We’ve seen the wrath of nature.
Twice already during this pre-summer movie season volcanoes have blasted and burned, respectively, the Northwest and Los Angeles - which, depending on what specific sections we’re speaking about, might not be much of a loss.
But as we head into the summer season proper, more threats - and this time to all of civilization - are on the way. They begin with the second coming of cloned dinosaurs and are closely followed by escaped criminals, runaway cruise ships, Gotham City psychopaths, extraterrestrial trailer trash, icebergs, comic-book superheroes, television sitcom remakes and Gary Oldman.
Oldman, already over the top as a futuristic arms dealer in Luc Besson’s “The 5th Element,” plays the leader of a group that hijacks the president’s plane in “Air Force One.”
You know it’s summer when our attention is captured by something other than crater-sized potholes, city council land grabs and the occasional cougar in Manito Park.
Let’s hear it for escapism.
The Spokane/Post Falls/Coeur d’Alene summer schedule, given last-minute rearranging, is as follows:
The Lost World - The rule of thumb among movie bookers is that sequels don’t do as well as originals. And considering that “Jurassic Park” ranks No. 3 on the list of all-time box-office champions, having earned a whopping $357 million, their point would seem to apply particularly to this second Steven Spielberg/Michael Crichton pairing.
But bear in mind that this IS a Steven Spielberg/Michael Crichton pairing, which automatically makes it something special. So despite its $75 million budget, somewhat miserly considering today’s skyrocketing costs, “The Lost World” is one sequel that is likely to lead the summer rush.
Jeff Goldblum returns as chaos-theorist Ian Malcolm, one of the first movie’s survivors. This time, he is part of a team attempting to discover just how widespread the threat of the supposedly dead dinosaurs has spread. When reports of random attacks emanate from the Central American countries nearest to the island bearing the former Jurassic Park, Malcolm and his crew (including Vince Vaughn and Julianne Moore) trek back to the killing grounds.
Addicted to Love - Both Matthew Broderick and Meg Ryan are enduring difficult times in their careers. Time was when Broderick was a 20-something teen star (“WarGames,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”). And Ryan was one of the brightest comedic stars that Hollywood had to offer (“When Harry Met Sally,” “Sleepless in Seattle”).
But both have slipped of late. Broderick co-starred in the critically hammered Jim Carrey dark comedy “Cable Guy,” and Ryan’s turn in “Restoration” was buried under a bad wig. This Griffin Dunne-directed film - which is featured as the opening movie of the Seattle International Film Festival - represents a return to light comedy for both of them. It involves the two getting back at their former mates, who have paired up on their own. Nice if you like slapstick.
Gone Fishin’ - Joe Pesci and Danny Glover play a couple of guys whose only desire is to spend a day on the water. But this being a Hollywood Pictures release (Disney’s ostensible “adult” arm), you know we’re in for some madcap mayhem. Let’s just hope they refrain from too many “Home Alone”-type crudities.
Trial and Error - Sort of “Dumb and Dumber” set in a courtroom, this comedy stars Jeff Daniels and Michael Richards (“Seinfeld”). Daniels, Carrey’s “Dumb” co-star, plays a lawyer here who, following a raucous bachelor party, is unable to represent a client in court. Richards, an out-of-work actor, ends up taking his place. And bedlam ensues.
Con Air - Since winning a Best Actor Oscar for “Leaving Las Vegas” two years ago, Nicolas Cage has devoted himself to action films. Here he plays a former Green Beret who, following a jail term for manslaughter (he killed a man who attacked him and his wife), earns parole only to find himself on a flight that is hijacked by some of the most murderous criminals in history (look for Ving Rhames, John Malkovich and Steve Buscemi). Guess who is called upon to save the day?
Buddy - Befitting her status as Hollywood’s resident woman sidekick (“In the Line of Fire,” “Get Shorty,” “Ransom,” “Tin Cup”), Rene Russo earned the right to star in this based-in-fact film about an eccentric, animal-loving woman who raises a gorilla as if it were her own child. Wonder what her PTA duties are?
Speed 2 - If this one takes off the way the original did, the myth that a summer-action film needs a strong male presence will take a beating. Not that Jason Patric is exactly a non-entity, but he is stepping into a role created by Keanu Reeves.
Whatever you might have to say about Reeves’ acting ability, or lack thereof, note that “Speed” earned $121 million.
Of course, that film’s success likely owes as much to the directorial talents of Jan De Bont (“Twister”) and to the appeal of Sandra Bullock, who reprises her role as the driving-challenged woman who’s good in the (ba-dah-boom) clutch.
Batman and Robin - They seem to be getting a little lazy with this series. The trailers that have been assaulting us for months feature dialogue that is cliche instead of intentionally corny (“It’s the hockey team from hell”), acting that is merely over-the-top instead of hilariously farcical (Uma Thurman plays another one of her “comedic” characters) and sets that look like something from “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” - not that my intention is to demean Pee-wee in any way.
Besides Thurman as Poison Ivy, a pre-heart-surgery Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze and Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl, the draw here is the new lead star, George Clooney (“ER”).
Taking over for Val Kilmer, who took over for Michael Keaton, Clooney has a job ahead of him: helping director Joel Schumacher bring life back to a series that has outlived its popularity.
Of course, it worked last time. “Batman” (1989) earned $251 million. And after the sequel, “Batman Returns” (1992), dipped to $163 million, the Kilmer-starring “Batman Forever” (1995) rebounded to $184 million. Question is: Does anyone still care?
Hercules - Disney goes back to the animation board. This time the subject is the mythical hero, whose super strength was one big moral lesson. No doubt Disney will add a few lessons of its own, along with a few cute creatures and one or two Oscar-friendly songs.
My Best Friend’s Wedding - Like Broderick and Ryan above, Julia Roberts has experienced better career spells. The “Pretty Woman” star still has that sense of easy charm that propelled her to stardom, but she’s downplayed it in such box-office busts as “Mary Reilly” and “I Love Trouble.”
Here, she plays opposite Dermot Mulroney, her best friend until she discovers he is getting married - to someone else. Her reaction is to decide that SHE really loves him and so must break up his new relationship (with Cameron Diaz).
The trailers look good, but it’s an iffy deal all the way around.
Face/Off - Nicolas Cage (again) stars as a terrorist who switches faces and identities with FBI agent John Travolta. Directed by John Woo, whose “Broken Arrow” moved quickly and blew up things real good but didn’t nearly approach the best of the work that he did in his early Hong Kong days.
Men in Black - This Will Smith/ Tommy Lee Jones comedy thriller looks to be one of the summer’s sure hits. Smith and Jones star as members of an ultrasecret government agency whose job is to protect Earth from evil extraterrestrials. Coming off his scene-stealing performance in “Independence Day,” Smith looks poised to join the ranks of Huge Stars of the Moment.
Out to Sea - Those “Odd Couple”/”Grumpy Old Men” guys, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, star as mismatched-in-temperament friends who sign on as dance instructors for a cruise ship. Dyan Cannon takes over from Ann-Margret and Sophia Loren as the beauty whose attention they attract (yeah, right).
Wild America - Three young men, led by Jonathan Taylor Thomas, spend the summer of 1967 documenting America’s wildlife. Look for some animatronic fun in the shape of moose, alligators and hibernating grizzly bears.
Titanic - James Cameron has come up with a different perspective from which to tell the story of this 1912 luxury-liner tragedy. He concentrates on the lower decks, mainly in the shape of Leonardo DiCaprio, a poor boy whose love of the regal Kate Winslet crosses class boundaries.
As for the budget, which some reports place at $200 million (and still rising), the result of some of that spending can be seen in the trailers. Judging from those, the visual perspectives that Cameron has achieved (in his ministudio on a Mexican beach) are stunning.
The key here is how well the script meets the special effects (remember “The Abyss”).
This is one release that could be pushed back to the fall.
Contact - Based on the late Carl Sagan’s novel about the first-ever close encounter between humankind and extraterrestrials, this Robert Zemeckis-directed film stars Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey as Agents Scully and Mulder - heh, heh. Seriously, folks, Foster and McConaughey portray those favorite sci-fi characters: scientists. Other notable performers include John Hurt, James Woods, Tom Skerrit, Angela Bassett and Rob Lowe.
Nothing to Lose - This comedy follows Tim Robbins, a rich guy/cuckold, and the carjacker wannabe (Martin Lawrence) who tries to hold him up. The result is a comic road trip.
George of the Jungle - Brendan Fraser, who once played a caveman opposite Pauly Shore, appears here as the goofy jungle hero, adapted from the animated television series, who has a bad habit of crashing into trees.
Mimic - Mira Sorvino, whose comedic talents are more apparent than her dramatic skills, plays a scientist running herd on a genetically engineered creation. Directed by Mexican director Guillermo del Toro (“Cronos”), the script was co-written by John Sayles, Steven Soderbergh and Matthew Robbins (“Used Cars”).
This may end up being a minor sleeper with major appeal.
Air Force One - As an actor, Harrison Ford looks more presidential than Ronald Reagan ever did. And this is what will fuel this saga involving a crisis caused when a terrorist (Gary Oldman) hijacks the presidential plane and threatens, among others, the president’s wife and daughter. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen (“Das Boot”).
Conspiracy Theory - Mel Gibson has made a career out of playing good guys who are just a bit twisted (e.g., the “Lethal Weapon” series). In this film by Richard Donner, the director responsible for “Lethal Weapon,” Gibson plays a conspiracy-minded cab driver whose warning to lawyer Julia Roberts that her life is in danger goes unheeded until Patrick Stewart attempts to kill her.
The schedule for August is tentative at best. Here are a few of the films that area audiences may get a chance to see on the best estimated dates:
Leave It to Beaver (Aug. 1) - The Beaver (Cameron Finley) is back, along with Wally, Mr. (Christopher McDonald) and Mrs. Cleaver (Janine Turner) and the always obnoxious Eddie Haskell.
187 (Aug. 1) - After he is stabbed in the back and nearly killed, a Brooklyn high-school science teacher (Samuel L. Jackson) transfers to Los Angeles and begins again, only this time with a different attitude.
Cop Land (Aug. 1) - What would summer be without a Sylvester Stallone film? This one, though, stars Sly as something different.
Gaining 50 pounds for the role, Stallone portrays a sheriff in a supremely crooked town. Co-stars include Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Janeane Garofalo and Michael Rapaport.
Air Bud - (Aug. 1) A ball-catching dog runs away from his mean owner (Michael Jeter) and befriends a boy whose dream is to play on his school’s basketball team.
Event Horizon (Aug. 1) - More sci-fi news, this one involving a spaceship pulled into an alternate dimension. Starring Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill and Kathleen Quinlan.
Desperate Measures (Aug. 8) - When a killer proves to be a good bone-marrow match for a cop’s cancer-stricken son, his apprehension and protection becomes a priority. Michael Keaton is the killer, Andy Garcia the cop. Directed by Barbet Schroeder.
The Truman Show (Aug. 8) - Jim Carrey brings this serious-minded stage show to the big screen. Uh-oh, remember “Cable Guy”?
Picture Perfect (Aug. 8) - When an advertising executive (Jennifer Aniston) invents a husband and her boss asks to meet the real guy, she recruits a stranger (Kevin Bacon) to play the role. Glen Gordon Caron (“Moonlighting”) directed.
Free Willy 3 (Aug. 8) - The dermatologically challenged killer whale needs rescuing - again.
Spawn (Aug. 8) - When a former government agent is murdered, he sells his soul to the devil and is transformed into a superhero. Todd McFarlane, a former Spokane Falls Community College student, created the comic book.
A Smile Like Yours (Aug. 15) - Greg Kinnear, rebounding from “Dear God,” stars in this romantic comedy about a busy-busy guy married to Lauren Holly.
She’s de Lovely (Aug. 22) - Based on a script written by his late father, film star and independent filmmaker John Cassavetes, Nick Cassavetes directed this film about what happens when a man goes to jail for 10 years and comes out to find his wife married to another man. Starring real-life marrieds Sean Penn and Robin Wright and John Travolta as the new husband.
Hoodlum (Aug. 29) - It’s Harlem, 1934, and the streets are afire with competing mob interests, mainly between that of Bumpy Johnson (Laurence Fishburne), Dutch Schultz (Tim Roth) and Lucky Luciano (Andy Garcia). Bill Duke directed.
Dead Man on Campus (Aug. 29) - Here’s a dark comedy for you. It concerns college and suicide. Yuk, yuk, yuk.
Kull the Conqueror (Aug. 29) - Television’s “Hercules,” Kevin Sorbo, plays another superwarrior from the late Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan).
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 3 color photos
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