BOP 25 of Summer 2007: 25-16

By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower

April 25, 2007

Welcome to the fifth annual BOP 25 of Summer. Just as we have for the past four years, we locked the staff into a stale closet and refused to let them out until they voted for their ten most anticipated titles of the period from the first weekend of May through the Labor Day holiday weekend. Since the group of writers we have assembled are stubbornly unconventional, the list includes a fascinating combination of mainstream tentpole releases alongside indie and foreign productions that are unlikely to earn $10 million domestic. We hope that you enjoy our eclectic take on what has us hyped up and glad to be movie lovers.

The top few selections are probably not that surprising, as our group has the same love for comic book heroes, Pixar and Captain Jack Sparrow that the rest of the free world does. Where we might surprise you are on some of the selections we have picked over much more expensive mainstream productions such as Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Transformers. Honestly, that Surfer dude looks sort of weird and we've been burned by Michael Bay plenty of times before.

After the summer has finally wrapped up, you can look forward to our September review of our selections. That's where we will discuss how right we were about some anticipated hits and make fun of the Lady in the Water-type selections where we wonder just what the hell we were thinking when we voted for them in the first place.
And this is for Lamb Chop! 25) Black Sheep

Black Sheep might well be the greatest horror movie concept ever. At the very least, it's the most super-fantastic animals-eating-people-themed project since Night of the Lepus. Let's just say that it's a zombie film, but with a singular twist that could only come from a project created in New Zealand.

Four million people live in New Zealand, where they are outnumbered 10-1 by sheep. When a an experiment with genetic engineering goes terribly awry, these 40 million sheep become bloodthirsty killers who terrorize the countryside with their scary wooly appearance and horrifying herbivore teeth. People who have had the opportunity to see the film at such venues as the Toronto International Film Festival have compared it to the early work of Peter Jackson. With special effects from WETA - the people behind the Lord of the Rings films - a premise that sounds ludicrous on the surface actually has a great deal of promise. The stars and writer/director of Black Sheep are completely unknown to mainstream movie-goers, but that's not important for this type of campy flick. We look forward to plenty of dark humor and over-the-top effects as the zombie sheep go wild. It could only be improved if zombie Chris Farley were also involved.
Chicks dig giant robots. 24) Transformers

The year was 1984, and Hasbro was frustrated that Orwellian views of how that year would play out were in significant danger of not coming true. In order to help along the Big Brother concept (remember: largely unwatched reality television hadn't been invented yet), the toy manufacturer came up with a Trojan horse into the homes of every easily influenced child in North America. The simple premise was to sell things that could turn into other things. While that might not sound revolutionary, an entire generation of children was, well, transformed by the iconic nature of robots who could become guns, cars and boomboxes (look these antiquated devices up on Wikipedia and again remember, this was the 1980s).

Over the past quarter century, Transformers has become a mainstream phenomenon of epic proportions, spawning a movie, several television iterations, comic books aplenty, and more toys than Santa could fit in his magic sack. As the marketing arm has spun out of control, Hasbro has gradually come to grips with the fact that their creation has evolved beyond their expectations. It is a runaway train that must be stopped, and there is only one way to kill the franchise.

Enter Michael Bay.

Okay, that was a cheap shot, but you understand the point. A big budget Transformers movie should be cause for celebration for lifelong fans of the show, something I am to the point that I have Stan Bush's The Touch in heavy rotation on my iPod (the modern form of a "boombox"). This would be the case had basically any director in the world been brought on board in Bay's stead. Since we are stuck with him, however, there is only guarded optimism that the concept is so great it could prove Bay-proof. The last time we saw such foolish hope was Superman Returns and we all know how that turned out. So, BOP's staff is deeply conflicted here. The idea of Peter Cullen once again voicing our childhood hero, Optimus Prime, has us giddy with excitement. And millions of dollars of animation on Starscream will also be amazing. But Michael Bay, man. Michael Bay.

Transformers is the largest To Be Determined on the summer schedule and as such, we are hedging our bets that this sure-fire blockbuster will be any good.
The creation of Lucy Liu-Bots is a must. 23) Rise: Blood Hunter

"Honey, would you make out with Lucy Liu for me?" Countless men have tried to make this happen, but the genius of Rise director Sebastian Gutierrez is that he somehow managed to pull it off. This comes on the heels of his turning his gig as a staff writer on Karen Sisco into winning the heart of the show's star, Carla Gugino. Anyone who is watching the current season of Entourage knows what a coup this is. Now factor in the fact that this is the same woman he has talked into making out with Lucy Liu on camera. Clearly, this is a man whose force of will and ability to attain the impossible should not be discounted. And if you still are not convinced about the man's ability to spin gold, simply consider that his last screenplay had a catchy title: Snakes on a Plane.

So, we have established that Rise: Blood Hunter has a talented writer/director, but what about the project earns it a spot on our list? Well, it features the walking dead...and if you have come to know anything about our staff over the past few years, you should realize our love of genetically altered humans. There is our obsession with Resident Evil, our immense satisfaction with the Dawn of the Dead re-make, our lavish praise of 28 Days Later, and our fixation upon Underworld's vampires and werewolves. So, this title's premise is right in our wheelhouse.

Rise: Blood Hunter tells the story of a journalist (Lucy Liu) who wakes up to discover she's, well, dead. At least she had been. So, she does what any good zombie would do. She seeks to discover who murdered her then exact as much punishment as possible. Along the way, she receives aid from a detective (Michael Chiklis aka The Thing) whose daughter suffered the same fate (presumably sans the unwelcome resurrection). But the real coup is in the casting of Marilyn Manson as Juan Ton. Given that the musician is the only man in the world who appears able to offer firsthand experience about what it's like to be dead alive, his presence is a must. Then again, he's not the only co-star who has us excited. BOP faves Robert Forster (Jackie Brown), Samaire Armstrong (The O.C.) and Mako (Conan the Destroyer, baby!) are all featured players in this eclectic group.

BOP is uncertain whether Rise: Blood Hunter is going to be good or just bad in a good way, but we are excited about its prospects either way.

This is shocking misuse of a shovel! 22) The Signal

"Marge, the doll is trying to kill me and the toaster has been laughing at me." Only the seven people who have seen Dead Silence can confirm that Homer is right about the former statement, but the latter one is not as crazy as one would expect of a man who wears the occasional pink shirt. In fact, we have all been sitting there in traffic and had the urge to wound fellow drivers, generally those who are paying more attention to their cell phone conversations than the road. The trick with this movie is that it's the talkative who will be acting on their aggressions. Due to a ubiquitous signal, cell phone users, television viewers and radio listeners (assuming there are any of those left) hear a voice that tells them to kill things.

While this might not sound unique on its own (and probably sounds like vaguely like last year's disaster, Pulse), The Signal is getting tremendous buzz due to the insightful way the stories are made modular. Three aspects are divided into "transmissions", allowing the movie to paint a broader picture in a manner not unlike Krzysztof Kieslowski's work with the Colors trilogy. Of course, it's a bit different here since The Signal is unmistakably - in fact, proudly - a splatterfest with gore aplenty. The project strikes our staff as the most novel small scale film since 2004's Primer.
Kevin Costner stars in The Paul Simon Story. 21) Mr. Brooks

Are you bored with seeing Kevin Costner in bland, nice-guy-next-door roles? Do you yearn to see him embrace his dark side a la Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley? Look no further than his upcoming summer film, Mr. Brooks.

Costner stars as the titular Mr. Brooks, a flourishing businessman, a charitable humanitarian, a dedicated husband and a doting father. He's a man who seems absolutely perfect to all outward appearances. However, Mr. Brooks has a dark side. He is an impossibly clever serial killer with an unquenchable thirst for blood. He is able to keep his perfect world from colliding with his dark side until an amateur photographer (Dane Cook, who with any luck will be one of Mr. Brooks' victims) sees him commit the crime. Now, Mr. Brooks must contend with a witness who is choosing to take advantage of the opportunity as well as a tough (Demi Moore) detective who is suddenly on his trail. Can he keep his secret from his wife and daughter? We're not sure, but we know the film is said to be quite graphic and presents Costner the opportunity to take on an entirely different sort of role than viewers are accustomed to seeing him in. Here's hoping it's as intriguing as the clean-cut Matt Damon's turn as Ripley.
Okay, don't drop her, don't drop her, don't drop her... 20) Stardust

Young Tristan Thorn does exactly what boys do in the presence of pretty girls. He makes a foolish promise to the beautiful Victoria Forester, offering to go past the boundary into the land of Faerie. Waiting somewhere on the other side is a fallen star, one he must return to Victoria in order to win her hand in marriage. The task seems impossible for the boy, but he is not what he seems. The woman who had raised him is not his mother. His heritage is something more shocking, more difficult. Even with his unexpected talents, however, the task will not be easy. Tristan does not know it yet, but the star he seeks has taken human form. And this incarnation has a mind of her own. Worse yet, there are powerful other parties seeking to claim the star. They include a witch, three weird women, and two men who would be king.

Stardust is the long anticipated theatrical adaptation of the Neil Gaiman/Charles Vess 1998 graphic novel. This is a piece of literature that sits in a place of honor in my household, reason enough to indicate just how excited I am about the film's release. That anticipation was only heightened as casting news came in for the project. The featured players were to include Robert De Niro, Peter O'Toole, Claire Danes, Rickey Gervais, Sienna Miller, Sarah Alexander, and Michelle Pfeiffer (returning from a five year sabbatical). Oddly, the lead character in the film, Tristan, will be played by virtual unknown Charlie Cox. Given that Tristan is in every scene, it will be imperative for Cox to be up to the standards created by his cast members.

If done well, Stardust could be the Princess Bride of this generation. That's a lofty ambition for a film starring an unknown actor, but it's not as if Cary Elwes was a household name when that movie came out...or is today. What matters is the magnificent storytelling of Neil Gaiman as presented by a magnificent cast. If done right, Stardust should be a masterpiece.
You can't do this all on your own. You're no Superman! 19) The Invasion

Nobody likes having their body snatched. It's a painful, invasive procedure that takes away a piece of the person's soul while making them feel like an entirely different person - well, creature. Perhaps this universality explains why we keep seeing movie re-makes of the 1956 sci-fi staple Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This author's personal favorite is the version starring Gabrielle Anwar, the It actress of 1992. That title didn't have quite the lofty expectations of this one. The presence of Nicole Kidman in a movie has a tendency to heighten awareness. The Aussie newlywed hasn't made a pure action film since 1997's The Peacemaker, although she has wanted to do one
ever since she was forced to drop out of 2002's Panic Room. Invasion is a strange choice in some ways, but a project featuring the new James Bond proved impossible for her to resist.

BOP feels the same way about The Invasion. Everything about it screams B-movie except for the A-list lead actors. We find that incongruity intoxicating and look forward to seeing how this all works out.
Hey baby. Want a ride? 18) Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

In July of 2005, Fantastic Four shocked box office analysts by almost single-handedly stopping the legendary summer box office slump. The largely unheralded comic book adaptation exploded into theaters with a $56.1 million debut, leaving Hollywood to wonder something. How well could this franchise do if they delivered a good movie to audiences? The first film was critically reviled and even users were shaky about its quality. Only half of the core group was well received. Michael Chiklis as The Thing and Chris Evans as Johnny Storm were pitch perfect, while Ioan Gruffudd and Jessica Alba were...pretty. Given that the relationship of Reed and Sue Richards was crucial to the first film's plot, their awkward chemistry was troublesome, killing the story whenever they were onscreen.

Realizing the franchise's potential while acknowledging the weaknesses in the first film, 20th Century Fox has gone in an entirely new way with the sequel. Enter the Silver Surfer, arguably the most enigmatic comic book icon the industry has ever known. The forerunner for world-eating Galactus (exactly what condiments go with a planetary meal, anyway?) arrives on Earth during Sue and Reed's wedding, causing the action-packed face-off with Johnny Storm that is featured in the trailers. This focus upon letting the visuals sell the second film is indicative of the fact that Fox knows that more painful dialogue such as "Let's!" is likely to remind viewers of the first film why they disliked it. Instead, the studio is cleverely centering their story upon the new entity, the Silver Surfer, in all his CGI majesty while promising that his emergence will disrupt the Fantastic Four as they attempt to stop the world from becoming a late night snack for Galactus.

This decision to move the focus away from the titular stars and towards an entirely new character is a gamble that has our staff intrigued, but we have been burned before. Memories of the first film
have not gone away despite a lot of therapy and several attempts at amateur lobotomies. So, we are not completely willing to commit to the Fantastic Four sequel...but the trailer is just so darned shiny.
They're smiling because they both have a lot of money. 17) I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry

Movie-goers have developed a proud tradition of turning Adam Sandler summer comedies into massive hits. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry looks to continue that trend, as Sandler is back in full-on funny mode alongside Kevin James, who will have just finished out his long run as TV's The King of Queens. The movie actually deals with a topical and polarizing political issue - gay marriage.

Yes, in the proud tradition of Three's Company's Jack Tripper, Sandler and James will play two straight guys who must pretend to be gay for bureaucratic purposes. Chuck (Sandler) and Larry (James) are firefighters who make their station proud. The best friends are constantly hanging out and will do anything for each other. Larry is a widower who only wants to protect his family, while Chuck has no other goal than to enjoy his life as a single man. Larry has even saved Chuck's life in a big fire - and Larry is forced to capitalize a little on that gratitude when some red tape keeps him from naming his children as his beneficiaries on his life insurance. If Chuck will just claim to be Larry's domestic life partner on a few forms, everything will be grand. The trouble begins when Chuck and Larry run afoul of an overly diligent civic worker who becomes suspicious of their arrangement. Chuck and Larry are front page news and have to really sell the fact that they are deeply in love to the point that they have to pretend to be newlyweds. The opportunities for humor abound, but so does the chance to offend. We look forward to seeing how it all plays out.
No, I don't think you should play Hawkeye in a M*A*S*H update. 16) Resurrecting the Champ

This site's adoration for Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Hartnett is well documented. In fact, it blinded us to the shortcomings of The Black Dahlia until it was too late and we had already wasted our money on that dreck. Due to this, we are a bit more cautious with our expectations for this tale of boxing, deception, journalism and parenthood (you heard me).

Jackson portrays a homeless ex-boxer who claims to be Bob Satterfield, a former champion. This is surprising in that Satterfield is supposed to be dead. Hartnett plays an ambitious journalist who latches upon the destitute man's tale and attempts to renew his celebrity as well as his quality of life. The problem is that the man's version of the truth seems to bounce around quite a bit, jeopardizing the reporter's big story. Given the current climate of Internet-devolved journalism, a movie examining the ethics of printing someone's story even if you are uncertain of its veracity is an important one. What surprises us are the reports that the movie is just as focused on Hartnett's character's parenting techniques as it is upon the dynamic between a con artist and/or fallen hero and the interview who shouldn't trust everything he hears yet somehow does. This is a confusing mix of ideas, and we are excited in our anticipation to discover how it all meshes together.



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