Summer Previews: Big budget extravaganzas, comedies galore mark Hollywood’s summer fare

Ah, summer. The time of the year when we celebrate beautiful weather and no schoolwork by spending our time inside crowded, darkened rooms, watching mindless, big-budget action movies. Of course, this summer will be no different. However, there are some interesting movies on their way. Here is a survey of what we can all look forward to in the next few months.

First, let’s look at this summer’s comedies. Warren Beatty’s political satire Bulworth, in which a Democratic senator has a breakdown and starts telling nothing but the truth, will include edgy material about race, money, and politics. In what will probably be a fairly serious movie, Jim Carrey stars in The Truman Show, as a man whose entire life has been fabricated to be a hit television show. Directed by Peter Weir of Dead Poets Society, it has received good advance press. Eddie Murphy stars in a remake of Dr. Doolittle, or as some are calling it, The Nutty Veterinarian. Compared to the 1967 original, we can probably look forward to fewer musical numbers and more fart jokes. David Zucker, one of the men behind Airplane! and The Naked Gun, will be releasing BASEketball. In it, South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker star as two friends who invent a new sport and watch as it becomes a national obsession. Another Naked Gun veteran, Jim Abrams, is coming out with Jane Austen’s Mafia, a parody of mobster movies starring Jay Mohr and the late Lloyd Bridges; a preview I saw looked good, so let’s just hope they didn’t show all the good jokes. Speaking of dead actors, the late Chris Farley has one movie left, called Almost Heroes. Farley joins Matthew Perry as a pair of Lewis-and-Clark-like explorers in the early 1800s. A dark comedy with good buzz is Very Bad Things, which several studios were fighting to release. Starring Cameron Diaz, Christian Slater and others, it tells of a bachelor party in Las Vegas that goes horribly wrong — and becomes horribly funny! Finally, Super Dave Osborne makes his big screen debut in Be the Man.

On the romance front, Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick Jr. team up in Hope Floats. If you want to know how badly Sandra Bullock wanted to make this movie, see Speed 2; she had to suffer through that flop in order to make this new film. Hope Floats is directed by Forest Whitaker, who previously directed Waiting to Exhale. And speaking of Terry McMillan books, her best-seller How Stella Got Her Groove Back will be released, starring Angela Bassett and Whoopi Goldberg. The Farrelly brothers, makers of Dumb & Dumber and Kingpin, are releasing There’s Something About Mary, starring Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon, Chris Elliot, Ben Stiller, and Bill Murray. In this, a private eye is hired to look for a man’s old high school girlfriend, and, of course, falls in love with her. Harrison Ford and Anne Heche prove that women find men twice their age very attractive in the adventure-comedy Six Days, Seven Nights. Finally, newcomer Christopher Scott Cherot directs and stars in Have Plenty, an independently made screwball romance.

As for dramas, they still make those too. This Friday will mark the release of Robert Redford’s The Horse Whisperer in which he and The English Patient’s Kristin Scott Thomas star. This movie has gotten very good advance press, as has Steven Spielberg’s World War II drama Saving Private Ryan, which stars Tom Hanks, Ed Burns and Matt Damon in the title role. Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow star in A Perfect Murder, a loose remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder. Christina Ricci, from The Addams Family and The Ice Storm, stars in The Opposite of Sex (whatever that is). And 70s nostalgia continues with both 54, a movie about one of New York’s biggest disco clubs and Slums of Beverly Hills, which deals with growing up poor in 90210 country. More unusual is What Dreams May Come, a sort of fantasy-romance-drama in which Robin Williams, with the help of Cuba Gooding, Jr., searches through heaven and hell for the soul of his dead wife.

In the field of book adaptations there’s Out of Sight, which is based on an Elmore Leonard book and stars George Clooney. Also out this summer is director Terry Gilliam’s (of 12 Monkeys fame) latest effort, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which is based on the book by Hunter S. Thompson and stars Johnny Depp.

If you like kids’ movies, there’s a treat for you. This year, the annual Disney cartoon actually looks pretty good. Mulan tells the tale of a girl who disguises herself as a man in order to fight in the medieval Chinese army. Warner Brothers tries to weaken the Disney monopoly with Quest for Camelot, which includes a wacky two-headed dragon. If you liked the little toy soldiers in Toy Story, they get their own (non-related) movie with Small Soldiers. And the popular book Madeline is being released as a movie, starring Fargo’s Frances McDormand as a nun. As for movies that children shouldn’t see, Wes Craven continues to throw his name around as executive producer for Carnival of Souls, a remake of the horror classic; Jamie Lee Curtis stars in Virus, in which humans are the disease and aliens are the cure; and if we’re lucky we might get to see Vampires, John Carpenter’s newest film, starring James Woods.

Finally, there are the big-budget movies that we’ve all been hearing about for months. The first of these, out now, is Deep Impact, starring Tea Leoni, Robert Duvall, Elijah Wood, and Morgan Freeman. This is more emotional and less action-packed than others of its type and is fairly good, but the characters aren’t well developed. You can almost sense where the commercial breaks should come, thanks to former “E.R.” director Mimi Leder. You might be surprised to learn that there’s actually a human star in Godzilla, the expensive monster movie due next week: it’s Matthew Broderick, who will look even shorter than usual. The many previews and commercials for Godzilla have shown a cleverness and satire unusual for this kind of movie; we can only hope that this is the work of the filmmakers and not the marketing division. If you like two-hour long episodes of TV shows, you can get really confused by The X-Files, which boasts the strange slogan “Fight the Future.” Another TV show being made into a movie is The Avengers, a 60s spy semi-spoof starring Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman and Sean Connery as the evil Scotsman. Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, and the gang return in Lethal Weapon 4, which was rushed into production before a full script even existed. The preview for this that I saw showed Murtaugh and Riggs apparently battling flame-throwing super-villains; if the movie is that surreal, I, for one, will like it. Nicolas Cage makes yet another action movie, starring with Gary Sinise in Brian DePalma’s Snake Eyes. Antonio Banderas buckles swash with the help of Anthony Hopkins in The Mask of Zorro, while Bruce Willis and company battle a giant asteroid in Jerry Bruckheimer’s Armageddon, which, unlike Bruckheimer’s previous movies (Con-Air and The Rock), will probably not have any car chases.

So as usual, there should be something for everyone. If you liked watching the three-hour epic historical romance of Titanic, how about a four-hour epic historical romance? That’s right, Ted Turner will be re-releasing Gone With the Wind in June. Watch out, James Cameron.

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