by J. Robert Parks
Last week, I stumbled upon
a fascinating website called The Hollywood
Stock Exchange. It's set up like a real financial market, except the
securities traded are films and movie stars. Even more than Hollywood itself,
the winners are judged solely on how much money they make. Who cares how
many awards or critical acclaim a film garners, just tell me how much it
grosses on opening weekend.
As I've pondered the movie
lineup for summer 2000, I've come to think that the Hollywood Stock Exchange
might have it right. When Big Daddy and Wild Wild West were
two of last year's biggest films, it seems positively quixotic to believe
that quality might equal quantity come summertime. Why beat your head against
a wall when you can go with the flow and hope that Mission: Impossible
2 can actually crack the $200 million barrier?
To that end, I offer my picks
for the big winners this summer:
Mission: Impossible 2,
which opened last week, will probably be the largest film of the summer.
And why not? It's a slick, enjoyable action movie that doesn't insult the
audience's intelligence, at least not too much. Tom Cruise gives his typical
performance, but his co-star Thandie Newton brings her own assets to the
table; and director John Woo can stage a fight scene with the best of 'em.
Gone in 60 Seconds (June 9), the new production from mega-action
producer Jerry Bruckheimer, should be M:I-2's main competition.
Starring Nicholas Cage as a reformed car thief who's blackmailed into one
last heist and Angelina Jolie (who else?!) as his sexy sidekick, this movie
promises more car chase explosions per minute than the ending of The
Blues Brothers. The next week (June 16) brings the return of Shaft.
Actually, Richard Roundtree only has a small cameo. The title character
is played this time by Samuel L. Jackson (who else?!). Vanessa Williams
co-stars and Boyz N the Hood director John Singleton tries to regain
his wonderboy status.
Opening the weekend before
July 4th are two epic men movies: The Patriot (starring Mel Gibson)
and Perfect Storm (starring George Clooney). Even though The
Patriot is set in the Revolutionary War and Perfect Storm takes
place off the New England coast in the 1990s, I keep confusing these movies
in my mind. Both will have big effects, high drama, and more male bonding
than you see at a WWF match. Two weeks later (July 14) comes another bonding
movie, this one starring those comic-book heroes, the X-Men. This
one is billed as a live-action movie, but then so was Phantom Menace.
Hopefully, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen can raise the comic-book standard.
And the last big blockbuster for the summer will probably be What Lies
Beneath (July 21), directed by Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) and starring
Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer. Expect supernatural weirdness, ala
If the prices on the blockbusters
are too high for you (current price for
M:I-2 on the big board is
$150 million a share), I suggest you go the comedy route, always a summer
staple. Martin Lawrence kicks June off with Big Momma's House, in
which he goes undercover as an enormous grandmother to catch the bad guys.
Comic hi-jinxs are sure to ensue. The biggest comedy of the year, though,
will almost certainly be the new Farrelly brothers film (There's Something
About Mary) about a cop with a split personality. Jim Carrey stars
(who else?!), with Renee Zellweger as his unfortunate love interest. It
opens June 23.
Other summer prospective
laugh-fests include Disney's The Kid (July 14) in which Bruce Willis
finds out what he was like as an 8-year-old. Generation gap hi-jinxs are
sure to ensue. Then there's the battle of the African-American comics on
July 28: Chris Rock stars in a "Heaven Can Wait"-style comedy entitled
Was Made to Love Her, and Eddie Murphy returns as the fatty professor
in Nutty Professor 2. And rounding out this season of black stand-up
is Jamie Foxx in Bait (Aug. 11).
There's plenty of animated
fare this summer, and not all of it's directed at the little ones. June
16 is the sci-fi, save-the-world epic Titan A.E., which has a strange
underground buzz despite the fact that it looks amazingly stupid. Of course,
this being summer-time, maybe it's because it looks stupid. Definitely
on the other end of the intelligence meter is
Chicken Run (June
23), the highly anticipated feature-length film from Nick Park and Aardman
Animators, the geniuses behind Wallace and Gromit, among others.
Chicken Run concerns a group of chickens trying to avoid the grocery
store. The following weekend brings us The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle,
which is a combination of live-action and animation. The live actors are
the trio of Robert De Niro, Rene Russo, and Jason Alexander. The animated
characters are the duo of Rocky and Bullwinkle (who else?!).
The kiddies get their share
on July 21 when Pokemon 2000 invades America. Expect more hyper-active
sixth graders and completely bewildered parents. And for the even younger
set (much younger) comes Thomas and the Magic Railroad (July 26).
If nothing else, my four-year-old nephew will be excited about this one.
Wrapping up the summer is Godzilla 2000 (August 11), which is, thankfully,
not a sequel to the enormous bomb of a few years ago. Rather, it's a new
movie from Japan that continues the great tradition of horrible stop-motion
plastic dolls. Camp enthusiasts will be lining up early.
Of course, the entire summer
is devoted to teenagers, but some movies particularly target the libidinous
generation and its disposable income. You can add a "who else?!" after
each of these next flicks. There's the sweet romance of Boys and Girls
(Freddie Prinze, June 16), Mad about Mambo (Keri Russell, July 14),
and Save the Last Dance (Julia Stiles, August 11). There's the sex
comedy of Road Trip (opened two weeks ago), Loser (Mean Suvari,
July 21), and But I'm a Cheerleader (Natasha Lyonne, July 28). Throw
in a horror spoof, Scary Movie on July 7, and the teen western Texas
Rangers (James Van Der Beek, August 11), and you have eight movies
that should never see the whites of an adult's eyes.
There are some movies, though,
that should interest those of voting age. If you're looking to stock your
portfolio with a cheap blockbuster, this is the category (think of Forrest
Gump and last year's Sixth Sense). July 14 brings John Travolta
and Lisa Kudrow in Nora Ephron's Numbers, a romantic comedy about
the lottery. Director Paul Verhoeven returns with another creepy sci-fi
adventure starring Kevin Bacon as a man who enjoys being invisible (July
Harold Ramis returns to the
big screen with Bedazzled (August 11), an updating of the Faust
legend with Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley. In the May-September romance
category, Richard Gere and Winona Ryder fall in love in New York (Autumn
in New York, August 18). And Robert Redford continues his obsession
with uncinematic subjects (read, boring) by bringing us a film about golf.
Legend of Bagger Vance (August 4) stars Will Smith and Matt Damon (uh,
Finally, in the subcategory
of old men acting like stupid fools, we have Space Cowboys (August
4), a movie about a quartet of geezers hoping to go into space. This one
features Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, and James
Garner. And for those who can't get enough, Burt Reynolds and Richard Dreyfuss
star as a couple of retired mobsters (isn't that an oxymoron?) who fight
to save their retirement home in The Crew (August 25). Maybe the
Cowboys can come to their rescue.
Not every movie fits into
a nice, easy category, particularly if it's trying to target a sentient
audience. Beware, though: the odds of these movies making a return on your
money is very, very small. Ralph Fiennes plays another tortured soul (what
else?!) in Sunshine (June 9), a film that swept this year's European
awards. Kenneth Branagh returns with another Shakespeare adaptation, Love's
Labour's Lost (June 16). Vanessa Paradis is the Girl on the Bridge,
a suicidal young woman who recognizes a career opportunity when she sees
one, as the target of a circus knife thrower. And there's the toast of
this year's Sundance Festival, Girlfight. No, it's not a behind-the-scenes
look at Britney Spears and Cristina Aguilera (though that would be a better
investment), but rather a feature about women's boxing.
For the discriminating filmgoer,
Chicago offers a number of attractive options. The Music Box theater and
the Film Center always have a fantastic mix of independent, foreign, and
classic Hollywood. Facets offers a potpourri of rewarding smaller fare.
And Hyde Park's own Doc Films has one of its finest summer schedules in
recent memory; look for a full review in a couple weeks.