Summer! Movies! By Brian Miller (c) 2006 20th Century Fox Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Storm (Halle Berry) are back for another epic battle to preserve the X-Men franchise for yet another summer. Pirates! Superman! Snakes! Summer movies always come with their own built-in exclamation marks. For a critic who spends too much time (and at too much length) deciphering the arty, the pretentious, and the foreign, there's something to be said for pictures that can be summed up in a single phrase, word or image. Johnny Depp's Keith Richards accent. A guy in a cape lifting a car, a building, a mountain. Or just Samuel L. Jackson on a plane battling all those ... you get the idea.
The summer tent-pole season officially begins with Wolverine! (See X-Men: The Last Stand) After that, and the Memorial Day lull, let's walk through the next three months' movies, led as always by those that shout their name the loudest. For instance, June 6 greets Satan! That's right, it's a rare Tuesday opening (June 6, 2006, get it?) for a remake of The Omen, which will probably bring devil worshippers out in protest, just like with The Da Vinci Code, claiming that Mephistopheles is being maligned by Hollywood. (That's assuming, of course, that the Dark Prince doesn't work there already.)
Suddenly hot is Al Gore! He's all riled up about global warming in An Inconvenient Truth, which leads a pack of June 2 releases including Peaceful Warrior (Nick Nolte in New Age woo-woo), The Break-Up (just a little thing with Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston), and the documentary Sketches of Frank Gehry.
For a generation of children raised on Pixar, June 9 means one thing, and that thing is Cars! I've seen it, and it's a little longer and more plotted than Toy Story or Monsters, Inc. It'll be a hit, but it's the first Pixar effort that's had me checking my watch. Adults may opt for Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion instead, while younger adults with no kids will prefer the concert doc Coachella, which features much different music.
June 16 features a triumphant tale of Hoops! That means the girls basketball documentary The Heart of the Game. Also, Jack Black! stars in Nacho Libre (he's a Mexican priest/wrestler?) and Bill Murray lends his voice to yet another dismal animated Garfield movie.
There's nothing like Torture! to get one's attention, even if the British detainees in Michael Winterbottom's docudrama The Road to Guantánamo (July 7) appear to be innocents who have nothing to confess to their U.S. captors. Too bad they couldn't appeal to Superman! Some new hunk dons Christopher Reeves' old tights in Superman Returns (June 30), which sounds a great deal less enjoyable and campy than The Devil Wears Prada, starring Meryl Streep as said Devil! (Again with the horned one, everywhere at the box office this summer.) If you really want to terrify the truth out of some British Muslims, put them to work in the fashion industry. And, speaking of torture, there's Click (June 23) starring Adam Sandler! Seems he's some regular guy who finds a magical remote control that can redirect his life. Of course, if we found a magical remote control that could change Adam Sandler's life ...
Then we have Depp! As we all know, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (July 7) is the first of two extremely costly sequels shot back-to-back with co-stars Orlando Bloom (yawn) and Keira Knightley. We can both praise and damn the first movie by saying it's the best adaptation of a theme-park ride ever made. Keith Richards --"You bloody stole my accent!"-- is rumored to cameo in Chest. Much more potentially interesting is Richard Linklater's adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story, A Scanner Darkly; it's mostly animated and stars Keanu!, freed from The Matrix at last.
That other wedding crasher from last summer, i.e., Owen! Wilson, stars in You, Me and Dupree (July 14). He plays a kind of marriage crasher, imposing himself on newlyweds Kate Hudson and Matt Dillon. We're guessing that a love triangle develops, and Wilson plus Hudson equals the kind of cute couple that pulls in explosion-averse female filmgoers. We'd also be remiss not to mention Police Beat, an independent film much praised at Sundance '05 by The New York Times and The Village Voice. We weren't so impressed, but the film has its moments.
Fresh out of Rehab! (or was that fresh into rehab?), Colin Farrell joins Jamie Foxx in Michael Mann's new take on his own Miami Vice (July 28). It sounds like an awful idea, but I suspect the execution will be more like the cool, mercenary Collateral than pastel-era South Beach set to Jan Hammer's electronica. Little Miss Sunshine was the comedy hit at Sundance this year, and it features Steve Carell -- who is, as we all know from downloading The Office to our cell phones, Funny!
Simply put, there is no way that Talladega Nights (Aug. 4) is not going to make boatloads of money thanks to NASCAR! racin' star Will Ferrell. There was a depressing moment in Cars (above) when I realized how huge stock car racing is in the red states, and how out of touch I am from those four-wheeled ad vehicles endlessly circling the asphalt. I'd rather watch a laundry machine spinning, but add co-star Sacha Baron Cohen (Ali G!), and Talladega may prove bearable.
About Oliver Stone's World Trade Center (Aug. 9), starring Nicolas Cage: No, neither you nor I really want to see another movie about 9/11! But United 93 is awfully good, and Stone's overdue for some kind of comeback. Without Colin Farrell. Without elephants. Meanwhile, Michel Gondry has enjoyed a string of hits, and all the young Hipsters! will line up to see The Science of Sleep (starring Gael García Bernal), which opens Aug. 11.
Then we have, yes, Snakes! Samuel L. Jackson finds himself in Snakes on a Plane (Aug. 18), which I personally hope gives rise to a whole new easy-to-review genre. Like Jaws in Space!, Wolf on a Cruise Ship!, Spiders in the Woodshed!, Piranhas in the Tub!, Hyenas on a Bus! or Wild Boar in My Cabana!