Summer of sequel

Here’s our summer movie forecast: 70 percent chance of sequels, 25 percent chance of disappointment and 86.5 percent chance of fun

HE’LL BE OLD How else to explain why Arnold Schwarzenegger—shown here with costars Nick Stahl, David Andrews and Claire Danes—gets his ass kicked by a girl in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

HE’LL BE OLD How else to explain why Arnold Schwarzenegger—shown here with costars Nick Stahl, David Andrews and Claire Danes—gets his ass kicked by a girl in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

Every damn year, around this time, it’s the same refrain: Bring on the countless sequels. As a lover of fine film and a man with a general intolerance for the mundane, I have this to say: Wahoo! Crap can be a whole lotta fun!

I’m not saying I prefer something like Jurassic Park: The Lost World to Chocolat … Wait a minute, I actually did prefer that dino, retread flick to the sexy candy movie. What I’m saying is that it’s good to head into a movie season with an open mind. This leaves the opportunity for empty-headed enjoyment, a generally pleasant disposition and no major digestive disruptions. Getting all wound up over potentially bad movies can be hard on the tummy.

That’s not to say I’m beyond throwing a few barbs at potential stinkers. I’m just admitting that the prospect of a new Terminator installment has got the geek in me all revved up. If it stinks, I’ll bitch later.

Summer got off to a good start with X2: X-Men United, but it has hiccupped a tad with the mildly disappointing The Matrix Reloaded. There’s a whole bunch of other films on the way, and I remain an optimist, albeit an optimist with an extremely negative last name. Here is your 2003 Summer Movie Preview.

Big-budget sequels galore
Of all the big-budget movie mayhem coming our way, the one showing the most promise is Ang Lee’s The Hulk. Eric Bana steps into the part of mild-mannered but ill-tempered Bruce Banner, a role made famous by television’s beloved and very dead Bill Bixby. Almost Famous‘ Billy Crudup passed on his chance to become really famous with this larger-than-life role, giving the grandest of opportunities to the relatively unknown Aussie. Lee did a beautiful thing with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and it’s not beyond me to expect great scenes of big, green-guy carnage. The trailers look cool, but the one glaring, potential snafu is the Hulk dogs—they just seem asinine.

As mentioned before, summer means sequels, and this one’s got some big mothers. Apart from X2 and The Matrix Reloaded (to be followed later this year by Matrix Revolutions), Arnold Schwarzenegger will chafe horribly in leather outfits to benefit the common man’s entertainment mojo with Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. When asked to direct, Terminator patriarch James Cameron replied with an emphatic, “Screw that!” so the reins were handed to Jonathan Mostow (U-571). This time out, Arnie gets his ass super-kicked by a girl Terminator.

Other sequel hopefuls include a third American Pie, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, 2 Fast 2 Furious (a Fast and the Furious sequel sans Vin Diesel—too much the master thespian to appear in such drivel), Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (the kids go 3-D while battling Sylvester Stallone), Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life and Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde & Remember When Reese Witherspoon was Cool? Most horrifying, at first glance, is the return of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys 2: Michael Bay Is an Asshole.

There is a prequel coming, and that would be When Harry Met Lloyd: Dumb and Dumberer, a flashback story involving the characters made famous by Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. The stars do not appear, but Mr. Show director Troy Miller is at the helm, which could be a good thing. A horror sequel of sorts pairs two slasher icons in Freddy vs. Jason, the long awaited showdown between Nightmare on Elm Street‘s Freddy Krueger and Friday the 13th‘s Jason Voorhees. Director Victor Salva gets his chance to screw up a good thing with Jeepers Creepers 2, a sequel to one of the better, modern-day horror films.

As for big stars in flashy spectacles, there’s Jim Carrey and Jennifer Aniston in Bruce Almighty, where Carrey gets to be God. Sean Connery plays Allan Quatermain in The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, and Johnny Depp gets to play Captain Fancypants in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, a film inspired by the Disneyland ride that used to make me scream bloody murder when I was a kid. Last year’s Spider-Man, Tobey Maguire, kills his lower back on a horse for the jockey film Seabiscuit, and Colin Farrell teams with Samuel L. Jackson for S.W.A.T., a television- series adaptation that leads me to fear the future possibility of CHIPs: Erik Estrada Unchained and Feeling a Bit Randy!

Not as big but still promising
On the other side of the budget spectrum, there’s the return of the low-cost zombie flick, Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later. London is infected with a super-illness that causes the dead to run around at mach speed, eating human flesh and making George Romero proud. There hasn’t been a great zombie film since Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive, so I’m all primed for some good, old-fashioned, disgusting zombie shit.

American Splendor gives Paul Giamatti a leading-man role in an already award-winning adaptation of Harvey Pekar’s weird comic book. Val Kilmer takes another shot at being remembered as a decent actor with Wonderland, based on the life of late porn star John Holmes. Neil LaBute attempts to apologize for his sickly Gwyneth Paltrow vehicle, Possession, with The Shape of Things, starring the underrated Paul Rudd.

Most promising is the latest Nicolas Cage venture, Matchstick Men, a dark comedy directed by Ridley Scott and costarring Sam Rockwell. Good God, as I typed that out, the potentials for absolute cinematic bliss overwhelmed me. I gotta take a lap around the block and calm down.

For those of you already plotting two-hour windows of time when you can drop the kids off at the multiplex and run like hell, this summer doesn’t appear gigantic for kiddy fare. There’s Pixar’s promising Finding Nemo, a computer-animated underwater adventure, and Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, Dreamworks’ latest effort to be a pain in Disney’s animated neck. Other than that, there’s throwaway junk like Rugrats Go Wild and a remake of Freaky Friday. Sorry kids, you’ll just have to sneak into The Matrix. Go ahead. I won’t tell.

Of course, potential stinkers abound. Harrison Ford’s latest effort to be cool has him paired with flavor-of-the-month Josh Hartnett in Hollywood Homicide, which promises to show Ford falling down frequently and looking pissed. Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck create an excuse to hang around each other and ass-grab in Gigli, a film costarring Christopher Walken and Al Pacino—so there is hope. Most frightening of all is From Justin to Kelly, which takes a couple of American Idol stars to the beach, where they will undoubtedly behave like morons. If Justin scat-sings “Route 66” again, I’m staging a formal protest.

Lots of other movies are coming for which there’s not enough space to discuss. Yes, in summertime, hope springs eternal, yet that positive optimism is often dashed against the rocks like a melon dropped from a cliff. Last year had me all hyped for Windtalkers and Men in Black 2, films that gave summer a bad name and me cause for a good autumnal bout of cynicism.