Do you hear that? It is the calm before the storm. This is the last weekend before the start of Summer Blockbuster Season, which begins May 4 and will be about half-over by the time summer actually begins. “Spider-Man 3” will kick off the festivities, to be quickly followed by a Shrek, and a Pirates, and an Ocean’s, and a Simpsons, and a Bourne, and a Rush Hour, and a Transformers, and a Die Hard — wow. Everyone’s predicting it will be the biggest summer in history, in terms of box office, and I don’t see how it could fail in that. These are such hotly anticipated titles that even if every single one of them sucks (and the more I think about “Spider-Man 3,” the more disappointed I am by it), they’ll still make hundreds of millions of dollars.
And so today is when the last few bits of non-summer crumbs get tossed out, movies that have only seven days to make money before “Spider-Man 3” destroys them all. Two of them are opening without screenings. The other two are middle-of-the-road efforts unlikely to attract much attention.
The better of the two is “Next,” starring Nicolas Cage as a man who can see into the future — but only his own personal future, and only two minutes ahead. It’s not brilliant sci-fi, but it’s fun.
The other one, which I’m amazed they screened at all, is “The Condemned,” a brutal take on “The Most Dangerous Game” in which 10 convicted killers are put on an island and forced to fight until only one is left alive. It was produced by WWE Films as a starring vehicle for professional wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin. This is the third film WWE has made, after “See No Evil” and “The Marine,” and the first one that was actually screened for critics. Why the change in strategy, especially considering this one’s as bad as the others? No idea.
As for the other two new releases, here are the summaries I provided in this week’s “In the Dark” informational e-zine:
“THE INVISIBLE” (1 hr., 39 min.; PG-13 for violence, criminality, sensuality and language, all involving teens) is a suspense thriller, remade from a Swedish film, about two teens who find themselves invisible — one because he’s dead, the other for different reasons. Can a ghost solve his own murder? It doesn’t look particularly bad; perhaps Hollywood Pictures (“Primeval,” “Stay Alive”) is just in the habit of not screening its suspense movies, whether they’re good or not.
“KICKIN’ IT OLD SKOOL” (1 hr., 48 min.; PG-13 for crude and sexual content and language) stars Jamie Kennedy as a man who comes out of a 20-year coma and hopes to revive his career as a breakdancer. Sounds like a reasonable premise for a comedy, and two of the three writers have solid Comedy Central credits (“Viva Variety,” “Upright Citizens Brigade,” “Dog Bites Man,” etc.). So we’ll see.
I hope to see both films over the weekend and post reviews Monday. But then, I said that last week about “In the Land of Women,” too, and yet somehow it remains unseen by me even to this day. So clearly I am not to be trusted.
This week’s “In the Dark” podcast can be found here, and the RSS feed for subscribing purposes is here. As always, I welcome your feedback, except when the feedback is “buy a better microphone” or “do something about the recording quality,” because both of those topics lead quickly to dead ends.