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Saturday, May 22,2010

Which blockbuster will self-destruct?

by James Sanford
“Robin Hood” dodged the bullet. The Russell Crowe/Cate Blanchett epic (which received lukewarm reviews from critics) managed to take in $36 million at the box office last weekend — not “Iron Man 2” numbers, perhaps, but good enough to save the film from wearing the badge of shame labeled The First Bomb of Summer.

Every summer has one, after all — a movie that once sounded like a great idea and, by the time it actually opens, has turned into a project that leaves audiences wondering, “What the hell were they thinking?” Two years ago, it was the Wachowski Brothers’ hyper-stylized “Speed Racer,” which crashed and burned within days of its debut.


Remember what last year’s First Bomb was? How quickly some of us have forgotten “Land of the Lost,” Will Ferrell’s $100 million rehash of a bad Saturday-morning TV show from the 1970s. The alleged comedy alienated audiences of all ages: too raunchy for kids — thus, the PG-13 rating — and too juvenile for those who might have had happy memories of the original series.


To add insult to injury, “Lost” had the great misfortune to open on the same weekend as the super-sleeper “The Hangover,” which played all season long.


Which of this summer’s would-be blockbusters will self-destruct? Probably not “Shrek Forever After,” which opens Friday. Despite tepid early word-of-mouth, the franchise’s long and lustrous history guarantees there will be at least some initial audience interest.


Nor is next week’s “Sex and the City 2” likely to be an underachiever, even though the 140-minute running time could leave those who don’t worship Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall feeling, shall we say, a bit over-”Sex”-ed.


So “Shrek” and “Sex” are probably wearing immunity idols. That may not be the case with “Prince of Persia” (opening May 28), based on a video game (never a good sign, as the screen versions of “Super Mario Bros.,” “Doom,” “Flight Commander,” “Alone in the Dark,” “House of the Dead,” etc. will tell you). “Prince” stars the usually moody, intense Jake Gyllenhaal in his first outing as an action hero (hey, if Tobey Maguire could do it…), with stock villain Ben Kingsley — yup, the same man who once won an Oscar for portraying Gandhi — as the nasty Nizam, who wants to rule the world.


June 4 brings a live-action version of “Marmaduke” — somebody thought it sounded like a great idea; probably the same guys who adored those grating “Garfield” movies — and “Get Him to the Greek,” a raunch-arama in which determined music biz lackey Jonah Hill tries to control rambunctious rock star Russell Brand. Universal’s decision to launch “Greek” the first weekend of June might be a wish for lightning to strike twice: That’s the same weekend Warner Bros. opened “The Hangover” last year.


Speaking of WB, the studio has a film coming up on June 18 that’s already attracted some dire buzz. “Jonah Hex,” based on a comic book series, stars Josh Brolin as a gunslinger with a deformed face and a hunger for vengeance.


Early reports indicate audiences like Brolin’s performance very much — it’s just the rest of the movie they’re not so hot about, especially Megan Fox’s performance as a hooker with a heart of gold {“wooden” was one of the kinder adjectives used to describe Fox’s star turn) and the combination of sophisticated weaponry and Old West shootouts, which gave some viewers “Wild Wild West” flashbacks.


“Wild Wild West” starred, of course, Will Smith, and prior to “Jonah,” ticket-buyers will be faced with Smith’s son, Jaden, as “The Karate Kid” (coming June 11). In this loose remake of the 1984 hit, the young Smith plays a Detroiter who moves to China with his mom and seeks self-defense training after he’s run over by the Welcome Wagon. Enter Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), who teaches the kid — uh, kung fu. But perhaps “The Kung Fu Kid” simply doesn’t have that magic ring to it.


All the kung fu and/or karate in the world may not be enough to save Smith and Chan from the tag team of Woody and Buzz, however, when Pixar’s “Toy Story 3” comes to cinemas June 18. And yes, Mr. Potato Head, Jessie the Cowgirl, Rex the Dinosaur and Hamm the Pig are coming in for back-up: Hey, even Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita would have stepped aside.


For reviews see Cole Smithey's Movie Week click here.

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