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Sink or Swim?

Although “Spider-man” is as close to a sure-fire hit as possible, the same cannot be said about the rest of this summer’s lot. Go ahead—judge for yourselves

By Vijay A. Bal, Matthew Callahan, Clint J. Froehlich, Tiffany I. Hsieh, Steven N. Jacobs, Michelle Kung, Amelia E. Lester, and Benjamin J. Soskin, Crimson Staff Writers

20TH CENTURY FOX

Unfaithful (May 10): As his hair gradually turns a whiter shade of gray, Richard Gere’s name has increasingly become synonymous with overly sentimental and painfully earnest “adult relationship” movies. The question is, did Gere learn his lesson after the astoundingly unsuccessful Autumn in New York? Things aren’t looking promising, as his latest effort explores the disintegration of a marriage destroyed by an obsessive affair and asks whether a marriage infected by deceit, guilt and anger can “find a way to recover.”

Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones (May 16): So the title sounds like an amateur B-grade horror movie and sure, Jar Jar Binks makes his return as the most annoying character ever captured on celluloid, but nothing could deter die-hard fans from this latest installment in George Lucas’ Star Wars saga. Luke is still but a glint in his father’s eye as Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen pursue their ill-fated love affair between battles with Jedi Rebel Dooku and his band of cloned droids. Will the “force” of photogenic actors overcome the dark side of a potentially plotless prequel? As Yoda might say, “Wait you must...no more will I tell you today.” -AEL

COLUMBIA

Stars and sequels galore! In additon to Spider-Man, Columbia’s releases include Jennifer Lopez in Enough (May 24), Adam Sandler in Mr. Deeds (June 28), Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black II (July 3), Stuart Little II and Vin Diesel in XXX (Aug. 2). -MFK

DISNEY/TOUCHSTONE

Bad Company (June 7): In this year’s mismatched cop genre entry, Chris Rock plays a street hustler whose Harvard-educated CIA agent twin dies in the line of duty. Partnered with Anthony Hopkins, Rock joins the CIA to help solve the case his brother died working on. Helmed by the director that ruined the Batman franchise, this film is hardly going to be a masterpiece—the best one can hope for is that Hopkins’ and Rock’s presences raise this film above mediocrity.

Lilo and Stitch (June 21): Though they abandoned their typical animated formula for last year’s poorly grossing Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Disney returns to standard form with the misadventures of Stitch, a fugitive alien who hides from the law in Kauai. Once on earth, he finds his way into a pound and is soon adopted by a young girl, Lilo. Crazy antics ensue.

Reign of Fire (July 12): In the not too distant future dragons emerge from London and begin to set fire to the world, establishing their dominance over humans. Mankind’s only hope is a group of dragon slayers led by Matthew McConaughey and Christian Bale. This sounds like a tired old formula that has been done a thousand times and that’s probably what this film will be. On the upside, if the apocalypse does strike, London is a fitting place for it to begin.

Signs (Aug. 2): The newest film from the writer/director of The 6th Sense and Unbreakable, Signs stars Mel Gibson as a man whose life is changed after a 500 hundred foot design mysteriously appears in his crops. Hopefully Signs will be an improvement on Unbreakable, giving us a satisfying if unspectacular movie going experience. - VAB

DREAMWORKS SKG

Minority Report (June 21): As if to clean up the fiasco that was A.I., Steven Spielberg’s latest jaunt into sci-fi goes all-out, Indiana Jones-style. Based on the short story by science fiction guru Philip K. Dick, Minority Report is set in 2054 Washington, D.C., where a psychic method called Pre-Crime witnesses, verifies, arrests and convicts murderers before they even commit their crime. But when the head of the Pre-Crime division (Cruise) is accused of the murder of a man he hasn’t even met yet, he finds himself being stalked by a fellow officer (Colin Farrell)—talk about undermining infrastructure and public trust. Premise, stars, Spielberg—Minority Report has all the ingredients for success.

Road To Perdition (July 12): “Pray for Michael Sullivan.” So commands the mysterious tagline on the website for Road to Perdition, the sophomore film of Sam Mendes (American Beauty). Tom Hanks, in one of his less family-friendly roles, is the eponymous Michael Sullivan, a hit man who seeks revenge after he is betrayed and half of his family decimated. If the 1998 graphic novel of the same title by Max Allan Collins is any indication, the film should feature some stunning cinematography of noir-era Chicago. -TIH

MIRAMAX

The Importance of Being Earnest (May 17): Director Oliver Parker, who also shot Wilde’s droll An Ideal Husband for Miramax in 1999, reunites on Earnest with Husband’s Rupert Everett, teaming him this time with Reese Witherspoon, Dame Judi Dench and Colin Firth. Despite the film’s cumulative pedigree, its promotional footage looks weak; the movie should be early summer fluff.

Full Frontal (Aug. 2): Director Steven Soderbergh’s latest foray into the mosaic-of-L.A.-life genre has been described as a thematic follow-up to Soderbergh’s first (and still best) film sex, lies, and videotape. Considering his last three films have grossed a combined $433 million domestically, his track record has secured him a place atop Hollywood’s A-list; odd then, that apart from Julia Roberts and David Duchovny, Soderbergh has recruited a stable of B-list talent to star in his latest film (Catherine Keener, David Hyde Pierce and infamously unfamous Cultural Rhythms host Blair Underwood). Stories of Full Frontal’s filming also sound lacking in Hollywood slickness: a quick shooting schedule, occasional improvisation, and digital shooting all suggest that an indie attitude will assert itself onscreen.

Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (Aug. 7): The studio’s biggest commercial hit of the season is apt to be this sequal, which chronicles the further adventures of the pint-sized action duo seen in the original. - BJS

MGM/UNITED ARTISTS

Windtalkers (June 14): In John Woo’s World War II drama about the Allies’ use of the Navajo language to convey messages, Nicolas Cage plays a Marine guarding a Navajo man involved in the operation. In recent summers, historical war movies like The Patriot and Saving Private Ryan have fared well at the box office, and Woo’s Face/Off and Mission: Impossible II have met with similar success. Whether Windtalkers will succeed is another matter; it appears to be a more serious endeavor than the stylish, bullet-clogged popcorn flicks Woo has concentrated on making until now.

The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course (July 12): After Emeril got a TV series, I should have expected that crocodile hunter Steve Irwin, another star from a third-tier cable channel, would net a star vehicle. Don’t expect any grisly battles, though; the movie’s rated PG.

Also around will be Pumpkin, in which Christina Ricci plays a sorority girl who falls for a handicapped boy; Igby Goes Down, which follows a rich-yet-dysfunctional family and which features such offbeat greats as Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Claire Danes and Susan Sarandon; and CQ, a film by Francis Ford Coppola’s son Roman, concerning a 1960s film director helming a sci-fi movie set in 2001. -BJS

PARAMOUNT PICTURES

The Sum of All Fears (May 31): In this newest installation of the Jack Ryan saga, Ben Affleck replaces Harrison Ford (Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games) as Ryan, a CIA analyst who’s tracking down bad guys in possession of an unlicensed nuclear weapon. If you like seeing professionally-made thrillers that you feel like you’ve seen before, you’ll like seeing this one.

The Emperor’s New Clothes (June 14): With a veteran TV director and novice screenwriters, this dodgy enterprise stars Ian Holm in this Prince and the Pauper affair. As Napoleon, he escapes from prison late in life and heads to France to reclaim his throne, leaving a double in his place (also Holm). But drama and wholesome highbrow romance derail his plans.

Jackass: The Movie (July 12): More self-destructive stunts and stupid pranks, filmed in documentary fashion, from the morons who left MTV’s airwaves too soon. Featuring the Vasectomy Olympics and tranquilized mountain lions, it’s nice to hear that “Jackass” frontman Johnny Knoxville hasn’t left stupidity behind.

K-19: The Widowmaker (July 19): Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break, Strange Days) and starring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, K-19 is based on the true-life story of the first Soviet nuclear sub to be launched, and the poor bastards aboard it. Early word is that everyone pulls their weight, but can’t escape the cliches of the submarine genre.

Serving Sara (August 16): A couple of “Spin City” writers and the director of The Ladies’ Man team up on this comedy that stars Matthew Perry. Playing a romantic lead to Elizabeth Hurley, she hires him to serve divorce papers to her uptight Republican husband (Army of Darkness’s Bruce Campbell). Unless you’re willing to see those actors in anything, probably better to give this one a miss. -MWC

UNIVERSAL

About A Boy (May 17): Adapted from Nick Hornby’s novel, Hugh Grant plays Will, an irresponsible, charming, and thoughtless bachelor living off the accomplishments of his father. Realizing that at age 38, his best bet is to go after single mothers, he joins S.P.A.T (Single Parents Alone Together) and inadvertently befriends Marcus (Hoult), a troubled twelve year-old in need of a father figure. Much as he fights it, Will eventually takes Marcus under his wing and teaches the boy to be cool and learning a thing or two about relationships in the process. Directed by Paul and Chris Weitz, if these American Pie helmers can create a unique entry into the tired romantic comedy genre, they can prove that they have matured beyond teen comedy.

Undercover Brother (May 31): Starring Eddie Griffin, Dave Chapelle, Denise Richards and Chris Kattan in a very obvious takeoff of Shaft, this spoof features a number of departed Saturday Night Live alums that is unimpressive at best.

The Bourne Identity (June 14): Starring Matt Damon in the title role and co-starring Franka Potente (Run Lola Run), this movie is based on the first of Robert Ludlum’s three book series about Jason Bourne, the master spy. Begining with an amnesiatic Bourne, the movie follows the spy as begins to notice that he happens to have all these spy-like attributes (i.e. mastery of martial arts, linguistics, and espionage). Aided by Potente as the requisite female helpmate/love interest, he starts to figure out who he is. Just to make it interesting, everyone’s trying to kill him, so he has that to deal with too. Poor guy. -SNJ

WARNER BROS.

Insomnia (May 24): Warner’s only really promising offering of the summer is this thriller from red-hot director Christopher Nolan. Fresh off of Memento, Nolan decided to tackle another twisty murder story. Al Pacino stars as a police detective sent to a small Alaska town to investigate the murder of a young girl. However, he accidentally shoots his partner while chasing a suspect, and becomes entangled in a deceitful mess with a local detective (Hilary Swank) and the killer himself (Robin Williams). Reports confirm that the story is not told backwards, or even in random order.

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (June 7): Sandra Bullock, Ellen Burstyn, and Ashley Judd star in the feel-good, girls-rule movie of the summer. When Sidalee Walker (Bullock) is sent her mother’s diary, whom she has distanced from, she becomes increasingly drawn to her heritage—her mother’s exploits with her “Ya-Ya Sisters” in the 30’s South. What ensues is a flashback-filled romp through the land of womanhood, sisterly love, and the divine secrets of Sandra Bullock’s acting.

Scooby Doo (June 14)—Clearly the “high-profile” movie in Warner’s lineup, Scooby Doo is a rehashing of the cartoon classic that mixes live action with animation. Sarah Michelle Gellar, naturally, is Daphne, Freddie Prinze Jr. is Fred Jones, and the ever-typecasted (as moron) Matthew Lillard is Shaggy. Unfortunately for the world, Carmen Elektra or Cindy Crawford will NOT be playing Velma.

The Powerpuff Girls (July 3): Rumors are that the story has something to do with young girls kicking big amounts of evil booty. From the studio, the official report tells that the story is a Batman Year One-esque digression on the origins of the Powerpuff’s otherworldly girl-power.

Eight Legged Freaks (July 19): In this Dean Devlin/Roland Emmerich-produced camp-fest, spiders begin feeding from a toxic waste-infused lake, and as does happen now and then the spiders grow to about six feet in diameter. Ridiculous situations ensue. -CJF

Plus, Mike Meyers returns as Austin Powers in New Line’s Goldmember (July 26). Shagadelic, baby!

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