Thursday, May 6, 2010

World's greatest summer movie preview!

In looking over the list of this year's summer movie offerings, one thing is clear: Originality was not high on the list of priorities.

If you take away all the sequels, remakes or flicks based on a TV show/comic strip/video game, you're left with ... not a whole lot.

Summer blockbusters tend to be safe choices that are designed to have a built-in audience. So taking risks is not common this time of year. But really, was the world crying out for a film version of the "Marmaduke" comic strip? Or the "Prince of Persia" video game?

Here's my rundown of the summer, helpfully divided into those I think are promising, those I think will be at least tolerable, and those I'm painting a black circle around on the calendar. (Somehow, I just know I'm going to be otherwise occupied on the day of the "Piranha 3-D" screening.)


Splice (June 4) -- This horror/thriller looks promising. It's about two wayward scientists who combine human DNA with other creatures, with horrific results.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice (July 16) -- Yes, this is exactly what it looks like: A live-action version of the famous broom sequence from "Fantasia" starring Mickey Mouse. With the same crew from "National Treasure" -- Nic Cage, Jerry Bruckheimer and Jon Turtletaub. I know you think I'm crazy right now for putting this in the "good" column. But watch the trailer; it actually looks like fun.

Toy Story 3 (June 18) -- Say this for the Pixar folks: They're not hasty. It took them 11 years to make another installment in the franchise that launched computer-generated animation. This time around Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Jessie and the gang are shipped off to a daycare center. Given the pedigree, I've got high hopes.

Jonah Hex (June 18) -- Josh Brolin plays a scarred, cursed bounty hunter who's after the man who slew his family. Megan Fox, back in the sexy sidekick role where she belongs, plays a prostitute. With John Malkovich chewing the tumbleweeds as the villain, and the combo of Western and horror genres, this one looks like a keeper.

Despicable Me (July) -- Screw the super-heroes, the super-villains are the most fun! That's the idea behind this animated romp about the world's number-two villain (Steve Carell) who thinks he should be number one. Sound original? That's because it is! Not based on anything other than the filmmakers' creative minds. Imagine that.

Inception (July 16) -- Director Christopher Nolan teams up with Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page in a mind-bending drama about a world in which the human mind and technology are intertwined. The trailer looks freaky-deaky.

Rosencratz and Guildenstern Are Undead (June 11) -- I actually don't know anything about this film; I'm recommending it strictly based on the title.

Dinner for Schmucks (July 23) -- Ditto. Any chance to sneak profanity in a foreign language into pop culture is a positive thing in my book. As for the plot: It's like that River Phoenix movie "Dogfight," but funny and with guys.

Eat Pray Love (Aug. 13) -- Julia Roberts plays a woman with a midlife crisis who dumps her marriage and career to travel the world seeking serenity. Could be this summer's "Julie & Julia."


Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (May 28) -- Let's start with the fact that Jake Gyllenhall and Gemma Arterton are decidedly not Perian. In fact, they're about as far away from Arabian as you can get. They're anti-Persian. Other than that, this looks like a normal summer actioner with lots of computer-generated destruction. Problem is, the track record of movies based on video games starts at dreadful, and then goes downhill.

Grown Ups (June 25) -- I've always liked Chris Rock. I think he's one of the edgiest, most original comic talents of the last quarter-century. But have you noticed that whenever his career needs a little boost, he runs back to fellow "Saturday Night Live" alum Adam Sandler to co-star in one of his boneheaded flicks? He's back again in this story of summer camp chums from the '70s reuniting as fortysomething losers. With Kevin James, David Spade and Rob Schneider ... yep, they've got the whole awful crew assembled.

The Expendables (Aug. 13) -- Sylvester Stallone continues to roll the stone up the hill for the comeback only he and his agent want to see. He wrote, directed and stars in this adventure about a group of mercenaries hired to overthrow an evil dictator. With Jet Li, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Marmaduke (June 4) -- A family comedy based on a comic strip that is only read by people under the age of 6 or over 60. Watch the trailer: CGI pooches doing line dancing. My soul actually shriveled a little when I saw it.

The Other Guys (Aug. 6) -- Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson are the baddest, hippest cops on the beat -- but they're not the heroes of this story. Will Farrell and Mark Wahlberg play wannabe detectives toiling in their shadow. Farrell's really been dogging it lately, and Marky Mark is not exactly the first name that comes to mind when you think comedic timing.

Killers (June 4) -- Ashton Kutcher stops Tweeting long enough to crank out another movie that reminds us why he doesn't deserve to be a star. He plays a super-spy who hooks up with unsuspecting normal girl Katherine Heigl.

Shrek Forever After (May 21) -- It may seem harsh putting the jolly green ogre here, but the third movie really, really sucked. Seeing as how the careers of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz have all tanked lately, this fourth entree feels like it's just here for the green -- the papery kind.

Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore; Piranha 3-D; Step Up 3D; Predators; Nanny McPhee 2 -- Do I really need to say anything? OK, two words: Colossally unnecessary.


Iron Man 2 (May 7) -- I've already seen it as I'm writing this, so you'll have to read the review to see why it ended up in the "meh" lineup. Tony Stark gets a competitor and a partner, each in their own super-suit.

Sex and the City 2 (May 27) -- The first one was actually quite good, but I can't say I'm psyched up for another two hours of fashion fetish, bitchy dialogue and romance gone awry.

Twilight: Eclipse (June 30) -- The vampires and the werewolves team up to fight some bad vampires.

The Last Airbender (July 2) -- M. Night Shyamalan tackles the summer blockbuster in this adaptation of a popular TV cartoon show.

MacGruber (May 21) -- A mildly amusing 10-minute television comedy sketch parody of a somewhat entertaining '80s TV show gets stretched out into a feature-length comedy.

Get Him to the Greek (June 4) -- A quasi-sequel to "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," which forgot to include Sarah Marshall and all the other characters except for Russell Brand's twit Brit rock 'n' roller. Jonah Hill is back, but playing an entirely new character.

The A-Team (June 11) -- Probably will be fun, but also is totally unnecessary. Does it really have anything to add to the cheesy legacy of the TV show other than CG explosions? Plus, to put it in mathematical terms,T=BA, and anything not T≠BA.

The Karate Kid (June 11) -- The ol' wimp-learns-martial-arts-to-fend-off-bullies-with-the-help-of-stern-teacher genre. They tried it with a "kid" who was pushing 30 by the end of his run, then they went to a teen girl (Hilary Swank). Now they're trying it with a preteen, Jaden Smith. With Jackie Chan in the Miyagi role.

Knight and Day (June 25) -- Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise reunite for the long-awaited "Vanilla Sky" sequel! I'm kidding, I'm kidding ... Cruise plays a super-agent who runs into a normal girl, upending her world. Sounds a bit familiar, doesn't it? It's basically "Killers," aged 12-15 years.

Salt (July 23) -- Angeline Jolie tackles a role originally written as a male character, a CIA veteran who is accused of being an undercover assassin sent to kill the president.

The Switch (Aug. 20) -- Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston are best friends. When she decides to use artificial insemination to have a child by herself, he swaps out the donor sperm for his own.

Letters to Juliet (May 14) -- A young girl travels the globe to find an old woman's long-lost love, and finds one of her own along the way. With Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave.

Just Wright (May 14) -- Physical therapist Queen Latifah is assigned to help a fallen NBA star (Common) and they fall in love.

Babies (May 7) -- A documentary. About babies. With no dialogue.

Robin Hood (May 14) -- Russell Crowe stars in the umpteenth version of Robin Hood -- no green tights, though. Directed by Ridley Scott, so it could be awesome. But really, did we need another Robin Hood?

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