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July 2005

Hot Shots

Films to watch out for this summer

It’s not just the sun that reaches its peak in summer. So, too, do movie takings—the season accounts for approximately 40 percent of annual box-office revenues. In 2004 the three top grossing films worldwide were Shrek 2, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Spider Man 2 (all sequels), which together grossed close to $2.5 billion. Though this year the summer hype isn’t as big as it was last year, after the spring slump of average to below-average movies, there are still some big-budget films to look forward to over the next couple of months.

The first of this year’s biggies was, without a doubt, the most anticipated film of the year—Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith—which looks set to continue eating up plenty of the screens throughout the summer. June releases kept the ball rolling with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Batman Begins (another prequel) and the Steven Spielberg-directed epic War of the Worlds, starring Tom Cruise. But July and August have a few big guns of their own.

Starting in July, Jeffrey Katzenberg goes up against his old employers at Disney, who, together with Pixar, have a near monopoly of hits in the computer-animated medium. But DreamWorks hopes to give Disney/Pixar a run for their money this summer with its latest computer-animated film, Madagascar (July 14). The story follows a lion (Ben Stiller), a zebra (Chris Rock), a giraffe (David Schwimmer) and a motley crew of other pampered animals who escape from New York’s Central Park Zoo and end up transported to a tropical island. Directed by Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath (Antz), the film promises many laughs and cute, furry animals galore.

For fans of the German hip hop band Die Fantastischen Vier comes the movie that the band’s name was taken from. Well, actually it was taken from the original comic book on which the movie is based: Fantastic Four (July 14). Once just regular scientists, Reed “Mr. Fantastic” Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), Sue “The Invisible Woman” Storm (Jessica Alba), Johnny “The Human Torch” Storm (Chris Evans) and Ben “The Thing” Grimm (Michael Chiklis) are blessed/cursed with super powers when their DNA is altered during a space mission. Directed by Tim Story (Barbershop), the movie explores the newfound abilities of the scientists and the adjustments that need to be made back down on earth.

Another film based on a comic-book series is Sin City (August 11), which is based on three graphic stories by Frank Miller. The central story follows Marv, a tough street fighter who goes on a rampage of revenge. Then there’s the tale of Dwight, a private investigator who constantly tries to outrun trouble, with little success. The third story revolves around John, the last honest cop in Sin City. Co-directing the film with Miller, Robert Rodriguez (Once upon a Time in Mexico) leads a stunning ensemble cast including Jessica Alba, Benicio Del Toro, Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Elijah Wood and Rosario Dawson. The graphic violence might be a bit too much for the average moviegoer, but at least the film does stay true to the books from which it sprang.

Due to the overwhelming gossip surrounding Mr. and Mrs. Smith (July 21), this is one summer movie that will either rise or fall based on the tabloid stories printed about its stars. Two of the sexiest actors to grace the screen together, Brad Pitt (Ocean’s Twelve) and Angelina Jolie (Tomb Raider), play a married couple living a life of monotony in the suburbs. Secretly, however, they are assassins, which finally comes out when their individual targets become each other. Though a real-life romantic relationship between the stars is rumored to have caused the breakup of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston’s marriage, director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) is quoted as saying, “This is a movie that’s celebrating marriage.”

Another film celebrating marriage is The Honeymooners (July 28), based on the classic US television series of the same name. Cederic the Entertainer (Be Cool) fills the gigantic shoes of the late, great Jackie Gleason in the role of Ralph Kramden, a regular guy whose simple aim in life is just to achieve the American Dream.

The Dukes of Hazzard (August 25) is another new release based on a television series of decades past (1979–85). The action comedy, which brings the good ole boys to the silver screen, stays true to its southern flavor and simple plot line, with brothers Bo and Luke Duke (Seann William Scott and Johnny Knoxville, respectively) continuing to find their way into bar-room brawls and crazy car chases.

However, if the mainstream Hollywood fare isn’t quite for you, then you’d better hurry and catch some of the new, alternative films on offer at the Munich Film Festival, which runs until July 2. (

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