Geng 606

Ahad, 25 April 2010

10 movies to watch

These mid-year blockbusters may not be super hero spectaculars or have special effects, but they will pull in their own set of fans.

IF 2009 was the year of sci-fi and superhero movies (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Star Trek, Terminator Salvation, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), this is the year they almost disappear.

The reason: Money.

With production budgets for special effects extravaganzas spiralling into the US$300mil (RM960mil) zone, as seen in last year’s epic Avatar, studios and distributors are bankrolling more bang-for-the-buck franchises that do not need costly computer effects. See Sex and the City 2 and the Twilight franchise.

Last year, for every high-stakes smash hit such as Avatar, there were twice as many big-budget flops, such as the action-comedy Land of the Lost and the toy spin-off G.I. Joe.

And if the line-up of this year’s mid-year cinematic spectaculars look blah to you, the reason is that they have either opened (Clash of the Titans) or have been moved towards the end of the year to avoid getting crushed by the April to July juggernauts Iron Man 2 and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.

These latter movies are triple threats: They have stars, they follow up on a hit and will be backed by huge advertising budgets. They are expected to take up so many halls that competitors will be starved of screens.

But later in the year, the choices for popcorn movies will look less monochromatic. Comic book fans will get the action-hero flick The Green Hornet and new instalments of the Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia franchises also appear in the closing months of the year.

But until then, check out these top 10 picks of the mid-year blockbuster season.

1 THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE


Opens: July 1

The story: Bella and Edward (Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson) become closer as other vampires target her out of revenge. This time, she also seeks the help of werewolf Jakob (Taylor Lautner) and her feelings for him grow deeper.

Watch or miss? Stay far, far away from this teen-girl fantasy if you are not a fan. Those fond of the original book series cannot get enough of the movie versions, which are structured faithfully around the written formats. This third instalment directed by David Slade (Hard Candy) hews faithfully to the third volume and with global teen-crush phenomenon Pattinson on board, this film will dominate cinemas in July.

2 IRON MAN 2


Opens: April 30

The story: Six months after the events of the first film, Iron Man aka billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is everyone’s hero. But new enemies emerge in the form of Whiplash (Mickey Rourke), who is aided by Stark’s rival, scientist Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell).

Watch or miss? Watch. Downey is perfectly cast as the glib, high-living billionaire Tony Stark. His acting chops breathed life into a superhero movie that could have been as leaden and unintentionally camp as G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

3 SEX AND THE CITY 2


Opens: May 27

The story: The girls are all back for another round of shopping and gossip, but now, also in the Middle-Eastern city of Abu Dhabi, in addition to New York.

Watch or miss? For fans only. This most ultimate of chick flicks will scare almost everyone away who does not get the idea that a movie can be nothing more than a fairy tale about fabulous outfits, dreamy men and apartments to die for. Michael Patrick King, who directed the first movie, also helms the second.

4 TOY STORY 3


Opens: June 17

The story: Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz (Tim Allen) are back but their owner Andy is getting older and leaving for college. The toys are all donated to a daycare centre, where more adventures await.

Watch or miss? Watch. Pixar projects seem to strike a chord with everyone. The huge brand-name recognition of this franchise and affection for Woody and Buzz should guarantee box-office ker-ching.

5 SHREK FOREVER AFTER


Opens: May 21

The story: The fourth and final chapter of the adventures of the green ogre (voiced by Mike Myers) and his Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) sees him tricked into signing a pact with Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn). Shrek must find a way to get out of the contract or risk losing everything.

Watch or miss? Watch. The franchise is Dreamworks Animation’s most durable brand and each release has been more successful and enjoyable than the last.

6 PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME


Opens: May 27

The story: Based on a hit 2003 video game that called for a lot of jumping, climbing and swordplay, this Disney movie sees Jake Gyllenhaal as Prince Dastan, a nobleman who has to pluck a time-control device from evil lord Nizam (Ben Kingsley).

Watch or miss? Wait for the reviews. Like all movies based on video games, this one will sink or swim depending on the cheesiness of the production and the charisma of the star. Disney has a good track record with light-hearted costume epics, as seen in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Reviews will tell if Gyllenhaal, usually typecast as a brooding drama type, can do breezy, family-friendly action hero. The director is Mike Newell of Four Weddings and a Funeral fame.

7 ROBIN HOOD


Opens: May 13

The story: Director Ridley Scott wanted to add his own spin to the traditional David-versus-Goliath folk tale of Sir Robin coming home from the Crusades to free his people from the oppression of the Sheriff of Nottingham. With Russell Crowe, 46, as Robin, and Cate Blanchett, 40, as Lady Marian, this cast could be the oldest ever playing this oft-remade story. Coupled with Scott’s signature gritty style, it could also be the muddiest, bloodiest version ever.

Watch or miss? Watch. Not since the Roman-era epic Gladiator (2000, also starring the Scott-Crowe combination) has the audience seen Crowe in full butt-kicking, horse-riding, sword-wielding, vengeance-seeking historical figure mode.

8 THE A-TEAM


Opens: June 10

The story: Based on the 1980s action-adventure television series, a group of elite soldiers – played by Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quinton Jackson and Sharlto Copley – are framed for a crime and become mercenaries while trying to clear their names.

Watch or miss? Wait for reviews. While the original series emphasised coolness, catchphrases and car wrecks in equal measure, co-writer and director Joe Carnahan makes tough, hyper-masculine action flicks (Narc, 2002; Smokin’ Aces, 2007). Think of it as the antidote to Sex and the City 2.

9 INCEPTION


Opens: July 15

The story: Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a corporate spy with the ability to enter the dreams of top executives to steal secrets. But a botched mind-robbery causes an angry CEO Saito (Ken Watanabe) to go after Cobb.

Watch or miss? Watch. Writer-director Christopher Nolan took a break from the Batman franchise to do this, but it should be well worth missing out on the third Dark Knight movie for this sci-fi thriller. When Nolan takes on the topics of paranoia and truth-versus-reality, the results tend to be spectacular. See his amnesiac crime-thriller Memento (2000).

10 THE LAST AIRBENDER


Opens: Aug 5

The story: Based on a popular Nickelodeon cartoon, the story takes place in a world where warring nations have the power to each control the elements of fire, air, earth and water. The appearance of an all-powerful boy Aang (Noah Ringer) who can control all four elements leads to a struggle to capture him.

Watch or miss? Wait for reviews. Co-written and directed by M. Night Shymalan, a man known for taking risks, this could be great (as with his Unbreakable, 2000) or terrible (Lady in the Water, 2006). – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network

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