Summer Guide: Movies—Yet another summer movie preview

Bob Grimm tells us his hopes, his fears and his dreams about this summer’s flicks

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider

Think about the dull, dreary roster of films that came our way one year ago. The summer of 2000 boasted the worst movie lineup in my lifetime, and yes, I have taken into consideration the year that gave us Batman and Robin.

It looks like the studios this year are trying to make up for last year’s debacle, piling on the blockbuster wannabes to keep your movie-going schedule booked. In last year’s summer movie preview, I struggled for things to discuss. This year, I’ve got more than enough to blather on about. No, the season doesn’t look like an absolute winner, but it seems to possess big projects that will register a tad more excitement.

For yahoos like me who dig big, bold, loud, obnoxious, ridiculously expensive movies (money spent wisely, of course), this is both good news and bad news. It’s good news, because I get to indulge in larger-than-life fare that will make me laugh like a little boy, and bad news, because if these movies suck chum, I will have encountered severe cinematic non-gratification.

A bad summer movie season leaves me empty on many levels, because the types of films that nourish brains are usually held until fall. But I love big, stupid movies that work (A Knight’s Tale is a nice example) and loathe big-budget monstrosities that don’t succeed at all (The Mummy Returns springs to mind). When a smaller film fails, it’s annoying, but it’s not an abomination.

To be blunt, a bad summer-movie season like last year leaves me feeling lethargic, lobotomized and questioning my faith in mankind, Jesus and our current system of government. (OK, that’s taking it too far, but it does piss me off.)

I categorized this preview not by genre (drama, comedy, poopy, etc.), but by my level of personal anticipation. I implemented this method because, one, I’m an incredibly egotistical and opinionated man, and two, to provide you with an article to look back on in October, giving you many fun-filled hours of mocking my inaccuracies and ludicrous predictions.

Already out of the gate is Pearl Harbor, the film many predicted to be the summer’s biggest. Those predictions came before the film got into the hands of the critics. While I don’t hate the movie, I hate many things about it, and Pearl Harbor is not a film that warrants more than one viewing. The film is not going to do Titanic dollars if word of mouth continues to sour. Therefore, I think the summer box office is wide open, with films like the excellent Shrek and the unjustifiably successful The Mummy Returns already scoring big bucks.

For the bulk of this article, I will rank the big studio blockbusters, but I will include a section towards the end highlighting some of the art and independent film offerings on the way. There isn’t a bountiful supply given the time of year, but there are some that may stir your interest.

Excitement Tier 1: STOKED!
Personally, the film providing me with the largest anticipatory charge this summer is Tim Burton’s remake of Planet of the Apes. The ape makeup looks good (save for the soft, sultry female ape played by Helena Bonham Carter; an ape with a Jennifer Aniston hairdo just doesn’t do it for me). Burton has reportedly stuck closely to the original novel that the Apes films are based on, and being that I know absolutely nothing about the book, I’m happy to know this won’t just be a rehash of the classic with Charlton Heston (who makes a cameo as a damned dirty ape).

Steven Spielberg returns to science fiction with A.I., a film that boasts him as both writer and director for the first time since Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Starring Jude Law and Haley Joel Osment, the film is based on Stanley Kubrick’s original idea of an android child yearning to be human. While the Bicentennial Man-ish plot and my personal fears of Haley Joel Osment are distracting, Spielberg and science fiction always get me excited. I’ve got high hopes for this one.

Calling it the final chapter in his New Jersey series, Kevin Smith will be bringing Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, a film in which he is promising to retire the list of characters from his first four films. Smith film returnees include Jason Mewes and Smith himself as Jay and Silent Bob, Ben Affleck reprising his Chasing Amy role and Jason Lee reprising both his roles in Mallrats and Chasing Amy. I like Smith’s films, and I love this gimmick, so bring it on.

Moulin Rouge

Also pretty funny-looking is the re-teaming of Swingers alumni Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn in Made, a mobster comedy that’s getting some big buzz on the Internet.

Director Ivan Reitman tries to be funny again with Evolution, an alien epic starring David Duchovny and the 7-Up guy, Orlando Jones. Reitman hasn’t made a great film—or for that matter, a very good film—since 1984’s Ghostbusters, but the previews for this one, which hint at a nice mixture of sci-fi and humor, make me think this could be a return to form for the rusty bastard.

Video game hounds who have attained an unnatural attraction to Lara Croft (I’m not in this category … honestly, I’m not!) will probably line up for Tomb Raider. Angelina Jolie stars as the object of many a joystick’s affections in a very big-budget adaptation of the popular and extremely aggravating video game (I can’t figure out what to do with the swinging-rope-over-the-big-pit thing).

And finally, who among us isn’t getting a little excited at the prospect of seeing Robert De Niro, Edward Norton and Marlon Brando sharing some screen time in The Score? Just as intriguing is the idea of director Frank Oz, who specializes in comedy (Bowfinger) and fantasy (The Dark Crystal) doing an action-heist film. Simply put, The Score boasts the summer’s best cast by far.

Excitement Tier 2: MILDLY PUMPED
It’s funny to have a Jurassic Park movie coming out, and for it to not be the most-hyped film of the summer. Steven Spielberg has stepped aside as the franchise director for Jurassic Park 3, giving the task to Joe Johnston (Jumanji). Nobody (other than me) seemed to like Jurassic Park: The Lost World, so there’s “been there, done that” malaise surrounding this project. I remain optimistic, but I confess that there is plenty to worry about. Tea Leoni and William H. Macy star alongside dino returnee Sam Neill, so that’s interesting, but Jeff Goldblum, apart from a possible secret cameo, is gone, so that blows.

Moulin Rouge, a mighty strange-looking hodge-podge period piece starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, mixes a 19th-century Paris setting with modern music from the likes of Beck and Christina Aguilera. The movie garnered mixed reviews at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, so let’s hope its detractors just couldn’t handle such a strange premise. Director Baz Luhrmann’s take on Romeo and Juliet disillusioned many, but it rocked my world, so I go to this film with a gleeful attitude.

While Disney’s animated films always seem enjoyable, the level of anticipation they inspire within me never rises past medium (I still haven’t forgiven them for Flubber). Their latest offering, Atlantis, looks bizarre for a kids’ film, but it has an original look going for it. Also heading up the animation category is Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, starring all virtual actors in the summer’s other big video game film.

Romantic comedies that star John Cusack are usually the stuff that classics are made of, so it’s heartening to know he has two on the way. America’s Sweethearts has him co-starring with Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta Jones and Billy Crystal in a comedy about the break-up of a Hollywood couple. The following month, Cusack headlines Serendipity with Pearl Harbor’s Kate Beckinsale. The plot has to do with two strangers meeting, falling in love and pining for each other for more than 10 years. Sounds like prime Cusack territory.

Writer-director John Singleton returns to the genre that got him an Oscar nomination with Baby Boy, a film set in South Central Los Angeles starring Ving Rhames. It’s interesting to see Singleton going back to a scaled-down feature after last year’s big-budget Shaft.

Excitement Tier 3: COULD GO EITHER WAY
The Farrelly Brothers direct the live-action portions of Osmosis Jones, which stars Bill Murray as a man besieged by a virus—with the goings-on inside his body animated. Laurence Fishburne lends his voice to the virus, and Chris Rock voices a white blood cell. What has me worried about this one is that the studio is fucking with it, cutting things out to get a PG rating. One of the cut sequences, a visit to Murray’s gonads, sounds like a very special movie moment we may never see.

While Woody Allen certainly has his moments, it’s been a long time since I got excited about one of his films. The Curse of the Jade Scorpion has Allen directing himself as a private investigator in the ‘40s. I’m just jaded about the guy. Another comedy that doesn’t have me hyperventilating is American Pie 2, the sequel to one of the more overrated films in recent years. However, the preview, featuring the always-funny Eugene Levy as the nosy father, is funnier than anything in the first film, so maybe it has a chance.

With his recent track record, it’s hard to see why John Travolta still pulls down $20 million per film, but that’s what he’s getting for Swordfish, another “hacker-thriller” co-starring X-Men’s Hugh Jackman. Halle Berry allegedly got paid $500,000 to show her breasts. We can safely assume that no single Travolta body part would ever command that much bank, not even his amazingly dimpled chin.

America’s Sweethearts

Apart from voicing a donkey in the aforementioned Shrek, Eddie Murphy keeps his “I don’t cuss anymore” family-fare machine rolling with his second sequel in one year, Dr. Dolittle 2. I didn’t like the first one, but that drunken monkey is very cute. Mediocre-looking comedies continue with Legally Blonde, which features the ultra-talented Reese Witherspoon in what looks to be a fairly con- ventional plot: fast-talking rich girl gets into law school to impress her boyfriend, who recently took off. It’s a lame-sounding premise, but it has a great star, so it could work out.

One of the stranger re-makes out there is Rollerball, featuring Chris Klein rolling around on skates and knocking people’s pancreases through their noses. Actually, if more than one pancreas passes through a nostril, that’s an automatic recommendation from me.

The sometimes brilliant, but often boring John Carpenter, gives us John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars, in which outer-space apparitions harass Red Planet colonists. Yes, it’s your third Mars movie in a year, but the good news is that Courtney Love dropped out of the project, reducing the level of thigh bruises you will be seeing at the multiplex this year.

Excitement Tier 4: GOOD LORD, WHY?
Has anything ever looked worse than that Rob Schneider thing, The Animal? Every time I see that trailer, with him making horse sounds as he humps a mailbox, it makes me never want to go to a movie again. I’m serious. It’s causing major damage to my psyche and liver. Rob Schneider is a pesky little troll.

Every summer must feature potential dreck followed by the numeral “2,” and this year threatens us with Scary Movie 2 and Rush Hour 2, sequels to films that smelled like ass. Every Martin Lawrence film looks like a bad sequel, and What’s the Worst That Could Happen?, co-starring Danny DeVito, looks like a combination of Blue Streak 2 and Ruthless People 2.

Jet Li’s Romeo is Bleeding was awful, so that alone earns him a berth in the yucky bin, although his latest project, Kiss of the Dragon, has Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) involved in the project. All that Glitters has Mariah Carey in her first starring role. I hate every damn note the woman has ever sung, so her presence in a film doesn’t cause my pulse to race.

Finally, didn’t anybody learn from Gone in 60 Seconds? I guess not, because The Fast and the Furious, starring Vin Diesel, is on the way, and it looks like the evil second cousin of the Nicolas Cage yawner. Speaking of Cage yawners, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, from the director of the vastly overrated Shakespeare in Love, looks like a gallon of Nyquil chased with a cheap six-pack.

The Brain Food Tier
The art and independent film category is always rather dry this time of year, but there are a few prestige projects worth noting. Tom Tykwer, director of Run, Lola, Run, directs Franka Potente (who played Lola) in the romantic drama The Princess and the Warrior. Tykwer is one of the more visually challenging directors out there, so expect good things.

Aidan Quinn plays a mountain man in Songcatcher, and Brad Renfro joins Bijou Phillips in Bully, based on the true story of a group of students who decide to murder a mean-spirited classmate. Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh share directing duties in The Anniversary Party, costarring the great John C. Reilly, Lisa Kudrow and Gwyneth Paltrow.

It’s had trouble getting released, but Tim Blake Nelson (who acted in O Brother, Where Art Thou?) takes the director’s chair for O, an update of Othello set in a modern-day high school, starring Julia Stiles.

Finally, one of your safest bets for this summer should be Apocalypse Now Redux, a re-mastered version of the Coppola classic, with over 50 minutes of added footage.

To recap, you’re getting your apes, your dinosaurs, your Julia Roberts and your obligatory crap movie from Rob Schneider. This fall, we’re getting Lord of the Rings, and next year, the world is blessed with another Star Wars, so I guess this summer pales in comparison.

There are already two summer films better than Pearl Harbor (Shrek, A Knight’s Tale), and I’m guessing there are many more to come. It should be an interesting summer.

Bob’s useless, probably incorrect box office predictions
1. Planet of the Apes: $275 million
2. Jurassic Park 3: $260 million
3. Pearl Harbor: $210 million
4. The Mummy Returns: $185 million
5. Tomb Raider: $160 million
6. A.I.: $150 million
7. Shrek: $140 million
8. America’s Sweethearts: $120 million
9. Evolution: $110 million
10. American Pie 2: $90 million