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The girls of summer

The season for blockbusters, sequels, and . . . great roles for women?
By PETER KEOUGH  |  May 18, 2007

VIDEO: The trailer for The Simpsons Movie

It’s summer, so no one’s surprised at the onslaught of sequels, adaptations of video games, or even movies based on toys. But films with Oscar-caliber women’s roles?

Tent-pole moneymakers like Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, DOA: Dead or Alive, and The Transformers are easy to account for. But what about such anomalies as last week’s Away from Her, with Julie Christie playing an Alzheimer’s victim, and the upcoming Snow Cake, with Sigourney Weaver as an autistic woman, and Evening, with Lynn Redgrave as a terminally ill cancer patient? It’s almost as if studio moguls had taken a moment out from signing checks for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign to wonder: “A woman in the White House? Maybe we should put a few in our movies, as well.”

It figures that Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (May 25), the second-most-expensive movie ever made, will probably be the second-biggest box-office grosser, too. Call it the drawing power of Keith Richards, or the Spider-Man 3 theory of stuffing as many CGI effects, future video games, potential amusement-park rides, and half-baked plot lines as possible into a butt-breaking three hours. Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush, and franchise newcomer Chow Yun-Fat star; Gore Verbinski again helms the voyage.

The dominance of Pirates, however, will clear the decks for little films like The Boss of It All (May 25), Lars von Trier’s farce about a company hiring an actor to pose as the boss in order to soft-sell a potential buyer. And John Carney’s upbeat Once (May 25), a musical love story set in Dublin starring Glen Hansard and his Irish band the Frames.

Every summer needs its breakthrough comedy, and this year it just might be Knocked Up (June 1), in which Judd Apatow follows up The 40-Year-Old Virgin with this film about a one-night stand that results in the title misfortune. Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, and Paul Rudd star. The comedy gets blacker and bloodier in Christopher Smith’s Severance (June 1), as a business meeting of weapons developers turns into a gory showdown.

Chick flicks return with Snow Cake (June 1), in which Sigourney Weaver stakes her claim for a Best Actress nomination in a film that combines Rain Man with Ordinary People. Alan Rickman co-stars; Marc Evans directs. A less enlightened attitude toward women persists in Eli Roth’s Hostel 2 (June 8): they’re meat hanging from a hook, ready for torture.

Between these extremes lies Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Thirteen (June 8), in which the usual suspects played by George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon are joined by Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin for another caper. Male misbehavior of an alien kind crops up in Tim Story’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (June 15), where the mutated quartet must battle the title extraterrestrial’s plans to destroy Earth. Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, and Kerry Washington star.

Maybe they could use the intuitive level-headedness of Emma Roberts in the title role of Nancy Drew (June 15), as Andrew Fleming brings Carolyn Keene’s classic young-adult mystery series to life. Or perhaps the Old World melancholy and burgundy-tinged strains of Edith Piaf in La Môme|La Vie En Rose (June 15), Olivier Dahan’s bio-pic of the beloved French songstress starring Marion Cotillard.

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