I’d like to think that I’m a person who looks on the bright side of things, but it’s going to take every ounce of optimism I’ve got in me to be even a little hopeful of this summer’s offerings. I prefer to play free pokies online instead of watching movies. I checked my handy dandy summer movie gauge to figure out what’s the skinny on the next few months’ biggest films and the results were not good.
This summer I’ve decided to group the films into three temperature categories: Red Hot, Hot and Lukewarm. We can debate at summer’s end if my prognosis was correct. Good luck navigating this summer’s cinematic minefield.
Aliens vs. Predator: Sanaa Lathan, Lance Henriksen and Raoul Bova
Lathan not only has to worry about getting dismembered by the Predators, but she also has to make sure she stays far away from the alien’s acid blood as two of the deadliest sci-fi/horror characters battle for the first time on screen.
Summer Gauge: Red-hot. This is probably as close to a Godzilla vs. Mothra tussle of the titans we’re likely to get. This is one of the few seemingly can’t mess up prospects of the summer. (August 13)
Collateral: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx andJada Pinkett Smith
A hitman decides to take his cab driver hostage and has him chauffer him around while he makes his hits before taking out his last target – an assistant state’s attorney. Summer Gauge:Red hot. Cruise plays a bad guy for a nice change of pace and while this could be an interesting twist on “Driving Mr. Hitman…er Ms. Daisy,” Michael Mann’s direction should make this a movie to keep an eye on later this summer. (August 6)
King Arthur: Clive Owen, Stephen Dillane and Keira Knightley; dir. Antoine Fuqua
Owen and Dillane aren’t quite household names yet, but this retelling of the legend of King Arthur should help get them there as they are directed under the watchful eye of Antoine Fuqua.
Summer Gauge: Red hot. Although some debuted the plot of Fuqua’s last work “Tears of the Sun,” no one could deny that he directed a breathtaking spectacle. If Fuqua’s work in the Bruce Willis-military flick was just a sample of what could be another summer epic, this could make him one of the most in-demand directors in Hollywood. (July 9)
Shrek 2: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and Antonio Banderas
Summer Gauge: White Hot. The sequel to the $455 million film returns and DreamWorks can start printing money with this one; it would be hard pressed not to match that figure a second time. The returning stars, Myers, Murphy and Diaz are solid once again, but the secret weapon is Banderas as Puss in Boots who is a laugh-out loud riot. (May 19)
Spider-Man 2: Tobey Maguire, Alfred Molina, Kirsten Dunst and Bill Nunn
This unlikely sequel to the somewhat successful 2002 film brings back the key players from the original film as Spidey tangles with his longtime nemesis Dr. Octopus. Maybe Nunn will get a bit more screen time than the previous film? Summer Gauge: Need to ask? With amazing looking CGI graphics, a bigger budget and a full marketing blitz from Columbia Pictures, Spidey 2 stands as the film to beat this summer and could even rival the gross of its record-setting predecessor. (July 2)
Baadasssss: Mario Van Peebles, Joy Bryant and David Alan Grier
Van Peebles returns to his roots to tell the little-known story of the struggle his father, Melvin, underwent filming the pioneering film, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.
Summer Gauge: Hot. Mario has had his share of hits and misses during his checkered career, but this film clearly is his high point. The story is told with a strong sense of direction, which brings him full circle. It also didn’t hurt that he played a filmmaker making an independent film with limited funds while experiencing the identical situation behind the screen. Won’t make lots of money, but will garner both Van Peebles massive respect. (May 28)
I Robot: Will Smith
Smith has smartly stayed low-key lately, making his films seem more important because he’s not doing one every month. In this outing he plays a police officer investigating a murder that’s implicated a robot – a crime that had up to that point been considered unheard of in this futuristic thriller.
Summer Gauge: Hot. Smith typically has great summer films, see last year’s Bad Boys 2. This seems like a Denzel Washington-thriller but Smith has proven he can do heavy drama action as well as comedic action so look for another solid performance from Smith here. (July 16)
She Hate Me: Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington; dir. Spike Lee
A biotech executive gets fired for exposing his firm’s corrupt business practices and then to make ends meet, impregnates wealthy lesbians. At least we don’t have to worry about this being your standard summer movie.
Summer Gauge:Hot. After the critical acclaim for “25th Hour,” Lee returns with a bit riskier topic but the premise is undeniably fresh. (July 23)
The Terminal: Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chi McBride
An immigrant feeling from his war-torn nation tries to escape but his paperwork gets screwed up and he’s stuck spending the next few years in an airport terminal befriending the staff and falling for Catherine Zeta-Jones. Get in line behind me pal. The line goes that way.
Summer Gauge: Hot? I’m not gonna lie to you. McBride will probably total 10 minutes of screen time in Hanks’ latest potential Oscar winner, but you’ll want to see this anyway since Stephen Spielberg is directing what could be a sleeper. (July 30)
Anaconda: The Hunt For Blood Orchid: Morris Chestnut, Eugene Byrd and Maria Theodorakis
It’s been a looong time since the first Anaconda and J-Lo emerged and this sequel has little to do with the original as a group of scientists seek the orchids that will extend life, but they run into some anacondas who don’t like strangers coming into their turf.
Summer Gauge:Lukewarm. This is a good move for Chestnut to get away from Gabrielle Union, Jamie Foxx, Vivica A. Fox, Anthony Anderson, LL Cool J, etc. and get into a different type of project. Its release is timely considering that most of the big blockbusters will be out of the way and it can get that last teen summer job paycheck before school starts back up. (August 27)
Breakin’ All the Rules: Jamie Foxx, Morris Chestnut and Gabrielle Union
Foxx plays a magazine editor who gets his heart broken and instead of getting even he writes a breakup manual. The film feels like watching an alternate version of two past films, Two Can Play that Game and How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days.
Summer Gauge: Lukewarm. Quiet as it’s kept, Jamie Foxx is a pretty good actor when given the right material (Ali and Any Given Sunday). Unfortunately, the material is a little stale in his latest effort. Not even the presence of two romantic comedy veterans can save this sinking script. If you want to see a strong Foxx performance wait for Unchain My Heart: The Ray Charles Story. (May 14)
Catwoman: Halle Berry, Sharon Stone and Benjamin Bratt
Like every breathing male that appreciates women, it can never really be considered a bad thing if Halle Berry wants to slink around in tight black leather, but can even Dominatrix Halle save this potential stinker? Managing to even alienate the few comic book fans that would be interested in this project, Halle’s a brand-new Catwoman that has absolutely nothing to do with the Catwoman you may remember from the Batman TV series or “Batman Returns.” You should probably not consider Sharon Stone’s involvement in this project as a good thing either. Remember how well “Charlie’s Angels 2: Full Throttle” did for Demi Moore’s revitalized film career?
Summer Gauge: Lukewarm. Halle’s red hot as always, but if you want to see her, it’d be safer sticking with Swordfish. (July 23)
Chronicles of Riddick: Vin Diesel, Judi Dench and Thandie Newton Riddick, one of the few surviving characters of Pitch Black, returns to settle a war between two powerful armies. And Riddick’s gimmick of being able to see perfectly fine in the dark is intact too.
Summer Gauge: Lukewarm. Pitch Black barely registered when it was originally released and was anyone asking for this sequel? Diesel needs a hit and he’s primed to be the hero in this one, but this screams big on special effects and low on story. (June 11)
The Manchurian Candidate: Denzel Washington, Liev Schriber and Kimberly Elise
“The Man” teams up with Schriber in this thriller where two Gulf War vets return from the battlefields to find that portions of their memory have been erased and they try and get some answers.
Summer Gauge: Lukewarm. Denzel will always provide a solid performance and current events with Donald Rumsfeld certainly would make this film even more relevant if its release was fast-forwarded but does anyone need to see a movie to know that the government is shady to everyone, including its soldiers? Shouldn’t Ashley Judd be in this? (July 30)
Soul Plane: Kevin Hart, Snoop Dogg andD.L. Hughley
Brother wins a $600 million lawsuit from an airline because of an incident that killed his dog (huh!!!) and decides to launch his own airline called N.W.A., especially designed to appeal to an African-American customer base. Things get a little crazy on the maiden flight, however, when a white family (headed by Tom Arnold) is accidentally rerouted to fly on it by another airline. Look out for Captain Mack (Snoop Dogg)
Summer Gauge: Ridiculous. N*gga Please! What happens when you mix two comedians (Mo’ Nique and D.L. Hughley), two rappers (Snoop Dogg and Method Man), a little known TV star in the lead and . . . Tom Arnold – a movie that sets the race back 30 years. People who’ll tell you that this film is entertaining is someone who’s credibility is severely lacking. But hey, I guess that have bills to pay! (May 28)
White Chicks: Shawn and Marlon Wayans; directed Keenan Ivory Wayans
Just when you thought it was safe to go into the theaters, they’re baaaack. Yep, Marlon and Shawn Wayans return to the big screen in a “hilarious” setup. The former FBI agents try to prevent a kidnapping of the Wilton Sisters and get this dress as white girls to keep them from harm. Hyuck hyuck. C’mon laugh. You know you want to.
Summer Gauge: Lukewarm. It’s too bad brother Damon isn’t still doing his old In Loving Color-shtick so he could slap his brothers around and say “Homie Don’t Play That.” Ah, when everything the Wayans touched was funny. The first run of trailers do not look good at all and the makeup job on Marlon and Shawn looks about as convincing as those old SNL bits that Eddie Murphy used to do. Sadly, Eddie had the excuse of doing his skits in the 80s. The only question is will it suck more than film inspiration Paris Hilton in her latest movie?