- The Washington Times - Friday, May 1, 2009

It seems just about every industry, from banking to building, is cutting back in this troubled economy. Not Hollywood.

This summer won’t have just the usual handful of hits. Every single week in May will see the release of a film that has the potential to do blockbuster business. And that month doesn’t even include two movies likely to make much more than $200 million — the latest in the “Transformers” and “Harry Potter” franchises, which arrive in June and July.

The summer season — comprising, as always, mainly big-budget spectacles — begins in earnest today with “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” Hugh Jackman reprises his role as the animalistic killing machine in the fourth “X-Men” movie and the first in a likely series of creation stories about the mutants.

Next up is another origin story — “Star Trek” (May 8) is “Lost” creator J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the storied sci-fi franchise.

“Angels & Demons” (May 15), the book, was written before Dan Brown’s insanely popular “Da Vinci Code.” Tom Hanks returns as Harvard code-cracker Robert Langdon, but his long hair, thankfully, does not.

The fourth film in another franchise is also one of the year’s most anticipated. In “Terminator Salvation” (May 21), “Dark Knight” Christian Bale plays a grown-up John Connor, who still battles the machines. Ben Stiller will take on a few machines — and works of art — of his own in “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” (May 22), the sequel to the family-friendly surprise smash.

One big May release isn’t a sequel. “Up” (May 29) is the latest from Disney-Pixar, the studio that seems immune to failure. The irascible Ed Asner voices an irascible ex-balloon-salesman who finds a novel way to take a trip.

In June, Will Ferrell fights dinosaurs in “Land of the Lost” (June 5), an adventure-comedy based on the 1970s children’s series, while two other comedians (John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph) take a more serious turn as a couple looking for a place to raise their first child in Sam Mendes’ “Away We Go” (June 12).

Denzel Washington steps into Walter Matthau’s shoes in Tony Scott’s remake of “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” (June 12), while Jack Black and Michael Cera are unlikely to be wearing any in Harold Ramis’ caveman comedy “Year One” (June 19).

“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” rides into theaters on June 24. Smart execs have counterprogrammed “My Sister’s Keeper” (June 26) that weekend. Cameron Diaz and Abigail Breslin star in the film based on Jodi Picoult’s novel about a girl who rebels when she discovers she was conceived as an organ donor for her sick sister.

“Public Enemies” (July 1) could be the most timely of the summer flicks. It’s set in the Great Depression, but Johnny Depp’s bank-robbing John Dillinger might gain a new legion of fans after the bailout. Time doesn’t seem to have been an issue for the makers of the animated “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” (July 1). Dinosaurs? In the Ice Age?

Sacha Baron Cohen is back with “Bruno” (July 10), in which his gay fashion-reporting alter ego fools the few people in the country who haven’t heard of the “Borat” star. Comedy fans also will flock to “Funny People” (July 31), directed by Judd Apatow and starring Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen as stand-up comics.

The young and young at heart have been waiting a long time for “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” (July 15); the sixth film in the fantasy franchise was scheduled for last fall until Warner Bros. decided it could make more money with a summer release.

The toy-crazy producers behind “Transformers” are turning another action figure into a movie with “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” (Aug. 7). Action of a very different kind is the center of “Julie & Julia” (Aug. 7). Meryl Streep stars as Julia Child, the woman who brought French cooking to America, while Amy Adams plays a modern woman who tries to bring it into her own busy home.

“Taking Woodstock” (Aug. 14), a comedy from the usually dramatic Ang Lee, goes back in time. So, of course, does the husband of “The Time Traveler’s Wife” (Aug. 14); Rachel McAdams stars as the title character in the film, based on the runaway best-seller.

Actually, August seems to be the month for period movies. Quentin Tarantino takes on World War II with a remake of “Inglourious Basterds” (Aug. 21), starring Brad Pitt, Mike Myers and Cloris Leachman — not exactly a group of people you expect to work together in any film, let alone a Tarantino one. Richard Curtis, Britain’s most successful director of comedies, returns with “The Boat That Rocked” (Aug. 28); American Philip Seymour Hoffman joins the cast of pirate DJs who run their illegal radio station in the 1960s from a ship in Britain’s North Sea.

Art houses don’t simply close up shop for the summer. There’s a promising list of smaller films that hope to compete against the big guns. Woody Allen films tend to come out in the fall, but his latest, “Whatever Works,” opens July 3. “Curb Your Enthusiasm’s” Larry David proves a perfect surrogate for the now-seldom-seen-on-screen director.

“Rudo y Cursi” (May 15), the directorial debut of “Y Tu Mama Tambien” writer Carlos Cuaron, reunites Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna for the first time since that film.

“Brick” filmmaker Rian Johnson returns with the tale of two con artists in “The Brothers Bloom” (May 22), while Jessica Biel takes a shot at Noel Coward with “Easy Virtue” (June 5).

It’s not all light comedies at the cinema, though: Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan’s “Adoration” (May 29) explores the personal and political in the troubled family history of a high school student.

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