Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard
(Sony; US theatrical: 4 May 2007 (General release); 2007)
Here’s a franchise flick that has a lot to live up to. Over the course of his two previous webslinging adventures, director Sam Raimi has rewritten the rules about what makes an effective comic book movie. For the man behind The Evil Dead, emotion and action need to coexist in pristine harmony, less you lose the audience with either too much saccharine or way too much scope. And from an initial glance, this third installment in the series intends to push far beyond the standard sequel boundaries. First, there are three main villains—two new, one long in coming. Next, we get not one but a pair of love interests for the forlorn Peter Parker. Finally, the movie intends to wrap up the many loose ends strewn throughout the previous pictures, turning the Spidey story into a Lord of the Rings/Star Wars like trilogy. Even as rumors percolate over a possible fourth film, and early reviews indicate another massive turnstile triumph for all involved, Summer of 2007 is counting on this earnest epic to start the season off with a bang. If it does, we could be witnessing one of the biggest box office bonanzas in recent memory.
Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore, Robert Duvall, Debra Messing, Horatio Sanz, Robert Downey Jr.
(Warner Brothers; US theatrical: 4 May 2007 (General release); 2006)
After sitting on the shelf for over a year (never a good sign in terms of Tinsel Town viability) Curtis Hanson’s poker-based rom com is finally seeing a rather low profile release. Sure, the press can position this picture all they want, claiming it’s the perfect antidote to all the big budget brouhaha flying around this weekend, but it sure says something about Warner Brothers faith in this project that they set it up against what promises to be one of 2007’s monster mega-hits. While Eric Bana and Drew Barrymore will obviously survive—and thrive—Hanson will have a lot to answer for, especially with the 2005 bomb In Her Shoes still fresh in his oeuvre.
28 Weeks Later
Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner, Harold Perrineau, Catherine McCormack, Robert Carlyle
(Fox Atomic; US theatrical: 11 May 2007 (General release); 2007)
28 Weeks Later
When Danny Boyle delivered his unusual take on the standard living dead film back in 2002, no one would have suspected it could be a hit, let alone worthy of a major studio follow-up. But 20th Century Fox saw something in the storyline that deserved revisiting, and they hired up and coming Spanish filmmaker Juan Carlos Fresnadillo to helm this sequel. The new narrative finds a desolate London being repopulated with help from the U.S. military. Hundreds of refugees are herded back into the city after the aptly named Rage virus is supposedly contained. Of course, the best laid plans of Uncle Sam often go astray, and before you know it, our heroes (including Rose Byrne and Robert Carlisle) are fleeing from a new batch of non-zombies. Aside from the switch over to proper film (Boyle’s movie made the most of the visual magic inherent in the digital format), this looks like more of the same. Indeed, if all goes well, we may revisit this story again some 28 MONTHS later.
Jane Fonda, Felicity Huffman, Lindsay Lohan, Cary Elwes, Dermot Mulroney
(Universal Pictures; US theatrical: 11 May 2007 (General release); 2007)
Let’s face it… is anyone really interested in this movie beyond the concept of TMZ poster gal Lindsey Lohan playing rebellious and dysfunctional… at least, onscreen? It must have been hard on the seasoned veterans like Jane Fonda and Felicity Huffman to see this talent free twerp monopolizing their considered careers with bouts of bad behavior, unprofessional practices and tawdry tabloid tendencies. Even Gary Marshall, known for his ability to salvage the most sagging of reputations may find it hard to save this one. More and more, Ms. Lohan is looking like a lost cause.
Larry the Cable Guy, Keith David, Glen Morshower
(US theatrical: 11 May 2007 (General release); 2007)
Blue Collar Alert! Blue Collar Alert! Larry The Cable Guy, fresh off his cinematic triumph as a good ol’ boy Health Inspector, is now an Army Reservist. Instead of landing in Iraq, however, he accidentally ends up in Mexico. A lot of sophisticated cross culture comedy ensues—right? Well, maybe not.
Shrek the Third
Chris Miller, Raman Hui
Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Justin Timberlake, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Rupert Everett, Maya Rudolph, Amy Sedaris, Ian McShane, Eric Idle, Julie Andrews
(DreamWorks Animation; US theatrical: 18 May 2007 (General release); UK theatrical: 29 Jun 2007 (General release); 2007)
Shrek the Third
Groan. The granddaddy of CGI’s staleness as an artform is back, meaning its time for even more of Mike Myers’ shoddy Scottish shtick, another dose of Eddie Murphy’s deranged donkey dynamic, and more passable Puss in Boots from a slumming Antonio Banderas. And just our luck, Justin Timberlake is along for the voice over ride. There are those who swear by the pop culture riffs and easy humor of this series, especially enjoying the straightforward stunt casting and superstar stratagem. But what’s missing here is the same thing that all the other Shrek installments lack—heart. We ALMOST cared whether or not Fiona and her ogre hero got together in the first film. Since then, it’s been nothing but snarky humor and unnecessary Smash Mouth songs. Certainly this won’t be the final fling for our oversized green gravy train, but unless the level of invention rises considerably in the next installment, we could be looking at a Disney direct to video ideal for the land of Far, Far Away.
Elisha Cuthbert, Daniel Gillies, Pruitt Taylor Vince
(Lionsgate; US theatrical: 13 Jul 2007 (General release); UK theatrical: 22 Jun 2007 (Limited release); 2007)
Functioning under the theory that any publicity is good publicity, After Dark and Lionsgate plastered some very controversial posters for this Roland Joffé exploitationer (there’s a combination of words you don’t see very often) all over L.A. The MPAA responded by banning the ads. While no one will argue the taste of showing a helpless woman in various stages of distress, why are such notices forbidden, especially if they accurately reflect the film being forwarded? This abduction and torture fest needs to feel as slimy and seedy as possible. Otherwise, people might think it was meant as actual entertainment.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush, Bill Nighy, Chow Yun Fat
(The Walt Disney Company; US theatrical: 25 May 2007 (General release); 2007)
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Critics really savaged the second installment in the House of Mouse’s successful theme park attraction film franchise, and it’s almost impossible to understand why. Davy Jones and his band of crustacean encased scallywags was a big screen blockbuster in every sense of the word. It was the kind of film that reminded audiences—at least, those who were old enough to remember the era—of the old ‘70s spectacles. Still, a sort of cinematic sour grapes crept into the reviews, and before long, the stunning popularity of the sequel was stymied by articles debating that the series had already run its commercial course. Now, with a new trailer arguing that the best is yet to come, it appears that Pirates is out to win over the entire motion picture community—viewer and reviewer. The amazing cast is still intact, and the new story sends the brazen buccaneers all the way to the ends of the Earth, so this may be the sensational send-off these masterful movies mandate. Expect some massive box office looting come Memorial Day weekend.
Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon, Harry Connick, Jr., Lynn Collins
(Lionsgate; US theatrical: 25 May 2007 (General release); 2006)
Is it a horror movie? An intense human drama? A deranged combination of the two? Who knows frankly, and Hollywood heavyweight William Friedkin isn’t giving out any clues. Neither is the trailer, which when it first premiered back in the Fall of 2006 (the movie was scheduled for December before being pulled) looked like a surreal combination of David Cronenberg and William Castle. Taking place in a single setting (a rundown motel room) and featuring a whacked out war vet and his paranoid paramour, what looks like an insect invasion effort is actually a studied psychological thriller. The shift in date makes this suspect, but the talent involved questions such a conclusion.
Jamel Debbouze, Rie Rasmussen, Gilbert Melki, Serge Riaboukine
(Sony Classics; Very limited release: 25 May 2007; 2005)
It’s clear that not many people will miss Luc Besson. With Arthur and the Invisibles already forgotten, this final cinematic statement from the French filmmaker (he has vowed to retire to concentrate on producing—among other things) was a massive hit overseas. Whether this story of a suicidal con man and the ‘woman’ who saves his life will resonate with American audiences remains to be seen.