It’s summer blockbuster time so, read this article and plan your summer movie outings.
It’s summer blockbuster time at the movie theatres with Wolverine, the X-Man most in need of a manicure, throwing out the first computer-generated eviscerations. Summer blockbuster time is a mixed blessing: remakes and sequels make up most of the menu, and a lot of the movies seem to have spent more of the budget on dynamite than on screenwriting. But there are always some promising newcomers, some of them even without mall cops. Here are a dozen megahits on the horizon, starting with the five best bets (highlighted by an asterisk):
* Terminator Salvation: No. 4 in the series — and apparently the start of a new trilogy from director McG — introduces Christian Bale as John Connor, the man who dodged all those assassin robots sent from the future to the past to kill him before he could change the future that they were in, or something. Bale is already familiar from his X-rated meltdown on the set of this film, so we’ll be able to see just what was so f—- distracting. Oh yeah, the plot: Connor leads survivors after a nuclear apocalypse. (May 21).
* Up: This animated film is from Pixar, which has a track record for movies that combine cleverness with heart. It’s about a 78-year-old man who sets off for adventure by attaching helium balloons to his house, only to discover he has a nine-year-old stowaway on his front porch. Hmmm. For what it’s worth — and it’s often not much — the film is also the opening gala at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. (May 29)
* The Taking of Pelham 123: The 1974 original — about a gang that hijacks a New York City subway car and demands money for hostages — was a classic heist film that influenced Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (the bad guys are named Mr. Blue, Mr. Grey, Mr. Green and Mr. Brown.) Tony Scott’s remake has more star power, with John Travolta as the head villain and Denzel Washington as the dispatcher who has to negotiate with him, and the paranoia of disaster has also stepped up in the intervening 34 years. (June 12).
* Public Enemies: A 1930s gangster movie, directed by Michael Mann, with Johnny Depp as John Dillinger, the leading hoodlum of his day, and Christian Bale — nicely recovered from Terminator: Salvation — as Melvin Purvis, the FBI agent hunting him down. Also of interest: Billy Crudup, mostly recently seen as a naked fluorescent superhero in Watchmen, plays J. Edgar Hoover, America’s No. 1 G-man (and secret cross-dresser, although the movie may leave that part out.) This one looks like a throwback to the great old rat-a-tat mob films: Bonnie and Clyde without the irony. (July 1)
* Inglourious Basterds: A remake of a 1978 Italian film (whose American release had the title spelled correctly) that was an homage to The Dirty Dozen, speaking of the devil. This Quentin Tarantino war movie stars Brad Pitt as the head of a group of soldiers in the Second World War who are sent out to scalp and kill as many Nazis as possible (ÒI want my scalps!Ó). Among the movie’s oddities are the fact that Mike Myers plays an American general. (Aug. 21)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine: The buzz is hot on this one, partly because an unfinished print was leaked on the Internet and people liked it, even minus the special effects. (What’s left? Emotionally vulnerability? Stop kvetching, X-Persons: at least you have a job.) It tells the story of Wolverine’s violent and romantic past, his relationship with Victor Creed (who will later become Sabretooth) and the mutant Weapons X program. I hope that means something to someone. Oscar host and song-and-dance man Hugh Jackman stars. (May 1)
Star Trek: The sci-fi classic undergoes a reinvention by J.J. Abrams, whose bona fides (Lost, Alias) may make him the ideal director for this kind of cult melodrama. Chris Pine stars as young Capt. James T. Kirk, piloting the USS Enterprise into danger, adventure and large portions of inter-terrestrial mishigas. The cast features the return of Leonard Nimoy, playing Old Spock. Good news: they’re already planning a sequel. Bad news: they’re already planning a sequel. (May 8)
Angels & Demons: If you loved The Da Vinci Code, with its fast-moving, historical-revelation-a-minute uncovering of a Catholic plot to subjugate women — or if you were driven to fury by the implications — he’s another chance to be thrilled (or apoplectic.) This prequel, from Da Vinci director Ron Howard, has been refigured as a sequel (go refigure) and again stars Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon, the world’s most dangerous symbolist. This time he’s looking for an assassin from the secretive Illuminati who is killing cardinals. (May 15)
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian: In this, the year of the security guard movie, Ben Stiller returns as Larry Daley, the man with the flashlight, in the third episode of the hit comedy franchise. Various historic figures are played by Owen Wilson, Robin Williams, Dick Van Dyke, Eugene Levy and, well, various other historical figures. (May 22)
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: Giant robots fight for world supremacy in this sequel to the loud, explosive and lucrative adventure from loud-explosive-lucrative director Michael Bay. Decepticon returns to capture Sam (Shia LaBeouf), leaving Optimus Prime as mankind’s best hope to save the day, preferably by knocking down lots of buildings. (June 24)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Daniel Radcliffe — who may be married and bringing his own children to the theatre by the time this series ends — returns with the rest of the gang for his sixth year at Hogwarts. He learns new spells, finds a new girlfriend, and learns new secrets about Voldemort. The film was delayed from last November, an event that caused much protest and Internet chatter, but look: now you have something nice to do in July. (July 15)
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: Channing Tatum, whom you will have already enjoyed as Pretty Boy Floyd in Public Enemies, returns as a fighting man on the trail of an arms dealer. The action figure that became a comic book and then an animated TV show has gone through a lot of incarnations — at one point he was battling for the environment — but here he is a gun-toting, terrorist-killing soldier, although without the Kung-fu grip. (Aug. 7)
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