Gunn's former boss at B-movie studio Troma, Lloyd Kaufman, an unabashed detractor of mainstream cinema who intends to hold a mass demonstration this year at Cannes to protest the homogenization of Hollywood, is nonetheless pleased to see a former protégé make it big, even with a Hanna-Barbera-inspired movie about a cartoon dog. "James Gunn is immensely talented," Kaufman says. "He's 100 percent decent, and he will be a good influence on the mainstream, so I'm happy." Kaufman's seen other friends of his, among them Oliver Stone and Trey Parker, succeed while maintaining their integrity. On the other hand, he has some choice words for indie guys who've been super-sized, like Windtalkers director John Woo. "M:I 2, he cannot be forgiven for that," says Kaufman. "I think he has been fucked up by the system." He also fingers Samuel L. Jackson as someone whose work has suffered from super-sizing ("Film after film that's shite," he says).
In addition, Kaufman singles out Insomnia, Blood Work ("Clint Eastwood's a good director"), the Inuit-language The Fast Runner, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys ("I would see that movie in spite of Jodie Foster"), and Sunshine State as films he'd like to see this summer.
While Kaufman may think the buzz over Soderbergh's return to his roots with Full Frontal is overrated -- "At this point in the game, it's hardly revolutionary," he says -- the fact that the film is one of the more anticipated releases of the summer makes for a refreshing change. The cynic might suggest that it's only because Julia Roberts is in it, but screenwriter Coleman Hough thinks that people who go to see it expecting the typical Roberts movie may be confounded.
"It's a challenging piece, and I think people will be surprised," says Hough, a playwright making her feature screenwriting debut with Full Frontal. "If they don't like it, they can walk out. I think we've become so formula-oriented. It's almost like a baby feeding from the breast -- we don't feed from the breast anymore, we're given formula, and if anything strays from that formula, we spit it out, we cry, we burp, we can't deal with the breast anymore." Hough, like Kaufman, is anxiously awaiting Neil LaBute's Possession.
With Spider-Man now out and breaking records, there's still one more 800-pound gorilla to come -- Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Gunn probably sums up the general public's nervous anticipation best when he says, "I'm hoping it's gonna be cool, but I hated the first fuckin' movie."
As usual, summer brings something for everyone, including many films not yet discussed: The Importance of Being Earnest, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Eight Legged Freaks ... they're all here somewhere, on the pages that follow. The opening dates were current as of press time, though past experience dictates that many dates will change, some films will not come out in the summer, and one or two movies listed here may never be released at all. With ticket prices at record highs, you're going to want to choose carefully. Let the sorting commence.
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