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The girls of summer

The season for blockbusters, sequels, and . . . great roles for women?
By PETER KEOUGH  |  May 18, 2007

VIDEO: The trailer for The Simpsons Movie

It’s summer, so no one’s surprised at the onslaught of sequels, adaptations of video games, or even movies based on toys. But films with Oscar-caliber women’s roles?

Tent-pole moneymakers like Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, DOA: Dead or Alive, and The Transformers are easy to account for. But what about such anomalies as last week’s Away from Her, with Julie Christie playing an Alzheimer’s victim, and the upcoming Snow Cake, with Sigourney Weaver as an autistic woman, and Evening, with Lynn Redgrave as a terminally ill cancer patient? It’s almost as if studio moguls had taken a moment out from signing checks for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign to wonder: “A woman in the White House? Maybe we should put a few in our movies, as well.”

It figures that Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (May 25), the second-most-expensive movie ever made, will probably be the second-biggest box-office grosser, too. Call it the drawing power of Keith Richards, or the Spider-Man 3 theory of stuffing as many CGI effects, future video games, potential amusement-park rides, and half-baked plot lines as possible into a butt-breaking three hours. Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush, and franchise newcomer Chow Yun-Fat star; Gore Verbinski again helms the voyage.

The dominance of Pirates, however, will clear the decks for little films like The Boss of It All (May 25), Lars von Trier’s farce about a company hiring an actor to pose as the boss in order to soft-sell a potential buyer. And John Carney’s upbeat Once (May 25), a musical love story set in Dublin starring Glen Hansard and his Irish band the Frames.

Every summer needs its breakthrough comedy, and this year it just might be Knocked Up (June 1), in which Judd Apatow follows up The 40-Year-Old Virgin with this film about a one-night stand that results in the title misfortune. Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, and Paul Rudd star. The comedy gets blacker and bloodier in Christopher Smith’s Severance (June 1), as a business meeting of weapons developers turns into a gory showdown.

Chick flicks return with Snow Cake (June 1), in which Sigourney Weaver stakes her claim for a Best Actress nomination in a film that combines Rain Man with Ordinary People. Alan Rickman co-stars; Marc Evans directs. A less enlightened attitude toward women persists in Eli Roth’s Hostel 2 (June 8): they’re meat hanging from a hook, ready for torture.

Between these extremes lies Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Thirteen (June 8), in which the usual suspects played by George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon are joined by Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin for another caper. Male misbehavior of an alien kind crops up in Tim Story’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (June 15), where the mutated quartet must battle the title extraterrestrial’s plans to destroy Earth. Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, and Kerry Washington star.

Maybe they could use the intuitive level-headedness of Emma Roberts in the title role of Nancy Drew (June 15), as Andrew Fleming brings Carolyn Keene’s classic young-adult mystery series to life. Or perhaps the Old World melancholy and burgundy-tinged strains of Edith Piaf in La Môme|La Vie En Rose (June 15), Olivier Dahan’s bio-pic of the beloved French songstress starring Marion Cotillard.

But nothing will stop the onslaught of such summer blockbusters as DOA: Dead or Alive (June 22), Corey Yuen’s adaptation of the video-game series. Or Evan Almighty (June 22), Tom Shadyac’s sequel to his Bruce Almighty, which has Morgan Freeman as God and Steve Carell as a latter-day Noah.

Unless, that is, audiences respond well to the painful subject of A Mighty Heart (June 22), in which Angelina Jolie makes her Oscar pitch as the wife of Daniel Pearl, the American journalist murdered by terrorists in Pakistan. The prolific and versatile Michael Winterbottom directs. Also drawing on real-world woes, Hollywood style, is Live Free or Die Hard (June 27). Bruce Willis revives his everyman-hero persona and takes on computer terrorists, though somehow John McClane hammering away at a keyboard doesn’t spell big box office to me. Len Wiseman (Underworld: Evolution) directs.

As the All-American Willis puts his life on the line for freedom, wouldn’t you know that cheese-breathing rats in Paris are dreaming of becoming master chefs in Brad Bird’s animated Ratatouille (June 29), which has the voices of Patton Oswalt, Brian Dennehy, and Peter O’Toole. So if you hate this country so much, go to Cuba! That’s what Michael Moore did in Sicko (June 29), the long-awaited documentary that compares US health care with that of the Castro regime. Would Cuba have offered better services to Vanessa Redgrave’s dying cancer patient in Evening (June 29), Lajos Koltai’s adaptation of Susan Minot’s novel about, love, memory, and death? Either way, her suffering may well earn her an Oscar nod, and look out for co-stars Claire Danes and Toni Collette.

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  Topics: Features , Adam Shankman, Al Pacino, Alan Rickman,  More more >
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