stories, the main character is a horror novelist, and he's researching haunted hotel rooms for his next piece. But hotel manager Samuel L. Jackson is sick and tired of the motherf-ing ghosts who keep killing his motherf-ing guests, and warns Cusack away. Will Cusack enter the room anyway? Do the numbers in 1408 add up to 13?
Ghosts aren't the only things to fear in hotel rooms. In Bug, Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr. stay at a dive hotel and get a nasty case of bedbugs. Yes, America, we're so driven to find new ideas for our horror movies that we've finally made a film about bedbugs. Ooh! Ooh! It itches! IT ITCHESSSSSSSSSS!!!!
It's not set in a hotel, but Captivity is suspiciously like the recent Vacancy in that it takes place in yet another small, isolated room, which is a good way to save money on sets. Elisha Cuthbert is imprisoned by a serial killer who psychologically taunts her by disagreeing with her politics and not letting her blog about it.
Also in a hostages vs. captors vein is The Strangers, starring Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler as the suburban victims of a home invasion. But the home invaders will get more than they bargained for when Tyler unleashes her elf-queen powers. Because she was in The Lord of the Rings. Ahem.
On the sixth day, God created man. Then, on the seventh day, man was bored, and God created the action film. Then man got overstimulated, and God said, "Let the action film show mostly in the summer, that man may watch Oscar contenders in the fall and winter, and whatever leftover crap the studios have on their shelves in the spring." And it was good.
But if a movie is going to be really good, it needs to be based on a video game, a comic book, a ride at Disneyland or, best of all, a toy.
To that end, after 20 years in which we wandered the wilderness with no new Transformers movie, Michael Bay has finally seen fit to lend his enormous talents to a film that truly deserves them: one about big robots who transform into cars. The trailer looks strangely compelling, and Shia LaBeouf stars. Only Shia LaBeouf has the Shia LaBeoufness to play opposite Megatron and Optimus Prime. (Yes! Optimus Prime is back! Boo yah!)
A video game is the inspiration for DOA: Dead or Alive, whose title shows how little it thinks of its audience's intelligence. That's like naming a movie ATM: Automatic Teller Machine. Advance word is awful, but Jaime Pressly tries to liven things up by appearing in Daisy Dukes and a bikini top. There are also a half-dozen other hot chicks wearing Bratz outfits, so if you bring something to cover your lap, you could have a good time at this one.
Oliver Hirschbiegel, whose The Downfall: Hitler and the End of the Third Reich was one of the best movies of the last 18 years, directs The Invasion, which started as a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but then morphed into something else, and then was heavily re-edited and reshot. It stars Nicole Kidman, who's already a pod person, and Daniel Craig, whose pods got snapped in Casino Royale. Rumors abound that Hirschbiegel had no control over the final cut, so expect a film that only a focus group and a committee of financiers could make.
In writer-director Rod Lurie's Resurrecting the Champ, sports reporter Josh Hartnett rescues homeless man Samuel L. Jackson, who is sick and tired of these motherf-ing rats in this motherf-ing trash. Turns out Jackson is no ordinary transient, but boxing great Bob Satterfield. Satterfield had been sick and tired of motherf-ing welterweights in that motherf-ing boxing ring, but becomes less so, thanks to Hartnett's healing attention and dimpled chin.
Speaking of athletes gone wild, The Flying Scotsman tells the true story of Scottish cyclist Graeme Obree, a mentally ill man who broke records on a bike he built out of scrap metal, washing-machine parts and loose screws. A thick-accented cast includes Trainspotting's Jonny Lee Miller, Laura Fraser and forgotten hobbit Billy Boyd.
Studios try to avoid releasing high-caliber, Oscar-worthy dramas in the summer, but sometimes, they screw up. Let's hope so in the case of the following movies: Evening seems to be the brainy choice. It's adapted from Susan Minot's novel by The Hours screenwriter Michael Cunningham (who declined to write the sequel The Hours 2: 2 More Hours), and has the most formidable cast imaginable, including Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Claire Danes, Toni Collette, Vanessa Redgrave and Natasha Richardson. The plot, thick in mother-daughter issues, love and death, sounds like one of those "timeless" and "universal" stories that the emo kids are so fond of. Big question: Does the title, Evening, imply a time of day, a balancing of forces or the wife of Adam? This movie is blowing our minds, and we haven't even seen it yet!
Another potential winner is Goya's Ghosts, directed by renowned Oscar collector Milos Forman. The film features art (painter Goya is played by Stellan Skarsgård ), history (the film is set during the Spanish Inquisition) and sexual scandal (Natalie Portman plays a nude model). If a striptease in Closer earned Portman a nomination, then it's time for a lap dance ... with Oscar!
Speaking of Academy Award nominees, actor Don Cheadle may get his best showcase yet in Talk to Me. This biopic, about 1960s Washington, D.C., radio personality Ralph Waldo "Petey" Greene, gives Cheadle ample opportunity for fast-talking jokes and soulful truth-to-power speeches. Former president Martin Sheen also stars.
And that's the summer! But don't worry; sometime in the fall, they'll add an hour to the day, and suddenly, all the superheroes and Dane Cook comedies and movies based on TV shows based on cartoons based on toys will grind to a halt, and we can watch Sean Penn and Bill Murray and Clint Eastwood sit up and beg for Oscars. Which would probably make a good summer movie, if Sean and Bill and Clint were animated dogs who had to save the world from penguins.