A partial list of this summer's best box-office bets: Optimus Prime, Manny the Woolly Mammoth and Meryl Streep.
It's understandable if that prompts a double take, but the actress most synonymous with Oscar quietly has become one of the most reliable warm-weather draws at the multiplex. Streep, who turned 60 in June, drummed up nearly $1 billion in worldwide revenue from her previous two summer outings: Fox's "The Devil Wears Prada" in 2006 and Universal's "Mamma Mia!" in 2008.
She puts that streak on the line next weekend when Columbia's "Julie & Julia" opens opposite Paramount's testosterone fest "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra."
Johnny Depp and director Michael Mann circled around John Dillinger for decades. Independently, each imagined the infamous Depression-era bank robber filling the big screen. Good-looking, sexy and charismatic, Dillinger is a role Depp was destined to play. Meanwhile, the rat-a-tat style Mann displayed in Miami Vice and Heat seems well suited to a 1930s gangster movie.
The gestation of what became Public Enemies - a promising summer movie pitting Dillinger against federal agent Melvin Purvis (played by Christian Bale) - began in earnest three years ago. Mann is known for working slowly, accounting for an output of just 10 movies in 30 years, and he took his time even after Depp and Bale were cast.
Next week the “Terminator” franchise returns to theaters with its darkest chapter yet, a relentless, spirit-crushing vision of the future where humans are snuffed by killer robots. There’s are not a lot of light-hearted moments in this film, but you might hear chuckles in the theater during the screen credits because of one line: "A McG film."
McG? Let the eye-rolling begin. There’s something about that name that conjures up images of Sacha Baron Cohen’s hip-hop buffoon Ali G or maybe McLovin, the nerdy, underage boozehound from “Superbad,” cultural references that don’t exactly lend themselves to the fearsome, grinding gears of “Terminator Salvation.” His resumé hasn’t relieved the pressure, as since it’s highlighted by the gloss of two “Charlie’s Angels” films, a lot of pop music videos and a Superman film project that infamously never got off the ground.
The man behind the name McG — or perhaps under it — is the most relentlessly upbeat filmmaker in Hollywood today, but even his face droops when the nickname issue is raised. “Believe me, I know, people hear the name and they just think, ‘That guy must be a jerk,'” the 38-year-old said with a groan. “And having it hasn’t helped me, that’s for sure. But it’s what everybody has called me forever."
Reporting from Albuquerque -- Director McG had a bit of advice last year for a visitor to the set of "Terminator Salvation," which had set up shop in a vast hangar at Kirtland Air Force Base here. "If you go too far that way," he said, pointing across the tarmac, "someone will shoot you."
Knowing the boundaries and risking sniper fire -- those are pretty good metaphors for anyone daring enough to add an installment to the killer-robot franchise without either signature star Arnold Schwarzenegger or director James Cameron listed in the credits beyond having created the characters.
"Terminator Salvation" will arrive in theaters May 21 with new faces and a darker ethos than the earlier films in the series, but it is a companion piece to them, a pure sequel -- or is that prequel? It's difficult to say with a franchise that skips through time like some sort of "Back to the Future" with a body count.
BATTLE FOR TERA
Director: Aristomenis Tsirbas
Stars: Evan Rachel Wood, Luke Wilson, Justin Long
The Plot: A space explorer (Wilson) crash-lands on the planet Terra and finds himself at the forefront of a battle to prevent his people, who are entrenched in a civil war at home, from invading the beautiful, peaceful planet where he has two new friends, rebellious alien teens Mala (Wood) and Senn (Long).
GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST
Director: Mark Waters
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Emma Stone
Studio: New Line Cinema
The Plot: At his younger brother's wedding, a committed bachelor/womanizer (McConaughey) is haunted by his romantic past.
X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE
Director: Gavin Hood
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Ryan Reynolds
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
The Plot: An origins story that follows the early life of James Howlett (Jackman), also known as Logan, and best known as Wolverine. The chronicle of his younger years as a mutant connects to his relationship and eventual falling out with Victor Creed/Sabretooth (Schreiber), and his fateful entry into the Weapons X project, the governmental program that turns willing and unwilling beings into living weapons
THE LIMITS OF CONTROL
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: Isaach De Bankolé
Studio: Focus Features
The Plot: The story of a mysterious loner (De Bankolé) who exists outside the law and is in the process of completing his current job.
If you downloaded the pirated copy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine online, you really hurt Gavin Hood’s feelings. The director worked really hard on the movieand now you’re judging the work before it’s even done. For those of you waiting to see the finished film in theaters, Gavin Hood gives you a high five.
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