Not many movie-going summers have had the good sense or fortune to formally kick themselves off with the likes of Hugh Jackman and his razor-sharp jazz hands, but as these are the times in which we live in, it's a clear indication that we're in for about eighteen weeks of spectacular spectaculars worth gulping down popcorn and guzzling down pop* with.
Eugene's already shone the spotlight on a fair amount of smaller titles worth your while, so our staff tried to keep the focus on that which we haven't seen, those spectacles for which we're most excited and least likely to text during. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: sit down and shut up, because these are the seven movies that we're fairly f**kin' pumped for.
(*Okay, I pretty much never call soda that, but you get the idea.)
1) Inglourious Basterds (August 21) -- Of course we went for the most grammatically insufferable title of the year as our top pick of the summer. That MPAA-skirting matter aside, Quentin Tarantino's following up his half of Grindhouse with an epic concerning Jewish-American soldiers led by Brad Pitt brutally and proudly sticking it to the Nazis as WWII rages across Europe. I keep hearing about this movie-within-the-movie that co-star Eli Roth directed, so it's a movie to some extent about movies, made by a guy who loves the things and anticipated by a bunch of writers who love movies too. In hindsight, it's the no-duh pick of the litter from this crowd.
2) Public Enemies (July 1) -- If anyone is going to basically remake Heat with Johnny Depp and Christian Bale instead of Robert de Niro and Al Pacino, making the former an infamous 1930s gangster and the latter the dedicated fed on his tail, then who better to do it than Michael Mann himself? Hmmmm? Who exactly? Okay, that's what I thought.
3) Up (May 29) -- Pixar: we've long forgiven you for Cars. So you don't have to strain yourselves to make this tale of an old man (Ed Asner) and his unwitting guest (Jordan Nagai) on a journey to parts unknown as poignant and hilarious as anything else you've made to date -- though we certainly wouldn't mind if you had.
4) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (July 15) -- We know, we know, you've been eagerly awaiting this since the moment you finished reading it last November. I was surprised by how brisk and engaging Order of the Phoenix turned out to be as an adaptation, so here's hoping that director David Yates and scribe Steve Kloves work similar magic on condensing the plot while advancing the story to its two-part climax. (By the way, am I the only one surprised that the series has reverted to a PG with this entry? All the marketing materials that I've seen suggest as dark a film as any they've made so far...)
5) Funny People (July 31) -- Professional comedian Adam Sandler suffers a near-death experience and begins to re-evaluate his life, and who better to save Sandler from his own career than the modern-day Midas that is Judd Apatow? Sure, the trailer looks distinctly more skewed towards drama than The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up had, but I trust Apatow to balance the pathos with the humor, and with Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman and Aziz Ansari, laughs should be in no short supply.
6) Star Trek (May 8) -- Who better to hand over franchise reboot duties for this series to than J.J. Abrams, a self-avowed non-Trekkie? Let me and/or others assure you that the canon is slyly worked around, the new cast fill out the bridge of the updated Enterprise well, and anyone who believes they've never been one for the show or the movies might want to give this a second thought before sitting through Next Day Air instead.
7) Ponyo (August 14) -- I'm well aware that I have a fair amount of Miyazaki to familiarize myself with, but most others on our staff seem to already be on the ball when it comes to his latest anime, a project that is by all accounts inspired by The Little Mermaid (Hans Christian Andersen's, mind you, and not the one with the pervy clamshell cover). Rumored to be on the English dub voice cast: Cate Blanchett and Tina Fey. There are worse things to give up subtitles for, no?
The Exception to the Rule: Drag Me to Hell (May 29) -- Remember that part at the beginning where I said that the focus would be on that which we haven't seen? Well, I lied a little. Because Peter saw this and really liked it. And Scott saw it and really liked it. And Eugene saw it and really liked it. And I saw it and really liked it. And Kevin saw it and... well, he's being handled as we speak. We may be horror fanboys for the most part, but if it's between this and H2 for horror in the summertime, then yeah, we'll sure as hell make an exception.
The One-Vote Wonders: The following films did get the least mention, so don't think we completely ignored X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Limits of Control, Angels & Demons, Terminator Salvation, The Hangover, Year One, District 9, and The Boat That Rocked.
The Shut-Outs: These potential blockbusters, however, failed to even crack the nominations; nothing personal, guys -- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Bruno, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Land of the Lost, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, The Taking of Pelham 123, and Dance Flick.