BOP 25 of Summer: 15-6

By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower

May 4, 2006

*cue the Jan Hammer music* 15) Miami Vice

The genre is the scourge of cinema at the moment. Movie adaptations of television series have failed at a more alarming rate than Fox live action sitcoms. They just don't work for the most part. Sure, there is the occasional Addams Family Values but for every one of those, there are half a dozen Bewitcheds. It's just too much.

Why, then, are we cautiously optimistic about Miami Vice? This one is not in the hands of amateurs. Michael Mann was a 1970s television writer with some fascinating credits on his resume. He was a writer for Police Story and Starsky and Hutch before creating the underrated gem, Vega$. After directing the sleek theatrical feature, Thief, and the maverick horror thriller, The Keep, Mann had an epiphany. The 1980s was a time period celebrating style over substance. The magic words for his program idea were simple, MTV Cops. From that moment on, up was down, black was white and Don Johnson was no longer a washed up actor but instead a celebrity in demand with a top ten single. Sure, now it's career looking for a heartbeat, but in the late 1980s, he was a socks-less icon.

Miami Vice worked because Michael Mann understood the value of a heel. Most shows did the run-of-the-mill villain of the week gimmick. Mann was more inventive. He created nefarious murderers so charismatic that viewers could not turn away from them. Twenty years before Mann utilized Tom Cruise's skill set perfectly in Collateral, he was turning everyone from Stanley Tucci to Joaquim de Almeida to Phil Collins into a menacing presence onscreen. He was the master.

Fast forward to 2006. Casting is announced for Miami Vice the movie. Jamie Foxx and Gong Li are added. Everything is good. Colin Farrell is added. Wait a minute. BOP does not like him very much. What is Mann doing? This is our logical reaction. We are skeptical whether this man can portray Sonny Crockett. The doubt lasts but for a moment. Quickly thereafter, we realize that Farrell is no worse than that guy from Nash Bridges. He is not the key here. The director is all we need to know. Michael Mann is a legend in this industry, one of the finest auteurs alive today. There is simply no way he would allow his most famous and personal work, Miami Vice, to be undone. As long as he is onboard, BOP believes. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Do men love me for my brains or my fin? 14) Lady in the Water

BOP has much love for Paul Giamatti. He's the kind of guy we can see ourselves hanging out with, talking about smart stuff and having a glass of wine (though certainly not Merlot). A recent interview with Giamatti reveals him to be very little like the characters he plays, as rather than being a grumpy curmudgeon, he's an engaging guy with a keen sense of humor. No wonder so many notable directors like working with him.

Giamatti is the star of the latest outing from M. Night Shyalaman. Lady in the Water has been called "a bedtime story" in its taglines, giving the impression that it will use the dark essence of fairy tales to provide its atmosphere. In the film, Giamatti plays an apartment building superintendant who discovers a young woman (Bryce Dallas Howard) has been living in the passages beneath the swimming pool. All is not as it appears, though. The girl is actually a creature known as a "narf", a nymph of a creature from the aforementioned bedtime story. She is being pursued by vicious entities hoping to prevent her from returning to her own world. Giamatti and friends from the complex become involved as they try to help her, and soon find that perhaps their tales are unexpectedly intertwined.

With Shyamalan's last outing, The Village, a lot of the director's fans were disappointed. Many felt that the story was a cheat, and ultimately, the continued usage of shock endings again and again began to wear thin. Nonetheless, Shyamalan has a style and capability that can't be denied. We're hoping Lady in the Water is the film to put him back on track. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
No one in this photograph appears particularly sunny. 13) Little Miss Sunshine

In a year where few films caused a great deal of excitement at Sundance, one movie emerged as a huge crowd favorite. Little Miss Sunshine received a rare standing ovation at its world premiere, and it wasn't long before Fox Searchlight films hurried to acquire the property. As such, Little Miss Sunshine will hope to follow on the heels of previous Searchlight/Sundance successes as Thank You for Smoking, Garden State and Napoleon Dynamite.

The film centers on a charmingly dysfunctional family named the Hoovers, following them as they head out on a road trip in their VW Bus from Albuquerque to Redondo Beach, California. Once there, they'll hope to fulfill the lifelong dream of seven-year-old Olive, who is looking forward to competing in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. Little Miss Sunshine looks both at the dynamics of family trips and child pageants, particularly reveling in the madness of parents and the ridiculous levels of competition involved.

The movie's cast gives us reason to celebrate. Foremost amongst them is Steve Carell, who is currently receiving a lot of BOP admiration for his role as Michael Scott on The Office (U.S. version). And of course, we adored him in The 40 Year-Old Virgin as well. Rounding out the group are Toni Collette, Alan Arkin, Greg Kinnear, Abigail Breslin (the little girl from Signs) and Paul Dano. We're hoping the film gets the attention it deserves, and the early buzz is certainly there to indicate that it can happen. (Kim Hollis/BOP)




Following his Olympic struggles, Bode Miller tries to tame an easier course. 12) The Science of Sleep

Wanna get trippy? If so, there is no better director in the world to facilitate your natural high than Michel Gondry, the auteur responsible for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Not yet content to rest on the laurels of his prior exercise in cognitive exploration, Gondry has a new spin on the concept. With The Science of Sleep, he once again examines how cranial functionality impacts emotional response. The difference this time is that Gondry has chosen the realm of sleep as his playground for theatrical excess.

The Science of Sleep is the story of a man named Stephane who becomes enamored of the woman living above him. Rather than go the conventional route and attempt to seduce her, he stays in bed...without her. Stephane gets his neighbor, Stephanie, to fall in love with him in his dreams. Over time, he discovers he can manipulate the circumstances of their relationship to extend and enhance the romantic encounters. The problem comes when his slumbering creations develop the ability to prevent him from awakening. Stephane suddenly finds his very existence endangered by this turn of events.

Make no mistake on the point. The Science of Sleep appears to be the most outlandish display of directorial surfeit since Yellow Submarine. In point of fact, the early footage from the movie forcibly reminds BOP of Peter Gabriel's video for Sledgehammer. Considering Gondry's video direction upbringing, this is hardly surprising. We suspect this project will prove to be his Being John Malkovich. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Denny Crane! 11) Over the Hedge

If you aren't aware of the fact that Over the Hedge will be opening soon, you haven't been in a Wal-Mart lately. Or watched a television. DreamWorks has pulled out all the stops for the marketing of this CGI-animated comedy, and they're hoping it will help them to get the early jump start on Pixar's Cars.

Based on an excellent comic series by Michael Fry and T. Lewis, Over the Hedge follows the exploits of some of the cute critters who live just on the fringe of human society. You know, creatures like raccoons, squirrels skunks, opossums and turtles. And when spring arrives, some of these animals discover that a large green thing has spring up, right in the midst of their environment. Not to worry, though. RJ, a clever raccoon voiced by Bruce Willis, is there to lead them to the place beyond the green thing. A place where they can lead "the good life". As they learn more about their surroundings, the raucous RJ and the cautious Verne (voiced by Garry Shandling) become the best of friends.

Along with the voices of Willis and Shandling, there are also turns from Steve Carell, William Shatner, Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Wanda Sykes, Nick Nolte, Allison Janney and Thomas Haden Church. The trailers and commercials for the film thus far have been both hilarious and adorable, and are certain to draw both kiddies and adults alike. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Surf's up. 10) Poseidon

In 1972, cinema buffs learned something important from The Poseidon Adventure. Apparently, there's got to be a morning after. To this day, BOP remains unclear about how this helps people who have been tormented indefinitely only to eventually drown. Far be it from us to question the wisdom of Maureen McGovern, though.

In 2006, the good ship Poseidon will once again set sail for foreign shores. And again, before the journey is complete, unpleasantness will occur. First, there will be the capsizing. Then, there will be the turmoil and civil war among the wrecked and disheveled. Eventually, there will be a stack of bodies a mile high. It's this last aspect that has BOP excited.

Come on, admit it. Seeing people drown is entertaining. Gene Hackman knew it, Ernest Borgnine knew it, James Cameron knew it, George Clooney knew it and now Kurt Russell is about to find out the hard way. Films involving watery graves are by no means automatic hits. Waterworld was not the financial disaster it was made out to be, but Cutthroat Island sure was. Despite this knowledge, we maintain hope that Poseidon will strike the perfect tone of peril and melodrama just as the original did. (David Mumpower/BOP)
I keep telling you this feels better with our clothes off. 9) Clerks II

Never doubt it for a moment. BOP loves Kevin Smith. Sure, there have been those iffy moments. Admittedly, Jersey Girl was not quite what we've come to expect from the verbose writer/director. And some of us (though I am not among them) feel that the Clerks Animated Series was something less than special. Never mind all that. We still have Mallrats, which brought us the wonder of both Jason Lee *and* Ethan Suplee. And Chasing Amy, which still stands as one of our favorite under-appreciated films ever. Dogma and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back have proponents in our bunch as well. The movie that started it all off, of course, was Clerks. A brilliant, talky movie shot on a minuscule budget, it holds up incredibly well even though more than a decade has passed since it was first released. The cast was full of people we'd never heard of, but now we feel like we know them like family.

For the uninitiated, Clerks is essentially a day in the life of Dante, a young man who works behind the cash register of a local convenience store. His friend, Randal Graves, handles the video store next door. And the people who come through the doors of both businesses include a variety of annoying customers, new and old girlfriends, and a couple of iconic characters known as Jay and Silent Bob.

All of the primary denizens of this world return for the long-time-in-coming sequel, with Jason Lee, Ethan Suplee, Rosario Dawson and Wanda Sykes added to the mix for kicks. When calamity after calamity seems to strike our intrepid heroes Dante and Randall, they eventually take new jobs. Where do they wind up? Mooby's, a McDonald's-esque fast-foot joint that will be very familiar to anyone who has seen Dogma.

Ever since it was first announced that Clerks 2 was really a go (back in the days when it was known as The Passion of the Clerks), we've been giddy with anticipation. We're ready to sit back and let the pop culture references fly at us as we get reacquainted with old friends. It's almost like a high school reunion - but more fun. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Want a cold sore? 8) Mission: Impossible III

J.J. Abrams, the creator of Alias and Lost, has (rightfully) received criticism for randomly rebooting his shows and abandoning storylines entirely. Even so, he has proven to have a remarkable ability to tell engaging spy stories. He has also shown that he can wreck a plane like nobody's business, keeping the dramatic tension in play through delayed explosions and gruesome injuries. In short, he seems to be the perfect director for a character-driven action thriller. He is a dream come true for the Mission: Impossible franchise.

His stylistic decisions place Abrams closer in thematic Mission: Impossible directorial style to the Hitchcock wannabe Brian De Palma than Mr. Slo-Mo Bullets and Doves, John Woo. Even better, he has carefully followed the De Palma arc of bringing intriguing villains into the mix. Whereas Wolverine wannabe Dougray Scott came across as generic Eurotrash, Jon Voight was as manipulative and methodical as bad guys get. Abrams has some experience with this sort of character since Alias baddie Ron Rifkin is exactly the same type of everyman evil. Ergo, casting reigning Best Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman as Tom Cruise's foil is a masterstroke.

Critics have maintained that Hoffman appears to be playing exactly the same character from Punch-Drunk Love and perhaps this is true. But who cares? He is great in this sort of role, something the people who cut the trailer recognized immediately. Hoffman is the perfect opponent for the impossibly perfect onscreen persona that is Tom Cruise. Hoffman is one of us, an overweight, balding man with a nondescript presence. He is that much more intimidating as a villain because the audience immediately deduces just how ferocious this man must be. How else could he attain so much power with such ordinary qualities if not through force of will? Hoffman's presence immediately counterbalances the impossibly Hollywood nature of Tom Cruise.

This is why it is no surprise too BOP to hear that audiences are cheering when Hoffman torments Cruise. It's only logical which one Joe Sixpack would consider to be a kindred spirit. Plus, Hoffman never gave Katie Holmes a cold sore (you didn't think BOP would go the entire discussion without a single joke at Cruise's expense, did you?). With a charismatic villain terrorizing the family of the hero, Mission: Impossible III has shown signs of being a 2006 answer to Die Hard. How could anyone not want to give that movie concept a chance? (David Mumpower/BOP)
Why do you look surprised that there is a snake on your plane? 7) Snakes on a Plane

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past several months, you know what the deal is here. Our society has recently overcome terrorism, natural disasters and ten years of Bushes in the White House. But we have never been faced with a situation as epic as Snakes on a Plane.

Simply consider the last time you racked up some frequent flier mileage. There you were, enjoying some peanuts and a 12 ounce beverage. You were probably typing away on a laptop, listening to your iPod or reading a good book. Everything was fine except for the turbulence and your inability to score digits from that cute flight attendant/pilot. But what if there had been snakes?

I mean, anyone who has gotten stuck in the middle of the row in coach knows how tight the space is. If you want to walk down the aisle to the rest room, you can't just leave whenever you want, either. You have to make sure no one has that cart out because if they do, you are effectively blockaded. This is quite the claustrophobic moment, but it could get worse. Much worse. There could be snakes.

Samuel L. Jackson, Mr. Cool himself, has famously stated that he had no need to read this script. After all, what would have been the point? Once you have heard the title, you know everything you need to know.

In the middle of a flight, passengers will suddenly discover themselves living the ultimate nightmare. They will realize there are snakes. They will realize that there is no escape. They will realize they are starring in a low budget thriller that has somehow tapped into the zeitgeist. They will realize tens of millions of people have paid good money to watch them suffer. BOP will be among those voyeurs seeking the satisfaction that may only come from seeing snakes. Snakes on a plane. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Now where did we put that kryptonite? 6) Superman Returns

The day has finally arrived. After a decade of false stars and disproven rumors, the man in the red cape makes his dramatic return. Before you start arguing about doomed projects, BOP politely but firmly points out that there was a similar project in the early 1990s. No one could get Spider-Man off the ground, either. Once Sam Raimi was brought onboard, all of the red tape fell away and Sony was swimming in financial gains.

Will Warner Bros. prove as fortunate? We are not here to discuss box office at the moment. Instead, we are simply celebrating the movie's arrival into theaters...if for no reason than that we will finally get to stop fielding questions about whether it ever gets made.

To BOP, Superman is something of a dull character. Whereas Batman is an ordinary man with disposable income and a fiery will, Superman is invincible. Nothing forces a writer into a corner like an invincible protagonist. The dude is, in the immortal words of The Tick, nigh-invulnerable. So, in order to imperil him, story options are limited. Either his friends are made vulnerable or some absurd creation is introduced that reduces his power. Hello, Kryptonite. Of course, anyone who has watched even three episodes of Smallville realizes this oft-duplicated two-pronged attack gets old fast.

Recognizing this, Warner Bros. made a savvy decision. They brought in a director with a proven track record in the field. Bryan Singer was famous within ten minutes of the first exhibition of The Usual Suspects, but Hollywood noticed him more for his work on the X-Men. Critical praise is nice, but the bottom line is what matters. With X-Men, Singer created a new franchise and with X2: X-Men United, he shattered a few box office records. If the job is a perfect combination of cinematic quality and financial quantity, he is the right choice.

This Brandon Routh dude, on the other hand, has us concerned. It's not as if the role of Superman requires a lot in the way of acting. Thespians are mainly required to be strong-jawed, corn-fed, farm boys with rippling muscles. In this regard, Routh is doing okay. When it comes to portraying emotions such as confusion about Lex Luthor's latest scam, BOP again feels all right about him. As far as we can tell, he is perpetually confused looking anyway. But how is he going to handle the task of outwitting Lex Luthor...especially when Luthor is portrayed by Keyser Soze himself, Kevin Spacey? The answer to this question will also (accidentally) answer the question of how big a blockbuster Superman Returns will prove to be. (David Mumpower/BOP)


     


 
 

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