Burn Hollywood burn

Summer movies this year are good for enjoying theater air-conditioning

BLOCKBUSTER, SCHLOCKBUSTER: Angelina Jolie is prepared to blow you away as <i>Tomb Raider</i>‘s Lara Croft.

BLOCKBUSTER, SCHLOCKBUSTER: Angelina Jolie is prepared to blow you away as Tomb Raider‘s Lara Croft.

What, no Sandra Bullock or Salma Hayek this year? Damn. Oh well, there’s always Angelina Jolie in fine fetish form to fuel my cinematic fantasies.

On the other hand, no summer can match the excruciating horribleness of last summer. This summer of blockbuster films promises to be much better, although you probably wouldn’t be able to guess that from the early entries like The Mummy Returns, Pearl Harbor and What’s The Worst That Can Happen? (although there are always the random pleasant surprises, such as Moulin Rouge).

With the writers’ strike averted and the actors’ strike looking to be resolved, the studios are set to download their stockpile over the next few months—they may not be good, but dammit there sure are lots of them.

Sequels and remakes: The Mummy Returns showed earlier this year that a sequel could still have legs (although a brain to guide ’em would have helped). The Hollywood Suits obviously think that’s the way to go because it saves on promotional costs.

Most of the high-profile flicks coming out this summer seem to be sequels, remakes, or adaptations of video games (we’ll leave the sequel to the remake of the adaptation until next year, thank you). After that damned mummy movie (which in turn seemed like a video game adaptation of a movie), the big one to keep an eye on is Angelina Jolie-turned-kickass-Barbie in Tomb Raider (June 15). Based on the popular video game that features an estrogen-charged Diana Jones, this one seems to be Paramount’s little experiment to see if it can pry adolescent boys (and man/boys) away from their Sony PlayStations to hit the local multiplex … although since the PlayStation can now play DVDs, my bet is that the target audience will just wait until the flick comes out for rental in a few months (so that they can abuse their joysticks in private).

Director Tim Burton’s remake of <i>Planet of the Apes </i>promises to be a classic summer entertainment in its own right.

Speaking of the rental market, the trailer for Dr. Doolittle 2 (June 22) says that he makes house calls, so I’d say take ’em up on the offer and wait for the video on this one. The same day sees release of The Fast and the Furious, an ostensible remake of the 1954 Roger Corman B movie (the first of many drive-in cheapies released by the legendary American International Pictures). An undercover cop infiltrates Vin Diesel’s gang of motor-crazy fools that stage late-night drag races on the streets of El Lay. Lots of roaring engines, squealing tires, and spectacular crashes promised. Yee-haw!

To keep that adrenaline rush pounding follows the remake of Rollerball (July 13). Some folks ask “Why?” I say why not; the 1975 original rocked when it was rollin', but as soon as they took the spiked gloves off during time outs for “social satire,” the whole mess dragged like a game of geriatric touch football. In these days of Keep It Simple (for) Stupid, perhaps they’ll play it smart and concentrate on the mayhem (which is all anyone who’d go see this movie would want to see anyhow).

Opening the same day is what has been called the animation event of the summer, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Based on the video game, FF:TSW promises hyper-realistic computer animation, but the plot sounds like Titan A.E. meets Battlefield: Earth (which reminds me—never trust a movie with a colon in the title).

Wednesday, July 18, see the third installment of the Jurassic Park series—nuff said. The subject of much fan-boy speculation arrives July 27 with Tim Burton’s retooling of the ‘68 camp classic Planet of the Apes. Mark Wahlberg takes over from Charlton Heston as he tries to escape from beneath the battle between man and ape for conquest of the Monkey Planet. Burton is always fun, but Helena Bonham Carter’s sexy-chimp make-up pro-mises a diversion in a direction I’d rather not go (although with a prehensile tail … uh, never mind).

Other “eagerly” anticipated sequels are Scary Movie 2 (July 4), Rush Hour 2 (Aug. 3) and American Pie II (Aug. 10).

Just For the Kiddies (yeah, right): Again with the colons and Titan A.E. vibes comes Disney’s big contribution for the season, Atlantis: The Lost Empire (June 8). The word is that the MouseWorks is bumping up the entendres and crude humor in an effort to keep the kids (and their folks) interested.

For those who haven’t quite had their fill of ‘70s sci-fi remakes, don’t miss <i>Rollerball,</i> due to hit the cinema in mid-July.

Aiming to steal a little bit of the Dr. Doolittle 2 “fireworks” come more anthropomorphic beasties in the form of Cats & Dogs (July 4), as animatronic and CGI house pets make the fur fly in that eternal backyard conflict—which pet reigns supreme?

Seeing how kids’ flicks couldn’t really get much grodier (see: Shrek), it seems only natural that the Farrelly brothers would take the plunge with the live-action/animation fest Osmosis Jones (Aug. 10). Bill Murray stars in the live-action sequences as a man whose internal works becomes an animated Saving Private Ryan battlefield as a white blood cell teams up with a cold tablet to fight against a virus … uh, OK. The big money-shot promises to be the inside view of a zit being popped—are we having fun yet?

Random and Dumber: For all the teenaged girls jonesin’ for a Romeo and Juliet fix, June 29 gets crazy/beautiful when poor little rich girl Kirsten Dunst horrifies the folks by hangin’ in the ‘hood with an ambitious barrio boy toy. Jerry “Airplane!” Zucker wheels in Rat Race (Aug. 3), a manic road comedy featuring John Cleese, Rowan Atkinson, Jon Lovitz, and a bevy of Lucille Ball impersonators (among others) involved in a mad, mad, mad, mad cannonball run to score a cool $2 million prize offered by an eccentric tycoon to see who can reach New Mexico first.

Aug. 10 sees Jay and Silent Bob finally creep from the shadows of Kevin Smith movies and seize the spotlight on their own in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Smack-talkin’ Jay (Jason Mewes) and cipher Silent Bob (Smith) hit the road when they find out that Hollywood is making an unauthorized movie about their exploits, meeting along the way the usual suspects from the Kevin Smith stable.

John Cusack has two movies virtually competing with each other this summer, with America’s Sweethearts coming out in July and Serendipity following in August. The former seems the easy-money favorite in that it also stars Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones, with Cusack and Jones involved in some Cruise/Kidman-styled dustup, with Roberts as a third-wheel assistant. Serendipity looks to be the better movie (at least to take a date to), with Cusack and Kate Beckinsale (recovering from lack of screen electricity with Ben Affleck and that other guy in Pearl Harbor) as two folks who meet cute at Bloomies and then are separated by fate. Years later, they are both motivated to track each other down, which means a series of missing each other by this much. It looks sweet and cute, a return by Cusack to his old Say Anything territory.

Other Stuff: John Travolta tries to recover lost ground with Swordfish (June 15), playing a villainous hacker in this techno-thriller. It’d better deliver—there’s still a lot of resentment simmering over Battlefield: Earth. Steven Spielberg, the man who created the theory of the “summer blockbuster” with Jaws, weighs in with A.I. (June 29), a project Stanley Kubrick spent almost a decade developing. What little that has been revealed about the movie promises pretty much nothing more than Pinocchio meets Bicentennial Man, with that Sixth Sense kid (Haley Joel Osment) portraying a little unloved android that wishes he were human. Flesh-bot Jude Law plays another android. All I can say is that, with only one exception, Empire of the Sun, Spielberg has always been excruciatingly mawkish when working with kids.

Also opening that day is the new John Singleton return-to-the-'hood, Baby Boy. Snoop Dogg is in it. Aug. 17 sees two spook-fests battling it out, with the Rob Zombie number, House of a 1,000 Corpses (dumped earlier by Universal for being too “grotesque” while they hyped the hell out of that live-brain-eating Hannibal) competing with the umpteenth return of that Camp Crystal Lake bogey, Jason X.

OK, so none of this seems truly outstanding. But at least with the sheer volume of releases this summer, there’ll always be something new available with which to escape the heat in an air-conditioned theater for a couple of hours each week.