Right now, the biggest summer movie news is that Disney is refusing to let subsidiary Miramax release Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, for fear of offending either Jeb Bush, Disney World's (no-)tax collector or the Bush supporters who consume Disney products.
Since Moore has known about Disney's position for over a year, much of the current bluster looks suspiciously like a publicity stunt. Still, Moore has publicly declared that he wants the film in theaters this summer, with a DVD release by fall, all in time to influence the November election. Somehow, it seems highly probable that a Plan B is already in the works for his film, which will be unveiled later this month at Cannes.
But, as we await the outcome of The Movie Disney Doesn't Want to Touch, there's plenty of other movie entertainment happening this summer.
Friday, May 15, we'll gird our loins for the blockbuster season with Troy, an account of that famous Greek conflict between the Trojans and the Spartans. This Wolfgang Peterson (Das Boot, The Perfect Storm) spectacular is nearly three hours long, and features noted Greco-thespian Brad Pitt as Achilles.
After the "off-weekend" of May 21, with only Shrek 2 to rush out and see, we'll need to summon up the sum of our fears and cower under the apocalyptic might of The Day After Tomorrow (May 28) from director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day). We'll find out if this doomsday flick lives up to its great title and the trailer that's been scaring the bejesus out of us for months.
The big movie this month is Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock's rapturously received gonzo documentary about the evils of fast food (May 21). Also keep an eye out for Young Adam, a grimy Scottish flick about murder on the barge trade in which Ewan McGregor reportedly gets naked as never before. The Italian thriller I'm Not Scared and the Korean drama of a monk's life, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and ... Spring are also scheduled to open.
In a summer full of juggernauts, there's probably not a more reliable entry than Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, due out June 4. The books are getting longer now, and the child actors keep getting older, and instead of the workmanlike Christopher Columbus, the director here is Alfonso Cuaron, the Mexican director of such kiddie fare as A Little Princess and Y Tu Mama Tambien. The most notable newcomers to the franchise are Emma Thompson, playing Professor Sibyll Trelawney, and Michael Gambon, replacing the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore.
The following weekend of June 11 is blockbuster weekend for grownups with The Stepford Wives remake marching into the multiplexes, with Nicole Kidman and Matthew Broderick leading the cast. Although the 1975 original was a thriller, this time around they're aiming for snarky satire; one wonders if the remake will find a contemporary context that matches the fears of women's lib that informed the first film. In what is shaping up to be a very strong month, June will also see the opening of The Terminal (June 18), Steven Spielberg's tale of an airport refugee and eccentric played by Tom Hanks.
And then, getting an early start on Independence Day weekend on June 30 (drum roll, please) is Spider-Man 2. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst are back--now as a college student and a professional model, respectively--while Alfred Molina performs bad guy duties as Dr. Octopus.
Other June noteworthies: On the 18th, there's a dodgeball movie with Ben Stiller and many other cool cats. It's called Dodgeball. Then on June 25, The Notebook will open. Based on a novel by Raleigh author Nicholas Sparks, this sentimental romance has a strong cast: Ryan Gosling, Gena Rowlands, James Garner, Sam Shepard and Joan Allen.
One curiosity that may be showing up sometime in June, either in art houses or multiplexes, is Saved!, a satire of Christian teenage culture produced by Michael Stipe (Being John Malkovich, Velvet Goldmine) and starring Mandy Moore, Macauley Culkin and Martin Donovan, along with Jena Malone as a girl who becomes pregnant trying to save her boyfriend from the abomination of homosexuality(!).
After ceding the 4th of July weekend to Peter Parker and M.J., Jerry Bruckheimer, the past master of popcorn overload, will unleash King Arthur on July 7. The cast lacks A-listers--although Clive Owen (Croupier) is the King and Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Carribean) is Guinevere--so expect Bruckheimer's money to be spent on the sets and the action.
Elsewhere in the month, we see big expensive stars going solo on movies. Will Ferrell and the SNL gang explore the heretofore unexploited comic terrain of 1970s local news broadcasting in Anchorman, due out July 9. The following week, Will Smith headlines I, Robot, based on the Isaac Asimov short stories. Meanwhile, Matt Damon is back in action with Franka Potente at his side in The Bourne Supremacy, due out July 23. The same weekend will see Catwoman with Halle Berry as the anthro-feline. It's another milestone for diversity: A black woman headlining her own action franchise.
The last weekend in July offers two intriguing flicks. First, there's Jonathan Demme's remake of Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate, with Denzel Washington in the Sinatra role and Meryl Streep in the Angela Lansbury part. Meanwhile, hanging out its shingle next door will be The Village, the latest mystical thriller from M. Night Shyamalan.
According to most recent and reliable information, July looks to be a great month for indies and foreign flicks. With the period action epic Zatoichi, writer-director-star Takeshi Kitano (Fireworks, Brother) will finally get one of his recent movies released here, courtesy of Miramax. Full Frame prize-sweeper The Control Room, a fascinating inside look at Al Jazeera's perspective on the Iraq War, is scheduled to appear this month.
Also in July, two of the year's most highly praised domestic indie features are expected to show up. First, there's Sundance sensation Napoleon Dynamite, which seems to be a coming-of-age story set among the nerds of Idaho. Then there's Before Sunset, Richard Linklater's follow-up to his delicate and wistful Before Sunrise of a decade ago.
A survey of this month's promised Hollywood releases suggests that the month should be retitled August: The Abomination. Let's see, there's such colonic fare as The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (Aug. 11), The Exorcist: The Beginning (Aug. 20), Benji Returns: Rags to Riches (Aug. 27) and Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchids (Aug. 27).
On Aug. 6, Tom Cruise appears in the very high-concept Collateral Damage, in which he plays a hit man who, for some reason, hires a cab driver to ferry him to his grim appointments on one particularly busy day. Elsewhere in August, Jennifer Lopez will try to reverse a series of film stumbles by cutting rugs with Richard Gere in Shall We Dance?, Miramax's remake of the Japanese crowd-pleaser of a decade ago. Then there's Alien vs. Predator (Aug. 13), a long-awaited matchup that also seems to be part of a trend toward self-referentiality, consolidation and possibly creative desperation in blockbuster franchises.
Forecasting the indie releases for August is a speculative enterprise, but two of the likelier--and more intriguing--entries are Sundance going-home-again hit Garden State and the Colin Farrell headliner A Home at the End of the World, an adaptation of the novel by Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours.
And, if at this point in the summer we're ready to flee the theaters in favor of a cool swim, Lion's Gate is threatening to ruin that respite for us with Open Water, an indie flick that's being billed as the scariest Sundance product since The Blair Witch Project in 1999. So far, Aug. 20 is the release date for this story of two scuba divers left stranded in the ocean. See it and be scared, or just stay in the pool.
All summer long, the N.C. Museum of Art will be screening films outdoors on the weekends. They've got a number of last year's hits, including School of Rock, Lost in Translation and Bend it Like Beckham before closing the season with a three-night, nine-hour Lord of the Rings blowout from Aug. 26-28. For schedule and ticket information: www.ncartmuseum.org .
Triangle DocFest (May 16 and May 23)
This mini-fest will showcase several of the area's best recent documentaries, including Rebecca Cerese's February One, Cynthia Hill's Tobacco Money Feeds My Family and Jay Spain and Jay Niver's Live and Let Go. They'll be at Chapel Hill's Lumina on the 16th and Raleigh's Rialto on the 23rd.
2004 W.A.R.P. Film Festival (June 3-6)
Sponsored by Durham's DADA gang, this inaugural fest will celebrate the political and the experimental at the Durham Arts Council's new PSI Theatre. Prizes will be given to the best films in the following acronymic categories: War, Art, Relationships and Politics. There's still time to submit: May 21 is the deadline. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Colored Pictures Film Festival (July 9-10)
After a rousing, single-evening inauguration last year, organizers are expanding the program at Durham's Carolina Theatre to two nights. There's still time (barely) to submit: May 15 is the deadline. More info: www.coloredpictures.com .
N.C. Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (Aug. 12-15)
This popular Carolina Theatre event will be in its ninth year. More info: www.carolinatheatre.org .
Trailer Park Fest (August 2004)
The Ms. Films gang "seeks original movie trailers, faux trailers for films that don't exist, 16mm trailers found in movie theater dumpsters, thrift stores, forgotten projection booths and in your collection." Or you can make your own. Entry deadline for this all-gender event is July 1. Email email@example.com for more information.