Old Faithful 

This summer's movies have a comfortably retro look.

If the summer movie season is our annual time for escapism, last summer's audiences escaped most often with the likes of The Hulk, Terminator 3, and The Matrix Reloaded. Those titles, respectively, ended with a homeless and penniless hero, the end of life on earth as we know it, and our messianic figure sent into a coma. Turn on CNN, and you can get your apocalyptic images for the price of basic cable -- who needs it at the multiplex as well?

Of course, it takes about two years for the average movie to go from concept to completion, which perhaps is why this summer -- two-plus years removed from 9-11 -- our movies skew heavily toward nostalgia. The attacks made many people long for simpler, safer times, and Hollywood is delivering; in the coming months, the retro machine will be cranked up to virtually every decade from the past century: from a '30s-era nod to Cole Porter (De-Lovely) to an adaptation of a classic '50s novel (I, Robot), and from a remake of a '60s thriller (The Manchurian Candidate) to the film debut of an '80s cartoon icon (Garfield).

The following pages preview dozens of upcoming summer movies, from projected blockbusters sure to be accompanied by Happy Meal tie-ins to obscure documentaries that wield considerable promise. All dates are subject to change, and inevitably, some of them will. -- Luke Y. Thompson


Around the World in 80 Days

Starring: Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Cécile De France, Jim Broadbent

Director: Frank Coraci

Writers: David Goldstein, David Benullo, Michael Weiss . . . and Jules Verne

Premise: Chan and Coogan take to the skies in the umpteenth remake of this classic novel.

Outlook: Looks like good old-fashioned fun -- if any market for such a risk still exists. Coogan (star of British TV hit I'm Alan Partridge) and Chan are both geniuses of their craft, and the stunt casting -- including the Gropenator as a polygamist in a fugged-up wig -- seems amusing. In the case of director Coraci (The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy), this appears to be evidence that if you survive Adam Sandler, you are allowed to make a cool movie.

(Opens June 16)


Starring: Mario Van Peebles, Nia Long, David Alan Grier, Ossie Davis

Director: Mario Van Peebles

Writers: Mario Van Peebles, Dennis Haggerty

Premise: Playing Melvin, his daddy, Mario dramatizes the trials and tribulations surrounding the making of the 1971 hit Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song.

Outlook: Why the five S's? The MPAA won't allow the word "ass" in a title. Wouldn't be a bad idea to release Papa Van Peebles's original movie in a new deluxe DVD format to help get the word out. If Mario can sell it to the black youth audience, he'll have a hit.

(Opens June 25)

The Chronicles of Riddick

Starring: Vin Diesel, Colm Feore, Alexa Davelos, Judi Dench

Writer/Director: David Twohy

Premise: That bald brute from the supercool Pitch Black returns, perchance to save the universe.

Outlook: Looks like a very heavy-handed allegory for the European Crusades, writ science-fictiony in the 26th century. Dench may be seeing Alec Guinness potential as the mystical guide of the nice-guy Elementals, whom Richard "Dick" B. Riddick (Diesel) assists in battling the probably-not-nice Necromongers, led by Feore. Pitch Black was an Alien knockoff done right, but this may be the beginning of an action trilogy done silly.

(Opens June 11)

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

Starring: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Christine Taylor, Rip Torn

Writer/Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber (the short film/commercial "Terry Tate, Office Linebacker")

Premise: Another month, another Stiller-in-a-wig movie. Does the man never sleep? Anyhow, the film's title says it all, except that the movie isn't really based on a true story.

Outlook: Didn't that one episode of South Park already exhaust every possible gag to be wrung from the notion of a dodgeball world championship? Here's a bold prediction: Dollars to donuts there'll be more than one scene of a man getting hit in the crotch.

(Opens June 18)


Starring: Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Steven Tobolowsky, the voice of Bill Murray

Director: Peter Hewitt

Writers: Joel Cohen, Alec Sokolow (the Cheaper by the Dozen remake)

Premise: The fat cat popularized in the '80s finally hits the CG big time.

Outlook: Fat, obnoxious comic-strip creature eats and complains constantly, annoys bachelor and dog -- this could just as well be the Cathy movie. Director Hewitt previously helmed the heartwarming British comedy Thunderpants, about a kid who farts a lot, which mysteriously remains unreleased on our prim shores.

(Opens June 11)

The Notebook

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, Gena Rowlands, James Garner

Writer/Director: Nick Cassavetes

Premise: Following an ill-fated move into mainstream Hollywood thrillers with John Q. , Nick Cassavetes returns to the stuff that he and his late father have always been good at: quirky, character-based romance starring Gena Rowlands.

Outlook: Should achieve a mixed demographic, as the film, much like Big Fish, depicts a romance in contemporary times with Garner and Rowlands, then in flashback with the hot young leads. Total chick flick, but Cassavetes can usually make things interesting.

(Opens June 25)

Spider-Man 2

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina, James Franco

Director: Sam Raimi

Writers: Michael Chabon, several others

Premise: Sony spends and recoups another shitload of money.

Outlook: Seems like a winner, reuniting the forces that capably succeeded the first time out -- although it would have been cool if Dunst had replaced onscreen sweetheart Maguire with the more intriguing Jake Gyllenhaal, as in real life. Molina takes over villain's duties as tentacle-thrashing Doctor Octopus. More of the cheeseball humor of Raimi (the Evil Dead movies) would be welcome, but perhaps screenwriter Chabon (Pulitzer Prize winner for his novel Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay) will add some weird literary pedigree to this pricey pulp.

(Opens June 30)

The Stepford Wives

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler, Matthew Broderick, Christopher Walken

Director: Frank Oz (Miss Piggy)

Writers: Paul Rudnick (In & Out), Ira Levin (original novel)

Premise: Dark-comedic remake of paranoid-sexist 1970s sci-fi movie about suburban horror and systematic wife-replacement.

Outlook: The producers pulled a bait-and-switch on Kidman, luring her with promises of fanciful co-star John Cusack, then ironically replacing him with middle-aged Ferris Bueller. Entire production sounds similarly confused, and after The Score it's impossible to trust Yoda-Piggy in the director's chair anymore. Theme is ridiculously threadbare, too: Ask your female boss to phone you from her Escalade to tell you how the movie's oppression relates to her.

(Opens June 11)

The Terminal

Starring: Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stanley Tucci, Chi McBride

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writers: Sacha Gervasi (The Big Tease), Jeff Nathanson (Catch Me if You Can)

Premise: Realizing that they don't yet have all the money in the world, Hanks and Spielberg decide to team up and make another movie together. Spielberg has an entire airport terminal built on a soundstage, and Hanks does a funny accent. Or something like that.

Outlook: It's Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. What part of that don't you get? It's probably critic-proof, but frankly the concept -- of a guy living in an airport because he can't go back to his fictional foreign country or enter the U.S. -- sounds kinda painful, as does Hanks's Boris Badenov voice.

(Opens June 18)

Two Brothers

Starring: Guy Pearce and two tigers

Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud

Writers: Jean-Jacques Annaud, Alain Godard

Premise: Two tigers are separated at birth -- one is sold to a circus and loses his spirit, while the other is raised as a fighter for sport. They meet again as adults, when they are forcibly pitted against each other.

Outlook: Everybody loves tigers; just look at how many people have tattoos of them. Not everyone loves Guy Pearce, but probably enough to help the movie do OK. Annaud's always had more success with animals than with people anyway.

(Opens June 25)

White Chicks

Starring: Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Brittany Daniel, James King

Director: Keenen Ivory Wayans

Writers: Assorted Wayanses and friends

Premise: African American FBI officers go undercover as, essentially, the Hilton sisters.

Outlook: Since blondes and black men absolutely never fraternize in American society, this movie should build the vital bridges of tolerance and understanding. Ha. Whatever. At least someone's finally making a joke out of that damned annoying Vanessa Carlton song.

(Opens June 23)


Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Starring: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell, Raul Rudd

Director: Adam McKay

Writers: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay

Premise: Will Ferrell mugs a lot as a sexist San Diego newscaster in 1973.

Outlook: The trailer suggests easy summer retro laughs, with no surprises whatsoever.

(Opens July 9)

Before Sunset

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Director: Richard Linklater

Writers: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke

Premise: The romantic Yank and Frog from 1995's Before Sunrise reunite nine years later.

Outlook: From Slacker to School of Rock, Linklater throws his heart into his work. This quickie sequel (shot in 15 days) may deliver the same offhand charm and believable characters as its predecessor. This time Hawke pretends that he's an author -- an obvious case of art reflecting life.

(Opens July 16)

The Bourne Supremacy

Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Joan Allen, Brian Cox

Director: Paul Greengrass

Writers: Tony Gilroy, Brian Helgeland, novelist Robert Ludlum

Premise: This time Jason Bourne (or whatever his name is) must clear his name following brutal assassinations.

Outlook: The first one proved a pleasant surprise, and this sequel promises lots of dark intrigue all over Germany, Russia, and India. In particular, the work of Greengrass holds appeal, as Bloody Sunday, his documentary-style reenactment of a Northern Ireland riot, was truly stunning. Production here was apparently rushed, but whatever its flaws, at least it don't feature no Affleck.

(Opens July 23)


Starring: Halle Berry, Sharon Stone, Benjamin Bratt, and that French dude from the Matrix sequels

Director: Pitof (one word, like Madonna. He's a former effects guy for Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro)

Writers: John D. Brancato & Michael Ferris (Terminator 3)

Premise: Jettisoning the Batman connection altogether, Halle Berry dons a Mouseketeer-meets-Matrix stripper outfit as Patience Philips, a graphic designer who gains some kind of super cat-powers.

Outlook: Had this film come out in 1993, starred Michelle Pfeiffer, and been directed by Tim Burton, we'd be talking mega-hit. As is, Halle's costume looks stupid (can't wait for the inevitable drag-queen version, though), the trailer's lame (she likes sushi!), and Mattel recently canceled plans for a Barbie tie-in. Expect Gigli comparisons before the year is out, as well as endless puns like "Cat-astrophe." Sadly, this will probably cancel out any chance of the real Catwoman character appearing in the new Christian Bale Batman franchise.

(Opens July 23)

The Clearing

Starring: Robert Redford, Helen Mirren, Willem Dafoe

Director: Pieter Jan Brugge (producer of Glory and The Insider)

Writer: Justin Haythe

Premise: Redford gets kidnapped and held for ransom in the woods by Dafoe; Redford's wife Mirren tries to figure out how to save him.

Outlook: Seems thoroughly unoriginal, save for the presence of Mirren, who doesn't generally do this type of thing. Maybe she was attracted by a particularly good script. Or perhaps she just had a mortgage to pay.

(Opens July 9)

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

Starring: John Cho, Kal Penn

Director: Danny Leiner (Dude, Where's My Car?)

Writers: John Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg

Premise: Stoner Indian student and stoner Korean student quest for burgers.

Outlook: Sometimes the title says enough.

(Opens July 30)

I, Robot

Starring: Will Smith and some robots

Director: Alex Proyas

Writers: Jeff Vintar (Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within), Akiva Goldsman (Lost in Space)

Premise: Smith plays a detective investigating a crime that may be the first-ever murder of a human by a robot. Because, y'know, according to Isaac Asimov's three Laws of Robotics, the metal guys aren't supposed to do that.

Outlook: Apparently the screenplay bears very little resemblance to Asimov's book, and the teaser trailer has been laughed at by fanboy types online, mostly because the CG robots aren't very convincing. But there's hope: First of all, the CG is far from finished at this stage. And second, while not all of Proyas's films have been hits (Dark City and Garage Days failed to make Crow-level dough), they're always interesting to look at.

(Opens July 16)

King Arthur

Starring: Clive Owen, Keira Knightley, Ioan Gruffudd, Stellan Skarsgard

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Writers: David Franzoni (Gladiator), John Lee Hancock (The Alamo)

Premise: Supposed to be a more historically accurate, fantasy-free look at the legendary king of England, though Keira Knightley's tribal-tattooed warrior Guinevere looks more like a contemporary fantasy than anything else.

Outlook: There's a basic rule for Jerry Bruckheimer-produced actioners: The PG-13-rated ones usually suck, and the R-rated ones smash stuff up real good (King Arthur's rating is pending). Pirates of the Caribbean was a major exception, though, and with Disney and Knightley back on board, this could duplicate last year's formula for success.

(Opens July 7)

The Manchurian Candidate

Starring: Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber, Jon Voight

Director: Jonathan Demme

Writers: Daniel Pyne (The Sum of All Fears), Dean Georgaris (Paycheck)

Premise: John Frankenheimer's Cold War suspense film gets an update, with Washington stepping in for Frank Sinatra and Streep for Angela Lansbury. The actual region of Asia referenced by the title is no longer part of the story; this time it's a big company called the Manchurian Corporation that plans to install a puppet president mentally programmed to do their evil bidding.

Outlook: A president who automatically does whatever a big corporation tells him to do? Isn't that a little far-fetched?

(Opens July 30)

Napoleon Dynamite

Starring: Jon Heder, Efren Ramirez, Diedrich Bader, Haylie Duff

Director: Jared Hess

Writers: Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess

Premise: Slacker loser in Idaho reveals cool streak.

Outlook: Before Elvis Costello ferociously sucked up to Hollywood, he gave himself amusing pet names, such as the one snatched for this film's title. Looks like authentic indie-comeuppance giggles aplenty. Seems all of piece, since at the beginning of his career, Costello was dubbed by journalists "The Avenging Dork."

(Opens July 16)


Starring: Alexa Vega, Mika Boorem, Kalli Flynn Childress

Director: Joe Nussbaum

Writer: Elisa Bell (Vegas Vacation)

Premise: Girls scarcely in their teens compete against popular high school girls in an all-night scavenger hunt.

Outlook: The director of the silly George Lucas in Love wriggled his way into a feature-directing deal, proving that anything is possible in America. Elements including stealing a car and vying for the "best" table in the cafeteria suggest a spirited teen hit; nonetheless, this smells like Lean Girls.

(Opens July 9)


Starring: Ben Kingsley, Bill Paxton, Anthony Edwards, Sophia Myles, and some big, colorful spaceships

Director: Jonathan Frakes

Writers: Peter Hewitt (Thunderpants), William Osbourne (Stop! or My Mom Will Shoot), Michael McCullers (both Austin Powers sequels)

Premise: Live-action rendition of the 1960s U.K. "Supermarionation" sci-fi show in which wooden string puppets saved the day from danger in, yes, some big, colorful spaceships. It remains to be seen which is creepier -- a vintage marionette or Bill Paxton.

Outlook: Likely to do well in the U.K., but here? Frakes's track record is questionable: Other than Star Trek movies, the erstwhile Commander Riker is best known for directing the horrible kiddie sci-fi movie Clockstoppers.

(Opens July 30)

The Village

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver

Writer/Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Premise: A 19th-century Pennsylvania village, hermetically sealed from the rest of civilization, is disturbed by an outside menace.

Outlook: Shyamalan's a ding-dong. While The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable smartly mixed dank moodiness with semi-unpredictable "twist" endings, the flailing Signs dumbed things down into eye-rolling territory. This project appears to follow suit, with nice production values and cast, but a lame, sub-sub-Twilight Zone "twist" that even webheads have long since sussed. Catch it in an Amish town for extra fun.

(Opens July 30)


Alien Vs. Predator

Starring: Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, and some big ugly meanies from outer space

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

Writers: Paul W.S. Anderson, Shane Salerno, Peter Briggs

Premise: Titular franchise thingies battle each other in Antarctica, while humans stupidly interfere.

Outlook: After two pointless placeholder sequels, at least the Aliens finally get to do something on Earth. Their interactions with the Predator species are sure to fuel many a comic-geek debate, but whoever wins, the human actors are brave to participate. Note: Director Anderson did Resident Evil (and its star, Milla Jovovich) and is not "that Magnolia guy."

(Opens August 13)

Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid

Starring: Morris Chestnut, Nicholas Hope, and huge-ass snakes

Director: Dwight H. Little (Free Willy 2)

Writer: John Claflin (They Nest)

Premise: It's kinda-sorta a sequel to 1997's Anaconda, without any of the original cast and crew involved. Apparently the new film focuses on a quest for a rare flower in Borneo, where there are no anacondas in real life.

Outlook: Aw hell, why get hung up on snake semantics? It's a movie about large legless reptiles eating people. It's a shame there's no grand ham like Jon Voight in the cast this time, but so long as there are serpents that kill and do so often, potential for fun high jinks exists.

(Opens August 27)

Benji Returns: Rags to Riches

Starring: Titular canine, some guest stars from Everwood and Touched by an Angel

Writer/Director: Joe Camp (of course)

Premise: Benji goes vegan. Naw, just kidding. Benji springs into a new adventure involving diabolical dog breeders.

Outlook: Record-breaking 30-year-old hound celebrates anniversary and demonstrates staying power to wannabes like Beethoven. Could say more, but why kick a dog?

(Opens August 27)


Starring: Chris Evans, Kim Basinger, Jason Statham, Jessica Biel

Director: David Ellis (Final Destination 2)

Writers: Larry Cohen (Phone Booth), J. Mackeye Gruber & Eric Bress (The Butterfly Effect), Chris Morgan

Premise: A young man (Evans) gets a random cell-phone call from a woman (Basinger) who has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom. Her phone battery is dying, and he's her only hope.

Outlook: Looks as if the cell-phone propaganda lobby is at it again. Just as all manner of businesses start to ban loud cell-phone conversations, those Hollywood liberals conspire to indoctrinate us with positive images of the inexpensive communication devices saving lives, damn them! Of course, any movie that cell-phone users can relate to is likely to make heaps of cash.

(Opens August 20)

Code 46

Starring: Tim Robbins, Samantha Morton

Director: Michael Winterbottom (Welcome to Sarajevo, In This World)

Writer: Frank Cottrell Boyce (24 Hour Party People)

Premise: A love story set in a near future when travel is restricted to residents of cities, and even then only those who purchase a special type of insurance. Outside the cities, the world has become a desert filled with shantytowns and illegal immigrants.

Outlook: Combining cautionary global politics with character-based drama is a Winterbottom trademark, but the sci-fi hook may garner him a new audience. And if that's not enough, the film's R-rating description also promises "brief graphic nudity."

(Opens August 6)


Starring: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo

Director: Michael Mann

Writers: Michael Mann, Frank Darabont, Stuart Beattie (contributor to Pirates of the Caribbean)

Premise: Foxx plays an L.A. cabbie forced into service by killer Cruise.

Outlook: Frankly, this sounds less like a movie than a template for a screenwriting workshop. Mann's affection for L.A.'s mean streets (Heat, TV's Robbery Homicide Division) may score him another hit, but -- baddie or otherwise -- isn't the entire world completely sick of Tom Cruise by now?

(Opens August 6)

Exorcist: The Beginning

Starring: Stellan Skarsgard, James D'Arcy, Isabella Scorupco

Director: John Frankenheimer . . . No, wait, Paul Schrader . . . Oops, make that Renny Harlin

Writers: William Wisher (The 13th Warrior), Caleb Carr (The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy), Alexi Hawley

Premise: Skarsgard plays the younger version of Max von Sydow's Father Merrin character, tangling with the devil in mid-20th-century Africa.

Outlook: Frankenheimer died before filming had started. Then Schrader directed the film as a psychological thriller. Once the studio saw his cut, they decided they wanted more of a head-turning and green-puking kind of horror flick, so they recast most of the major roles and hired Harlin (Schrader's version will still apparently come out on DVD). This level of "creative differences" usually doesn't bode well for a film's quality, not to mention the fact that no Exorcist sequel to date has exactly been an aesthetic or commercial triumph.

(Opens August 20)

A Home at the End of the World

Starring: Colin Farrell, Robin Wright Penn, Sissy Spacek, Matt Frewer

Director: Michael Mayer (debut)

Writers: Keith Bunin, Michael Cunningham (novel)

Premise: Farrell plays a straight Clevelander in 1980s New York (Toronto) who moves in with gay Cleveland friend (Dallas Roberts) and falls for female roommate (Wright Penn), with whom the gay friend -- oops! -- was planning to procreate. Then they all go visit Sissy Spacek in the country.

Outlook: The Hours novel was also written by Cunningham, and frankly it wasnt deep or moving -- it was tedious. If thats your cup of tea, have another lukewarm swig, courtesy of Warners new independent wing.

(Opens August 6)

Open Water

Starring: Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis

Writer/Director: Chris Kentis (1997's Grind, not to be confused with the recent skateboarding flick of the same name)

Premise: A vacationing couple goes on a scuba-diving trip and is accidentally left out at sea, surrounded by sharks. Based on a true story.

Outlook: The filmmakers used real sharks. Real. No one's gonna be bitching about how fake they look, the way they did with all the Jaws movies. Audiences jaded by mega-budget computer-generated stuff, who want a good water-based scare, are gonna eat it up like Jaws at a beach party.

(Opens August 20)

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Julie Andrews

Director: Garry Marshall

Writer: Gina Wendkos

Premise: Last time around, she found out she was a princess. Now our heroine learns that she has 30 days to find herself a prince or give up the throne. There's something like seven of these books already in print, so this cinematic series has only just begun.

Outlook: The first Princess Diaries was surprisingly appealing, and all the same people are back, including Heather Matarazzo as the less-attractive best friend. John Rhys-Davies joins the cast on this outing, and he knows a thing or two about picking franchise projects.

(Opens August 11)

Without a Paddle

Starring: Matthew Lillard, Seth Green, Burt Reynolds

Director: Steven Brill (Adam Sandler movies)

Writers: Jay Leggett, Mitch Rouse (Employee of the Month)

Premise: Urban buddies go camping. And rafting. Badly.

Outlook: Dork-a-thon. Some may squeal in amusement . . . but please, deliver us.

(Opens August 20)


Featuring: The voices of Dan Green, Wayne Grayson, Amy Birnbaum

Director: Ryôsuke Takahashi

Writers: Um . . .

Premise: Spiky-haired anime guy from popular cartoons and game battles ancient evil.

Outlook: Children, gaming geeks, and quasi-Egyptologists rejoice. Even if you're not a fan, the title is fun to say in bed.

(Opens August 13)


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