If you’ve been having that weird feeling of déjà vu lately, it’s not because you’re trapped in the Matrix. John Rambo is once again at war, James Bond is back in the tux, and Harold and Kumar are about to indulge in some secondhand smoke. Welcome to 2008, folks, where even Mulder and Scully are returning to a megaplex near you.
With that in mind, here’s a list of the top 10 sequels (not including Indy and Batman — check back for those Thursday, when we unveil our list of 2008’s most-anticipated movies) that already have us smelling the popcorn.
10. “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2” (August 8)
To speak in a vernacular easily understood by the film’s target audience: First I was like, “Huh?” Then I was like, “Why?” Then I thought, “OMG, Ugly Betty is a big star now, so maybe it’ll be better and make me LOL!” Then I realized I’d better stop drinking the Haterade, get jiggy with a sequel storyline that reunites Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrera, Alexis Bledel and Blake Lively (a BFF ever since “Gossip Girl”!), and get excited about the sequel. Because one thing’s for sure: These pants ain’t slowing down.
9. “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” (August 1)
After two movies, a spinoff, a seven-year sabbatical and the exodus of Rachel Weisz, some fans will undoubtedly claim that the only thing “Dragon” is the Mummy series itself. But Brendan Fraser is back to play the most beloved treasure hunter not named Indiana Jones or Ben Gates, and high-adrenaline filmmaker Rob Cohen is onboard to make sure the film is both fast and furious. On top of that, Jet Li is joining the cast and apparently promising for the 10th time that we’ll be watching his last action film. Aside from the swirling sand and the Rock’s face on a CGI scorpion, the most memorable thing about the old movies was people constantly underestimating their box-office clout; we won’t make the same mistake this time.
8. “Saw V” (October 24)
Look around this site — or anywhere else on the Internet, for that matter — and you’ll see that few critics have spewed as many words in defense of this series as yours truly. But frankly, after “Saw IV,” I’m ready to throw in my bloody towel. If it’s Halloween, it must be “Saw” — and if it’s 2008, it must be the next far-fetched attempt to keep Tobin Bell in the picture even though he died two movies ago . Without the veteran actor as Jigsaw, the series would undoubtedly die a more painful death than Cary Elwes; with him, the masochistic coincidence-dependent machinations make you long for the relative plausibility of “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” Nevertheless, there’s still no horror series I’d rather peek at through my clenched fingers.
7. “Rambo” (January 25)
This is the only sequel on this list that I’ve already seen , and I can definitely make one safe statement: “Rambo” is to John Rambo what “Rocky Balboa” was to … Rocky Balboa. (Note to Sly: Get more creative with these sequel names!) In the ’80s, people would get stabbed; now they’re sliced in half. Previously, the crazed Vietnam vet would strangle somebody to death; now he rips out the guy’s Adam’s apple with his bare hands. The script, which catches up with Stallone’s iconic character as he shuttles aid workers into Burma, won’t be confused with “Citizen Kane” anytime soon. Nevertheless, if you’re still aboard the Rambo train after 26 years of bloodshed and bad puns, you’ll find it a worthy final act for one of Hollywood’s all-time greatest heroes.
6. “The X-Files 2” (July 25)
One peek at the IMDb message-board thread titled “Who here’s got a pet with an ’X-Files’ related name?” and you know these folks are as hard-core as fans get. Still, the tagline for Mulder and Scully’s first big-screen adventure could have been “Fight the Fans” instead of “Fight the Future,” judging by the mediocre reviews and tepid box-office sales for a plot that too-often pandered to the uninitiated. Now, a decade later, the supernatural sleuths return to navigate a complicated, stand-alone story — as well as their even more complicated relationship. While the storyline remains as top secret as Area 51, this much is certain: I’ll be at the theater on opening day, and I’ll be sneaking in my adorable dog, the Well-Manicured Man.
5. “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” (July 11)
When we visited this sequel’s enormous Hungarian set , it looked hotter than an angry Liz Sherman. The recently released first trailer promises vast improvements over the series’ 2004 film, as does the newly earned independence of “Pan’s Labyrinth” director Guillermo del Toro . This time around, the world’s greatest paranormal investigator (a returning Ron Perlman) finds himself facing an army of increasingly elaborate monsters (oh, how I wish I could tell you more). And if you thought the Pale Man from “Pan’s” gave you sleepless nights, wait till you get a peek at Doug Jones as the Angel of Death.
4. “Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay” (April 25)
H&K’s trip to White Castle may have sold fewer tickets than O.J. Simpson at a kissing booth, but it turned out to be one of the funniest flicks of this decade. Now John Cho and Kal Penn are promising a worthy sequel — then again, a year ago Penn was saying the same thing about “Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj.” The bottom line? If “Guantanamo” is half as hilarious as its predecessor, it could be the funniest movie of 2008. And with a timely plot that has our favorite stoners sent to the notoriously unfriendly holding facility — only to escape and smoke the proverbial peace pipe with George W. Bush himself — the movie might be good enough to make us quote their buddy Goldstein’s review of a Katie Holmes nude scene: “You know the Holocaust? Well, picture the opposite of that!”
3. “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” (May 16)
Rather than a weapons-wielding Santa Claus, we’re getting a heartthrob with a sword. Instead of James McAvoy as a half-goat, we’ll be seeing Peter Dinklage as rebellious wee man Trumpkin (we can only assume the Donald has already contacted Dunkin’ Donuts about donut-hole product tie-ins). And instead of a snow-filled wonderland, Narnia is now a ruins-filled realm of fantasy. Quite a bit will be different when we return to Narnia 1,300 years later, but at least we’ll still be accompanied by some familiar faces: The precocious Pevensie kids, ass-kicking Aslan and even the White Witch appear in the impressive new trailer. “Caspian” looks yummier than a batch of Turkish delights.
2. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” (November 21)
Harry’s going to kiss Ginny! Ron’s going to get an intimate whiff of Lavender Brown! Somebody really, really important will die! Although loyalists already know the major “Prince” plot points, all eyes are on director David Yates as he attempts to bring them to life while matching the book’s emotional impact. Last year’s “Order of the Phoenix” gave us darker imagery and dramatically heftier acting from the leads. Now, with the magical series winding down, could “Prince” be the film that finally stirs up Oscar buzz for Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and/or Emma Watson? With enormous sets like the underground cave that houses one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes, and new characters that include Jim Broadbent’s enigmatic potion master, Horace Slughorn, Yates certainly has his work cut out for him. If only there were a spell that could transport us to November.
1. “Bond 22” (November 7)
One fact we can conclusively report about this November release is that it won’t be called “Bond 22” (heck, most sequels don’t even put “2” or “3” in their titles anymore). Another is that Daniel Craig will return as the manlier, deadlier, more Bourne-like superspy for a second adventure, which kicks off immediately after the “Casino Royale” takedown of Mr. White. Principal photography on the first-ever direct sequel to another Bond film begins this month, with slick “Kite Runner” director Marc Forster taking the wheel of filmdom’s most durable franchise. Now that he’s earned his “007” license, we fully expect Bond’s follow-up flick to make a killing.
Hungry for more on what to expect from this year’s fleet of flicks? Check out these other 2008 movie previews:
” ’Indiana Jones,’ ’Dark Knight’ And More Flicks We Can’t Wait To See: ’08 Movie Preview” ” ’Star Trek,’ ’Incredible Hulk’ Among Our Most Anticipated Re-Imaginings: ’08 Movie Preview” “Seth Rogen, Will Ferrell, Anna Faris Flicks Lead Most Eagerly Awaited Comedies: ’08 Movie Preview”
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