Between Reviews: Summer of Same

Posted on May 8, 2010

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SUMMER OF SAME

Another Sex and the City movie. Another Robin Hood retread. Another Iron Man adventure. Another Toy Story sequel. Hollywood looks forward to this summer by looking back.

MAY 9, 2010 – 1. IRON MAN 2: Part 1, unsurprisingly, was blighted by the bane of every potential franchise launcher – it had to expend significant screen time on backstory and basics. Part 2, however, should hit the ground running. Robert Downey, Jr., whose essential trait as a superhero was a twinkling irreverence, returns to transact business with Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell and the newly resurgent Mickey Rourke. His chief nemesis, however, is the palladium (from the arc reactor keeping him alive) that’s poisoning him. But of course it’s not all serious. As if they’d nix prospects of Iron Man 3.
2. ROBIN HOOD: There must be a recent Hollywood memo instructing that a legend (or a superhero) can no longer just be. He has to be birthed, physically and psychoanalytically. (“Why did he choose the bow and arrow? Because his ancestor was William Tell.” And suchlike.) While no one, exactly, was clamouring for another retelling of how Robin came to be a genial hood, there is, I suppose, the curiosity about what never-before visions Ridley Scott will bring to bear on the pairing of Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. At least, we won’t have to suffer Bryan Adams having a closing-credits heart attack in the higher registers of Everything I Do (I Do It for You).
3. SEX AND THE CITY 2: Some of us watch SATC solely because it’s punny (and, well, because that Samantha has a deliciously dirty mind, with a deliciously dirty tongue to match). So let’s pray the sequel to the hugely successful adventures of the femme Fab Four comes laden with more wit than is trotted out in the teaser poster. (The tagline: “Carrie on.” Oh, come on!) The actual plot hardly matters – at least not as much as the shoe and handbag merchandise that will be on unstinting display, the cinematic equivalent of high-end window shopping, if that’s what your inner goddess desires.
4. THE KARATE KID: I don’t think it’s just eighties nostalgia (or long-ago memories of Elisabeth Shue, or, for that matter, Zamfir flute solos) speaking when I claim that the original was a 24-carat charmer. Never underestimate the power of a well-told against-all-odds saga, especially one set in the awkwardly hormonal universe of high school. The remake teams Jackie Chan with Will Smith’s son (thus reducing the eponymous character to a real kid, as opposed to a teenager), but will today’s twitchy audiences root for a gentle mixed-race odd-couple story? Well, it’s got to better than the previous attempt at retuning the old motor, where Hilary Swank needlessly ousted Ralph Macchio.
5. TOY STORY 3: The first one came out of nowhere and crowned itself an instant (and much beloved) classic. (Can you believe it was released all the way back in… 1995? The kid, Andy, is now headed for college. How cartoon-time flies!) The four-years-later sequel sneaked into the small pile of films that are at least as good as, if not better than, the original. Expectations for this installment, needless to say, are scraping the stratosphere. A smidgen of concern arises from the absence of John Lasseter in the director’s chair. But, frankly, with the attractions of 3-D and IMAX, Buzz and Woody could direct this and we’d still queue up.
6. KNIGHT AND DAY: aka Can Tom Cruise Finally Make Us Forget He Got On Oprah’s Sofa? It’s not that we haven’t appreciated his recent efforts (the comic turn in Tropic Thunder, the dependably laser-eyed sprint through the period plot mechanics of Valkyrie) – but the former World’s Biggest Star is still looking for a mega-giga-blockbuster to bring him well and truly back. Will this True Lies retread (he’s a secret agent, Cameron Diaz is his civilian partner, and let’s not even begin talking about her career blues) be it? But what else are you going to watch when you’re still scrounging for Toy Story 3 tickets?
7. THE LAST AIRBENDER: It appears, now, that the world fell out of love with M Night Shyamalan almost as quickly as it fell in love. The Village, Lady in the Water and The Happening were offerings left untouched by the proverbial bargepole. (It doesn’t help that this director insists on rendering the most preposterous of material, which might be better served with a wink and a smile, with near-religious solemnity.) But this action-adventure fantasy, pivoted on control of the natural elements (water, fire and so on), sounds like a promising mix of mythology and martial arts, and a possible return to form.
8. PREDATORS: A sequel to the first (and finest) Predator film, this other throwback to the eighties has pluses in the form of its producer (Robert Rodriguez) and director (Nimród Antal, who gave us the terrifically nasty B-thriller Vacancy). A canny reboot of a long-dormant (yet well-remembered) adventure-horror franchise is always a good idea, even if the age of CGI has rendered redundant the awe with which we used to approach these apocalyptic actioners. The question, however, is this. Can any man step into Arnold Schwarzenegger’s action shoes, least of all Adrian Brody, who could fit right into the California Governor’s left bicep?
9. INCEPTION: There’s a case to be made that Christopher Nolan’s non-Batman features (Insomnia, Memento, The Prestige) are, by far, the more accomplished, far more fleet, wrought with far more personality, and far less burdened with the oppressions of mythmaking. That’s enough reason to root for this corporate espionage thriller routed through a sci-fi landscape, with Leonardo DiCaprio (who, frankly, could use this change of pace, after his dour grown-up turns in Body of Lies, Revolutionary Road and Blood Diamond) as an agent capable of entering others’ minds, through special effects guaranteed to blow, well, your mind.
10. THE EXPENDABLES: Rounding up the summer to-do list is this action adventure about a team of mercenaries transported to Latin America to depose a sneering dictator. So far, so ho-hum – until you scroll down the cast list. Sylvester Stallone. Jet Li. Dolph Lundgren. Bruce Willis. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Jason Statham. Will this back-to-basics adventure mark the long-awaited return to legitimacy of the he-man hero, who’s been eclipsed by the comic-book superhero (or been reduced to a mere mannequin to showcase the latest in technology)? Or will it simply be a campy hoot? Either way, it’s win-win, right?

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