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The Definitive Summer Movie Preview

Spider-Man's just the beginning; get ready for Dane Cook, surfing penguins and even Andy Griffith!

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Hollywood, in an act of brutal cruelty and terror, spends three seasons per year forcing us to watch original movies featuring characters that we have never seen before, none of whom are wearing capes or cowls. We suffer through those times only because we know that in the glorious summer, we will once again get to watch boy wizards and men dressed as spiders rescuing women in tiny, tiny outfits who bend over while teenaged males ogle them in a quest of erections.

Yes, it's finally time for summer movies, aimed at the crotch like a powerful kick from the talking mule who helps the nerdy kid win the big football game and acquire the love of the popular girl with the eating disorder. Where would we waste our youth without them?


SEQUELS

The sequel has a long literary history, beginning in 2000 B.C. with Adam and Eve Part 2: Snakes on the Plains of Gehenna and continuing up to this year's Rush Hour 3: The Search for Chris Tucker. Seriously: There's a six-year gap in Chris Tucker's career since Rush Hour 2. Is he so selective that he refuses to do any films that are not good enough to be part of the Rush Hour series? And did you know that he got $25 million to star in Rush Hour 3? That's $25 million for a guy who hasn't made a movie in six years. Yahoo Serious should be enraged.

Perhaps 28 Weeks Later, the sequel to 28 Days Later, will be the breakout sequel of the summer. It seemed odd that the first film was named after the length of the human menstrual cycle, but it is a zombie film, so maybe it's a play on that old myth about how you shouldn't go zombie-hunting with a menstruating woman, because the zombies will smell her blood. 28 Weeks Later picks up where the last film left off, or a little later; we're not sure, really, how much time has passed. Perhaps it'll be explained in the opening scroll.

Strangely, there's going to be a sequel to Eddie Murphy's Daddy Day Care called Daddy Day Camp. Even stranger: Murphy declined to appear in this film. Imagine how bad a movie would have to be for Eddie Murphy to turn it down. Unsurprisingly, Cuba Gooding Jr. stepped in to the Murphy part. Gooding either has the lowest standards in the world, or his agent has been playing a hilarious, 10-year-long joke on him.

In the tradition of Weekend at Bernie's 2, i.e., making sequels to movies that sucked, we have Mr. Bean's Holiday. This is just another example of what the right-wingers think of as European nihilism: endlessly producing movies about the inability of a white man to walk 4 feet without falling down.

Meanwhile, many 13-year-olds are certainly looking forward to Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, because it stars Orlando Bloom, who's pretty like a girl. Also, they got that fat pig Keira Knightley to finally slim down for this role, maybe by having her follow the example of co-star Keith Richards' injection-based diet. Mmm! Good filmmaking!

Steven Soderbergh is hilarious. He's made some of the best art films of the last decade, and then every other year, he thinks, "If only I could get Scott Caan, Celine Dion and Bernie Mac in a room together," and he makes one of these Ocean's films. The latest one is Ocean's 13, which means that he can still pull a George Lucas and make Ocean's 1 through 10.

There's also Part 3 of the Bourne series, The Bourne Ultimatum. Paul Greengrass (United 93) again directs, and Matt Damon stars as the amnesiac spy. Everyone liked the last Bourne movie, although the shaky camera kind of bugged us. Look for more shakiness and Matt Damon doing what Damon does best: kicking serious ass!

Bruce Willis hairs up for another Die Hard sequel. This time, they got director Len Wiseman, who was props assistant on Men in Black, assistant props on Independence Day and property assistant on Stargate. Expect some awesome props! Live Free or Die Hard also stars Timothy Olyphant, who's oh-so-dreamy on Deadwood, and Jeffrey Wright, who rocked Syriana.

The sequel with the least promise and most hype is Resident Evil: Extinction. It's got Milla Jovovich in it, and everything she's in is either stupid-good, or so stupid, it's good. It's a subtle distinction, but one that we, as Americans, should make for the frequently underclad Jovovich.


COMIC BOOKS AND FANTASY

Almost all of the comic-book/fantasy movies this summer are sequels. One exception is Stardust, adapted from Neil Gaiman's fantasy comic of the same name. The real concern here is that all the kids whose hippie parents named them Stardust will have to suffer through three months of jokes about being a princess from outer space.

We're not so sure about Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. The last FF movie did that thing where it attached its lips and applied suction. What's that called again? This one has a much better trailer, and it seems to be a take on the classic Galactus story from Fantastic Four No. 48. We know that, because we're both virgins.

Then there's Spider-Man 3, which is actually a sequel to Spider-Man 2. We have no idea what Spider-Man 2 is a sequel to. This one will feature the Sandman being devoured by Kirsten Dunst's surrealistic teeth.

The most anticipated movie of the year is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Strangely, it's directed by David Yates, whose previous work includes Sex Traffic and The Sins. Expect Harry Potter to grow way the hell up in this episode.

Finally, there's Day Watch, the sequel to Russian vampire/fantasy movie Night Watch. If you love vampires and Russians as much as we do, you're no doubt mildly excited about this film.


COMEDY

There's a theory that people go to comedies in order to laugh. This is called the "comedy is funny" theory. And yet, in Hollywood, this theory is often ignored in favor of the theory that people go to comedies in order to see feces.

The Key Komedy Kategories for summer are usually the Stupid Comedy and the Teen Comedy. Strangely, there's no overlap between the two genres. Here's how you tell them apart--Hit with a pie: Stupid Comedy. Having sexual intercourse with a pie: Teen Comedy.

In the likely-to-be-stupid category is Delta Farce, starring Larry the Cable Guy. Little known fact: Larry is actually an alternate identity for Noam Chomsky. Then there's Hot Rod, which might not be stupid. It stars Andy Samberg of Saturday Night Live and "Lazy Sunday" fame. It's either about fast cars or burning penises. Or both. Going for "most stupidest" prize is I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, about two guys who have to pretend to be gay-married in order to get benefits from their job. What kind of job? Blowjob! Ha ha ha! Homosexuality is automatically funny!

The only big Teen Comedy opening this summer is Superbad. You have to have balls of steel to name a comedy Superbad, so mega-props on that. It stars Seth Rogen, and it's produced by Judd Apatow, so it's got some 40 Year Old Virgin cred.

Apatow and Rogen are also teaming up in the nonstupid/nonteen category for Knocked Up. It's about a one-night stand that produces, through a mysterious biological process, a miniature human being.

Wristcutters: A Love Story is about how crazy ha ha funny suicide is. It's got some great advance word and was written by Goran Dukic, who also wrote Posebni Gosti and Mirta Uti Statistiku. At least those sound funny.

John Krasinski of TV's The Office hits the big screen in Smiley Face, a stoner comedy by Gregg Araki. Since Araki's last film was about child sexual abuse, I'm betting this one will be zanier than a day at Ted Haggard's day camp.

And if you need more Krasinski, he'll also be trying to save License to Wed. This film features Robin Williams, who's funny in movies like the Geneva Conventions are funny to Afghani prisoners of war. And yet they let him make a comedy. The upside is that there are a lot of The Office alums: besides Krasinski, there's Mindy Kaling and director Ken Kwapis. Kwapis also directed The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, which was criticized by Ann Coulter for being anti-skirt.

One comedy we're cautiously optimistic about is Lars von Trier's The Boss of It All. Von Trier established his comedy chops with the film Dogville, about a woman who kills dozens of people, including a host of children, after being raped and enslaved by everyone in a small American town. Hilarious! Boss of It All uses a technique called "automavision," where the tilts, zooms and pans of the camera are randomized by a computer system. So it's like watching a comedy filmed by a drunken guy. Fun?

Then there's Evan Almighty, a sequel to Bruce Almighty that dumps box-office-poison Jim Carrey for critic's darling Steve Carell. This one rips off a plot from some ancient Middle Eastern book wherein God tells a guy to build an ark. Not sure of the name of the original text, but no doubt, it's hilarious.

Penelope looks promising. Christina Ricci stars as a rich girl with a pig's nose who seeks love. The hot cast includes James McAvoy (Last King of Scotland), Catherine O'Hara (Best in Show, A Mighty Wind) and Reese Witherspoon (everything).

Jessica Alba stretches out, though not literally, so calm down, in The Ten, a comedy based on that part of the Bible where God tells you not to covet and stuff. That'll be hard, what with stars Gretchen Mol, Famke Janssen, Justin Theroux and Paul Rudd being so damn covetable.

There are three Touching Comedies on the big slate this summer: First, The Comebacks, about a college football team. It's directed by Tom Brady! We can only hope that it's not scheduled against a comedy directed by Peyton Manning. Wait ... it's a different Tom Brady. Never mind.

Next, there's Martian Child, starring John Cusack as a guy who acts like John Cusack. Many years ago, John Cusack was granted the power to play one role perfectly. Since he only appears in films especially written for John Cusack, this one could be good in spite of the sappy plot: A little boy who think he's a Martian is adopted by a caring nurturer who writes science fiction. We're not sure if Cusack plays the science-fiction writer or the little boy, but either way, expect the laughter of human warmth.

Finally, there's Charlie Bartlett, which has the best buzz of any of the summer laffers. Jon Poll, executive producer of The 40 Year Old Virgin, directs this story of a high school student who becomes the school's unofficial psychotherapist. If anything is funny, it's mental illness.


ROMANTIC COMEDY: STUPID CATEGORY

A successful romantic film requires deft writing, tactful direction and charismatic lead actors. Romantic comedy needs all of the above plus laughs. Is it any wonder so many rely on contrived sitcom premises?

Among the most egregiously goofy: Blind Dating sounds like a script thought up by a room full of stoners: What if you went on a blind date ... and it turned out your date was blind?! Chris Pine stars as the sightless man whose dates are upset that he can't compliment their shoes. But love, it turns out, is blind, and things work out when he meets a woman (Anjali Jay) who teaches him to use his third eye ... for love!

Zach Braff of My Garden State of Feelings and My Last Kiss of Feelings gets a little less emo in The Ex. He plays a guy whose girlfriend is played by Amanda Peet, who, let's face it, would never go out with a guy who looks like Zach Braff. Braff gets a job at the same ad agency where Peet's ex-boyfriend works, and this ex decides to show Braff how he rolls ... because he's in a wheelchair! Really puts the "dis" back in "disabled."

In an effort to make the critic's job easy, the latest Matthew Perry comedy is titled Numb. Perry plays a depressed screenwriter who finds that the cure to his chronic sadness might just be ... love. This one's written and directed by Harris Goldberg, who also wrote Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, so he probably knows a lot about depression.

In Good Luck Chuck, Dane Cook plays Chuck, a man whose ex-lovers always seem to find marital bliss after they dump him. When word of this magical pattern gets out, every woman in town enlists Chuck to do something rhymey. ("Chuck, Chuck, bo buck, banana, fana ...") The only way to stop this horrible curse is by dating a woman with perpetual bad luck (Jessica Alba) to balance out the curse. It's hard to imagine that Alba is bad luck, unless that old wives' tale about spontaneous erections being bad luck is true.


ROMANTIC COMEDY: POIGNANT CATEGORY

Among the less-gimmicky romantic comedies: Waitress, directed by the late Adrienne Shelley, has gotten tremendous advance word and may be the sleeper hit of the summer. Keri Russell discovers she's pregnant by her loutish husband and falls for her small town's amiable new doctor. It co-stars Andy Griffith, who is, apparently, immortal.

Eagle vs. Shark is supposed to be this summer's Napoleon Dynamite, affecting the tone, style and basic theme of that film. If New Zealanders fumbling for love through blank stares and small-time delusions is your thing, Eagle vs. Shark may the upbeat antidote to 2005's The Squid and the Whale Get an Annulment.

I Could Never Be Your Woman is the latest older-woman/younger-man romantic comedy. Middle-aged Michelle Pfeiffer tries to get her groove back with the strangely homoerotic Paul Rudd. That said, in the preview, Rudd is so vivacious--like an anti-Keanu--that he might save the film from becoming Dance With Me 2.

In Wedding Daze, a young couple, disillusioned by previous relationships, decide to rush into marriage after only a few dates. Jason Biggs' resume isn't terribly promising (He invented pie-bonking!), but Isla Fisher, the up-and-coming, or just coming, actress who stole Wedding Crashers with one hand, could make this worth seeing. (She was terrific in The Lookout, too.)

The Salon: It's a liberal Web site in movie form! No, wait, it's actually a romantic, female-oriented version of Barbershop, starring Vivica A. Fox as a hairdresser-owner who falls for the man who wants to demolish her building ... and raze her spirits!


HORROROMEDY

If movie genres are a continuum, with slapstick comedy on one end and horror on the other end, there must be a place where the genres come full circle, and they call it "Horroromedy." The classics of this rarely attempted niche include Shaun of the Dead and Patch Adams II: Cancer of Cuteness.

This summer's sure-thing horroromedy? Black Sheep, wherein sheep become the bloodthirsty killers we've always known they wanted to be. Imagine the killer-rabbit scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail drawn out to a feature-length film. Now imagine blood-curdling baaaaas. If only DeForest Kelley were alive to see this.

Coming in second place likely will be Fido, a Canadian movie about suburbanites who turn zombies into domestic servants. That means it's not just a horroromedy; it's a zombedy! Will zombies do the jobs illegal immigrants won't? If so, expect a good review from Lou Dobbs!

The big loser appears to be The Tripper, a David Arquette pet project that should have been put to sleep. The premise sounds like Bill O'Reilly's dream (a man in a Reagan mask goes around killing hippies), but the clip we saw online looked like a rejected thesis project from the School of Schlock. Courteney Cox co-stars as a trickle-down anorexic.


HORROR

In deference to our new American policy, horror these days is all about torture. I'm sure Hostel II: Pillow Mint of Death, Saw 19: Pull (Off) My Finger and 24 Season 7: Jack Bauer's Abu Ghraib Vacation are just around the corner, but until then, we have this summer's stock.

1408 is a good pick because it stars John Cusack, whose movies often fail to suck. As in many other Stephen King stories, the main character is a horror novelist, and he's researching haunted hotel rooms for his next piece. But hotel manager Samuel L. Jackson is sick and tired of the motherf-ing ghosts who keep killing his motherf-ing guests, and warns Cusack away. Will Cusack enter the room anyway? Do the numbers in 1408 add up to 13?

Ghosts aren't the only things to fear in hotel rooms. In Bug, Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr. stay at a dive hotel and get a nasty case of bedbugs. Yes, America, we're so driven to find new ideas for our horror movies that we've finally made a film about bedbugs. Ooh! Ooh! It itches! IT ITCHESSSSSSSSSS!!!!

It's not set in a hotel, but Captivity is suspiciously like the recent Vacancy in that it takes place in yet another small, isolated room, which is a good way to save money on sets. Elisha Cuthbert is imprisoned by a serial killer who psychologically taunts her by disagreeing with her politics and not letting her blog about it.

Also in a hostages vs. captors vein is The Strangers, starring Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler as the suburban victims of a home invasion. But the home invaders will get more than they bargained for when Tyler unleashes her elf-queen powers. Because she was in The Lord of the Rings. Ahem.

Rob Zombie brings us a remake of Halloween, titled, eerily enough, Halloween. The cast list is like a nightmare that increases in intensity as it goes on: Malcolm McDowell, Brad Dourif, Udo Kier, Adrienne Barbeau, Clint Howard, Micky Dolenz ... we could read no further, for fear of what would follow "Micky Dolenz."

Finally, Rise: Blood Hunter is a supernatural thriller starring Lucy Liu as a ghost seeking vengeance against the cult that killed her. The film originally starred Katie Holmes, but then she joined the cult, and etc.

The most chilling horror movie of all is the musical remake of Hairspray starring John Travolta. The last movie involving Travolta and hairspray was Battlefield Earth, which was pretty horrifying, at least for the accountants.


ACTION!

On the sixth day, God created man. Then, on the seventh day, man was bored, and God created the action film. Then man got overstimulated, and God said, "Let the action film show mostly in the summer, that man may watch Oscar contenders in the fall and winter, and whatever leftover crap the studios have on their shelves in the spring." And it was good.

But if a movie is going to be really good, it needs to be based on a video game, a comic book, a ride at Disneyland or, best of all, a toy.

To that end, after 20 years in which we wandered the wilderness with no new Transformers movie, Michael Bay has finally seen fit to lend his enormous talents to a film that truly deserves them: one about big robots who transform into cars. The trailer looks strangely compelling, and Shia LaBeouf stars. Only Shia LaBeouf has the intense Shia LaBeoufness to play opposite Megatron and Optimus Prime. (Yes! Optimus Prime is back! Boo yah!)

A video game is the inspiration for DOA: Dead or Alive, whose title shows how little it thinks of its audience's intelligence. That's like naming a movie ATM: Automatic Teller Machine. Advance word is awful, but Jaime Pressly tries to liven things up by appearing in Daisy Dukes and a bikini top. There are also a half-dozen other hot chicks wearing Bratz outfits, so if you bring something to cover your lap, you could have a good time at this one.

Oliver Hirschbiegel, whose The Downfall: Hitler and the End of the Third Reich was one of the best movies of the last 18 years, directs The Invasion, which started as a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but then morphed into something else, and then was heavily re-edited and reshot. It stars Nicole Kidman, who's already a pod person, and Daniel Craig, whose pods got snapped in Casino Royale. Rumors abound that Hirschbiegel had no control over the final cut, so expect a film that only a focus group and a committee of financiers could make.

Finally there's The Last Legion, yet another Roman-era action/adventure film. Director Doug Lefler previously worked on the Xena and Hercules TV shows, which were famous for their historical accuracy and girl-on-girl bathtub sequences. Last Legion occurs during the sack of Rome by the Goths. I'm hoping this film will finally explain how a bunch of pale teenagers in black lace and eyeliner managed to sack Rome. There are also some King Arthur elements and a rumored scene of intense passion between Colin Firth and Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai. I'm hoping she'll add a huge song-and-dance number in the middle of one of the battle sequences.


THRILLERS

You'd think that the real world provides enough thrills, what with wars, and rumors of wars and Paul Wolfowitz having a girlfriend. But if you need more than that, you can check out some of the following: Among the spookiest looking is Red Road, which involves those cameras many cities are installing at high-crime intersections. What happens when a woman watching the monitors begins stalking someone she views? Red Road appears to be the sort of psychological cinema where what you don't see is as important as what you do.

So does Day Night Day Night, about a 19-year-old girl preparing to suicide-bomb Times Square in New York City. The film focuses on the sights, sounds and movements leading up to the bombing, and the trailer is tense and frightening, even when she is just brushing her teeth.

Terrorism is also the subject of Civic Duty, a sort of Rear Window-meets-jihad story about a man (Six Feet Under's Peter Krause) who suspects his Islamic neighbor (Egyptian heartthrob Khaled Abol Naga) of being a Muslim. Scary!

But there's something even scarier than foreigners: the wealthy. At least according to Fierce People, the latest from director Griffin Dunne. If Dunne's misanthropy was hinted at by the stalkers-in-love comedy Addicted to Love, it's in full bloom here: An anthropologist (Anton Yelchin) discovers that aristocratic New Englanders are far scarier than Amazonian tribespeople after his mom (Diane Lane) moves in with a billionaire (Donald Sutherland). Don't even think about asking for the Grey Poupon.

A menacing rich person is also at the center of Mr. Brooks. With Kevin Costner and Demi Moore in the lead roles, this should have been called The Talentless Mr. Ripley.

You can be sure Fay Grim will have a lighter, funnier touch: It stars Parker Posey as a single mom enlisted by the CIA (including an agent played by Jeff Goldblum) to help them with an investigation in Paris. This is a sort-of sequel to ironic auteur Hal Hartley's 1998 Henry Fool. Expect Hartley's skillfully self-conscious filmmaking to turn thrills into "thrills."

If that's not mirthful and Veronica Mars-ish enough for you, try Nancy Drew, starring Emma Roberts as the pluckiest 16-year-old detective ever to sell millions of books and video games. The murder mystery relocates Drew from her small Midwestern town to Los Angeles, so expect lots of brainiac-in-the-land-of-airheads gags. Nancy Drew is directed by Andrew Fleming, who does know dick about enjoyable teen films since, after all, he directed Dick.

Worst in the bunch: Even Money, starring Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito and Kelsey Grammer. Younger audiences should react to this the way kids in the '80s did to appearances by Charo, Rich Little and Liza Minnelli: You know these people are famous for some reason, but you can't figure out why.


WAR

Home of the Brave is the second major studio film to deal with the current Iraq war (after The Situation). This one seems to be similar to the Vietnam film Coming Home, focusing on traumatized troops readjusting to civilian life. The film stars Jessica Biel, 50 Cent and Samuel L. Jackson, who is sick and tired of these motherf-ing IEDs in this motherf-ing occupied country.

Emboldened by his success with the haunting documentary Grizzly Man, legendary director Werner Herzog is aiming high with Rescue Dawn. The film follows Vietnam-era pilot Christian Bale as he's shot down, caught and left to rot in a small POW camp in the jungle. Strong performances are certain from Steve Zahn, Jeremy Davies and especially Bale, whose career began with Steven Spielberg's POW movie Empire of the Sun.

Though a war movie only in the "on Terror" sense, A Mighty Heart appears no less upsetting. The film examines the fate of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, whose beheading in Pakistan was used for an al-Qaida propaganda video. No doubt director Michael Winterbottom will handle the material thoughtfully, but the casting of Angelina Jolie as widow Mariane Pearl is questionable.


SPORTS

In writer-director Rod Lurie's Resurrecting the Champ, sports reporter Josh Hartnett rescues homeless man Samuel L. Jackson, who is sick and tired of these motherf-ing rats in this motherf-ing trash. Turns out Jackson is no ordinary transient, but boxing great Bob Satterfield. Satterfield had been sick and tired of motherf-ing welterweights in that motherf-ing boxing ring, but becomes less so, thanks to Hartnett's healing attention and dimpled chin.

Speaking of athletes gone wild, The Flying Scotsman tells the true story of Scottish cyclist Graeme Obree, a mentally ill man who broke records on a bike he built out of scrap metal, washing-machine parts and loose screws. A thick-accented cast includes Trainspotting's Jonny Lee Miller, Laura Fraser and forgotten hobbit Billy Boyd.

Gracie stars Carly Schroeder as high schooler striving to honor her dead brother by taking his place in a boys' soccer tournament. Parents Dermot Mulroney and Elisabeth Shue provide discouragement and/or support, while Gatorade provides gratuitous product placement, even in the preview. Damn you, overexposed sports drink full of food coloring and electrolytes!


DRAMAS

Studios try to avoid releasing high-caliber, Oscar-worthy dramas in the summer, but sometimes, they screw up. Let's hope so in the case of the following movies: Evening seems to be the brainy choice. It's adapted from Susan Minot's novel by The Hours screenwriter Michael Cunningham (who declined to write the sequel The Hours 2: 2 More Hours), and has the most formidable cast imaginable, including Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Claire Danes, Toni Collette, Vanessa Redgrave and Natasha Richardson. The plot, thick in mother-daughter issues, love and death, sounds like one of those "timeless" and "universal" stories that the emo kids are so fond of. Big question: Does the title, Evening, imply a time of day, a balancing of forces or the wife of Adam? This movie is blowing our minds, and we haven't even seen it yet!

Another potential winner is Goya's Ghosts, directed by renowned Oscar collector Milos Forman. The film features art (painter Goya is played by

Stellan Skarsgård ), history (the film is set during the Spanish Inquisition) and sexual scandal (Natalie Portman plays a nude model). If a striptease in Closer earned Portman a nomination, then it's time for a lap dance ... with Oscar!

Speaking of Academy Award nominees, actor Don Cheadle may get his best showcase yet in Talk to Me. This biopic, about 1960s Washington, D.C., radio personality Ralph Waldo "Petey" Greene, gives Cheadle ample opportunity for fast-talking jokes and soulful truth-to-power speeches. Former president Martin Sheen also stars.

The turkey of the bunch appears to be Shortcut to Happiness, a remake of The Devil and Daniel Webster. If the words "directed by Alec Baldwin" don't strike fear into your marrow, then how about "starring Jennifer Love Hewitt"? Or "originally scheduled for release in 2003"? There's a good chance this will take a Shortcut to DVD Release.


ROMANCE WITHOUT COMEDY

Pack tissues and mucous-rehydrating water for these shiny new weepies.

Work up some teary eyes with Golden Door, when Italians Vincenzo Amato and a fuchsia-haired Charlotte Gainsbourg (excellent in last year's The Science of Sleep) travel to early 20th-century America to begin a new life. Then let the first dewy tears wet your cheeks with Becoming Jane, starring the impossibly doe-eyed Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen, navigating the romantic waters that would eventually gush forth in her novels.

Next: Get your lower lip all aquiver with the tony No Reservations, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones as a workaholic chef. Tragedy puts her in custody of the professionally cute Abigail Breslin, but Zeta-Jones may yet have her creme-brulee heart cracked by Aaron Eckhart's spoon of love. Top it off with the creamy Paris, je T'aime, featuring intertwining romances in the City of Wuv.

For full-on catharsis, let moistness ooze from every facial orifice for Away From Her, in which Gordon Pinsent sees his Alzheimer's-afflicted wife (Julie Christie) lose her memory--followed by her fidelity--at an assisted-care facility. Olympia Dukakis is on hand to mitigate his heartbreak in this directorial feature debut from the sharp Canadian actress Sarah Polley.

Had a good cry? Then simmer down with Luc Besson's cool-looking Angel-A, about a suicidal scam artist whose life is saved by a beautiful blonde with a killer halo. Finally, laugh devilishly down at Georgia Rule, starring the cringe-worthy cast of Jane Fonda and Lindsay Lohan. This is the film where Lohan failed to show up on set due to "dehydration." Apparently, she got confused when the director told her to "go over her lines."


ANIMATION

Most animation films sound like they were thought up by a hyperactive 7-year-old. "It's about penguins ... who go surfing!" Or: "They're monsters ... but they're really nice!"

Eschewing that convention, and instead following the lead of such live-action gems as The Beverly Hillbillies and I Spy, director David Silverman's The Simpsons Movie takes a TV show that's well past its prime and repackages it as a feature-length film. The movie is rumored to include a radioactive Springfield under a dome, 14 TV seasons worth of in-jokes and Nelson going "Hah heh!" in Dolby Digital.

Admittedly, Pixar's Ratatouille does look charming (although its original title, Untitled Rodent Project, was better in that it avoided the taint of Frenchness). Scaling down from The Incredibles and The Iron Giant, writer/director Brad Bird zeroes in on a Paris restaurant where a skillful rat becomes a culinary Cyrano for a bungling chef. Perhaps this will finally heal the international rift that was caused by the "freedom fries" fiasco.

Back in idea-by-a-7-year-old land, Foodfight! is about food ... that has parties! Set in a supermarket after hours, it's sorta like if Mannequin starred Mrs. Butterworth. Charlie Sheen is the voice of Dex Dogtective, while other actors include Christopher Lloyd as a clipboard and Hilary Duff as dish soap. Also, in a move sure to earn an NC-17 rating, Haylie Duff plays "Sweet Cakes" opposite Eva Longoria as "Lady X."

It wouldn't be summer without a new penguin movie. In Surf's Up, the penguins are, of course, Polynesian surfers. They literally jump the shark! There's even a penguin voiced by Jeff Bridges, reprising his Big Lebowski The Dude role in waddling form. It's only fair that we make a slew of penguin movies before our carbon emissions drive them into extinction.

The first two Shrek movies left America with post-traumatic Shrek disorder. But here comes the Third, with a fourth (a prequel) on the way. The story involves a rivalry between two princes (voices of Justin Timberlake and Rupert Everett), while Shrek's wife is knocked up, and the Gingerbread Man is coming down with mold. Or something. Who cares. Sitting through Shrek is like watching an overweight bald guy do a Mike Myers impression at the Renaissance Festival.

The luckiest spice in the world is now a movie: Paprika is Japanese anime so trippy, it makes Akira look like an AA meeting. Satoshi Kon directs this tale of a psychotherapist who uses a high-tech device to enter others' dreams. This leads to walls bending, ethereal tentacles swarming, Japanese schoolgirls in panties shooting bazookas at giant robots, and no talking penguins.

Then there are two films that aren't animated, but they're probably just as 2-D. Bratz imagines those hyper-slut-ified Barbie dolls joining fashion forces to teach our youth about the importance of grooming your treasure trail.

Disney's Underdog also makes the flying leap to live action, replacing the simply drawn, 1960s super-doggie with a real caped pup. Back in the '60s, Underdog took a magical drug to give himself superpowers. In the updated version, he'll just eat a high-fiber diet.

And that's the summer! But don't worry; sometime in the fall, they'll add an hour to the day, and suddenly, all the superheroes and Dane Cook comedies and movies based on TV shows based on cartoons based on toys will grind to a halt, and we can watch Sean Penn and Bill Murray and Clint Eastwood sit up and beg for Oscars. Which would probably make a good summer movie, if Sean and Bill and Clint were animated dogs who had to save the world from penguins.

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