June Swoon

June 01, 2007
A thought by James Berardinelli

May, with all of its gargantuan, multiplex-eating releases, is in the rearview mirror. Despite the record-breaking that accompanied Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, I sensed an overall lack of enthusiasm for these titles. Sure, they fell into the "must see" category for many viewers because of their blockbuster status, but how many people, upon leaving one of those movies, felt the jolt of exhilaration that accompanies having seen a great movie? And, as important, how many went back time and time again? I visited a multiplex a few nights ago to see Gracie to find it pretty much as empty as one would expect on a weeknight. The eight auditoriums playing Pirates 3 were mostly deserted - a much different story from what things were like during the week after Pirates 2 was released. (Yes, the fact that schools are still in session plays its part, but that's not the whole story.)

Thus arrives June - a calmer, more sensible month. There are no sure-fire blockbusters on the horizon. In fact, the summer only has one more of those locked and loaded, and it doesn't open until mid-July. There are plenty of high-profile releases in June, but none are likely to top the $300 million mark or have the kind of explosive opening weekends that will get tongues wagging. Each weekend has one clear winner and perhaps a runner-up as well as a few smaller movies that will hope to capture a niche market and end up in the black.

June 1 offers what may be the most enjoyable comedy of the summer - Knocked Up. This is what could be termed a "romantic comedy for guys" - meaning that it has a heart and is about two people falling in love but is also more crude than one might normally expect from a rom com. It's a solidly entertaining follow-up to Judd Apatow's The 40 Year Old Virgin and should appeal to the same audience. Warning to the faint of heart, however: the movie shows an actual childbirth (not a simulation, although there is a "birth double"). The sequence isn't long but it's in there. Also opening this weekend: Kevin Costner's respectable Mr. Brooks and the formulaic Gracie, which is saved in part by a great performance by Carly Schroeder.

June 8's big movie is Ocean's Thirteen, another third movie in a series. I won't claim to be excited, despite assurances from all involved that it will be better than Ocean's Twelve (which I didn't think was half bad). It's just that I'm not overly fond of these characters and one movie with them was sufficient. There's enough talent involved to allow the possibility that I'll be pleasantly surprised, so hope springs eternal. Surf's Up may get swamped by Shrek 3 and Ratatouille and, to be frank, I'm more sick of penguins than I am of Danny Ocean and his crew. Finally, in a film that will not be screened for critics, there's Hostel 2. This will be next week's "Friday special."

June 15, likely the first school-free weekend in many areas, brings back The Fantastic Four for their second outing. Please let director Tim Story not ruin this one the way he did the first one. In my review of the 2005 movie, I wrote the following: "Bring on Galactus for the next film... but I'm afraid of what they'll do to him." Well, they are bringing on Galactus and I am afraid of what they'll do to him. Nancy Drew also opens that weekend. I wonder if I'll have trouble shaking the image of Pamela Sue Martin when I watch this new incarnation. Granted, she wasn't iconic but she was pretty hot back in the late 1970s. (Girls watched the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Hour for Shawn Cassidy. Boys watched it for Martin. Kirstie Alley watched it for Parker Stevenson.)

The expected kingpin of June 22 is Evan Almighty. Hopefully it will be better - significantly better - than the underwhelming Bruce Almighty. 1408 is the latest in a long line of cinematic endeavors with a checkered history - movies based on Steven King novels. Generally, films derived from King's horror stories (which this one is) don't fare well, so skepticism is understandable. Captivity snared some nasty publicity for its Los Angeles billboard advertising campaign, but it's not clear whether critics will be allowed to see this before it opens (or whether they'll want to see it at that point). Eagle Versus Shark is being described as a Napoleon Dynamite-like romantic comedy. And A Mighty Heart has Angelina Jolie in serious acting mode making an Oscar bid as the wife of kidnapped journalist Daniel Pearl in Michael Winterbottom's "based on real events" tale. I used to look forward to Winterbottom's films. Then he made Code 46, 9 Songs, and The Road to Guantanamo. Now, I'm not so excited.

June closes with the big pre-July 4 weekend. Disney/Pixar's Ratatouille leads the pack. Directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles) and featuring Peter O'Toole and Ian Holm, this has the potential to be the animated film of the year - in quality if not at the box office. It could the first animated film in years to truly offer as much to adults as to children. Live Free or Die Hard will see whether John McClane can survive a 12-year layoff. The question that needs to be answered: Is this really the John McClane we remember or is it a generic action hero who happens to be played by Bruce Willis? Two small films - the British Death at a Funeral and the American Evening - arrive along with summer. Then there's Michael Moore's Sicko. The title refers to the status of health care in America, not Moore's personality. As usual, it will probably be provocative, entertaining, and filled with factual errors. The key to watching Sicko is to think of it as an op-ed piece not a documentary.

That will set the stage for July - a month set to feature some big releases, but when bookstores will briefly become a bigger gathering place than multiplexes.