Think Different

Could it be that this year's crop of summer movies actually requires a brain cell or two?

Gasoline An Italian lesbian thriller about two young lady lovers on the run with a dead body in the trunk of their car and some nasty characters on their tail. You don't see that sort of thing every day.

JULY

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas Everybody's favorite public-domain Iraqi hero returns as a two-dimensional caricature voiced, natch, by Brad Pitt. Catherine Zeta-Jones voices the feisty sidekick chick and Michelle Pfeiffer the incongruous Greek goddess Eris. This is DreamWorks's only contribution to the summer screen.

Swimming Pool François Ozon follows up his delightfully weird musical 8 Women with this seemingly less delightful drama. British mystery writer Charlotte Rampling visits publisher Charles Dance's cozy abode in the south of France, but gets involved in intrigue with his daughter, Ludivine Sagnier. Looks moody, and iffy.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines Arnie's back, or something like that. Probably doesn't do the "nude Terminator" thing anymore though. Anyway, as the T-850 Terminator, he once again helps save humankind from those awful machines taking over the planet. Begging help are eighteen-year-old John Connor (Nick Stahl) and his girlfriend Claire Danes, who are being hunted by femme fatale "Terminatrix" Kristanna Loken. Franchise creator James Cameron didn't need the money, so Jonathan Mostow (U-571) directs. One question: Why don't the humans send back Robert Patrick to save everyone this time? Just curious.

Valentin Autobiographical story about the coming of age of an Argentine boy, whimsical and light, filled with hope, dripping with loveliness, oozing that certain je ne sais quoi that refreshes one's life and very soul. Supposedly, anyway. Written and directed by Alejandro Agresti.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Sometimes a sure thing at the box office isn't necessarily nauseatingly trite. This romp from director Gore Verbinski (The Ring) looks adventurous, atmospheric, and -- Geoffrey Rush excluded -- generally sex-ay. For sale is one Orlando Bloom (The Lord of the Rings) as a lad who must team up with thickly eyelinered pirate Johnny Depp to save Keira Knightley (Bend It Like Beckham) from bad pirate Rush. Based on the Disney ride, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, and certain to earn a doubloon or two.

Madame SatãIn case you were looking for a movie about Joao Francisco dos Santos, the transvestite chef who caroused through Rio in the Thirties, well, here's one. Lazaro Ramos plays the titular "Madame" while Karim Ainouz writes and directs.

A Housekeeper Jean de Florette director Claude Berri wrote and directed this romantic comedy about a man (Jean-Pierre Bacri) whose wife has left him, so he hires a housekeeper (Emilie Dequenne). Thing is, she's never actually done any housework in her life. It's based on a novel by Christian Oster.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Apparently Sean Connery plays fictional adventurer Allan Quatermain here, and apparently he absolutely hated working with director Steven Norrington (Blade). Nonetheless the movie got made, based on Alan Moore's zesty graphic novel, based in turn on classic characters such as Dr. Jekyll (Jason Flemyng), Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), and Dracula's Mina Harker (Peta Wilson). Takes place in Victorian England, thus shot in Prague.

Lucia, Lucia A Mexican woman (Celia Roth) loses her husband and discovers her life needs a makeover. Based on the novel by Rosa Montero, written and directed by Antonio Serrano.

Northfork From Mark and Michael Polish (Twin Falls, Idaho, Jackpot) comes this odd yarn about Montana locals in 1955 who must relocate to make way for a new dam. What -- there wasn't a movie waiting to be made about oil refinery employees on their lunch hours? Stars James Woods, Nick Nolte, and Daryl Hannah.

Bad Boys II At long last, Michael Bay has come to his senses and quit with the Ben Affleck PG-13 crap. The original Bad Boys didn't get much love from critics, but it didn't need any -- this one doesn't look like it could use the help either. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are back as mismatched cops, with Gabrielle Union replacing Téa Leoni as the potential love interest (good call!), and a supporting cast that includes Joe Pantoliano, Henry Rollins, and Peter Stormare.

Exorcist: The Beginning In what may just be the casting coup of the year, Stellan Skarsgaard steps in as the younger version of Max von Sydow's Father Merrin, battling demons in deepest, darkest Africa. This would have been director John Frankenheimer's final film, but the old master bowed out due to ill health early in the process, to be replaced by Paul Schrader. Thankfully, actor Liam Neeson bowed out too; for all his strengths, he's no Swede.

Garage Days Goth fave Alex Proyas, director of The Crow and Dark City, takes a wildly different turn with this comedy about an up-and-coming rock band struggling to make it to the top. Set in Proyas's native Sydney, the film apparently does retain at least some of the director's trademark visual strangeness; a drug sequence or two allow for some fun with CG effects.

Johnny English Mr. Bean seems like an unlikely James Bond type; then again, so did Mike Myers at one time. This spy spoof starring Rowan Atkinson has already been a monster hit in England, but by the looks of things, that isn't because of any kind of sophistication on the movie's part. John Malkovich plays the villain, and heck, he'd be a worthy adversary for Bond. The film's writers are similarly worthy; they actually did write the last two Bond films.

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