This year's crop of summer films promises to be bigger and better than ever, or at least bigger than the sorry state of pictures released so far in 2005, as evidenced by declining attendance and overall boredom with the film industry (outside of the anticipation for the upcoming John Gulager directorial debut). And with Revenge of the Sith breaking box office records left and right, it appears that things are off to the right start. The following is a list of my most and least anticipated summer movie releases.
#1. War of the Worlds (Tom Cruise, Tim Robbins, Mirando Otto, Dakota Fanning)
Spielberg. Cruise. HG Wells. Yeah, it's a decent combination. The trailer looks awesome, the story is timeless, and the director/actor combination is built for action/adventure excitement that should be right up my alley. The writer (besides HG Wells) is David Koepp, who wrote such blockbusters as Jurassic Park, Spider-Man, and Mission: Impossible. So it has all the ingredients. The only downside I see is the focus in the previews on girl moppet Dakota Fanning, and I don't care how "talented" she is, she's like 8 and if I start rooting for the aliens, I'm pretty sure she'll be the cause.
Mr. #2. Batman Begins (Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Katie Holmes, Liam Neeson)
I am not a Batman fan. Never have been. I'm actually not really a superhero fan at all, so that doesn't make the Batman franchise any kind of exception. But this effort to kickstart the dead DC Comics hero (while Marvel continues to churn out Spider-man blockbusters) looks like it could be great. The cast is excellent, the concept - showing the backstory of how Bruce Wayne becomes Batman - is original, and the co-writer/director is Christopher Nolan, who wrote and directed Memento. So I'm looking forward to it. And it looks a lot closer to the original Dark Knight themes than the Joel Schumacher directed-disasters of Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, which only destroyed the franchise for the better part of a decade. Avoiding Val Kilmer was also a good step.
#3. Mr. & Mrs. Smith (Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Vince Vaughn)
First of all, I agree with Howard Stern that Brad Pitt made the right move in trading in Jennifer Aniston for Jolie. I mean yes, Jolie is a bit psychotic, once made out with her brother on national TV, and then there's the Billy Bob Thornton sloppy seconds factor, but (a) she's way hotter than Aniston, (b) you know Aniston was just overbearingly annoying and probably not that good in bed, and (c) nobody could possibly deal with spending every vacation with Courteney Cox and David Arquette. As far as the movie goes, it looks like a ripoff of Schwarzenegger's True Lies, in that it's a married couple who doesn't know their spouse is a spy (well that wasn't really the plot of True Lies, but for some reason Vince Vaughn reminds me of Tom Arnold in the previews, and that's not really a good thing. Let's just move on). Anyway, I like spy movies, and it looks like it's big on the action/adventure, and the plot should at least be a little more original than the string of remakes and sequels coming out this summer. Plus, Seth from The O.C. is in it. So right there, it's got to be good.
#4. The Island (Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Djimon Hounsou)
I don't really know what to make of this movie. The preview looks really cool, some sort of sci-fi/drama/action hybrid about a mysterious "paradise" where experiments are going on and the characters have to flee for their lives. The cast is excellent, with multiple Oscar nominees, and the look reminds me of the moody, dramatic, end-of-the-world style of one of my favorite movies of all time, 28 Days Later. But there's a major drawback - it's directed by Michael Bay, the dumbed-down action movie director of Pearl Harbor and Armageddon. So either he's moving in a new direction, trying to make smarter films. Or the high quality cast is just going for a cheap payday. I'm hoping it's the former, but I won't be surprised if it's the latter.
#5. The Longest Yard (Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Burt Reynolds)
The upside? Adam Sandler and Chris Rock, two of my favorite comedians, and stars of such classic comedic films as Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy, and - wow, has Chris Rock made some crap films - Lethal Weapon 4? Dogma? That's about the best we can do. And the downside? Adam Sandler and Chris Rock, stars of such crap-tastic vehicles as Little Nicky, Mr. Deeds, Spanglish, and just about every movie Chris Rock has starred in since New Jack City - and that was in 1991. Plus, this is a remake of the much-loved football in prison movie and stars ex-NFL players, a bunch of WWE wrestlers, and Nelly. And it's not exactly like the original is so old that a remake was necessary. Burt Reynolds is still around, you know - he's in the fucking remake! So why did it make the Top 5? Have you seen the rest of the movies coming out this summer? It's not a pretty sight. This one could actually be enjoyable.
The Brothers Grimm, starring Matt Damon and Heath Ledger as the famous fairy-tale spinners, stuck in a real-life forest full of witches and goblins and other nasty things. Directed by Terry Gilliam, of Monty Python and Brazil fame, and he's usually too out-there for me, but this could be good. It'll at least be vaguely original, which is a good thing.
Dukes of Hazzard, starring Jessica Simpson in her "Daisy Dukes", which is really the only reason anybody would go see this film. I mean, nostalgia's nice and all, but I really don't think bad television from the early '80s that we inexplicably loved is worth remembering. You don't see them filming Three's Company: The Movie, do you?
Part 2 of the Preview: The movies I want to see the LEAST this summer. I'm sure you can't wait.