BOP 25 of Summer: 5-1

By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower

May 5, 2006

It's getting harder and harder to jack into The Matrix. 5) A Scanner Darkly

Philip K. Dick adaptations receive automatic entrance onto BOP 25 lists. Even if this were not the case, though, we would be all over A Scanner Darkly. The premise is glorious. A cop is in pursuit of a drug user as well as the user's distributor. The catch is that the cop IS the drug user. He has become so addicted to Substance D aka Death that he has brain has split in two. Each side of it operates independently of the other. And just to the make the picture murkier, the cop/user is in love with his distributor. This is the world's first lover's triangle involving only two people.

Dick's explorations of the drug subculture are legendary and his dabbling in that world explains some of his more exotic book premises. While we await a Philip K. Dick biopic (it's inevitable), the semi-autobiographical adaptation of his most personal work will more than suffice. The other appeal of this project is its director, Richard Linklater. The director's last three projects were Bad News Bears, Before Sunset and School of Rock. Needless to say, he is on quite the hot streak. With A Scanner Darkly, he returns to the stylistic animation utilized in his prior work, Waking Life. The actors were filmed in live action, then later animated into a fluid style, thereby creating a unique look also utilized in some current cell phone commercials.

Linklater also has a sense of humor. He has cast Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson as co-stars in the project, fitting because they are both storied drug users. And female lead Winona Ryder is something of a wild child herself. Continuing the tongue-in-cheek nature of casting, Keanu Reeves is the lead. Due to the sleek animation, this might wind up being the most life-like performance the "actor" offers in his entire career. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Hey, man, is that Freedom Rock? Well, turn it up! 4) Cars

Until Pixar steers us wrong, we're going to continue to put full faith in them. When a production company's output includes such classics as Toy Story (and its sequel), A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, it's easy to get excited about the next project in the pike. This time, Pixar will attempt to tap into the NASCAR culture as they set their story in the world of auto racing. Possibilities for great characters go even further, though, because they aren't limiting themselves only to the cool cars. They have old rusty trucks, VW Buses and other vehicles of all sorts to fill out the mix. Perhaps it seems a little odd to anthropomorphize the automobile, but given the fact that many people still have issues with CGI humans and their appearance, the car is a solid choice.

Now before you go mentioning that the teaser and trailer have been less than impressive, allow me to remind you that *every time* a Pixar trailer has been released in the past, people have questioned the quality. Toy Story 2? It'll never work. Monsters, Inc.? How silly! Finding Nemo? Pretty, but dull. And The Incredibles? What is it with the guy trying to put on his suit? The thing about Pixar is that they save all of the choice bits of their films for actual release, rather than putting all the funniest lines in the trailers to entice viewers into theaters. And the product has consistently come through.

As always, Pixar has hit a home run with regard to voice casting. Owen Wilson is the featured player as he portrays Lightning McQueen, a bright red race car headed to a big race. He gets caught up in Radiator Springs as he travels, though, where he meets a cadre of crazy automobiles. Along with Wilson, voices include Paul Newman, George Carlin, Bob Costas, Michael Keaton, Cheech Marin, John Ratzenberger (now a staple in all Pixar films), Larry the Cable Guy (okay, here is where we might have a disagreement of opinion with Pixar), and real-life race car drivers Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip. Sitting in the director's chair is none other than John Lasseter himself, the very guy who got the whole Pixar and CGI wagon rolling with Toy Story.

All evidence in previews and trailers shows that once again, the animation itself looks to be top-notch. Pixar is never a studio to take short cuts or omit detail, and the team is clearly in fine form here. We're putting our faith in you, Pixar. We only hope you use the Gary Numan tune to full advantage. (Kim Hollis/BOP)

Seriously, dude, what is with your hair? 3) The Da Vinci Code

So dark the con of man. BOP could uncover the mystery of this strange sentence for you, but odds are you already know anyway. After all, The Da Vinci Code has sold an astonishing 40 million copies in only three years, making it one of the greatest literary successes of the 21st century. A movie adaptation was inevitable, though the speed with which this one came together is a bit staggering. The cast ain't too shabby, either. Director Ron Howard and living legend Tom Hanks have joined forced for their third production, and this time, they brought Amelie, Audrey Tautou, along for the ride. Everything about this project screams BIG!!! Of course, Tom Hanks has already done that movie, so they had to come up with a different title here.

The Da Vinci Code, the novel, has received well-founded criticism for the quality of its writing. For reasons passing understanding, Dan Brown's prose is decidedly lacking for an Ivy League educator. The ideas from the book, however, are not easily ignored. Religious organizations such as Opus Dei and the Catholic Church have expressed significant displeasure with their representation in the novel as well as their expected role in the film. There have even been requests for those devout in faith to boycott the movie production based on these expectations. Needless to say, the subject matter is controversial. That aspect alone raises our interest in a movie adaptation. The fact that the novel comes across as a 450 page screenplay in need of trimming (well, weed whacking) only heightens our anticipation. In the skilled hands of an auteur such as Ron Howard (you heard me), a version of the novel that sees all the fat trimmed could prove to be one of the tightest thinking man's action titles in recent memory.

Simply consider that The Da Vinci Code's protagonist is a symbologist. Normally, these goofy eggheads are slotted in the role of comic relief. They do all the cranial deductions and stay out of the way of the dashing hero. Later on, they pretend to be happy when that guy gets the girl. This is basic cinema behavior. If we ignore the occasional deductions of Indiana Jones, The Da Vinci Code is scouting uncharted territory with its tweed-clad brainiac, Robert Langdon. Were anyone but Hanks playing the role, we might have concerns. All those pesky Academy Awards of his have earned him leeway, though.

For those of you who have been cryogenically frozen for the past three years, The Da Vinci Code is a murder mystery with significant religious and sexual overtones. The curator at the Louvre Museum is found dead, his corpse lay prone in an odd position. A strange series of words and numbers is written. Some of them indicate that an American named Robert Langdon should be brought in to investigate. From there, further mysteries crop up, some of which indicate that their unraveling could lead to the Holy Grail. All this film needs now is Sean Connery as the father of protagonist to guarantee itself "Classic" status.

Finally, how could anyone not love a movie which has trained thousands of Internet users in sharpening their Google searches? Even if you have not been spending the past couple of weeks learning obscure symbols and attaining checkmates through theological trivia, The Da Vinci Code is still a movie you are going to see. The controversy will drive even the most causal cinema buffs to find out what the hype is all about. The Da Vinci Code is a strong contender to be the biggest film of the summer, and we at BOP have succumbed to its wide-ranging appeal. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Make-up! 2) Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Why is Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest the #2 film on our list? Three simple words: Captain. Jack. Sparrow. Savvy?

Indeed, our love for the flamboyant pirate runs so deep that Johnny Depp was our runner-up for Best Actor for the role during our 2004 Calvin Awards. The sole reason that he wasn't the surefire winner is that Bill Murray gave the perfomance of a lifetime in Lost in Translation that same year. Both men were nominated for Academy Awards for their work as well, but the competition was intense and Sean Penn walked away with the trophy.

That's all water under the Black Pearl now, though. Despite being called the "worst pirate ever seen", our Captain Jack saved the day, allowing love to flourish between the very pretty Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) and the also very pretty Will (Orlando Bloom). The trio's story doesn't end there, either. After having battled the dead(ish) Barbarossa in The Curse of the Black Pearl, we now learn that yet another dread pirate has a grudge to bear against our (anti) hero. It seems that at some point in the distant past, Jack promised his soul to one Davy Jones. No, not the Monkee. The one with the undersea locker.

As if Depp and friends weren't enough to make us very, very happy, the casting directors of Dead Man's Chest came up with a masterstroke with regards to Davy Jones. Bill Nighy, a terrific actor who ran away with the show in Love Actually in addition to having a supporting role in BOP favorite Shaun of the Dead, is Davy Jones. Or rather, he's the voice of Davy Jones, as the vengeful undersea being is actually a CGI fellow with tentacles growing from his face. Still, just knowing he's a part of the film makes us that more keen to be there on opening night.

And one more thing. Davy Jones has a pet called The Kracken. As in "release the Kracken." What more do you need to know? (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Never kidnap an angel. It's just common sense. 1) X-Men: The Last Stand

Yes, BOP knows what you are thinking. Brett Ratner has as much business directing a comic book adaptation of the Ultimate/Uncanny/Astonishing X-Men as Paris Hilton has running abstinence seminars. In addition, Ratner is not doing his cause any favors by acting so celebratory about the idea of introducing a "mutant hooker" character. Such decision making reinforces every natural prejudice diehard comic book fanboys are inclined to have about Ratner. And they were already heartbroken over the decision by Bryan Singer to focus upon Superman Returns at the expense of the third project in the X-Men franchise.

What is our site's response to such concerns? STOP BEING SO PESSIMISTIC!!!

Ratner is not in any danger of coming up with an "I'd like to thank the Academy" speech, but he's an entertaining director. The Rush Hour series, Red Dragon, the underrated After the Sunset and even Money Talks all offer their fair share of enjoyable fluff. With X-Men, his assignment is much more simplistic: "Just don't sabotage the franchise". Since he has managed not to do that with both Rush Hour and Hannibal Lecter, there is no reason to believe anything would be different with the mutie scum.

The main reason BOP considers X-Men: The Last Stand to be the most exciting title on the summer schedule is its story line. The seeds were planted at the end of X2: X-Men United when Jean Grey dramatically her friends from a seemingly impossible predicament through an act of supreme self-sacrifice. Long time fans of the comic book series know what comes next. The character formerly designated as Phoenix rises from the ashes of her predicament, in the process evolving into a power being known as Dark Phoenix. The title says it all about her moral compass.

Grey's alteration is not the only change her friends face, though. Another famous story arc is also added into the mix. Scientists have discovered a "cure" for the mutant gene, meaning that those affected could be treated. Mutants could live ordinary lives. This news creates a stir within both Professor X's and Magneto's disciples. Civil war amongst mutant-kind appears inevitable.

Talk about your loaded deck. X-Men: The Last Stand ties together three films and two legendary comic book story arcs. As great as the second film in the franchise was, this production is poised to exceed it in terms of scope as well as quality. As much as the staff loves Johnny Depp, we have decided by a narrow margin that the comic adaptation deserves to be the Most Anticipated Film of Summer 2006. (David Mumpower/BOP)



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