School’s out for the summer, but The Prognosticator is back for June. Star Wars kick started the blockbuster season, and now this month brings us the big guns hoping to dethrone it from the top of the heap. Can Bruce Wayne defeat Darth Vader? Will the winning War be of the Worlds or in the Star(s)? Who cares, as long as the movies are loud enough to completely overshadow the theater next door where better made but quieter fare like My Summer of Love is playing.

This edition please welcome George Merchan to the team fully. George has been climbing his way up the ladder, and I have a bad feeling I’m the next obstacle to remove on his path to greatness. Is he on a path or a ladder? I’m mixing my metaphors. In the meantime I’m hoping to throw him Russ Fischer to keep his wicked ambition at bay for just a few more months…

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June 3

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

 Devin says: Based on the best selling book phenomenon (don’t worry if you haven’t heard of it – it’s a phenomenon with the teen girl crowd from what I understand, and unless you’re a friend of Dave Davis’ I wouldn’t expect you to know much about it), The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is about that most coveted of D&D items, magical jeans. Four friends who are going to be splitting up for the summer for the first time ever discover magic jeans in a thriftshop that fit them all – even though they are all different builds. They mail the pants back and forth across the globe, along with the stories of their summer adventures.

Prognostication: Among a certain population this is a no-brainer. For everyone else… well, it looks like it could be absolute torture. From where I’m sitting I think it could be fun and sweet, but I will probably never know, as I fear that seeing this movie could permanently affect my already dubious standing as a heterosexual.

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Cinderella Man

 Dave says: The year’s first real Oscar bait punches your noggin early, courtesy of always-subtle director Ron Howard. With Cinderella Man he reunites with real-life pugilist Russell Crowe, who apparently decided he’d prefer to actually get paid for busting people in the chops. In this presumably feel-good tale, Crowe plays Depression-era boxer Jim Braddock, who became known by the film’s title after he defeated bruiser Max Baer in an unlikely 15-round victory. Renee Zellweger and Paul Giamatti provide support, while Craig Bierko is on the receiving end of fists.

Prognostication: A solid cast, but is the beginning of summer really the best time for a period boxing film with designs on awards? Maybe they’re hoping Million Dollar Baby is still fresh in people’s minds, or they’re just banking on the appeal of a sweaty Crowe.

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Lords of Dogtown

 George says: While basking in the warm rays of Southern Cali’s beach front area known as “Dogtown” (an area of Venice near Santa Monica), we follow the lives of three very distinct but very rebellious youths as we watch them get thrust upon the waves (or inclines, if you will) of uber stardom and the impending impact it has on their lives, their friendships, and the culture of skateboarding as we all know it today.

Prognostication: Best use of Rod Stewart EVER. What Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen) and company did with Dogtown was deftly capture the essence of the time and culture both through the visual stylings and the fantastic use of 70s rock music (stuff like Hendrix, Foghat, and The Allman Brothers). This is the kind of film that gets you pumped thanks in part to its loads of energy and enthusiasm. It’ll grab its target audience hook, line, and sinker but what about everyone else? That’s a bit iffy. It will, however, be a nice companion piece to the documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys. Also, Heath Ledger is pretty great (and so Val Kilmer it’s scary). (No, really. He and Devin mean it. – Russ)

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Rock School

 Russ says: Whatever Hollywood wishes for really does come true. Richard Linklater and Jack Black dreamed that some washed-up rocker would open a school to ‘teach’ misfit kids how to rock, and lo! the day is upon us. Paul Green really is a crazy coot who preaches a little six-string discipline. He even throws crrraaaaazzzy temper tantrums, just like Jack Black, only not funny!

This is some sign of the apocalypse, right? This week is unleashed a feature film based on a great documentary, and a documentary based on a successful feature film. If this cinematic serpent gets that tail any further down its throat I’m going to buy a camera and make reptile porn.

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June 10

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

 Devin says: Life is tough when you’re a sexy international assassin. And when you’re hired to take out another sexy international assassin, life gets tougher. And it gets toughest of all when it turns out that the other assassin is your wife, and neither of you have known about your secret lives all along. Also, this is supposedly the movie that broke up Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, the Joseph and Mary of our generation.

Prognostication: I hear it’s great. Besides the obvious appeal of the two leads, Doug Liman is directing – you may remember him from previous great movies like Swingers, Go and The Bourne Identity. I don’t know if anyone expected him to become a full-fledged action director, but apparently he does it damn well.

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The Adventures of Shark Boy & Lava Girl in 3-D

 George says: Robert Rodriguez, the creative mind that can both shoot one helluva sensual love scene in Desperado (having Bander… I mean… Hayek helps) and bring new robotic life to an aging Ricardo Montalban, delivers yet another three-dimensional outing (presumably done on the cheap). This time, we follow a young boy named Max (Cayden “Not Billy” Boyd) as his imaginary superheroes (Shark Boy & Lava Girl) come to life and join him in adventures of the high variety. Also onboard are David “My face alone is annoying” Arquette and Kristen “I make George happy in the pants” Davis as father and mother respectively.

Prognostication: Now while the jury is still out as to whether or not Rodriguez is a real storytelling talent (the man has the technical stuff down pat), there’s no doubt that the guy’s carved himself out a very nice little niche here in H-Wood (or Austin, actually). The man shoots his stuff cheap, quickly, and all by himself. I think he made this thing faster than I did a 6-minute short back in film school. This is stuff the studios like. Now, whether it’s yielded good films (I think Sin City was a success more because of Frank Miller than Rodriguez… and I still think Desperado is his best work) is another debate entirely. But the kid-centric stuff he’s doing is probably one of the smarter things a filmmaker can do in terms of providing a “safety net” for his bigger and more ambitious projects. In that sense, kudos to Mr. Rodriguez. Like the Spy Kids franchise, the kids will eat this up (and it’ll be the parents who pay).

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High Tension

 Dave says: Making its last stop on a lengthy world tour comes the French slasher flick High Tension (previously known in other parts of the globe as Haute Tension, Switchblade Romance and X-Tension), giving American audiences a taste of how other countries attempt a return to the roots of the horror genre. The movie follows two female students who take a study break on the family farm when a greasy sadist pays them a visit one night, leading to a series of grisly events and buckets of carnage.

Prognostication: Crammed with atmosphere and suspense, it’s no wonder that the film landed director Alexandre Aja the gig helming the remake of The Hills Have Eyes. Lions Gate has done a good job of masking the fact that the film is in another language, but will American audiences be able to overlook the subtitles and sub-Shyamalan third act, and just embrace the flowing crimson and genuine frights? Sexy star Cecile de France should help.

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The Honeymooners

 Devin says: So we divided up the movies for this month’s Prognosticator and I was pretty easy going about what I took. That’s so changing next month.

Anyway, this is the feature film version of the classic TV comedy, updated to reflect a more modern and "urban" attitude (I feel bad for all the black people who don’t live in cities. They’re not urban, and thus not marketed to. I guess). Ralph Kramden and his best pal Ed Norton hatch crazy get rich quick schemes while their wives, who are not only too good looking for them but also insanely patient, cluck disapprovingly. I didn’t look it up, I’m just assuming that’s the basic premise.

Prognostication: It’s not clear how this movie could NOT suck. And I’m not saying that because of the race change for the characters – I don’t think that it’s all that big a deal, and being someone who lives where this film (and the show) takes place I can tell you that it’s reflective of the reality of the blue collar jobs Ralph and Ed hold. But still, the casting seems uninspired (Bernie Mac should have been Ralph, frankly), and I don’t think there’s yet been one really good sitcom to movie translation. The question is how bad will it be?

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Howl’s Moving Castle

 Russ says: After an encounter with the lard-ass Witch of the Waste, a young haberdasher-ette named Sophie finds herself prematurely aged. She sets out of town and finds herself involved with the dread wizard Howl, who roams the hills in a moving castle which looks like a cross between an aquatic sculpture and Baba Yaga’s home. Hayao Miyazaki’s latest film has pretty much everything an audience should expect — young girls coming of age, flying machines, magic and gruff but friendly creatures.

Prognostication: Have you ever gone to visit a relative, only to inescapably realize that they’re getting old? That’s what watching Howl‘s is like, only the subject isn’t Sophie — it’s Miyazaki. In adapting Diana Wynne Jones’ book to screen, the director has radically changed characters and story to suit his vision. But this time, his crystal ball is even cloudier than ours, and the odd mixture of fairy tale and terribly vague war allegory might not sit so well. Big comedy points, though, for the most abrupt resolution to an Amber Alert ever seen.

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June 17

Batman Begins

 George says: Let’s get the tired crap out of the way: “No, dude! It like totally doesn’t have nipples or a codpiece anymore. I’m so stoked, bra! Time to bust out the Green Day!” Now, as my verbally challenged alter ego just stated, the suit no longer looks like something out of Batman Forever in Your Mouth. The new film (which I still think should’ve been called simply Dark Knight) is also a complete and total reboot of the franchise which will depict the origin of the Caped Crusader (Christian Bale), his long years abroad training under the expert tutelage of Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), and his dramatic emergence upon the scum and villainy of Gotham City (composed of real life Chicago, New York, London, and some LARGE sets… but mostly Chicago).

Prognostication: Star Wars has come and is now slowly going away. And while it was the first film in a languid summer to really rake in the dough, Begins may prove to be the first real GREAT blockbuster of the summer (let’s see how much hate mail that gets me)… at least that’s what early reviews are indicating. All that may very well be true, and as a fan, I’d be quite the happy camper. However, the real question is: How will this film perform to the broad non-comic book fan audience? I mean, Batman as a name is pretty universal, but will that keep it from doing Hulk business (large weekend, HUGE drop-off)? I’ve brought it up before and I keep thinking it will, especially considering the film is supposedly large on the character and drama (for a summer action film). I hope I’m wrong, though. Should it bomb (or not crest the 250 million mark), I’m afraid of the route studio execs. will take when it comes to these beloved properties. One thing’s almost certain: This should be the definitive film version of a character so many of us have grown up loving. Should be.

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My Summer of Love

 Dave says: Now that he’s done demolishing Midlands drug dealers in the excellent Dead Man’s Shoes, Paddy Considine checks out a little lesbian action in this award-winning Brit import. A lower-class chick meets a rich girl in the Yorkshire countryside and the two share family secrets before dipping in the coochie pool, which brother Considine doesn’t look upon kindly. Weirdo.

Prognostication: Performance-driven arthouse counterprogramming can sometimes yield minor hits, but can this make any impression against Duff Power and the return of the Dark Knight?

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The Perfect Man

 Devin says: Heather Locklear is Hillary Duff’s mom (which makes some weird pop-cult metasense), and the Duffster is all annoyed at having to move everytime mom’s latest relationship fails. Sounds like mom’s a real whore with serious problems. But of course this is a comedy, so the proper answer is to create an imaginary man for mom to fall in love with, which Duff probably learned on AOL Chat. But when things get too serious Duffy has to call in Chris Noth, fresh off Law & Order to pretend to be this perfect man. When mom finds out the truth she kills herself with a bottle of Ambien. Oops, spoiler warning!

Prognostication: Mean spirited comedies like this always intrigue me. It’s just cruel to trick your mom into falling in love with an imaginary man, there’s no getting around that. We all know that it ends well, with Locklear ending up with Mr. Big (circa Lean Into It), but it’s still so, so mean. I’m just filling space here – I never even heard of this movie, and I know I will be weeping as the lights come down at the press screening.

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 Russ says: Narrow time frames and interwoven lives seem to be the art film flavor of the month. (Or year, since it takes these things time to reach us.) Perhaps it’s just that when you put a few million people together in a small space, crazy things are bound to happen. Heights is a sort of New York opera, as it follows the paths of five borough-dwellers as their lives collide during a single 24-hour period. Secrets, lies, lust and revelation are all on the menu, but I just want to see a fat lady sing. That’s all I ever want from opera.

James Marsden acts! At least, that’s what’s promised. Seeing emotion out of the man who made Cyclops even less interesting than he was on paper is lure enough for me. Plus, Elizabeth Banks gets out of Seabiscuit’s yoke (and prefaces Slither!), and Glenn Close steps out from behind the shield.

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June 24

Land of the Dead

 Russ says: The dead don’t just walk, they rule. The undead have claimed the world, and the vestiges of humanity hide out in a makeshift walled city. Social strata have formed inside the walls and out. The humans, split into factions along lines of wealth and power, struggle to survive. But outside, the zombies have begun to evolve.

I’ll say without shame that this is for me what Hitchhikers was for Devin. (Before he saw the film.) This is the popcorn movie of the year. Keep your Star Wars. Send Harry Potter home. I’ve had a wealth of cinematic experience, but I’ve never seen a Romero zombie flick projected in a theater, much less a new one. Does this look eerily like the flawed Dawn of the Dead remake? Yes. Does Dennis Hopper look as if he can’t find the buffet table? Yes. Does it matter? No. George Romero returns to zombies. There’s nothing more to say.

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 Dave says: This is not, I repeat, not a remake of the 1960s TV series. Nope, even worse – it’s a movie about a remake of the 1960s TV series. Ferrell plays a former A-list actor (which is becoming all too close to reality) seeking a springboard back to the top by playing Darrin (one of them) in a feature film based on Bewitched. He meets a gal (Kidman) who he thinks would be perfect for the role of his nose-wiggling wife, but what he doesn’t realize is that she’s actually a witch! Ahahahahahaaa!! Nora Ephron, recently paroled from Director’s Jail after Lucky Numbers, tries to piece this wretched idea together.

Prognostication: Kidman obviously learned very little from the disastrous remake that was The Stepford Wives. And what’s with her face now? She looks like she’s been laminated or something. Will Ferrell desperately needs to get himself into another starring vehicle worthy of him, preferably one without brooms. Anyway, I’ll be at Land of the Dead.

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Herbie: Fully Loaded

 George says: Oh, man. Where to start? For those hip to the game, you know what Herbie (a.k.a. The Love Bug) is all about. It’s a Volkswagen Bug that has a mind of its own. Kinda like HAL 9000 sans the murdering. Anyway, ol’ number 53 has a new owner in Maggie Peyton (Lindsay Lohan). Maggie goes on to put the poor automobile through the paces and onto the path of becoming a true NASCAR competitor (and champion, most likely). Hijinks and other such silliness are sure to be in abundance.

Prognostication: You know, if this film had hit maybe 3-4 months ago (maybe even more), I think it would’ve made real bank. It wouldn’t have had much to go up against, and more importantly, Lindsay Lohan (a 19-year old girl) wouldn’t be looking like a 50-year old hag strung out on coke and Jack Daniel’s. Then again, bad and/or ridiculous publicity is still publicity (look at Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes), so it may help this film yet. Plus, some guys are so hot on Lohan that they’ll see her in just about anything (sorry, she’s not my cup). Nevermind the fact that the majority of this crowd has probably never heard of Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo. Fools! Ah screw it, I’ll be at Land of the Dead with Davis (Kristen, not Dave).

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 Russ says: Remember Sally Potter? The last time we saw the elusive director was in 2000, when The Audience Who Cried drew theatergoers here and there. Potter returns with a movie that seems both more artful and more grounded at the same time. Joan Allen is She, a scientist in an unhappy marriage to Anthony (Sam Neill) who begins an illicit affair with He, a Middle-Eastern surgeon in London. And the dialogue, evidently, is rhymed in iambic pentameter.

That’s right, you just read ‘iambic pentameter’. And those characters are called ‘She’ and ‘He’. What happened to Dick and Jane as anonymous signifiers? Guess Sally Potter didn’t want any loaded cultural implications on top of the ones defining each character. As long as they end up fighting over a taxi with Layer Cake‘s XXXX, I’ll go home happy. In all fairness, though, Potter sometimes manages to put her finger on elusive tales of disconnection and desire, and Yes is said to be one that works.

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 Devin says: You like to move it move it. I like to move it move it. And if you’ve been watching many hip hop videos over the past few years, you’ve seen the crazy and spastic style of dance known as krumping. This documentary, directed by famed photographer David LaChapelle, follows krumping from the streets of LA to the screens of MTV and beyond.

Prognostication: I love stuff like this. It’s just too bad that krumping is so overexposed at this point that the documentary feels more like cashing in than an exploration of a new style. Still, it should be visually exciting, and people who have seen the film at Cannes and Sundance say it tells a compelling story as well.

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June 29

War of the Worlds

 Devin says: Preemie babies take longer than the latest Steven Spielberg film, based on the classic novel by HG Wells. Tom Cruise stars as a man who defeats an attacking alien horde by creeping them out with his Katie Holmes-related antics. Dakota Fanning plays the whole film on her knees so as not to tower over the Cruise. Tim Robbins plays the film as an attack on supply side economics.

Prognostication: Of course you’re going to see it. But the Cruise/Spielberg combo is pretty fallible – even the biggest fans of Minority Report think that film’s just "pretty OK." What gets the acolytes of the big Double S psyched, though, is how the director is tackling evil aliens, something he once said he has no interest in. Rumor also abounds that the film is full of parallels to the modern War on Terror, but whether that’s true or not remains to be seen. At the very least this is an exciting experiment to see if you can make a huge budget blockbuster in 8 days.

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