by HELEN GEIB
On the Hollywood calendar, today is the first day of summer. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the opening day headliner for a month filled with big-budget prequels and sequels. The only week a new entry in a popular franchise doesn’t open is the week the new Pixar movie opens. May promises to be huge at the multiplex. Read after the break for the full list of films, and my take on them, scheduled for general release this month. Links are to the film’s IMDb page.
Battle for Terra – Big, bad humanity tries to eradicate cute, peace-loving alien race as a first-line colonization strategy in this animated film. The animation is to trick you into taking your kids. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past – The studio must envision this romantic comedy as counter-programming to the X-Men movie, but really, what woman doesn’t want to see Hugh Jackman as Wolverine? Ghosts cannibalizes “A Christmas Carol” for its story of an inveterate womanizer who learns the true meaning of love when he is visited by the shades of past relationships and a glimpse of things to come. Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner star; directed by Mark Waters (Mean Girls, The Spiderwick Chronicles).
X-Men Origins: Wolverine – I am seriously psyched for this one. A prequel to X-Men, the film explains, between chases, fights, explosions, and other such staples of a summer action-movie blockbuster, how Logan/Wolverine acquired that smart-metal skeleton and bad attitude. Hugh Jackman stars in his fourth outing as everyone’s favorite tough-guy mutant; Liev Schreiber, Ryan Reynolds, Dominic Monaghan, and Taylor Kitsch join the franchise as mutant allies and enemies with cool powers of their own. Directed by Gavin Hood (Tsotsi, Rendition).
Next Day Air – Or as we refer to it in my family, the Mos Def movie. Mike Epps and Donald Faison also appear in the ensemble cast of this black comedy revolving around an incompetent deliveryman’s mis-delivery of a box containing a very large quantity of cocaine to the wrong apartment. This is the freshman film of director Benny Boom, who has credits in music videos.
Star Trek –The adventures of the captain and crew of the USS Enterprise when they were young and hungry in an origin story for the original “Star Trek” series. Director J.J. Abrams (Mission: Impossible III) helms this reboot of the franchise starring Chris Pine as James T. Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Karl Urban as McCoy, Simon Pegg as Scotty, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, John Cho as Sulu, and Anton Yelchin as Chekov.
Angels and Demons – Where’s the counter-programming when you really need it? Tom Hanks returns in front of the camera and Ron Howard behind it for this prequel to the widely-panned, but depressingly profitable The Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown fans, rejoice. Some of them have told me the book this is based on is better than its more famous predecessor. I’ll never know.
Dance Flick – I counted seven Wayans in the cast and crew of this comedy. It was co-written by Keenan Ivory, Shawn, Marlon, Craig, and Damien, who also directed; Marlon, Shawn, Keenan Ivory, Damon Jr., Kim, and Craig are in the cast. Some of them brought the world In Living Color and the “Scary Movie” franchise. I haven’t seen a trailer, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess this is a spoof of competitive dancing movies.
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian – Sequel to the pleasant family comedy Night at the Museum, one of the surprise hits of 2006. Ben Stiller reprises his role as the New York City Museum of Natural History night guard whose job is to keep the exhibits in the building and under control. Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, and Dick Van Dyke also make the journey down to D.C.; Amy Adams and Hank Azaria join the cast. Shawn Levy returns as director.
Terminator Salvation (Opens May 21) – Terminator sequel (Or is it a prequel? Curse those time travel paradoxes!) about John Connor and his fight to save humanity from the machines in the post-apocalyptic future. Christian Bale stars as Connor, following up on his uber-intense Batman in The Dark Knight; directed by McG (Charlie’s Angels, We Are Marshall).
Drag Me to Hell – Director Sam Raimi returns to the horror genre with this topical frightener about a bank loan officer, played by Alison Lohman, who is cursed by a foreclosed-on old witch. Raimi also co-wrote (with older brother Ivan); Justin Long co-stars as the heroine’s out-of-his-depth boyfriend.
Up – The latest animated film from popular and critical favorite Pixar is the story of a cranky 70-something year old man (voiced by Edward Asner) who ties balloons to his house and flies off on a fantastical adventure with an accidental stowaway, a cheerful young boy from his neighborhood. Co-directed by Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc.) and Bob Peterson.