Ruthless assessment: the summer blockbusters

More movies than we’ve ever reviewed before the previews!

Photo Illustration by David Jayne

Behold our preview of summer blockbusters. We make the snarky remarks so you don’t have to. No, that’s not true. You may have to—the ‘07 crop looks like a whole lot of crap. (What’s new, right?) The season is laden with sequels, repurposings and all manner of cartoonishness.

That hardly means there’s no fun to be had. We’ve already had loads of fun at these movies’ expense … and that’s without even seeing them yet. (Well, have you seen them yet, smarty-pants?) It’s with short attention spans in mind that we present a handy key to the films’ common elements.

Happy watching.

Shrek the Third
Release date: May 18

Stars: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz

Premise: When something other than the Rage virus sickens King Harold (John Cleese), Shrek (Myers) is in line to become ruler of Far, Far Away. But, choosing swamp over crown, Shrek props up Arthur (Justin Timberlake) for the king gig. Meanwhile, Artie’s cousin, Princess Fiona (Diaz), and her royal girlfriends fend off a coup by jilted Prince Charming (Rupert Everett).

Alternate title: The Cash Cow That Offsets Dreamworks’ Box Office Duds

Cyberspace chatter of note: “It smelled a bit like feet to me. Perhaps Shrek’s feet, I can’t be sure, as he’s an animated character and likely smells more like pixels or ozone.” —from the Candy Blog ( taste and smell test of the special green ooze-filled Snickers bar celebrating Shrek the Third’s release.

What we’re hoping for: This thing tanks and Myers finally applies his considerable talent to rich film characters rather than hack franchise players (Shrek, Austin Powers, Wayne Campbell).

What we’re bracing for: The inevitable future sequel that finds Shrek stepping into the ring to fight Rocky Balboa.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Release date: May 25

Stars: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley

Premise: Captain Jack Sparrow, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann must gather sea-faring help from the globe’s four corners—globes have corners?—to battle a dark alliance aimed at wiping all pirates off the map.

Alternate title: At Least It’s Not Three Movies Based on “It’s a Small World”

Cyberspace chatter of note: “The trailer looks yummy, but so did the trailer for the last one, and that was a clusterfuck of a movie.” ­Kristina

What we’re hoping for: A reason to finally see Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.

What we’re bracing for: Justification for never having seen Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.

Ocean’s Thirteen
Release date: June 8

Stars: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Al Pacino, their egos

Premise: Avenging a betrayal by a casino owner (Pacino), Danny Ocean (Clooney) assembles his squad of casino robbers (everybody else) and robs the casino owner’s casino. Suavely. So this is how director Steven Soderbergh funds all his wacky, uneven cinematic experiments.

Tagline: Too good looking to be unlucky.

LIQUID METAL<br />Robert Patrick reprises his role as the T-1000 in— oh, no, wait. Sorry, that’s Doug Jones, or some CGI composite thereof, as the Silver Surfer.

Cyberspace chatter of note: “All in all, it’s a movie (that you ultimately have zero control over), calm down."—royaldrgn to lsu_79 re: TOP FIVE REASONS WHY THIS MOVIE WILL STINKWhat we’re hoping for: A better sequel to Ocean’s Eleven than Ocean’s Twelve.

What we’re bracing for: Clooney and Pacino coasting on charisma for two hours. And, for that matter, Pitt and Damon and everybody else, too.

Pending question: Did the real Rat Pack ever wear out its welcome this way?

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Release date: June 15

Stars: Ioan Gruffudd, Michael Chiklis, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Doug Jones

Premise: Jessica Alba. Let’s be honest.

Tag line: Because four lame characters are not enough.

Alternate titles: Fantastic Four: Fall of the Box Office Revenue

Cyberspace chatter of note: “Shiny!” —synergyred

What we’re hoping for: Add to the grab-bag of goofball superpowers a nude metallic guy on a flying surfboard, via computer graphics circa Terminator 2, and this thing could be camp-ariffic. Also, you just gotta love Michael Chiklis, because if you don’t, he’ll pound your face in. And, yeah, Alba.

What we’re bracing for: Fantastic bore. Oh, what, you saw that line coming from a mile away? Yeah, well, now maybe you’re ready for the experience of sitting through this movie.

Telling snippet of dialogue from the trailer: “Everywhere this thing goes, eight days later the planet dies.” And, ah, who said that, the distributor?

Evan Almighty
Release date: June 22

Stars: Steve Carell, Lauren Graham, Morgan Freeman

Premise: God (Freeman) has a mission for Jim Carrey, but he’s off making something mind-numbing like The Number 23. So the Big Guy turns to Evan Baxter (Carell), who since 2003’s Bruce Almighty has gone from Buffalo TV newsreader to U.S. congressman. (In other words, a demotion.) God enlists Evan to build an ark for the coming flood that is going to wipe out every form of life on this planet. High jinx ensue.

Alternate title: What’s a Cubit?

What we’re hoping for: Another in an improbable string of show-stealing performances in hilarious motion pictures by Carell, who also conquered television (The Office and The Daily Show).

What we’re bracing for: Derivation. Come on, we already know this tired story. What’s that? No, not Bruce Almighty, Genesis, chapters 6-9.

Live Free or Die Hard
Release date: June 27

Stars: Bruce Willis, Timothy Olyphant, Justin Long

Premise: Wrong-place-wrong-time-right-hook New York cop Willis finds himself in Washington, D.C., just as cyber-terrorist Olyphant begins crippling America’s infrastructure. This might seem like same-old stuff for big Bruce, but co-star/computer-hacker sidekick Long should consider it a real step up from those Apple “Get a Mac” spots. Consider the evolving banter:

2006: Justin Long: “Hi, I’m a Mac.” John Hodgman: “And I’m a PC.”

2007: Justin Long: “You just killed a helicopter with a car!” Bruce Willis: “I was outta bullets.”

SING ALONG, NOW!<br /> Transformers, more than meet the eyes; Transformers, robots in disguise …

Tagline: Ypkya, Mofo

Cyberspace chatter of note: “This film is gonna have a load of deaths.” —them1926

What we’re hoping for: A reasonably good story.

What we’re bracing for: The likelihood that the one-liner about the bullets is as good as it’ll get.

Release date: July 4

Stars: Some CGI effects, Shia LeBeouf, Megan Fox

Premise: Two opposing armies of huge, shape-shifting robots use Earth as their final battleground. From director Michael Bay, Hollywood’s highest-paid kid in a sandbox smashing stuff together and making loud explosion sounds.

Tagline: Love the ‘80s? We want your money.

Cyberspace chatter of note: “Whack. Gigantic robots dont need lips, or any moving mandible parts to talk, thats just silly. Wouldnt it make a large clanging sound every time they came together?” [sic] —SebringMGB"I still think this movie will blow me away. And if it doesn’t, it will the second time after I get some weed in me.” —Thunderous ThorWhat we’re hoping for: Hot robot-on-robot action.

What we’re bracing for: Less than meets the eye.

Geek placation factor: Peter Cullen, the guy who played friendly heroic tractor-trailer Optimus Prime in the 1984 Transformers TV cartoon, also plays Optimus Prime in the movie. Hugo Weaving takes over for David Kaye as the voice of Megatron, who was always the cooler character, but whatever.

Related swag: Hasbro’s $90 action figures, coming this fall.

Fun factoid: Star LaBeouf on director Bay in the LA Times last month: “He’s General Patton. He has to be. You don’t want the director—when your hair is on fire and your legs are on fire and you are burning to death—to come up to you and say, ‘Let’s talk about your emotional history.'”

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Release date: July 13

Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson

Premise: Harry begins his fifth and possibly most challenging year at Hogwarts with his friends acting secretive, a new witch turning Hogwarts upside down and authorities there ignoring Harry and Dumbledore’s warnings about Voldemort’s return. Hopefully the preceding sentence makes sense to someone, ‘cause it sure don’t make sense to the mortal who banged it out.

Alternate title: J.K. Rowling Now Owns Oprah

Cyberspace chatter of note: “i used to think Harry Potter was good looking till I heard about the fact that most of the 5th film had to be airbrushed because of his acne…NICE!!!!! not as sexy then.”

What we’re hoping for: World peace. A reason to live. A new pony.

What we’re bracing for: Having never made it all the way through any of these Potter pics, more of the same.

Release date: July 20

Stars: John Travolta, Nikki Blonsky, Christopher Walken, Michelle Pfeiffer

‘DO-ING IT WELL?<br />Michelle Pfeiffer gets a bang out of her portrayal of evil mom Velma von Tussle in the musical version of John Waters’ <i>Hairspray</i>.

Tagline: A movie based on a musical based on a movie … aw, hell, it can’t be worse than The Producers.

Alternate titles: Waters Torture; Saturday Night Tranny Fever

Premise: Titanic Tracy Turnblad (Blonsky) drools over a hunky guy on an after-school teen shindig TV program—much to the dismay of her mom Edna (Travolta, yes, Travolta). So she auditions for The Corny Collins Show and, amazingly, wins her 15 minutes of fame and more—much to the dismay of a rival daughter and mother (Brittany Snow and Pfeiffer, yes, Pfeiffer).

What we’re hoping for: Something based on John Waters source material that can remotely spark the reaction that his classically wrong pictures from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s did.

What we’re bracing for: Vinnie Barbarino in drag, which could inspire a remake of Waters’ first film, 1964’s Hag in a Black Leather Jacket.

The Simpsons Movie
Release date: July 27

Stars: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright

Premise: Homer must save the world from a catastrophe he created. The plot to every flippin’ Simpsons episode, in other words.

Alternate title: Tonight We’re Gonna Party Like It’s 1991

Cyberspace chatter of note: “I was really hoping The Simpsons Movie would feature Marge naked instead of Bart.” —an item on ("Where the news always bumps") about a scene showing Bart’s pixilated, uh, penal colony.

What we’re hoping for: That we’ll still care about something with the words “the” and “Simpsons” in the title.

What we’re bracing for: Who still watches The Simpsons?

The Bourne Ultimatum
Release date: Aug. 3

Stars: Matt Damon, Paddy Considine, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn

Premise: Still sleuthing out his own forgotten past with the usual grim stoicism, superspy Bourne, if that is his real name (it’s Damon, actually), dodges assassins and kicks much ass in exotic locales. So: the usual.

Alternate titles: Good Thrill Hunting

Cyberspace chatter of note: “In order to beat Jason Bourne, you’ll need to combine the powers of Ethan Hunt, James Bond, MacGyver, John Rambo and Jesus Christ!” —Korsan

What we’re hoping for: More tense, taut, mature and mighty filmmaking from Bourne Supremacy and United 93 director Paul Greengrass.

What we’re bracing for: 120 humorless minutes.

Rush Hour 3
Release date: Aug. 10

Stars: Chris Tucker, Jackie Chan

Premise: Chris Tucker, Jackie Chan

Fun factoid: The eighth most anticipated movie of the summer according to some guy we know who read that somewhere.

Before you go: See Rush Hour and Rush Hour 2 to make sure you understand what’s going on.