Ah, summer: Stifling temperatures, huge thunderstorms and rampaging mosquitoes sucking all the hemoglobin out of the Bay area. It's enough to drive you indoors until Halloween. Good thing Hollywood breaks out the big guns for the blockbuster summer movie season, making this a perfect time to hit the multiplex.
Like most years, 2009's summer slate is heavy on sequels (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), reboots (Star Trek), kiddie fare (Up) and comedies (Funny People). Female cinephiles can take heart: It's not all about the boys this year. After the success of last year's Sex and the City and Mamma Mia!, Tinseltown is serving up a slew of female-friendly fare in 2009, starring the likes of Sandra Bullock, Katherine Heigl, Cameron Diaz and Meryl Streep.
In the following pages, we separate the Potter from the Pelham to help you figure out what's worth plunking down your hard-earned cash for. And what you see before you is just scratching the summer-movie surface. Go online to cltampa.com/movies for even more info, reviews and previews of these summer releases and dozens more.
Box Office Gold: Star Trek
Worth Seeing? See Joe Bardi's review here.
Counter-programming: Star Trek's black hole-like pull has left few other releases on the schedule this weekend. As it stands, your options are Love N Dancing, a chick flick starring Amy Smart as a dance teacher who takes her student to the top of the dance world in an effort to spite her neglectful husband (Billy Zane, of course), and Next Day Air, a harder-edged version of Half-Baked starring Donald Faison and Mos Def.
Box Office Gold: Angels & Demons
Worth Seeing? Tom Hanks and director Ron Howard return to Da Vinci Code territory with this adaptation of author Dan Brown's first book, a prequel of sorts to Da Vinci. This one's aimed squarely at a more mature audience, as the under-25 crowd is probably going to find Star Trek or several of May 22nd's offerings far preferable to Forrest Gump sorting out the mysteries of the Bible. If you're a Da Vinci Code fan, however, this is a can't-miss proposition.
Counter-programming: The Tampa Theatre scores with Little Ashes, the story of the 1922 meeting of Salvador Dalí, playwright Federico García Lorca and director Luis Buñuel in Madrid. Dalí and Lorca ended up having a deep friendship -- a friendship portrayed in the film as more than just palling around at the bullfights. The historians disagree on whether or not the pair went all the way, though Wikipedia points to yes so it must be true. The film was directed by noted documentary filmmaker Paul Morrison and stars Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattinson as Dalí, giving Ashes maybe just enough star wattage to cut through the summer clutter. Maybe.
Box Office Gold: Terminator Salvation
Worth seeing? If only to finally see the film Christian Bale was shooting when he was caught on tape ranting his fucking head off at the director of photography. This Ahnold-less (mostly) re-boot from director McG picks up mankind's war against the machines post-Judgment Day, with the robots firmly in control and the scrappy humans fighting for survival. Bale takes over the John Conner role last played by Nick Stahl in the disappointing Terminator 3, and Salvation will need a little of his Dark Knight box office mojo if the Terminator franchise has any hope of a future. The previews flash incredible special effects, and the teen-friendly PG-13 rating won't hurt the box office either. I just can't quite buy the director of Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle as filling the egotastic shoes of series-creator James Cameron. I'm willing to be convinced, though.
Counter-programming: Dig Terminator's effects, but find the grim vision of the future is harshing your mellow? Check out Ben Stiller in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, a sequel that promises to bring the incredible D.C. museum's 136 million-item collection to life through the CGI wizardry of Industrial Light and Magic. If you've ever seen the Smithsonian's collection of rocket ships and warplanes, you already get the possibilities. Amy Adams is on board for the second go-around, as are Robin Williams, Christopher Guest, Owen Wilson and Dick Van Dyke.
Box Office Gold: Up
Worth seeing? You're going to skip Pixar's follow-up to WALL-E? The plot is simple: An old coot ties thousands of brilliantly animated balloons to his house and takes off for adventure with a stowaway Boy Scout on board. The directors -- Pete Docter, the director of Monsters, Inc., and Bob Peterson, the writer of Finding Nemo -- are two Pixar vets who could pull this off in their sleep. To top it off, Up has already passed the snooty French smell-test by being selected to open the Cannes Film Festival, the first time an animated film has enjoyed the time slot. Up should finish in the top three at the summer box office.