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Wednesday, May 14, 2008 09:08 pm

Five sleepers

An alternative summer movie guide

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Steve Coogan (left) and Elsabeth Shue (right) in Hamlet 2
Untitled Document Once May rolls around, you can’t pick up an entertainment magazine without seeing a story on the slate of big summer movie releases. Flicks such as Iron Man, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and The Dark Knight get most of the attention, but hidden away in the list of the blockbusters are potential cinematic gems made on lower budgets and flying under the radar. Kung Fu Panda, Wall-E, and The Incredible Hulk need no extra press, but so many other worthy films do. What follows is an alternate summer movie guide, a list of five films that, with the talent involved and the trailers on display, have the greatest potential to be the biggest surprises in the coming months.
The Foot-Fist Way
The Foot Fist Way (May 30) — Made in 19 days on a microbudget, this comedy from Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s production company (the geniuses behind Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and the Funny or Die Web site), focuses on macho tae kwon do instructor Fred Simmons (Danny McBride), whose world falls apart when his wife leaves him. Trying to get his life back on track, Simmons, his best friend and two of his students set out to meet Simmons’ hero, Chuck “The Truck” Wallace. A huge hit at Sundance, this one has a realistic feel that is reminiscent of Napoleon Dynamite. Besides, Superbad’s Jonah Hill calls it the funniest movie ever. I am so there.
The Wackness
The Wackness (July 4) — This dark comedy tells the tale of Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck), a troubled young man who sells drugs to his therapist (Ben Kingsley) and dates his daughter (Juno’s Olivia Thirlby) as well. These twisted relationships are only the tip of the iceberg — the usual roles in this coming-of-age tale are turned upside down and the characters learn important life lessons in unexpected places. And did I mention the kissing scene between Kingsley and Mary-Kate Olsen? Yep, this film earns its title in many different ways.
Paula Patton and Kevin Costner in Swing Vote
Swing Vote (Aug. 1) — Kevin Costner stars as Bud Johnson, a deadbeat who, through a computer quirk, finds that the vote he cast in the presidential election did not count and he’s allowed to recast it. The twist: His vote will be the one that decides the election. The premise may be hokey, but the film has a Frank Capra feel to it as Bud finds that his vote and his life do serve a greater moral purpose. This looks like the perfect antidote to the cynicism that has already begun to cloud the actual presidential campaign. Also featuring Kelsey Grammer, Dennis Hopper, Nathan Lane, and Stanley Tucci, Swing Vote has “winner” written all over it.
Seth Rogen and James Franco in Pinapple Express
Pineapple Express (Aug. 8) — Seth Rogen is the purveyor of a rare strain of marijuana called Pineapple Express. James Franco, his best customer, sees a corrupt police officer commit murder. Before you know it, the two slackers find themselves on the run with both the cops and the supplier of the magical drug on their tails. This one could be a stinker, but with art-house director David Gordon Green (George Washington, All the Real Girls) at the helm, it could also turn out to be this year’s Superbad. • Hamlet 2 (Aug. 22) — What’s a beleaguered high-school drama coach to do when his program is set to shut down as a result of budget constraints? Why, come up with an original play that proves to be a hit. That’s exactly what Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan) does when he pens Hamlet 2. Yes, you read that right, Hamlet 2. Irreverent and filled with quirky humor, this out-of-left-field comedy has been wowing them on the indie circuit as it stresses the importance of self-expression and the love of performing.
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