It’s summertime and the living is easy. Kegs are pumping, and everyone who went to see “Harold & Kumar 2” is still high. But, somewhat-disappointing sequels aside, the summertime blockbuster season is just barely beginning. Sure, “Iron Man” flew into theaters a few weeks ago, and “Speed Racer” cruised onto the big screen last weekend, but that’s just the first taste of what promises to be a sumptuous summer for cinema. Still, since it is bikini season and all, you definitely don’t want to overindulge. And, Artsweek would hate to see you spend perfectly good beer money without proper information. That’s why fearless Artsweek editors Mollie Vandor and Tyler Vickers have compiled one final compendium of their critical knowledge and powerful skills of pretension to share with you before they ride off into the graduation sunset. So, without further ado, here are the top five big-time blockbusters coming to a big screen near you in the next few months – and our respective opinions about whether they’re worth blowing your Bud Light bucks on.
1. “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (May 22)
Indy’s back in this fourth installment of the action/adventure franchise, and this time he’s starring alongside Cate Blanchett, Jim Broadbent, John Hurt and Shia LaBeouf – as well as Karen Allen reprising the role of Marion Ravenwood from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” This time around, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) follows Russian agent Irinia Spalko (Blanchett) to the lost Peruvian city of Akakor in search of the titular skull, which of course, possesses powerful mystical significance.
Mollie: If the previews are any indication, it looks to me like this one is going to be a classic summer blockbuster with a bit more of a commercial edge than the original three. It definitely looks more slick, and Ford’s gray-haired frame is showing some definite signs of his age, but Steven Spielberg had the good sense to bring Allen back, which is a good omen for die-hard fans of the franchise. And, if you’re going to see it, you’d better see it on the big screen – snakes, skulls and silver foxes always look better that way.
Tyler: Apparently, the Crystal Skull’s hometown is a “kingdom in the Amazon-supposedly made out of solid gold.” I bet Spielberg walked around his own palatial estate a year ago and thought, “Why can’t my kingdom be made out of solid gold? Let’s draft another Indy sequel!” There is no other reason to bring the whip and fedora out of retirement than to score another huge box office treasure, and it’ll discover those riches even if it sucks. You’d have to be a Nazi to miss Indy on the big screen. I just wish that Spielberg had forced LaBeouf to reprise the role of Short Round from “IJ: Temple of Doom.” Just imagine him with a bowl cut screaming, “Okey dokey, Doctah Jones – hold on to your potatoes!”
2. “Sex and the City” (May 30)
The gang’s all here, as the feisty foursome of Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Samantha (Kim Cattrall) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis), return with the much-anticipated film version of the hit TV show. While the plot is being kept largely under wraps, what has been released is that Jennifer Hudson is joining the girls as Carrie’s assistant and Steve, Smith, Harry and Big are back. Charlotte is pregnant, and Carrie and Big are getting married – at least according to the trailers.
Mollie: As a die-hard “Sex and the City” fan, I couldn’t be more excited for this movie if it came with complimentary cosmopolitans. Especially since seeing Big and Carrie get ready to walk down the aisle is the female equivalent of those last few minutes after the “Iron Man” credits, at least in terms of building anticipation for a coming attraction. What can I say? When the sex was as great as “SATC,” you can’t help but want more.
Tyler: As a straight male, any opinion of this film’s content that I may have is already null and void. I wouldn’t have been able to match any of the characters listed above to the over-paid actresses that portray them, but I could tell that you this little production will probably be the highest-grossing movie of the summer. Oprah must have gobbled a whole bucket of KFC to assuage the anxiety she felt when she realized another entertainment entity would siphon away all of the cash she usually sees from the demographic of “Every Female Alive.” Ladies, I hope you enjoy it; fellas, just go to the next film.
3. “The Dark Knight” (July 18)
Gotham gets serious, as Batman (Christian Bale) joins forces with Lt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) to take a bite out of crime. Meanwhile, Michael Caine plays Alfred Pennyworth, Maggie Gyllenhall steps in as the Dark Knight’s love interest and Heath Ledger delivers a performance as the Joker that critics have been ravenously anticipating for months now. Plus, Anthony Michael Hall is in it.
Mollie: Sporting a much more dramatic look than the last few Batman movies, this film seems to be poised to push the franchise back into the twisted terrificness of Tim Burton’s “Batman,” – something I am happy to spend a few bucks to see on the big screen. Plus, Ledger’s performance is supposed to be epic, and the combo of Christian Bale’s raw sex appeal, Gyllenhall’s formidable acting chops and Michael Hall’s kitsch factor make this movie extra-exciting.
Tyler: Forget Marvel. Despite Iron Man’s success, they overplayed both hands with their appallingly unoriginal Hulk sequel set for June release. A bright, summer day could only be made brighter by the Dark Knight. If you have testicles, you are obligated to see this film. Ledger’s version of Joker’s cackle still sets my fanboy heart all atwitter, but keep two eyes out for the deliciously scary and also highly anticipated emergence of Eckhart as Two-Face.
4. “The Happening” (June 13)
M. Night Shyamalan is back with a new psychological thriller about something supernatural. What, exactly, is still up in the air, as the plot is still pretty much under wraps. But, what is known is that the film centers on a family running from some sort of natural disaster, and it features Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo and Spencer Breslin, among others.
Mollie: Well, I am probably one of the few people who feels this way, but I thought “The Village” was absurdly bad. Or just plain absurd. And, although I never saw “Lady in the Water,” neither did most of the rest of the world. The trailer does look pretty cool, and scary movies ripped straight from the headlines tend to be more interesting than most. Still, this movie comes out the same day as the remake of “The Incredible Hulk,” in which a beefed-up Edward Norton goes toe-to-genetically-modified-toe with what is supposed to be quite the arch-enemy, all with a very sexy Liv Tyler by his side. Does it even matter what M. Knight plans to put in theaters against the Marvel madness that seems to be sweeping the big screen this summer?
Tyler: The simple answer to that question is, “No, both movies are going to blow nuts bigger than the Hulk’s, and each one of those thing is like a head of lettuce.” Unless M. Night dug up and reanimated Hitchcock’s corpulent corpse to help him direct this thing, I don’t see any reason to pay money to watch in faux suspense as Marky Mark runs through fields with more creepy children while squinting at a radio. That’s what’s happening.
5. “Get Smart” (June 20, 2008)
In this remake of the Mel Brooks classic, Agent 86 (Steve Carell) and Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) team up to battle Control’s evil nemesis KAOS. Plenty of physical comedy, slapstick and sexual tension ensue, as the guys who wrote “Failure to Launch” try to revive this classic comic franchise.
Mollie: Well, as much as I love Mel – and Carell, Hathaway and cast-member Alan Arkin – I have to say that the trailer for this one looks like a lot less fun than the original. With more cheap slapstick and a lot less heart, it’s hard to believe that this movie could match the wit and wonder that was the original “Get Smart,” but I suppose that it can’t hurt to find out. Well, it might have hurt Carell, but I’m sure I’ll be fine.
Tyler: I wish that I had a shoe phone – or a sandal that turned into a bomb. Thanks for putting up with the two of us these past years, Artsweekers. As parting advice, remember what venerable screen star Peter Weller said in “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension” -“Wherever you go…there you are.”