Big Splashes. Little Ripples: A summer ’09 movie primer

summerflims09At the rate the box office is performing, critics are going to have to start their summer movie preview pieces in January. After a steady drop for the past five years, filmgoers are flocking in droves once again in large numbers.

Analysts are trying their best to spin just what is happening, positing theories that include the recession, the types of films on the schedule, I think I read somewhere Nostradamus had prophesied this is an ancient text.

Whatever the reason, you can be sure studios are sprinting to capitalize on it (even though they should not ruminate too long on the staggering second-week dips so many of these films are taking). Each weekend is populated with at least one potential blockbuster to separate you from your cash. Below is a preview of just what is jockeying for your increasingly invaluable dollar. Included in the list will be the expected big earners (Big Splash) of that weekend’s box office pond as well as those other choices (Little Ripple) providing an alternative to the pyrotechnics.

May 8

Big Splash: Star Trek: J.J. Abrams has cemented a solid rep on the small screen, but his big-screen track record as director and producer has been a bit more spotty (all those “Pallbearer” fans get your hands in the air…OK, your hand). In this, his second directorial outing, he’s sexed up the “Trek,” with a younger cast filling the familiar shoes of the James T. Kirk-captained Enterprise.

Little Ripple: Next Day Air: Donald Faison ditches his “Scrubs” scrubs for a delivery man getup and teams with Mos Def to deliver a box of cocaine bricks to the wrong address and try to clean up the comedic mess that ensues

May 15

Big Splash: Angels & Demons: Ron Howard has passed on sequels to all his previous films (“Cocoon,” “Splash,” “Parenthood”), and chooses “The DaVinci Code” to break the seal? Tom Hanks returns as Robert Langdon in this sequel that’s actually a prequel that digs up more church-related conspiracies, which this time puts the Vatican in jeopardy.

Little Ripple: The Brothers Bloom: This often-bumped feature (it’s been on the release schedule since fall of 2008) has a promising opening seven minutes (which is available online), with a Coen Brothers feel to it, with Mark Ruffalo and Adrian Brody as sibling con men who attempt to woo an unconventional heiress (played by Rachel Weisz).

May 22

Big Splash:Terminator: Salvation: The sequel we never knew we needed from a director no one really wanted. At least, that is what “T:S” appeared to be before it made some converts at last year’s Comic-Con and it released a pretty kick-ass trailer. Christian Bale stars as a grown-up John Conner, who’s tasked with saving the human race from a cyborg pandemic. He also must save the film from a director whose goes by a narcissistically named director (McG) yet to establish himself outside his “Charlie’s Angels” films.

Little Ripple: Dance Flick: The seemingly bottomless Wayans’ gene pool gets even more branches of the family tree involved in the parody sub-genre, which has been viciously mauled in the past years by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. And hey, if Amy Sedaris is signed on, I’m in.

May 29

Big Splash: Up: Pixar has maintained an impeccable batting average, despite some rather unorthodox stories (a Parisian rat chef? A non-speaking robot protagonist on a pollution-choked Earth?). Here’s another that does not involve the typical anthropomorphic animals or song and dance. A grumpy septuagenarian leaves the hometown by tethering balloons to his house. He soon realizes he has company in the form of a portly little scout stuck on his now-airborne porch.

Little Ripple: Drag Me To Hell: Sam Raimi rediscovers his dark and nasty horror roots, telling the tale of an ambitious young banker who denies a desperate old woman a loan, a move that results in a pox that is placed upon her pretty blonde head.

June 5

Big Splash: Land of the Lost: Oh, those acid-drenched Sid & Marty Kroft shows of the 70s (seriously, someone tell me that Lidsville was not conceived after a fistful of LSD). One of the most beloved gets the Will Ferrell treatment, who stars as Dr. Rick Marshall, an eccentric explorer who enlists a comely assistant (played by Anna Friel) and a hick survivalist (played by the always welcome Danny McBride) to head back in time and chill with the dinosaurs.

Little Ripple: The Hangover: Meanwhile, Ferrell’s Old School director enlists a new group of guys who wake up after one hell of a Vegas bachelor party and try to piece together by sifting through such remnants as a tiger, an abandoned baby, a missing tooth, polygamy and Mike Tyson.

June 12

Big Splash: Taking of Pelham 1-2-3: Director Tony Scott dusts off a 70s-era potboiler with the help of his muse Denzel Washington as a mild-mannered dispatcher and John Travolta as a domestic terrorist threatening to execute subway passengers if his demands are not met.

Little Ripple: Moon: Sam Rockwell returns to space, but unlike his role in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” don’t look for a zany over-the-top performance from the talented actor. Moon is the sort of meditative sci-fi in the Kubrick vein, with Rockwell as a lunar astronaut who comes face-to-face with, well, himself…quite literally. Is the isolation of his solo flight sinking in, or is it a clone?

June 19

Big Splash: Year One: Harold Ramis steps behind the camera to present his own history of the world, part one, starring Jack Black and Michael Cera as two accident-prone cavemen traversing through a budding civilization, encountering various colorful characters along the way who typically populate films within the Judd Apatow universe (he serves as producer here). The trailers aim for hilarity, but something just feels a bit off in the proceedings.

Little Ripple: The Proposal: If it’s Sandra Bullock, it must be another variation on the generic chick-flick trappings, involving mixed-up marriages and preposterous only-in-the-movies scenarios. Here, Ryan Reynolds plays her assistant who she coerces into marriage to avoid deportation back to Canada.

June 24

Big Splash: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: I have not heard much about this one. Actually, this one is supposed to reveal the origins of the morphing robots, who apparently come from the planet Hasbro, where they once lived peacefully with She-Ra and My Little Pony.

July 1

Big Splash: Public Enemies: Michael Mann gets his shootout on, in this telling of the John Dillinger legend. Johnny Depp stars as part of the most wanted criminals of the time (which also included Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Face Nelson) with Christian Bale as the FBI agent hot on their tails.

Little Ripple: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs: Never much a beloved franchise as much as it is just an alternative for families at the box office, The “Ice Age” saga continues with Sid, Manny, and Diego, but this time getting some help from power supporting player Scrat, the Wile E. Coyote of the Cretaceous era critters.

July 10

Big Splash: Bruno: Sacha Baron Cohen is at it again with “Borat” director Larry Charles as they unleash Ali G correspondent Bruno on an unsuspecting Middle America. An extremely femme Austrian fashonista, Bruno gallops across country to some of its Red-hued areas to perform his rather dangerous (but always welcome) brand of comedy.

Little Ripple: I Love You, Beth Cooper: This in one of the more curious releases this summer, as it’s a film based on a book based on 80s films. “Simpsons’” scribe Larry Doyle used the 80s films of his youth to serve as a weather vane for his amusing book, and one of the era’s heavyweight genre directors, Chris Columbus, is at the helm. B ut the book served as a loving ode to the movies, and a movie based on that will have to dance lightly as not to trip over into self-parody or hopelessly dated material.

July 17

Big Splash: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: The fresh “Prince” finally works his way on the big screen, after vacating the fall 2008 release slate. Harry and the clan are all grown up and tackling some decidedly adult fare this go-round.

Little Ripple: (500) Days of Summer: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the Parker Posey of the Millenial generation Zooey Deschanel star in a romantic comedy about a woman who refuses to accept the notion of true love and wouldn’t ya just know it, in he walks. The trailer promises it is a “story about love, not a love story. We’ll be the judge of that, thank you very much.

July 24

Big Splash: G-Force: Now that Guinea pigs get their own animated feature, it’s official that the only members of the family rodentia left to headline their own feature film are Naked Mole Rats and Tuco-tucos. Disney poster boy Nicolas Cage lends his vocal talents, along with Tracy Morgan, Sam Rockwell and Will Arnett as a team of special agent hairballs tasked with stopping a madman from world domination.

Little Ripple: The Ugly Truth: Katheryn Heigl and Gerard Butler reheat the Cyrano De Bergerac formula in what looks like a film what may do “27 Dresses” or “P.S. I Love You” -like business at the box office, but looks as though it will do little for spreading their dramatic wings.

July 31

Big Splash: Funny People: Director Judd Apatow wanders into James L. Brooks territory with a tale of a stand-up comedian (played by Adam Sandler) given an expiration date by his doctor, who befriends an aspiring funnyman (played by Seth Rogan) who may help him get the most out of his remaining time on this mortal coil.

Little Ripple: Death in Love: Jaqueline Bisset stars as a Jewish woman who becomes romantically linked with a Nazi in order to survive. Later in life, her emotional scars are passed on to her two sons (played by Josh Lucas and Lukas Haas) who struggle to overcome their social awkwardness.

August 7

Big Splash: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: There is no one “Joe” in this big-budget adaptation originally based on a doll, instead, it’s a futuristic SWAT team out to stop a weapons-dealing Scottish terrorist organization (“Out! Out! Damn Scot!”). Channing Tatum stars as the leader, hoping to continue to refine his “Fighting” skills.

Little Ripple: Shorts: Robert Rodriguez continues to dabble in film for the swingset set, featuring a group of kids and their Pet Rock. Oh, no, wait. This is a “magic” rock. Of course, adults have to get involved and screw everything up as they so often do in kids films, which send our heroes on a quest to right all their wrongs.

August 14

Big Splash: Bandslam: Just as her “High School Musical” counterpart had done earlier this year, Vanessa Hudgens attampts to break free of the shackles on her Disney-fied past by starring in a …wait for it, musical set in a high school. Here, she’s a singer in a Battle of the Bands group of misfits.

Little Ripple: The Time Traveler’s Wife: Perhaps she should get together with The Astronaut’s Wife and go bowling? Eric Bana plays a married man who has that pesky time-traveling gene (oh, that old plot device again?), that causes a hiccup in his marriage to Rachel McAdams.

August 21

Big Splash: Inglorious Basterds: Quentin Tarantino is back behind the lens for the first time since “Kill Bill,” taking on WWII in this loose remake of a 70s cult hit about a group of Jewish soldiers sent to scalp Nazis. Brad Pitt leads the pack, which includes filmmaker Eli Roth and “The Office’s” B.J. Novack.

Little Ripple: World’s Greatest Dad: Robin Williams stars in this decidedly dark film directed by his pal Bob(cat) Goldthwaite as a father who struggles to find nice things to say about his petulant teenage son. Please, do not enter thinking this will be a sequel to his Billy Crystal co-starring role, “Father’s Day.”

August 28

Big Splash: Halloween 2: Rob Zombie exhausts his credibility, after vowing to honor the “Halloween” legacy by not creating a cash-grab franchise of his own. Seems like the part-time musician likes the sound of cash registers over industrial electro-rock.

Little Ripple: The Boat that Rocked: Set in the 60s, Boat sets sail with Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Kenneth Branaugh as DJs on the open sea playing songs for the underserved masses in Britain.

~ by usesoapfilm on May 7, 2009.

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