Friday, July 20, 2007

Stars and Dogs of the Dog Days of Summer

Every year, the summer movie season peaks at about July 4. From there, the magnitude and marketing barrage of movie releases gradually tapers off until the end of August, when movie releases have been toned down to a mere whisper. Gone are the glittering fireworks extravaganzas of the highly anticipated event movies. Done is the child-like counting down of days until the release of a movie for which you saw the teaser ten months ago. Here are the long, drawn out summer days where indie flicks, comedies, second-rate animation, and, the studios hope, the occasional sleeper hit get their time in the sweltering hot sun. It’s a funny time of year where you may just find the worst movie you’ve ever seen or be surprised to find you’re new all-time favorite.

This year, Transformers represented the peak. Harry Potter 5 officially marked the end of the big summer blockbusters and the beginning of the dog days of summer. Ahead of us lies a month and a half of possibilities. Judging by the oncoming roster of late summer releases, we are in for more of the same stars and dogs. Fortunately, the studios have sprinkled in more blockbuster-tier fare than usual. In anticipation, I predict the five top stars and five dogs (and some that could swing either way) for the dog days of summer 2007:

The Bourne Ultimatum – If you’ve seen its two prequels, I don’t need to explain why I think this is going to be a ride well worth the price of admission. If I also told you director Paul Greengrass, who added such a raw, tooth-and-nail survivalist intensity to the Bourne Supremacy, was helming this third outing, you’d push me out of line and steal my ticket. Ultra-assassin amnesiac scrapper Jason Bourne goes globetrotting one more time and brings it home to the U.S. to finally uncover his past and undoubtedly unleash cold, ballpoint-pen-wielding justice on the guilty… ‘Nuff said!

2) The Invasion – Nicole Kidman returns to the thriller genre in this remake of the classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers. If you’ve seen The Others (as in the movie, not the odd, secret-hoarding meanies of Lost), you know that Kidman’s crystal blue peepers were made for thrillers. If you’re familiar with the noir original, this is exciting enough. If you know that the Wachowski brothers had to finish this film after the first director dropped out, you’re probably as eager to see it as I am. I am like a pitiful canine just waiting for any possible scrap that may fall from the Wachowski table. For a bonus, Daniel Craig (a.k.a. the new James Bond) co-stars. The trailers look sufficiently creepy.

3) The Simpsons Movie – Not all irreverent TV cartoon series have successfully translated to feature length film (i.e. Beavis and Butthead Do America). However, if there was ever a writing team witty and knowing enough to make the leap, it was Matt Groening’s. For nearly two decades, these guys have managed to pack half-hour shows with more intelligence, satire, candor, and just plain laugh-out-loud slapstick than most sitcoms can fit into a whole season. They have more than enough ammo to fill an hour and a half. Will it meander from one tangential subplot to another without an apparent main plot? Maybe. But Groening’s team has almost made that their hallmark, their format for presenting their view of America. I say, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”

4) Stardust – For those with their fantasy sweet tooth unsatisfied thus far, this film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel may be just the fix you’re looking for. It’s about as fantasy as you can get and doesn’t look too bad doing it. Claire Danes plays a fallen star (I told you it was fantasy), Robert DeNiro plays a pirate, and Michelle Phieffer plays an evil witch. The F/X look decent.

5) Hot Rod – If you’ve seen the trailer, you know this one looks drop dead hilarious. I’m not expecting any enlightenment whatsoever from this newest in the long line of SNL alumnus comedies, just some good, nutty Happy Gilmore-esque laughs.

1) Bratz – They shouldn’t have even been a toyline, much less a motion picture. The dolls that took girls from idolizing shallow beauty queen Barbie to idolizing shallow go-go dancers and low rider models are coming to the big screen. Their plot: “Four teenage girls from different backgrounds empower themselves by rejecting their respective high school cliques.” Probably by dressing like they should be standing on the corner of Hollywood and Vine at one in the morning. Expect this one to be full of trite “empowerment” mantras for young girls to adhere to that will fundamentally conflict with the message of materialism and superficiality conveyed by the characters’ wardrobes.

2) Underdog – Someone saw the recent live-action incarnation of Garfield and the recent superhero craze and decided they could make some cash off that old, forgotten, very 2-dimensional cartoon series Underdog. What they didn’t realize is that no one gave a rat’s rear end about the Garfield movies (yes, there was more than one) and that no one extends their enthusiasm for comic book heroes to the old Hanna Barbara cartoons. This one will be forgotten before it even hits theaters, only to be remembered on the Wal-Mart bargain shelf.

3) I Know Who Killed Me – If you do, I’d like to shake their hand and thank them for doing us all a major service. But, seriously, is anyone just getting sick of seeing Lindsay Lohan? I honestly find it difficult to sympathize with any of her characters anymore. Onscreen, she’s a middle class brat, another Disney factory teen who talks too fast and is way too “savvy” for her own good. Offscreen, she’s a drunk, out of control, upper class brat who is too inebriated to even talk but still thinks she’s savvy. I really could not care less to find out who has her or her lost twin sister captive. There are people in this world more deserving of our collective attention (and their names aren’t Paris, Nicole, or Britney).

4) Skinwalkers – I really love werewolf lore. That’s why it pains me to see all of these Sci-fi channel-quality movies that just turn them into sex-hungry, bloodthirsty guys in sucky latex costumes. Expect nothing fresh or engaging out of this one, which should have gone straight to DVD to the horror-porn section at Blockbuster. Expect boring tough guys on Harleys fighting boring psycho tough guys on Harleys and lots of explosions, big guns, and empty sex scenes. My question: when will someone get the werewolf and vampire legends back on track in Hollywood?

5) Daddy Day Camp – Cuba Gooding, Jr. hasn’t been funny since Jerry Macguire, and he was only funny there because he wasn’t trying to be. Sled Dogs made me openly weep for Cuba, who has so much more potential than that but seems dead-set on shortchanging himself. Now, to think of him stepping into the comedic shoes of Eddie Murphy for another sappy family comedy makes me want to shout, “Cuba, show me the talent! Show me the common sense to run far away from sugary family fare and return to your dramatic roots!”

1) The Last Legion
2) Rush Hour 3
3) Balls of Fury
4) Penelope
5) Death Sentence

Well, anyway, it's looking to be a long summer. Let's hope one of these movies comes through for us. What do you think are going to be the stars of the late summer? What will be the dogs? Chime in...

1 comment:

  1. hey! i'm going to cali this weekend and won't be back until is the website i was talking about where i made extra summer cash. Later! the website is here


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