The late, great Screamin' Jay Hawkins once sang, "They took the fourth of July, and they put it in May." That's the attitude Hollywood has been adopting in recent years, pushing back the seasons to make the release dates of their films seem more important. That's why the smash hit The Mummy Returns, which opened on May 4, was called the first film of the summer season by Universal publicists. And that's a major change from just a couple of years ago, when Memorial Day was considered to be the "first day" of summer, at least in the world of film distribution. What, I wonder, ever became of June 21 -- summer solstice -- the real first day of summer?
Ah, well, maybe next year Hollywood's summer will start on Easter. But for now, here's a chronological look at some of what's currently scheduled for release in nicely air-conditioned cineplexes between now and Labor Day. As always, a few titles may be postponed until fall -- and some may never even make to our humble corner of the world.
THE MAN WHO CRIED (May 25)
In pre-World War II Paris, four people intertwine -- the singer (Christina Ricci), the dancer (Cate Blanchett), the gypsy (Johnny Depp) and the opera singer (John Turturro). Directed by Sally Potter (Orlando).
PEARL HARBOR (May 25)
Dec. 7, 1941. Lots of action during the 40 minutes devoted to the Japanese air strike, but the film will focus much more on the lives and loves of those people affected by it all. Remember Titanic? (See our review on page 25)
THE ANIMAL (June 1)
Rob Schneider hasn't got what it takes to be a cop. He's sad. Then he's injured, and his body parts are replaced by those of animals. He becomes a cop. No doubt, a really weird comedy.
MOULIN ROUGE (June1)
In 1900, Nicole Kidman is the French club's biggest star -- and Paris's most famous courtesan. In walks writer Ewan McGregor to shake up both of their worlds. Director Baz Luhrmann uses the operatic musical and the pop music soundtrack in a whole new way.
WHAT'S THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN (June 1)
Comedic capers ensue when a greedy billionaire (Danny DeVito) steals a thief's (Martin Lawrence) lucky ring. The thief is determined to get his bauble back. With Nora Dunn and John Leguizamo.
ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE (June 8)
Traditional animation from Disney, about the sunken city, a landlubber dreamer's hopes of finding it, and a lesson on the dangers of being naive. No songs included this time, though.
BRIDE OF THE WIND (June 8)
The loves of Alma Mahler (Sarah Wynter), directed by Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy). Her men include composer Gustav Mahler (Jonathan Pryce) and painter Oskar Kokoschka (Vincent Perez).
EVOLUTION (June 8)
Alien life forms and David Duchovny -- who would've thought! But it's also a raucous comedy about Earth's possible destruction. Directed by Ivan Reitman, could it be another Ghostbusters? With Julianne Moore and Orlando Jones (you know, the 7up guy).
SWORDFISH (June 8)
It looks like a high-tech heist story, but it's more. John Travolta has a big, illegal plan, but needs ruined hacker genius Hugh Jackman to pull it off. Halle Berry is a bad girl, helping to set things up.
TOMB RAIDER (June 15)
First it was '60s TV shows, then cartoons, but now Hollywood is remaking video games into feature films. Angelina Jolie gets the coveted role of the video game character, Lara Croft. It's one of those " save the world" stories that depends more on action than acting. That's good, considering who stars.
DOCTOR DOLITTLE 2 (June 22)
Why not? I mean, look at the cash made by The Nutty Professor 2. This time, the good doc (Eddie Murphy) gets environmental and plays matchmaker for a couple of bears. His dog Lucky returns.
THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS (June 22)
The streets of L.A. have been converted (when the cops aren't looking) into drag strips, where (see title) action is taking place, and one of the racers is suspected of being a cop (well, he is). Paul Walker, Vin Diesel and lots of fast cars star.
BABY BOY (June 27)
Director John Singleton hit with Boyz N the Hood, missed with the excellent Rosewood and had a big score with Shaft. Here he's back to serious, young black man in trouble, inner city stuff.
A.I. -- Artificial Intelligence (June 29)
The futuristic Spielberg film that was to have been Stanely Kubrick's, based on a Brian Aldiss story. A robotic boy (Haley Joel Osment) tries to find his place in the universe. Sounds a bit Shrinking Man-ish, but perhaps it will provide a bookend to E.T., his other fish-out-water tale.
CATS & amp; DOGS (July 4)
It's live action, but it's about the dogs of the world, who have been protecting mankind, being targeted by the evil cats of the world, with total domination in mind. I'm rooting for the dogs.
SCARY MOVIE 2 (July 4)
It was inevitable. Same cast, same director, same everything as the ridiculously successful original. The question is, can they out-spoof and out-gross the first?
KISS OF THE DRAGON (July 6)
Good guy Jet Li tries to foil plans of evil Jean-Pierre Richard, but somehow ends up getting accused of murder and joins up with prostitute-against-her-will Bridget Fonda. Huh?
FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN (July 11)
They look human, but they're computer generated, just like we hoped a cool video game would appear on a big screen. Galactic villains steal Earth's energy. Watch out!
LEGALLY BLONDE (July 13)
Reese Witherspoon, that annoying little girl from Election, has graduated -- to Harvard Law School. Actually, she only enrolls to win back her preppy boyfriend, but -- surprise! - she's really smart (even for a blondie).
MADE (July 13)
Remember Swingers? That movie about the hipster scene in L.A. launched the careers of Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau. Well the two have teamed up again, but this time it's the mob and big-time boxing that provide the backdrop for this tale written and directed by Favreau.
THE SCORE (July 13)
A thief wants to retire and settle down with his best girl. A pal sets up one more job, but a new guy tags along. We've seen this, but not with Ed Norton, Angela Bassett and two guys named De Niro and Brando.
JURASSIC PARK III (July 18)
Joe Johnston (Jumanji) directs, with Spielberg executive producing, in an even more action-packed (and visually effective) story of an ill-timed visit to "site B," the island where the intelligence level of those pesky velociraptors has, ummm, grown.
AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS (July 20)
Catherine Zeta-Jones is the star, John Cusack is her soon-to-be-ex husband, Julia Roberts is her assistant, Billy Crystal is the press agent in the way. Joe Roth tries directing this movie about the movie business.
PLANET OF THE APES (July 27)
Tim Burton's mantra has been, " This is not a remake." Rather, it's a retelling of the original -- not taking place on Earth, mind you. With Mark Wahlberg, Helena Bonham Carter and lots of really cool looking, really mean apes.
BUBBLE BOY (Aug. 3)
Remember when John Travolta played the tragic Boy in the Plastic Bubble on TV in the 1970s? Then what about the bubble boy on that classic Seinfeld episode? This film owes more to the modern notion that immuno-deficient people who construct mobile plastic bubbles are hilarious. Especially if you drop them over waterfalls, push them off the back of motorcycles... You get the idea. This bubble boy must make a break for it because he has fallen in love and he has to give chase to the woman of his dreams.
ORIGINAL SIN (Aug. 3)
Angelina Jolie is reunited with director Michael Cristofer, who moved her up Hollywood's list with the HBO movie Gia. This time, in a remake of Francois Truffaut's Mississippi Mermaid, Jolie is a mail order bride in 1880s' Cuba to a powerful, mysterious coffee grower (Antonio Banderas).
THE PRINCESS DIARIES (Aug. 3)
An American teen (Anne Hathaway) discovers she's a European princess. Things get complicated when grandma, the Queen of Genovia (Julie Andrews), arrives with "princess lessons."
RAT RACE (Aug. 3)
The people who brought us Airplane! and The Naked Gun have hatched a tale of gamblers fighting for the big payday. Starring John Cleese, Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jon Lovitz, Rowan Atkinson and Seth Green.
RUSH HOUR 2 (Aug. 3)
Hollywood goes back to the well with this sequel to the sleeper hit starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. The twist? This time, Tucker gets to be the fish out of water by going to Chan's home turf in Hong Kong.
AMERICAN PIE 2 (Aug. 10)
The gang is out of high school, but they're still as horny as ever in the sequel to the film that put the term "band camp" into the popular lexicon. The script has been under lock and key, but rumor has it that no pastries were hurt in the filming of this movie.
THE CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION (Aug. 10)
In 1940 New York, an insurance investigator undergoes strange changes once under the power of the title character. Starring and directed by Woody Allen.
JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK (Aug. 10)
More goofiness from director Kevin Smith, half of the title pair, along with pal Jason Mewes. Does it matter what it's about? With Jason Lee, Judd Nelson and George Carlin.
OSMOSIS JONES (Aug. 10)
With live action and animation, Bill Murray picks up a deadly virus, and we're brought inside his body to watch good guy white cells stage a battle for his life. The Farrellys direct, William Shatner guests.
APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX (Aug. 15)
Francis Ford Coppola and editor Walter Murch fix up this groundbreaker with extended sequences and a couple of new scenes, one with Brando and another of a trip to a French plantation that somehow survived amid the Vietnam War. Don't miss this on a big screen -- some critics say it's the greatest American film ever.
AMERICAN OUTLAWS (Aug. 17)
A comedy based on the life of Jesse James? Yep, and this one stars Timothy Dalton and next-big-thing Colin Farrell, the Irishman who impressed critics in last year's little-seen Tigerland.
CAPTAIN CORELLI'S MANDOLIN (Aug. 17)
John Madden's first film since Shakespeare in Love takes on World War II, but from a decidedly un-Saving Private Ryan perspective. Nicolas Cage is an Italian soldier occupying Greece who falls for one of his vanquished foes, Penelope Cruz. Trouble is, she's spoken for by a local villager, played by Christian Bale.
ROLLERBALL (Aug. 17)
The futuristic sport combines wrestling, roller derby and motocross, but it's really about ratings, ratings, ratings. It's John McTiernan's remake of the 1975 Norman Jewison film. Oddly, McTiernan also remade Jewison's The Thomas Crown Affair.
O (Aug. 24)
The bard proves he is relevant once again, as Othello is updated for modern times. Mekhi Phifer is a warrior on the basketball court, and Josh Hartnett is the coach's son whose jealousy provides the tragic spark. Directed by Tim Blake Nelson of
O Brother Where Art Thou?
SERENDIPITY (Aug. 24)
Peter Chesolm hopes to make up for his last effort, Town and Country, with this tale of fate in the city. Lovable John Cusack renews an old acquaintance (Kate Beckinsale) 10 years after first meeting her, but this time they're both engaged. You can see where this one is going. Also starring Jeremy Piven and Molly Shannon as the put-upon, wise-cracking best friends.
SUMMER CATCH (Aug. 24)
Freddie Prinze Jr. tries to recapture his She's All That mystique in this tale of a minor league baseball player on Cape Cod.
JOHN CARPENTER'S GHOSTS OF MARS (Aug. 24)
Earth colonizes Mars but knows not of members of a hidden, rather nasty Martian civilization, all of whom are about to take their planet back. Combat awaits.
ALL THAT GLITTERS (Aug. 31)
Mariah Carey as a pop singer (what a stretch!) trying to make it in entertainment, who is either helped or hindered by her producer boyfriend. Lots of original Carey songs in the formula.
KNOCKAROUND GUYS (Aug. 31)
So you thought they had mined the last possible storyline from the mafia, eh? Well maybe you didn't think of... four sons of mobsters out on their own in the Montana wilderness. It stars John Malkovich and Dennis Hopper, so maybe they're onto something here.
MAYBE BABY (Aug. 31)
A comedy mixing a couple's constant attempts to have a child with the difficulty of writing a screenplay. It's child block versus writer's block. With Hugh Laurie, Joely Richardson and many Brits.
MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (Aug. 31)
Why settle for a sequel when you can have an original, bigger and better than ever. This classic is back with some footage never seen before. It's repulsive, violent, filled with truly awful music and is one of the funniest films you'll ever see.