BOP 25 of Summer 2007: 15-6

April 26, 2007

Shrek and Prince Charming set out to find Jack Sparrow. 15) Shrek the Third

Fans of ogres, donkeys and pop culture references rejoice! Shrek and friends are back for another installment, and it is sure to be one of the biggest moneymakers of the summer. Whether or not it comes out on top remains to be seen, but the marketing has already begun to reach the key audience - kids. Cute toys are out in force, bringing their siren song to youngsters who already have a built-in affinity for the big green guy and his fuzzy friends.

The storyline, as the title might indicate, looks at the possibility of Shrek becoming the king of Far, Far Away. Naturally, when Shrek married Fiona, he never intended to rule the entire realm - all he wants is to live in his beloved swamp, where he is happy and content as can be. The trouble is, King Harold has fallen ill and Shrek must find an heir to take on the kingly role in his place. Shrek takes to the road with buddies Donkey and Puss In Boots as they search for Fiona's rebellious cousin Artie, who happens to also be the rightful heir to the throne. Meanwhile, back in Far, Far Away, the treacherous Prince Charming is trying to take over Far, Far Away while the king is away and Shrek is on his quest. Fiona must team with her mother to keep Prince Charming from destroying the land as he attempts to seize the throne.

Shrek is easily the greatest feather in the cap of DreamWorks Animation, and they'll be looking to capitalize on the previous films' popularity as they release this movie just in advance of the lucrative Memorial Day weekend. Apparently, the pop culture references that dominate DreamWorks projects have been dialed down to some degree in the hope that this one won't date quite so quickly. No matter what, Puss In Boots is one of the greatest animated characters of the past decade, and we can't wait to see him in action again. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Reading is sexy. 14) Becoming Jane

Nearly two centuries after her death, Jane Austen remains one of the most popular authors in the world. Her books continue to be adapted for both film and television, and her stories of manners and intelligent female protagonists still feel relevant and enjoyable. Given the fascination with all things Austen, it's only natural that a biopic about the writer would emerge.

Becoming Jane is a romantic drama that relates the true (and sometimes surprising) events that occurred during Austen's early years. Following up a great performance in The Devil Wears Prada, Anne Hathaway has the key role of Jane. The film also features a number of established and emerging British Island stars. The venerable Maggie Smith and the always great James Cromwell represent the more mature set, while up-and-comer James McAvoy (who we loved in The Last King of Scotland) will also star. Julian Jarrold, who previously directed the charming British flick Kinky Boots, is helming the project. We're looking forward to seeing the life details of the woman who made a study of society. It's surely being positioned as potential awards bait, and we hope that the quality matches up to expectations. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
I have had it with these motherf*cking ghosts in a hotel! 13) 1408

BOP loves John Cusack. We make no bones about it. And one of the things we love about him is his willingness to try to take some chances in genres that he's not normally associated with. Sure, he's bound to do some Serendipitys and Must Love Dogs now and again, but we love it when he tries on stuff like Max, Identity and The Ice Harvest on for size. 1408 is probably closest in similarity to Identity - a horror/thriller for grownups. Early buzz has people really excited with the trailer, and Dimension is doing a fine job with early marketing. With the year the Weinsteins are having, they could us a hit to be sure.

1408 will feature Cusack as a man who has gone to a bad place after the death of his daughter. He becomes determined that he will debunk any and all reports of ghosts and hauntings. He strongly believes that no afterlife exists. One day, he receives a postcard with information about a suite in a hotel where many people have experienced weird experiences - and died in mysterious ways. Determined to make this suite - Room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel - his next destination, the writer plans to debunk all of the mysteries that have centered there. Despite warnings by the hotel manager (Samuel L. Jackson) that numerous people died in the room, our hero takes on the challenge nonetheless. Naturally, really weird things start happening.

With the presence of Cusack and Jackson and a story based on work by Stephen King, 1408 promises to be one of the more original and chilling horror movies in some time. The only question is whether it takes off with horror fans or if they treat it like the Luke Wilson/Kate Beckinsale scary hotel movie, Vacancy. (Kim Hollis/BOP)

The future is too bright even for his shades. 12) Day Watch

Day Watch is the follow-up to the Russian horror film Night Watch, which made huge bucks in its native land before attempting to find a crossover audience overseas in North America. It might have only made $1.5 million total on this side of the ocean, but it had an impact on the BOP staff nonetheless. The uber-stylish Night Watch set the stage for the story about the battle between light and dark. It revolves around beings known as the "Others" (no, Ben Linus and Juliet Burke are not among their number) who live amongst normal human beings, but possess powerful supernatural abilities. Some Others fall on the side of light, while other others choose darkness. Although there has been a centuries-long truce between the two factions, there is a augury that states a "Great Other" will bring unbalance to this uneasy peace, and that the side he selects will win the battle. By the end of Night Watch, this prophesy has unfolded.

The storyline in Day Watch takes place some time since the big events of the finale of the first film. The central character is still Anton, an agent for light. He continues to fight against the forces of darkness, but soon has troubles when he is framed for the mysterious murders for some vampires who work for the dark side. Now he is a man exiled from both light and dark, and must fight to exonerate himself so that he can move on to continue his more important work.

Night Watch was a weird, creepy, exhilarating experience that can really not be compared to any North American movie. We look forward to more of the same from Day Watch - as well as some advancement of the plot details that were established from the beginning. We hope it leaves us giddy with anticipation for Dusk Watch, the final film of the trilogy. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Sure, I've got a strange beard but at least I'm not in my underwear. 11) Evan Almighty

Four summers ago, Bruce Almighty became a comedy blockbuster juggernaut as it chugged along to a domestic box office total of $242 million. Times were very different in 2003. Jim Carrey was the movie's centerpiece, as he played the god-empowered Bruce. When Bruce took advantage of his new ability to control literally everything, one of his early acts was to make a hated co-worker look like a fool on television. That co-worker was one Evan Baxter, a television newsman portrayed by Steve Carell. Today, Carell is a huge star - he gets raves for his role as Michael Scott on the NBC series The Office, he wowed movie audiences in the comedy The 40 Year-Old Virgin, and he established some indie credibility with a supporting role in the Academy Award nominated Little Miss Sunshine. Meanwhile, Carrey's most recent film, The Number 23, struggled to get past the $30 million mark.

When Carrey stayed true to his policy of never ever ever doing sequels, the producers of Bruce Almighty moved on to Plan B. Realizing that Carell was a star on the rise, they swapped out concepts, making Evan Baxter the sequel's focus. Evan Almighty has Evan moving on from the halcyon days of television. He's into bigger and better things these days, having recently arrived in Washington, D.C. as a Congressman. Evan soon finds that his true calling isn't American politics, however. God (Morgan Freeman) has approached him with the task of building an ark a la Noah. This concept promises to be very funny and with Carell at the center, it will almost certainly be uniquely hilarious. The presence of the wonderful Lauren Graham doesn't hurt matters any, either. (And let's not forget the Ask Me About My Weiner kid from Accepted!) We're very excited for this project and will be offering up hosannas in anticipation. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Die Hard protects the Apple guy when Microsoft goes on siege. 10) Live Free or Die Hard

John McClain is cursed. Everywhere he goes, trouble follows. Even the drummer from Dep Leppard doesn't want to hang out with him for fear of really bad luck. What's worse for McClain is that he has run out of Gruber boys to kill. It's been a dozen years since Simon failed to gain revenge for Hans' failures at Nakatomi Plaza. In that time frame, McClain has nothing to show for his life save a divorce, his retirement pension, and an estranged daughter. Times are tough for this faded hero.

We had all assumed that after years and years of speculation about another Die Hard film that nothing would ever come of this, but then Justin Long's Mac commercials came along. Someone at Fox must have seen those and thought, "A-HA! Finally, I know how to make a new Die Hard movie! We'll use this nerd as the new Joe Pesci with some Zeus Carver and just a touch of Sgt. Al Powell thrown in!"

Long will portray a computer hacker, as new Department of Homeland Security officer McClain is made aware of a plot by cyber-terrorists to undo America's underlying computer infrastructure. Now, I know what you are thinking and I agree...if we are really worried about Homeland Security, the best course of action would be to ship John McClain off to a foreign country and take away his passport. That's the easiest way to keep America safe. Given that this wasn't done, of course cyber-terrorists are going to target our nation and of course they will do it on McClain's shift. It's as inevitable as Steve Spurrier throwing his visor.

As silly as the whole thing may sound, let's be honest here. Die Hard is the best action film ever made. In its attempt to be the counter-cultural mocking of over-the-top action movies, it accidentally became the new Hollywood culture for action movies. Ever since then, all other films have attempted to top the original Die Hard, creating problems for even the Die Hard franchise itself. Later films in the franchise have walked that fine line of attempting not to imitate with Die Hard 2: Die Harder largely succeeding and Die Hard With a Vengeance not quite delivering. After a dozen years, Live Free Or Die Hard may have enough distance from the prior films to offer a great movie-going experience that does not suffer from unrealistic expectations with its legendary predecessor. While some skeptics feel that this is a too little, too late project, BOP is excited by the prospects of John McClain going out on a fitting note, just as Rocky Balboa did last year. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Did you ever get that feeling someone's watching you while you sleep? 9) 28 Weeks Later

This was the simple yet revolutionary premise Danny Boyle gave the world (or at least Europe) in 2002 with the release of 28 Days Later. No longer were the undead slumbering. These guys could move at a pace that would impress scouts at the NFL Combine. It just didn't seem fair. Zombies already had the brain-eating in their arsenal and now they could chase down a cheetah. Tensions were high for the main characters of 28 Days Later, then-unknowns Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris. Every second of life could be their last, as was demonstrated time and time again throughout the surprising, horrifying events of the first film. Even better, Boyle learned his zombie movie lessons well, reminding viewers that no matter how terrible the atrocities mankind might face from others, we could still be our own worst enemy.

I considered 28 Days Later to be one of the ten best movies of 2003. Were the cast and/or director back for the sequel, our staff would consider this to be one of the most anticipated films of not just the summer but all of 2007. Instead, we are in that murky area of Dumb and Dumberer and Son of the Mask. There is a new writer, a new director and an entirely new cast. We hold out hope that this new group will catch lightning in a bottle to the same degree that the original group did. The absence of Danny Boyle from this project cannot be overlooked, though. While Juan Carlos Fresnadillo has received an inordinate amount of attention in his native Spain for his
groundbreaking work on Intacto, the reality is that we have no idea if he is capable of manning a studio picture with this sort of pedigree. As such, we are hedging our bets, hoping that this will be a worthy sequel to a sublime movie rather than a cheap money grab of a sequel. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Matt Damon! 8) The Bourne Ultimatum

However coincidental the case may be, summer of 2007 is the season of third franchise films. Third installments of Shrek, Spider-Man, Pirates of the Caribbean and Rush Hour will all make their way into theaters. All of them will have their fair share of supporters, but if I could pick only one this summer, my choice is The Bourne Ultimatum.

Long time readers of the site might recall that there was only one movie critic in North America who picked The Bourne Identity as the best film of 2002. I was that crazy guy out on the ledge talking about what a great movie that was. The cards and letters (okay, emails and IMs) flew in, but I have held firm to the belief that the introductory film for Jason Bourne was something special. This was the best action movie since Die Hard with regards to targeting the thinking man. Bourne is not a character who needed special, elaborate weapons. He is a weapon and that has been made readily apparent through the first two highly satisfactory installments in the franchise.

The question with The Bourne Ultimatum is where does director Paul Greengrass (United 93) go with the premise now? The answer has been revealed in the trailer when Bourne states with clarity and force that he now remembers everything about his past life. The human time bomb has just started ticking, and BOP's staff cannot wait to see what happens when he finally detonates. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Laugh if you want but he's still a better choice than Brandon Routh. 7) The Simpsons Movie

Almost ten years ago, a previous iteration of this Web site posted a compendium of our staff's favorite episodes of The Simpsons. The show was nine seasons old at the time, and our group felt that with the show reaching the end of its run, 1998 was the perfect time to look back. We wanted to celebrate its majesty as well as its cultural significance before Fox cancelled it. In hindsight, we might have been a bit premature. The show had 203 episodes in the books at that point. Those of you who don't own televisions MIGHT be surprised to hear that the 400th episode of The Simpsons airs next month. We were as close in our calculations as Joe Quimby's pollsters were in his race against Sideshow Bob. "And we remind you that there is a margin of error of plus or minus one percent".

Stating the obvious, the staff members of this site are not just fans but in fact the sort of super-fans even Comic Book Guy would find rather unsettling. In point of fact, we estimate that this site contains over 10,000 references to the show, particularly with regards to alt tags. Our group crime is loving The Simpsons too much, and we are as guilty as that other Simpson guy on the charges. "DNA that will hold up in court!"

Needless to say, news of the release of the movie has us wildly excited. Well, most of us are. As was predicted in The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show episode (production code 4F12 if you are scoring at home), some diehard fans on our staff feel the show has grown stale over the years. They no longer welcome the presence of a Simpsons movie as much as they fear it.

I am not one of those people. In point of fact, I believe that two of ten best episodes in the show's history -- Papa's Got a Brand New Badge and The Italian Bob - have aired over the past five years. And even if the current creative team were struggling, I still would not worry over the movie's quality since such loving care has been given in its production. All of the people who were important during the show's genesis as well as its creative high points have participated in the movie-making process. The Simpsons Movie promises to be a hallmark moment in the show's storied history. Can't wait. Can't wait. Can't wait. (David Mumpower/BOP)
The Nice Pants Patrol stakes out the local airport. 6) Ocean's 13

The yin and yang of movie quality could be summarized with the first two titles in this franchise. Ocean's 11 was a dazzling throwback to an era of cinema where countless major stars would work together in a joint project of rare distinction. Smart and funny, it stands among the best movies of the decade, timeless and impossibly re-watchable. Ocean's 12 was a mess of a sequel that ended with some guy we barely know doing a weird dance with lasers. Other than a memorable throwaway scene involving Topher Grace, there was only disappointment in the second outing. Perhaps nothing exemplifies what an epic mistake Ocean's 12 was more than Julia Roberts pretending to be Julia Roberts. What a disaster.

BOP's philosophy regarding the sequel is simple: Mistakes were made. Let's move on.

No matter how cringe-worthy Ocean's 12 happened to be, the reality is that we have cause for optimism with the third film in the franchise. Elder stateman of cinema Al Pacino has been brought on board to take on the role of guy who hates Danny Ocean and his team. The scene in the trailer showing their face-off demonstrates that Pacino can be a worthy successor to Andy Garcia as the film's heavy. And let's not ignore the potential comic hijinks offered by the idea that Garcia's character is forced to work with the men he despises. Clooney's eyeroll at the end of the trailer says it all about how good this could be if done well.

So, we fully understand why some of you might have been so turned off the last movie that you would not want to give this one a chance. In the end, our love of Ocean's 11 is such that we are willing to give Team Soderbergh a mulligan for the mess that was Ocean's 12. But Ocean's 13 had better deliver the goods. (David Mumpower/BOP)



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