Summer Movies: The Sweet, The Light And The Loud

Johnny Depp in 'Public Enemies' i i

For The (Big) Boys: Johnny Depp stars as Depression-era outlaw John Dillinger in Public Enemies, one of a handful of serious, adult-oriented pictures among the annual deluge of popcorn fare. Peter Mountain/Universal Studios hide caption

itoggle caption Peter Mountain/Universal Studios
Johnny Depp in 'Public Enemies'

For The (Big) Boys: Johnny Depp stars as Depression-era outlaw John Dillinger in Public Enemies, one of a handful of serious, adult-oriented pictures among the annual deluge of popcorn fare.

Peter Mountain/Universal Studios
Meryl Streep in 'Julie & Julia' i i

Our Lady Of The Ladle: Meryl Streep channels America's first French-cooking maven in Julie and Julia. Sony Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Sony Pictures
Meryl Streep in 'Julie & Julia'

Our Lady Of The Ladle: Meryl Streep channels America's first French-cooking maven in Julie and Julia.

Sony Pictures
Brad Pitt and Eli Roth in 'Inglourious Basterds' i i

Raine Of Terror: Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt, right, with Eli Roth) heads a gang of ruthless Nazi hunters in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. Francois Duhamel/The Weinstein Co. hide caption

itoggle caption Francois Duhamel/The Weinstein Co.
Brad Pitt and Eli Roth in 'Inglourious Basterds'

Raine Of Terror: Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt, right, with Eli Roth) heads a gang of ruthless Nazi hunters in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds.

Francois Duhamel/The Weinstein Co.
Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel in '500 Days of Summer' i i

Summer Lovin': Joseph Gordon-Levitt develops a yen for Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days of Summer. Chuck Zlotnick/Fox Searchlight hide caption

itoggle caption Chuck Zlotnick/Fox Searchlight
Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel in '500 Days of Summer'

Summer Lovin': Joseph Gordon-Levitt develops a yen for Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days of Summer.

Chuck Zlotnick/Fox Searchlight
Michael Gambon and Daniel Radcliffe in 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' i i

'Blood' Simple: Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe, right) does some growing up in Half-Blood Prince, but Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) is still forced to explain some of the facts of wizarding life. Warner Bros. Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Warner Bros. Pictures
Michael Gambon and Daniel Radcliffe in 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince'

'Blood' Simple: Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe, right) does some growing up in Half-Blood Prince, but Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) is still forced to explain some of the facts of wizarding life.

Warner Bros. Pictures
Sacha Baron Cohen in 'Bruno' i i

Madonna And Child: Like a certain pop star, Sacha Baron Cohen's fashionista character has taken a shine to an African infant named David. Universal Studios hide caption

itoggle caption Universal Studios
Sacha Baron Cohen in 'Bruno'

Madonna And Child: Like a certain pop star, Sacha Baron Cohen's fashionista character has taken a shine to an African infant named David.

Universal Studios
Jack White in 'It Might Get Loud' i i

White Noise: Jack White (pictured), Jimmy Page and U2's The Edge are the three guitar virtuosos explaining the allure of the ax in It Might Get Loud. Alba Tull/Sony Pictures Classics hide caption

itoggle caption Alba Tull/Sony Pictures Classics
Jack White in 'It Might Get Loud'

White Noise: Jack White (pictured), Jimmy Page and U2's The Edge are the three guitar virtuosos explaining the allure of the ax in It Might Get Loud.

Alba Tull/Sony Pictures Classics
Kelli Garner, Demetri Martin and Paul Dano in 'Taking Woodstock' i i

'Stock Scenario: Kelli Garner (left), Demetri Martin and Paul Dano stumble into pop-culture history in Ang Lee's based-on-a-true-story dramedy Taking Woodstock. Ken Regan/Focus Features hide caption

itoggle caption Ken Regan/Focus Features
Kelli Garner, Demetri Martin and Paul Dano in 'Taking Woodstock'

'Stock Scenario: Kelli Garner (left), Demetri Martin and Paul Dano stumble into pop-culture history in Ang Lee's based-on-a-true-story dramedy Taking Woodstock.

Ken Regan/Focus Features

Trenchant dramas, elegant costume epics and distinguished literary adaptations will be everywhere this summer as Hollywood pulls out the ... oh, who am I kidding? It's summer, and you know what that means.

Buckle up: Harry Potter's back, one year older and wrestling with hormones. The kid falls in love; so does his buddy Ron Weasley. Of course they also save the world. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will still have plenty of thrills, but it's said to be "lighter" than the last installment.

And light is definitely "in" for hot weather — especially for kids, who can choose from among live-action guinea-pig spies in G-Force, animated saber-toothed squirrels in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs or, in Pixar's Up, a grumpy old man who ties thousands of balloons to his house hoping to lift off.

(Only to discover, after he's up, up and away and drifting toward South America, that he isn't alone on his journey: A Scout determined to do a good deed for an elder was on the front porch when the house parted company with the ground.)

Also family-friendly are a couple of TV- and toy-derived features: Land of the Lost, with Will Ferrell and a lot of digital dinosaurs, and a new Transformers installment subtitled Revenge of the Fallen.

OK, I hear you wondering: Is there anything for adults? Happily, yes. Watch your local listings for the gangster movie Public Enemies, in which Christian Bale plays FBI agent Melvin Purvis, Billy Crudup plays FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and Johnny Depp is the Depression-era bank robber they most want to catch: John Dillinger.

While you're waiting for that glamorous throwback to open in July, you can sate your crime-drama hunger by catching Denzel Washington and John Travolta in a remake of the subway-hijack drama The Taking of Pelham 123.

(What? Washington reminds you not one whit of Walter Matthau? Well, that's showbiz.)

The war on crime will hit the cineplex side-by-side with other war stories — a reportedly ultraviolent World War II drama from Quentin Tarantino called Inglourious Basterds (misspellings deliberate) and an Iraq War movie that is likely to be the sleeper hit of the summer: The Hurt Locker. A combat picture that follows an American bomb squad on its daily rounds, it's the first smart war movie in quite a while to have a leading role that could've been played by John Wayne.

I could cite a few foreign movies here to make the summer sound more substantial — Seraphine, for instance, about an obscure French artist who is working as a maid for an art collector when her work is discovered. Or the wrenching Belgian drama Lorna's Silence, about a young woman in a marriage-for-citizenship scam.

That last one will help add a sense of heft — plus a certain amount of gloom. Hollywood, though, is mostly steering clear of the dark places, although there are a few films that deal with illness.

My Sister's Keeper, for instance, is based on the Jodi Picoult bestseller about a mother who hopes to save the life of one daughter by having another daughter make an organ donation, only to hit a little snag when the adolescent donator-designee sues the family to retain the right to do as she wishes with her own body.

Other bestsellers coming to the screen include the lush romance The Time Traveler's Wife, the comic romance I Love You Beth Cooper and the lushly comic romance (with food) called Julie and Julia, which stars Meryl Streep as Julia Child and Amy Adams as a woman on a mission to cook every recipe in Child's most famous cookbook.

Nora Ephron wrote and directed Julie and Julia, and another female director, Lynne Shelton, was responsible for Humpday, which is perhaps the year's strangest bro-mance — being, as it is, the story of two straight friends who decide to film a porno flick of themselves having sex with each other.

More conventional romances include 500 Days of Summer, in which a hopeless romantic falls for Zooey Deschanel (and who wouldn't?), and Away We Go, with TV comedians Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski as a pregnant couple looking for a place to nest.

Hollywood is also having a summer-long affair with rock music in such films as It Might Get Loud, an aptly titled documentary about the electric guitar, and the comedy The Boat that Rocked about a '60s British offshore pirate radio station.

Also, Taking Woodstock, based on a memoir by the guy who accidentally enabled an era-defining concert: Elliot Tiber's family had a Catskills motel sitting empty, so he offered to host, expecting a few hundred people — not a few hundred-thousand — to show up. The film is directed by Ang Lee, and stars Comedy Central's Demetri Martin.

With young men making up a huge proportion of the summer movie audience, there is always a rash of guy-targeted hot-weather comedies; this year's include the Apatow Factory's Year One, in which Jack Black and Michael Cera play the Stone Age's most inept hunter-gatherers, Woody Allen's Whatever Works, in which Larry David goes bohemian, and The Hangover, in which three buddies wake up after a Las Vegas bachelor party to discover they've lost the groom — along with all memory of what went on.

If all this sounds like way too much testosterone for one summer, Sacha Baron Cohen is back with a corrective of sorts — not as Borat this time, but as Bruno, a flamboyant gay fashion-world hanger-on.

Bruno promises to prompt laughs and indignation in about equal measure, which has been a successful box-office strategy in the past. And box office is what the Hollywood summer is all about, y'know. You want thoughtful, classy, Oscar-worthy? See you after Labor Day.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.