The best around

SN&R’s annual summer-movie preview

Julia Roberts is Buzzing for Woody? Quick, send in the A-Team, or the Karate Kid, or friggin’ Will Smith’s lame kid. Or a fat ninja. Whoever. Just do it now, or the summer will be ruined!

Julia Roberts is Buzzing for Woody? Quick, send in the A-Team, or the Karate Kid, or friggin’ Will Smith’s lame kid. Or a fat ninja. Whoever. Just do it now, or the summer will be ruined!

It’s hard to believe Hollywood’s actually remaking The Karate Kid. You remember: Daniel-san, “Wax on, wax off,” shower-curtain Halloween costumes and—you betcha—“You’re the best … around! / Nothing’s ever gonna keep you down!” And they’ve cast Will Smith’s friggin’ kid and Jackie Chan as the leads. Dang. But that’s SoCal and the glitter factory and summertime for ya. Thankfully, SN&R’s ever-reliable film critics chimed in with their annual summer-movie preview, so as to help sort the jewels from the jagoffs this season. Take good notes; this will be on the final.

The gorillas

The opening of the summer-movie season is supposedly Memorial Day weekend, but this year, as usual, there are would-be heavy hitters jumping the gun, among them Iron Man 2 (which opens on May 7), the Ridley Scott-Russell Crowe Robin Hood (May 14) and Shrek Forever After (May 21). This leaves only Sex and the City 2 opening on May 27, and the HBO series’ loyal fan base could well make it a hit (although it’s an open question what remains to be said about Carrie Bradshaw and her pals after 2008’s marathon Sex and the City: The Movie).

The 900-pound gorilla for June—and possibly for the whole summer—boils down to one of two choices. It’ll be either Toy Story 3 (June 18), Disney and Pixar’s follow-up to their 1995 and ’99 megahits, with Andy off at college and his toys donated to a day-care center; or The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (June 30), the next chapter of the teen-driven phenomenon that asks the penetrating question: Can a red-blooded girl find true happiness when her boyfriend is a vampire and her best pal is a werewolf?

The rest of June is a mixed bag of wannabes and also-rans. There’s Marmaduke (June 4), about a troublesome Great Dane, based on the comic strip that’s been taking up newspaper space since 1954 without ever once being even slightly funny.

June 11 brings a couple of retreads: The A-Team, based on the cheesy 1980s TV series, with Liam Neeson, Jessica Biel and Bradley Cooper cavorting amid pumped-up CGI action; and The Karate Kid, a sort-of remake with Will Smith’s son Jaden stepping in for Ralph Macchio and Jackie Chan taking Noriyuki “Pat” Morita’s old role.

And finally, on June 25, there are two movies that will probably be swamped between the Toy Story and Twilight Saga backwashes: Grown Ups, with Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, Rob Schneider and David Spade as high-school pals reunited by their basketball coach’s funeral; and Knight and Day, an action comedy with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz (are they enough to open a movie anymore?). (Jim Lane)

Crime sprees

In advance of seeing The Last Airbender, you might reasonably ask: What’s an airbender? Is it (a) fighter-pilot slang for some kind of supersonic alcoholic rampage, (b) high-schooler/movie-critic slang for sublimely noxious flatulence, (c) animated-Nickelodeon-series slang for any member of a mystical, martially artistic tribe with great power to control the elements? or (d) b and c? Well, now you can probably guess. But that’s how it goes with movies by Mr. Big Reveal himself, M. Night Shyamalan, who lets loose his live-action Airbender in theaters everywhere on July 2.

After which, perhaps you’ll need a double shot of Steve Carell—first as an animated supervillain, opposite Jason Segel and Russell Brand on July 9 in Despicable Me; then as a schmuck, opposite Paul Rudd and Zach Galifianakis on July 23 in Dinner for Schmucks. These titles, at least, seem declarative.

Likewise July 9’s Predators, in which a hunt is afoot. Now, Adrien Brody and Topher Grace joining forces to revive a franchise inaugurated by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura doesn’t exactly say “Badass!” or even “Necessary!” but save your indignation for July 16, when The Sorcerer’s Apprentice gives us Goethe poetry (not to mention classic Disney animation) repurposed for Nicolas Cage by producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Or for Beastly, on July 30, which has the gall to put Neil Patrick Harris and Mary-Kate Olsen in an update of Beauty and the Beast—and only to put them in supporting roles! (The principals are Vanessa Hudgens and newcomer Alex Pettyfer.)

Why does Hollywood keep wasting our time? Doesn’t it realize that somehow there still are Philip K. Dick stories to be adapted into films—like, say, the one about the congressman, the ballerina and the problem with the space-time continuum? Oh, right, it does realize. Hence The Adjustment Bureau, with Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, on July 30.

What else? Well, on July 16, corporate espionage goes totally mental with Dark Knight director Chris Nolan’s mysterious sci-fi thriller Inception, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard and Ellen Page. “Your mind is the scene of the crime,” says the tag line. Let’s hope that’s not the mantra for the whole moviegoing month. (Jonathan Kiefer)

&#8220;Baby, if we don&#8217;t make love before <i>Twilight</i>, Nic Cage will eviscerate my wiener and, forbid, Steve Carell will keep on trying to be funny.&#8221;

The undercard

Even though it comes last, August is really the undercard of the summer movie season.

If the studios trusted these films to go up against the box-office heavyweights, they wouldn’t be dumping them in August. Release dates are everything—for example, Clash of the Titans would have been DOA as a summer release, but it had enough action, chiseled chests and discussion of killing pagan gods to satisfy the Easter Sunday, post-church crowd.

At any rate, heavyweight bouts are often boring and forgettable, while the undercard usually boasts scrappier and hungrier fighters. The August 2009 film schedule was atypically packed with quality multiplex fare like Inglourious Basterds, Ponyo, District 13 and Zombieland. Of course, it also saw the releases of GI Joe, The Goods and The Final Destination.

On the surface, August 2010 seems to veer towards the crap-lousier end of the spectrum, unless you’re still marveling at the increasingly irritating gimmick of 3-D (the dance-flick sequel Step Up 3-D and Piranha 3-D, a remake of James Cameron’s first feature) or salivating at the prospect of Paul Walker and Hayden Christensen attempting to out-underact each other in the heist film Takers.

This August also boasts the expected dumping-ground quota of horror (The Last Exorcism, positing itself as “this year’s Paranormal Activity”), low-rent comedy (Lottery Ticket) and the latest pictures spit out by the computer Hollywood programmed to write rom-coms: Eat Pray Love with Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston in The Switch, and the ensemble Going the Distance. None appear to pose a significant threat to Billy Wilder’s supremacy in the genre.

More dispiriting signs that this August is going to be rough: a Will Ferrell buddy action comedy (The Other Guys), Sylvester Stallone’s latest “comeback” (The Expendables), Michael Cera (the FX-heavy comedy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World); and Nanny McPhee returns for some reason.

The most intriguing August release looks to be the Amir Bar-Lev (My Kid Could Paint That) documentary The Tillman Story, about the football player turned political football Pat Tillman. It has a story more interesting—and yet more unbelievable—than anything on the horizon this August. (Daniel Barnes)