BIG RELEASE: The Lone Ranger (July 3)
BIG PICTURE: Don't let this film's title fool you. Armie Hammer's masked avenger plays second fiddle to Johnny Depp's Tonto. And, frankly, it's about time. The Lone Ranger's native-American sidekick was always the most intriguing member of the pop culture duo. And now Tonto gets top billing in all but name only, and Depp gets to espouse nuggets of wisdom like, "Justice is what a man must take for himself," and offer advice such as, "If you wear a tiny black mask over your eyes, but change nothing else about your appearance, no one will ever guess your secret identity." The movie's trailer invites audiences to witness the rise of an American legend. In honour of Canada Day, I'd like to see a Canadian spinoff called The Lone Mountie, with Tonto teaching the Mountie to stop asking permission to shoot people and then stop apologizing afterwards.
FORECAST: They could have called this film Pirates of the Wild West. Depp reunited with Pirates of the Caribbean producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski to resurrect this dormant franchise. And Depp gives this revamp a shot at cinematic justice. After all, how many actors are versatile enough to play a Comanche warrior, a pirate, a gonzo journalist, the Mad Hatter -- and a reclusive, chocolate-loving sociopathic? "Hi-ho, Silver! (and whatever Tonto's horse is named) Away!"
HONOURABLE MENTION: Despicable Me 2 (July 3). I know what you're thinking! No, this isn't a biography about the Ford brothers in Toronto. It's the sequel to the amusing animated picture that introduced us to the strangely lovable super-villain Gru (Steve Carell). Now a reformed evildoer and a doting father, Gru's life gets complicated when the Anti-Villain League recruits him to help combat a bad guy named El Macho (Benjamin Bratt). Apparently, Al Pacino was originally cast to voice the villain but left over creative differences. Seriously, he quit this movie but he went through with making Jack and Jill with Adam Sandler?
BIG EVENT: (Siberia, NBC, July 1, 10 p.m.)
BIG PICTURE: It's Survivor meets The Blair Witch Project meets Lost with a dash of Hunger Games. It's also modern television coming full circle. First, there were only fictional TV shows. Then along came reality TV shows pretending to be "real." Now, Siberia brings us a fictional show pretending to be a reality show pretending to be real. (It's enough to make my head explode.) This summer drama is about a Survivor-esque reality show filmed in a remote part of northern Russia. From camera techniques, to 1:1 interviews with the 16 strangers looking for their 15 minutes of fame, to the Jeff Probst lookalike as host, Siberia will look and feel familiar to any reality show fan. The group has signed on to duel against one another and the region's harsh elements to earn a massive cash prize. Everything is above board until mysterious beasts start growling in the darkness, the bodies start mounting, and the production crew vanishes.
FORECAST: A horror and reality show mash-up! (Now, I'm truly afraid.) If only Jeff Probst had been cast. I've always wanted to see him get attacked by an animal just to wipe that smug, sanctimonious look off his face. On a side note, Siberia gives me an idea for how to thin out the Canadian Senate. I propose a reality show called Nunavut in which we send all our senators to a remote northern cabin for the Canadian winter. Those who don't abandon the competition before the spring can keep their positions. (And for Mike Duffy's sake, I hope they don't have to resort to cannibalism.)
HONOURABLE MENTION: The Fall (July 7, Bravo, 8 p.m.) Gillian Anderson's five-part U.K. miniseries debuts in North America. In her first lead TV role since The X-Files, Anderson plays a detective from London brought in to track down a serial murderer on the loose in Belfast. As we see her step-by-step hunt for the killer, we also watch the killer hunting his next prey. This drama is for fans of The Killing (i.e. intelligent police drama that cares more about character than procedure). The truth is out there... and it isn't pretty. But it can make for compelling television.
BIG RELEASE ON JULY 2: Jay-Z (Magna Carta Holy Grail)
BIG PICTURE: First Kanye releases Yeezus and now Jay-Z releases Magna Carta Holy Grail. Clearly, the key to success in hip hop is a pretentious album title. What's next? Will Eminem release Plato's Republic Noah's Ark? How about Drake offering up Narnia Olympus Fort Knox My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad? As for Jay-Z's new outing, the album offers some intriguing influences. The rapper borrows lyrics from R.E.M.'s Losing My Religion on his new song Heaven, and Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit on another new song, Holy Grail. The latter song happens to also be a collaboration with Justin Timberlake. If the title is any indication, the lyrics should have more substance than their last pairing on JT's Suit & Tie. Fittingly, Frank Ocean also lends Jay-Z a musical hand on the track Oceans.
FORECAST: We can't stay mad at you Jay-Z, even with your ridiculous album title. "That's me in the corner. That's me in the spotlight. Losing my $9.99 on iTunes."