Not since The Blair Witch Project has a movie captured so much pre-release online buzz. Let's just hope Snakes On A Plane (to think that the studio was thinking of ditching that title!) lives up to the hype.
Samuel L. Jackson plays an FBI agent who's escorting a witness to a trial when an assassin releases hundreds of deadly, scaly reptiles to scare the hell out of everyone onboard. Talk about turbulence. New Line's so pumped about the attention, it's even ordered reshoots to change the film rating from PG-13 to R. And check out the contest (www.TagWorld.com) to vote for the film's theme song. The film slithers onto screens August 18.
I'm still haunted by certain images in indie king Richard Linklater 's 2001 pic, Waking Life. After a bunch of critical and/or commercial hits (The School Of Rock, Before Sunset), he returns to animation with A Scanner Darkly , an adaptation of Philip K. Dick 's futuristic paranoid nightmare novel about spying and surveillance. The trance-inducing trailers have been playing for months, to good buzz. And am I the only one who thinks Keanu Reeves looks more interesting as a cartoon? Opens July 7.
If you're bemoaning the fact that Bryan Singer didn't helm X-Men: The Last Stand, never mind. The first-rate director's in charge of yet another comic book adaptation, Superman Returns . New man of steel Brandon Routh has already adorned a bunch of magazine covers with his shirt-popping pecs. But look for star-in-the-making Kate Bosworth to finally break out big time, too. Opens June 30.
Pirates Of The Caribbean was a monster hit three years ago, and its stars have risen a lot since then. Johnny Depp solidified his comeback with two consecutive best-actor Oscar nominations, Orlando Bloom lost his elf hair to became a heartthrob and Keira Knightley made up for that Domino debacle with her own Oscar-nominated performance in Pride And Prejudice. Disney's so confident it's found treasure that it filmed back-to-back sequels, both directed by Gore Verbinski . The second gets released next year. The first, POTC: Dead Man's Chest , comes out July 7.
Patrick Stettner 's moody thriller The Business Of Strangers (the one with Stockard Channing and Julia Stiles seeking vengeance on a rapist) was one of the sleeper hits of 2001. So Stettner's a good choice to direct The Night Listener , an adaptation of Armistead Maupin 's novel about a troubled boy who reaches out to a gay radio host ( Robin Williams ). Toni Collette and Sandra Oh , two actors I'd watch in just about anything, help round out the cast. Hope it doesn't get lost in the summer movie shuffle when it's released August 4.
Fiction films didn't score well at last year's Sundance Fest. An exception was Little Miss Sunshine , a road movie about an extended (and dysfunctional, natch) family travelling in an old VW bus to a kids' beauty pageant. The ensemble cast includes Steve Carell as a suicidal gay professor, Toni Collette as a liberal parent and scene-stealer Alan Arkin as a coke-snorting grandfather. The trip begins sometime in July.
Carved in Stone
This could go down as the year of the 9/11 movie. We've already seen the nicely understated United 93. Next up is World Trade Center , directed by Oliver Stone , a guy who wouldn't know the meaning of the word "understated" if it grabbed him by the throat and yelled at him repeatedly. The film stars Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena as real-life police officers John McLoughlin and William J. Jimeno, the last two men dug out alive from under the rubble of the towers. It's supposed to be incredibly moving and inspirational. Hmm... maybe Stone's mellowed.
Oldies but goodies
If new releases aren't your thing and you don't want to sit at home watching DVDs, mosey on over to Yonge and Dundas Square on Tuesdays for free outdoor screenings. This year's lineup is dubbed Creature Features and includes Creature From The Black Lagoon (June 27), The Birds (July 11), Jaws (July 25) and Alien (August 1). Meanwhile, Cinematheque's summer sked includes a major Michelangelo Antonioni retrospective (July 8 to August 18) and a kick-ass series devoted to samurai classics like The Seven Samurai , Rashomon and a trio of Zatoichi films that inspired Tarantino's Kill Bill (July 8 to August 17).