Although the first two installments in George Lucas' newest trilogy failed to meet most expectations, it's clear that Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith is still the Big Ticket offering for the summer of 2005. But it's hardly the only movie arriving with sky-high expectations: for starters, there's a bold attempt to reenergize the dormant Batman franchise, an effort to kick off another Fantastic superhero series, and a stab by Spielberg and Cruise to surpass the success of their previous collaboration. The Bad News Bears, Herbie the Love Bug and Jane Fonda all return to the screen after years in storage, and the usual gang of smart alecks (Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, Martin Lawrence) are back with their latest comedic efforts.
Forty-two films are scheduled to open nationally between now and the end of August. But rather than rely on studio press releases to provide you with the scoop on each one, CL is turning to a different source: the theatrical trailers. At present, trailers for 36 of the 42 flicks are available online, and what better way to get a feel for the films than through the mishmash of scene snippets whose function is to lure moviegoers into the theaters? (A designation of "TNA" — Trailer Not Available — is included for those six titles not yet blessed with their own Coming Attractions promo.)
Aficionados of alternative fare need not worry: Several independent and foreign releases have been earmarked for this summer, and while many of these limited releases may not reach Charlotte before September (if at all), we've included a checklist of 12 of the titles to whet those appetites.
And now, on with the sneaks...
KICKING AND SCREAMING
The kids do the kicking while Will Ferrell handles the screaming in this comedy about a dork of a dad who decides to coach a misfit boys' soccer team. This places him in direct conflict with his own father (Robert Duvall), who happens to coach the best team in the league. There's an undeniable pleasure in seeing Ferrell smacked with soccer ball after soccer ball — and Duvall is one of those I-could-watch-him-reading-the-phonebook actors — but the preview hints at a sizable supporting role for the odious Mike Ditka, the former Chicago Bears coach who's taking a break from playing himself in obnoxious TV commercials to, well, playing himself in a movie.
Mindhunters has been playing across Europe since spring 2004, and after several abortive release dates for the US, Miramax has decided to finally toss it out there. Clearly a high-tech variation on Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians, this dumps a group of FBI recruits on an isolated island, where it's soon revealed that one of them is a killer. (See review in this issue's Film section.)
MONSTER IN LAW
So Jennifer Lopez wants to marry Michael Vartan, but his mom Jane Fonda will do anything to disrupt the planned nuptials. The preview is surprisingly laugh-free, but maybe I was just distracted by the fact that PETA is (rightfully) waging an all-out war against Lopez for her love of animal furs. At any rate, the movie's now in the bag — see the Film section for a review, as well as an interview with Fonda.
Though it's no match for Shirley MacLaine following her Oscar turn in Terms of Endearment with Cannonball Run II, it's odd to see Million Dollar Baby winner Morgan Freeman turning up in a Jet Li action flick. Yet the trailer suggests that Jet is attempting to work up an acting lather himself, playing an orphan who's been raised like a dog by gangster Bob Hoskins — docile when collared, deadly when unleashed. Freeman co-stars as a blind pianist (no, not Ray Charles).
STAR WARS: EPISODE III — REVENGE OF THE SITH
George Lucas has spent the last three years yammering about how this final chapter in the second trilogy will be the darkest entry yet — and the trailer leads one to believe he's on the level. Those of us who are fans of the original trilogy are holding out hope that this one won't disappoint, and it's quite possible we'll get our wish. It'll all depend on which is the dominant, uh, force: The lightsaber battle between Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader (Hayden Christensen) or Christensen's attempts to convincingly mouth Lucas' often clumsy prose.
Never mind the trailer: DreamWorks screened the first 40 minutes of the film to the media (including local scribes), and it's safe to say this will be another huge hit for the studio behind Shrek. The plot centers around four pampered zoo animals — lion (Ben Stiller), zebra (Chris Rock), hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and giraffe (David Schwimmer) — who suddenly find themselves stranded in the wilds. The opening act's scene stealers are a team of humorless penguins; I'll be disappointed if they don't return in the second half.