Not much new in theaters this week, as the box office gears up for the onslaught of Michael Bay's "Transformers 2."
Since "9.99" is apparently nowhere to be found, and since neither "The Proposal" nor "Year One" appear to demand much attention, I thought it would be prudent to take a look ahead to some promising titles slated for wide release in the next few months before "Shutter Island" opens the fall Oscar season in early October.
Unfortunately, this list probably isn't indicative of a coming wave of fantastic movies, but all look interesting in one way or another, and certainly worth checking out.
1. "Inglourious Basterds" (Aug. 21) - How could anything else be No. 1? People can say what they want about "Death Proof," but as far as I'm concerned, Quentin Tarantino is still in fine form and delivering exactly the kind of bold, personal, blow-you-face-off entertainment that his true fans have come to expect. I've no reason to believe this long, violent, heavily subtitled World War II film about a marauding band of Nazi hunters will be the movie to break his winning streak, and if the previews are anything to go by, this could easily be the most fun I'll have at the movies all year.
2. "Public Enemies" (July 1) - The once-great Michael Mann has hit some hard times these last 10 years or so, with missteps like "Miami Vice," "Collateral" and "Ali" forcing him to exist in the shadows of Hollywood, a mere facsimile of the visionary that he once was. If anything's going to change this, it's "Public Enemies," which follows the Feds in their efforts to take down bank robbers John Dillinger (Johnny Depp), Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd. I've seen the trailer about a dozen times now, and I can't get over how classy, refined and flat-out cool this film looks. Christian Bale's presence as a determined federal agent doesn't hurt the film's chances, either.
3. "Funny People" (July 31) - I'm sort of conflicted about this film. On one hand, it's directed by Judd Apatow (the director behind the comedy hits "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up," not to mention TV's "Freaks and Geeks" and "Undeclared"), and stars Seth Rogen and Adam Sandler, who can actually be a tremendously effective actor when given the right dramatic material. (See: "Punch Drunk Love." It's okay, I know you won't.) Why is it, then, that something about the previews just make me uneasy? I don't want to "spoil" the trailer, but suffice it to say that the film deals with a plot reversal that could potentially be very interesting, or could simply mark the point where Apatow finally descends into full-blown false sentimentality. Call me cautiously optimistic, though.
4. "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" (July 15) - After "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," I'm becoming a tad concerned that the filmmakers are starting to get a little sloppy with this franchise. No word on the running time of this sixth installment in the fantasy series, but the last film really suffered from an abbreviated length, and "Order of the Phoenix" director David Yates is back on board - so it could be more of the same. Which wouldn't be too bad, I suppose (sub-par Harry Potter is still better than most anything else), but I'm just holding out hope that the series can regain that sense of wonder that it somehow lost after "Prisoner of Azkaban."
5. "The Invention of Lying" (Sept. 25) - I hear that "Ghost Town" was kinda awful, but this time, in addition to starring, British comedian Ricky Gervais also writes and directs this comedy about a man who discovers the power of lying in an otherwise completely honest world. Gervais is a genius, creatively speaking (his original 120episode "Office" series was infinitely superior to the American version - check it out, won't you?), and this debut as a writer/director could open up some more doors Stateside.
6. "The Boat That Rocked" (Aug. 28) - Who doesn't love quaint little British comedies with an edge? This sophomore film by writer/director Richard Curtis ("Love Actually") stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy and Kenneth Branagh in a true story about an illegal radio station that operated off a boat in the North Sea in the 1960s. That's pretty much all I know about it, but the film's good-natured, rebellious goofiness looks like it may be infectious.
7. "Armored" (Sept. 18) - I shouldn't be excited about this movie, as it appears to be a cut-rate potboiler that's trying to overstep its bounds and become an introspective look at the evil of which ostensibly normal men are capable. If it builds quality characters but still primarily sticks to the thrills, I'm definitely up for it. After all, it's been a while since I've seen Matt Dillon go all screwy and try to kill people.
8. "Gamer" (Sept. 4) - I don't care what anyone says: Sometimes a good hook is enough to get me in the theater, and I think this futuristic battle-to-the-death "game" movie may have a good enough hook. Never mind that it'll probably be a poor man's "Running Man," and forget for a moment that it very well may be the nail in the coffin of star Gerard Butler's action career. Wouldn't it be oh-so-cool if this movie managed to not completely suck, and successfully sold the idea of an Internet-based arena of death and destruction? Yes. Yes, it would.
9. "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" (Sept. 18) - I'll level with you: I recall very about the children's book on which this film is based, apart from the fact that the whole thing was essentially an allegory for the inevitable fall of communism. If this 3-D family film can manage to retain this over-arching theme without a) hitting us over the head with it, and b) confusing and disorienting children, then this could be a pretty funky little treat. I have my doubts, but the prospect of a 3-D anti-communist screed is too compelling to pass up.
10. "The Final Destination" (Aug. 28) - During summer, we as moviegoers get to wallow in our most base impulses, and for me, it doesn't get more base or enjoyable than watching stupid people get killed in creative ways - in 3-D, no less! Yeah, this fourth installment in the "Final Destination" franchise (after a plane flight, a car wreck and a roller-coaster mishap, this one deals with an auto racing accident) is sure to be ultra low-brow, but what are ya gonna do?
Jason Wallis is a News-Sentinel copy editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.