Summer Film Preview

The movie industry is one of the few industries doing well, even in this crummy economy. CNN reports that “box offices saw their best January in history this year, with more than one-billion dollars in gross sales.” And why not? Movies are air-conditioned, (relatively) cheap, and help you forget about your dwindling bank balance for a couple hours. If you’re looking for an escape, consult our guide to this summer’s blockbusters.


Best Bets:

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Photo by Michael Muller

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (5/1)
Hugh Jackman may have looked dapper soft-shoeing in a tux when he hosted this year’s Oscars, but he doesn’t look so charming when the adamantium claws come out. Jackman returns to his popular X-Men character in a film that goes back to learn how Wolverine got so scruffy and angry.
Star Trek (5/8)
You might be able to enjoy this film even if you’ve never put up your hand in a Vulcan salute. Another back-to-the-beginning tale, the movie, directed by Lost creator J.J. Abrams, looks back at Kirk and Spock’s days at the Starfleet Academy, so you don’t need prior knowledge of all the Star Trek characters (but you might if you want to attend the opening night in costume; don’t wear a red shirt).

Photo courtesy of Industrial Light & Magic, 2008 Paramount Pictures


Up (5/29)
By now you’re probably sick of robots, aliens, mutants, and other forms of geekery. How about a movie featuring nice, gentle, old people? In Pixar’s newest animated outing, 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen ties balloons to his house and takes off to see the world—but encounters an unexpected, and also elderly, villain. To experience the film the way a true high-flying senior citizen would, check it out in 3D.

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Also opening: Christian Bale goes from defending the citizens of Gotham City to defending the rest of humanity from murderous robots in Terminator Salvation (5/21), which co-stars Bryce Dallas Howard. Not to be outdone by his robot-fighting daughter, our neighbor Ron Howard raises hell with his Da Vinci Code companion, Angels & Demons (5/15). If that sounds too Hollywood for you, Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience (5/22) was made with a cast of nonprofessional actors, including real-life film critics and, um, one porn star.


Best Bets:
Land of the Lost (6/5)
Straight out of the space-time vortex, Sid & Marty Krofft’s Land of the Lost jumps from 1970s television to today’s big screen. While Will Ferrell seems like inspired casting for Ranger Rick Marshall, we’re more excited to catch a glimpse of some Sleestaks.

The Taking of Pelham 123 (6/12)
Tony Scott’s remake of the 1974 subway-hijacking thriller stars Denzel Washington as a train dispatcher on a mission to save his subway’s hostages. Washington is a native of Mount Vernon—a stone’s throw from Pelham—so we assume he’ll use his knowledge of local geography to gain the upper hand.

Whatever Works (6/19)
The opening selection of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, Woody Allen’s newest film is about a May-December romance between stars Evan Rachel Wood and Larry David. Is it just us, or is casting David the closest thing to Allen just casting himself?

Also opening: This appears to be the summer of origin stories, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (6/24) is no exception. Revolutionary Road director Sam Mendes and writer Dave Eggers team up for Away We Go (6/5), about a couple looking for a place to raise their first child (and, from Mendes’s other movies, we’re guessing they stay away from the suburbs). Even further from the suburbs, actor Sam Rockwell heads to outer space for Moon (6/12), and finds the isolation offers a less-than-pleasant work environment. Meanwhile, Francis Ford Coppola directs Tetro (6/11), his first original screenplay since The Conversation. Finally, while Iraq War movies haven’t be huge successes so far, the action-packed The Hurt Locker (6/26), about a U.S. bomb squad, may break out after garnering praise at the Toronto International Film Festival.

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Best Bets:
Public Enemies (7/1)
Next on Johnny Depp’s to-do list of eccentric characters is the infamous Depression-era outlaw John Dillinger. Heat’s Michael Mann directs the cops-and-robbers tale, and Christian Bale makes his second summer appearance as the FBI agent trying to bring Dillinger to justice. (We all know how that turns out.)

Photo by Chuck Zlotnick


(500) Days of Summer (7/17)
Another Sundance favorite, this film follows the tumultuous 500-day romance of an impossibly adorable couple played by Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. You know this type of movie: indie-rock soundtrack, story told out of chronological order, hip cast—this is definitely the movie that the cool kids will go out to see.



 Funny People (7/31)
This movie was written and directed by one very Funny Person: Judd Apatow, the man behind Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and a slew of other comedies. However, though the characters in the film are comedians (played by other Funny People including Adam Sandler, Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman), they’re doing things like messing up relationships and coming to terms with their mortality, which doesn’t sound very funny at all. Except sometimes.

Photo by Tracy Bennett, courtesy of Universal Studios

Also opening: If Adventureland and Superbad didn’t make you cringe remembering your own dorky adolescence, I Love You, Beth Cooper (7/10), written by The Simpsons scribe Larry Doyle, will. Add magic and a good-vs.-evil mission to those awkward teenage years and you’ve got Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (7/17), the sixth movie in the series. Or, for embarrassing moments that don’t just involve teenagers, Sacha Baron Cohen’s Bruno (7/10) will follow Borat’s lead by having unwitting bystanders make total fools of themselves.

Opening in August: If it was a toy in the ’80s, eventually it’ll be a movie, which explains G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra (8/7). For a summer movie without guns or explosions (for once), watch Julia Powell (Amy Adams) sautée her way through the cookbook of Julia Child (Meryl Streep) in Nora Ephron’s Julie & Julia (8/7). Continue riding the peace train with Taking Woodstock (8/14), a film about a motel near the famous music festival directed by neighbor Ang Lee. But then it’s back to guns and explosions again: Brad Pitt takes on a World War II flick written and directed by Quentin Tarantino in the appallingly spelled Inglourious Basterds (8/21).

Note: Studios are notoriously twitchy about film release dates, and some of these may have adjusted after press time. Happy viewing!

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