Film

The Weekly’s summer movie preview

Our six most-anticipated films from the year’s biggest box-office season

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Kirk and Spock in Star Trek.

Star Trek (May 8)

Like most Star Trek fans, I've had my own ideas about how the suits at Paramount could best reboot and revitalize the veteran sci-fi franchise, and rehashing the origin of the Enterprise’s first crew would not have been at the top of my list (or anywhere on it, really). But I do trust producer/director J.J. Abrams, who’s been responsible in part for some great genre TV shows (Alias, Lost, Fringe), and also managed to take the reigns of another unwieldy studio behemoth (the Mission: Impossible series) and turn in a fun, exciting action movie.

So against my better judgment I am excited about Abrams’ Star Trek: The trailers look cool; advance word from early screenings is positive; Leonard Nimoy himself shows up as Spock; and all indications are that Abrams has done his best to respect Trek lore while remaining accessible to new fans. I’ll believe it when I see it, but the future looks bright. –Josh Bell

Larry David shows off his legs. Whatever Works for him.

Whatever Works

(limited opening June 19; Las Vegas opening TBA)

Though Woody Allen made one of 2008’s best movies with Vicky Cristina Barcelona, his track record regarding follow-ups to masterworks isn’t very good (see Interiors, Stardust Memories, Alice, etc.). But Whatever Works, with its clever casting of Larry David (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm) as Boris, a crusty New York curmudgeon and self-described genius, just seems like a natural-born winner. Evan Rachel Wood plays a Southern belle who befriends the cranky Boris—perhaps a relative of Max von Sydow’s artist character in Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)—and presumably “warms him up.” What remains to be seen is just how much David allows himself to succumb to Allen’s vision, or how much of his own personality emerges. (David once played a small part in Allen’s Radio Days, so maybe it’s a good fit.) The wonderful Patricia Clarkson, a standout in Vicky, returns for this one. –Jeffrey M. Anderson

Even as a Public Emeny, Depp is still hot.

Public Enemies (July 1)

Michael Mann is American cinema’s pre-eminent chronicler of manliness, and in his new movie, Public Enemies, he takes on one of history’s manliest men: notorious outlaw John Dillinger. If Mann can convey even half of the intensity and seriousness he brought to crime epic Heat and corporate thriller The Insider, then Public Enemies will be one hell of a ride. Mann’s last movie, an adaptation of his Miami Vice TV series, was all murky digital video and cool nighttime colors, and was a little arty for mainstream audiences (and those who remember the show primarily for its pastel wardrobe). In previews, Enemies looks crisp, fluid and stylish, suitably grand for its historical subject matter.

Also look for

Tyson (May 15)
Terminator Salvation (May 21)
The Brothers Bloom (May 29)
Drag Me to Hell (May 29)
Up (May 29)
The Hangover (June 5)
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (June 12)
Year One (June 19)
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (June 24)
Bruno (July 10)
Moon (July 10)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (July 15)
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (July 17)
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (August 7)
Taking Woodstock (August 14 limited; Las Vegas TBA)
H2 (August 28)

Add in Johnny Depp as Dillinger and Christian Bale as the man trying to catch him, and you’ve got a pairing worthy of Pacino and De Niro, and one that Mann will surely know how to maximize. Who says we can’t have big summer action movies that are also smart and meaningful? –JB

Funny People (July 31)

Comedy golden goose Judd Apatow brings out his third feature film as writer/director, and it’s a most intriguing concept. Adam Sandler plays a stand-up comic who becomes terminally ill and forms his first real friendship, with an up-and-coming fellow comic (Seth Rogen). The picture could very easily slip into maudlin, goopy junk—especially given Apatow’s penchant for lengthy running times—but it has at least two things going for it. Very few films have been made about comedy as an actual profession (Lenny and Punchline come to mind), and this one could be interesting if it spends a little time in that arena. Plus, with a strong director at last, Sandler may finally have a chance to recapture the genius he showed in his Punch-Drunk Love performance. Or it could go the way of last summer’s You Don’t Mess With the Zohan. –JMA

The Hurt Locker (July 31)

Various Funny People.

The American Public has spent the last several years loudly proclaiming its utter indifference to movies about the war in Iraq, whether they’re fictional or documentaries. But most of the American public hasn’t yet seen The Hurt Locker, in which ace action director Kathryn Bigelow (Near Dark, Point Break) dispenses with (overt) politics in order to concentrate on how the experience of impending death feels to soldiers on the ground. Two little-known but superb actors, Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie, play members of a special unit that locates and defuses IEDs (roadside bombs); one is a born leader concerned about the safety of the men under his command, the other an almost psychopathically reckless cowboy who seems to have been born without any adrenaline. That the latter eventually gets humanized is a bit of a shame, but so long as the film keeps plunging us into one crisis after another, defining its characters only by the ways in which they function under extreme pressure, it’s absolutely riveting. –Mike D’Angelo

Inglourious Basterds (August 21)

Brad Pitt is an Inglourious Basterd.

Every Quentin Tarantino movie is an event, but Inglourious Basterds—yes, that’s really how it’s spelled—totes even more hype-baggage than usual, as Tarantino has spent at least a decade insisting that this WWII ensemble piece, should it ever get made, will be his magnum opus. Loosely inspired by a 1978 Italian war flick with the same title (except spelled correctly), it follows a squadron of Jewish-American soldiers on a mission to kill Nazi thugs, as well as a French-Jewish girl (newcomer Mélanie Laurent ) on the run from same. Others in the enormous and typically eclectic cast include Brad Pitt, director Eli Roth (Hostel) and The Office’s B.J. Novak as the titular Basterds; Michael Fassbender (now playing I.R.A. martyr Bobby Sands in Hunger) and Mike Myers as Brits; and Samuel L. Jackson as the narrator. Will it make anyone forget Pulp Fiction? Probably not, but it’s almost certain to be a brutal blast. –MD

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