Summer Preview 1998
Break out the barbecue grills! Throw on a pair of bermuda shorts, black socks, and sandals! Blow on those pool toys 'til you pass out! It's summertime! All apologies to Eddie Cochran, but there ain't no cure for those summertime movies! They're barrellin' at us, no brakes, down the Hollywood Hills, just waiting to bust through the walls of your local dodecaplex. Question is, are we ready?
Well, with a lil' help from the Doctor, you might just make it through the blinding fog of the butter-flavored food byproduct dispenser. Let me be your map through the labyrinth of box-office lines, and maybe point out the treasures along the way.
Tail PowerBut, before we start, allow me to explain something. Usually, the summer movie season doesn't get warmed and ready until Memorial Day weekend, but this year Deep Impact blew a fat hole in that theory, getting some momentum going on the season. But, we all really know that summer won't REALLY be here until we see that gargantuan green tail knocking down buildings and causing innocent bystanders to look skyward and run screaming. That being said, let me be the first to welcome you all to Summer '98, the Season of the Lizard.
Yes, lizard, because if there's a one of you out there that can honestly say they have no desire to see Godzilla, you can feel free to stay home for Memorial Day weekend, and probably for a couple of weeks after that. The early word on this thing is pure power, coming from every direction. It's going to be huge, bigger than anyone wants to think right now. Deep Impact will be lost in its wake, and this thing will have legs for the rest of the summer. IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP: All signs point to Godzilla being a "full sensory experience." TRANSLATION: Major SFX abound, with the volume cranked up to "11." If you saw Twister in a good theatre, you'll remember that you could feel the sound of the storms in your feet, it was so loud. With Godzilla, you are supposed to feel the sound in your teeth. It's that loud. I say, bring it on! Prediction: The monster of the summer.
Make Way for the Big BoysThe Big Boys are out this summer. The God of Summer, Spielberg, has a HUGE Grade A cast for his WWII story Saving Private Ryan, featuring Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, and Golden Boy Matt Damon. Brian DePalma has teamed up with Nicolas Cage to do Snake Eyes, concerning a police detective investigating an assassination in Atlantic City. Here's hoping the script is easier to follow than Mission : Impossible. And Warren Beatty finally gets up off his couch and makes a new movie with Bulworth, a political satire about a U.S. Senator who's lost his desire for politics and life itself. It's rumoured to be incredibly funny, but the trailers are doing very little to back this up. We'll see. Predictions? Private Ryan? Big. Snake Eyes? Big. Bulworth? Too much thinking for a summer crowd, despite the hip-hop soundtrack.
Bruce Willis slips into his action shoes to pilot the next meteor movie, Armageddon. This huge project has all the makings of a blockbuster, with action czar Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay (The Rock) once again tipping the budgetary scales to attract the masses. Co-stars Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Steve Buscemi and Billy Bob Thornton.
Skin-Tight Latex and a Sword or TwoI'm very jazzed about The Avengers, despite the whole "TV as movie" curse. I'm sure Ralph Fiennes can do a good suave dapper guy like Patrick Macnee. Sean Connery finally gets to be a bad guy, which is sure to be cool. But, c'mon. Uma Thurman in skin-tight latex? Prediction: Mouth-watering. I'm also counting The Mask of Zorro here, with Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins is the old retiring Zorro, teaching Banderas how to take over the mask and be a hero. Sort of an "El Yoda Grande" thing. Prediction? Major player, if it doesn't get lost in the shuffle.
And, no, Conspiracy Theorists, I haven't forgotten about The X-Files movie. No doubt this will be a big draw, but honestly, I think it'll have some problems early on. Why? Because, regardless of its built-in audience, Disney is opening their new animated feature Mulan the same weekend, and early word on Mulan is incredible. The talk is that Mulan is best thing the studio has ever done. The artwork is better, the plot is better, and Eddie Murphy's voicework as a guardian dragon is said to be funnier than Robin Williams' Genie. Predictions? The X-Filers will turn out in droves, but Disney will win this war, like they have a hundred times before. X-Files, good, building to great. Mulan? Huge, with return visits likely.
StarcadeCan't forget about Jim Carrey and Harrison Ford. Jim's got a funky little thing coming called The Truman Show, about a man who slowly realizes that his life has been one big TV show, being broadcast 24-7-365 around the globe. Everything has been set up for Truman to please the viewing audience. Jim's taking another chance on a more serious role, but, with Peter Weir as a director, the bet's more sure. Indiana Solo stars in 6 Days, 7 Nights, an action/love story about two folks stranded on a desert island. Ford can pull this off with a snap, but his love interest is Mrs. Ellen, Anne Heche. Are folks going to be able to forget that she's a lesbian while Indy's trying to snuggle up to her? Maybe, maybe not. Predictions: Jury's still out on both, but my crystal ball sees Carrey doing a "Forrest Gump" thing, and Ford's bankability also bringing home the bacon.
As usual, the stars come out in the summer, and more familiar names will be rolling our way. Lethal Weapon 4 breaks Mel Gibson's promise not to reprise his Riggs role, and you can just imagine Joe Pesci and Danny Glover kissing his feet on a daily basis. I predict a good, solid opening, with a quick dropoff. There's Eddie Murphy in the Dr. Dolittle remake; George Clooney in Out of Sight, based on the Elmore Leonard novel; Wesley Snipes takin' names as the vampire hunter Blade; and Drew Barrymore as Cinderella in Ever After.
Left of CenterYou interested in a more twisted outlook on life? Freakapalooza Maestro John Waters is back, with another slice of the White Trash American Pie with Pecker (yes, the movie is called Pecker....). Lord only knows what this thing will turn out. The Farrely Brothers, the Idiot Kings who brought us Dumb and Dumber and Kingpin, are back with There's Something About Mary. It stars Ben Stiller as a dumb schmuck who blew the only date he had in high school when he got his, uh, you know, caught in his fly. Now, he's hired a private detective (Matt Dillon) to find this dreamgirl (Cameron Diaz), just to find out what happened to her. (Notice I refrained from using the phrase "private dick" in that last sentence. Too easy.) And, finally, after 26 years, 17 scripts, and more directors than a Mary Kay convention, we get to see Hunter S. Thompson's gonzo masterpiece Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas on the big screen. Director Terry Gilliam, master of altered perception, and Johnny Depp, master of altered personality, combine to bring this retro-hallucination to life. If you've never read the book, read it now. The '70s in all their glory of polyester and massive drugs, seen through the bleary eyes of a guy named Raoul Duke. Predictions? Pecker -- who knows? I'll be there, though. There's Something About Mary? Big with the "fart joke" crowd, but might not cut through the summer rush. Fear and Loathing? All depends on the publicity. It won't be big, but I can already see the cult following forming.
The Also-RansThere are a few also-rans that I would be remiss if I left out. Some other potential hits include Sandra Bullock's Hope Floats, which might tap into the My Best Friend's Wedding crowd to score some bucks, and the DreamWorks' merchandising motherlode, Small Soldiers. Soldiers has a band of CGI toy soldiers running amok in a suburban neighborhood, and though reports suggest that the project's been plagued by fast-track-itis, this might be just the thing to finally get SKG in the game. Redford's The Horse Whisperer will be a quiet draw for a while, as the grown-up set ventures out to the 'plex, but screen space will be hard to come by as we get deeper into the season, and it will probably slip away in the coming weeks. Why they didn't hold that one for the fall is a mystery to me. Gwyneth Paltrow, in her -- what -- 50th movie this year, stars with Michael Douglas in a remake of Hitchcock's Dial M For Murder called A Perfect Murder. Prediction? Lost in the shuffle, although director Andrew Davis (The Fugitive) has been known to work miracles.
Another headscratcher is 54, the story of the legendary disco Studio 54, starring Mike Myers as owner Steve Rubell. Prediction? The soundtrack will make more than the movie. The one I'd like to see catch a flame is Rounders, directed by John Dahl, whose The Last Seduction still makes my all-time cool movie list. This one has Matt Damon and Edward Norton as hard-time gamblers trying for one last score to pay off a big debt. Prediction? It should be good, but there is absolutely no press about it right now at all, and that's not a good sign. Methinks the studio has given up on it already. But, the studio's Miramax, and Miramax and Damon have pulled rabbits out of their hats before. Remember a little ditty called Good Will Hunting? Maybe it's just too early.
There you go, fellow Blockbuster Summertime Movie fans. I picked out a few that might just be the cream of the crop. Give these a try if you get lost in the Hype Factory, and remember, no matter how bad it gets, there are no Shumacherized sequels to destroy our hopes. So we ought to get a lot more winners than last year, thank goodness. Just sit back, and let the new Lizard King usher you through the season. And, hey, have fun in the sun.