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BOP 25 of Summer: 5-1

By BOP Staff

April 30, 2008

Michael Scott refuses to leave what he believes is the Tardis. 5) Get Smart

We're well past the point where the hit or miss nature of TV adaptations is particularly novel. We know now that while Hollywood has basically cried uncle by raiding its back catalog for ideas, every once in awhile, it'll come up with a gem, with the possibility of a dud. For every Fugitive, there's an Avengers. For every Mission: Impossible, there's a SWAT. For every Brady Bunch Movie, there's A Very Brady Sequel. But I digress.

Get Smart, the '60s spy spoof, is the latest TV series to get the big screen treatment, and it's one that may get it right. Obviously it helps that it's a naturally goofy concept, with Maxwell Smart's bumbling secret agent for CONTROL taking on the nefarious KAOS – though it does seem a bit out of place in these post-Cold War days. Steve Carell is note-perfect casting for Smart, along with Anne Hathaway as his sexy partner Agent 99, who's the real brains behind the operation. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson gets another chance to show off his comedic chops as the muscle-headed Agent 23, and Alan Arkin is again dead-on as The Chief. It's a film that seems to have gotten all the major points right.

Get Smart covers some of the same ground covered by the Austin Powers movies, though it gets to leave behind the time traveling baggage, and just gets to be silly. Shoe phone jokes on their own could make this worthwhile. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
He might look cute, but wait until he burns you with his robot fire eyes. 4) WALL•E

At this point, to say we like Pixar is an understatement. And we're far from alone in the opinion. Every time a movie from the studio is released, you can guarantee big money from domestic and international theatrical release as well as home video. Refreshingly, they always recognize the importance of story to the success and quality of a film. They don't rely simply on splashy, amazing visuals (though those are present in abundance), pop culture references or catchy tunes to keep the attention of the audience. Instead, Pixar creates characters that we can care about. Years later, Woody and Buzz Lightyear still mean something to us.

Pixar's newest project has them exploring the glorious world of robotics. WALL•E tells us the story of an adorable little metal dude who lives in the year 2700. WALL•E stands for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class, and he has spent hundreds of years doing exactly what he was built to do. He encounters a nifty search robot known as EVE, who realizes that WALL•E has uncovered the key to the planet's future. EVE rushes to report its findings to the humans who used to live on the planet and are hoping anxiously to learn that it is safe to return home. WALL•E chases EVE across the galaxy, encountering a pet cockroach and a variety of misfit robots as he goes.

Much of the reason for optimism rests in the fact that WALL•E is written and directed by Andrew Stanton, who is responsible for the most successful Pixar film in history, Finding Nemo. He also wrote my personal favorite, Monsters, Inc. Given its futuristic setting and inanimate characters, the creators will have a lot of license when it comes to building new worlds such as we have never seen before. Like Monsters, Inc., everything is entirely up to the imagination. We're confident that WALL•E will be an enduring and adored character, just like his Pixar brethren. (Kim Hollis/BOP)




Fascist? Me? 3) Iron Man

While Iron Man may not be our absolute most anticipated comic book based movie, it's definitely the new series that we' re most psyched about. Now that the Spider-Man series is circling the drain, we need a replacement big-budget comic film filled with that special combination of action and humor.

Iron Man is the story of billionaire-industrialist-arms dealer Tony Stark, a bitter alcoholic playboy with daddy issues. In a bit of left field casting, they've gone with Robert Downey Jr. to play him. Really now, Universal. After being captured in Afghanistan while demonstrating one of his new weapons systems, he's gravely injured, but builds himself a suit of battle armor that makes him into an ultimate fighting machine. Returning the US, he naturally turns to crime fighting, and battling enemies of the world.

Director Jon Favreau seems to have nailed the essentials of the story, judging by the trailer, which blends bad-assery and sardonic comedy. In particular, the delayed reaction on the destruction of the tank is a scene that will sell some tickets. The movie arrives at a strange time in the comics though, with Marvel turning Tony Stark into a stone cold fascist. It's one of the oddest story lines in comics since Sgt. Rock briefly flipped to the Viet Cong in 1973 in protest of Watergate. That said, we're willing to overlook this for now, as Favreau and Downey seem to be playing this mostly to the origins of the character, and this could be one of the most fun rides at the multiplex this summer. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
Would you like me to take a little off the top? 2) The Dark Knight

Batman Begins was proof that Joel Schumacher did not in fact destroy a franchise. The Christopher Nolan film took the iconic character back to his darker sensibilities (perhaps not so dark as the current All-Star Batman and Robin from Frank Miller...but I digress). Upon its theatrical release in 2005, audiences quickly discovered that director Christopher Nolan had a near-flawless take on the character and the Gotham City universe.

With a firestorm of publicity surrounding both the film itself and the all-too-young passing of Heath Ledger, who plays the Joker, Batman fans are sure to be frenzied by the time the movie finally arrives in July. Warner Bros. has done a masterful job of marketing the film, both before and after Ledger's death. In particular, the bank heist preview that showed in front of IMAX showings of I Am Legend was thrilling and worked on its own as a short film. When we saw that footage, we could see that director Nolan had captured something special.

Of course, a few minutes is no guarantee of overall quality, and we're hearing early on that the movie's run time is perhaps a bit ambitious (Note to directors and editors: No summer tentpole movie should be longer than two hours and 15 minutes.) Still, we are more than cautiously optimistic. Christian Bale proved to be a terrific Bruce Wayne/Batman, and his supporting cast this go-round has the makings of excellence. Aaron Eckhart looks to be a great choice to portray Harvey Dent, and the previously mentioned Ledger was apparently so deeply involved in the character of the Joker that he stated he was having nightmares and feeling deeply disturbed. Where Jack Nicholson portrayed the character as sadistic but buffoonish, it appears that Ledger will erase the buffoon from the equation and center purely around the Joker's psychopathic nature. It might make for uncomfortable cinema, but the result should be compelling nonetheless. In a summer full of superhero movies (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Hellboy 2, Hancock), The Dark Knight should stand tall as the odds-on favorite for box office champ. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Perhaps you'd rather see my other summer film, Crossing Over. 1) Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

A conservative estimate is that I have seen 10,000 movies in my lifetime. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is in my top 20 all-time. I had not been an Indiana Jones fanatic prior to that production. I found Raiders of the Lost Ark to be an engaging movie that held up well on repeated viewings for a time before growing dated. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, on the other hand, was far too violent and off-putting for me for the most part. There were congenial moments that counterbalanced the heart-rendering human sacrifices, but I still wasn't captivated by the proceedings.

The instant we flashed back to Indiana Jones as a teenage boy attempting to liberate a lost treasure from an anti-hero named Fedora, however, I was hooked. And once the character of Professor Henry Jones was added into the mix, everything we knew about the character of ("We named the dog...") Indiana Jones was turned on its head. Suddenly, this character was more than just a throwback hero and intellectual. He was a middle-aged man (hey, Harrison Ford was only 47 way back then) who was still desperately seeking the approval of a disinterested father.

The Academic's Lament is a subject that Aaron Sorkin has explored superbly in various episodes of The West Wing. However, the premise never felt more relevant than in the context of a whip-wielding archaeologist dealing with a father more interested in researching an ancient religious artifact than in dealing with his own son. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is one of the best scripts ever written, and it stands up just as well today as it did upon initial release in 1989.

The problem in making a sequel to such an accomplished lineage of films is that unrealistic expectations are an issue. George Lucas has recently become something of an expert on the subject, after all. For almost two decades, he protected the sanctity of the Indiana Jones franchise by stubbornly rejecting any and all scripts. No fewer than 18 runs have been made at a sequel worthy of The Last Crusade. As recently as 2006, BOP was ready to write off any and all hope of Harrison Ford ever donning the fedora hat again. Then, to our shock, everything fell into place last spring, just in time to beat the oncoming writer's strike which almost assuredly would have ended any and all hope of future Indiana Jones releases.

Even better, word leaked that Shia LaBeouf, currently riding high on the success of Disturbia at the time, would follow up his surefire blockbuster, Transformers, with a turn as the son of Indiana Jones. Appropriately, Harrison Ford would take on the thematically similar role that Sean Connery previously held in Last Crusade. Given that Connery was 59 at the time and Ford is now 65, the latter actor is, if anything, too old to play such a role for the 21-year-old formerly known as Even Stevens. The math mostly works, however, within the context of the Indiana Jones universe as word has leaked (spoiler alert) that LaBeouf's character, Mutt Williams, is the product of the union between Indy and Marion Ravenwood that occurred in Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981 (end spoiler). That film was set in 1936 while the latest and presumably final Indiana Jones movie is set in 1957, conveniently enough 21 years later. The father/son dynamic worked in the last outing, and we have high hopes that Stephen Spielberg can capture lightning in a bottle once more with this, the swan song of one of the greatest movie characters ever.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is almost certain to be a $100 million opener that will wind up being one of the two or three biggest releases of the summer in terms of not just domestic but also worldwide receipts. Despite the name of our Web site, however, that aspect of its appeal is largely irrelevant to us. What matters is that a throwback hero with three of the best movies of all time under his swashbuckling hat finally returns to theaters after a near-20 year absence. This is not only our most anticipated title of the summer, but it is also one of the most anticipated titles in the history of our site. Only the Matrix sequels and the Star Wars prequels have come close to creating this level of anticipation among our staff. Err, hopefully this works out better than those films did. (David Mumpower/BOP)


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