Yoda, Spidey and Scooby doo
A look ahead at the films coming your way for Summer 2002
It used to be that the summer movie season didn’t get underway until the end of May. This year, the blockbusters started in April with The Scorpion King. If this keeps up, future summer movie blockbuster battles will be backed up into the autumn of the year before.
The last few years have turned out to be duds, promising mountains of excitement but delivering mediocre movies like Planet of the Apes and Jurassic Park 3. The latest dose of Star Wars and a helping of Spidey power may get things back on track and give us a summer to remember, as opposed to one that makes us yearn for the cool winter movies.
The following is a sampling of what the months of April through August have to offer, concluding with a section devoted to films that strike me as potentially destined for major badness.
THE BIG DADDIES
While its title is easily the worst of the series, early buzz pegs Star Wars Episode Two: Attack of the Clones as a return to greatness for writer-director George Lucas. Harry Knowles of the Ain’t it Cool News Web site managed to view a bootleg copy of the film last month, and the guy went nuts about it. Yes, Knowles tends to get carried away sometimes, but his excitement does produce optimism.
The trailer reveals that Lucas has taken it up yet another notch with the CGI effects and has Yoda putting on his battle shoes for a nasty fight sequence. The film allegedly features more screen time for Ewan McGregor as Obi Wan Kenobi than Episode One, yet has cast a potential disaster, Hayden Christensen, as Anakin Skywalker, the young Darth Vader. Christensen displayed a penchant for overacting in last year’s Life as a House and could be subject to the same critical drubbing that fell upon Jake Lloyd, his predecessor in the role.
I was a fan of Phantom Menace, although I consider it the worst of the series. Expectations run high for Attack of the Clones, and I will remain pessimistic until I’m sitting in my chair and that Star Wars title gets sucked back into space accompanied by John Williams’ booming soundtrack. Frankly, that film moment is so cool, the rest of the movie could be R2-D2 getting a lube job, and I’d still like the damn thing.
When I was a kid, I dug those Spider-Man segments on PBS’s The Electric Company and that cheesy cartoon with the corny theme song that Tenacious D (actor Jack Black’s band) covers in concert. Astonishingly, the webbed avenger has never been the star of a major motion picture. Oh, yes, he had that bad ‘70s TV show and shared some time with Morgan Freeman’s Easy Reader on PBS, but never a major motion picture.
Director Sam Raimi (the cult classic Evil Dead films) offers a Spider-Man starring a buffed-up Tobey Maguire as the web crawler, and early trailers reveal that CGI makes a lot of his web-swinging look fake and stupid. I have great faith that the likes of Maguire and Willem Dafoe will kick ass as Spidey and the Green Goblin, but I fear that sub-par effects will swamp the story. I’m also not too keen on the Goblin looking like a big robot. I liked him better as just a real ugly guy with a funny hat.
Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones will re-team with director Barry Sonnenfeld for Men in Black 2, a film that originally included an elaborate finale featuring the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. The movie is still slated for its July release despite massive reshoots and script retooling. Incidentally, Spider-Man also features the Twin Towers, and while a trailer featuring a helicopter tangled in webs between the buildings was pulled, Raimi has left the towers in the film as a tribute.
Steven Spielberg teams with Tom Cruise for Minority Report, a sci-fi story about a future society that convicts murderers before they commit their crimes. This will be Spielberg’s second sci-fi offering in two summers, after last year’s brilliant but under-appreciated AI: Artificial Intelligence. It also represents one of only three major science fiction offerings coming your way this summer, a genre that is being neglected in 2002.
Showing up on the potential blockbuster radar are the many flying, bad-assed dragons featured in Reign of Fire. This one stars Matthew McConaughey and Christian Bale as inhabitants of a post-apocalyptic world where dragons are ruling the Earth and treating human beings very badly. A recently released trailer for this one has the film showing major promise with what look to be some of the best effects of the summer.
While last summer was stacked with comedies, there aren’t many promising ones to be found on this year’s slate.
After a lot of legal squabbling with the pricks over at the Bond franchise, New Line finally got permission to title the latest Austin Powers film Austin Powers in Goldmember. Myers will reprise his roles as Powers, Fat Bastard and Doctor Evil, as well as playing the new title villain. On a disheartening note, Michael Caine will play Austin’s father (rumor had it that Sean Connery was originally approached for the role). Is there a more annoying entity on this planet than Michael Caine?
Adam Sandler stars with Winona Ryder in Mr. Deeds, a modern update of the Frank Capra classic Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (production on this film was apparently stalled when Ms. Ryder stole Mr. Sandler’s underwear and Tylenol). It should be noted that Steve Buscemi appears as a character called Crazy Eyes, which seems mightily appropriate.
DJ Qualls, the unfortunate lad who ate the stinky French toast out of Horatio Sanz’s underpants in Road Trip, stars with Eliza Dushku in The New Guy, a comedy that looks lame but features a bare-midriff Dushku riding an electric bull, so I’m there with bells on. A pre-pregnancy Elizabeth Hurley stars with Matthew Perry in Serving Sara, a romantic comedy that has me excited because it co-stars Evil Dead‘s Bruce Campbell, always a good thing.
Woody Allen stars with Tea Leoni and Treat Williams in Hollywood Ending, about a down-on-his-luck director getting one last chance. I’m still waiting for Allen’s film about a horny 60-year-old guy trying to date everybody’s daughter, titled I’m a Perverted Scumbag of a Human Being Who Betrayed Mia Farrow Yet Somehow is Still Beloved by the Hollywood Community, So Go Figure.
Special note: Fans of the cult TV show Mr. Show might get their chance to see Bob Odenkirk and David Cross’ film, Run Ronnie Run: The Ronnie Dobbs Story, sometime in August. Nothing’s confirmed yet, so don’t get too pumped. Hey, UNR students—Odenkirk and Cross’ Web site has declared that Mr. Show is going on a live tour and that college entertainment committees should give them a holler. Bring these bastards to town! Sorry, back to the movies.
Harrison Ford will surely butcher a Russian accent in K-19: The Widowmaker, the film he decided to make for a $25 million paycheck after stupidly walking away from the role eventually played by Michael Douglas in Traffic. Ford and Liam Neeson co-star as commanders of a Russian nuclear submarine that might go boom, supposedly based on a true Cold War story. Ben Affleck inherits Ford’s role of Jack Ryan in the Tom Clancy franchise’s The Sum of All Fears, a tale featuring yet another nuclear contraption with a major probability of going boom.
Vin Diesel, coming off huge success in The Fast and the Furious, will star in XXX, directed by Rob Cohen and providing Diesel with just the right kind of larger-than-life action hero to go with his obscenely huge, ego-stuffed head. The long-delayed John Woo WWII epic Windtalkers will hit theaters in July, with Nicolas Cage playing a soldier who runs around in slo-mo a lot with a huge swarm of doves hovering over his head.
A promising-looking import would be Zu Warriors, starring Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon‘s Zhang Ziyi as a warrior princess squaring off against an evil warlord with the help of supposedly sweet CGI effects. It’s gonna be a good thing to see Ziyi kicking people in the face again.
Some old-style animation is coming your way, including Disney’s Lilo & Stitch, Nickelodeon’s quasi-intellectual epic Hey Arnold: The Movie, The Powerpuff Girls and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. There isn’t an all-CGI cartoon in the spirit of Shrek in sight.
Disney will strike one more time with The Country Bears, a truly bizarre-looking screen adaptation of the popular theme park show (I’m not sure if it features Big Al, the big fat bear who crooned “Blood on the Saddle"). Robert Rodriguez will try to capitalize on last year’s success with Spy Kids 2, sequel to one of the coolest family films in recent years.
Michael J. Fox will once again lend his voice to Stuart Little 2, featuring that Jonathan Lipnicki kid from Jerry Maguire who hasn’t aged a day since verbally sparring with Tom Cruise. Honestly, there’s something creepy about that kid.
Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York was supposed to be the summer’s big drama epic, but that’s been pushed to December, which leaves American Beauty director Sam Mendes’ The Road to Perdition, starring Tom Hanks as a 1930s hit man, as the big one with Oscar written all over it.
Rupert Everett, Judi Dench and Reese Witherspoon will star in The Importance of Being Earnest, a big-screen adaptation of the Oscar Wilde classic. Oddly enough, there are no Shakespeare adaptations in sight. Clint Eastwood gives crime dramas another shot with Blood Work, directing and starring as an FBI agent on a tough case right after getting a heart transplant. The catch is, he’s chasing the murderer of the person whose heart he received in that transplant. Weird.
Other offerings include Full Frontal, director Steven Soderbergh’s supposed sequel to sex, lies and videotape (a movie I despised) starring Julia Roberts (she might get naked) and David Duchovny. Director Neil LaBute will bring you the romantic mystery Possession, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart, LaBute’s first film since Nurse Betty. Ellen Burstyn and Sandra Bullock play mother-daughter in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood with a packed cast that also features Maggie Smith and Ashley Judd.
It is probable that a few of these movies could get pushed into the fall/winter season if box office-watchers should get the “this movie ain’t no brain-dead summer blockbuster” bugaboo.
Determined to inject some edge back into his rep, Robin Williams will portray his second and third psychos of the year (his first was in the lousy Death to Smoochy) with Insomnia (he plays a serial killer), costarring Al Pacino, and One Hour Photo (he plays a stalker). Insomnia is directed by Memento‘s Christopher Nolan and also features Hilary Swank.
Looking to occupy that Sixth Sense box office slot would be Signs, where writer-director M. Night Shyamalan will offer his fictional reasons for those mysterious crop circles that take the money out of good farmers’ pockets by trashing perfectly good corn. This one stars Mel Gibson in a movie he claims may be his last as an actor (he wants to retire to producing).
Two horror franchises offer their latest installments. Jason X (see Film, page 31) takes Friday the 13th‘s Jason into outer space for a makeover, while Halloween: Resurrection will continue the saga of Michael Myers, a saga that has gone on about six films too long. In the horror-comedy category, the much-delayed Eight Legged Freaks will cause psychosomatic neck-slapping due to its high spider content.
A LITTLE WORRIED
Director Adrian Lyne, who hasn’t made anything decent since Jacob’s Ladder, and director Joel Schumacher, who is the Antichrist, will deliver Unfaithful and Bad Company, respectively. Their names alone are cause for worry when attached to any movie, even if they are simply present in the “Special Thanks” portion of the credits.
The presence of Freddie Prinze Jr. has me worried about Scooby-Doo, a live action movie based on a cartoon character I never liked in the first place.
While I get a kick out of the TV show, The Crocodile Hunter: The Collision Course will not give us the option of tuning out when Steve Irwin starts to grate, and an entire movie with the guy might induce seizures. Another TV show going to the big screen is Jackass: The Movie (starring Johnny Knoxville) a plotless film featuring MTV’s maniacs running into walls, getting hit by cars and the like. On second thought, this might be cool.
Also boasting major potential for disaster would be Eddie Murphy’s The Adventures of Pluto Nash. This one raises suspicion because it has been rescheduled numerous times, wrapped production nearly two years ago and stars Eddie Murphy, no longer the picture of reliability at the cinema. He plays a nightclub owner on the moon 100 years from now … which just sounds shitty.
While Jennifer Lopez is a halfway-decent actress, I’m still really pissed that she would actually release an album called J to tha Lo. Seriously, that’s the dumbest album title … ever. That’s dumber than Styx 2. She’ll be starring in Enough, a thriller in which she gets all buffed up to kick the ass of her stalker husband. The movie might be OK, but that album title is grating on me, so I’m being honest here and admitting that my attitude toward the film is poor for totally inane reasons.
Another SNL alumnus will try to make a comeback, words that strike fear in lovers of quality cinema on all corners of this Earth. Dana Carvey stars in Master of Disguise, a film that, judging by the preview trailer, might have us wishing that Mr. Carvey go back to that hole he was hiding in and plant himself until the next Wayne’s World movie that will never come.
If this summer doesn’t do it for you, the fall/winter season promises a Lord of the Rings film, the next Bond film, Red Dragon (prequel to Silence of the Lambs), the next Harry Potter and Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, just to name a few.
The buzz is good on Attack of the Clones and Spider-Man, and Reign of Fire looks damned cool, so last summer could very well be topped. Actually, a film of my beagle chewing on her tennis ball would beat most of the pitiful crap released last blockbuster season, so I’m optimistic by default.