A summer of sequels
Predictable summer movie season takes shape

by Willie Krische

It’s a fact – you’re more likely to buy a product you recognize, even if you’ve used it before and didn’t like it, than to try something new and unfamiliar. It’s called brand recognition (or brand equity) and movie studios have been banking on this little tidbit of psychological absurdity an awful lot over the last few years. It’s why we get so many movies based on comic books, TV shows, video games and toys. Someone else has done the hard work of getting you acquainted with the characters, and all the studios have to do is cash in on that tiny part of your brain that remembers the “A-Team” theme song, or knows Tony the Tiger’s signature phrase. (Coming soon: movies based on breakfast cereals, laundry detergents and nonstick cooking spray.)

But the other way movie studios can cash in on the way your poor brain works/malfunctions is by making the same movie over and over again. Liked “Saw?” You’ll love “Saw 2,” and 3, 4 and 5. Seven Harry Potter books not enough for you? How about eight movies? And now that it’s big money season, the major movie studios are unveiling their “More of the Same!” agenda at an incredibly aggressive pace. It’s the summer of sequels, and threequels, and whatever you call “Fast Five.” According to Box Office Mojo, there will be more sequels released in 2011 than in any other year in the history of cinema. Let’s take a look at a few of them:

(OK, hit the pause button. I’m sounding terribly cynical and you might think I hate movies. I don’t, and occasionally, sequels are great. Every now and then, a sequel builds on the first film, instead of just repeating it. “Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan” was much better than “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” “The Godfather 2” is at least as good as “The Godfather.” “Empire Strikes Back” and “The Two Towers” are both the best chapters in their respective trilogies. So there’s reason to be hopeful - cautiously - when it comes to sequels. Unpause.)

Sequels I’m Excited About

-“Cars 2” – “Toy Story 3” was great. “Up” was great. “Wall-E” was great. And so on. Pixar’s on such a roll, I’m pretty much counting on this year’s film – even though it’s a sequel – to be great. Don’t let me down, little hopping lamp.

-“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” – I haven’t really liked the last two Harry Potter movies, but everything’s been leading up to this. And from what I’ve heard, “Part 2” covers about 30 percent of the last book, and contains about 70 percent of the action. Sounds like a great finale.

-“Fast Five” – I absolutely was not excited to see this, until I saw it recently. And I can report back that it’s surprisingly good. The “Furious” crew morphs into Ocean’s 11, and hits its marks. It’s a fun, fast-paced, even occasionally clever movie. Definitely better than I expected it to be.

Sequels I’m Not Excited About

-“Hangover 2” – It’s really, really, really hard to make a decent comedy sequel. I mean REALLY hard. As in, I don’t think it’s ever been done. And from the trailers, “Hangover 2” looks like the first movie, except set in Singapore or something. My recommendation: re-watch the first one, and save your money.

-“Pirates of the Caribbean 4” – The fourth film, in perhaps the only franchise based on a roller coaster, jettisons all of the cast except Johnny Depp and adds Penelope Cruz. That means we not only get to watch Jack Sparrow continue his epic battle with those stodgy English fellows and hunt for the Fountain of Youth, we also get to watch Cruz continue her epic battle with the English language and hunt for those lost consonants.

- “Transformers 3” – Michael Bay returns with another loud, obnoxious and explosion-heavy entry into this series. Eighth-grade boys everywhere rejoice.

“Wait...They’re Not Sequels?” of Note

- “Super 8” – Now THIS looks interesting. J.J. Abrams (whose “Star Trek” was one of the best surprises of the ‘09 summer) teams up with Steven Spielberg to make a film that looks like a throwback to “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “E.T.” These are the films that made summer Big Movie season, and it ought to be fun to see a throwback to that era.

- “Tree of Life” – Terrence Malick makes one film a decade, and his last was 2005’s “The New World.” His movies are almost always hailed as masterpieces, though personally, I find them to be rather slow and ponderous – beautiful, but baroque. Still, he makes the kind of movies that scream to be seen on the big screen, and it would be a big mistake to miss this decade’s entry. Also, it stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn.

- “Thor” and “Captain America” – The next two comic book entries in the “Avengers” canon, leading up to next year’s “teamup” film directed by Joss Whedon. I’m much more interested in THAT film than either of these, but I’ll be watching these just to be caught up on the storyline. One of them ought to be good.

Others coming out: “Everything Must Go” is a Raymond Carver story adapted into a Will Ferrell film; “Smurfs” looks like little, blue poop jokes; the ‘70s B-movie revival continues with “Conan the Barbarian” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes;” there’s yet another “Final Destination” film; “Bridesmaid” stars the always-funny Kristen Wiig, and could be a quirky take on the mainstream wedding movie; “Something Borrowed” IS the mainstream wedding movie; “X-Men: First Class” and “Green Lantern” give us more comic book characters than we could ever want; “Cowboys and Aliens” comes from Jon Favreau and could be either great fun or a big mess; “Crazy, Stupid Love” describes every romantic comedy that’s come out in the last 10 years; and Jesse Eisenberg’s “30 Minutes or Less” could be the underdog comedy that “The Hangover” was two years ago. •



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