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Summer Movie Preview 

by Ed Symkus


Movies are released on our theater screens every single week of the year. Usually it's on a Friday, sometimes on a Wednesday. Inexplicably, the new Star Wars is opening later this month on a Thursday. But the point is that movies are opening all the time, quite often, in some major cities, six or seven on one day.


There aren't really any "movie seasons" anymore. But somehow, both summertime (which gets earlier every year) and Christmastime still feature hefty stories about those special films coming out at those points in the year. And who are we to argue with commercialism? Here's a look at many of the films hitting your neighborhood cinemas between now and Labor Day. As always, some may be added; some may be dropped; the whole schedule could change. For a look at movies opening this weekend, including the much-hyped Spiderman, check our film section on page 35.



The New Guy (May 10) -- It's high school teenage shenanigans when a dorky senior (DJ Qualls, the skinny kid from Road Trip) does a little jail time and gets hip on how to become popular back at school. All you've gotta do, it seems, is change your hairstyle, walk with a swagger and be a jerk. Not very funny, not very well made, and a hard-earned paycheck for Ileanna Douglas in a couple of embarrassing cameos.





Ultimate X (May 10) -- Call 'em sports if you want, but a more accurate term would be daredeviltry. This is an up-close and gigantic look (made especially for IMAX screens) at last year's Summer X games in Philadelphia. The competitions include skateboarding, biking, moto X and street luge. The action is non-stop. The visuals will most likely cause a high number of gasps.





Unfaithful (May 10) -- Handsome but dull Richard Gere is cuckolded by longtime wife Dianne Lane for hot body Olivier Martinez. As directed by Adriane Lyne (master of seedy sweat-inducers like Fatal Attraction), it turns into a story of a guy so driven by rage -- and jealousy -- that viewers may get more wrapped up in what he does than the steamy scenes with the illicit lovers.





Star Wars Episdoe II: Attack of the Clones (May 16) -- Speaking of top moneymakers, how about if all others just roll over and give this one the crown. Ten years after events in The Phantom Menace, Anakin Skywalker gets closer to becoming Vader, and Queen Amidala is now just a plain old politician. There are romantic goings on, and the action is upped a couple of notches. And, best news of all, Jar Jar Binks is limited to approximately 11 minutes onscreen. All hail George Lucas!





About A Boy (May 17) -- Okay, so Hugh Grant got a haircut and he plays another cad (think Bridget Jones). But of most interest here is that the Weitz Brothers (directors of American Pie, Down to Earth) are tackling the British world of Nick Hornby's book and a totally different kind of humor. Grant is a lazy, sweet-talking fellow with a trust fund who tries to meet single moms by pretending he's a single father, but instead becomes the unwilling pal of a lonely, nerdy kid. Funny and offbeat.





The Importance of Being Earnest (May 17) -- The deliciously witty Oscar Wilde play gets updated to the early 20th century, features a superb cast of Colin Firth, Rupert Everett, Frances O'Connor, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson and, sporting a perfect British accent, Reese Witherspoon. It's a comedy of manners about love and lying and the relative attraction of the name Ernest (not Earnest). Very funny stuff among the brilliant wordplay, and it's all still fresh.





Enough (May 24) -- J. Lo as action hero? Actually it's more of J. Lo as abused wife (Once and Again's Billy Campbell is the heel) who's had, as the title suggests, enough, and acts on it. The only thing working against the premise is that we've already seen a version of it a decade ago when it was called Sleeping With the Enemy. No, this isn't a remake, and neither is Jennifer Lopez a Julia Roberts, but she could probably kick her you know what.





Insomnia (May 24) -- It originally took place in Norway, in Norwegian, and Stellan Skarsgard played a cop who, while chasing a killer, accidentally kills his own partner, then covers up the crime, unaware it was witnessed by the man they were going after. Now the location (Alaska), actors (Al Pacino is the protagonist, Robin Williams is the villain) and language (English) have changed, but the story remains pretty much the same. And as far as Williams is concerned, we do mean villain.





Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (May 24) -- It wouldn't be summer movie season without at least one animated feature, and this year it's DreamWorks Western drama Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. Parents should know this isn't a horse story along the lines of My Little Pony but more like Dances with Wolves. The title horse is captured by a tough Army general and roughly mistreated -- this is, after all, the American West -- until rescued by the valiant Little Creek.





The Sum of All Fears (May 31) -- When Harrison Ford opted not to do another Tom Clancy-Jack Ryan film (after Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger), Ben Affleck got the part, this time of Ryan earlier in his CIA career, bent on stopping a U.S.-Russian war being triggered by a neo-Nazi terrorist with a big nuke. Affleck looks great -- he always does -- but, umm, he's not a very good... umm... actor. How come nobody called Alec Baldwin?





Undercover Brother (May 31) -- Thank goodness for the 1970s, a dull period that's still ripe for being made fun of. Here it's a nod to the blaxploitation films of the time, with Eddie Griffin donning the Afro wig and wailing on the bad guys as his secret agent character, Brother, is assigned to rescue a brainwashed black presidential candidate. It's all played for laughs, many of them courtesy of bad guy toady Chris Kattan, with curves provided by Denise Richards.





Bad Company (June 7) -- In another one of last year's movies about terrorists in New York that got shifted around on the release schedule, Chris Rock plays a low life whose twin brother CIA operative is killed. So CIA honcho Anthony Hopkins recruits Rock to take his brother's place. Lots of weapons and explosions (the producer's name is Bruckheimer), but, let's face it, Rock's screaming angry black man persona is getting a bit old.





Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood (June 7) -- Callie Khouri is the screenwriter of Thelma & amp; Louise, the story of two women doing stupid things. Now she writes -- from an adaptation of two Rebecca Welles novels -- and directs the story of four women pals (Sandra Bullock, Ashley Judd, Fionulla Flanagan, Shirley Knight), three of whom try to right things between the other and her mom (Ellen Burstyn). All kinds of flashbacks, a good deal of fun and plenty of darkness, too.





The Bourne Identity (June 14) -- Okay, we've got Affleck starring in an old Tom Clancy story, and here we've got Matt Damon starring in an older Robert Ludlum one, this the first in his Jason Bourne trilogy. It's a tale of amnesia, with Damon's Bourne being plucked out of the ocean, with no idea who he is, and being tracked by a crew of killers. The only friendly face for him is the oddly beautiful Franka Potente.





Scooby Doo (June 14) -- Will this live action-CGI combo of a film finally give some insight into the relationship between Scooby, Shaggy and food? After disbanding, the group of young detectives (and dog) put Mystery Inc. back together again and take the job of finding out if the Spooky Island resort, owned by Emile Mondavarius (Rowan Atkinson), and peopled by a college crowd, is haunted. The trick here will be to maintain the balance of live and computer visuals. Everything else should be goofy fun. With Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar.





Windtalkers (June 14) -- Stylist John Woo reteams with Nicolas Cage (Face/Off) and Christian Slater (Broken Arrow) in a fact-based World War II actioner about the Navajo "code talkers," who devised a secret code for the U.S. that the Japanese weren't able to crack. The story is about Marines Cage and Slater, who are assigned to protect code men Adam Beach and Roger Willie. The story is about people, but this is a Woo film; there will certainly be bombs and violent chaos.





Lilo & amp; Stitch (June 21) -- This Disney summer 'toon is an odd one, for sure. There's the requisite young, troubled girl, here under the care of her older sister (we never find out what happened to Mom and Dad). But the friend who helps little Lilo -- a Hawaiian name, since this takes place in the Aloha state -- through her tough times is a creature from another planet, and not a very friendly one, except when he's pretending to be. There are lots of good jokes, a plethora of Elvis Presley tunes and, of course, a happy ending.





Minority Report (June 21) -- Steven Spielberg's last science fiction outing, A.I., came from a story by Brian Aldiss. This one comes from his contemporary, Philip K. Dick. Fifty years from now, Tom Cruise is a cop who heads up a "psychic" unit that detects criminals before they commit their crimes. Things go wrong for him when he becomes a victim of circumstance, accused of someday killing someone who he's never met.





Sunshine State (June 21) -- Beyond the fact that the characters are going to be very real, it's hard to tell what you're going to get from John Sayles. His new one stars Edie Falco and Angela Bassett (playing most of the film apart), two Florida women trying to get their disheveled lives back in order. Part of the plot involves encroaching real estate development. Among other familiar names in the cast are Mary Steenbergen and Timothy Hutton.





Hey Arnold! (June 28) -- The newest from Nickelodeon Films transfers the popular and clever TV cartoon about the young kid with a head the shape of a football to the screen. Arnold's adventure here is about him and his friend Gerard going up against the rich guy who intends to knock down everything in town in order to put up a monster-size shopping mall. I'm for the kids.





Mr. Deeds (June 28) -- Ya know, Gary Cooper really owns this role, but maybe by switching the locale of the gentle comedy from Vermont to New Hampshire, and changing the lead character's occupation from a tuba player to a "greeting card poet," Adam Sandler will be able to make the role his, too. He's Longfellow Deeds, the lucky fellow who inherits a whole lotta money and suddenly has everyone wanting a piece of him. The love interest, originally done up by Jean Arthur, is now Winona Ryder.





Men in Black II (July 3) -- Wait, didn't Tommy Lee Jones retire in the first one? Ah, but he's the one Will Smith calls as the only guy who can help when hot, but evil, alien Lara Flynn Boyle takes the whole MIB headquarters hostage. But Jones, as fans of the original know, has no memory of his time spent in the universe-cleaning profession. Rip Torn returns as Chief Z, Tony Shalhoub is back as Jeebs, Barry Sonnenfeld again directs.





Blue Crush (July 12) -- A film for those who thought The Endless Summer was just too darn pretty but thought Point Break was just too darn weird. This time the surfers are women -- bored waitresses in Hawaii -- who decide to enter a male-dominated surfing competition. Director John Stockwell (Crazy/Beautiful) promises a story of adventure and romance (sounds a little generic, doesn't it?) along with a healthy dose of footage from out in the waves.





The Crocodile Hunter (July 12) -- Direct from the Animal Planet network, Aussie nature nutcase Steve Irwin brings his animal act to the big screen. Hollywood turns his seemingly rather dangerous weekly escapades into a story of him trying to save a croc from poachers. What he doesn't know (heh, heh) is that said croc has swallowed something the Feds need, and the "poachers" are U.S. agents. So it's a game of cat and mouse that's really a game of... (insert gag here).





Reign Of Fire (July 12) -- A construction worker wakes up a long-sleeping dragon that soon gives birth and leads a bloody and fiery campaign against mankind. Two decades later, Matthew McConaughey shows up -- Snake Pliskin-like -- and says he has a plan to rid the world of the bad creatures. Christian Bale co-stars as a fire chief (get it? fire chief and fire-breathing dragons?). Anyway, it's about time for another good dragon movie. The last great one -- Shrek doesn't count -- was Dragonslayer.





Road to Perdition (July 12) -- Sprung from the pages of a 1998 graphic novel, this has Tom Hanks in his first excursion as a heavy. Enjoying a normal family life during the Depression, his wife and son are blissfully unaware that dad's a hitman for the Mob, under orders of Paul Newman. Too bad, the family is soon very aware of what he does. The few photos that have been released show a rich, warm glow to it all. That's certainly opposite from the film's mood. Directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty).





Eight-Legged Freaks (July 19) -- Remember how Harrison Ford hated snakes in Raiders of the Lost Ark? Well, that's me with spiders. And sitting through (the lousy) Arachnophobia was a chore. But the astounding trailer for this one -- which makes it look like an escaped renegade from a 1950s Saturday matinee -- has got me champing at the bit. Giant spiders with super speed and a voracious appetite for humans. And a little slapstick comedy to boot. I'm there!





K19: The Widowmaker (July 19) -- Speaking of Harrison Ford, he's the Russian captain (have we ever heard him do an accent before?) of his country's first nuclear submarine in Cold War-era 1961. At sea on an early test run, just about everything that can go wrong, does, and there's a threat of an atomic meltdown, possibly leading to a political confrontation with America. Supposedly based on fact. Liam Neeson costars, Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break) directs.





Stuart Little 2 (July 19) -- All of the people and most of the voices return when the charismatic young mouse (Michael J. Fox) and Snowbell the cat (Nathan Lane) head to another part of town to rescue a pigeon named Margalo (Melanie Griffith) from a nasty falcon (James Woods, who gave amazing voice in Hercules). Rob Minkoff again directs, so the high level of fun and fantasy should remain the same.





Austin Powers In Goldmember (July 26) -- Admit it. The sequel was as funny as the original. Please let this one follow suit. Dr. Evil and Mini-Me break from prison and team up with Goldmember (Mike Meyers in the fourth of his roles in the film) to hatch a dastardly time-travel scheme (the story takes place in the '50s, the '70s and today). Returning cast members include: Seth Green, Michael York, Robert Wagner, the great Mindy Sterling and Verne Troyer. New folks are Michael Caine as Austin's father, and Beyonce Knowles as former flame Foxxy Cleopatra.





Lovely & amp; Amazing (June 28) -- Catherine Keener and Brenda Blethyn are daughter and mom, just two of the people at the center of this dysfunctional family comedy-drama. Mom is worried about getting old; Michelle (Keener) can't figure out why her marriage is going down the tubes; younger sister Elizabeth (Emily Mortimer) is a neurotic actress waiting for her break; very young adopted sister Annie is black and overweight and feisty, and seems not to care about fitting in. Much talk, fascinating characters.





Signs (Aug. 2) -- The Sixth Sense was a tad overrated, and M. Night Shyamalan's follow-up, Unbreakable, was a bit underrated. What's an inventive writer-director to do? He gets Mel Gibson to be a former minister and widower with two kids, who gets involved in a mystery that might be concerning crop circles on his farm. It's one of those films in which Gibson gets to wear his stern face; one never knows what co-star Joaquin Phoenix will do with his.





XXX (Aug. 2) -- Let the testosterone flow. Vin Diesel, who last worked for director Rob Cohen in the supercharged The Fast and the Furious, comes back as former stunt athlete XXX Cage, who is recruited by secretive Samuel L. Jackson to help protect his country. Bottom line is that it's a spy movie featuring a guy that can do all kinds of stunts while getting the job done. Lots of high-speed air and ground vehicles, explosions galore and some heavy duty tattoo work.





Blood Work (Aug. 9) -- Squinty Clint Eastwood, retired from the FBI, recently implanted with a new ticker, must return to help track down a maniacal murderer. Clint's more than interested because the guy killed the woman whose heart now beats in his chest. Then things get more complicated, and not just because Clint's character stops the hunt now and then for a check-up or a nap. Eastwood also directs, so expect a great musical soundtrack.





Secretary (Aug. 9) -- Here's one that's tip-toeing around on thin ice. A just-released mental patient (Maggie Gyllenhal) gets a job at a law firm run by James Spader. They begin a relationship that starts veering toward some pretty heavy S & amp;M. But the film is being billed as a romantic comedy. So what we've got is something between sensual and funny, with bondage and leather


tossed in, too.





Simone (Aug. 16) -- Nobody really blinked -- and not many people bought tickets -- when the visually stunning Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within came and went last year. It was the first film to use only realistic computer-generated characters. When washed-up director Al Pacino uses special technology to make a synthetic actress in his comeback film, his own world changes. Andrew Niccol, who wrote The Truman Show, writes and directs. Catherine Keener co-stars.





A Guy Thing (Aug. 23) -- Jason Lee finally gets his very own lead as the lucky man who's going to marry Selma Blair. But first there's his bachelor party, and the perhaps unfortunate appearance by Julia Stiles, and maybe something that happens between them, and so on. It's a film about how a little white lie gets out of control, and snowballs, hopefully to good comic effect.





Possession (Aug. 30) -- Who knew that Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men, Your Friends and Neighbors) wanted to adapt and direct A.S. Byatt's densely intricate and oh-so-British novel about research and romance? Two modern scholars (Gwyneth Paltrow and fave LaBute actor Aaron Eckhart) delve into the discovery of an illicit affair between two notable 19th-century poets (Jeremy Northam and Pride & amp; Prejudice's Jennifer Ehle). Byatt's literary romantic mystery and LaBute's caustic observations ought to make for an irresistible combination.





Pick up The Inlander weekly to read reviews of these and other films.

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