Cover Story: Must-See Movies

Separating the hype from the hope this summer

Will Ferrell hopes Anchorman will lift off this summer.

The annual Hot Issue arrives several weeks into Hollywood's annual blockbuster season, but it's already clear that the standout movies have yet to arrive in theaters — if they arrive at all. On the critics' side of matters, our top priority is to separate overly hyped duds like The Day After Tomorrow, a disastrous disaster story about global warming, and Van Helsing, a sloppy adventure story featuring classic monsters like Dracula, from releases that are truly hot.

Hope springs eternal, as plenty of "smaller" films like Coffee and Cigarettes will hit Cincinnati this summer (see Still Smoking). And large-scale Hollywood fare like Spider-Man 2 and The Village offers glimpses of interesting characters behind the special effects and big budgets (see Reel Love in Summer Action).

Here's a snapshot of what beyond those films gets CityBeat critics TT Clinkscales, Rodger Pille and me excited about this summer's movie calendar. (STEVE RAMOS)

The Terminal (June 18)

Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg are together again for the very first time. Well, the first time attempting what can only be described as a light summer rom-com about a wayward traveller.

After Saving Private Ryan and Catch Me If You Can, it'll be interesting to see if the dynamic duo can pull a hat trick of placing love and romance in the most hated of summertime spaces, the airport terminal.

Hot vs. Hype: If the famous film duo can make the film half as tender as the likable trailer, they might actually deliver a hot product.

The Saddest Music in the World (June 25)

In Guy Maddin's expressionistic comedy, Lady Port-Huntly (Isabella Rossellini) is the owner of a Winnipeg brewery in the Great Depression who stages the titular contest as a means to ready her company for entering the U.S. market at the demise of Prohibition. Comic actor Mark McKinney is the man who wants to win the contest. Wide-eyed Portuguese actress Maria de Medeiros is his singing companion.

Hot vs. Hype: Visionary filmmaker Maddin delivers his best film to date with The Saddest Music in the World, an expressionistic adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's story. Maddin brings the fantasy alive with zesty comedy and dreamlike imagery. Here's hoping people will notice.

Anchorman (July 9)

After the holiday hit Elf, Anchorman is Will Ferrell's latest attempt at comic leading man. This time he loses the Elf tights and sports a '70s porn star mustache, playing a groovy newsman in this period comedy out to protect his popularity.

Hot vs. Hype: Is the funnyman living on borrowed time? One could argue he's due for a stinker. This won't be it. Anchorman looks hot.

The Clearing (July 9)

Producer Pieter Jan Brugge (The Insider) makes his feature directing debut with an acting dream team that guarantees intense drama. A disgruntled employee (Willem Dafoe) kidnaps a businessman (Robert Redford), and it's up to his wife (Helen Mirren) to handle the ransom negotiations. Messy personal connections are revealed along the way.

Hot vs. Hype: Talk about anti-hype, what with this film boasting little to no visually explosive set pieces. Are audiences ready for dark internal conflicts in the summer?

Before Sunset (July 16)

Director Richard Linklater is coming off his studio hit School of Rock and returns to familiar, intimate territory. Nine years have passed since Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) met on a train in Europe and spent a whirlwind evening together, as captured in Before Sunrise. Fate brings them back together, but will they choose to stay together this time?

Hot vs. Hype: Indie player Hawke is on the prowl for a score, but he, Delpy and Linklater might delay their pleasure this time figuring there's greater gratification in another installment.

Maria Full of Grace (July 16)

Joshua Marston's taut Spanish-language drama tells the story of a 17-year-old small-town Colombian girl who risks her life for the financial payoff as a "mule," someone who swallows pellets of heroin and travels to the United States to release them to waiting drug dealers.

Hot vs. Hype: A brilliant mix of matter-of-fact storytelling, an extraordinary performance from lead actress Catalina Sandino Moreno and beautiful photography courtesy of cameraman Jim Denault. Look for Moreno to attract plenty of attention.

Collateral (Aug. 6)

Meet Tom Cruise, Mr. Bad-Ass. The last time he stretched his stereotype, he lit up the screen in Magnolia. In this Michael Mann thriller, he plays a hit man being carted around L.A. by a cabbie played by Jamie Foxx.

Hot vs. Hype: The talent is there for a big hit, but is anyone else concerned about the August release date? Plus, any film with Cruise is always about the hype.

Hero (Aug. 20)

Director Zhang Yimou infuses the grace and beauty of Crouching Tiger with this tale of a supernaturally gifted warrior (Jet Li) who seeks revenge against those who massacred his people and must defeat three impossibly powerful assassins.

Hot vs. Hype: Hero looks like Hidden Dragon with a visceral punch aimed straight at the solar plexus. But distributor Miramax has been sitting on this project for so long, Hero clearly needs a gifted champion of its own to make sure it reaches the multiplexes this time.

The Yes Men (Aug. 20)

The Yes Men (comic activists Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno) are the subjects of this hilarious documentary by Chris Smith, Dan Ollman and Sarah Price, the team behind American Movie. Bichlbaum and Bonanno are funnier than any political protesters have a right to be, and once the film shows their elaborate imitation of World Trade Organization (WTO) representatives, the laughs skyrocket.

Hot vs. Hype: Imagine the Yes Men in a televised debate with conservative Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly as the presidential election nears. Let's hope the penis suit worn by Bichlbaum in this film would be repaired in time. ©

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