BOP 25 of Summer 2008: 15-6

By BOP Staff

April 29, 2008

Perhaps Mulder's hairline is the greatest mystery. 15) The X-Files: I Want to Believe

It really is the summer of second chances. Ten years after the release of the first X-Files movie, and six years after the ninth and last season of the series that people seem to have hallucinated (Got it? It never. Happened.), Mulder and Scully are returning to the big screen. In a lot of ways, it's kind of a baffling choice to bring it back, as it was one of the series that defined TV in the 1990s, making it very much of its time. Alien invasion conspiracy theories seem a little quaint these days.

Even though a lot of the fanbase (or 'shippers) of the series have probably moved on, there's a certain nostalgia involved with this series that they're hoping to tap into. They've wisely gone with a "monster-of-the-week" scenario for the film (at least according to rumors) as most people have probably forgotten most of the convoluted mythology of the series. Really, we're here for the characters, and if they can capture at least part of that magic they had through the '90s, we'll at least give it a shot. You might as well subtitle it I Want to Believe (That The Movie Will Be Good). (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
Is that really Long Duk Dong over there? 14) War, Inc.

A movie that appears to be a de facto sequel to Grosse Pointe Blank, War, Inc. has had us buzzing ever since we first saw the trailer several months ago. Since that time, those of us who are massive John Cusack fans (hint: one of them is me) have been chomping at the bit as we wait for the film to receive a distribution release date. At last, we have reason to celebrate.

War, Inc. reunites Grosse Pointe stars John Cusack, Joan Cusack and Dan Ackroyd and has some stellar additions in Hilary Duff, Marisa Tomei (make fun of her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress all you want, but she has had some stellar performances since that time with In the Bedroom and Before the Devil Knows You're Dead) and Sir Ben Kingsley. A political satire set in Turaqistan, John Cusack plays a hit man who has been hired by a former US vice president whose shadowy corporation all but runs the country. Always on the lookout for new opportunity, the devious former VP is looking to expand his operations and sees the assassination of a Middle Eastern oil minister as a means to an end. Our wetworks specialist must pose as the producer of a trade show to pull off the event, with his cover being the organization of the big-time wedding of Yonica Babyyeah (Duff), a Middle Eastern pop star. Meanwhile, he's also forced to contend with the cleverness of a left-wing reporter (Tomei).

Because War, Inc. is a political satire, we recognize that big box office is probably not in the cards. It does have the feel of a film that, like Grosse Pointe Blank, will be a cult hit that sees its popularity grow as DVD becomes a factor. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Remember who you are... 13) The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

December of 2005 saw the release of a project many insiders believed would fail. The production, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, shocked most onlookers by earning $291.7 million domestically on its way to roughly $740 million in worldwide receipts. Given that the main stars in the film were all under the age of 18, it's not as if the kind people at Walden Media blew their budget on the acting talent, either. The first film in the fledgling Narnia franchise was intended to be a politer, more religious answer to the $3 billion franchise that is The Lord of the Rings. To everyone's surprise, Narnia actually approached The Fellowship of the Ring's $870 million worldwide total. What had seemed like an ambitious attempt to milk from the teat of J.R.R. Tolkien had suddenly become a viable financial model with the best news of all being that unlike The Lord of the Rings, there were six more Narnia novels ready to be adapted to the big screen. Cha-ching.

Prince Caspian is a darker title than its immediate predecessor. The heroic Pevensies return to Narnia only to discover than during their brief absence, a shocking 1,300 years have passed in the land they love. The titular rightful ruler of Narnia has had his lands usurped by the evil King Miraz, uncle to Caspian. The children must set out to once rectify the oversight of Narnia, but their efforts are combated by Miraz's nefarious minions with the catch being that the greatest monsters this time are men rather than mythical beings. While Walden Media has worked hard to create a library of family friendly entertainment, they are throwing viewers a bit of a change-up here in order to give Prince Caspian a chance to be every bit as successful as The Two Towers was. We are on the fence about the likelihood of this maneuver succeeding as it strikes us Mr. Rogers Throws Down, but the first Narnia movie was a masterpiece. That reassures us about the status of the sequel. (David Mumpower/BOP)

It's a secret, but we think James Franco is f*cking Seth Rogen. 12) Pineapple Express

If you've been reading this site for any amount of time, you must surely know by know how much we adore the Judd Apatow machine. Sure, there have been a couple of missteps along the way (hello, Walk Hard and Drillbit Taylor), but he's had enough good – The 40 Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad and Forgetting Sarah Marshall – that we're willing to place our bets on him and his gang anytime.

While Apatow stalwarts Seth Rogen and James Franco are onboard to star in the film (and it's written by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who were behind the script for Superbad), Pineapple Express offers another reason for hope, and that is director David Gordon Green. Now, we realize he's not a popular or even a super-recognizable name, but he's an outstanding indie helmer who has been responsible for such great films as George Washington and All the Real Girls. Seeing him bring his indie sensibility to a big budget project will be a treat to be sure.

Though Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo might provide evidence that stoner comedies are only acceptable in moderation, we're still thinking that this story of a pot smoker and his dealer on the run from some heavy duty bad guys feels fresh and different. And frankly, any time that we see Gary Cole's name in the supporting credits, we can't help but be giddy. He plays the big bad in the film, which we know he's great at thanks to his portrayal of the inscrutable Sheriff Lucas Buck in American Gothic. We're there, dude. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
What do you mean, you think Rocky IV is better? 11) Son of Rambow

Rambo returned to the big screen earlier this year, but we've been more excited about this homage to the genre for some time now. Written and directed by Garth Jennings (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), Son of Rambow is a nostalgic exploration of what it was like to grow up when video game arcades were emerging and action stars were being made.

Set in 1980s Britain, the tale centers around a young boy named Will Proudfoot, who has been raised in a puritanical religious sect known as The Brethren. He can't listen to music, he can't watch movies and television is strictly off limits. Somehow, though, he gets his hands on a pirated copy of Rambo: First Blood, and his imagination is set soaring. He aims to join forces with a school bully known as Lee Carter so that they can create their own action flick, including some over-the-top stunts, all while keeping their activity hidden from the Brethren. When their project begins to make them popular and they become buddies with the super-cool French foreign exchange student, they are challenged to keep it going and maintain their burgeoning friendship.

The trailer for the film is simply magical and though we might not want to admit it, a lot of us were growing up in the same time frame in which Son of Rambow takes place. We're excited to re-live those old times when the movies were still something special, not just a weekly glut fest of high and low quality. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Marky Mark is disturbed to learn he's being attacked by a zombie Funky Bunch. 10) The Happening

M. Night Shyamalan has gradually transformed from movie savant to one of the most divisive movie makers of our era. After the genius of The Sixth Sense introduced us to his visionary direction, Shyamalan created two titles that are wildly popular with our staff, Unbreakable and Signs. Then, there was The Village, a movie that produced some of the most vitriolic movie debates BOP's writers have ever experienced. Some loved it while others found it okay until the end twist. Others still said that the movie was a huge disappointment anyway, but the end twist turned it into a disaster. Then, Lady in the Water was released and our group universally consented that Shyamalan's latest project was a cinematic abomination. We don't throw such statements around loosely, either. We ordinarily reserve them only for Uwe Boll movies, fat-suit comedies and Star Wars prequels.

Clearly, the bloom is off the rose a bit with Mr. Shyamalan. Even so, BOP's staff is not ready to completely dismiss his body of work to date due to one or (arguably) two mistakes. If Brad Pitt can be forgiven for The Mexican and Meet Joe Black, the man who allowed Haley Joel Osment to see dead people deserves a line of credit at First National BOP. So, when we hear that his latest movie involves a "global environmental crisis that threatens an estranged couple who must escape this apocalyptic pandemic ", our first thought is naturally that Shyamalan did not learn a thing from the disaster of the Bob Balaban critic character in Lady in the Water. Even so, this is the man who once gave us the beautifully simplistic line of "Tell Merrill to swing away". We refuse to quit on a director who has shown this much promise on his career, and we hold out hope that The Happening sees Shyamalan back on course again after a truly unfortunate mermaid-related misstep. And really, who among us hasn't had one of those? (David Mumpower/BOP)
Speed has just discovered that Chim-Chim did something unpleasant in his car. 9) Speed Racer

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who don't understand why anyone would ever want to see Speed Racer, and those who loved the anime series, watched it religiously, and feel as though the film is totally capturing the spirit of the show. Oh, and it doesn't hurt matters any that the Wachowskis are directing. Sure, some of us were disappointed in the Matrix sequels, but we still have to have some faith in the people that brought us the groundbreaking original Matrix and the sultry Bound.

For those who have been living under a rock, Speed Racer is the lighthearted story of a boy and his car. Speed is our hero, and he's an instinctive and fearless driver who is somewhat tormented by the death of his brother Rex, who perished in a race. He's completely loyal to the racing business built by his father, Pops, who has designed Speed a most awesome machine in the form of the Mach V. When Speed refuses to race for a big conglomerate, they go after him – in some nasty and vicious ways. And so it is that Speed will team with former rival Racer X to win the race where his brother died – the Crucible, a brutal rally that goes across the country.

The effects in this film look beyond special. The Wachowskis are achieving things we've never seen before. The colors are extraordinarily bright and the action in previews is so fast that our heads are literally sent spinning. And it's showing in IMAX theaters, which means the visual and aural stimulation will be beyond compare. The movie has a fine cast, too, including Emile Hirsch, who captured some critical attention in last year's Into the Wild, John Goodman, Christina Ricci and Matthew Fox. All we can say is Go Speed Racer, Go! (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Looks like Hellboy has started hanging with Wolfram and Hart. 8) Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Simply put, Guillermo del Toro gets it. In describing his sequel to the splendid Hellboy, the noted director all but spits at other comic book movie adaptations. He boldly states that all of them are going darker in tone as if that gives the director some sort of street cred about the process. What del Toro has sussed out is that the way to distinguish his title from the masses is to go entirely against mainstream expectations. His production, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, is intended to be a fable in tone. The fantastical creatures that are featured in the movie, elves, are on the verge of extinction. There are two schools of thought on how to proceed. One group believes it is best to accept their fate and go quietly into oblivion. Another, more militaristic group knows that there is a way to guarantee the survival of the species, but its short term results are perhaps too horrible to imagine.

Placed squarely in the middle of this existential debate is everyone's favorite Baby Ruth lover, Hellboy. The Devil's least favorite child is drawn into the conflict as he tries to determine a solution that saves not only the elves but also his adopted human race that may be semi-accidentally extinguished by the decisions the elves make. Presumably, he smokes a cigar and pets a kitten or two during these proceedings as well. Whatever the specifics, here is what BOP knows. We adored Hellboy. We consider it to be one of (if not the) best comic book movie(s) ever made. We were also blown away by del Toro's last fable, Pan's Labyrinth. At this point, our trust in him as a movie maker is total, so it's a foregone conclusion that we are going to love the Hellboy sequel. It is also our sincerest hope that other directors will be so analytical in their evaluations of the state of the industry, possibly learning something from del Toro's deconstructive evaluation of the flaws within the comic book genre. They'd be taking advice from the best of the best. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Nope, your car keys aren't under here. 7) Hancock

BOP has stated on several occasions that the core flaw with most superhero adaptations is that they take themselves too seriously. There is not enough whimsy in the genre; too many directors want to make Shakespearean dramas instead of good ol' fashioned beat-em-ups. Hancock goes an entirely different way with the concept. It celebrates the fact that its hero is flawed to a degree that would make Charlie Wilson shake his head in disgust. Clearly, this is a movie that feels a kindred spirit to the 1970s William Katt television series, The Greatest American Hero. Its lead character is a misfit who happens to be overpowered to the point that he's as big a threat to his allies as his enemies.

Hancock offers the potential to be the hallmark comedy satire that we once hoped Mystery Men would be. It also has one positive that the Ben Stiller film couldn't claim: a true star who almost never misses with his script selections. Will Smith is such an accomplished actor that he can make solving the Rubik's Cube feel like a gripping few moments of drama. He is also coming off one of his career's biggest triumphs with I Am Legend, a $584 million worldwide blockbuster. In addition, he has not had a live action movie disappointment since the 2001 tandem of Ali and The Legend of Bagger Vance. Smith is arguably the most reliable actor in our industry today, and this project feels tailor-made to his strong suits as the former Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Hancock allows him to repeatedly bungle his way into eventually saving the day, and we cannot wait to watch such star-powered proceedings. (David Mumpower/BOP)
I believe I just got goosed. 6) Kung Fu Panda

In the winter of 2001, my future wife and I were still virtual strangers. We had been two of the key components in the creation of Box Office Prophets, but we didn't know each other well at all. When the announcement was made by DreamWorks that they would be creating an animated movie about a martial arts-wielding panda, the woman I would marry asked me if I would write the film's synopsis with her. In a way, it was our first date. Over the next several years, we began a courtship that eventually ended in marriage in 2005. During that time frame, this movie has always been circled on our prospective calendars as a date that neither of us would miss. Given how many medical procedures I've had done in the interim, keeping this date has not been easy, but here we are with only a few weeks to go and I'm going to make it. Sure, I've got a couple of missing internal organs now that I had back in 2001, but that's not going to hinder my enjoyment of Kung-Fu Panda. I have waited too long to reach this odd little promised land.

That's why Kim Hollis and I will be attending Kung Fu Panda. The question then becomes why you should attend and the answer here is simple. DreamWorks Animation is not as reliable as Pixar, but their recent work in Madagascar, Bee Movie and (particularly) Over the Hedge has shown a dramatic upturn in movie quality for all of their productions that don't have Shrek in the title. And Kung Fu Panda has the sort of killer premise that their weaker titles have lacked.

Po the panda (the as often as not funny Jack Black) loves martial arts the way that Wimpy loves hamburgers. Unfortunately, he has a bit of a personality flaw that makes perfecting his craft difficult. He's the laziest creature in all of Asia. Nature abhors an unmotivated panda. So, fate sweeps him up in a plan to stop the evil warrior, Tai Lung (Deadwood's Ian McShane) by giving him a series of animalistic allies including a snake, a mantis, a monkey and a crane. Can a slacker panda conform to the group enough to work with them and potentially save the world from a tyrant? We're betting on yes and we're betting that it's funny. Frankly, we'll be heartbroken if it's not. Kung Fu Panda is the oldest title on the BOP release schedule, and it's the most important project for my household on a personal level. (David Mumpower/BOP)

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