In the first part of our run down on the hottest summer releases, comic book heroes and franshises ruled the schedule. After The Break-Up (Peyton Reed, 2006) proved that even the rom-com could deliver a truck load of money to the major’s doors this year, it seems anything could end up top of the box office. Superman Returns (Bryan Singer), however, has stuttered on its opening weekend. As the blockbuster season rolls into the later months of the summer, there are some juicy original projects and a couple to bring a smirk or two as the long sunny days draw to a close.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Mans Chest (Gore Verbinski)
Well Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Kiera Knightley and the rest of the crew are back on board for another Jerry Bruckheimer action spectacular. Bill Nighy plays the villain of the piece, leader of sea phantoms Davy Jones, out to claim what is owed to him: Captain Jack Sparrow’s soul. Verbinski will be aiming to repeat the mix of comedy, romance and swashbuckling fights to similar effect as before to make another box office monster — the first took just more than $650 million. Filmed back-to-back with a second sequel, Disney and Bruckheimer will be expecting big things from this trilogy.
A Scanner Darkly (Richard Linklater)
Another year, another Philip K. Dick adaptation. Darkly should prove an interesting proposition as it was moved from a release earlier in the year to prime-time July in the States, suggesting Warner Bros. sense this could be big. The near-future plot involves a paranoid government using two of every American to spy on the other eight for national security and drug control. Keanu Reeves is one of the enforcers who has to spy on his friends — sending him into the usual sci-fi realms of mistrust and misplaced alliances. Robert Downey Jr. and Winona Ryder add some weight to the cast, but the real star could be the visuals. Taking its cue from Linklater’s Waking Life (2001), every shot in Darkly has been redrawn by artists so that it is more like watching a moving comic book than actors. It worked extremely well for Waking Life so Linklater presumably knows what he is doing, and has plenty of experience in the directors chair. It probably won’t break any records, but will certainly intrigue. Look out for the reviews.
Lady in the Water (M. Night Shyamalan)
Appatrently Shyamalan has based his latest on a bedtime story he used to tell his children. Let’s hope it doesn’t send us to sleep as his last effort, The Village (2004), was a tad dull despite his trademark twists. Lady involves some form of supernatural tale about a women saved from drowning in a apartment building swimming pool by its attendant. It emerges that she is trapped in our world and is trying to get home, and it is up to the tenents in the building to help her. Starring Paul Giamatti and Bryce Dallas Howard, there is a danger that Shyamalan’s bubble of being ‘the guy who did The Sixth Sense has burst to become ‘the guy with the dull stories and a sometimes clever twist’. There is no telling how this will turn out, although Shyamalan did switch from Disney to Warner Bros. for this film which could mean a change of direction. Destined to be a cautious return.
Clerks II (Kevin Smith)
The big cult sequel of the year, apparently Kevin Smith claimed he was not going to make this movie until he worked on a 10th anniversary DVD edition of Clerks (1994) and realised how much he loved the characters. That alone should mean he will be able to put the horrible Jersey Girl (2004) to rest and move on with his previously excellent career track record. Fans will be keeping their fingers crossed, and so should you as this will be an amusing attack on the fast food industry. Signs are good — it received an eight-minute standing ovation at Cannes.
Miami Vice (Michael Mann)
Michael Mann, Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx should be one of the winning combinations this summer and reheating Mann’s television past. The last time cops and the drug trade were brought together for a blockbuster movie was Bad Boys II (Michael Bay, 2003) which faltered partly because the villain offered very little to the mix of crash bang action and buddy comedy. From the trailers, Miami Vice looks as though it will go for a more realistic edge for dramatic edge to its glossy action and Mann is a dab hand at producing compelling crime thrillers. It seems that the ‘Miami Vice’ tag might be only there for promotional reasons, as there is little need to dress a cop film up in a 1980s series. Nevertheless, hopefully this will follow his high standards set by Heat (1994) and Collateral (2004).
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (Adam McKay)
I’ll be honest: this is the one I’m really looking forward to seeing. Having spent 2005 stuck in blunt offerings such as Bewitched (Nora Ephron) and Kicking and Screaming (Jesse Dylan), this promises to be the picture that reminds us what made Will Ferrell the king of big screen comedy. Here he plays NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby, a rebel whose under threat form new rival Jean Girard played by British comic Sacha “Ali G” Baron Cohen. It sounds a lot like the general top dog under threat scenario of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), but considering they share the same director in McKay and writers in McKay and Ferrell this has all the markings of another comic classic. Support from John C. Reilly could well be the icing on the cake. I’m excited.
World Trade Center (Oliver Stone)
United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006) showed that the critics were ready to face up to the 9/11 tragedy even if it did not resonate with audiences. Oliver Stone is not known for making subtle, thought-provoking cinema and his last effort Alexander (2004) was laughed off the screen. Here Nicolas Cage stars in the true story of the last two men found trapped beneath the rubble of the Twin Towers at Ground Zero. It is sure to be a rousing and patriotic film, but like United 93 there will be those who question whether it is an appropriate time for this story to be told. Stone may well be on to another spectacular failure.
Snakes on a Plane (David R. Ellis)
The buzz for this movie is so hot they re-shot scenes to ensure it would get a higher age restriction thanks to the bad-mouthed vocal talents of Samuel L. Jackson. He finds himself stuck on a plane filled with…wait for it…snakes! Allegedly Jackson signed to this role on the title alone and threatened to pull out when it was almost changed. The fact this movie has been pre-sold to audiences based on its (low) concept and Jackon’s ability to swear amusingly suggests it will be heavily front-loaded and be gone in two weeks. Probably dumb fun to end the silly season.
DOA: Dead or Alive (Corey Yuen)
Speaking of the silly season, I just had to add this videogame to movie translation. Considering the game was all about big-breasted, athletic girls fighting each other, this looks like a remarkably close adaptation. Sin City’s Devon Aoki, Neighbours favourite Holly Valance and My Name is Earl’s Jamie Pressly are just some of the actresses kicking the butts of Matthew Marsden and other largely random men. Not to be confused with Takashi Miike’s films, Yuen has worked on numerous action pictures such as The One (James Wong, 2001) and The Transporter (Louis Leterrier and Corey Yuen, 2002) but this is his first as the sole director and looks like more brain-dead action for those fed up with ‘serious’ blockbusters. A guilty thrill, if a thrill at all.