2009 Summer Movie Preview: May
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (May 1)
You've read about the reputed backstage drama -- including rumors of the studio's repeated meddling with director Gavin Hood's vision for the film -- and have heard about (or maybe even seen) the early, FX-free cut that was leaked to the Web a few weeks ago. On May 1, all that stuff takes a back seat to the movie itself, which takes Hugh Jackman's adamantium-clawed superhero out of the top-grossing "X-Men" trilogy and gives Marvel's popular costumed vigilante a sprawling, big-budget origin story. Fox's recent track record has been dismal, but Wolverine has a built-in audience, and Jackman's commitment to the role is impressive. Will it matter?
Star Trek (May 8)
Tackling a "Star Trek" reboot has to be one of the more daunting jobs a director can agree to take, but J.J. Abrams is one of the few with enough geek cred to inspire at least cautious optimism -- despite his public admission that, going into the aptly titled "Star Trek", he'd never been a fan of the venerable franchise. Judging from early reactions to the trailers and advance screenings, Abrams' outside perspective might be just what the series needed to pull itself out of the doldrums -- aside from taking the Enterprise's crew back to their early days (and sexing them up in the process), this version of "Trek" boasts more of the popcorn-gobbling action that summer cineplex crowds go wild for. Whether it also contains enough of the classic series' vibe to please diehard fans is another question, but if Abrams can steer his young crew past the $150 million mark without their approval, the answer may be moot.
Angels and Demons (May 15
First things first: Yes, Tom Hanks ditched his "Da Vinci Code" mullet for the second installment in the cinematic franchise that brings Dan Brown's megaselling Robert Langdon books to the big screen. Barring tonsorial differences, though, "Angels and Demons" looks like it'll bring moviegoers more of the same blend of action, mystery, and historical fiction that has helped Brown sell almost as many books as the Bible (and, not coincidentally, whipped the Catholic church into a frenzy). There's another religious conspiracy at the heart of "Demons"' plot -- but if you're one of the millions of people who has already read the book, you already know that. Columbia is banking on you showing up anyway -- and already making plans to film the third book in the series, "The Lost Symbol," due in stores this September.
Terminator Salvation (May 21)
When McG was announced as the director of the fourth "Terminator" movie, hardcore fans of the series howled in pain, remembering the cartoonish aesthetic he brought to the "Charlie's Angels" movies. In the months since then, however, McG has proven himself a dedicated fan of the franchise, doing everything from genuflecting at the altar of original "Terminator" director James Cameron to fielding questions from fanboys at conventions. Of course, having early footage and trailers received enthusiastically helps -- as does piloting the latest sequel in a franchise with millions of fans just looking for a way to forget the pain of "Terminator 3." At the end of the day, "Terminator Salvation" is unlikely to enjoy the sort of phenomenal success enjoyed by "T2," but with plenty of action, giant robots, and a cast led by Christian Bale, it may come close.
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (May 22)
Love him or hate him, Ben Stiller knows how to make money at the box office -- and the enormous pile of cash generated by the first "Night at the Museum" made a sequel more or less a foregone conclusion. Also a safe bet? The success of the second installment, which drops Stiller's museum caretaker into another gaggle of exhibits come to life. This time around, the magic happens at the Smithsonian, where an evil pharaoh (Hank Azaria) causes problems for a cast of characters that includes Theodore Roosevelt (Robin Williams), General Custer (Bill Hader), an Easter Island statue (Brad Garrett), and Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams). Do you hear the sound of cash registers ringing? You can bet 20th Century Fox does.
Drag Me to Hell (May 29)
Often, horror is a genre that young directors use as a place to hone their skills before heading off to more critically respected pastures, never to return -- but for Sam Raimi, horror is home, so when the "Evil Dead" director announced he'd be taking a break from helming blockbuster "Spider-Man" sequels to return to his roots with a bloody screamer titled "Drag Me to Hell," anticipation was high. Starring Alison Lohman as a loan officer who refuses to grant an elderly client an extension on her mortgage -- and winds up hexed for her troubles -- "Hell" blends ripped-from-the-headlines topicality with the kind of good old-fashioned gore that made Raimi a cult hero. It can't hope to compete with Pixar's "Up" on May 29, but for those allergic to cuddly CGI characters, it should provide a compelling alternative.
Up (May 29)
As a studio, Pixar has been on a winning streak for so long that predicting its eventual end has become almost as much fun as watching the movies themselves. On the surface, "Up" -- starring Ed Asner as the voice of a crotchety old misanthrope who fastens hundreds of balloons to his house in order to get away from all the people who annoy him, only to discover that a Cub Scout has stowed away on his suddenly aloft front porch -- seems like a pretty unlikely hit, but then, so did "WALL-E," and we all know how that turned out. "Up" also enjoys the distinction of being the first Pixar picture to be presented in Disney Digital 3-D, so while the studio is bound to stumble eventually, its string of hits probably won't be broken this year.