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Summer of Same: The 2009 PopMatters Summer Preview

Today begins our four-part summer movie preview. Today: May - May's titles include the fourth films in two aging franchises, more Pixar perfection, and the reboot of a TV series from 40 years ago. And they say there are no new ideas.

As the months pass by, as the weeks move us closer to opening day, the anticipation is as thick as the equally omnipresent rumor-mongering. Buzz builds, hype threatens to overwhelm us, and before the first ticket is bought, the die is cast over which film will be Summer sensations, and which will defy/decry expectations. Of course, when said ballyhooed titles finally hit the big screen everything changes…or does it. Frankly, Hollywood has the prancing popcorn circus down to a dirty science. They have micromanaged and marketed these ideas down to the bean counter bottom line, focus grouping them into a kind of celluloid sluice that is frequently flavorless, flaccid, and far too familiar. Like the built in obsolescence that led Detroit to default on its manufacturing might, Tinsel Town knows what drives the demo to their local Cineplex - and it's not experimentation or guessing.

No, it's clear that in 2009, we are approaching a Summer of Same: same old franchises seeing multi-million dollar updates; same old actors in roles so rote they could perform them in their pampered, overpaid sleep; directors digging deep into their cinematic bags of tricks, hoping they can find meaning out of one more mainstream paycheck. This is not meant to sound bitter, just obvious. If you look back over the blockbuster movie methodology since Spielberg, Lucas, and Laughlin literally invented the genre, its motto would read "play it safe and replay it often". It would be nice to think that there are screenwriters out there cranking out fresh content, material ripe to reinvent the crowd-pleaser and turn it into something other than a warm weather ATM. Yet with rare, RARE exceptions, that's exactly what we get -- well-honed bits of dependability sprinkled with a little hope and an additional dusting of potential disaster.

From a less aggressive perspective, there is still some optimism for the film fan. May brings back Sam Raimi to the horror realm, while Atom Egoyan and Stephen Soderbergh are working outside the confines of commerciality this time around. June follows with a Sam Mendes independent comedy, a sly sci-fi exercise from David Bowie's son Duncan Jones, and a surefire scary movie favorite -- Nazi Zombies. By July, things settle in with more unknown than known quantities, and August winds things up with bombast, nuance, and another dose of a certain rock stars tasty horror schlock. In fact, ideas, approach, and execution are not the only things looking overly familiar this Summer movie season. As the billions roll in and the studios greenlight more of the same, it's clear that we moviegoers are stuck in the same rut as the idea men behind the movies -- and as of now, none of us really care.

So without further ado, get out your calendars, load up your favorite advance ticket buying Internet site, and dig into PopMatters preview of May through August, 2009. While it may all seem redundant, there are definitely a few gems to be found among the similitude.

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