Summertime rolls on. The box office "slump" continued through June, but at least the month ended on a high note – the unexpectedly good War of the Worlds. And I’m still getting hate mail for not liking Batman Begins, so that’s something.

July doesn’t offer much to kick start the stuttering BO, but it does have some fantastic indie gems – and a Michael Bay movie with subtext? 2005 is one weird fucking year, that’s for sure.

So set up your BBQs, crack open a beer and plan out your month ahead with the latest Prognosticator.

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July 1


 Dave says: The small Aussie fishing town of Berkeley is suddenly pelted with meteor fragments, and curious but decidedly zombie-like behavior is exhibited by anyone exposed to the fallen rocks. A beauty pageant queen joins up with the local eccentric/gun-nut, who seems convinced that he’s been personally selected to prevent the imminent apocalypse, based on his previous close encounter with zombie fish. Along with several other surviving residents, they conclude that their best chance of survival is to get the hell out of town.

Prognostication: I had a blast with this movie when I saw it around three years ago – it’s full of gooey gore and laced with black humor, and pays respect to the works of godfathers Romero, Raimi and Peter Jackson. But Lions Gate’s promotion is a little deceptive (they’re presenting it like more of a straight horror flick), and considering the blockbuster competition the movie will probably barely make a High Tension-sized impression. Still, at least it’s getting a theatrical release.

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 George says: Steve Carr, director-for-hire of such shite as Next Friday, Dr. Dolitle 2, and Daddy Day Care, turns now to the infamous basketball/comedy genre hybrid made singularly popular by the Miguel Núñez Jr. vehicle, Juwanna Man. Martin Lawrence plays a successful college b-ball coach that gets the boot after an "incident" occurs during a game and is forced to take a job coaching little mongrels. Lessons will be learned. Heartwarming will ensue. Bobby Knight will call his lawyers.

Prognostication: Seriously, who asked for this? Stuff like this hurts my dick. It’s throbbing. Not in that "let’s get down, baby" sort of way, but more in the "can somebody get Lorraina Bobbit in here ASAP" sense. Martin Lawrence has never particularly been good in anything outside of fainting in the middle of busy L.A. intersections. Notable exceptions are maybe Bad Boys I & II and Nothing to Lose… but that one’s mostly thanks to Tim Robbins. This is family-friendly dreck that’s obviously counter programming for those not interested in zombie plagues (Undead, not Land of the Dead) or the Big TC’s alien invasion tale (War of the Worlds, not Scientology).

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July 8

Dark Water

 Russ says: During a messy divorce, Dahlia (Jennifer Connelly) and her daughter Cessy move into a crappy apartment with a plumbing problem. In Anywhere, USA this would be cause either to move out or go stay with your sister or best friend. But this is New York, where shitty cribs are the rule, so Dahlia suffers several problems relatively lightly: the dodgy building manager, skeevy teenagers and gallons of dripping water that’s as black as three-day coffee. And don’t forget the ghost, which may be behind it all. Or maybe Dahlia is just going crazy?

Prognostication: Writer Rafael Yglesias (actually a New York jew — who knew?) has repeatedly namedropped Roman Polanski when talking about this movie, noting particular similarities to Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby. I was thinking a lot more of The Tenant, but whatever. This is apartment horror, but there’s not much real fright — just an unshakable atmosphere of dread. It’s bleak, man, and not at all entertaining to wade through. On the other hand, if you’ve ever wanted to see what amounts to a horror movie made especially for New Yorkers, get in line now.

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Fantastic Four

 Devin says: The flagship Marvel Comics title, the Four is the company’s First Family, exploring the wonders of the multiverse since the early 60s. Famously once adapted to film by Roger Corman’s company (only because they needed to make the film to retain rights – check out your local comic con for a tape of this magical disaster), Fantastic Four was often seen as too expensive to make into a real movie, what with a guy who bursts into flames all the time and another dude made out of orange rock. After a long and bumpy road, though, Barbershop director Tim Story is finally bringing Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch, the ever loving blue eyed Thing and their arch nemesis Dr. Doom to cinemas this month.

Prognostication: Has ever a movie looked this rotten? Why yes, Daredevil. At this point people are just hoping for a film that doesn’t punish – no one seems to be expecting an actual film with any quality. Of course, low expectations can help, and early word is that we’re going to be hearing a lot of "Well, it wasn’t that bad."

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 George says: "When life throws you a lemon, make lemonade." As lame and hackneyed as that expression may seem to you, it’s precisely the driving theme behind this inspiring sports documentary which follows a colorful and lively group of quadriplegic athletes that form Team USA as we watch them battle in Wheelchair Rugby — or "Murderball" — in various tournaments and ultimately at the 2004 Athens Paralympics.

Prognostication: Already a big winner at the Sundance Film Festival as well as being a critics darling all over, Murderball looks to be a film that not only enlightens but sends us home with a newfound appreciation for not only our own lives, but for those who we see handicapped day to day, place to place. Devin’s seen it and he thinks it’s great. Watch the trailer. It’s great… both funny and heartwarming in the truest human sense. Hey, I’m buying a ticket.

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 Russ says: Liv Ullman is Marianne, a woman thirty years divorced from her ex-husband, Johan. After three decades of separation, Marianne is overcome with the urge to see him again. She arrives at Johan’s summer home, where he lives with his son Henrik and granddaughter, who have spent two years mourning Henrik’s wife. In that tradition so particular to European family dramas, resentments and power struggles come to the surface as Marianne is drawn back into their lives.

Prognostication: For ages, it seemed like this Ignmar Bergman flick wasn’t going to see a theatrical release anywhere. It was shot on video, and Bergman has been reportedly frustrated with the film transfer. And that’s really all I’ve got here. Some have claimed this is Bergman’s return to the type of drama he perfected decades ago, and it would be great to see the guy deliver a picture that had the power of films by his successors, such as The Celebration.

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The Beautiful Country

 Dave says: A half-Vietnamese, half-American man goes searching for his biological father, a soldier who did a little more than fight for his country during the Vietnam War. With only the slightest information to go on, he makes a lengthy journey that takes him from his home country to Malaysia, New York and Texas, only to discover his dad is Nick Nolte. Unfortunately it’s the one from now, not 48 .hrs.

Reportedly a poignant and inspirational tale, even a few familiar faces (Bai Ling, Tim Roth, Temeura Morrison) probably won’t prevent it from getting stampeded by the glossy Hollywood fare it’s facing.

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July 15

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

 Devin says: Easily the creepiest kid’s film ever made, the original film from Roald Dahl’s book (called Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory for reasons I don’t quite grasp), catapulted Gene Wilder into the forefront of brillo-headed semi-pervs. The new film has an already catapulted star – Johnny Depp plays the owner of the titular establishment, who holds a contest to give a group of children a tour. The place is full of rivers of chocolate, tiny orange people and squirrels who shell nuts, among other psychedelic wonders, and the children are full of all the sins of man. So they must be punished. Has anyone thought of remaking this as a slasher film?

Prognostication: Tim Burton and Johnny Depp together again? The Hot Topic crowd already has their tickets. While the film is being sold as much closer to the original book, I’m hearing that it isn’t all that different from the last version. And that Johnny Depp is channeling a certain recently acquited pop king…

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Wedding Crashers

 Dave says: Buddies Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are a pair of itinerant Casanovas who sneak into weddings and scoop up the lovely leftovers, a system that provides a steady cache of kitty until Wilson falls in love with Rachel “Moles” McAdams, leaving a forlorn Vaughn to fly sans wingman.

Prognostication: I got a great chuckle at the trailer when Vaughn checks out a girl with one of those omnipresent lower-back tattoos and says “She might as well be wearing a bullseye” (because I’ve thought the exact same thing countless times – way to define yourselves as individuals, ladies!). Director David Dobkin worked with both stars before (Clay Pigeons and Shanghai Knights), so let’s hope they’ve developed a rapport that translates into on-screen laughs. In this current “safe” climate, we could really use a raunchy, sexist comedy that earns its R rating. Or I could, anyway.

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Happy Endings

 George says: Funny. I created this article’s template based off of last month’s Prognosticator and right where I needed to write my junk for this film, I see the first sentence that Russ had written for the film Heights… "Narrow time frames and interwoven lives seem to be the art film flavor of the month." Though Happy Endings is not set within a narrow time frame, it is that sort of art house/indie beast that throws us various subplots that are interwoven together (ala Magnolia) from which we learn about the lives of its characters, their loves, their families, and the sheer unpredictability of it all. Just like this entry!

The story seems like a witty one, though I am a bit skeptical of the cast. Lisa Kudrow? Tom Arnold? To be fair, Arnold seems to be reining it in judging from the trailer. It’s also got Laura Dern, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and the late John Ritter’s son Jason Ritter (who unnervingly looks like his pop from his younger days). Could be a charming little flick.

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July 22

The Island

 Dave says: Noisy entertainment virtuoso Michael Bay gets (slightly) more cerebral with this sci-fi tale, which stars Ewan MacGregor as a "harvested being" trying to escape from a purportedly utopian facility when he becomes aware that he’s being bred for spare parts. Scarlett Johansson provides ample cleavage as his pregnant ally, and Steve Buscemi, Sean Bean, Djimon Hounsou and Michael Clarke Duncan are also among the cast.

As CHUD’s resident Michael Bay apologist, I can state without shame that I’m anticipating this movie more than I did the most recent escapades of Jedi and Batman. Despite the absence of producer Jerry Bruckheimer and the promise/threat of being a more intelligent futuristic movie, I’m certain there will still be helicopters, slow-motion action and various things exploding, and I’ll definitely be there to witness it. But will mass audiences expecting mindless Bad Boys action be satiated?

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Bad News Bears

 Devin says: A remake! From Paramount! The studio has really been scraping the bottom of the creativity barrel for the last few years, remaking any property they can get their hands on. This time it’s the 70s gem about a foul mouthed, skill-free Little League team coached by a drunk. It’s the 00s. though, so some of the stuff that they could get away with way back when – like the kids smoking and drinking – are completely out today. And they say society is losing its morals. Billy Bob Thornton gets back to his Bad Santa as the coach who pours liquor into his half-filled non-alcoholic beer can (the MPAA preferred that to him actually just drinking a lot of beer. Huh?)

Prognostication: The good news here, and there really is some, is that Richard Linklater directed this. His School of Rock showed that he could make a family film that was never too treacly or obvious, and that he can make a misfit the hero of just that sort of a movie. Also, the poster for this remake is fucking awesome, really getting back to a 70s aesthetic. I don’t expect a classic, and I think the film will be neutered – even compared to the Saturday afternoon broadcast showings I grew up on – but I gope it’ll at least be some fun.

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Hustle & Flow

 Russ says: Djay (Terence Howard) is a lowlife hustler and pimp working the back streets and shake joints of Memphis. After a chance run-in with an old acquaintance (played by a strikingly dramatic Anthony Anderson) DJay rediscovers his old musical aspirations. Driven by the success of local MC Skinny Black (Ludacris), the hustler cobbles together a raw home studio, where he slowly crafts some bangin’ jams.

Prognostication: I resisted this flick for months. Whenever I read a synopsis like the one I just wrote, I’d shrug with total disinterest. And I’m here to tell you that’s a terrible mistake. 90% of this movie is truly great, and even the bits which don’t fly are stronger than most ‘local boy makes good’ dramas. Memphis native Craig Brewer has an instinctive grasp of the personalities and flow of street hustlers, and the movie is electric with their energy. Terence Howard is finally given the chance to deliver the performance you knew he had locked inside. There’s no glorification here — DJay is a deeply flawed, troubled human being. But we watch him as he begins to realize that, and his slow burning struggle to become something else pushes the movie far beyond stereotype.

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The Devil’s Rejects

 George says: Essentially, what we have here is a road movie. It just so happens to be one soaked in blood and lined with entrails. Following almost immediately after the events depicted in House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects shifts focus to the murderous family trio who escape the "House" and are now simply travelin’ and killin’. The simple pleasures, right? Problem is, two equally murderous bounty hunters have been hired and are now hot on their trail. Blood will pour by the gallons, no doubt… but who’ll survive? If you’re squeamish, not you!

Prognostication: The sophomore effort for filmmakers can often be a shaky one. Here we have Rob Zombie with his follow up to 2003’s House of 1000 Corpses, a film I didn’t care for but one that many others truly dug if for nothing else then as an exercise in style and good soundtrack usage. The Devil’s Rejects is apparently a GREAT step up from that what with some true 70’s style exploitation pumping through its veins. That’s a good sign. Fans of old school horror and gore as well as Rob himself should eat this bad boy up.

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Last Days

 Russ says: Michael Pitt, always on the cusp of becoming the new indie darling, appears as a musician called Blake, though anyone who’s seen the poster knows he’s really Kurt/Kurdt/Curt Cobain. It doesn’t take a Rosetta stone or even a magic map of Seattle thrift stores to figure out what story Gus Van Sant is telling here.

Prognostication: It was bound to happen sooner or later, and I’m actually glad that Gus Van Sandt is the guy who got around to it. I think I’m the only mammal who liked Gerry that didn’t have a part in the production, and that movie’s sensibility took a step forward in Elephant. This looks like the culmination of what amounts to emo filmmaking. Granted, on the basis of subject matter, we should all be very nervous. But this is a film that will sink or swim based on performance, and I’m intrigued by the cast. Hiring Asia Argento to appear as Courtney Love is either blindingly obvious or obviously brilliant, and Pitt is probably one of the few actors who could hope to make this fly. It’s also amusing to see that Harmony Korine got his hands out of David Blaine’s pants long enough to play a part.

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9 Songs

 Russ says: Sshhh. Hear that? It’s the sound of hundreds of NYU film students being beaten to the punch all at once. Michael Winterbottom, he of the solid 24 Hour Party People, has dared to live the film school dream. 9 Songs chronicles the memories of a year-long relationship, almost all of which involve either intense, fully explicit sex or live rock performances. That’s it. No, really. I’m serious. The couple watches Primal Scream and the Dandy Warhols, then goes home and warhols each other’s dandies. Meanwhile, in the audience, the raincoaters sit alone in their own islands of shame and contentment.

Prognostication: There’s a reason that films not intended as pornography don’t feature loads of explicit sex. It’s got nothing to do with repression or censorship — it’s just incredibly boring. You know the cliché scene where some well-meaning couple subjects their friends to an endless collection of vacation photos? Imagine that, if all the photos were of them having sex and watching bands. Ever seen an entire audience slink towards the exit at the same time? This is a rare chance — don’t waste it.

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July 29


 Russ says: On a carrier in the Pacific, three top-notch fighter pilots are teaching combat maneuvers to a stealth plane with advanced AI. Don’t they know that in a movie, any advanced AI is guaranteed to develop sentience and go crazy? Maybe Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel and Jamie Foxx are all creationists, so they couldn’t be expected to anticipate evolution, even in electronics. Hope North Korea doesn’t mind that the characters’ inability to understand scientific movie facts might get the country bombed.

Prognostication: Can’t you just hear the pitch? It’s Wargames meets Firefox, with extreme action, man! Guess we shouldn’t expect anything else from Rob Cohen, who is at least able to provide some competent action. At first, I was excited because the script is credited to W.D. Richter, who’ll always get a free pass for making Buckaroo Banzai. Then I remembered that he used the pass when he wrote Needful Things.

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Must Love Dogs

 George says: Seemingly attempting to capitalize on the success of You’ve Got Mail and Turner & Hooch (more emphasis on the former), Must Love Dogs tells the story of a woman (Diane Lane) who’s sworn off dating but is forced back into the game… only now, through cyberspace! satire will surely ensue. But where does the pooch come in? I don’t know. But I’m sure it’ll act as the love catalyst at a key moment in the film.

Prognostication: Well, this is your one and only stop for love, canines, and Cusack come July 29th. I’m more of a cat person than a dog one (though I do dig ‘em) and more of an offline dater than an online one (though I am open-minded, ladies). This should garner the attention of the Nora Ephron crowd. Unfortunately for others, this one will come and go with little more than a whimper.

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The Aristocrats

 Devin says: One hundred comedians tell the filthiest joke ever. And the punchline is the title of the movie. So there’s no reason to see it right? Wrong. The movie isn’t about just the joke but the way comedians interact, the way jokes evolve and how, just like in jazz, it’s the singer and not the song that makes it great.

Prognostication: This is the funniest film I have seen all year. Easily. I’m hard pressed to think of another movie I have seen this decade that made me laugh as long and as hard as this movie did. The best part is that the funniest tellings of the joke come from people like… Bob Saget. There’s also a special South Park version of the joke, and more. The movie is being released unrated, and it’s definitely got some language you have to hear to believe. Also, the joke gets told by a mime. A mime.

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Sky High

 Dave says: The son of superpowered parents (Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston) attends a high school for costumed heroes, and struggles with standard teen troubles as well as coping with having no powers of his own.

Prognostication: I can’t decide if this looks cheesy or supercheesy. People of my generation will groove to the savvy casting, but will the younger kids give a shit about seeing Russell or Bruce Campbell or Lynda Carter? Or do they just want colorful costumes and special effects? Disney is obviously aiming at the Spy Kids and The Incredibles audience, but if Fantastic Four stiffs earlier in the month, will this hold any interest for them, especially considering it’s not even based on any established comic or superhero franchise?

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