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Summer movie preview

Citizen Staff Writer
Cover story



Here in the summer of 2009, when virtually all the strutting tent-pole pictures are action movie sequels, audiences hungry for mythic conflicts between an unstoppable power and an immovable force can feast on every kind of big-screen crackle and crunch in wrap-around deep seated stereo.

My advice is to just think of your favorite multiplex as an amusement park and go with it. We get the massive clang of “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” (partly filmed in Tucson), the personal tragedies on an operatic scale of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” the fire power frenzy of killing machine madness in “Terminator Salvation” and – in outer space – the roots of science fiction philosophy with “Star Trek,” taking us back to the day when Kirk and Spock were scarcely more than space cadets manning the recently commissioned starship Enterprise.

And that is just in May. Well, OK, “Transformers” had to settle for a release date in June, but even then the percussive echoes of all the others will still be ringing in your ears.

Religion scholars and conspiracy theorists finally get to gnaw on more of Dan Brown’s convoluted Catholic theories in “Angels & Demons,” with Tom Hanks coming back as the intrepid code breaking academic Robert Langdon.

Moviegoers with children do have a little something to anticipate in May, the new Disney-Pixar fantasy “Up.” Not that anyone is counting but all nine animated films Pixar has released, beginning with “Toy Story,” have been hits. Will “Up” keep the string alive?

June and July mix it up a little more, introducing some actual comedy from such diverse talents as Sacha Baron Cohen (“Bruno”), Will Ferrell (“Land of the Lost”) and Woody Allen (“Whatever Works”). We do have to wonder if Allen’s films are still relevant, though his last picture “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” did well enough.

But the big bucks are riding on “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” racing to keep ahead of the real life adolescence of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson. All three actors have literally grown up playing the parts of Harry, Ron and Hermione. The best news about this astounding series is that British director David Yates is back on the set for his second Potter assignment after directing “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” in 2007.

Tucsonans may feel a more personal connection to Johnny Depp’s performance as John Dillinger in “Public Enemies.” No word yet if there is any mention of Dillinger’s stay at the downtown Hotel Congress and eventual capture here in 1934. We do know Christian Bale plays the FBI agent Melvin Purvis, the nemesis of Dillinger. The bank robber was finally gunned down in front of the Biograph Theater in Chicago.

People who enjoy films with actual content can come out in August, as the cinema offerings get a little more arty. The month will be owned by Meryl Streep, doing another accent as television personality chef Julia Child in “Julie & Julia.” Cast as the ingenue fascinated by the older woman is Amy Adams.

Streep fans know summer has been very good for the actress of late, with those hits “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Mamma Mia!”

August also brings a new movie from director Ang Lee, adapting “Taking Woodstock” from the memoir written by Elliot Tiber. The story is a comedy, with some gender identity issues involved, about Tiber’s plans to stage that pivotal rock ‘n’ roll weekend.

To end the summer on a sweet note is “Ponyo,” created by the Japanese animation genius Hayao Miyazaki. After sneaking up on American audiences with “Spirited Away” and “Howl’s Moving Castle” that won many awards, the artist now has the backing of Disney’s John Lasseter.

“Ponyo” will be voiced in English by such established names as Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Liam Neeson and Tina Fey. Also in there are the younger siblings of Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers – little Noah Cyrus as the small fish that longs to be a human girl and Frankie Jonas as the boy who wants to be the fish’s friend.


What with getting bombarded by Hollywood’s massive special effects machine all summer, we turn to the people making movies for people who love movies: independent filmmakers.

Sure, some of the actors and directors are famous, but the film budgets are lower and the stories are better. Some of the stories sound like they could be about actual human beings.

• “Cheri,” directed by Stephen Frears, stars Michelle Pfeiffer, who has gone from being Catwoman in 1992 to playing a present-day cougar, enchanting a 19-year-old lad played by Rupert Friend. According to the bio material, Pfeiffer is 50. According to the press photos for “Cheri,” she is also ravishing.

• “Brüno” brings back performance artist and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen in another of his improvising roles designed to make small-minded people look even smaller. Who can resist that combination? The early buzz is that this character, a gay fashion reporter from Austria, is as funny as Borat, the guy from Kazakhstan.

• “Dead Snow” is from Norway, where in 1945 German soldiers were slaughtered by angry locals. Now it is the 21st century and those undead souls are restless Nazi zombies who begin feeding on local college med school students. What’s not to like?

• “The Boat That Rocked” brings Philip Seymour Hoffman together with Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh to tell the story of a pirate radio ship in 1966, assaulting England from international waters with the finest rock ‘n’ roll of the day. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, all that crowd are in the air 24/7.

• “Cold Souls” stars Paul Giamatti in a surreal comedy about a mildly famous actor who decides to have his soul, rather than his body, placed in cold storage to wait for better times when he could become more famous. The setup is being compared to “Being John Malkovich.” Being Paul Giamatti definitely sounds more twisted.

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