Danger: Unexploded Bombs

April 18, 2006
A thought by James Berardinelli

As a critic, perhaps I shouldn't be so cynical about movies I haven't yet seen. So let me state up front that my comments below have nothing to do with a movie's quality or lack thereof. I haven't seen these pictures. For all I know, this could be the best summer on record, with a roster of four-star films. But that doesn't change the fact that, from a mid-April perspective, May through August looks to be uninspired, bordering on depressing.

The problem is a lack of enthusiasm and anticipation. Summer used to be the season of the heralded blockbuster, when movies arrived with so much fanfare that one couldn't help but be excited by them. A case in point: Independence Day. I thought it was a let-down, but I was as caught up in the hype as everyone else. I bought a ticket to see it at midnight on the day it opened, and was excited about being there. But experiences like that are becoming increasingly rare. Last year offered only two occasions when I counted down the days to seeing a movie: Revenge of the Sith and King Kong.

Many of this summer's blockbusters will make money. It would be hard not to considering the hoardes of education-liberated teenagers that will storm the multiplexes. But it's unlikely that any individual records are going to be broken. At a guess, the biggest earners are likely to be The Da Vinci Code (because everyone - including adults - who read the book will want to see the movie) and Pirates of the Carribbean 2. I'm not all that interested in either. The best I'm hoping for is that they're fun, but if circumstances were to cause me to miss either (or both), I wouldn't be heartbroken. (Considering how well animated family films have been doing, maybe I should throw Cars into the mix.)

The summer season starts off with Mission: Impossible: III. I might be more enthused about this if Tom Cruise hadn't turned into a walking, talking self-parody. The guy has such a major image problem that it will be difficult to watch him on screen and not think of him as Tom Cruise, Scientologist Lunatic. It remains to be seen whether his media blitz antics will impact the film's box office, but I'm not the only one Mr. Cruise has irritated. MI: III opens May 5.

Poseidon is up next (May 12). I like Wolfgang Petersen, but this big-budget remake of the ultra-cheesy The Poseidon Adventure looks like a low-rent Titanic. I wish I hadn't seen the preview. I was moderately interested in the film until I saw that. Note to the people making the trailers at Warner Brothers: the purpose of these two-minute compilations of scenes is not to turn off potential viewers.

May 19 brings The Da Vinci Code. I have pontificated enough about this already. On May 26, Brett Ratner takes over the X-Men franchise. Even though the director has been vilified by fans, the movie will probably turn out to be okay. But I'm getting tired of superhero movies. The more we get of them, the more similar they seem.

June starts out with The Break-Up. Aniston and Vaughn. Pardon me while I yawn. The Disney/Pixar 2006 release, Cars opens on June 9. The film's pedigree ensures that this one will open big, but the trailers are dissappointing. It doesn't seem to have the same magic as many of the other Pixar pictures. Maybe (hopefully), it's one of those films that it's tough to get a good preview out of.

The less said about the third The Fast and the Furious film, the better. I won't be seeing it. I will see Nacho Libre, which sounds like a new Taco Bell menu option and opens the same weekend. This one has generated a lot of fanboy buzz, but I'm skeptical. Adam Sandler's June 23 offering, Click, looks cute, but that's about it. Sandler's movies are always high-concept. Sometimes, they work; sometimes, they don't. It remains to be seen in which category Click will fall.

Then, on June 30, finally a movie I want to see. Yes, Superman Returns is another superhero movie, but it looks like it could be different enough to justify its existence. Plus, director Bryan Singer is going back to the first two '70s Superman movies for his backstory. (It won't surprise me if the film is dedicated to Christopher Reeve.)

The post-July 4 weekend brings the Pirates sequel. That's followed by a relatively slow July 14, when the biggest release is the American remake of Pulse. Pardon me if I'm not all aquiver, but there has yet to be a remake of a Japanese horror film worth the price of admission. July 21 brings us The Lady in the Water, a.k.a. M. Night Shyamalan's Splash. Undoubtedly, Bryce Howard showed more in Manderlay than she will here.

Every summer brings at least one movie I dread seeing, and 2006 offers two. The first is the aforementioned The Fast and the Furious 3, which I flat-out refuse to see. The second is Miami Vice, which belongs in the category of whythehelldidtheymakethis? It's tough to lump Michael Mann and The Dukes of Hazzard in the same category, but I'm looking forward to this '80s regurgitation as much as I was to last year's Luke and Duke rebuke.

August 4 brings us Ant Bully, which will probably do well since it's one of only a few nicely spaced kid-friendly movies of the summer. On August 11, Oliver Stone provides his vision of 9/11. I'm trying to keep as open a mind as possible but, with this subject, there's a fine line between serious filmmaking and exploitation.

Finally, the summer season wraps on August 18 with two carefully targeted releases. Unfortunately for one of them, they're wrestling for the same demographic. Clerks 2 will probably end up the loser. All I can say is that Kevin Smith must be hard up for ideas if the best he could do was to make a sequel to a decade-old film. I thought he had retired Jay and Silent Bob. Clerks 2 is going up against Snakes on a Plane, which will likely be the most interesting success story of the summer. More on that later, but I will confess that, alongside Superman Returns, this is the only title on my "don't miss" summer list.