FINAL JEOPARDY: Summer Movie Preview
Pop the earwax, folks! It's near 'bout summertime! And, like so many summers before, this one's got a dump-'em-up truck full of movies to sort through. Every major label studio, every A-list star, and every salt-worthy director in the biz has something to project for us. At six to seven bucks apiece, I might add.
Yet how are you supposed to hack your way through the jungle of celluloid and get the most bang for your buck? You got dinosaurs and aliens, sinking ships and caped crusaders, hijacked planes and kissin' comedies, all about to barge into your life like a luggage-totin', no-wallet cousin on your front doorstep. Whatcha gonna do? Calgon, take me away!
Well, you can breathe easy, 'cause the Doc's here with the findings of my exploratory surgery.
C'MON, BIG MONEY....
You've already gotten a taste of what to look forward to, you know. Both Volcano and The Fifth Element are out now, trying to catch as much coin as they can before they get slammed into the dollar theaters and airplanes aisles. Volcano has limped out of the gate, and I'm betting Fifth will start to cool off in about a week or so. They got their early strike cash, now they fade into the sunset.
It's a given that everybody's gonna do the T-Rex Shuffle this coming weekend for Lord Steven's The Lost World. (Did anyone really believe there wouldn't be a sequel to Jurassic Park?) This thing's been in hype overdrive for nearly a year. Anything less than $250 million will deem it a failure in the eyes of LaLaLand, but I wouldn't hold my breath against it. Look for a blazin' start, maybe $55 million for Memorial Day weekend, a slalom dip through June, and then a steady, marathon trek all the way through Labor Day.
Batman & Robin? Oh yeah, this thing has a slight chance to fail. But with lots of action, lots of skintight rubber, and lots of neon colors, I sorta doubt it. And maybe this time Joel Schumacher cast a Batman in George Clooney that will hang around for a while. Personally, I'm tired of the Incredible Changing Bruce Wayne stuff. The Ace in the Hole for this one is the Arnold/Uma combination, while Alicia Silverstone (as Batgirl) will pack in the puberty set.
I'm actually looking forward to Men in Black and Contact. Tommy Lee and the Fresh Prince have never looked cooler than they do in the MIB trailer. And, Jodie Foster playing a sci-fi nerdling has a lot of promise in and of itself. Never mind that the script was written by the late Carl Sagan, god of all things cosmic. Contact has done a subtle selling job in the "coming attractions," but Jodie lends an air of sophistication that isn't usually found in this genre. Look for MIB to slam doors and beat drums for the kids and the kids-at-heart (folks like me), while Contact will sneak in the back way and grab its share from the more "literate" sci-fi fan (the kind of folks who browse the European Lit section in the bookstore, but secretly watch "Babylon 5" at home on TV.)
Nicolas Cage has played two numbers in the summer movie lottery. First up is Con Air, another firebreather from the heart of Jerry Bruckheimer, his first effort since partner Don Simpson's dope death. All-star cast, lots of sweating, and enough explosions to make a militant redneck giddy. The other movie, Face/Off, is more of a dice roll. Director John Woo, Hong Kong's Peckinpah, puts Cage and Travolta into a mix involving intrigue, action, and a slew of gunshots. I'd rather not discuss a lot of the plot for this one, because the gimmick is pretty cool. Suffice it to say, Fred Travalena better keep a suspicious eye in the rearview -- he may have two new competitors working the impressionist market.
Disney has an entry in the race, with its latest animated extravaganza Hercules. The previews here promise a return to Disney's lighter side, with the quirky culture-gap jibes that made Aladdin one of the funniest movies in Mouse history. This time, James Woods gets to be the voice of Hades (lawz, was that a type-cast or what?), and Danny DeVito takes the part of a madcap satyr named Phil. Hercules, as spoken by beefcake Tate Donavan (Memphis Belle), is a hip, happening sort of Greek hero whose goal in life is to be a Michael Jordan for the Athens set. Notice that the Disney merchandising machine is running on purr cycle, rather than the full roar setting they had dialed up for Pocahontas and Hunchback. Maybe they realized that we were tired of those movies before they even came out. Or, they might realize that this one is truly a good movie, and they don't have to cram it down our throats. Hmmmmmmm.......
I'LL TAKE NO PROFIT FOR A BILLION, ALEX
We got a couple of high-hype numbers that stir up my doubts. Speed 2: Cruise Control is a film I just cannot see working. Sure, Sandra's back and all's well. But, the first one worked because of the situation, the claustrophobia, the panic. This one is supposed to accomplish the same thing on a cruise ship?!? Let's see here. Bus + bomb = tension. Out of control cruise ship + island target = Gilligan Does Die Hard. It may work, I grant you, but the entire idea is pushing the acceptability level to its outer edge. Admit it, Jan DeBont, the first one was one big happy accident. This one is forced because of money, and will not be the gut-grabber we all want it to be. When Keanu passed, he had the right idea, but for moronic reasons. (He wanted to tour with his lame grunge band Dog Star.)
The biggest gamble of the season sprouts from the loins of James Cameron. He's literally betting everything he's worth on a sinking ship (or, actually, a sunken ship) with Titanic. Rumours of a $250 million price tag are making the Waterworld guys dance with glee that there was, indeed, someone goofier than they were. Cameron has had to farm out a bunch of the effects shots to another company in the dire hopes of getting this thing into theaters some time before the sun sets on the beach. I hope for Cameron's sake that he pulls this thing off, but, without right arm Arnold, somehow, I bet ol' Jimmy's gonna drop a few dozen pegs on the Power List.
TIC TAC DOUGH
In the back-up plan for these slamdunks are a few titles that deserve a better chance than they're gonna get, thanks to the megabuck pirates mentioned above. Air Force One, a thrillride set in a hijacked Presidential plane, will pit President Harrison Ford and VP Glenn Close against terrorist Gary Oldman.
The horror flick Mimic stars Mira Sorvino as an insect expert caught flat-footed when her mutant experiments go awry. It's one of the few scarefests out there, and unless the Scream teens deem it a hit, it'll probably do a quick fade.
In the comedy category, Julia Roberts has finally returned to her senses and made a movie like the ones that made her famous. My Best Friend's Wedding, a romantic comedy, has a stone-chuckle trailer and high concept working for it. She's gotta keep her best friend from getting married because she just realized she's in love with him herself. Ms. Roberts also teams with Mel Gibson for The Conspiracy Theory, a Lethal Weapon-type thriller from Lethal Weapon-type director Richard Donner. Expect guns, jokes, and at least one good torture take for Mel. If both of these films make even a medium ripple in the Big Pond, look for Julia to be everybody's comeback covergirl.
Addicted to Love brings Meg Ryan back to her wacky roots, as she and Matthew Broderick conspire for revenge on their exes. Some old folks might sneak into the theater for Out to Sea, if there are any screens left to show this Lemmon-Matthau shtick-up. And the Tim Robbins-Martin Lawrence road movie Nothing to Lose provides almost the only big studio film with "urban" appeal.
COME ON DOWN!
Despite the effects-laden bullwarks, there are a few actors earning their keep this season. Consider the good talk about Ulee's Gold, starring Peter Fonda. Playing a role tailored to match his father's style to a tee, Fonda does the best acting in his career. Watch this one make an end run come Oscar® time next year. A similar buzz hums for Michael Keaton's next. Like his creep-out turn in Pacific Heights, he gets to play evil again, this time in Desperate Measures. He's a murderous escapee that Andy Garcia has to track down, because Garcia's son needs a bone marrow transplant. A quirky twist on a "fugitive" movie that could score some booty when folks get sold out of the blockbusters.
Don't forget about the all-star, no-budget Stallone movie Cop Land, a story of small town justice versus big city corruption, with De Niro, Keitel, and "Watch My Eyes" Ray Liotta. This thing could be an indie turn-on in the mold of Pulp Fiction. Or it could just plain suck.
Late summer lets us line up for the Laurence Fishburn gangster flick Hoodlum, in which Cool Larry reprises his Bumpy Johnson role from The Cotton Club.
I'D LIKE TO BUY A VOWEL...O!
Some quick hopes and dreams: I hope George of the Jungle turns out to be as funny as it could be. I hope Leave It to Beaver dies a quick and painful death, so we can put all these TV shows-turned-movies out of our misery. (At least until Lost in Space debuts at Christmas....) I'll dream of another film during Free Willy 3. How many times does that friggin' whale need to get caught before it learns its lesson? El Pass-o also to the second Mortal Kombat mess, The Borrowers, Kull the Conquerer, and Shaquille O'Neal's superhero Steel. You might dream of better things from Spawn, if you have a strong stomach. The Jeff Daniels' and Michael "Kramer" Richards' effort Trial and Error looks gadawful in preview as does Joe Pesci's Gone Fishin'. Jennifer Anniston does the Friends-at-the-movies thing with Picture Perfect, and it looks as iffy as a cliff dive at midnight.
I think that just about covers it, folks. There are a few others that will appear here and there, a sacrifice to the gods of Hollywood. None of them look like much, and, I'm betting that they won't be. Stick with the Doc, my pretties, and you won't get a wrong steer. Lather up the cocoa butter and strap on the flipflops, and have yourself one humdingin' hot summer.
THE DOC'S SUMMER SURVIVAL SUMMARY:
Get "reel" soon,
Summer Preview '01 | Academy Awards 2001 | The 5th Annual Loscars | Oscar Noms: Reaction 2001 | Excused from School | Matthau Remembered | Summer Preview 2000 | Academy Awards 2000 | The 4th Annual Loscars | Oscar Noms: Reaction 2000 | 2000 Predictions | Universal Soldiers | Happy Birthday, Hitch | Goodbye, MST3K | Try to Remember | Summer Preview '99 | Curse of the TV Movies |
Academy A-snores | The 3rd Annual Loscars | Waiting and Waiting | Gene Siskel Tribute | Now I'm Mad (Oscar Nominations '99) | 1998 Flashback | Remembering Roddy McDowall | Repeating History | The Movie Manifesto | Fall Preview '98 | The Day Eli P. Kingsley Came to Town | Field of Dreams | Lizard Season | Grey April, Dark Hearts | Oscar Reactions '98 | The Greatest Actor You've Never Heard Of | The 2nd Annual Loscars |
Oscar Noms | Unsportsmanlike Conduct |
1997: Gone But Not Forgotten |
A Note to Nick |
The Quaid Curse | Love, Law & Lake Tahoe | Talking Movies |
Black & White World
| Alternative Medicine: Waiting for Guffman | In Memoriam, Burgess Meredith |
Fall Preview '97 | Jimmy Stewart, R.I.P. |
The Cowboy Way | A Sporting Chance | In Praise of the VCR
| Summer Preview '97 | Alternative Medicine: That Thing You Do! |
The Rise and Fall...of Dan Aykroyd |
Post-Oscar Traumatic Syndrome | The Loscars | Lost Minds?! |
It's Academic! | Remembering Vincent Price | Movie Going Rules | Doctor's Orders