It's usually right about this time of year that film critics, especially those of advancing years, begin to feel a slow chill of dread creep up their spines. Suppressing that reaction, they find it quickly replaced by a sudden rush of sneering condescension and smug mock martyrdom. "Oh, no!" they cry. "This is summer, the season of dumb! How can I possibly suffer so ignominious a fate as to be forced to watch big-budget movies aimed at those less intelligent than myself?" Meanwhile, the movies themselves break all records, and if they don't do so legitimately, then a watermark is invented, such as: "This movie had the fourth-largest opening of any movie to ever come out on the third Tuesday in August starring Dustin Hoffman and containing the syllable 'ish' in the title!"
But the "dumb" blockbuster might just be passé this year. Arguably, the biggest film of the summer will be The Matrix Reloaded, and the few negative reviews that have surfaced so far tend to complain that the plot is too complicated. The comic-book adaptation Hulk would seem on the surface to be dumb -- a big green guy who smashes stuff isn't exactly the picture of subtlety -- yet it was directed by the acclaimed Ang Lee, who claims to be making a tragic film in the Hamlet mold (given his track record, that may not be an idle boast). The summer's other high-profile, big-budget comic-book movie, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, boasts characters from classic literature, among them Captain Nemo, Allan Quatermain, Dorian Gray, Mina Harker, the Invisible Man and Dr. Jekyll. And Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines may not have James Cameron on board anymore, but substitute director Jonathan Mostow is known for thrillers of above-average intelligence like Breakdown and U-571.
Further taxing the minds of the dull is a series of unnecessarily wordy movie titles, most with colons in the middle. In addition to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (cleverly shortened to LXG by the marketing department), there's Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde; Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd; Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas; Dracula: Pages From a Virgin's Diary; And Now...Ladies and Gentlemen; the unwieldy Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life; and the grand champion of them all, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. To quote Butt-head: "If I wanted to read, I'd go to school."
Not that stupidity is entirely absent -- one could go broke overestimating the public's intelligence. Still, we should make a distinction between big, glorious, goofy dumb (Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Bad Boys 2) and abrasively awful dumb (Pokémon Heroes, Jeepers Creepers 2).
The time-honored summer counter-programming tradition is to offer romantic comedies, and despite a copious lack of both Julia Roberts and Freddie Prinze Jr., 2003 doesn't disappoint. We've got retro love (Down With Love), fanciful love (Alex and Emma), French love (Jet Lag, The Housekeeper), gay love (Boys Life 4: Four Play), parental love (Freaky Friday), surrogate-sibling love (Uptown Girls) and, of course, the unnatural love of baked goods and wind instruments (American Wedding).
As always, though, there are a significant number of entries that defy categorization. We've got the Maori movie Whale Rider, the experimental art piece Cremaster 3 (which is actually part five in a series), a non-reality spinoff of a reality show (From Justin to Kelly), a John Sayles movie (Casa de los Babys), the return of the 3-D movie (Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over), and a comic-book adaptation that's part documentary (American Splendor).
Then there are some interesting mini-trends. Thai cinema may prove to be the next big thing, if the horror flick The Eye (soon to be remade on these shores) and the historical epic The Legend of Suriyothai catch on. Juvenile delinquency seems to be enjoying an art-house resurgence (Ken Park, Thirteen, Sweet Sixteen). And superstar crossovers look to rake in the dough: Nightmare on Elm Street bogeyman Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) finally takes on Friday the 13th killer Jason Voorhees (some new guy in place of Kane Hodder, who previously owned the role) in Freddy vs. Jason, while two sets of deformed-looking cartoon children get together in the Nickelodeon crossover Rugrats Go Wild. If Hollywood's listening, I'd like to see a Mandy Moore vs. Britney Spears flick next, but it had better be R-rated and feature mud pits.
Finally, two items that warm this critic's heart: Scott Hamilton Kennedy's excellent documentary OT: Our Town, about an inner-city school putting on a play, has at last received distribution and might just hit cinemas near you this season. And MGM is re-releasing The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on the big screen, where it belongs. It may not be the best date movie, but males across America who have not yet experienced the glorious union of Clint Eastwood, Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone owe it to themselves to go, possibly more than once.
What follows is a comprehensive listing of every film that we know of that's scheduled to open during the summer months. Right as we finished the list, at least one movie probably shifted its release date. By the time you're done reading, more will have done so. Some will be postponed to another season, while others may never open at all -- but if you love cinema, we know you won't care. Memorize all the synopses anyway, and you can pretend to be knowledgeable about every film of the season, and many beyond. If nothing else, you'll be well armed for your next game of charades.
The Matrix Reloaded. Silly humans, Matrix is for kids! Or perhaps not, given the R rating of this summer's hugely anticipated (and hyped!) sequel. Once again, Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss and Laurence Fishburne don sexy sunglasses and adopt that weird, monotone cadence as they battle the Machine Army -- you know, in that other reality. They're assisted by the likes of Jada Pinkett Smith and Monica Bellucci against freaky nemeses Hugo Weaving, Lambert Wilson and a bunch of new characters who shoot at them a whole lot. Meanwhile, writers-directors Andy and Larry Wachowski plunder random mythology all the way to the bank. Let's just hope it doesn't inspire another Columbine. (Warner Bros.)
Down With Love. In what will likely be either a massive counter-programming hit or a total flop, the director of Bring It On and the forthcoming Fantastic Four brings us Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger in a pastel-colored period homage to '60s romantic comedies. We're supposed to recall Rock Hudson and Doris Day, but will contemporary audiences have memories that go that far back? (Fox)
L'Auberge Espagnole. Loosely defined as "Euro pudding," and indeed some comparisons to American Pie leap to mind as a young dork (Romain Duris) explores his sexual impulses amid a wild crowd. Set mostly in Barcelona, this boy-abroad movie garnered six Cesars, the French equivalent of the Oscar. If that means to you that a movie is good, perhaps you'll dig it. With Amélie's marketable Audrey Tautou in one of her four new features this year. (Fox Searchlight)
Pokémon Heroes. You may exhale: The fifth Pokémon feature film has arrived. This time things get wet, as familiar characters like Ash and beloved Pikachu infiltrate an aquatic city to protect something called the Droplet of the Heart. See it quickly before Finding Nemo blows it out of the water. (Miramax)
Spellbound. Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman have absolutely nothing to do with this feisty documentary about the American National Spelling Bee. Dewy director Jeff Blitz gets to the heart of childhood's most vital quest as eight youngsters and their hopeful parents and teachers seek The One who can save humanity from bad spelling. (ThinkFilm)
Bruce Almighty. Bruce (Jim Carrey) has a decent apartment, a job in TV news and a girlfriend who looks like Jennifer Aniston. By movie standards, this means he's suffering, and when he blames God for it, the Supreme Being (Morgan Freeman, born to play God) gives Bruce the reins of power so he can see that it ain't easy being Lord. Carrey's Ace Ventura pal Tom Shadyac directs, so here's hoping the rubber man's back in form. (Universal)
The In-Laws. "Inspired by" the 1979 Alan Arkin-Peter Falk comedy, this version stars Michael Douglas as a CIA spy and Albert Brooks as -- this is a stretch -- a whiny neurotic. When the former's son marries the latter's daughter, both fathers-in-law somehow end up as mismatched partners in an international smuggling scheme. Director Andy Fleming is responsible for underrated pleasures The Craft and Dick, so maybe it'll actually be good. (Warner Bros.)
Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters. A potential martial-arts-horror classic from the director of Time and Tide. Possibly envious that John Carpenter gets a vampire movie with his name in the title, Hark similarly delivers...well...hunters who hunt vampires. This time, however, we join four students with elemental superpowers in nineteenth-century China. (Destination Films)
Finding Nemo. Pixar's latest computer-animated opus goes underwater in this tale of a young clown fish who gets kidnapped by a diver and winds up in a tank in a dentist's waiting room. Fortunately, the fish's dad (Albert Brooks) is on the case, with the help of a CIA father-in-law...wait, wrong movie. The sidekick in this one is another fish, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres. Advance word has it that the script isn't quite up to Pixar's usual high standards, but the deep-sea visuals look breathtaking. (Disney)
The Italian Job. He tried stepping into Cary Grant's shoes in The Truth About Charlie; now Mark Wahlberg tries on Michael Caine's footwear for size. The man's not a bad actor, but he doesn't help himself by forcing comparisons to the greats like this. Italy, meanwhile, barely registers any screen time in this heist remake directed by F. Gary Gray (A Man Apart), and Edward Norton only appears as the villain because he was contractually forced by Paramount. Mos Def, Seth Green, Charlize Theron and Donald Sutherland also show up in what looks to be at least a strong ensemble piece. (Paramount)
Wrong Turn. Director Rob Schmidt of the iffy, pretentious Crime and Punishment in Suburbia has somehow managed to keep working. His latest concerns teens chased through the mountains of West Virginia by -- what else? -- hideously deformed, inbred, cannibalistic mutants. In case you don't get enough of this in real life, you may consider joining Eliza Dushku and Jeremy Sisto for their little adventure. Or you may not. With effects by Stan Winston. (Fox)
Together. Chinese auteur Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine, The Emperor and the Assassin) returns with He ni zai yi qi, the tale of a young, aspiring violinist who travels with his father to the bright lights of Beijing. Another "boy's journey" sort of movie, and an obvious bid by Kaige to bridge the gap between his Chinese roots and Hollywood paychecks, but indeed it looks -- and sounds -- charming. (United Artists)
2 Fast 2 Furious. Star Vin Diesel and director Rob Cohen may have bailed on this particular franchise, but Paul Walker's still around, now directed by John Singleton and hanging with a new bald-headed ethnic sidekick in the form of Tyrese Gibson. Multiculturalism was cited as a major part of the last film's success, so the cast also includes Ludacris, Eva Mendes, Cole Hauser and the simply monikered Jin. We figure it's the fast cars people like, though, and there are plenty -- as long as they crash into stuff, it's all good. (Universal)
The Eye. From Thai directors the Pang Brothers comes this tale of terror about a blind woman who receives a cornea transplant, then starts seeing things the deceased donor saw, including ghosts, visions of gore and a reflection in the mirror that is not her own. Tom Cruise owns the U.S. remake rights; see this one now so you can sneer at your friends later about how much better the original was. (Palm)
Hollywood Homicide. Ron Shelton follows his serious cop movie (Dark Blue) with a not-so-serious one that teams up yesterday's heartthrob, Harrison Ford, with current It-Boy Josh Hartnett. Ford, of course, is the hard-bitten veteran cop saddled with rookie partner Hartnett, who has a thing for yoga and New Agey beliefs. Presumably, they learn something from one another while attempting to solve a case, the nature and location of which are described in the film's cleverly alliterative title. (Sony)
Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd. It's possibly the worst prequel idea since The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas: a Dumb and Dumber movie without Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels or the Farrelly brothers (or even Trey Parker and Matt Stone, long ago attached). Nonetheless, based on the trailer, Eric Christian Olsen's Jim Carrey impersonation looks impressively dead-on. Maybe there's hope. (New Line)
Rugrats Go Wild. Those really grotesque-looking kids meet up with the globe-trotting Thornberrys in what promises to be an exotic adventure. Where else -- apart from maybe Spago -- are you going to get Tim Curry and LL Cool J in the same place? With music by Devo's zany frontman, Mark Mothersbaugh. (Paramount)
Later in June
Sweet Sixteen. English workingman's filmmaker Ken Loach (Poor Cow, Bread and Roses) delivers the story of a Scottish lad (Martin Compston) struggling to make a new home for his mother, who's newly sprung from prison. Naturally, more hard knocks await. (Lions Gate)
From Justin to Kelly. Correct us if we're wrong here, but wasn't American Idol a test of singing ability? When did the judges stop to analyze the acting talent of the contestants? Regardless, we'll all be able to judge for ourselves as winner Kelly Clarkson and finalist Justin Guarini star in this fiction film that reportedly involves a beach party. This might just put Mariah Carey's Glitter to shame -- not that it needed the help. On the other hand, screenwriter Kim Fuller did co-write the amusing Spice World. (Fox)
The Heart of Me. Helena Bonham Carter and Olivia Williams star in this 1930s-era British romance, based on the 1953 Rosamond Lehmann novel The Echoing Grove (a better title, all things considered). Russell Crowe's imaginary friend Paul Bettany is the unfortunate fellow forced to choose between the lovely ladies. (ThinkFilm)
Whale Rider. Not actually a documentary about Lara Flynn Boyle visiting her boyfriend Jack Nicholson. Rather, based on a novel by Witi Ihimaera, it's about a young Maori girl of the Whangara tribe who must struggle against both her beloved grandfather and a millennium of patriarchal rule to prove herself as a leader. The beach-dwelling tribe learns much from the girl when she demonstrates her spiritual connection to whales. (Newmarket Films)
Respiro. Those who found themselves briefly envying Dustin Hoffman when Valeria Golino kissed him in Rain Man may take heart as the saucy Italian cuts loose here. She plays a young mother of three on a tiny fishing island whose antics lead local villagers to think her insane. Well, duh -- she's an actress. (Sony Pictures Classics)
Alex & Emma. A Rob Reiner romantic comedy allegedly based on the Dostoevsky short story "The Gambler" (more seriously adapted with Michael Gambon a few years back). Luke Wilson plays a novelist on deadline, while Kate Hudson is the stenographer who inspires him. As Wilson enacts scenes from the book in his head, Hudson morphs into multiple characters, thereby allowing the actress to try several different hairstyles and accents on for size. If she pulls it off, people may stop comparing Hudson to her mom, Goldie Hawn. (Warner Bros.)
Hulk. Hey, brother! What'cha gonna do when the largest arms in the world run wild on you? Wait, wrong Hulk. No middle-aged wrestler's biceps can measure up to those of the fifteen-foot CGI creation who runs roughshod over San Francisco in this comic-book adaptation. Audiences will be lured in by lovely Jennifer Connelly and the promise of "Hulk smash!" but director Ang Lee hopes they'll stay for a storyline he likens more to classic tragedy. Wait'll you see the mutated "Hulk dogs." Eric Bana, who did mood swings to perfection in Chopper, stars as alter-ego Bruce Banner. (Universal)
Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. The genius of director McG's first Charlie's Angels was that it had something for almost everyone: girls kicking ass for the ladies, fetishistic costume changes for the guys, self-satire for the hip ironists, Tom Green for those who prefer less subtle humor, Crispin Glover for the weirdos, and so on. It was a movie that made no apologies for its junk-food consistency, and neither does the new one, by the looks of things. Green and Bill Murray are gone, but instead we get Bernie Mac and, uh, Demi Moore. (Sony)
The Hard Word. Australian crossover stars Guy Pearce and Rachel Griffiths star in this heist movie from Down Under, which looks not unlike something Guy Ritchie might make (and remember, prior to Swept Away, that wasn't perceived as such a bad thing). There's a plan; a gang is assembled, and something goes wrong -- but the cast have funny accents, which makes it different. So funny, in fact, that the movie's trailer actually spells out key lines of dialogue on screen. (Lions Gate)
Legally Blonde 2: Red White and Blonde. Everybody's...um...favorite frilly Harvard Law School grad is back. Reese Witherspoon dons the pink and heads to Washington to fight for animal rights. Obviously, she begins by removing all animal products from the craft-service tables and catering trucks, and serving her Chihuahua vegan dog food. (MGM)
Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. Everybody's favorite public-domain Iraqi hero returns as a two-dimensional caricature voiced, natch, by Brad Pitt. Catherine Zeta-Jones lends her pipes to the feisty sidekick chick, and Michelle Pfeiffer is the incongruous Greek goddess Eris. This is Dreamworks' only contribution to the summer screen. (Dreamworks)
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Arnie's back, or something like that. Probably doesn't do the "nude Terminator" thing anymore though. Anyway, as the T-850 Terminator, he once again helps save humankind from those awful machines taking over the planet. Begging help are eighteen-year-old John Connor (Nick Stahl) and his girlfriend (Claire Danes), who are being hunted by femme fatale "Terminatrix" Kristanna Loken. Franchise creator James Cameron didn't need the money, so Jonathan Mostow (U-571) directs. One question: Why don't the humans send back Robert Patrick to save everyone this time? Just curious. (Warner Bros.)
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Sometimes a sure thing at the box office isn't necessarily nauseatingly trite. This romp from director Gore Verbinski (The Ring) looks adventurous, atmospheric and -- Geoffrey Rush excluded -- generally sex-ay. For sale is one Orlando Bloom (The Lord of the Rings) as a lad who must team up with thickly eyelinered pirate Johnny Depp to save Keira Knightley (Bend It Like Beckham) from bad pirate Rush. Based on the Disney ride, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and certain to earn a doubloon or two. (Disney)
Capture the Castle. Based on the debut novel by One Hundred and One Dalmations author Dodie Smith, this romantic comedy sticks a couple of wealthy Americans alongside an eccentric English family living in a crumbling castle, sits back, and lets humorous situations ensue. (Samuel Goldwyn)
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Apparently, Sean Connery plays fictional adventurer Allan Quatermain here, and apparently he absolutely hated working with director Steven Norrington (Blade). Nonetheless, the movie got made, based on Alan Moore's zesty graphic novel, based in turn on classic characters such as Dr. Jekyll (Jason Flemyng), Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah) and Dracula's Mina Harker (Peta Wilson). Takes place in Victorian England, thus -- like Fox's other Moore adaptation, From Hell -- shot in Prague. (Fox)
Bad Boys II. At long last, Michael Bay has come to his senses and quit with the Ben Affleck PG-13 crap. The original Bad Boys didn't get much love from critics, but it didn't need it -- this one doesn't look like it could use the help either. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are back as mismatched cops, with Gabrielle Union replacing Tea Leoni as the potential love interest (good call!), and a supporting cast that includes Joe Pantoliano, Henry Rollins and Peter Stormare. (Sony)
Exorcist: The Beginning. In what may just be the casting coup of the year, Stellan Skarsgård steps in as the younger version of Max von Sydow's Father Merrin, battling demons in deepest, darkest Africa. This would have been director John Frankenheimer's final film, but the old master bowed out due to ill health early in the process, to be replaced by Paul Schrader. Thankfully, actor Liam Neeson bowed out, too; for all his strengths, he's no Swede. (WB)
Johnny English. Mr. Bean seems like an unlikely James Bond type; then again, so did Mike Myers at one time. This spy spoof starring Rowan Atkinson has already been a monster hit in England, but by the looks of things, that isn't because of any kind of sophistication on the movie's part. John Malkovich plays the villain, and heck, he'd be a worthy adversary for Bond. The film's writers are similarly worthy; they actually did write the last two Bond films. (Universal)
The Magdalene Sisters. You know those "fallen women" forced into servitude by the Irish Catholic Church in the 1960s? Here's a movie about them. Written and directed by Peter Mullan. (Miramax)
Mission Without Permission. Last year, director Bart Freundlich got Julianne Moore's best performance out of her in the otherwise spotty World Traveler. This year he enlists Panic Room's Kristen Stewart to play a young girl concocting a heist to afford her father a costly operation. Probably, like, fun and meaningful. (Fox)
Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over. Robert Rodriguez returns to his beloved adventure franchise for the third time in as many years. Young spy Alexa Vega gets caught in a virtual-reality video game designed by the evil Sylvester Stallone and must be saved by her brother Daryl Sabara and probably their parents, Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino. With Salma Hayek and Ricardo Montalban, thank goodness. (Dimension)
Buffalo Soldiers. Hmm, this seems a bit familiar -- didn't we write about this one in last year's summer preview? Poor Miramax just can't find a good date to release a movie that's less than flattering toward the U.S. military (though they did okay with The Quiet American). That the movie's set in 1989 seems to be of no consequence. Anyway, to recap: Soldiers (Joaquin Phoenix, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris and others) stationed in Berlin shortly before the fall of the wall get involved in some shady business involving drugs. (Miramax)
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. Now that she's gotten over the loss of Daddy dearest, maybe Ms. Croft (Angelina Jolie) can get back to shooting stuff, jumping off things and running afoul of armored primates made of stone. Jan DeBont takes over the directorial reins of this latest adventure, which sees Lara in Africa, looking for Pandora's Box (wait, wasn't Pandora Greek? Does it matter?). (Paramount)
Seabiscuit. Tobey Maguire takes time out from slinging webs and wooing the daughter of a high-ranking Universal executive to pretend he's short enough to jockey a horse. Gary Ross (Pleasantville) takes on the novel by Laura Hillenbrand about the titular racehorse and the joy it brought to the country during the Great Depression. (Universal)
Gigli. At last you get to see it, folks: the movie that brought Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez together. What's the plot? Glad you asked: "B. Af" is Gigli, a hitman assigned to kidnap a retarded kid (Justin Bartha) and hold him for ransom. "J. Lo" is the lesbian hitwoman assigned to babysit Gigli when it seems he won't be up to the job. Both become better (heterosexual) people, thanks to the innocence and purity of their mentally challenged prisoner. Sounds like a blast, right? (Sony)
28 Days Later. A deadly biological agent breaks loose in the UK; in 28 days (the usual length of time for a mail-order package to arrive over there, sorta like "six to eight weeks" here) the entire nation has been quarantined, as the infected have become hideously unpleasant zombies who move in fast motion. Should mark something of a comeback for director Danny Boyle, who's foundered lately with the disappointing A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach. (Fox Searchlight)
American Wedding. For all the so-called immorality that goes on in the American Pie movies, it now seems that in this third one, long-suffering protagonist Jim (Jason Biggs) will end up marrying the first and only girl he's ever had sex with (Alyson Hannigan). Cast members who've gotten progressively more expensive (Mena Suvari, Tara Reid, Chris Klein, Shannon Elizabeth, Natasha Lyonne) have been jettisoned, but Fred Willard (yes!) joins the series as Hannigan's dad. Bob Dylan's less-famous son Jesse (How High) directs. (Universal)
And Now...Ladies and Gentleman. A jewel thief (Jeremy Irons) and a jazz singer (Patricia Kaas) encounter one another in Morocco as they both try to forget their pasts. Rumor had it earlier this year that Irons's wife was a little upset with all the steamy nudity that ensues, but that shouldn't affect your enjoyment one iota. (Paramount Classics)
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Just in case you missed George Clooney's impressive directorial debut last December, Miramax is re-releasing it, thereby delaying the DVD even further. Sam Rockwell stars as Chuck Barris, the Gong Show host who later claimed to be a CIA assassin. Clooney has a way with the camera; he's evidently been taking lessons in directing from his pal Steven Soderbergh. (Miramax)
Dirty Pretty Things. Audrey Tautou (Amélie) makes her English-language debut in this crime thriller from stylish Brit director Stephen Frears. In it, she teams up with an illegal Nigerian immigrant (Chjwetel Ejiofor; great name, now how the hell do you pronounce it?) to solve a mysterious murder in a fancy London hotel. (Miramax)
Freaky Friday. Now in its umpteenth remake, the old "parent trades bodies with child" routine gets handed off to Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan (who also starred in the remake of The Parent Trap). Curiously, director Mark S. Waters made his debut with the perversely incestuous Parker Posey flick The House of Yes, so it'll be interesting to see if he can sneak any twisted subtext past the Disney folk. (Disney)
The Fighting Temptations. Call it "Sweet Homeboy Alabama." Cuba Gooding Jr. plays a hip-hop producer who goes home to the South after his aunt dies, only to find that in order to receive his inheritance, he has to form a successful gospel choir. Irritating Next Friday co-star Mike Epps plays Cuba's country cousin, but with Beyoncé Knowles and Faith Evans lending their pipes, the gospel numbers should at least sound good. (Paramount)
Le Divorce. Now that Kate Hudson and Naomi Watts are brand names, James Ivory carts them to Paris to play around at being young zany women having weird romantic issues. (Fox Searchlight)
Matchstick Men. Not exactly known for his comedies, Ridley Scott dares to deliver Nicholas Cage as a con artist whose teenage daughter (Alison Lohman) shows up at the wrong time. Song by Status Quo (and/or Camper Van Beethoven) not confirmed at presstime. (Warner Bros.)
Marci X. Lisa Kudrow's a white Jewish girl put in charge of her father's gangsta-rap record label! Will hanging out with black people teach her how to loosen up? Our money's on "yes." Damon Wayans co-stars as rapper "Dr. Snatchcatcher," and Christine Baranski appears as the token evil Republican. (Paramount)
Shaolin Soccer. If the Bears were bad news and the Ducks sucked, perhaps there's an antidote in these wacky footballers from China. Their martial-arts training allows them to do supernatural moves, but they face equally formidable opponents. Stephen Chow acts, writes, directs and cashes the checks. (Miramax)
The Battle of Shaker Heights. The second film to come out of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's HBO-funded Project Greenlight, this one features a pair of directors who have actually made a film before, and a screenplay that won a separate contest. The plot involves a teenager who's obsessed with World War II, to the point of re-creating some of its battles. Well, what teen isn't? (Miramax)
Freddy vs. Jason. The walking corpse of a drowned redneck with Down's syndrome heads to Elm Street to take on a Kentucky Fried child-murderer who only exists in dreams. Fans of '80s slashers have awaited this showdown for over a decade; given that most of the Freddy movies are pretty good and the Jason ones shoddy, there's a 50-50 chance of suckitude, especially since the producers totally dissed Kane Hodder by recasting Jason (with another stunt guy, no less). However, Hong Kong director Ronny Yu does have a track record of stylishly resurrecting '80s horror icons -- Bride of Chucky rocked. (New Line)
The Medallion. Jackie Chan plays a Hong Kong detective with a medallion that gives him super powers. Julian Sands plays a character called "Snakehead," so what more do you need to know? (Screen Gems)
Once Upon a Time in the Midlands. Cinema critic Gregory Weinkauf's official favorite actress Shirley Henderson shows up to play a struggling mom living with Rhys Ifans (sounds like a disease documentary). When her old boyfriend Robert Carlyle shows up to play, things get pretty saucy! (Sony Pictures Classics)
Thirteen. Evan Rachel Wood stars in this shocking tale of juvenile delinquency in Los Angeles. Shocking, that is, if it never occurred to you that teenagers do drugs, have sex and use profanity. Co-screenwriter Nikki Reed is only fourteen, which puts her mental age a good two years higher than that of the average studio scribe. (Fox Searchlight)
Civil Brand. Perhaps, if we're lucky, this film could spark a revival of the "bimbos in cages" genre popularized by Jonathan Demme back when he worked for Roger Corman. It's set in a women's prison, where conditions are hard, the protagonist is unjustly accused and the inmates rise up. Mos Def plays a sympathetic law student. (Lion's Gate)
Grind. Skateboarding's the cool thing right now, so they say, and to cash in on this hot new trend that all the kids are into, here comes a movie about it. Four young would-be Tony Hawks follow the summer tour of their favorite skateboard star, hoping to learn some new tricks and get noticed by the pros. The cast and crew are all pretty much unknown, so the skating action and cinematography had better be good. (WB)
My Boss's Daughter. You know you've been waiting for Ashton Kutcher and Tara Reid to finally do a movie together. She plays the daughter of his unpleasant boss; he winds up housesitting for said employer and uses the opportunity to hit on the young lady. Meanwhile, Andy Richter, Terence Stamp, Michael Madsen and Carmen Electra show up. Points for creative ensemble casting, anyway. (Miramax)
Highwaymen. Jim Caviezel and Rhona Mitra are pursued by a serial killer... who likes to run people over with his car! Undoubtedly inspired by the sole occasion on which a studio executive had to drive himself on the L.A. freeways. (New Line)
Jeepers Creepers 2. Ya know, at least Roman Polanski doesn't make movies about raping little girls (not anymore, anyway). If writer-director Victor Salva really wanted to put his pedophiliac past behind him, he'd stop making films about a pants-sniffing ancient demon that pursues a high school boys' basketball team. The creature's costume, incidentally, is the worst rubber suit to come along since Joel Schumacher said, "Batman's armor isn't gay enough." The concept and the goofy title may have suckered you into the first film, but there's no excuse this time. (MGM)
Angela. A Mafia movie that's actually from Italy, this one might break down a few stereotypes. Or not. It's apparently based on the true-life story of a trophy wife who becomes involved with both the family business and one of her husband's underlings. (First Look)
Blossoms of Fire. Documentary about the apparently matriarchal society of Juchitan in Oaxaca, Mexico. Homosexuals and transgenders are also treated as equals in this society, so does that mean it's the way to go? Might the world be better if women ran it? See the movie, and perhaps those answers will be revealed. (New Yorker)
Cabin Fever. Director Eli Roth's big-screen debut has a buzz surrounding it similar to that of Sam Raimi's original Evil Dead. The plot sounds similar, too, with a bunch of unsuspecting friends trapped in a cabin by a mysterious threat. The danger in this one, though, comes from a flesh-eating virus. As Joe Bob Briggs might say, "Anyone can die at any time." (Lions Gate)
Capturing the Friedmans. This documentary follows the dissolution of a seemingly typical family, following the arrest of father and son, and the subsequent ostracism of the clan by the local community. But all was not as it seemed, and as the filmmakers took a closer look, disturbing questions were raised. (Magnolia)
Casa de los Babys. Who cares what this one's about? Any movie with that title has to be worth a look. Okay, turns out it's directed by John Sayles, which makes it even more of a must-see. And check out the cast: Marcia Gay Harden, Lili Taylor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Daryl Hannah, Mary Steenburgen and Rita Moreno. The story involves six women who go to South America to adopt babies, then find out that the law requires them to live there. (IFC)
Don't Tempt Me. An angel from heaven (Victoria Abril) and a demon from hell (Penélope Cruz) come to Earth to try to win over the soul of a boxer with a potentially fatal brain injury. Sounds totally insane, and an absolute must-see. (Fine Line)
Dracula: Pages From a Virgin's Diary. In the beginning, there was Bram Stoker's vampire novel. Then the Royal Winnipeg Ballet turned it into a dance, scored with selections by Gustav Mahler. Canadian public television filmed this, and now it's coming to big screens here in the U.S. Mostly black and white, and entirely dialogue-free, this ain't your father's Dracula -- it's more like your great-grandfather's Dracula. After Wes Craven Presents Dracula 2000, though, anything's an improvement. (Zeitgeist)
Ken Park. Self-appointed chronicler of juvenile delinquency Larry Clark teams up once again with his Kids screenwriter Harmony Korine (himself a former juvenile delinquent, currently minus only the "juvenile" part except perhaps in sensibility). The story involves skaters, but this is no Grind -- expect Clark's usual heavy doses of underage sex, violence and profanity designed to titilla...er, shock you out of your suburban naiveté. (Monograph Films)
Madison. Not the sequel to Splash, alas, but it does involve water. Christ-to-be Jim (James?) Caviezel plays an Indiana air-conditioner repairman who pilots a boat in the 1971 APBA Gold Cup Championship race. Based on a true story. (Artisan)
May. Angela Bettis, star of NBC's Carrie remake, once again plays a misfit girl who lashes out in gruesome fashion when it becomes clear that the outside world wants nothing to do with her. This black comedy-cum-slasher blew 'em away at Harry Knowles's Butt-Numb-a-Thon; Lions Gate is hoping it'll do the same for folks with more alert glutes. (Lions Gate)
The Princess Blade. Donnie Yen (Iron Monkey, Blade II) choreographed the fight scenes in this adaptation of the Japanese comic book about samurai wars in the near future. A sequel's already in the works, so presumably international audiences have grooved to the ass-kicking. (ADV Films)
Ripley's Game. Matt Damon, it seems, will grow up to be John Malkovich in this adaptation of one of author Patricia Highsmith's sequels to The Talented Mr. Ripley. Tom Ripley is older, and married, but he's still a psychopath, and given that there were two subsequent Ripley books, he presumably still gets away with it. (Fine Line)
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
The Secret Lives of Dentists. Alan Rudolph's latest film centers on a married pair of dentists (Campbell Scott and Judy Davis), who may not quite be telling each other the whole truth. Denis Leary gets to play angry again in his own unique fashion, as a patient who lashes out at Scott in ways the rest of us terrified dental subjects can only fantasize about. (Manhattan)
Sex Is Comedy. Of course, it is. French director Catherine Breillat, who likes to shock and arouse audiences with sex and cruelty, delivers a self-reflexive parody of her own work in this film about a female director (Anne Parillaud) determined to get her lead actors to have real sex on camera. (IFC)
The Three Marias. So, these three girls named Maria walk into a bar.... Actually, it's no joke. In this Brazilian crime drama, the three Marias are sisters out to avenge the murder of their father and brothers at the hands of one of their mom's spurned ex-boyfriends. You'll feel better about your own family reunions afterward. (Empire)