Friday, April 22, 2011

PART I: The Sequel, Prequel, Remake, Superhero Summer of 2011




By Steve Crum

What can be said about summer movies? Summer good, summer not so. By September, we’ll know the successes and failures, but from an April, 2011 perspective, making predictions about the May-August movies is game-on. And what is gamier than an upcoming movie named Hobo with a Shotgun?

Of the 100+ movie openings beginning May 1, I have perused studio hype, production overviews, photos, interviews, and cast lists to help shape at least a semblance of credibility. The bottom line, however, is that it all whittles down to my own intestinal intuition (critic-speak for “gut feeling”). Factor in 60 years of viewing motion pictures, with a latter 35 years of critical scrutiny via review writing.

Superheroes have been scarce over the past couple of summers, but villains beware. This summer the DC and Marvel guys report for active duty in the guises of Thor, Captain America, Green Lantern, and X-Men. Even that sword wielding muscle guy, Conan the Barbarian, returns –minus Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Realize that producing a sequel or remake of a popular movie nearly always translates to box office bucks, and you will understand why studios seem to be out of original movie ideas. 

Why risk it? That is why the likes of Harry Potter, Transformers, Spy Kids, Cars, Kung Fu Panda, and even Winnie the Pooh will undoubtedly fill theaters this summer. Popular actors and directors are linked to a variety of titles over the next four months. Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts team in Larry Crowne; Woody Allen’s 42nd movie, Midnight in Paris, opens; Jim Carrey is surrounded in Mr. Popper’s Penguins; Jodie Foster directs Mel Gibson in The Beaver; and Harrison Ford straps on a holster to outshoot nasty ET’s in Cowboys & Aliens.

Filmgoers whose credo is to go the movies for pure escape, forgetting the cares and stresses of daily life, should love this summer. The aliens, talking cars, and giant hammer wielders are coming.

SEQUELS/PREQUELS, REMAKES/REBOOTS aka BOX OFFICE GOLD
•Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (May 20)—Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack returns to keep the franchise afloat.
•The Hangover Part II (May 26)—It’s not my cup of booze to laugh at guy friends getting drunk and behaving like jackasses, but apparently the movie going mass loves it. A second round, barkeep.
•Kung Fu Panda 2 (May 26)—Has it been three years since Jack Black voiced the Po bear? The Dragon Warrior returns.
•X-Men: First Class (June 3)—Dr. Xavier’s back story of his pre-wheelchair, pre-skinhead days is told. James McAvoy takes over Patrick Stewart’s persona.
•Cars 2 (June 24)—Disney/Pixar has added more colorful, talking cars five years after the original family hit.
•Transformers: Dark of the Moon (July 1)—Producers of this third take promise a better story than the last, the second, movie. Then again, the second movie made more than the first, so who’s counting quality?
•Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—Part 2 (July 15)—Finally? Finally! Fans are promised non-stop action and a figuratively emotional broomstick ride. THE event of summer’s flicks.
•Winnie the Pooh (July 15)—Was it necessary for Disney to remake its own classic? Does computerizing it make it any better?
•Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Aug. 5)—Finally, after a bunch of sequels, a prequel. James Franco stars in the story of how a chimp first went ape over the gorilla his dreams. OK, went bananas. But seriously, this one sounds interesting since it follows the rise of simian dominance over humans. No Heston, but maybe a Statue of Liberty.
•Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (Aug. 12)—ANY film by director Guillermo del Toro, even a redo like this one, is worthy of note.
•Conan the Barbarian (Aug. 19)—If this gives new star Jason Momoa the same career leverage it did Arnold, it could be Gov. Momoa down the line.
•Fright Night (Aug. 19)—Roddy McDowall is gone, but Colin Ferrell could carry this 3-D take on the original’s creepy vampire tale.
•Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World (Aug. 19)—Is it worth dragging grade schoolers to see this installment?
•Final Destination 5 (Aug. 26)—What a misnomer title, unless this is truly the finality. Let it be.
[Continued in Part II...]
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Here's the new, but improved (?) Conan the Barbarian: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1iJZIMddpM

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