I am waiting to get a chance to get over to see Captain America: The First Avenger in the next week, and Cowboys & Aliens shortly after. This has been far from a great movie summer, but hopefully the year will end with a bang:
August 5: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
I initially predicted doom for this film (the Tim Burton film this is a sequel to wasn’t good, and the other Apes sequels from the 70s that this is loosely based on weren’t very good), yet the trailers have looked atmospheric and interesting. Then James Franco went out and basically said that the film was bad, and don’t see it. I am not holding out a lot of hope for this.
August 19: Fright Night
A cult favorite of the 80’s gets a remake: teenage boy discovers that his next door neighbor is a vampire … and when the vampire realizes that he has been discovered, the boy’s family and girlfriend are in trouble, and the only person who can help him is a washed up B-movie actor who used to play a vampire killer in the movies. Anton Yelchin (Checkov in Star Trek) plays the boy, Colin Farrell plays the vampire, and David Tennant (Dr. Who) plays the vampire slayer. I loved the original with a pre-Married With Children Amanda Bearse as the girlfriend and Chris Sarandon as the vampire … I’m not sure if a remake of a cult classic will hit home … another wait and see film.
September 2: Apollo 18
No, this isn’t a sequel to Apollo 13, and yes there was no Apollo 18 … or so we were all meant to believe. This is a Blair Witch Projectesque mockumentary … told as a collection of video from the covered up mission depicting what American astronauts really found on the moon. The tag line says “There’s a reason we’ve never gone back to the moon” … and as you can tell from the poster it wasn’t economic or a change in Soviet-American relations … it was pretty much aliens.
September 9: Contagion
Remember Outbreak? An all-star cast gets together to prevent an outbreak of a horrible disease that will destroy the world? Its kind of the same thing. Instead of Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey, Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman, Cuba Gooding, Jr, and Donald Sutherland, we get Matt Damon, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Lawrence Fishburne, Bryan Cranston, and Gwyneth Paltrow. Instead of Wolfgang Peterson directing, we get Steven Soderbergh. Outbreak wasn’t bad … far from it … and maybe there is hope for this one.
Sepember 23: Moneyball
In 2003, Michael Lewis wrote a book called Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game that focused on the General Manager of the Oakland A’s, Billy Beane, and how he was able to use complex statistical formulas to determine which players he should trade and trade for, often hoodwinking other teams’ general managers who relied on unscientific measures like “gut instinct”, “historic statistics”, and “experience”. Realize … Beane built a few good teams in Oakland … but its not like he built a single American League champion … let alone a World Series champ.
Now we have the film version of the book. I can’t fathom this book was made into a film … it is essentially a non-fiction story about statistical analysis … it would be like taking a doctoral thesis on materials science and turning that into a feature length film.
Oh yeah … Billy Beane gets the last laugh, because Brad Pitt is playing Billy! Playing Art Howe, manager of the A’s: Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman. The greatest acting stretch will be Royce Clayton playing MVP shortstop Miguel Tejada (I’m guessing a lot of CGI was involved in this, because Royce Clayton could barely hit .200). There is actually Oscar buzz about this. I don’t pretend to get it, but …
October 14: The Thing
Note to friends: there is a good chance that any attempt to get in touch with me this week will be futile … I will be in the theater. There had been talk for the better part of the last 25 years that a remake or sequel of John Carpenter’s gothic masterpiece was in the works … as recently as two years ago, it looked like it might be a SyFy Channel film (thank goodness it wasn’t!)
Instead, we are treated to the prequel: set in a Norwegian research station in the Antarctic, the team discovers the remains of an alien spacecraft and an occupant that possesses the ability to mimic its vicitms … this time, Rob Bottin’s groundbreaking practical effects are sure to be replaced by some CGI.
November 18: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
One of John LeCarre’s great classics of Cold War fiction gets a film version, with Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, and John Hurt.
November 23: The Muppets
I haven’t heard much about this film, other than the basic plot that Kermit and Co. are out to save the theater from an oil company. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the Muppets … stars of a show entrancing to kids and ususally far more sophisticated than most adults gave it credit for … enough to be the most watched television show on the planet by its last season. This is an institution that must be passed from one generation to the next like baseball, jazz, or the recipe for perfect stuffed pizza. It has the usual crew of top stars coming out for guest appearances (including the fabled Mickey Rooney), but I’ve got to see Danny Trejo with the puppets!
December 16: Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is back … this time the entirety of the IMF is shut down when they are fingered as the group responsible for bombing the Kremlin … and Hunt is out to prove the U.S.A. is innocent. Ving Rhames is back as master computer hacker Luther Stickel.
December 16: The Iron Lady
Meryl Streep has played just about everything … except for a world leader … and she gets to cross that one off the list by playing the highly controversial Conservative Prime Minister of the UK.
December 23: The Adventures of Tintin
Once upon a time, a young writer/director named George Lucas and a young director named Steven Spielberg got together and gave birth to Indiana Jones … arguably one of the greatest movie serials in history. This time, it is Spielberg and Peter Jackson, which is an arguably greater pairing, and Peter Jackson is bringing along Andy Serkis to do motion capture work in this story of a boy and his dog searching for lost treasure.
December 23: The Darkest Hour
Five Americans find themselves trapped in Moscow during an alien invasion. There’s not much more out on this.
AND … Looking ahead to 2012:
March 30, 2012: Clash of the Titans 2
Perseus has to rescue Zeus from Ares and Hades. There is no reason to see waht is likely to be a bad follow up to a bad remake …except that Rosamund Pike is scheduled to play an Amazon. Let us not judge the film entirely.
May 18: Battleship
Somewhere in a Hollywood production studio, I imagine this took place:
Suit #1: Wow, that whole Pirates of the Caribbean was a freakin’ gold mine for Disney. What can we do.
Suit #2: Well, there aren’t too many amusement park rides that we can base a film on, especially because we don’t own any amusement parks, but there are plenty of games.
Suit #1: That’s great! How about “Monopoly, the Movie”?!
Suit #2: Are you crazy! In this economy, no one needs to be thinking about businesses bankrupting each other. Besides, stuffed Uncle Moneybags toys will never sell.
Suit #1: You’re right: we need something patriotic … something on the water like that pirates thing so we can have chicks in bikinis …. and something with aliens … aliens always sell.
Suit #2: I’ve got it! Let’s buy the film rights to the classic Battleship game, put Liam Neeson in charge of the fleet, and put it under attack by aliens.
Idiot #1: Brilliant!! Give yourself a raise!
May 25: Men In Black III
Jay has to go back to 1969 to meet with a younger version of Kay; probably to save the Earth from some alien(s).
June 8: Prometheus
Long after he became the acclaimed director, Ridley Scott mentioned that one day he would like to go back and revisit the film that made him famous: Alien. Fan boys like me have anxiously waited …
… The bad news: this is not quite a sequel to Alien. What Scott has revelaed is that this film is set in the same universe as Alien, but he has said little else. Charlize Theron is in the cast, as is Guy Pearce (The Time Machine).
…waiting a little longer won’ be so bad!
June 22: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
The film version of Seth Grahame-Smith’s best seller sees the future 16th president on the war path to avenge his mother and grandfather, the victims of undead blood suckers. If this film is successful, the others may be following: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Android Kerenina, and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.
July 3: The Amazing Spider-Man
Out: Director Sam Raimi, Toby Maguire, and Kirsten Dunst (as well as the entire character of Mary Jane Watson)
In: Director Marc Webb, Andrew Garfield as the Wall Crawler, and Gwen Stacey as the love interest. FINALLY they get around to bringing the Lizard in as the criminal! The word is that this is a much darker approach to Spider-Man than the Sam Raimi films.
August 3: Total Recall
Colin Farrell picks up the mantle of Arnold Schwarzenegger in this remake of the classic based on Phillip K. Dick’s We’ll Remember It For You Wholesale. An intriguing bit of casting puts Bryan Cranston in the role of the villianous Vilos Cohaagen.
December 21: The Lone Ranger
Once before did they attempt to make a Lone Ranger film in the wake of Clayton Moore the man most famed for wearing the simple mask who became a symbol of justice in the Old West. The film flopped. Perhaps enough time has passed to reintroduce one of the great figure of American pulp literature and radio plays! Armie Hammer is slated to strap on the revolver with silver bullets, and Johnny Depp is rumored to be the front runner to play the ever faithful Tonto. Cue the William Tell Overture!