Blockbusters!

Friday, July 29, 2011 /by

Pic

by Pete Bodo

And you thought the headline was about tonight's Maria Sharapova vs. Serena Williams match. . .

While we're all sitting around waiting for that one, let's celebrate the Blockbuster season (aka "summer") and see what's in store for us down at the 18-screen Cineplex at the mall, in the local revival house, or the art joint, you know, the one with the espresso bar, stale scones, and really cute, tattooed barista manning the steam pipe. Anyway, here are the Top 10 summer hits I'm recommending.

Jaws — The peace and idyllic summer activities of a quaint fishing village full of white clapboard houses, soccer moms, and tow-headed children is interrupted when the mayor decides to host the kind of sporting event that appeals in towns full of white clapboard houses — a tennis tournament! Things turn scary, though, when the ESPN crew arrives and unleashes Brad Gilbert.

Transformers — Serena Williams prepped for a long time, doing painfully awkward cameos and such before she finally got a shot at a lead role in a major Hollywood motion picture. In Transformers, she plays a down-at-the-heels aspiring actress who morphs overnight into the world's greatest female tennis player. The very ground trembles and building collapse with every step she takes. A panicked U.S. President comes out from under his desk long enough to send a worthwhile rival (played by Maria Sharapova) to battle Williams in an epic match at the climax of this white-knuckle action/adventure flick. Look for a superb supporting cast led by Venus Williams. Cameo by Common. Produced by Brett Ratner.

The Way We Were — Set in London, circa 1992, this is the heartbreaking, sentimental tale of an aging singer/actress (Barbra Streisand) and a highly-evolved, Zen master-like tennis player (Andre Agassi). They have an unconventional "affair of the heart" during the Wimbledon tennis tournament. The support and encouragement provided by the old cow — er, chanteuse — inspires the gentle-spirited, wild-maned young player to come to a startling realization. He tells himself, To hail with all that one-hand clapping baloney I'm going out to kick me some booty! He ends up winning the tournament.

300 — The year is 2010. Serbo-Irish Davis Cup team captain Bogdan Obradovic (Brad Pitt) and Novak Djokovic (Novak Djokovic) lead a tiny contingent of tennis pros (Janko Tipsarevic, Viktor Troicki, Nenad Zimonjic) and all-in, volunteer patriot/fans in a desperate, bloody, courageous attempt to stave off the vastly superior, combined forces of the USA, Croatia, the Czech Republic and France at a narrow strait, with the Davis Cup at stake. Don't get caught buying popcorn during the best scene in the movie, in which Djokovic pounds his chest with his fist and the 300 follow suit, bellowing, "Serbia!"

Master and Commander — During the Napoleonic war, a young captain (Rafael Nadal) pushes himself and his crew (including first-mate Albert Costa, confidant/physician Carlos Moya, and colorful, potty-mouthed cook, Toni Nadal) to the limits of human endurance and suffering as he chases a formidable Swiss vessel under the command of captain Jean LaRue (Roger Federer). Surprisingly, though, the climax battle takes place not at sea but on grass.

Day for Night A surprisingly absorbing and fast-moving documentary about the late former USTA President Slew Hester (John Goodman) and his determination in 1977 to make the new National Tennis Center in Flushing, Queens, the first Grand Slam venue to feature night tennis outdoors under lights.  A sequel, about the drive to put a roof over Arthur Ashe stadium, is in the works (Lucy Garvin is said to have signed onto the project).

The Lost Boys Donald Young delivers an Oscar-worthy performance (as the lead in an ensemble cast) in this supernatural tale of a generation of tennis players who seemed destined for stardom but never quite make it into the world top 50. Set mostly at the IMG Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, this harrowing tale also features Philip Bester, Kristian Pless, Daniel Elsner, Al Parker, Nicolas Pereira.

Pic Psycho — This thriller begins when Jeremy Bates, the former British Davis Cup and world No. 54 player, retires from tennis and opens a motel. When a young embezzler (Caroline Wozniacki) who's stolen a Grand Slam title) checks into the Bates motel, things begin to get interesting because it turns out the motel has a secret of its own. Movie trivia buffs will recognize the Stella McCartney-designed shower curtain in the most famous scene in this classic.

A Room With A View —  Very slow moving but exquisitely filmed, this brooding, moody reflection on the challenges faced by a veteran pro Mike Qually (Vince Spadea) trying to keep his ranking high enough for direct entry into Grand Slam events was a Cannes Film Festival Medal d'Merde nomination. The action is set mostly in Spadea's room at a Motel Six in Cupertino, Ca., to which he repairs after his matches to play video games, rap into a tape recorder, order pizza and make random crank calls to names he picks out of the phone book.

Back to the Future This Sci-fi comedy begins with an unusual premis. The year is 2012, but the Wimbledon draw contains some unusual names: Roy Emerson, Tony Roche, Pancho Gonzalez, John McEnroe and Pete Sampras. Mayhem is sure to ensue when play begins and the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, David Ferrer and Andy Murray attempt to handle the rocket serves and crunching volleys of the serve-and-volley specialists who have returned from the past. Cameo appearances by Bjorn Borg and Vitas Gerulaitis in the now legendary disco "flashback" scene, for which Studio 54 was meticulously and realistically re-created on the back lot at MGM studios.

There's my list — feel free to add your own favorites in the Comments.

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