Thank You, Summer Summer – A Look At The Blockbusters

Fikri Jermadi looks into his crystal ball and sees what Hollywood has for us this coming summer.

Every year, the summer season promises much. School would be out, the rain would be warm, and barbeques would go on for longer (of course, one could say that every night in Malaysia is a summer night, but no matter). To movie fans, it is also the time of big budget epics. A time of boy wizards and their wands, of mutants fighting each other, and of course…big effing robots. This year, a new slate of superheroes, icons, and not-so-big-robots vie for the affection of your heart and the money of your wallet.

Before we go any further, it should be noted that there’s a lot of movies out this year. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to limit it to releases from May to August (hence, no ‘Forbidden Kingdom’ in this list). Also, this is just limited to the ten films (hence, no ‘Wanted’) that won’t just make a big splash in financial terms, but will also turn out to be quite good (hence, no ‘Sex In The City). If you want more, a click on the title will lead to a Youtube video of the teaser/trailer of the movie. Finally, the movies are listed in the order of their American release dates (at the time of press), which may yet change.

Kicking off this list and the summer season, the superhero movie Iron Man (about a billionaire who wears a suit and fight bad guys. Can anyone say ‘Marvel’s Batman’?) could well be one of the biggest movie of the year. Yes, it is a long-awaited film (the idea was first conceived fifteen years ago, according to IMDB), but hype itself is never enough to rake in the box office. Instead, the draw lies in the quality of cast and crew members. Jon Favreau made a bigger impression as a director (‘Zathura’ was quite alright) once he stopped focusing on being an actor (though I liked him as Monica’s boyfriend on ‘Friends’). But it’s the quality of the cast that rocks: Gwyneth Paltrow, Terence Howard, Jeff Bridges, and even Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. Of course, none of these choices are as inspired as Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark; having a look at the trailers, it seems that he totally nailed the character down to a tee. And they used Audioslave for the trailer as well. Brilliant!

Following swiftly on the heels of Iron Man, Speed Racer is also an adaptation, but this time of a Japanese cartoon about a young man who wants to be…well, a racer. And a fast one, at that. Which you wouldn’t know from the title at all 🙂 Anyways, the movie stars Emile Hirsch (who girls will love), Christina Ricci (who boys will love), and Matthew Fox (who women will love. If they haven’t already). I have to admit, I don’t care much for the cast. I’m not a lost fan, neither am I a fan of ‘Lost’ (ha ha…sorry). Rather, this is another well hyped Wachowskis effort. Despite the fact that one of them got a sex change (though of course, there’s nothing wrong with that), some of the screenshots released have looked incredibly beautiful, in a cartoon-style of sorts. And no, I am not sure which one of them did.

What I am sure about is that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will almost definitely be the biggest movie of the year. The reason? Well…it’s Indiana Jones. What is it all about? In truth, does it matter what it’s all about? It’s Indiana Jones, baby! The major creative forces have returned, including Steven Spielberg and the granddaddy of them all (and I do mean granddaddy), Harrison Ford. Of course, their names alone is not really going to sell $400 million worth of tickets. They’ve waited a long time to do this, citing mainly the quality of the script. So now that they’ve done it, you can bet that it’s something worth doing.

While Indie gets revived after almost twenty years, I have to admit that I didn’t think The Incredible Hulk needed one, especially after a pretty decent movie that is only five years old. I had thoroughly enjoyed Ang Lee’s effort, with Eric Bana and Jennifer Connelly rather good in that one. Hell, even my grandmother cried during the climactic scene between the two of them. And she doesn’t cry that often at movies. It’s the emo hero movie that never got its chance, for some reason (‘Spiderman 2’ did well the next year based on a similar premise). But nevertheless, the new effort from Louis Leterrier looks really good. His previous movies (Unleashed, The Transporter series) were mindless fun, which might mean that we’re in for a bit of that as well. Cast-wise, I’ve never thought of Edward Norton as the superhero type. I have massive respect for him as an actor, but as a big, green, angry thing? We’ll never find out, at least not in this movie, since Hulk is predictably CGIed to the max. But the best thing about the cast? Why, Arwen, of course! 🙂

Taking the CGI element further is WALL-E. I admit to having to look up on IMDB for the synopsis (about a robot who, after spending lonely couple of hundred of years, meets another robot) . I mean, the title doesn’t exactly scream out what its all about. So why am I picking it here? Simple: it’s a Pixar movie. They may make animated cartoons, but their films are the films that would stand up the test of time, hitting every filmmaking notes possible every time. Simply put, I love all the Pixar movies thus far. That’s a strike rate that few people can be accorded with (maybe only Spielberg, off the top of my head, gets that honour). And if they can make a great movie about a rat being a chef, I’m willing to bet on this not-so-big robot movie.

Speaking of records, Will Smith also has a pretty decent strike rate (Bagger Vance and Wild Wild West excepted). He’ll be hoping for another big hit in Hancock, a movie about a superhero who has fallen on hard times, and must work to improve his image amongst the public. It’s got decent back up in Charlize Theron and Jason Bateman, and it’s directed by Peter Berg, whose work as an actor and a director is proof that you can do both quite well. Leaving the political stuff behind for a bit (he directed The Kingdom and acted in Lions for Lambs), the summer blockbuster season is not quite his area, so it’ll be interesting to see how far this comedy goes. But with Big Will on board, anything can happen.

Having said that, they don’t have Guillermo Del Toro, whose movies are definitely of the ‘anything can happen’ type. And I don’t expect Hellboy II to be any different. Once again, the major cast and crew members of the previous effort returned, which means that we’re probably in for more of the same. Which is a good thing; despite the fact that it didn’t quite make that much money at the box office, it is a fun film to watch. Furthermore, the director has been confirmed to lead the Lord of the Rings franchise further with the Hobbit movies. In a move that’s somehow becoming more and more popular, that one has been split into two movies, so as to allow for further ‘creative endeavours’ to take place. But that’s another movie for another list.

I bet you’re thinking the same for this one: Star Wars: The Clone Wars. “Wait a minute,” you might think, “another Star Wars movie?!” You’d be right, and you’d be wrong. Right, because it is indeed another theatrical effort from George Lucas. One suspects that its purpose is as much to promote the TV series of the same name (due to be on the Cartoon Network, out of all the channels, at about the same time). You’d also be wrong, because it’s not quite the conventional Star Wars film. It’s a totally computer animated film, a la Pixar (but then again, they’ve all been computer animated, I suppose). So no Hayden Christensen, but even worse, no Natalie Portman. It’s been quite a hush-hush project, so much so that it doesn’t even have an official trailer, yet.

A complete opposite, then, when contrasted with The Dark Knight. Fast shaping up to be the movie that everyone is curious about, a large part of that is unfortunately due to Heath Ledger’s death. Unfortunate, because he’s a fine actor, but within this context, even more so because it stands to be a good production to begin with. Remember what I said earlier about people who haven’t made bad movies? Add Christopher Nolan to that list. I don’t expect him to change that track record with The Dark Knight. The one weak element from the previous film, Katie Holmes, is now gone, replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal. With the addition of the iconic role of The Joker, played by as talented a performer as Heath Ledger, I’m expecting nothing but fireworks all the way.

Rounding up this list is Babylon AD (I bet you thought I was going with the third Mummy film). A film starring an American of African and Italian ancestry (Vin Diesel), along with a Malaysian woman (Michelle Yeoh), directed by a Frenchman (Mathieu Kassovitz), about a journey from Russia to China, but actually filmed in Sweden and the Czech Republic. Talk about globalisation 🙂 In a plotline similar to Children of Men, Vin Diesel’s character, Thoorop, has to escort Sister Rebecca, played by Michelle Yeoh, to China from the aforementioned Russia. Of course, Sister Rebecca just happened to host to an organism that a cult wants to harvest in order to produce a genetically modified Messiah. Piqued your interest yet? If not, then you’ll want to have a click on the teaser; it’s definitely unconventional, if nothing else. I have admit that it doesn’t quite scream ‘big money’, but I’m certainly interested in catching this one at the cinema.

So there you have it, ladies and gentleman. The first Buzz article, and quite possibly one that will have (hopefully) opened more than a few eyes (still willing to bet that you didn’t know about the Star Wars one, it was quite under the radar).

Like I said, these are the movies that I think are going to be good, and not just money making machines, so Mummy 3 (Brendan Fraser, Jet Li) is out (why? Because it’s directed by Rob Cohen, and I’ve yet to see that man make an enjoyable movie). But do you think otherwise? Don’t hesitate to drop us a line, then. Until then…anyone up for ‘Doomsday’?

Fikri suddenly has a craving for popcorn. Caramel. Mmmm….

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