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May 17-23, 2006

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'The Da Vinci Code'

Beware of Monks Bearing Guns: This is carrying that 'Da Vinci Code' protest too far.

Those '70s Shows

The smell of disco polyester sweat infiltrates our nation's megaplexes this summer

By Richard von Busack

Metro Summer Guide 2006:
San Jose Grand Prix | ISEA | San Jose Jazz Festival | Classical Music | Family Fun | May Movies | June Movies | July Movies | August Movies | Stanford Jazz | Pop Music Picks | Tuesday Concerts | Wednesday Concerts | Thursday Concerts | Friday Concerts | Saturday/Sunday Concerts | Venues and Concerts | May Festivals | Memorial Day Weekend | June Festivals | July Festivals | July 4 | August Festivals | September Festivals | Organized Play | Cycling | The Great Outdoors | Surfing | World Cup | Stage | Behind the Musicals | Art Shows

ONCE SINGER Robyn Hitchcock warbled, "It feels like 1974." He might have been anticipating this cinematic summer of '06. Submitted for your approval: Mission: Impossible III; Superman Returns, a sequel including scraps of Superman; Poseidon (also already sinking), another remake of The Poseidon Adventure (1972); and the redo of The Omen (1976), which is coming to town on the amusing release date of 6/6/06, the Number of the Beast with an Extra Zero In It.

Al Gore went to D.C. as a class of 1976 congressman. Call him former vice president, or president-in-exile, but either way, Gore now looks smoother than even his polyester-era contemporary John Travolta. Gore stars in a highly recommended disaster movie that beats anything from the Bad Vibe Decade's cinema of destruction—the environmental fright documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

Observe the rest of the 1970s lore being used for source material. Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly, an animated reverie about narc-paranoia, is based on a dog-eared Philip K. Dick paperback that used to stick out of the back pocket of so many bell-bottomed levis. One might find Brian W. Aldiss' also-from-1977 Brothers of the Head in the other pocket. That is, if Aldiss' story of Siamese-twin rock gods hadn't been published in large format.

Wah-Wah is the first comedy written and directed by Richard E. Grant, better known as 1970s reprobate Withnail. Grant takes the title of this coming-of-ager from an obscure 1970 track from George Harrison's triple-album All Things Must Pass. Neil Marshall's intimidating horror film The Descent keeps being described as a salute to Deliverance (1972).

It wouldn't be a '70s revival summer without Woody Allen. His Scoop has Scarlett Johansson as a student newshound sniffing after Hugh Jackman.

If you have to look up the word "bummer" on Wikipedia, maybe you need a date with Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man, a profile of the singer/songwriter who kept denizens of the 1970s from grinning themselves to death. (C's "Famous Blue Raincoat" is still a favorite on the Break-up & Suicide Note Top 100.) Strangers With Candy reprises Amy Sedaris and free-speech hero Stephen Colbert's TV show about the high-school education of a stuck-in-the-1970s skank (Sedaris). And Invincible has Mark Wahlberg as Vince Papale, the true-life Pennsylvania small-timer elevated into the ranks of the 1976 Philadelphia Eagles.

And what is the soon-to-be-immortal Snakes on a Plane if not a redo of the immemorial 1974 ABC Movie of the Week titled Fer de Lance. The original could have been called "Snakes on a Sub" if they'd only had the stones for it.

The Snakes on a Plane phenom on the blogosphere has been keeping many a home warm during this despicably cold spring. O, the decadent dumbth of that streamlined title. Yes, the one and only Samuel L. Jackson plays Snakefighter of the Stratosphere, reading the riot act to those bad, bad slitherers. My friend Mike suggests that United 93 would have been more suspenseful if there'd been a few cobras aboard. Maybe a swarthy-terrorist subplot can be retrofitted into the only film that could possibly surpass Snakes on a Plane for marquee inanity: Snakes on a Plane 2: The Concorde.

True, the summer's films include a few efforts decidedly not about the 1970s. Take the much-lauded Romanian drama The Death of Mr. Lazarescu or Fatih Akin's Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul, a documentary on Turkish music (such music was an essential part of Akin's previous film, the superb Head-On). Dominik Moll (With a Friend Like Harry ...) weighs in with Lemming, a nerve-tightener about adultery and beyond-the-grave possession.

Pixar's Cars, with its fleet of talking autos, has to be better than its previews and its apparent source, a series of Chevron commercials. The Reaping should be a hoot, a Christian-crisis thriller with Hilary Swank observing biblical plagues in backwater Louisiana. Nacho Libre by Jared Hess, Jarmusch-lite director of Napoleon Dynamite, offers more jokes hanging in midair like exhausted pigeons.

Garfield's A Tail of Two Kitties promises to hurt twice as much as the first film. Incidentally, its source isn't Dickens but The Prince and the Pauper, not Dickens. One excuse for My Super Ex-Girlfriend, directed by Ivan Reitman, is delish comedian Anna Faris as the new girlfriend of a man stalked by his superpowered ex. Jealousy, how sharper than the tooth of a snake on a plane.

The Roster

Remember, most of these dates are subject to change as nervous studio heads start to hedge their bets as audiences choose to stay home and play video games. And, in a slap in the face to the 10th largest city in the United States, some dates are limited releases that open first in San Francisco and won't come to San Jose until a week or two later.

May 19
The Da Vinci Code Ron Howard is back, and Akiva Goldsman's got him! The duo send Tom Hanks into a vortex of historical wonkery of the kind that's gotten us D-listed at parties for decades: "And then, at the Council of Nicea in 325 C.E.—say, I'm not boring you people, am I?"
Down in the Valley Cracked gas-station cowboy (Edward Norton) becomes the lover of Evan Rachel Wood for a romance that's part James Dean, part Joyce Carol Oates' "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"
Over the Hedge Forest creatures migrate to the suburbs and cutely terrorize homeowners in CGI kid fest. Steve Carell, William Shatner and Wanda Sykes are the vocal talent.
See No Evil Porn-vet Gregory Dark (of the Dark Brothers: New Wave Hookers, etc.) directs wrassler Glen Jacobs in a teen-mangling extravaganza.
Somersault An Australian drama about a 16-year-old girl's emotional and sexual development.

May 26
Clean Olivier Assayas directs Maggie Cheung as an addict fighting to get her life back.
The Proposition Aussie Western with a tough-as-nails brother-hunts-brother plot starring Ray Winstone and Nick Cave, former Birthday Party vocalist turned novelist.
Sketches of Frank Gehry A documentary about the architect whose swooping, gleaming metal curves at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao have influenced a large portion of modern buildings. Directed by Sydney Pollack.
X-Men: The Last Stand New (or rather, original) X-Men like the Beast (Kelsey Grammar) and Angel (Ben Foster) team up in a true Goddam-dammerung against the Magneto-led evil mutants (Vinnie Jones as an undernourished Juggernaut, among them).

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