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  • 2008 Summer Movie Preview

    Mon, 05 May 2008 07:16:27

    2008 Summer Movie Preview - It's gonna be a hot one...

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    Gone are the days of stun gun-wielding killers, milkshake slurping oil men, and brilliant blinking authors. The seasonal change announces a shift in the film climate, too—a definitive move away from melancholy narratives toward good ol' fashioned action blockbusters, tween romantic comedies, and the occasional indie gem. Summer movie season is upon us, granting audiences full permission to dial down the drama-o-meter and embrace frivolous fare that appeals to our collective desire for straight-shooting entertainment.

    Self-proclaimed "serious" moviegoers often malign these popcorn flicks, dismissing them as the cinematic equivalent of a lobotomy. Yet, even these naysaying intellectuals will find suitable material to mull over, whether submerging themselves in director Christopher Nolan's menacing Gotham in The Dark Knight or soaking up David Gordon Green's take on buddy-buddy pot humor in The Pineapple Express. The veritable buffet of choices at your local multiplex is vast, confirming that familiar adage, "there's something for everyone" in your local air-conditioned sanctuary.

    2008 is a banner year for fans; if '07 was all about sequels—and, to be sure, there are a handful of follow-ups to your favorite summer movies of yore—then '08 is a throwback to classics and ruled by highly-anticipated adaptations. Manolo-heeled women are seeking sweet, sweet climax to Carrie and Big's romantic rollercoaster in Sex and the City: The Movie, while slightly perverted Chuck Palahniuk fans can't wait to see Choke translated to the big screen. Once golden SNL alums Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, and Mike Myers are planning splashy career revivals in three respective comedies, silly rides that serve as welcome foils against explosion-laden action movies.

    Whatever your HD palate desires, there's something tasty waiting to satiate you on the horizon. ARTISTdirect delivers a guide to the fifteen biggest films to keep an eye out for over the coming months, along with complimentary viewing suggestions. Be sure to subscribe to our weekly newsletter and check back on the Movies page regularly for the latest in reviews, features, and exclusive interviews, but for now, prepare for the high octane thrill ride that is our Summer Movie Preview.

    Speed Racer - (5/9)

    Go, Emile Hirsche, go! Into The Wild's rising star takes a giant leap into mainstream cinema with the Wachowski's Speed Racer, a live action adaptation of the cult cartoon. Visually, the movie pops with vivid primary colors, bright lights, and mesmerizing green screen special effects that back its rapid velocity storyline. Hirsch plays the eponymous Speed, an honor-bound racing ace who must best profit-hungry sharks seeking to rob the sport of its integrity and ruin his family's business. Christina Ricci plays Trixie, his sassy romantic interest, while Susan Sarandon and John Goodman make appearances as Speed's parents. NASCAR it ain't, and for that you should be thankful.

    Neon Knights: Iron Man (5/2), The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (5/16)

    Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - (5/22)

    Harrison Ford may be single-handedly responsible for making archaeology sexy. Nearly twenty years after the last Indy installment was released, Ford and Steven Spielberg reteam to revive rugged, whip-wielding adventure, bringing in new blood in the form of Shia LaBeouf to imbue the franchise with youthful vigor. Together Jones and LaBeouf's Mutt venture to Peru in search of the Crystal Skull, a mythical artifact that voracious Soviet agents—including dirtied femme fatale Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett)—are also after for more unsavory ends. (It is the Cold War era, after all.) Perhaps Ford may not be able to outrun giant boulders as before, but no young'un, however physically fit, can fill the icon's shoesm or his dust-caked leather jacket, for that matter.

    Adventure Bound: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (8/7), Encounters at the End of the World (6/11)

    Sex and the City: The Movie - (5/30)

    Dueling diva personalities were said to have stalled production of Sex and the City after the series finale in 2004, but finally, four years later, the big screen project has come to fruition. Passe as drinking Cosmopolitans may be, stylish urbanites and flocks of BFFs will no doubt run to see the movie version of the wildly popular show. Everyone's favorite saucy-talk quartet returns for more loving, shopping, and screwing, with reflective coffee shop interludes brimming with commentary on Carrie's (Sarah Jessica Parker) latest Big (Chris Noth)-related drama. Will they get married? Will Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Steve (David Eigenberg) get a divorce? Exactly how many high-pitched anxiety fits will Charlotte (Kristin Davis) break into? On May 30th, march your Choos into the theater and find out.

    Summer Lovin' and BFF Bonding: Made of Honor (5/15), The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (8/8)

    You Don't Mess With The Zohan - (6/6)

    Surprise, surprise—Judd Apatow lends his producing hand to another exaggerated comedy effort, this one starring Adam Sandler as Zohan, a lethal Israeli agent who jettisons hand grenades for a more benign weapon: cutting shears. With gyrating hips and a spectacular quasi-pompadour, Zohan arrives in New York City to follow his dream of becoming a hairstylist. His Paul Mitchell aspirations are interrupted when he is recognized, dredging up the soldier within and forcing him to break out his special-ops skill set. Suddenly he must dye hair and pray that he doesn't die in the process. Sandler looks curiously subdued and convincing as the counter-terrorist commando, an interesting transition from the strangely lovable, spontaneously aggressive characters he typically plays. Watch out for a cameo from Mariah Carey, which will hopefully be brief and less painful than her god-awful turn in Glitter.

    Unlikely Occupations: The Fist Foot Way 5/30, The Rocker (8/1)

    The Incredible Hulk - (6/13)

    Trading director Ang Lee for Louis Leterrier and Eric Bana for Edward Norton, who also co-wrote the screenplay, The Hulk is back with a sea of rage waiting to burst forth from his composed civilian exterior. It ain't easy being green, especially when the military is trailing you with the hopes of taking advantage of your radiation deformity-derived muscle power. The trailer reveals exactly what you would expect from a Hulk film—plenty of growling, scowling, and chucking of vehicles, hopefully with a smarter storyline and updated C.G.I. this time around. Upon first glance, Norton might seem like as unlikely action hero as Michael Keaton's Batman, but his convincing, brawny Bruce Banner physique, coupled with his solid acting skills, will make for a solid superhero movie.

    On The Run: The International (8/15), Wanted (6/27)

    The Happening - (6/13)

    M. Night Shyamalan may be the king of surprise endings and plot twists cloaked in obscurity, but he outdoes himself with The Happening, managing to descend even further into the depths of vagueness. "There appears to be an event happening," a character deadpans in the trailer, and that's about the closest you'll get to learning about a definitive plot prior to watching the film. Catastrophic mini "happenings" nationwide point toward impending apocalyptic results, with Mark Wahlberg and stoic indie princess Zooey Deschanel attempting to flee said doom and stave off disaster. The biggest surprise Shyamalan could deliver is a conclusion sans a startling counter-narrative twist.

    It's The End of the World As We Know It: Babylon A.D. (8/29)

    The Love Guru - (6/20)

    Mike Myers wears the handlebar mustache well, donning ridiculous vestments and adopting a muddled accent for his first live-action comedic turn in years. He's the East-meets-West version of The Ladies' Man, commissioned by the Toronto Maple Leafs to counsel star player Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco), whose recent breakup with his wife has severely interrupted his game. Interrupting guru Pitka's game is willowy Maple Leafs owner Jane (Jessica Alba), making for one of the most improbable romantic pairings since Shrek and Princess Fiona. Justin Timberlake contributes to the ridiculous wooly fun with a Borat-inspired curly 'do, Speedo, and supercharged salacious antics. Talk about bringing sexy back.

    Fooled Around And Fell in Love: What Happens in Vegas (5/9)

    Get Smart - (6/20)

    From spoonfeeding himself Crisco on The Daily Show to playing a beleaguered Proust scholar in Little Miss Sunshine, it is safe to say that Steve Carell has steadily climbed the comedic totem pole to greatness in just a few short years. What would summer be without Carell's furrowed brow and droll stare driving audiences to laughter? Thankfully this question remains a hypothetical, as he teams up with Anne Hathaway, Alan Arkin, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson for Get Smart, an adaptation of Mel Brooks' '60s-era television show. Maxwell Smart (Carell) is an incompetent anti-hero, coupled with sultry Agent 99 (Hathaway) to form a bumbling crimefighting duo. Try your best to banish the memory of other blatant television-to-film failures (The Avengers, anyone?) and give Smart a fighting chance.

    More Clumsy Capers: Hancock (7/3)

    WALL•E - (6/27)

    If you can watch the WALL•E trailer without disintegrating into an emotional puddle, then it's possible that you lack a fundamental empathy gene because, gosh darn it, that robot is adorable. Pixar looks to outdo themselves yet again with their animated iteration of Johnny 5, a wide-eyed, gentle, companion-seeking android that's anything but paranoid. He's adopted emotional characteristics particular to humans yet exists in a human-less, barren world—until slick fellow 'bot Eve shows up, that is. Together they embark on an intergalactic adventure "beyond the ordinar•e," as the tagline goes. The visuals are far superior to anything that Pixar has released in the past, creating a tragic backdrop for WALL•E's waste collecting workaday activities. The movie has heart, and it's already won mine.

    Suitable Family Fare: Kung Fu Panda (6/6), Space Chimps (7/18)

    The Dark Knight - (7/18)

    Forgive me for the premature declaration, but I'm going to go ahead and say it: The Dark Knight will be the best Batman film to date. This, of course, is largely due to Heath Ledger's formidable turn as The Joker, evolving Jack Nicholson's villanous camp into a frightening new level of psychosis. Whispers of posthumous award nominations for Ledger have already began to circulate; his meticulously crafted crazed glare reflects an unparalleled level of evil intent. "Why so serious?" Because he looks damn scary, that's why. Christian Bale returns as the black-suited hero himself and Maggie Gyllenhaal appears as his stunning new love interest, Rachel Dawes. Having rewritten the franchise with Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan's imagination of Gotham succeeds because he explores Batman's mythology, painting him as a troubled, complex character, not a mindless, muscled hero. Appreciate the film for its intellect, but enjoy it for its awesome action sequences.

    In the Heat of the Night: Mother of Tears (6/6), Hellboy II: The Golden Army (7/11)

    The X-Files: I Want to Believe - (7/25)

    Truly, did anyone believe that Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) would reunite for another X-Files movie? Fanboys and girls unite; your day has come, though it's difficult to know exactly what to "believe" in provided that few, if any, plot hints have been released to the public. What we do know is that a lot of the extraterrestrial mythology that the series was known for is being replaced with more relevant new material, and that's about it. While wracking your brain trying to guess what innovative new direction the filmmakers have taken, try humming the show's catchy theme music; it's oddly satisfying and helps to maintain a healthy level of anticipation.

    The truth is out there, but Mulder and Scully's supernatural adventures are wholly their own.

    Choke - (8/1)

    Fight Club scribe Chuck Palahniuk's second cinematic adaptation to date stars one of independent film's most transformative actors, Sam Rockwell, as Victor Mancini, a con artist, mama's boy, and sex addict whose day job sees him working at a colonial theme park. Perplexed and slightly disturbed by this synopsis? You should be. But if you're looking for a highly stylized follow up to Fincher's seminal 1999 release, you're out of luck. Choke embraces decidedly more quirky and comedic attributes, though you'll get a sweet helping of desperation to go alongside of its more lighthearted traits. Ever-brilliant universal matriarch Anjelica Huston appears as Mancini's mentally ill parental figure, with No Country's Kelly MacDonald expanding her foray into American cinema.

    Dr. Phil Fodder: Mister Lonely (5/2), Savage Grace (5/28)

    The Pineapple Express - (8/8)

    Judd Apatow's second production venture on this list is the David Gordon Green-helmed cannabis comedy The Pineapple Express. Its title sounds oddly similar to Wes Anderson's fraternal bonding film The Darjeeling Limited, but if Pineapple is on a fast track journey to anywhere, it's clouded judgement and Twinkie consumption, not soul-searching ends. Seth Rogan reprises his familiar role as a lovable pot smoking lug, joined by James Franco as his equally dopey dealer. All the two want is to get high and kick back, but they must fight against their lackadaisical tendencies after becoming unwittingly entangled in a murder and being targeted by some seriously angry criminals. "Fly like paper, get high like planes" is an apt way of describing Rogan and Franco's tag team antics in what will likely be the summer's comedic standout.

    Up In Smoke and For the Bros: The Wackness (7/3), Step Brothers (7/25)

    Tropic Thunder - (8/15)

    Tropic Thunder seems like the crazy love child of Apocalypse Now and Zoolander, melding the former's war narrative with the latter's zany brand of humor. Ben Stiller directs his first comedy in nearly seven years, a spoof of big budget filmmaking and too-serious-for-their-own-good method actors, most notably Robert Downey Jr. appearing in blackface. Stiller, Downey, and Jack Black play a triad of actors who find themselves in the shit after attempts to shoot an epic Vietnam-era film on location go awry and they're held captive in Southeast Asia. Whether they can gather their collective scant wits to escape the situation is the question, and the answer is riddled with farce. This is Stiller doing what he knows best, and I'm hopeful that it will mark his return as a comedic goliath.

    Make Believe: Son of Rambow (5/2), Hamlet 2 (8/22)

    Vicky Christina Barcelona - (8/29)

    Match Point plucked Woody Allen from his New York City roots, and Vicky Christina Barcelona further removes the director from his familiar—and, these days, often staid—idiosyncratic material. Vicky... is a sultry change of pace from caped crusaders and inexplicable "happenings," starring Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, and Scarlett Johansson as a triad of beautiful people ensnared in complicated love relations. I was actually living in Barcelona while Allen was shooting the film, and though I caught nary a glance of him nor his actors trekking up and down the Ramblas, it will be fascinating to see how he translates the city's palpable sexual energy into a romantic drama.

    More Amor: How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer (5/16)

    —Heidi Atwal

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