Now that the lofty Oscar season is way over, it’s time for Hollywood to go back to what it does best: collect lots of cash.
To that end, say hello to vintage favorites, including Iron Man, who kicks off the summer movie season by wearing what’s not “in” for the warm-weather months: heavy metal armor.
“Yeah, I got a little indie film coming out next week called ‘Iron Man 2,’” jokes director Jon Favreau. “It’s been four years working with these people and this feels like graduation. We’re waiting for our report card. I hope we make some money for our bosses. That’s graduating with honors.”
Others whose names will be called to the podium this summer include Buzz Lightyear and Woody, plus Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte, who take a “semester abroad” when they visit the Middle East. Then there’s the totally teen set with sexy vampire Edward (Most Likely to Succeed?), werewolf Jacob and human-in-the-middle Bella, who go on their first group camping trip. For the “senior” class trip, Sly Stallone plays a mercenary who heads to South America and runs into old pals Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
And then there are the straight A-listers sorely in need of a hit so they don’t get sent back a grade: Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts and Adam Sandler.
Feeling the heat? Don’t sweat it — we’ve put together your your cinematic summer school schedule:
“IRON MAN 2” (May 7)
Classmates (cast): Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Mickey Rourke
Instructor (director): Jon Favreau
Course description: There’s nothing that says sequel quite like $318 million in 2008 box office receipts. That’s why Robert Downey Jr. is going heavy metal again as Tony Stark/Iron Man, a billionaire tycoon/superhero with some issues. He’s famous now, plus the government is after him for his technological secrets. And then there’s the matter of a Russian inventor (Rourke) who also suits up — but not in a good way.
Expectation: Downey and company are hoping that the critical praise that came with the first film will translate to the sequel.
FAQ: What about the big love triangle between Tony, Pepper Potts (Paltrow) and the Black Widow (Johansson)?
“We’ve seen love triangles in all the superhero films,” Downey says. “This time is something different and revolving about who you think someone is vs. who they really are.” Favreau adds, “It is a love triangle. Think of your worst nightmare. The man you love hires a new assistant and she looks like Scarlett Johansson.”
“ROBIN HOOD” (May 14)
Classmates: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, William Hurt, Max von Sydow
Instructor: Ridley Scott
Course description: Robin Longstride (Crowe) is a peeved earl who just got home from those exhausting Crusades and isn’t bowing to King John’s insane taxes, so he grabs his bow and arrow to stage a revolt. Along the way, he finds time for some revolutionary nookie with Maid Marion (Blanchett).
Expectation: Crowe could use a hit after the disappointing box office for this last few films.
FAQ: What about Friar Tuck?
The film has changed dramatically from its first incarnation where the plot centered on Friar Tuck. Somehow the words Robin Hood in the title seemed far catchier with a Gladiator slinging the arrows.
“SHREK FOREVER AFTER” (May 21)
Classmates: Voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas
Instructor: Mike Mitchell
Course description: Shrek hankers for adventure and signs a magic contract that gives him just one day as a regular ogre. Suddenly, he’s in some other Far Far Away where — yikes! — he was never born. It’s not a wonderful life either for Donkey, who is your common mule, while Puss in Boots is just your average kibble-eating kitty. And Fiona isn’t so pretty as an outlaw.
Expectation: Although it’s supposedly the last Shrek film, there are those who think that “Forever After” isn’t so forever.
FAQ: Aren’t the actors tired of these characters?
“I’d do a million of these films,” Diaz insists. “I even saw it on Broadway and the actress was terrific who did Fiona. That’s how into ‘Shrek’ I am. As for this sequel, I’m still so honored to be a part of ‘Shrek.’ It’s a wonderful gift that gives to everyone.”
“SEX AND THE CITY 2” (May 27)
Classmates: Sarah Jessica Parker,
Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon
Instructor: Michael Patrick King
Course description: This time around, the gals head to Abu Dhabi to visit newly single PR agent Samantha’s new client. Somehow, granola-eating furniture maker Aidan Shaw (John Corbett) shows up in the market and the now-married Carrie has a moral dilemma to ponder.
Expectation: As “Sex” addicts have been counting the days for the last two years, prayers of even bigger box office might soon be answered.
FAQ: Will there be a third “Sex” film?
“We really waited to see if the audience would invite us back and we’re flattered to get this invitation,” says Parker. As for the top-secret plot, she is mum except to say that Carrie is “questioning traditional male/female roles.”
“PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME” (May 28)
Classmates: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina
Instructor: Mike Newell
Course description: A beefed-up Gyllenhaal stars as Prince Dastan, who teams up with a beautiful priestess (Arterton) to keep track of a magic dagger that is coveted by some serious bad guys. He must also find time to have a sense of humor about his plight and fall in love.
Expectation: Gyllenhaal, who would love to establish himself as an action star, did his own stunts, including high-speed flips worthy of a gold medal in this film adaptation of the 2003 video game.
FAQ: Could you stand the 120-degree heat while filming in Morocco?
Gyllenhaal answers: “You just let yourself be absorbed by the role.”
“TOY STORY 3” (June 18)
Classmates: Voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Bonnie Hunt, Laurie Metcalf
Instructor: Lee Unkrich
Course description: It’s a mid-life toy crisis for Buzz and Woody because their human boy Andy is off to college. Andy donates his toys to a local day care center, where they run into the suspicious Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear (Beatty), who is large and in charge.
Expectation: The mix of fun and tugging on your heart-strings works every time, so it looks like a sure thing at the box office.
FAQ: Aren’t people getting sick of these toys?
“It doesn’t matter how old you are,” Hanks says. “There are those special childhood toys that are untouchable. You can’t give them away because they’re beloved friends.”
“GROWN UPS” (June 25)
Classmates: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph
Instructor: Dennis Dugan
Course description: It’s a virtual “Saturday Night Live” reunion for Sandler, Rock, Spade and Schneider, with Kevin James taking the place of the late Chris Farley. Hayek is there to prove that nerds like Sandler can get the hot chick.
Expectation: Rock says that in post-Recession Hollywood, the very idea of working — let alone with your best friends — is an amazing accomplishment.
FAQ: So, have these guys really grown up?
“Many men who are hitting 40 are still wondering [that],” says Rock. “This answers the question because the guys in this movie have been pondering that one for years.”
“THE TWILIGHT SAGA: THE ECLIPSE” (June 30)
Classmates: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Dakota Fanning, Bryce Dallas Howard
Instructor: David Slade
Course description: So many otherworldly men, so little time. In the latest film version of Stephenie Meyer’s novel series, Bella decides to give a little lip-lock to Jacob Black (Lautner) although her heart and immortal soul still belongs to Edward (Pattinson).
Expectation: Twihards should love it, because what’s more irresistible than a love triangle when you know it’s a happy ending.
FAQ: Is Bella still teetering on the edge?
“She’s back to herself and feeling her power,” Stewart says. “The issue is the different levels of love. Bella lies to herself about being in love with Jacob.”
“SALT” (July 23)
Classmates: Angelina Jolie, Live Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Instructor: Phillip Noyce
Course description: Jolie stars in an adrenaline-pumping thriller about a CIA agent named Evelyn Salt, who might just be a Russian sleeper spy. Jolie calls her character emotionally complex and physically meaner than most guy action heroes. Case in point: She head-butts the baddies.
Expectation: Jolie is hoping that the stench of her “Tomb Raider” series is left behind and “Salt” finally establishes a formidable femme action franchise.
FAQ: Is it true that Tom Cruise was going to play the lead in this film first?
True, but that didn’t stop Jolie: “I looked for the best action script going around Hollywood,” she says. “And it was definitely this one.”
“EAT, PRAY, LOVE” (Aug. 13)
Classmates: Julia Roberts, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis, Billy Crudup, Javier Bardem
Instructor: Ryan Murphy
Course description: Julia Roberts brings Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2006 bestseller to the big screen and stars as a writer who after a devastating divorce takes a trek across the globe looking for peace, prayers and the possible meaning of it all.
Expectation: This should be Roberts’ first big-screen hit since her Oscar winning “Erin Brokovich.” She has a trio of Hollywood hotties — Crudup, Franco and Bardem — who get the love mojo working again for our heroine.
FAQ: Did A-lister Julia Roberts actually “eat” in the film?
When in Rome … Roberts has already confessed to packing on seven pounds during the shoot.