BOP 25 of Summer 2010: 5-1

By BOP Staff

May 7, 2010

Her lips are the basis for original sin. The concept, not that lousy movie she did. 5) Salt

Director Phillip Noyce had been directing movies in his native Australia for 15 years prior to ever garnering acclaim in North America with his masterpiece, Dead Calm. He had built his reputation stateside by directing a handful of episodes of the television cult classic, The Hitchhiker, before returning home to direct the movie that would effectively launch three careers at once. Billy Zane would go on to be the villain in Titanic, Sam Neill would develop a dinosaur fetish with the Jurassic Park franchise and Nicole Kidman would become arguably the most famous actress in the world.

Noyce never got the credit he deserved for such a remarkable feat. He did, however, get handed the keys to the Jack Ryan franchise starting with Patriot Games before being derailed in the failed second franchise attempt for Val Kilmer, The Saint. It is the project he picked after this that proves to be most important for the purpose of this discussion. Up and coming actress Angelina Jolie followed up her star turn in the made-for-cable movie, Gia (woohoo!), with a couple of shaky career choices in Pushing Tin and Playing by Heart. Her representation strongly hinted that she should seek out a franchise character for herself and they believed that forensics investigation was the next big thing in entertainment. So, we'll give them partial credit for having the right idea about the wrong script. The Bone Collector was the movie Noyce, Jolie and a rising star named Denzel something or another made together that was the very definition of mediocre.

Actor and actress came out of the experience unharmed as Denzel's next three films were The Hurricane, Remember the Titans and Training Day while Jolie won an Oscar for Girl, Interrupted and scored box office hits with Gone in 60 Seconds and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Noyce went an entirely different way, creating a pair of understated cinematic triumphs with Rabbit-Proof Fence and The Quiet American, two of the most critically lauded films of the 2000s. His days of big budget Hollywood productions seemed to be a thing of the past until the script for Salt was delivered. The promise of doing a female version of The Bourne Identity crossed with The Manchurian Candidate proved too tantalizing to turn down for Noyce. So, he finds himself reunited with Jolie 11 years later in their careers in this, the most novel looking of the major summer action films. Factoring in co-stars Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor, Salt offers arguably the best cast this season as well. It is currently flying under the radar for the most part, but BOP thinks this will prove to be one of the summer's biggest winners in terms of quality. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Shoulda taken that left turn at Albequerque 4) Knight & Day

"No one follows us or I kill myself and then her."

I will write more about why our staff is giddy with anticipation about watching Knight & Day but the above quote is explanation enough. Sometimes, a line of dialogue oozes so much cleverness that the one quip sells us on the entire premise. This is the case with Knight & Day, a movie whose creators have deduced the best way to utilize Tom Cruise these days. If the entire world thinks he is crazy, why wouldn't we just put him in movies where every character feels the same way? Sublime in its simplicity, this bit liberates Cruise from all of the nonsense that has sabotaged his career ever since that ill-fated Oprah appearance.

The beauty of Knight & Day is that it clearly makes the connection for the viewer that they are watching Cruise's Ethan Hunt character from Mission: Impossible placed in a situation where he may have had a mental breakdown. What a stretch. Even better, this looks like Cruise and co-star Cameron Diaz's answer to the underrated Mel Gibson/Julia Roberts movie, Conspiracy Theory. As was the case with Roberts, Diaz's character will spend the entirety of the movie doing exactly what the viewer is: wondering how far around the bend Tom Cruise has gone. This is an elegant solution for how to cast him in comfortable roles without having his awkward recent history damage the film's box office as happened with the magnificent, overlooked Mission Impossible: III.

Say what you will about Cruise, here is a list of his non-Mission: Impossible movies in the 2000s: Vanilla Sky, Minority Report, The Last Samurai, Collateral, War of the Worlds, Lions for Lambs, Tropic Thunder, Valkyrie. Few performers in this industry can claim such a high quality of work over the same period. His decisions on which projects to choose have always been the gold standard in our industry. And we think he has struck gold once more with Knight & Day. (David Mumpower/BOP)

This wasn't a good week for him to visit Nashville. 3) Inception

It takes a lot to get an original idea out there these days, especially in the summer season that's filled with adaptations and sequels. Among these, Inception stands out like, well, what's the opposite of a sore thumb? It's got such an embarrassment of riches that it's hard to pick the main reason we're excited about it.

I mean, you had us at Chris Nolan. You had us at a cast that includes Leo, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. You had us at secrecy and bizarre, gravity defying fight scenes. And you had us at that amazing trailer, which seems to warp space and time in a way that I don't think we've ever really seen before. Basically, Nolan can do what he wants with us, as long as he promises to still respect us in the morning.

What few details have leaked out about this film are incredibly enticing – the film appears to be set entirely within a virtual world, possibly the world of dreams, making it possible for literally anything at all to happen in the film. You don't get that kind of uncertainty in most movies. In fact, it reminds us of nothing so much as the feeling we got when we saw the first trailers for The Matrix, which did an amazing job of building mystery while serving up just enough to whet our appetites. Personally, I'm still wondering how you fold a city. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
The gang's 'Which came first, the chicken or the egg' punchline is just lost on Woody 2) Toy Story 3

It should be no surprise to frequent readers of this site that Toy Story 3 finishes strongly in our most anticipated films of the summer. Hell, we've even been accused of being in Pixar's pocket, but we get no incentive, financial or otherwise, for being fans of the animation studio. Our only reward is the pleasure of watching a well-crafted, beautifully animated film with relatable characters each time Pixar releases a film into theaters.

Of course, the movie that started it all was Toy Story, and over a decade ago, we were wondering if a sequel could possibly live up to the wonder and glory that we discovered in the first film. As we all know, the answer was a resounding "yes." Toy Story 2 is one of those rarified sequels that exceeds the original in terms of quality, story and characters. Pixar would not follow the Disney trend of releasing crappy direct-to-video adaptations of classics. Whether the movie is brand new or a sequel to a previous film, the people running the studio always understand that the story is the thing, which has resulted in such fabulous films as Up, WALL-E, Ratatouille and The Incredibles.

With such careful consideration for each film they produce, we're hopeful that we can count on more of the same from Pixar when it comes to Toy Story 3. Having followed the production of the film thanks to Lee Unkrich's detailing the process over the months on his Twitter account, my gut tells me that the amount of love and care that has been put into the making of Toy Story 3 is almost immeasurable. The third film in the series takes the next logical progression that was even foreshadowed in the earlier movies - what happens to a person's beloved toys after they grow up and leave their childhood home?

The trailers alone are enough to bring a little tear to the eye (okay...a big tear), which is a very, very encouraging sign that Pixar has done their best to create a sequel that does credit to the films that came before it. All of the old favorites return, but there are also some new toys added to the mix, with new voice actors including Michael Keaton (who previously appeared in Cars), Whoopi Goldberg (who was marvelous in The Lion King), and Timothy Dalton as the awesomely named Mr. Pricklepants. With Disney and Pixar having whetted our appetites by releasing the first two films in 3D in October, we've had plenty of time to work ourselves into a tumultuous uproar for the release of Toy Story 3. Now, we're just counting the days impatiently. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
The boys take a moment to discuss remedies for the inevitable chafing 1) Iron Man 2

Two years ago, the summer movie season featured the best trifecta of films in recent memory, maybe ever. The Dark Knight, WALL-E and Iron Man were all critically acknowledged masterpieces that earned a billion dollars in combined domestic box office. The least successful of the trio accrued $223.8 million worth of receipts. And BOP loved them all. In our 2009 Calvins Awards vote for Best Picture, all three titles finished in our top four.

Obviously, there is no new Batman release this summer (check back in two years for that one), but there is another Pixar film and another Iron Man film being released. Determining which one should be the most anticipated title of the summer proved to be a brutal task. As recently as two hours before voting closed, there was a tie for first place. A grand total of two votes separated first and second place in the BOP 25 of Summer, and a pair of our writers who missed the deadline humorously expressed frustration that their vote had not counted. Each one felt that theirs would have been the deciding vote to give the rightful movie its victory. One said this of Iron Man 2 while the other one was championing Toy Story 3. We are that deadlocked about which feature looks better on paper.

Since you know that we eventually (barely) settled upon Iron Man 2 as THE summer movie choice of the group, let's discuss the why of it. The predecessors for both features are among the best movies of our era. The difference is probably that we already know what to expect from a Toy Story sequel: impeccable quality coinciding with a story that pulls at the heartstrings. Yes, we expect the theater to be dusty at that moment when Andy leaves for college, also leaving his best toy friends behind in the process. But Iron Man promises something new.

The kind folks at Marvel Studios are building to something. As you are well aware by now, Captain America and Thor movies are being filmed right now. And anyone who has read comic books over the years realizes that if you have Thor's hammer, Cappy's shield, and the Tin Man's suit, you have the core of The Avengers. Two years from this past Wednesday, The Avengers movie will be released in theaters; Iron Man 2 is the first step along the path toward that eventuality. It is a part of something bigger than itself while still representing a standalone story about a tortured, brilliant business mogul whose charisma makes him larger than life. And let's not forget that the ending of Iron Man dropped a huge bombshell with Tony Stark outing himself as having a secondary identity.

Whereas most comic book characters are predicated upon the illusion of a hidden alter ego dressed in a costume that allows them to pretend like it's someone else, Stark is embracing his duality. He *is* Iron Man and the world is about to find out what that means just as he discovers how difficult it is to be such a recognized figure on the world stage. Iron Man 2 represents the now and the near future of action cinema and we are giddy with anticipation at the thought of watching it this weekend. Please don't break our collective heart, Favreau. (David Mumpower/BOP)

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