by Inlander Staff & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & s much as we grouse about the summer movie season in retrospect ("blah blah, studio system, blah blah, dearth of indie flicks, blah blah, fatal flaws, blah Hilary Duff blah, binge, purge, etc.), we have to admit that, come May each year, we get pretty damn excited. (Is this the year Cody Banks goes full frontal?!) And while that hope usually sours quickly, our early-season passion persists year to year because sometimes, Hollywood actually gets things right. Like The Matrix (but only the first one, for God's sake), the tripartite X-Men saga (thus far -- fingers crossed!) and, you know, Spiderman.

Understand this: Summer film is like summer league baseball. Every summer blockbuster swaggers to bat and swings for the fences. Most strike out spectacularly -- rupturing disks, tearing rotator cuffs, pulling groins -- but those that connect get amazing distance. Hence, summer remains important for film because it holds out hope for a time when Hollywood spectacles were, you know, spectacular. We live in a cynical age, however; we don't expect anything to seem actually spectacular or impressive. The trick to avoid getting jaded, then, is to figure out what's going to suck beforehand, so you don't get too excited.

That's where we come in. Here are the summer's films now, with their odds of sucking. What we're unable to do, unfortunately, is to offer odds on which artsy indie flicks will actually make it to screens in town this summer. The prospect of indie films in Spokane breeds a whole different kind of cynicism, which we'd also like to shield you against, but can't really. No, that kind is only destroyed by films like Art School Confidential, which opened last week and which offers a ray of summer hope for the stuffed shirts among us who wouldn't condescend to a blockbuster. Something for everyone, then, hopefully. -- Luke Baumgarten

& lt;font size="7" & MAY & lt;/font &

THE PROMISE & r & Sometime in May (limited) * Rated PG-13 & r & PREVIEW: A tough-to-follow fairy-tale plotline about a war orphan given unbelievable beauty by a sorceress, but cursed to live a loveless life, who must, somehow, unite a kingdom. PREDICTION (3 out of 10): Could be another Wu Xia epic. Though it's the most expensive film in the Chinese film industry's history and was initially hailed as Crouching Tiger meets Harry Potter meets Spirited Away, there hasn't been much critical hailing since hitting U.S. shores. Only critical scorn, really. Shame. It's real pretty, though. (Luke Baumgarten)

THE DA VINCI CODE & r & May 19 * Rated PG-13 & r & PREVIEW: If there's one thing we like more than sadomasochistic arch-conservative albino assassins, it's sadomasochistic arch-conservative albino assassins trying to cover up Christianity's darkest secret: that Jesus and Mary Magdalene made babies. Such a bizarre and wonderful coincidence, then, that Dan Brown would write almost that exact book and Ron Howard (breaking from his usual routine of edgeless heartstring-tuggers) would direct the screen adaptation. PREDICTION (8 out of 10): Hanks has been a little weak lately, but he's solid. Howard is consistent, if rarely dazzling. (LB)

SEE NO EVIL & r & May 19 * Rated R & r & PREVIEW: Jacob Goodnight is not a people person. It may have something to do with having been shot in the head by a police officer. Or it could be his penchant for tearing out people's eyes. High jinks ensue when the offending officer brings in a group of troubled hipsters to fix up a hotel as part of their community service. (What, there was no trash out by the highway?). PREDICTION (1 out of 10): I have watched Andre the Giant, sir, and Kane, you are no Andre the Giant. (Josh D. Smith)

OVER THE HEDGE & r & May 19 * Not Yet Rated & r & PREVIEW: Cute and savvy forest animals invade a pristine suburb built in their midst -- because that's where all the food is -- and must outwit the Verminator. Could be an excellent vehicle for a message about consumerism and man's encroachment on natural habitats. Then again, the message is probably buried deep, deep below gross-out jokes, goofy antics and sly adult references that animators are so hot for these days. PREDICTION (5 out of 10): Garry Shandling, Steve Carrel et al. are a fantastic cast -- and the movie looks pretty -- but they're saddled with a script that Wal-Mart found innocuous enough to get into bed with. (JDS)

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH & r & May 24 (limited) * Rated PG & r & PREVIEW: A documentary that sounds dire warnings about global warming -- Shanghai and most of Florida submerged, Katrina dwarfed by 100 million refugees worldwide -- interwoven with snippets from Al Gore's longtime pro-environment advocacy. PREDICTION (8 out of 10): The man who "used to be the next president of the United States" unavoidably sounds preachy-whiny; the rock-video editing is really intense and no doubt intended to give viewers the pleasant sensation that by watching this film, they've actually done something to help the planet. But with our gas prices and killer storms, maybe the Truth wil slap even Hummer owners awake. (Michael Bowen)

X-MEN: THE LAST STAND & r & May 26 * Rated PG-13 & r & PREVIEW: Someone's found a way to suppress the Mutant X gene, warns Henry McCoy (Kelsey Grammar in blue paint!), which spells trouble for our X-friends, who don't want to be "cured." Xavier and Magneto might just find themselves on the same side this time. This is supposedly the final flick in the series, wherein all secrets are revealed and justice finds mutant kind. PREDICTION (7 out of 10): The previous two have been well written, but Bryan Singer left to direct Superman, leaving the last installment in the less-than-capable hands of Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, Family Man). Still no Sentinels in sight. (LB)

& lt;font size="7" & JUNE & lt;/font &

THE BREAK-UP & r & June 2 * Not Yet Rated & r & PREVIEW: It's a sexy mess when Brooke and Gary break up but refuse to move out of the condo they share. Gary's slovenly buddies, played by Jason Bateman (!) and John Favreau come to his aid while Brooke's ambiguously gay brother Richard comes to hers. PREDICTION (7 out of 10): Vaughn should (but won't) win Oscars for his comedy (the injustice is unbearable), and Aniston is a good straight (wo)man. Lines like "go see ... my personal waxer at the spa. Ask her for the Telly Savalas" have us cautiously optimistic. (LB)

THE OMEN & r & June 6 * Not Yet Rated & r & PREVIEW: Horror films offer direct access to spiritual truth. Strange shit happens and we cope, often by screaming and dying. It's written across human history and embedded deep in the codes of horror. Just ask Mia Farrow. She fathered Satan in Rosemary's Baby and now appears as the nanny who raises the devil incarnate in the remake of The Omen. PREDICTION (5 out of 10): Horror remakes work best when the scares are upgraded to correspond to new sensibilities. The notion of hell-on-earth must outpace the evening news. If it stays a Cold War-implied thriller, it's going to fall flat. (Marty Demarest)

A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION & r & June 9 (limited) * Rated PG-13 & r & PREVIEW: Watching the film adaptation of Garrison Keillor's popular, old-timey radio show is likely to be about like seeing it live. Set in St. Paul's Fitzgerald Theater, it's the story of a radio variety show struggling to compete in the television age. All the familiar characters are there -- Guy Noir (Kevin Kline), Dusty and Lefty (Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly) -- and Keillor himself. This time, you get a backstage pass, to watch the spectacular ensemble fret over the imminent closure of the show. PREDICTION (8 out of 10): Keillor fans will love it. Everyone else will, too -- if Robert Altman's direction doesn't drown it in nostalgia. (Joel P. Smith)

ONLY HUMAN & r & June 9 (limited) * Not Yet Rated & r & PREVIEW: How do you make family life tolerably funny? For starters, make everyone speak a foreign language. Then, make everyone wacky. It's a formula that has helped make the modern family entertaining on TV sitcoms. Now Only Human applies this formula to the family-as-world-family, in a feel-good Palestinian Jewish comedy. PREDICTION (4 out of 10): Using real-world issues to underline movieland clich & eacute;s almost always comes across as lukewarm film-festival fodder. (MD)

CARS & r & June 9 * Rated G & r & PREVIEW: Early teasers for Cars left us significantly underwhelmed, but then supposedly Nemo was going to be a dud as well, so that's not a ready indicator. Owen Wilson plays the same character he always seems to play, except this time he's a car named Lightning McQueen. Lightning gets booted in a remote desert town and learns life lessons from the town's various car inhabitants. PREDICTION (7 out of 10): Pixar hasn't let us down yet, so let's just keep our carburetors crossed. (JDS)

GARFIELD: A TALE OF TWO KITTIES & r & June 16 * Rated PG & r & PREVIEW: America's most recognizable intellectual property is back and this time it's an insult to Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and our intelligence as Garfield plays out Twain's The Prince and the Pauper. Honestly, what the hell was Bill Murray thinking? (Or John Cleese, or ...) We're guessing someone kidnapped his family and demanded he complete the film, because we can't think of any reason why anyone who even stood next to someone with talent would let themselves get roped into this drivel. PREDICTION (1 out of 10): Let's face facts: an innocuous cat built to be a marketing empire is never going to make good film. Ever. (JDS)

NACHO LIBRE & r & June 16 * Not Yet Rated & r & PREVIEW: Jack Black + the director of Napoleon Dynamite + Mexican wrestling = absurdist comedy gold? That's the formula Paramount is banking on. Black plays Nacho, a backwater nobody who sees the fame and prestige heaped on the Luchadors and wants a piece. Semi-pro wrestling is the result. PREDICTION (3 out of 10): Though we like Jack Black, we realize the only good movie he's ever made is High Fidelity. (You can make a case for School of Rock, but we won't.) Directed by Jared Hess, this looks like Napoleon Dynamite taken to an absurd extreme. (LB)

FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT & r & June 16 * Not Yet Rated & r & PREVIEW: They somehow found a place to race in Tokyo, which sets the fantasy pitch of the third entry in this series high. Apparently they race sans control over there, letting their cars drift freely around corners and into one another. PREDICTION (3 out of 10): Street driving is exciting, and videogames do a good job of making it feel real. However, movies -- in which the action takes place onscreen while I sit on my unmoving ass -- depict racing in a less compelling way. Helped by a nonentity cast, Tokyo Drift has the makings of this summer's noisiest fizzle. (MD)

CLICK & r & June 23 * Not Yet Rated & r & PREVIEW: Dude's a workaholic who doesn't have time for anything, least of all his family. Luckily he finds a remote that can control time. Time's the only problem, see -- it's not like his priorities or anything. PREDICTION (2 out of 10): One joke, concept-laden flicks are funny for less than five minutes. Adam Sandler's shtick is tired; this dumb workaholic role isn't novel enough to save him. Kate Beckinsale is even hotter as a mom than as a werewolf hunter but still, Click is going to suck like a Dyson vacuum. (LB)

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA & r & June 30 * Not Yet Rated & r & PREVIEW: Meryl Streep as the Cruella de Vil of the fashion world -- darling, it's not to be missed. Interns at Vogue simply need to put up with bossyboots' demands. Now fetch her another quad skinny macchiato. PREDICTION (6 out of 10): The New York Times hated Lauren Weisberger's tell-all novel so much that it wrote not one but two scathing reviews. Anne Hathaway (as the intern) is in danger of refashioning her Princess Diaries role. The film will create some freak-show interest -- how bad can the Wicked Bitch of the (Upper) East (Side) get? -- but Meryl will be better than the movie. (MB)

SUPERMAN & r & June 30 * Rated PG-13 & r & PREVIEW: Clark Kent grows up, figures out who he is, becomes Superman, gets tired of being Superman, comes back around to doing the super thing again and, eventually, fights Lex Luthor. PREDICTION (6 out of 10): Director Bryan Singer has proven himself more than capable at the helm of a comic franchise, but Superman is a different kind of comic beast than X-Men was. Trying to cram Kent's origin story, his disappearance, his return and his battle with his primary nemesis into one movie means the film's either going to be eight hours long or horridly light on comic geek content. (LB)

& lt;font size="7" & JULY & lt;/font &

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST & r & July 7 * Rated PG-13 & r & PREVIEW: Don't trust me. I thought nobody could make a good movie out of a dilapidated theme-park ride. The first Pirates was brilliant, not just because of Johnny Depp, but also because of the exuberant, detailed spirit that drove the storytelling, set design, costuming and every other technical-crafty thing in the movie. PREDICTION (8 out of 10): For the sequel, Depp is back with the same director and a bigger budget, which bodes well. (MD)

A SCANNER DARKLY & r & July 7 * Rated R & r & PREVIEW: Science fiction owes a lot to Philip K. Dick: Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall, Paycheck. (Granted, not all of them were gems.) A Scanner Darkly, adapted and directed by Richard Linklater, is another stylized look into Dick's paranoid imagination. Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) is a near-future undercover drug agent investigating his friends while addicted to a nasty drug called Substance D. Animated in the same manner as Waking Life, Scanner promises to be an excellent trip all its own. PREDICTION (9 out of 10): If this movie tanks, Baumgarten and I will kill ourselves with cheap scotch and kitschy '70s drugs. (JDS)

LADY IN THE WATER & r & July 21 * Rated PG-13 & r & PREVIEW: Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) finds a girl in his building's pool. He realizes she is a character from a fairy tale trying to get from the real world back into her own land of make-believe. Cleveland tries to protect her from other fantasy characters, who are trying to ensure she won't survive the trip. PREDICTION (4 out of 10): Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan is a genius, but The Village and Signs were big letdowns. We've started fistfights for M. Night's honor, but all bets are off until he gives us another twist ending at least as good as Unbreakable's. (LB)

MONSTER HOUSE & r & July 21 * Rated PG & r & PREVIEW: Ack! It's House on Haunted Hill for kids. Or something. DJ and his fat dorky sidekick realize that the creepy neighborhood house is really a monster with an insatiable appetite for human flesh. Of course. Be on the lookout for Nick Cannon as the voice of Officer Lister. PREDICTION (6 out of 10): The Polar Express was pretty lifeless overall, but it looks like Columbia has improved its CG puppetry. This is one of only two animated films this summer with no talking animals. (JDS)

MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND & r & July 21 * Not Yet Rated & r & PREVIEW: Poor Uma Thurman. After Ethan Hawke, she slummed it with nerdy Quentin Tarantino, who crafted a magnum opus for her. It was like watching the prom queen waking up next to the class nerd -- rewarding but ultimately unworkable. She needed to fix her hair and move on. Kudos to Thurman for choosing a movie with comedic master Luke Wilson. And good on her for choosing the role of a needy, obsessive superhero chick who gets dumped by her ordinary boyfriend. PREDICTION (6 out of 10): Yes, the idea is lightweight, but Thurman knows how to play a kick-ass woman who has been wronged. (MD)

BARNYARD & r & July 28 * Not Yet Rated & r & PREVIEW: Steve Odenkirk, of Kung Pow: Enter the Fist fame, helms the story of Otis, a cow who plays with the idea of revealing animals' biggest secret (that they're just like people). While the movie is being pitched as a wacky anthro animal romp, Odenkirk insists that there are serious themes running throughout the film. PREDICTION (5 out of 10): We thought Kung Pow was a brilliant idea that just wasn't supported the length of the entire film. Can Odenkirk deliver with a less obtuse concept? Time will tell. (JDS)

STRANGERS WITH CANDY & r & Sometime in July * Rated R & r & PREVIEW: Amy Sedaris (sister of David and a distinctive wing nut) scrunches up her face all funny and spits out ABC food in this sequel to the Comedy Central series of a half-dozen years ago. Sedaris plays a 46-year-old junkie who gets out of prison and returns to high school. Problem is, girls one-third her age think she's a dork, and the complexities of Flatpoint High's science fair elude her. PREDICTION (5 out of 10): Looks juvenile, but then the likes of Alison Janney, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Sir Ian Holm signed on. (MB)

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE & r & July 28 (limited) * Rated R & r & PREVIEW: An extended family trying to be as normal as possible despite a gay, suicidal uncle (Steve Carell), a 10-year-old bucktoothed, bespectacled beauty queen (Abigail Breslin) and a son (Paul Dano) who refuses to talk after reading Nietzsche embark on a trip to California for the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. PREDICTION (8 out of 10): Sure it's a road film (overdone plotline) and a beauty pageant film (overdone indie plotline), but Carell hasn't let us down yet, and Greg Kinnear is on a mini-roll. The plots of films like this are usually more important as vehicles for character growth than anything else anyway ... we hope. (LB)

MIAMI VICE & r & July 28 * Not Yet Rated & r & PREVIEW: Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx are Crockett and Tubbs in this update of the of the 1980s TV crime series. While director Michael Mann (Collateral) has given the familiar characters a grittier edge (the neon pink and the suits with shoulder pads are conspicuously absent), he's retained what we still fondly remember -- guns, cigarette boats and chicks in bikinis. PREDICTION (3 out of 10): Jamie Foxx might be a better Tubbs than Philip Michael Thomas, but you'd need to pay us $8.25 to sit through two hours of Farrell trying to act his way out from behind that sleazy mustache. (JPS)

& lt;font size="7" & AUGUST & lt;/font &

THE ANT BULLY & r & August 4 * Rated PG & r & PREVIEW: What is this film about? Well, apparently an ant. And a mean one. The trailer reveals nothing. Apparently, some kid gets shrunken, lives with ants, and helps them in their struggle against wasps. Apparently Tom Hanks thought it was a good idea; now it's a late-summer release. PREDICTION (5 out of 10): We just can't get a bead on this one. It has Lily Tomlin, but so did Disney's The Kid. (JDS)

THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP & r & August 4 * Rated R & r & PREVIEW: Director Michel Gondry takes the weirdness of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and all those Bjork videos he did and cranks it up about five notches with this mind-boggling visual extravaganza about a man (Gael Garcia Bernal) whose vivid dream life starts to seep into his waking life. With animation that resembles Terry Gilliam overdosing on Luis Bunuel, this is probably best viewed on some type of psychotropic medication. Though it would be hardly necessary. PREDICTION (6 out of 10): Eternal Sunshine ended up working because it balanced the fantastic and the real. This one might tilt heavily towards the bizarre. (JPS)

TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY & r & August 4 * Not Yet Rated & r & PREVIEW: Did it ever matter where Bob and Bing were "on the road" to? It's the same with Will Ferrell: anchorman, racecar driver -- what's next, a goofy zookeeper? First you set up a flimsy premise, then you wind up Ferrell and let him go. The world of NASCAR gives him plenty to work with, and he milks the dim-witted, mama-loving, chicken-fried good ol' boy stereotype for all he can get. (And yes, once again, he appears in his tighty-whities.) PREDICTION (7 out of 10): Watch for John C. Reilly and Ali G.'s Sacha Baron Cohen (as Ferrell's French nemesis) to steal the show. (JPS)

WORLD TRADE CENTER & r & August 9 * Not Yet Rated & R & PREVIEW: Dispensing with his usual conspiracy mania (can it be?), director Oliver Stone confines 9/11 to manageable dimensions: the story of John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno (Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena), two Port Authority police officers buried under rubble, the last two survivors extracted from Ground Zero. Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhaal play the cops' wives. PREDICTION (7 out of 10): Can a hyper-political auteur make an apolitical film? Rumors of the rough-cut trailer suggest that Stone has fashioned a hopeful against-all-odds tale, with Nic Cage setting his glare at John Wayne-stolid. (MB)

THE REAPING & r & August 11 * Not Yet Rated & r & PREVIEW: Those old buddies, terror and religion, find their way to the career of Hilary Swank, who plays a missionary gone faithless after -- get this -- she loses her family in an accident. No doubt it could shake the faith of many. It's also been used by horror storytellers since God threw-down on Job. PREDICTION (7 out of 10): Salvation splatter is all the rage. The trick is making the storyline shocking enough. The word "reaping" in the title implies many things involving blood, sickles and suffering. Hillary Swank implies talent. (MD)

CLERKS II & r & August 18 * Rated R & r & PREVIEW: Kevin Smith returns to the well with this slap in the face for anyone who defended him after Jersey Girl. Dante's life still sucks and he's managed to be demoted to a burger slinger at the fictitious Mooby's. Cameos are cast, lowbrow antics are had and Silent Bob will have just one line. Unless he has a short screed again. PREDICTION (4 out of 10): We aren't holding out high hopes that Smith is going to surprise us with this one. (JDS)

THE ILLUSIONIST & r & August 18 (limited) * Not Yet Rated & r & PREVIEW: The strange tale of a parlor magician who courted a princess who then got engaged to a crown prince, and how, by and by, the magician used his tricks to win her back. PREDICTION (6 out of 10): Why do all Europeans get English accents in films? Shouldn't these Austrians have, you know, German accents? Perhaps, but why not straight American accents, if it's all the same? Whatever. This film, featuring performances by Ed Norton, Paul Giamatti and Rufus Sewell, looks pleasant in a decidedly un-summer kind of way. (LB)

THE NIGHT LISTENER & r & August 18 * Not Yet Rated & r & PREVIEW: Being a radio host is interesting -- you talk to thousands of people in their cars, homes, kitchens, beds. It's easy to attach an imaginary face -- a best friend -- to the other end of that monologue. So this is going to happen to the Good Morning Vietnam DJ, Robin Williams. Except that, instead of returning to his old role, he'll be creating an all-new DJ, this time one with relationship issues. He turns to his No. 1 fan, a little boy who might not really be a real boy. PREDICTION (4 out of 10): This sounds like a hokey Internet-sex-sting-type film using old technology. (MD)

SNAKES ON A PLANE & r & August 18 * Rated R & r & PREVIEW: Either you're going to want to see a movie about snakes on a plane or you're not. At least you'll know where you stand on this film about an assassin's heavy-handed attempt to kill a protected witness flying from Hawaii to California because it's called Snakes on a Motherf---in' Plane! And we don't want to hear no gripin' about "Oh I didn't know what it was about." PREDICTION (7 out of 10): Of course it's going to be bad. But hopefully it will be deliciously bad. We hear snake tastes a lot like chicken. (JDS)

IDLEWILD & r & August 25 * Rated R & r & PREVIEW: Ostensibly a musical set in a Prohibition-era speakeasy, but really an OutKast star vehicle, it's a coming-together-from-different-sides-of-the-tracks-type story with Big Boi playing a low-class crooner and Andre 3000 as an upper-crust jazz pianist. Lots of boozing, bootlegging and gun-running. PREDICTION (4 out of 10): Dre and Big Boi have both proven that they have passable acting chops, Terrence Howard is fantastic, and there are enough black stars in front of and behind the camera to run the table at the Image Awards, but Idlewild still looks hokey. (LB)

INVINCIBLE & r & August 25 * Not Yet Rated & r & PREVIEW: The 1976 Philadelphia Eagles are so bad that new coach Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear) holds open tryouts, inviting members of the general public to vie for a spot on the team. Then a bunch of out-of-shape Philly knuckleheads prove they're not yet ready for the gridiron. Only guy is asked to stick around: bartender Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg) - a scrappy underdog who becomes an inspiration, etc. Hey, this is a Disney film. PREDICTION (3 out of 10): It's doubtful that even sports fans will be duped into thinking they haven't heard this story a million times before. (JPS)

PATHFINDER & r & September 8 * Not Yet Rated & r & PREVIEW: Vikings! God, we love Vikings. We used to read about the trans-oceanic exploits of Erik the Red and Leif Eriksson. We loved that Michael Crichton book, Eaters of the Dead (Vikings vs. Neanderthals!). So naturally, we were on the verge of tears when the remake of 1987's Viking fantasy romp Pathfinder's release got bumped from July 14 to early September. PREDICTION (7 out of 10): Viking myth and lore is the incubator for all modern fantasy tropes and clich & eacute;s. Now Marcus Nispel has stepped back from his monstrous creations, realizing that they look just like Frank Frazetta paintings. Obviously, we're geeking like hell on this flick. (LB)

Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Feb. 13
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