Is anyone else looking at the movie schedule this summer with a real lack of enthusiasm? Granted, most years treat us to an orgy of sizzle without the steak--giant blockbusters billed as the Single Greatest Cinematic Experience In Our Lifetimes, only to end up as another overstuffed turd parade. But even the leanest summers have one or two flicks that live up to the hype, whether it’s the always-dependable Pixar entry, expected masterpieces like The Dark Knight or pleasant surprises like District 9. If 2010’s winners are out there, they have yet to make their presence known. Our self-consuming culture of retreads, repeats and would-be franchises may have finally caught up with us, leaving audiences to reap the bitter fruits. 2010 could still produce its share of worthy entries--Christopher Nolan’s back on the scene with Inception and you never know where the next District 9 will show up (perhaps with Splice in June?)–but it’s tough to tell exactly where they might come from. How grim does it look from here? Let’s count the ways.
30. Iron Man 2 (in theatres)
It’s certainly not a bad effort, but far more ground-rule double than the grand slam we all wanted. Its overall lack of freshness may symbolize the summer to come.
29. Robin Hood (opens this week)
Russell Crowe headlines Ridley Scott’s latest epic, playing a veteran archer turned outlaw hero in 13th century England. Crowe’s got the chops, but were any of us really screaming for a new version of this story?
28. Shrek Forever After (May 21)
The fourth--and hopefully the last--entry in the Shrek franchise finds Mike Myers’ ogre facing a fairy-tale world in which he never existed. When you rehash It’s A Wonderful Life, you may as well paint a sign on your chest reading, “I’M OUT OF IDEAS.”
27. MacGruber (May 21)
Because what the world needs now is parodies of 25-year-old Richard Dean Anderson shows.
26. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (May 28)
Walt Disney Pictures is hoping for a repeat of their Pirates of the Caribbean success. But Jake Gyllenhaal as a Persian? Really? Really?
25. Survival of the Dead(May 28)
George A. Romero’s return to the zombie franchise should be a cause for celebration. Unfortunately, there’s only so many ways he can reinvent the notion that humans aren’t all that much better than the zombies trying to kill them. Six times may be three or four too many.
24. Micmacs(May 28)
Hey, what’s this foreign film doing in the middle of our sci-fi mayhem? Well, when it’s a foreign film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet--one of cinema’s premiere fantasists--discerning fanboys sit up and take notice.
23. The Killers (June 4)
This is an action comedy starring Ashton Kutcher as a hitman and Katherine Heigl as the woman he loves. Suicide pills will be available in the lobby during all screenings.
22. Splice (June 4)
The first true stirrings of hope appear in a tale of mad science and genetic manipulation from the man who brought us Cube. Great or not, it promises some wit and originality at the very least (check out the same director’s ghoulishly amusing segment in Paris Je T’Aime if you need some encouragement).
21. The A-Team (June 11)
TV retreads do not fill one with confidence, but somehow, this rehash of the old 1980s actioner gives out optimistic vibes… possibly because the cast looks well-chosen. Granted, Rampage Jackson is no Mr. T, but we’re not asking for the moon here.
20. The Karate Kid(June 11)
Is anyone else creeped out by Will Smith’s efforts to shape his spawn into another Mini Me? As if that weren’t enough, this remake of the 1984 semi-classic was directed by the same guy who brought us The Pink Panther 2. Even the unstoppable cool of Jackie Chan may be powerless in the face of such suckitude.
19. Toy Story 3 (June 18)
For many years now, Pixar could be counted on to deliver superior entertainment while its competitors thrashed about like fat men in the kiddie pool. But this is only the second time they’ve ventured into sequel territory, and as much as we’re looking forward to seeing Woody and the gang again, even John Lasseter will be hard-pressed to capture lightning in a bottle three times.
18. Jonah Hex (June 18)
Normally, we’d be pretty jazzed about this rendition of the DC Comics cult figure--especially with Josh Brolin in the lead. Word of copious reshoots has us deeply concerned, however, and as a society, we need to face the harsh truth that Megan Fox can’t act her way out of a wet paper bag.
17. Knight and Day (June 25)
Director James Mangold has proven himself adept at multiple genres, and Tom Cruise can still deliver so long as he’s not pounding his lovelorn fists on Oprah’s couch. Cheesy title notwithstanding, it’s a rarely seen original story on display this summer, earning it a slot on the Potential Season Saver list.
16. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (June 30)
I’m a supporter of director David Slade, whose Hard Candy remains one of the most stunning thrillers of recent years. Having said that… yeah, it’s still Twilight.
15. The Last Airbender (July 2)
Actually, the name was originally Avatar: The Last Airbender, but James Cameron fixed that good and proper, didn’t he? M. Night Shyamalan hasn’t instilled us with confidence in his last few outings, but the presence of a previously existing property may tame his self-indulgent proclivities enough to actually make a good movie.
14. Predators (July 7)
When in doubt, avoid the high-end stuff and go for the cheap, dirty thrills. Robert Rodriguez is a master of pumped-up exploitation, and the prospect of him reinventing the Predator franchise may be too much to resist. Color us excited for this one.
13. Despicable Me(July 9)
Saddling an unlikely parental figure with little kids has been done. Many, many, many times. The fact that the unlikely parental figure is a supervillain this time probably won’t improve on the formula.
12. [Rec] 2 (July 9)
American audiences may know the original [Rec] as the Spanish inspiration for the English-language Quarantine. Hollywood, it seems, isn’t the only place willing to cash in with a quickie horror sequel.
11. Inception (July 16)
Help us, Obi-Wan Chrisnolan, you‘re our only hope! Seriously, if the best filmmaker in Hollywood right now combined with the most talented cast this side of Harry Potter can’t blow our socks off, we need to give up the whole going-to-the-movies thing and take up macramé.
10. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (July 16)
Disney hedges its Prince of Persia bet with this much more intriguing entry, featuring modern-day wizards squaring off in New York City. The trailer looks like fun and star Jay Baruchel is riding a bit of a high after How to Train Your Dragon. We’ll give it some slack and see what it can do.
9. Salt (July 23)
Seen the trailer for this? It looks like it was assembled from the spare parts of thousand better Angelina Jolie movies. It earns points for keeping Chiwetel Ejiofor employed, but he’s still in the penalty box for agreeing to appear in 2012. We’re not holding our breath for a late summer miracle here.
8. Beastly (July 30)
A wee little film about a young man who turns himself into a monster in order to find the woman he loves wouldn’t pique much interest were it not for three magical words: Neil. Patrick. Harris.
7. The Other Guys (August 6)
Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg try to breathe life into the buddy cop comedy, with a little help from the director behind most of Ferrell’s best films. August is always a grittier than the rest of the summer, so The Other Guys may benefit from lowered expectations.
6. The Expendables (August 13)
Frankly, we’re in this solely for the cast: Sly Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Steve Austin, and cameos from Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Even if it’s bad, it will be so, so good.
5. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (August 13)
Can Edgar Wright work his magic without Simon Pegg in his corner? Guess we’ll find out.
4. The Last Exorcism (August 27)
Lionsgate pulls a rabbit out of its hat just often enough to give us hope, and this tale of a phony exorcist confronted by a real possession may hold the goods to deliver a late-inning surprise.
3. Piranha 3-D (August 27)
Ah, 3-D where it belongs… in the realm of cheesy horror knock-offs. This one comes from Alexandre Aja, who has already proven adept at updating old monster movies with his version of The Hills Have Eyes.
2. Machete (September 3)
The brilliant two-minute throwaway in Grindhouse becomes a feature-length film, with Robert Rodriguez at the helm. We’re willing to postpone the end of summer a few days in order to fit this baby in.
1. Resident Evil: Afterlife (September 10)
As for the fourth entry in the Resident Evil series… it’s likely bringing up the rear in more ways than one.
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