BOP 25 of Summer 2011: 5-1

By BOP Staff

May 6, 2011

I hope our movie isn't another Wild Wild West. 5) Cowboys & Aliens

Director Jon Favreau's four most recent projects are Elf, Zathura, Iron Man and Iron Man 2. While you may have to google to discover what Zathura is, we can assure you that it provides solid family entertainment. Long time readers of the site also know that we hold the first Iron Man in nearly the same esteem as the other major summer of 2008 comic book film, The Dark Knight. Stating the obvious, filmmaker Jon Favreau has earned our respect and our trust. And he is just the tip of the spear for this project. The executive producer is Steven Spielberg while the accomplished tandem of Ron Howard and Brian Glazer also produce. In other words, the pedigree on this potential tentpole release is as good as it gets.

The story is also a potential crowd pleaser. Set in Arizona in 1873, this is an Old West tale with a twist. The immigrants that have all of the locals up in arms are not from across the border. Instead, they're from across the galaxy. The only person who can stave off the invasion is the most hated man in Absolution, a dude suffering from amnesia. He is currently shackled to some other-worldly tech, tech that may be the only hope for the town, the rest of the world and the solar system. And that guy is played by the current James Bond while his best frenemy is Indiana Jones. Also, Olivia Wilde is there. Cowboys & Aliens really gets the casting right if nothing else.

The overriding question is whether such a quirky blend of genres will make for a good film. With Favreau on board, we have a lot of confidence that Cowboys & Aliens will provide plenty of humor and action. Besides, the only movie concept that would be more appealing to our staff is Astronauts vs. Cavemen.
You can't take Mater anywhere. 4) Cars 2

Ka-chow! Lightning McQueen and the gang are back, and legions of ten-year-old boys are going to lose their minds when Cars 2 hits theaters in the month of June. And while you're correct that the BOP staff is not comprised of ten-year-old boys, you should know by now that we are total marks for Pixar. We consistently vote for their films in our Calvin awards, and even if Cars might be considered the "least" of the studio's films by some of our staff members, even their worst product is better than most other place's best. The studio knows story and they know characters. You can't help but fall in love.

While Cars 2 will be a touch bittersweet, what with Paul Newman (Doc Hudson) and George Carlin (Fillmore) having passed away since the original film was released, it still looks to be action-packed, goofy fun. Lightning McQueen and mater are international spies, somehow. Or something like that. Pixar's pretty good at teasing us.

Also, Bruce Campbell is voicing a character. That alone is reason for us to vote enthusiastically.

X-Men: The 70s Poseur Years. 3) X-Men: First Class

There have been three X-Men movies and one X-Men origins story. One of them was even a great movie. The first one wasn't bad, either. So, if you don't count the most recent X-Men movie or the Wolverine standalone movie, X-Men has been a solid franchise to date. If you do count those, you have a 50/50 chance of enjoying an X-Men film. These are still better odds than you get from a Nic Cage movie.

After X-Men: The Last Stand, everyone involved with the franchise realized that a change was needed. The cast members were aging and in the absence of Bryan Singer's creative vision, a void was felt in the productions. The announced plan was to create movies for the most interesting characters, Wolverine and Magneto. The former film opened huge on its way to a solid domestic total of $179 million as well as worldwide revenue of roughly $375 million. In other words, the movie earned enough to justify a sequel but Fox cooled to the idea of a Magneto solo outing.

Enter X-Men: First Class. Origin movies are all the rage these days as are franchise reboots. This film is a tidy union of both ideas. We get to see the genesis of the relationship between Magneto and Dr. Charles Xavier and thanks to the magic of a fresh start, a bunch of new actors are brought on-board. This is the aspect of the new X-Men movie that excites us. James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, January Jones, Rose Byrne, and Jennifer Lawrence comprise the core group. There is also the inclusion of the odd trio of Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt and Ray Wise, none of whom scream comic book adaptation. Clearly, this production is focused more on the characters and less upon box office appeal. Whether that hurts its financial prospects is up for debate. What we do know is that any film production that had the foresight to cast Jennifer Lawrence prior to the release of Winter's Bone is impressive.

BOP thinks that at a minimum, X-Men: First Class should match X-Men in terms of quality and we're hoping against all hope for another X-2: X-Men United.
His hair will save the day. 2) Super 8

Cloverfield meets E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

This is the less than subtle hint the commercials for Super 8 have given consumers. Of course, that is a bit misleading. Neither director from those two films is helming Super 8. Instead, a producer of Cloverfield is directing his third feature. His last film was a reboot of Star Trek, while the film before that was Mission: Impossible 3. Both of these titles would be on the shortlist for best action film of the 2000s. So, any movie directed by J. J. Abrams immediately acquires our attention.

Super 8 promises to be a throwback film, too. Set in the 1970s, it is intended to reflect a simpler time before every cell phone was a portable video recorder. This fond remembrance of the novelty of filmmaking is one Spielberg has expressed in the past; presumably, Abrams shares the same warmth toward a child's dreams of making movies. Everyone can do it now but when they were children, it was an almost impossible dream.

With such a setting, the basic story takes shape in predictably Cloverfield-ian fashion. There is no detached head of the Statue of Liberty this time, yet the premise is similar. As a group of Goonies-aged children record the happenings of their town on a Super 8 recorder, they accidentally stumble upon a shocking story. A train crashes in a manner the kids quickly realize could not be accidental. As they search for the truth behind the unfolding events, local residents begin to disappear. They confide in a local deputy what they believe is happening, unintentionally centering him in the heart of the breaking news story.

Yes, Abrams is selling a mystery in a similar fashion to the marketing for most of M. Night Shyamalan's works with Unbreakable being the natural comparison. The difference is that with the storyline told from the perspective of the children as well as BOP fave Kyle Chandler, the mystery itself will be nowhere near as important as the journey. We fully expect this to be one of the best films of the summer, perhaps even this year's Inception.
Their faces look like this a lot. 1) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Almost ten years ago, Box Office Prophets was one of the first American web sites to publish a review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. We had an advantage in that England was showing the film before the United States. One of the initial contributors to BOP, Ash Wakeman, was kind enough to provide us with the details of his viewing experience. There was a nice symmetry to this in recent days when BOP's current British duo, Edwin Davies and Shalimar Sahota, both offered to write reviews of Thor prior to its North American release. Ten years later, BOP is still being carried by our friends from the mother country.

One of the points Ash made at the time was that all viewers wanted from that first film was to see how the wizard world looked. He correctly deduced that the initial movie's primary concern should be making Hogswarts School appear like a believable representation of our world but with hidden magic all around. He also said that what people would take from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was that Quidditch felt right. Having re-watched this sequence almost a decade later, I can confirm that this holds true today.

Of course, the expectations have changed over the years. Harry Potter has become the strongest box office performer in the history of movie franchises. It is a juggernaut of unmatched proportions. Over the course of its triumphant trajectory, expectations have been raised to the point that the release of the seventh and final book in the series felt like the end of an era. If it was not, the release of the eighth and final movie assuredly is. As much as it breaks my heart to type this, Harry Potter's journey has come to an end.

If you are one of the loyalists who went to midnight parties and tried to read all of the books the first day of release, this film will hold no surprises for you. If you are one of the people who never read the books and have entered theaters wholly unaware of impending plot developments, you are about to be delivered the most satisfying of conclusions. Yes, there will be some heartache due to unexpected good-byes, but there will be a warmth in your chest as you exit the theater that day.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was a masterful book that was evenly divided into two parts. One story was of three friends who have grown up together trying to survive in a world gone mad. That tale focused on the journey and took the time to remind people friends should be treasured no matter the current struggles they face. The second part of the story is different. It is a battle between good and evil that finishes with an inevitable showdown between loyal wizards fighting for a better tomorrow and selfish opportunists willing to sacrifice all they know in order to satiate a tormented killer.

Also, Snape is there.

The enigma of the Half-Blood Prince will also be revealed in this, the last Harry Potter story of our lifetime (unless J.K. Rowling reconsiders). Whether this once a generation movie event shatters box office records remains to be seen. What is clear is that to a single person, everyone at BOP is just like you, eagerly counting down the moments until Harry Potter finally faces off against He Who Shall Not Be Named.

Selections 25-16
Selections 15-6



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