While 2005 may live forever (or perhaps in infamy) as the year of the gay Western, 2006 promises a barrage of remakes, sequels and films that try to tackle the issues of terrorism and xenophobia. With that in mind, here are some of the best, worst and most anticipated films of the coming year.
Poseidon (May 12): Wolfgang Peterson’s remake of 1972’s “The Poseidon Adventure” begs the question: is it too soon for movies featuring a giant wall of water? Tsunami jokes aside, the trailer looks distinctly like “Titanic” meets “The Perfect Storm” (also directed by Peterson), so proceed with caution (and rain gear).
Thank You For Smoking (March 17): The trailer promises a frank and politically incorrect satirical comedy about a spokesman for Big Tobacco fighting for the rights of smokers and cigarette makers against an army of health and morality advocates. The film features everyone’s favorite Newport Beach resident Adam Brody and was a favorite at the Toronto Film Festival, but will suffer a limited release stateside.
The Fountain (Late 2006): Darren Aronofsky, director of cult favorites “Pi” and “Requiem for a Dream” — and not much else — is finally debuting his pet project, which has been in the making on and off for the past four years. The film stars Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, and, while the trailer is cryptic, considering Aronofsky’s previous work suggests that it will be innovative and traumatizing.
Marie Antoinette (Fall 2006): Despite a disappointing trailer whose only cohesive moment involves a three-second shot of Kirsten Dunst nude but for a fan, Sofia Coppola demands slightly more leeway than your average director. The film, based on Antonia Fraser’s biography of the young queen, focuses on the personal struggles of a 19-year-old Marie, fresh from Austria, who finds herself thrust into the decadence and corruption of French aristocracy on the eve of the Revolution.
Superman Returns (June 30): “X-Men” director Bryan Singer (whose presence is conspicuously absent from that series’ third installment) sheds the flashy veil of perfection that has always haunted the man of steel. Instead, we find a Superman who has returned from sabbatical on Krypton to find that the people of Earth have learned to live without him. He must now struggle with the very human problem of rejection as he finds himself seemingly superfluous to both the woman he loved and the civilization he fought to save. Perhaps it’s a mistake to drag out a superhero genre that could have died with the failure of “The Hulk,” but in the red and blue suit Superman still scrapes by with the combined efforts of patriotism, nostalgia and summer blockbusters.
The Da Vinci Code (May 19): Who hasn’t been eagerly awaiting Ron Howard’s big screen adaptation of the book that launched a thousand intellectual eye rolls? For those not scathingly familiar, Tom Hanks plays a Harvard symbologist called in to investigate a mysterious murder at the Louvre. In the process, he encounters Audrey Tautou (“Amelie”) as the victim’s niece, as well as Ian McKellen, Paul Bettany, Jean Reno and Alfred Molina in his madcap quest to save Christianity. Look on the bright side, with the rising cost of books the film version will save you both time and money, while still allowing you to criticize Dan Brown for years to come. Bonus if you catch a discount matinee or make out with your date.
V for Vendetta (March 17): “Matrix” assistant-director James McTeigue offers up an Orwellian dystopia in the era of the Patriot Act, with more than a splash of the Scarlet Pimpernel and a training montage and caped avenger that hearken back to 1998’s “Mask of Zorro.” Orphan Evey Hammond and a masked vigilante known only as “V” team up guerilla-style to fight the corrupt fascist government that resulted when Germany won World War III. If nothing else, we finally get to see why Natalie Portman shaved her head.
American Dreamz (April 14): is my pick for the must-see movie of 2006. Combining two of the most popular cultural phenomena in recent memory, director and screen writer Paul Weitz (of “American Pie” infamy) pits a bumbling and eerily familiar backwater president who refers to middle easterners as “Iraqi-stanis” against a crafty terrorist on the set of a reality television singing contest called “American Dreamz.” The cast boasts big names, including Hugh Grant as the Ryan Seacrest-style narcissistic host, Willem Dafoe as the president’s chief of staff and Mandy Moore as contestant Sally Kendoo (pronounced “Can Do”). But it is Dennis Quaid who promises to steal the show with his presidential parodies and deadpan delivery.