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Double Dutch 

Summer movie pairings split good ideas


05.20.09


The summer movie market includes about 10 sequels. It would be hard labor to do the exact math, but two of them represent the battle of the die-offs: 'Final Destination: Death Trip' vs. 'H2' (Halloween 2, Aug. 28). The conjunction is all part of 2009's peculiar doppelgänger effect.

First, we had Liev Schreiber re-creating his part as the bloodthirsty brother from Defiance in 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine.' Then we were served a double order of Spocks in 'Star Trek' (both of which are summer movies, even if they opened weeks in advance of June 21 or even the traditional Memorial Day weekend, all part of summer-season creep in the industry).

If we were applying one of those irritating Facebook polls to this summer's films, it would answer the question "What Shakespeare play are you?" with "One of those lesser mistaken-identity comedies with twins."

Two toy-related movies seem to be doubles. 'G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra' (Aug. 7) tries to sell strangely Transformer-like super soldiers in a market already anchored by the loftily titled 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen' (June 24). This spot is as good a place as any to mention 'Terminator Salvation' (May 21), directed by McG, who has never made a good film in his life. Consider Terminator Salvation mentioned.

Will Ferrell doubles up twice. He has a small part in 'The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard' (Aug. 14) as a salesman's salesman, and he also stars in 'Land of the Lost' (June 5), the first of what threatens to become an inevitable chain of Sid and Marty Krofft cinematizations.

Even better than a double is a triple helping of wacky dinosaurs: the aforementioned Land of the Lost as well as 'Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs' (July 1) and the dino skeleton in 'Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian' (May 22).

'The Time Traveler's Wife' (Aug. 14) has steadily resisted adaptation, but now Audrey Niffenegger's story is ready to go. Eric Bana plays the beaming-out, unstuck-in-time husband, Rachel McAdams is the left-behind wife, and the entirety will, we hope, be more like Portrait of Jennie than a bad episode of Time Tunnel. '(500) Days of Summer' (July 17) is also a story of random-access romance, with Zooey Deschanel teamed up with one of the best young actors around, Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Under Judd Apatow's direction, Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen play bosom buddies in 'Funny People' (July 31) in what looks like a yukster's version of Brian's Song, with Sandler dying offstage while he's killing onstage. On a more deliberately serious note, repeat offender Nick Cassavetes' 'My Sister's Keeper' (June 26) has him topping his heart-transplant-on-my-sleeve movie John Q. Sofia Vassilieva, in bald leukemia wig, has a sister (Abigail Breslin) who gets literally and physically sick of being her sister's bone-marrow donor. Even Nora Ephron's 'Julie & Julia' (Aug. 7) teams Meryl Streep's Julia Child with a reporter (Amy Adams) who has an obsession with the renowned chef.

'My Life in Ruins' (June 5), the comeback vehicle for Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), flaunts Greek scenery in a story of a professor turned tour guide. Unfortunately, the Hawaiian tour guides in 'A Perfect Getaway' (Aug. 14) aren't self-deprecating women of a certain age but, rather, serial killers.

The one truly hard-to-resist double order this summer is a one-two punch of kraut-bashing. 'Brüno' (July 10) has Sacha Baron Cohen as a faunlike and flamboyant Austrian fashion reporter, romping through the world in his sportswear. 'Inglourious Basterds' (Aug. 21), designed to drive proofreaders mad, might just be funnier in coming-attraction form than it will be as a whole movie. But this long-promised piece of Quentin Tarantino Dirty Dozen pastiche looks good/ridiculous. As a Southern commanding officer in the Big War, Brad Pitt demands 100 Nazi scalps each from each and every one of his commandos. And the film includes that scene every World War II movie needs but usually doesn't have: Hitler flipping out and screaming, "Nein! Nein!" as he receives news of the Yank kill-squad's rampage.

'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' (July 15) promises the usual magic, spells and private-school mischief, with Jim Broadbent as Horace Slughorn. 'The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3' (June 12) is Tony Scott's retake on a subway-heist movie of the grimy 1970s.

'Public Enemies' (July 1) is Michael Mann's John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) vs. Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) gangster movie. 'Shorts' (Aug. 7) is a Robert Rodriguez fantasy about the transformation of a boring Black Falls, Texas, town by a kid's imagination. It is indebted maybe to Jerome Bixby Jr.'s short story "It's a Good Life," only this time it's supposed to be cute instead of horrifying.

The new Woody Allen film, 'Whatever Works' (June 19), has an indistinct title, just like his career worst Anything Else. Still, Larry David shows up as Allen's surrogate curmudgeon. 'The Hurt Locker' (July 10) is Kathryn Bigelow's study of the Iraq War bomb-disposal units. 'All Good Things' (July 24) features Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst in a detective story by Andrew Jarecki (Capturing the Friedmans). Chris Columbus' 'I Love You, Beth Cooper' (July 10) is a teen comedy about a class valedictorian's date with the hottest girl in school (Hayden Panettiere).

'They Came from Upstairs' (July 31) was once titled Aliens in the Attic, which says it all. 'District 9,' an expansion of the short story "Alive in Joburg," is the South African&–set smart version of Alien Nation (Aug. 14).

Among the animated features, 'G-Force' (July 24) presents a team of guinea-pig secret agents, but the previews look like an unsettling mix of early aughties slang ("Off the hook!") with reference to 1960s secret-agent movies. Expect your kid, if you have one, to ask, "Dad, what does 'the free world' mean?'" Far more soulful is 'Ponyo' (Aug. 14), Pixar's John Lasseter bringing in the English version of Hiyao Miyazaki's Ponyo on the Cliff with the story of a humanoid goldfish.

Ever since reading John Dougan's book The Who Sell Out, I have been amazed that no one has made a movie about England's mid-1960s bout with pirate radio. Until now.

'The Boat That Rocked' (Aug. 28) stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as a laid-back yank DJ; Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral) directs. Like Radio London itself, it has a highly successful sound.

 

'Lorna's Silence' (Aug. 7) is by the Dardennes brothers, the tremendous Belgian neorealists who made The Son and Rosetta. Surrounded by a summer chock-full of robots blowing up, the Dardennes' moral seriousness and intelligence are only going to look better.

'The Proposal' (June 19) has a Meet the Parents&–style outline, but Sandra Bullock's timing looks sharper than in her last few outings; also, Ryan Reynolds seems to be picking up his cues well in this screwball comedy about a green-card marriage.

'Imagine That' (June 12) has Eddie Murphy rebranding himself as kid-friendly (ketchup on the pancakes—precious!). The Noël Coward&–based farrago 'Easy Virtue' (May 29) looks like that bad little theater comedy you suddenly find yourself in, with people too big and old to move, sitting between you and the exit. 






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