Love them or hate them, you have to admire the creators of South Park for developing an animation model that allows them to turn out an episode on the fly. Unlike other prime time animated shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy, which require long lead times, South Park can exploit a current trend while it’s still hot.

Unfortunately, Hollywood isn’t as lucky. Most films take years to reach the screen, undergoing extensive rewriting, preproduction, shooting and post production. So when a film clicks at the box office, it often takes Hollywood a year or more to catch up. Likewise, when a film fails, the studios may have four or five more just like it waiting in the wings. It’s a risky game without a safety net. What may prove popular today may be out of favor next year. So as studios rush to jump on the same bandwagon, they may be headed over a cliff.

There’s a lot riding on the summer block of movies, and if some of the offerings look familiar, remember these films were in production long before last summer’s numbers were in. So even though a lot of high-profile remakes and sequels failed to ignite 2005\’s summer box office, there are plenty more in this year’s line-up.

The summer of 2005 had its share of box office hits (Star Wars Episode III, Batman Begins, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Madagascar), but the number of films that underperformed was staggering. Big stars, big directors, familiar themes, none failed to capture the public’s imagination. Ancillary markets, especially DVD, benefited as studios rush-released titles in order to take advantage of lingering consumer interest. More films went to DVD faster than ever before, sometimes reducing their theatrical window to 60 days.

That brings us to the summer of 2006, which will see the release of more than 150 films, half of which will eventually find their way to local theaters. While there’s an emphasis on family and PG-13 fare, the studios haven’t abandoned mature audiences altogether. Thank The Wedding Crashers and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, two unapologetic comedies which reminded adults they could have a good time at the movies without feeling guilty. Both films proved what I have been saying all along: If you build it, they will come. Okay, that’s from Field of Dreams, but the point is Hollywood virtually abandoned the R-rated comedy in favor of the more teen-friendly PG-13, neglecting a demographic hungry for entertainment.

Between them, The Wedding Crashers and The 40-Year-Old Virgin grossed more than $300 million, and broke records upon release on DVD. The proof is in the pudding, and this year Hollywood won’t ignore that sweet tooth. That doesn’t mean the studios have abandoned the tent pole or blockbuster film. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mission: Impossible III opened the summer, and before the sun sets in September, Superman, The X-Men and Pirates of the Caribbean will save the day.

Hollywood finally gets in touch with its NASCAR roots with Cars and Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby, two comedies aimed at distinctly different audiences. Remakes and sequels are in the mix, including Wolfgang Peterson’s epic Poseidon (The Poseidon Adventure), Mission: Impossible III, X-Men: The Last Stand, Omen 666, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Garfield’s A Tale of Two Kitties, Superman’s Return, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, and Clerks II.

Once a diversion from traditional cell animation, computer-generated films have become the industry norm. It wasn’t long ago, audiences could expect one or two CGI films a year. Expensive and technologically advanced, CGI eventually eclipsed 2-D animation by becoming affordable. Before the final flickers of summer, expect no less than five CGI films: Over the Hedge, Cars, Garfield’s A Tale of Two Kitties, Barnyard and The Ant Bully.

Those looking for stars need look no further than their local theater. Oscar winners Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Paul Newman, Jamie Foxx, Nicolas Cage and Hilary Swank, mix it up with Jennifer Aniston, Vince Vaughn, Jack Black, Johnny Depp, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell and Keanu Reeves. Standing behind the camera this summer are directors Wolfgang Peterson (Air Force One), Ron Howard (Cinderella Man), Brett Ratner (Rush Hour), Bryan Singer (X-Men), Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite), Robert Altman (Gosford Park), John Lasseter (Toy Story), Michael Mann (Heat), Oliver Stone (Platoon), M. Night Shyamalan (The Village) and Kevin Smith (Chasing Amy).

There’s also much less must-see TV on the big screen, with just Miami Vice and Strangers with Candy making the big leap.

Then again, if history has taught us anything, none of this is set in stone. The studios are notorious for shifting release dates, especially when a previous release hits and hangs around for a while. Most will probably stick, but some films will disappear from the lineup, only to materialize in the fall, next year or even directly to DVD.

Based on available material, if I were to pick which films will land in the top ten come September, I would pick the following (in alphabetical order):

Lady in the Water
Miami Vice
Nacho Libre
Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man’s Chest
Superman’s Return
The Da Vinci Code
The X-Men: Last Stand

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Who: Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell, Jacinda Barrett, Richard Dreyfuss, Jimmy Bennett, Emmy Rossum, Andre Braugher. Written by Mark Protosevich. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen.

What: While on a New Year’s Eve cruise in the North Atlantic, luxury liner Poseidon is struck by a mammoth rogue wave and capsizes. Ignoring the Captain’s orders, a small band of survivors, including a gambler (Josh Lucas), a father (Kurt Russell) and his daughter (Emmy Rossum), a single mother (Jacinda Barrett) and her son, a stowaway (Mia Maestro), and a suicidal gay man (Richard Dreyfuss), struggle to make their way up through the ship’s watery graveyard to reach safety. 

Why: When it comes to boats and waves, director Petersen (The Perfect Storm) is the man to call. As the director of Air Force One and Das Boot, Petersen has established himself as someone capable of mixing high drama in tight places. A lot has changed since producer Irwin Allen flipped a ship filled with current and past Oscar winners. Gone is the model-in-a-bathtub look of the first film, with Petersen and crew subjecting their characters to one epic disaster after another. By comparison, the killer wave in The Perfect Storm was just a drop in a bucket. Watching Petersen kick this bucket and seeing how the characters react sounds like breathtaking entertainment to me.


Just My Luck

Who: Lindsay Lohan, Chris Pine, Samaire Armstrong, Bree Turner, Faizon Love. Written by I. Marlene King and Amy Harris. Directed by Donald Petrie.

What: Ashley (Lohan) is young pretty and has the world at her feet. Thanks to Ashley’s good luck, she has lived a charmed life. While at a costume party, Ashley kisses a handsome stranger (Pine) and swaps her good luck for his bad luck. As her picture-perfect existence starts to fade, Ashley plots to regain her life and luck.

Why: Lohan successfully traded places with Jamie Lee Curtis in the remake of Freaky Friday, so there’s no reason to believe her luck won’t change with this family comedy about female empowerment.


Goal! The Dream Begins

Who: Kuno Becker, Alessandro Nivola, Marcel Iures, Stephen Dillane, Anna Friel, Sean Pertwee. Written by Mike Jefferies. Directed by Danny Cannon.

What: Santiago Munez (Kuno Becker) is a gifted soccer player, but sees little hope beyond his poor existence in Los Angeles. Destined to follow in his father’s footsteps working menial jobs, the Mexican-American immigrant is shocked when an English soccer scout picks him to play for Newcastle United, one of England’s premier teams. Forced to choose between tradition and a future filled with hope, Santiago makes the leap across the Atlantic.

Why: Already a big hit in England, Cannon’s story of an underdog getting his shot should score here in the United States. Don’t dismiss soccer’s appeal.


Alpha Dog

Who: Emile Hirsch, Justin Timberlake, Sharon Stone, Anton Yelchin, Shawn Hatosy, Ben Foster, Lukas Haas. Written and directed by Nick Cassavettes.

What: Low-life drug dealer Jesse James Hollywood compensates for his mental and physical inadequacies by terrorizing and controlling those who fall under his Charles Manson-like charms. When a drug deal goes South, it sets into motion a series of events leading to the revenge murder of a young man, a cowardly flight from justice, and placement on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

Why: Life imitates art, and with Alpha Dog, writer-director Cassavettes uses art to imitate life. Even though the names have been changed to protect the innocent, there’s no denying the source material. While made-for-television films are notorious for jumping on the headline bandwagon, it’s rare that a major Hollywood film finds its way to theaters as the case is still playing out in court. Prosecutors in Santa Barbara, where Hollywood is being tried, made headlines after they assisted the filmmaker.


Art School Confidential

Who: Max Minghella, Sophia Myles, Matt Keeslar, John Malkovich, Jim Broadbent, Anjelica Huston. Written by Daniel Clowes. Directed by Terry Zwigoff.

What: Jerome Platz (Minghella) is a big fish in a small pond, an aspiring artist who sees art school as his ticket to fame and success. After arriving at a small East Coast school, Jerome quickly learns he’s nothing special. His attempts to fit in fail, but when Jerome falls for another outcast student (Myles), he finds inspiration. When Jerome loses Audrey (Myles) to a more popular student, he decides to turn his misery into art.

Why: The sophomore effort of writer Clowes and director Zwigoff (Ghost World) explores familiar issues of isolation and detachment. The teachers are more disenfranchised than the students, whose idiosyncratic personalities make them as distinct as their charges. As the director of Crumb, Zwigoff has displayed great accomplishment in transforming quirky characters into endearing individuals.


May 19

The Da Vinci Code

Who: Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Alfred Molina, Jurgen Prochnow, Jean Reno, Paul Bettany. Written by Akiva Goldsman. Directed by Ron Howard.

What: Robert Langdon (Hanks), a Harvard professor and expert in symbols, is in Paris on a business trip when he stumbles across a secret society whose beliefs challenge the core of Christianity. Working with French cryptographer Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), Langdon’s investigation uncovers clues hidden in the paintings of Leonardo Da Vinci, secrets the Vatican would like to keep secret. Framed for murder, Langdon and Neveu race against time and powerful influences to reveal the truth.

Why: You’re kidding, right? If only fans of the book saw the movie it would be a monster hit, and you know they’re going to bring dates. The Ron Howard-Tom Hanks marriage has produced two successful offspring (Splash, Apollo 13), and Da Vinci Code is starting to look like the prodigal son.


Over the Hedge

Who: Voice talents of Bruce Willis, Garry Shandling, Steve Carell, Thomas Haden Church, Allison Janey, Avril Lavigne, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Nick Nolte, William Shatner. Written by Len Blum and Karey Kirkpatrick. Directed by Tim Johnson and Kirkpatrick.

What: When suburbia invades their woodland home, timid turtle Verne (voice of Shandling) sees it as the beginning of the end, while scheming racoon RJ (Willis) welcomes a steady diet of junk food and mischief. With the help of their forest friends, RJ and Verne turn suburbia into their own fast-food playground, outwitting their human hosts at every turn.

Why: Based on the popular comic strip, Over The Hedge brings to life one of my favorite duos, and free from the restraints of two dimensions, their antics look larger than life and just as much fun.


See No Evil

Who: Glen Jacobs, Craig Horner, Tiffany Lamb, Penny McNamee, Samantha Noble. Written by Dan Madigan. Directed by Gregory Dark.

What: Eight petty criminals performing community service by cleaning up a decrepit, abandoned hotel come face to face with Jacob Goodnight, a towering psychopath with plenty of time to kill. Too bad the cop in charge of the detail is also the one responsible for putting a bullet in Jacob’s head. This time it’s personal.

Why: Lionsgate Films hopes to recapture some of the gruesome fun of Saw, with pro wrestler Kane standing tall as the psychopath with an HMO steel plate bolted into his skull.


May 26

X-Men: The Last Stand

Who: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, Rebecca Romijn, Ben Foster. Written by Zak Penn and Simon Kinberg. Directed by Brett Ratner.

What: When a cure for the mutant gene is discovered, the two mutant camps led by Charles Xavier (Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) prepare for the ultimate and final showdown against mankind.

Why: You can’t keep a good mutant down. When original director Bryan Singer passed to resurrect Superman, Rush Hour director Ratner signed his X on the dotted line, infusing the series with new blood. Supposedly this is the final chapter in a trilogy, but you know money speaks more loudly than ink. Returning favorites, new additions, and what promises to be the battle to end all battles should make this one of the big winners of the summer.


June 2

The Break-Up

Who: Jennifer Aniston, Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Justin Long, Vincent D’Onofrio, Cole Hauser. Written by Jay Lavender and Jeremy Garelick. Directed by Peyton Reed. 

What: After a whirlwind relationship, lovers Aniston and Vaughn call it quits, but in an effort to save money, decide to share the same townhouse. What begins as a casual social experiment escalates into an unbearable battle of wills as the two plot and counterplot against each other, falling back in love along the way.

Why: Turnabout is fair play. When Aniston lost husband Brad Pitt to Angelina Jolie after the two clicked in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, the former Friends star jumped into this romantic comedy with Vaughn, an assignment which blossomed into romance. Oddly, both films deal with couples trying to get out of bad relationships. One can hope that watching the couple fall in love while pretending to be in love won’t be a bust-up.


June 9


Who: Voice talents of Paul Newman, Richard Petty, Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt, Dan Whitney, Cheech Marin, George Carlin, Larry The Cable Guy. Written and directed by John Lasseter.

What: Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) is a bright red sports car en route to the Piston Cup Championship in California when he makes an unexpected pit stop in the small desert town of Radiator Springs. Anxious to make a name for himself and win the trophy, McQueen ends up spinning his wheels when several locals, including a sassy Porsche (Bonnie Hunt) and a wise old Hudson Hornet (Paul Newman), put the brakes on his reckless enthusiasm.

Why: The latest computer-generated film from Pixar (Toy Story, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo) should cross the finish line with a full tank. Tapping into America’s love for the automobile and racing makes perfect sense, especially in a period of time when a ticket costs less than a gallon of gas. Whoever brought Paul Newman into the mix is a genius.


Omen 666

Who: Julia Stiles, Liev Schreiber, Mia Farrow, David Thewlis, Pete Postlethwaite, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick. Written by Dan McDermott. Directed by John Moore.

What: With his wife on the verge of a nervous breakdown, American diplomat Robert Thorn (Schreiber) secretly adopts an infant after his own baby dies at birth. While Katharine (Julia Stiles) and Robert raise Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) as their own, new nanny Mrs. Baylock (Mia Farrow) knows the truth: He’s the Antichrist.

Why: Everything old is new again, and horror films are certainly cyclical. Released during the height of the demon child craze of the mid-’70s, the original film was noted for mixing ham-fisted acting with macabre murder. Graphic for their time, the bizarre deaths in the original have become commonplace, so expect more suspense than splash.


A Prairie Home Companion

Who: Garrison Keillor, Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Tommy Lee Jones, Lily Tomlin, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, Virginia Madsen, Lindsay Lohan. Written by Keillor. Directed by Robert Altman.

What: On the night of the last broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion, creator-host Garrison Keillor is joined by an eclectic group of friends, co-workers, performers and well wishers.

Why: Fans of Keillor’s wit and whimsy need not fear, Altman’s film is a fictional what-if. The recent recipient of an honorary Oscar is the perfect director to capture the backstage (and onstage) antics of a live radio broadcast, layering scene after scene with overlapping dialogue and unexpected plot arcs. When Altman calls, stars personally pick up the phone, clearing their schedules just for the privilege of working with the director of M*A*S*H, Nashville and Gosford Park.


The King

Who: Gael Garcia Bernal, William Hurt, James Pell, Paul Dano, Laura Harring. Written by Milo Addica and James Marsh. Directed by Marsh.

What: After being discharged from the Navy, young Elvis (Bernal) arrives in Corpus Christi, Texas, with shocking news for the local preacher (William Hurt): He’s the bastard son of a previous liaison. When the preacher asks for time to tell his wife and family, Elvis sets into motion a series of cruel events that test the preacher’s faith.

Why: With a perfect American accent, Mexican heartthrob Bernal continues to cement his reputation as a risk taker starring in this dark morality tale in which bad things happen to good people. Not since Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter has the devil been so seductive.


June 16

Nacho Libre

Who: Jack Black, Ana de la Reguera, Hector Jiminez, Richard Montoya, Peter Stormare. Written by Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess, Mike White. Directed by Jared Hess.

What: Black transfers from School of Rock, playing Ignacio (Nacho to his friends), a Mexican cook at a church orphanage who dreams of becoming a famous wrestler. Hiding behind a mask and cape, Ignacio moonlights as popular wrestler Nacho Libre. When the church learns of his deception, Nacho realizes the only way to find his way back into its grace is to beat the champion and donate the prize money.

Why: Who isn’t looking forward to the new film from the creative team behind Napoleon Dynamite? Brothers Jared and Jerusha Hess, with co-writer Mike White, have displayed a talent for finding humor in the most unexpected places, and with Black as their leading man, the results should be funny and charming.


The Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift

Who: Bow Wow, Lucas Black, Brian Tee, Nikki Griffin, Sung Kang. Written by Chris Morgan and Kario Salem. Directed by Justin Lin.

What: Illegal street racer Shaun Boswell (Black) can’t keep the cops off his tail, so he’s sent to live with his uncle in Japan. Bucking his uncle’s rigid military lifestyle, Boswell engages in the Japanese sport of drift racing. When Boswell loses his first race to a member of the Yakuza, he’s forced to enter a dangerous underground world of crime where the stakes are more deadly.

Why: Hey, if you can have sex with dead people, there’s no reason filmmakers can’t try to pump life into a corpse. The only holdover from the first two films is the title. Previous stars Paul Walker and Vin Diesel walked away from the franchise, but moving the action to Japan might give this film that new car smell.


The Lake House

Who: Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Dylan Walsh, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Christopher Plummer. Written by David Auburn. Directed by Alejandro Agresti.

What: The stars of Speed slow down for this timeless tale of love set at a magical lakeside cottage. Reeves plays the current occupant, an architect, who shares love letters with the former occupant, a nurse played by Bullock. The twist? They actually live two years apart, and the mailbox is their portal through time. With postage rates escalating, the couple must discover a way to meet before their romance is canceled and returned to sender.

Why: In the film Frequency, a son uses a shortwave radio to travel through time and communicate with his dead father. While the circumstances aren’t nearly as dire in this romantic drama, the idea of star-crossed lovers separated by time could be a First Class package. Hopefully the talent will insure its delivery.


June 23


Who: Adam Sandler, Christopher Walken, Kate Beckinsale, Blake Heron, Allen Covert, Sean Astin, Henry Winkler. Written by Mark O’Keefe, Steve Wayne Koren, Tim Herlihy. Directed by Frank Coraci.

What: Married architect Michael Newman (Sandler) feels as though his family and professional life are spiraling out of control. Newman can’t even remember which remote controls the television. After purchasing a Universal Remote from an oddball salesman (Christopher Walken), Michael discovers he can use the remote to control all aspects of his life, freeze-framing one moment, fast-forwarding another. When the remote takes on a life of its own, Michael learns he’s tossing out the baby with the bath water.

Why: Click taps into Sandler’s maturing profile, once again playing a man watching his family slip away from his grasp. While the remote control device has been used before, the results look like perfect Sandler fodder. The scene where Michael takes out his frustrations on a freeze-framed boss (David Hasselhoff) is worth the price of admission.


Garfield’s A Tale of Two Kittens

Who: Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Billy Connolly, Bill Murray. Written by Joel Cohen, Alec Sokolow, Tim Hill. Directed by Hill.

What: The computer-generated feline (voice of Bill Murray) uses London as his own personal litter box when he follows owner Jon (Meyer) to England. Mistaken for royalty, Garfield plays up the situation until he becomes targeted by an evil Lord intent on turning the cat’s estate into a tourist attraction.

Why: With the digital blueprint already stored in a database, it only makes sense to use it again. While the fur didn’t really fly in the original, there should be enough DVD and cable-generated goodwill to guarantee moderate success.


Waist Deep

Who: Tyrese Gibson, Meagan Good, The Game, Paul Terrell Clayton, Eric Lane, Arnold Vosloo, Larenz Tate. Written by Vondie Curtis-Hall, A. Michael Mahern, Darin Scott. Directed by Curtis-Hall.

What: When ex-con O2\’s (Gibson) son Junior is carjacked and held hostage by a crime lord, the only person he can turn to for help is Coco (Good), a hustler who knows the streets. Together, O2 and Coco blast their way through one explosive situation after another in their attempt to find and free Junior.

Why: Urban crime thrillers are easy to market, and with the super-hot Gibson in the lead, expect the drama to have as much impact as the bullets. Actor-turned-writer/director Curtis-Hall wisely stocks the background of this modern day Bonnie and Clyde tale with strong genre players like The Game.


June 30

Superman Returns

Who: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, James Marsden, Frank Langella, Eva Marie Saint, Parker Posey, Sam Huntington, Kal Penn, Kevin Spacey. Written by Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris. Directed by Bryan Singer.

What: After a five-year absence, Superman (Routh) returns to Earth to find former flame Lois Lane (Bosworth) a single mother and former nemesis Lex Luthor (Spacey) up to his old tricks. In an effort to find meaning in his life, Superman embarks on a quest taking him to the edges of the universe and back.

Why: Director Singer passed on X-Men to make the new Superman franchise fly, and using the first two Christopher Reeve films as his bible, seems to have found a way to honor what came before while establishing an identity of his own. Expect Singer to cover some of the same territory, but with a whopping $160 million budget, the scenery should look new and inviting.


The Devil Wears Prada

Who: Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Adrien Grenier, Simon Baker, Tracie Thoms, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci. Written by Aline Brosh McKenna and Don Roos. Directed by David Frankel.

What: Lauren Weisberger’s best-selling novel slinks its way to the big screen, starring Anne Hathaway as Andrea, who can’t believe her luck when she lands a job as a personal assistant for New York magazine editor Miranda Priestly (Streep). What should have been a dream come true, quickly turns into a nightmare for Andrea when she realizes Miranda makes the boss from hell look like a saint.

Why: If this wasn’t a movie, it would be a pay-per-view event. Who doesn’t like a good cat fight, especially when Streep flexes her razor-sharp claws. Watching Hathaway swat the queen bee is just icing on the cake.

July 7

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Who: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Stellan Skarsgard, Bill Nighy, Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce. Written by Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot. Directed by Gore Verbinski.

What: Depp once again sets sail as Captain Jack Sparrow, who owes a blood debt to Davey Jones. Unless he can reverse the curse, Sparrow will spend eternity among the living dead. With time running out, Sparrow turns to old shipmates Will Turner (Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Knightley) for help. After interrupting Will and Elizabeth’s wedding, the trio set sail to save Sparrow from a watery grave.

Why: Yo-ho, Yo-ho, it’s a pirate’s life for me. With all of the original cast and behind-the-scenes talent returning, Dead Man’s Chest has the bones to become even bigger than the first film. Seeing Pirates as an enduring franchise, Walt Disney Pictures requested Verbinski shoot back-to-back sequels (it worked for Lord of the Rings and The Matrix). Expect Dead Man’s Chest to sail the strait and narrow to become the highest grossing film of the summer.


Little Man

Who: Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Kerry Washington, Tracy Morgan. Written by Keenen Ivory, Marlon and Shawn Wayans. Directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans.

What: Desperate for a child of their own, father (Shawn Wayans) and wife (Washington) readily welcome into their lives an infant left on their doorstep. What they don’t know is that their new bundle of joy is actually a pint-sized thief trying to retrieve a stolen diamond inside the house. As the thief (Marlon Wayans) and his partner try and retrieve the booty, the couple try to adjust to their role as new parents.

Why: I wasn’t sure what to think, and then I saw the preview, and now I’m really confused. The sight of a pint-sized Marlon (courtesy of extensive visual effects and blue screen) will either make you laugh or super glue your baby maker.


A Scanner Darkly

Who: Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, Rory Cochrane. Written and directed by Richard Linklater.

What: In futuristic Orange County, the war on drugs has been lost. Reeves plays an undercover cop who receives an order to spy on his friends, unaware his assignment will take an emotional and physical toll on him.

Why: Philip K. Dick’s novel serves as writer-director Linklater’s diving board for a leap into the deep end of pain and suffering brought on by drug abuse. Linklater creates a unique animated experience through rotoscoping, the process of painting each and every individual frame. Whether audiences will buy into the process or the film’s soapbox anti-drug message remains to be seen.


Strangers With Candy

Who: Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert, Paul Dinello, Carlo Alban, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Allison Janney, Philip Seymour Hoffman. Written by Dinello and Colbert. Directed by Dinello.

What: Comedy Central creation stars Sedaris as Jerri Blank, a 47-year-old ex-con and whore who returns home to get her life together. Part of that mission means returning to high school to receive her diploma. Can a 47-year-old find true happiness on a campus filled with horny, hopped-up teenagers?

Why: After two years of delays (the original studio was sold), the Colbert-Dinello spoof finally sees the light of day, but its time may have come and gone. Here’s hoping the big-screen will give the creators the freedom they need to make this a raunchy cult hit.


July 14

You, Me And Dupree

Who: Owen Wilson, Kate Hudson, Michael Douglas, Matt Dillon. Written by Mike LeSieur. Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo.

What: Recently married couple Dillon and Hudson are looking forward to spending time alone. All they have to do is get rid of unemployed best man Dupree (Wilson), who took refuge on their couch and won’t leave.

Why: Killer cast should give this guest from hell comedy enough fuel to run through summer. Thanks to Crash, Dillon is front and center at the moment, while Wilson and Hudson have both excelled in this genre.



Who: Kristen Bell, Christina Milian, Ian Somerhalder, Steve Tally, Rick Gonzalez, Sam Levine. Written by Ray Wright. Directed by Jim Sonzero.

What: When a group of college students accidentally hack into a wireless signal, they unlock an evil intent on consuming them.

Why: American remake of Japanese horror film Kairo will need megabytes of originality to make an impression.


July 21

Lady in the Water

Who: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeffrey Wright, Bob Balaban, Freddy Rodriguez, Jared Harris. Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

What: To the tenants of the Cove Apartment complex, Cleveland Heep (Giamatti) is just the man they call when they need something fixed. Cleveland’s life takes an unusual twist when he encounters Story (Howard), a mystical sea nymph living in the passageway under the pool. After rescuing her, Story tells Cleveland about her quest, and how the tenants will play an important role in helping her fulfill that quest. 

Why: After becoming the master of the twist ending, filmmaker Shyamalan turns to a bedtime story for his latest film, a fable about fate and hope. Perhaps audiences will buy a kinder, gentler Shyamalan.


Monster House

Who: Mitchel Musso, Sam Lerner, Spencer Locke, Steve Buscemi, Nick Cannon, Jon Heder, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kevin James, Jason Lee, Catherine O’Hara, Kathleen Turner. Written by Dan Harmon, Gil Kenan, Pamela Pettler, and Rob Schrab. Directed by Kenan.

What: Three kids set out to do battle with a malevolent house intent on eating trick-or-treaters on Halloween.

Why: The motion capture chiller uses advanced technology developed for Polar Express, turning live people into animated performers, perfect for a film pitting three kids against a haunted house with a life of its own.


My Super Ex-Girlfriend

Who: Uma Thurman, Luke Wilson, Anna Faris, Rainn Wilson, Eddie Izzard. Written by Don Payne. Directed by Ivan Reitman.

What: Wow, those Wilson brothers keep busy. Luke stars in this larger-than-life romantic comedy as Matt Saunders, a man looking to dump his overly possessive girlfriend Jenny Johnson (Thurman). What Matt doesn’t know is that Jenny is actually G-Girl, a super hero with incredible powers, which she unleashes on Matt and his new girlfriend Hannah (Faris).

Why: Most possessive ex-girlfriends slash your tires, they don’t demolish your car. After Kill Bill, Thurman makes a striking force to be reckoned with, so it should be fun watching her unleash all that fury on the likable Wilson. It’s nice to see Reitman Ghostbusters return with a vengeance.

July 28

Miami Vice

Who: Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Gong Li, Naomie Harris, Ciaran Hinds, Justin Theroux. Written and directed by Michael Mann.

What: In Miami, undercover cops Sonny Crockett (Farrell) and Ricardo Tubbs (Foxx) are working both sides of an international drug smuggling enterprise. When Crockett starts to fall for Isabella (Gong Li), the Chinese-Cuban wife of their main suspect, the distinction between reality and fantasy becomes blurred. When the tables are turned on Tubbs, the provocation turns up the heat for one final showdown.

Why: Michael Mann reinvented the television crime drama with Miami Vice, so why not go back to the source material for this modern remake. Mann promises more action and character and less fashion tips and music videos.


Little Miss Sunshine

Who: Alan Arkin, Abigail Breslin, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Paul Dano, Greg Kinnear. Written by Michael Arndt. Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.

What: If the Hoovers weren’t so dysfunctional they would suck like a vacuum, but there’s something endearing about this family of six willing to make a long trek in a VW bus so their 7-year-old daughter Olive can have a shot at the Little Miss Sunshine title.

Why: Road trips manage to bring out the best and worst in people, and cramming six members of the same family into a cramped VW sounds like the perfect breeding ground for comedy and drama. The dark, satiric film festival favorite might just be the trip audiences are looking for to escape the mid-summer blues.


I Could Never Be Your Woman

Who: Michelle Pfeiffer, Paul Rudd, Tracey Ullman, Fred Willard, Henry Winkler. Written and directed by Amy Heckerling.

What: May-December romantic comedy stars Pfeiffer as a single mother who falls for younger man Rudd. Equally awkward is the first romance of Pfeiffer’s teenage daughter. Ullman plays a meddling Mother Nature, hoping to put her imprint on both relationships.

Why: Flip of the coin. Could be sharp and satiric, then again, could be just another glorified Lifetime movie about the miracle of Botox. Ullman as Mother Nature suggests Clueless writer-director Heckerling could have something more wicked up her sleeve.

John Tucker Must Die

Who: Jesse Metcalfe, Brittany Snow, Ashanti, Sophia Bush, Jenny McCarthy. Written by Jeff Lowell. Directed by Betty Thomas.

What: When Mel Brooks proclaimed it was good to be king, he hadn’t met high school stud John Tucker (Metcalfe). It’s good to be Tucker, who has managed the impossible: He’s currently dating three different girls from three different cliques. When all of his girlfriends meet, they decide to teach the teenage Lothario a lesson he won’t forget.

Why: It’s always fun watching the high and mighty fall, especially when they fall prey to their own ego. Anyone who went to high school knows a Tucker and wondered what would happen if his life suddenly took a turn for the worse. Here’s your chance.



Who: Voice talents of Courteney Cox-Arquette, Sam Elliott, Danny Glover, Kevin James, Andie MacDowell, Wanda Sykes. Written and directed by Steve Oedekerk.

What: Otis the cow (voice of Kevin James) likes to party, much to the dismay of his revered father Ben (Elliott) and the farm’s wise old mule Miles (Glover). Like all of the barnyard animals, Otis hides his human abilities from the farmer. Chaos reigns supreme when Otis finds himself in charge of the barnyard, forcing the bovine to reconcile his human and animal sides.

Why: The creative team behind Nickelodeon’s Jimmy Neutron blasts off with another computer-generated comedy. The barnyard setting provides writer-director Oedekerk with a corral of crazy characters to flesh out this tale of raucous fun and responsibility.


August 4

Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby

Who: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Sascha Baron Cohen, Gary Cole, Michael Clarke Duncan, Leslie Bibb, Jane Lynch. Written by Ferrell and Adam McKay. Directed by McKay.

What: Ricky Bobby (Ferrell) is a NASCAR legend, and with his trusty sidekick Cal (Reilly), always crosses the finish line before the competition. All that changes when upstart French driver Jean Girard (Cohen) enters the race, forcing Ricky to push himself to the limit and examine his personal demons.

Why: With Anchorman director McKay behind the camera, Ferrell is in good hands. They keep saying NASCAR is bigger than ever, so maybe fans will steer this wacky comedy into the winner’s circle.


The Ant Bully

Who: Nicholas Cage, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Paul Giamatti, Lily Tomlin, Cheri Oteri, Alan Cumming, Regina King, Zach Tyler Eisen. Written and directed by John A. Davis.

What: 10-year-old Lucas Nickle has his hands full. The new kid in town, Lucas attracts the attention of the local bully. Lucas takes out his frustrations on an ant hill. Fed up with being bullied, the ants feed Lucas a magic potion, reducing him to their size, forcing him to live in their colony. It doesn’t take long for Lucas to understand that size doesn’t matter when it comes to standing up for yourself.

Why: Tom Hanks and the creator of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius team up for this computer-generated animated adventure which reminded me of Honey I Shrunk the Kids.



Who: Jet Li, Shidou Nakamura, Dong Yong, Betty Sun, Michelle Yeoh, Nathan Jones, Collin Chou, Bao Qijing, Masato Harada. Directed by Ronny Yu.

What: After the death of his father, son Fok Yuanjia (Li) continues his work creating the Jin Wu Sports Federation.

Why: Set in turn-of-the-century China, Fearless marks Li’s return to historical drama, playing both father and son.


The Night Listener

Who: Robin Williams, Toni Collette, Rory Culkin, Sandra Oh, Joe Morton, John Cullum, Bobby Cannavale. Written by Armistead Maupin, Terry Anderson, Patrick Stettner. Directed by Stettner.

What: While dealing with a personal break-up, a late night radio talk show host reaches out to a young man whose life has been filled with abuse. As their on-air relationship deepens, host Gabriel Noone (Williams) begins to suspect the young man (Culkin) and his social worker (Collette) are not who or what they claim to be.

Why: Something different from the author of Tales from the City, which focuses on one story and one set of characters. Even though the characters and their situations are just as complex and penetrating, the spotlight is on Williams playing a man who begins to mistrust his instincts.


August 11

World Trade Center

Who: Nicolas Cage, Michael Peña, Maria Bello, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jay Hernandez. Written by Andrea Berloff. Directed by Oliver Stone.

What: While attempting to rescue occupants of the World Trade Center after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Port Authority policemen John McLoughlin (Cage) and Will Jimeno (Pena) become trapped. The film details the heroic efforts made to rescue the two men from their concrete and steel tomb.

Why: United 93 proved audiences were ready for heroic dramas centering around the events of 9/11, so unless Stone goes on another experimental freshman film school tangent, audiences will get their first look inside the towers that fateful day.

The Reaping

Who: Hilary Swank, David Morrissey, Idris Elba, AnnaSophia Robb. Written by Jacob Estes, Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Brian Russo. Directed by Stephen Hopkins.

What: Swank plays a university professor dealing in debunking miracles summoned to a small Louisiana town to investigate occurrences similar to the ten biblical plagues.

Why: With similar television shows like Miracles and Revelations dotting the free airwaves, it’s difficult to judge whether audiences will want to pay to see more of the same.


Who: Tim Allen, Courteney Cox Arquette, Chevy Chase, Spencer Breslin, Rip Torn. Written by Adam Rifkin, David Berenbaum, Tim Allen, Matt Carroll. Directed by Peter Hewitt.

What: Out of shape and powerless, former super hero Captain Zoom (Allen), now known as Jack, is called back into action to train a new group of heroes to save the world. 

Why: Allen played a has-been space-age hero in Galaxy Quest, so audiences should have no problem buying into this premise which sounds a lot like last year’s Sky High with Kurt Russell.


Who: Justin Long, Blake Lively, Lewis Black. Written by Bill Collage, Adam Cooper and Mark Perez. Directed by Steve Pink.

What: After being rejected by eight out of eight colleges, slacker senior Bartleby Gaines (Long) decides to take his educational future into his own hands by using his friends to create a fake university. Establishing residence in an abandoned psychiatric hospital and employing a cantankerous uncle (Black) as dean, Bartleby and his cohorts do such a good job they begin attracting other students and the ire of rival schools.

Why: Back to School meets The Sting by way of Revenge of the Nerds. I love Black, so it should be fun watching him put the student body and their parents in their place.

August 18

Snakes on a Plane

Who: Samuel L. Jackson, Nathan Phillips, Benjamin McKenzie. Written by John Heffernan and David Loucka. Directed by David Ellis.

What: Imagine being trapped in a pressurized fuselage 30,000 feet in the air with slimy reptiles. Now forget you’re riding on Air Force One with Dick Cheney and Karl Rove and imagine you’re an FBI agent (Jackson) assigned to escort a witness from Hawaii to Los Angeles, only to have the bad guys unleash a crate-load of deadly snakes into the cabin.

Why: What started off as a tidy little airborne thriller has taken on a life all its own thanks to the Internet, which has officially dubbed Snakes as the film to see this summer. Claustrophobic thriller raises the stakes by making it impossible to shoot the villains without bringing down the plane.


Clerks II

Who: Brian O\’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Rosario Dawson, Trevor Fehrman, Jennifer Schwalbach, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, Kevin Weisman, Wanda Sykes. Written and directed by Smith.

What: Twelve years after taking convenience and video stores by storm, clerks Dante (O’Halloran) and Randal (Anderson) decide it’s time to move on with their lives. Forced to look for new jobs, Dante and Randal go to work for a corporate theme restaurant, receiving little help or support from their friends, including Silent Bob (Smith) and Jay (Mewes).

Why: Smith’s independent darling has show endurance, and while supporting players Jay and Silent Bob have appeared in numerous films, this is the first time Dante and Randal have returned for second helpings. With luck, Smith will incorporate 12 years of living and life lessons into the script.


Trust the Man

Who: Julianne Moore, David Duchovny, Billy Crudup, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Eva Mendes, Ellen Barkin, James LeGros, Garry Shandling. Written and directed by Bart Freudlich.

What: Against the backdrop of the Big Apple, two couples test the foundations of their relationships. Moore plays an actress who suspects stay-at-home husband Duchovny is getting ready to leave her, while Crudup plays her brother trying to keep his relationship with novelist Gyllenhaal fresh and alive.

Why: There are a million stories in the naked city, and just maybe these two will have enough meat on their bones to feast on.



Who: Artie Lange, Ralph Macchio, Anthony DeSando, Cara Buono, Jimmy Palumbo, Joe Lo Truglio, Jerry Minor, Seymour Cassel, Michael Deeg, Laurie Metcalf. Written by Lange and Frank Sebastino. Directed by Sebastino.

What: While traveling in Germany during Oktoberfest, two American brothers stumble across a secret society built around drinking and fighting.

Why: After last year’s The Dukes of Hazzard, the members of Broken Lizard shift gears for this raunchy slob comedy about ugly Americans and the people who hate them.

August 25

How to Eat Fried Worms

Who: Luke Benwald, Tom Cavanaugh, Kimberly Williams, Hallie Kate Eisenberg. Written and directed by Bob Dolman.

What: On the first day of school, 11-year-old Billy rubs the school bully the wrong way, setting into motion a test of endurance in which young Billy will literally save face and win the respect of his classmates.

Why: Based on the popular novel, How To Eat Fried Worms addresses social issues in a fun and adventurous way, and could find itself a sleeper hit like Holes.



Who: Andre Benjamin, Antwan Patton, Ving Rhames, Terrence Dashon Howard, Faizon Love, Malinda Williams, Paula Jai Parker, Jackie Long, Paula Patton, Patti LaBelle, Macy Gray, Ben Vereen, Cicely Tyson. Written and directed by Bryan Barber.

What: Set in the 1930\’s south, this dramatic musical explores the hopes and dreams of speakeasy piano player Percival (Benjamin) and club manager and performer Rooster (Patton).

Why: The members of Outkast and their main man, director Barber, team up for this musical featuring vibrant musical numbers, stunning choreography by Hinton Battle, and enough romance to make musicals sing and dance again.



Who: Mark Wahlberg, Greg Kinnear, Kevin Conway, Elizabeth Banks. Written by Brad Gann, Mike Rich. Directed by Ericson Core.

What: The true story of 30-year-old Philadelphia bartender Vince Papale (Wahlberg), who answered an ad for open tryouts for the Philadelphia Eagles football team in 1976 and won a spot on the team.

Why: People love underdog stories. Wahlberg answered the same ad in Rock Star to good results, so expect him to score a touchdown with this tale of a common man who lived the American dream.

DOA: Dead or Alive

Who: Devon Aoki, Derek Boyer, Sarah Carter, Steve Howey, Kane Kosugi, Natassia Malthe, Matthew Marsden, Kevin Nash, Jaime Pressly, Eric Roberts. Written by J.F. Lawton. Directed by Corey Yuen.

What: Four female fighters battle to the death on a tropical island.

Why: The ultimate game boy wet dream: hot, sweaty women kicking each other’s asses.


Material Girls

Who: Hilary Duff, Haylie Duff, Anjelica Huston, Brent Spiner, Lukas Haas. Written by John Quaintance, Jessica O’Toole. Directed by Martha Coolidge.

What: Two spoiled cosmetic heiresses must fend for themselves when a scandal strips them of their wealth and social status. 

Why: I guess the Olsen Twins were in rehab.

September 1


Who: Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Efren Ramirez, Jose Cantillo, Jay Xcala, Carlos Sanz, Keone Young. Written and directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor.

What: In ths variation of DOA, hit man Chev (Statham) awakens after a failed job with bad news: he’s just been injected with a poison which will kill him in an hour. Since adrenaline keeps the toxin at bay, Chev must race against time to find out who poisoned him and find a cure.

Why: Former Transporter Statham knows how to kick out the stops, so expect wall-to-wall action as his character rushes through the crowded streets of Los Angeles looking for clarity.