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The Return of the Popcorn Circus: June 2008

If May almost tent-poled itself out of existence, June will be even worse. After all, are audiences really ready for 13 major release in less than two months -- with more to come?

If May almost tent-poled itself out of existence, June will be even worse. The last three weekends will see nothing short of six major studio releases vying for that ever shrinking disposable dollar. And the first Friday is no slouch either, offering the latest from the Apatow camp along side some surefire CG animal chop sockey. If cash registers aren't ringing (or crashing from overuse), it may be a sign that Hollywood's tendency toward overkill has finally turned inward -- and fatal. After all, are audiences really ready for 13 major release in less than two months -- with more to come?

Director: Dennis Dugan Film: You Don't Mess with the Zohan Studio: Sony Cast: Adam Sandler, Emmanuelle Chriqui, John Turturro, Nick Swardson, Rob Schneider, Lainie Kazan Website: http://www.youdontmesswiththezohan.com/ MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-06-06 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-08-15 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/w/with_the_zohan.jpg

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6 June

In the Center Ring

You Don't Mess with the Zohan

Adam Sandler stunk up Cineplexes last summer with his horribly unfunny gay-bashing comedy I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Hoping to prevent a rancid repeat, he now teams up with funny bone flavor of the moment, Judd Apatow. Saturday Night Live scribe Robert Smigel is also on hand for this unusual effort. Sandler is an agent with Israel's Mossad who fakes his death so he can reemerge in NYC as a…hair stylist? Going back to his patented, caricature-driven approach to humor is a wise move for the comedian. Past classics like The Waterboy argue for Sadler to get lost in a character, not simply skate along on failed frat boy charm. Though director Dennis Dugan can't be counted on for much behind the camera, with the right approach and temperament, this could be a winner. And here's hoping that Apatow is not just name-checked. Remember what happened with Drillbit Taylor?

You Don't Mess with the Zohan

Display Artist: Mark Osborne, John Stevenson Director: Mark Osborne Director: John Stevenson Film: Kung Fu Panda Studio: DreamWorks Animation Cast: Jack Black, Jackie Chan, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, David Cross Website: http://www.kungfupanda.com/ MPAA rating: PG First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-06-06 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-07-04 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/k/kung_fu_panda_poster.jpg

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6 June

The Outer Circles

Kung Fu Panda

The first animated family film of the season arrives, and the premise actually holds some promise. Jack Black voices Po, a lazy bear that suddenly finds itself forced to save the Valley of Peace. With the help of five martial arts masters -- Tigress, Crane, Mantis, Viper, and Monkey -- and their individual styles of fighting, they must defeat the evil snow leopard Tai Lung. While the storyline seems similar to hundreds of other "be true to yourself" narratives, the use of the actual kung fu categories (with the creatures recreating the signature moves) has action aficionados cheering. And the rest of the cast is quite capable, including Hong Kong hero Jackie Chan, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, and David Cross. As long as the whole thing doesn't teeter over into pratfalls and pop culture shout-outs, this could be the cartoon cavalcade to beat -- that is, until Pixar's latest pops up in a couple of weeks.

Kung Fu Panda

Director: Dario Argento Film: Mother of Tears Subtitle: La Terza madre Studio: Myriad Pictures Cast: Asia Argento, Daria Nicolodi, Moran Atias, Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni Website: La Terza madre MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 Distributor: The Weinstein Company US Release Date: 2008-06-06 (Limited release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/t/the_third_mother_poster.jpg

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6 June

Sneaking in Under the Tent

Mother of Tears

For over three decades, fans have been hoping that Italian horror master Dario Argento would finally finish his fascinating Three Mothers trilogy (begun with Suspiria and Inferno). Now, the legendary director has delivered the last chapter, and advanced word is sketchy at best. Many have argued that it's a return to form. Some feel he's allowed the gore happy gonzo of the new fright film to undermine his vision. We will have to wait and see.

Mother of Tears

Director: Sergei Bodrov Film: Mongol Studio: Picturehouse Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Sun Hong-Lei, Khulan Chuluun, Odnyam Odsuren Website: http://www.mongolmovie.net/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-06-06 (Limited release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/m/mongol_poster.jpg

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6 June

Sneaking in Under the Tent

Mongol

The early life of 13th century Genghis Khan, as seen through the eyes of modern Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov. As this year's Foreign Language Film nominee from Kazakhstan, this proposed first installment of an eventually trilogy traces the legendary leaders life from age nine to 34. There are epic battles, emotional alliances, timeless love, and a true sense of scope. How this will play with Western audience not acquainted with Khan's mythos will be interesting.

Mongol

Director: M. Night Shyamalan Film: The Happening Studio: Fox Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel. John Leguizamo, Ashlyn Sanchez, Betty Buckley Website: http://www.thehappeningmovie.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 Distributor: Fox US Release Date: 2008-06-13 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-06-13 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/t/thehappening1_large.jpg

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13 June

In the Center Ring

The Happening

After the creative lull that was The Village, and the absolute egotistical dung that was Lady in the Water, M. Night Shyamalan needs a big, fat hit. So why did he choose to take on the Apocalyptic thriller with a story that screams of The Signal and Stephen King's Cell? All around the Internet, messageboards are lit up, speculating on what exactly the hint-filled trailer means. Naturally it's turned into another round of director bashing. Clearly, Shyamalan deserves to be knocked down a peg or two, but to condemn something before even seeing it (or worse, based on some supposed spy's reading of the script) stinks of sour grapes. As The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable proved, he's a filmmaker of fine talent. Here's hoping this Happening is more along the lines of those enjoyable, inventive efforts. If anyone can screw this up however, it would be the self-important Shyamalan.

The Happening

Director: Louis Leterrier Film: The Incredible Hulk Studio: Universal Pictures Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell, Lou Ferrigno Website: http://incrediblehulk.marvel.com/ MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-06-13 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-06-13 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/h/hulk_poster.jpg

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13 June

The Outer Circles

The Incredible Hulk

Ang Lee's take on this material was not the atrocity everyone claims it to be. Sure, the CGI was subpar, but the Taiwanese director's reinvention of the comic book hero was a dense psychological one. Not exactly what explosion-loving fanboys wanted to see, however. Well, Universal has listened to their Web-based harangues and has brought on Louis Leterrier of Transporter fame, to put the bang back to the geek's disposable bucks. And like Iron Man in May, they hired the unlikeliest of actors in Edward Norton to play Dr. Bruce Banner. Even worse, the persnickety performer demanded script approval (and rewrite credit), final cut, and a few other creative perks. Now controversy is brewing over whose version of the movie will be hitting theaters -- the star's or the director's. The trailer indicates that technology has yet to totally catch up with the needs of our big green ogre, but overall, this has to be an improvement -- right?

The Incredible Hulk

Director: Peter Segal Film: Get Smart Studio: Warner Brothers Cast: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin, Terence Stamp, James Caan Website: http://getsmartmovie.warnerbros.com/ MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-06-20 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-08-22 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/g/get_smart_07.jpg

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20 June

In the Center Ring

Get Smart

This spy spoof was such a product of its time - the continuing Cold War, the '60s pop culture appeal of James Bond -- that to retrofit it for post-modern (and millennial) audiences seems like a stumble waiting to occur. But once you look at the casting -- Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Terence Stamp -- a few of the misgivings are removed. Then the most recent trailer was released and…yeesh! It was painfully unfunny, ruining everything the Mel Brooks/ Buck Henry satire strove to celebrate. Part of the problem is the presence of Peter Segal. As a director, his resume includes the horribly misguided Nutty Professor sequel, the equally lame Longest Yard remake, and far too much Tom Arnold. While Office fans keep hoping that their hero Carell can find a blockbuster vehicle to match his onscreen abilities, this stillborn espionage farce doesn't appear to be it.

Get Smart

Director: Marco Schnabel Film: The Love Guru Studio: Paramount Pictures Cast: Mike Myers, Jessica Alba, Justin Timberlake, Romany Malco, Verne Troyer, Meagan Good, Manu Narayan, Ben Kingsley Website: http://www.lovegurumovie.com/ MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-06-20 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-08-01 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/l/love_guru.jpg

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20 June

The Outer Circles

The Love Guru

How lucky are we film fans? Two crappy looking comedies on the same weekend? Mike Myers is already taking heat from the Hindu community over this proposed twist on an ashram raised American returning to his homeland as a self-help guide. Advanced screenings for the complainers haven't helped matters much. All they've really done is create a growing groundswell of animosity toward the star's live action comeback. Of course, the story summary doesn't help matters either. Seems Myers is hired by a hockey player who needs someone to settle the relationship with his straying wife. He also tries to woo Jessica Alba. And Justin Timberlake makes stupid porno jokes. And Vern Troyer is around for some mandatory little person stunt casting. There is a possibility that all of this is much, much better than the news reports and previews make it out to be. It could also be another career killer like Cat in the Hat. Ouch!

The Love Guru

Director: Andrew Stanton Film: WALL∙E Studio: Walt Disney Pictures Cast: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy, Sigourney Weaver Website: http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/wall-e/ MPAA rating: G Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/disney/walle/hd/ First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-06-27 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-07-18 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/w/wall-eposter.jpg

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27 June

In the Center Ring

Wall-E

Here is Pixar's problem in a nutshell -- unreasonably high expectations. Of course, when you look at their track record, including supposedly 'lesser' titles like A Bug's Life and Cars, they're the classiest act in town. Still, ever since word went out that the studio would serve up the sci-fi spiced tale of a tiny robot and his lonely life on a desolate Earth, fans have been foaming for more, More, MORE! What we've learned is either cause for concern or celebration. Apparently, our title character will meet up with an alien automaton, and hitch a ride back to her mothership to broaden his bitrate horizons. The look of the film feels right, and as long as the speculative schmaltz is kept to a minimum, this looks like another CGI winner. Of course, how it will fare against a martial arts animal and his colorful cast of kung fu compatriots waits to be seen.

WALL∙E

Director: Timur Bekmambetov Film: Wanted Studio: Universal Pictures Cast: James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, Terence Stamp, Thomas Kretschmann, Common, Marc Warren, David Patrick O'Hara, Konstantin Khabensky, Dato Bakhtadze Website: http://www.wantedmovie.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 Distributor: Universal Pictures US Release Date: 2008-06-27 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-06-25 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/w/wantedposter.jpg

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27 June

The Outer Circles

Wanted

It's got balls (read: attitude). It's got bullets (read: lots of onscreen violence). It's even got babes (or in this case, Angelina Jolie). Toss in James McAvoy (Atonement) and Morgan Freeman and you've got an intriguing cast. On the downside, it's yet another comic book…sorry, graphic novel adaptation, this one centering on a world overrun by super-villians, and an heir apparent assassin. Of course, the promise comes from the presence of Russian auteur Timur Bekmambetov, who helmed the cult classics Night Watch and Day Watch. It could be a stellar action work out. But as Shoot 'Em Up proved last August, stunts don't always equal ticket sales.

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