Slash and burn (money) summer movies are here“Horror” and “sequels” are the two words dominating the summer lineup of movies this year. Starting with “The Matrix Reloaded” next week, a series of blockbuster sequels are waiting in line through late August including “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” and “Terminator 3.”
For those with discerning taste who insist on staying away from the Hollywood biggies, there are also a number of art-house films coming up (usually at Cinecube and Hypertech Nada). Festival nominees such as “Bollywood, Hollywood” by the Indian-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta and “Millennium Mambo” by Hou Hsiao Hsien are also on the way.
Horror, the favorite genre of summer in Korea (getting the chills is supposed to keep you cool), will have a more sophisticated tone than usual. An increasing number of horror films are being imported from overseas, notably Europe. “Darkness,” from Spain, arrives in local theaters on May 30. “A Tale of Two Sisters” by Kim Ji-woon will bring a classic Korean fable to the screen, while “Juon” is expected to exude the authentic sensibility of Japanese horrors.
If all these films have you feeling animated, “Sinbad” and “Finding Nemo” are on their way, too.
Korean and Hollywood movies may have an equal share of the local marketplace these days, but summer is all about Hollywood (Korean films, however, dominate in the fall). Increasingly, Hollywood studios are launching their movies all over the world at the same time ― but not all the time, so expect to see the occasional older film being released now, and a couple of high-profile releases not making it here for a few more months.
“Hwaseongeuro Gan Sanai”
(A Letter From Mars) (May 15)
If you can’t imagine a melodrama with Shin Ha-gyun ― the actor better known for playing demented characters, as in “Save the Green Planet” and “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” ― relax, you aren’t the only one. Kim Jeong-gwon, the director of “Donggam,” once again tells a story of two lovers trapped in different times and places. According to the producer, the film is “a romantic remembrance of the precious things in life.” It may sound strange, but don’t overlook the film’s packaging. Local reviews thus far have been positive.
“Bollywood, Hollywood” (May 16)
The first romantic-comedy by the Toronto-based filmmaker Deepa Mehta, who is better known for her feminist-toned, artistically acclaimed movies like “Fire” and “Earth.” “Bollywood, Hollywood” deals with a westernized millionaire of an East Indian heritage, Rahul Seth, who brings an escort to his sister’s wedding to stop his parents from setting him up for an arranged marriage with a traditional Hindu girl. As the title suggests, this witty story about a second-generation Asian immigrant portrays Western sensibilities in the style of a traditional East Indian musical.
“Wild Card” (May 16)
Oh Young-dal (Jung Sin-young) and Bang Jae-su (the rapper Yang Dong-deun in his first starring role) are crime investigators who start on a complicated murder investigation. But unlike many crime thrillers, “Wild Card” follows the storyline strictly from the investigators’ point of view, with zero hint of what is to come later in the film.
“Naked Weapon” (May 16)
Just to clear up things, this isn’t Mel Gibson’s “Lethal Weapon” or the comedy “Naked Gun.” “Naked Weapon” is a Hong Kong action film directed by Ching Siu-Tung, starring the gorgeous Chinese models Maggie Q and Anya (if they don’t have last names, they must be special). It tells the tale of two women who are kidnapped and trained by a hitwoman to become professional killers. Expect guns, nudity, martial arts, extreme plotlessness and egregious English dialogue.
“Abandon” (May 23)
In the directorial debut of Stephen Gaghan, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “Traffic,” “Abandon” stars Katie Holmes as a student at an elite college whose pressure to succeed is compounded by the sudden reappearance of her boyfriend, played by Charlie Hunnam, after a two-year absence.
“Far From Heaven” (May 23)
Placed in the 1950s, in both setting and style, “Far from Heaven” takes a look at Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore) as a housewife facing marital problems and racial tensions in small-town America. Dennis Quaid co-stars as Cathy’s sexually confused husband, and Dennis Haysbert plays the black gardener she finds attractive.
“Matrix Reloaded” (May 23)
Perhaps the most highly anticipated movie of the summer, Keanu Reeves makes his return as Neo, the chosen “One”destined to free humanity from the deadly machines. Along the way, expect an orgy of special effects, with just enough Marshall McLuhan-esque mumbo jumbo to prove it aspires to something greater. And as if this spectacle isn’t enough, the third Matrix film, “Matrix Revolutions,” follows in November.
“Arirang 2003” (May 23)
“Arirang 2003” is the first movie to open in South and North Korea at the same time. Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader, was said to be deeply moved by the film, so allowed a public screening in Pyeongyang. “Arirang 2003” is a remake of the 1926 film by Na Wun-gyu, a pro-independence activist. It’s the story of a college student who is driven insane after being tortured for his involvement in the independence movement. Nothing remains of the original film, so the director Lee Doo-yong pieced together records and recollections to make his version as similar to the original as possible.
“Better Than Sex” (May 23)
“A subtle tickling between your erotogenic zones and sympathetic understanding” is how this film is being billed. The story tells of a young Australian, Cin, who embarks on a one-night stand with a wildlife photographer, Josh, who is poised to leave for London in three days. But as the relationship develops, it moves from purely physical into something more complicated.
“Millennium Mambo” (May 30)
The Chinese art-house filmmaker Hou Hsiao Hsien ― who directed “City of Sadness” and “Dust in the Wind” ― speaks about young people in a style reminiscent of Wong Kar Wai. “Mambo” is the story of Vicky, a young woman who stumbles through a drug-and-alcohol haze.
“Antwone Fisher” (May 30)
Written by the actual Antwone Fisher, this autobiographical story features Derek Luke as Fisher, a good man but prone to violent outbursts. Denzel Washington directs and acts, playing the naval psychiatrist Fisher is sent to see.
“Darkness” (May 30)
From the writer/director Jaume Balaguero, “Darkness” is the latest horror import from Spain. Somewhat similar to “The Others,” “Darkness” is a haunted house story. It stars Anna Paquin as Regina, the daughter of an American family that moves into a house in the Spanish countryside. When Regina’s younger brother Paul (Stephan Enquist) starts waking up with mysterious bruises and their father (Iain Glen) slowly begins losing his mind, it seems that the house itself is out to get them.
“Anger Management” (June 5)
In an unlikely pairing, Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson star in the high-concept comedy “Anger Management.” Sandler plays the mild-mannered Dave Buznik, who after a series of misunderstandings on a plane is misdiagnosed as a rage-oholic, and is sent to see famed anger therapist Dr. Buddy Rydell (Nicholson), whose unorthodox treatments only make matters worse for Dave.
“Tube” (June 5)
This local blockbuster is like “Speed” on the subway, as a tenacious police officer, Jang Do-jun (Kim Seok-hun), chases a political terrorist Gang Gi-taek (Park Sang-min) who’s also his arch-nemesis. Gang holds a subway train hostage, racing it through Seoul’s underground for motives unknown. Also starring Bae Doo-na as a pickpocket.
“Evelyn” (June 5)
Pierce Brosnan is a man who yields his wife to another man, followed by the loss of his three children to the Irish courts in a major tearjerker of a film. Based on a true court case, the film deals with the man’s attempt to get his children’s back. From 1979’s “Kramer vs. Kramer” to last year’s “I Am Sam,” to the subject of fathers going through court battles to gain custody of their children is always a popular Hollywood theme.
“Finding Nemo” (June 6)
Pixar, the company behind “Monsters Inc.” and “A Bug’s Life,” brings its 3-D animation storytelling underwater, to tell the tale of a timid clown fish, Marlin (Albert Brooks), who struggles to find his son Nemo after Nemo is captured by divers and placed in a fish tank in a dentist’s office. Marlin succeeds in the rescue with the help of a vegetarian shark and a regal blue tang. See? More fathers fighting for child custody.
“Darkness Falls” (June 13)
Inspired by the campy horror movies of the 1980s, “Darkness Falls” stars a cast of relative newcomers who must face off against the vengeful spirit of a wrongly hanged woman known as the “tooth fairy.” Attempting to make up in style and energy for what it lacks in plotline and horror value, “Darkness Falls” is a punchline waiting to happen.
“Johnny English” (June 13)
Following in the footsteps of “The Man Who Knew Too Little” or “Austin Powers,” “Johnny English” is the latest spy spoof to provide a bumbling alternative to ultra-suave secret agents such as James Bond and Ethan Hunt. Rowan Atkinson (“Mr. Bean”) stars as the title character, the last member of MI-7, who must recover the British crown jewels, stolen from the Tower of London.
(A Tale of Two Sisters) (June 13)
Kim Ji-woon, the director of “The Foul King” and “The Quiet Family,” takes a break from his usual comic territory to make this horror film. “A Tale of Two Sisters” is a contemporary version of a legendary tale about two sisters in emotional turmoil. The local movie magazine Cine 21 picked this film as the most anticipated movie of the summer.
“Narc” (June 13)
An action-packed crime drama, “Narc” stars Ray Liotta and Jason Patric as a pair of Detroit narcotics officers on the trail of a cop-killer who murdered Liotta’s partner. Spurning the recent cop-comedy trend featuring mismatched partners, “Narc” takes a gritty look at two police officers obsessed with and haunted by their work.
“Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” (June 27)
The leather-clad, crime-fighting divas are back in the follow-up to 2000’s highly-successful “Charlie’s Angels.” Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu return to their roles, with Bernie Mac taking over as Bosley this time (he’s the old Bosley’s half-brother). This time around, the Angels must investigate a series of murders which brings them up against a former Angel, played by Demi Moore. Luke Wilson also stars.
“The Hulk” (July 4)
With the brains behind “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” Ang Lee, at the helm of this big-budget adaptation of the classic comic book, “The Hulk” looks to be as much an art-house thinky film as an effects-laden blockbuster. Eric Bana (“Black Hawk Down”) stars as Bruce Banner, the mind-mannered scientist who transforms into the giant, green id.
“Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas” (July 11)
In this latest animated feature by Dreamworks, Brad Pitt performs the voice of the Arabian sailor Sinbad and Catherine Zeta Zones voices Sinbad’s partner Maria. The adventure starts when Eris (Michelle Pfeiffer), the goddess of Chaos, steals the “Book of Peace” and blames Sinbad for the crime. Sinbad journeys to Eris’s realm to prove his innocence.
“Singles” (July 14)
Starring four pretty singles who know how to act, “Singles” follows a conventional, yet charming romantic-comedy pace.
“Wonderful Days” (July 17 ... maybe)
Often-delayed, Korea’s most expensive film of all time finally should make its debut this summer. “Wonderful Days” is the animated story of a future where pollution has nearly wiped out the human race, except for a few remaining cities that are fueled on the very pollution that destroyed the world.
“Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” (July 25)
Twelve long years after “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” Arnold is finally back in “Terminator 3.” John Conner (Nick Stahl, who takes over for Edward Furlong), the leader of the human resistance against the machines in the future, is once again placed in danger when Skynet sends a cyborg to kill him. The resistance is able to send another T-800 (Schwarzenegger) to protect Connor, but he must face the most advanced terminator yet, the T-X (Kristanna Loken). Rumors have this third film crossing into the previous two “Terminator” movies.
“Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life” (July 25)
Angelina Jolie once again loads up her big guns and dons the restrictive clothing, as video game goddess Lara Croft makes her return to the big screen. On a quest to save Pandora’s Box, Croft will again face a perilous journey and the explosive action sequences so at home in a summer-time blockbuster.
“Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” (July 25)
A former CIA assassin leads a secret life as host of “The Gong Show,” using the game as cover for his covert assignments ― could happen. And it did happen, as least according to the book “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind: An Unauthorized Autobiography,” by “The Gong Show” host Chuck Barris. The film is the directorial debut by George Clooney.
by Park Soo-mee