Summer movie preview

The Fantastic Four

Long days without a teacher in sight, warm buttered popcorn,
lightly fizzing sodas and all the air conditioning a body could
want: There’s something about summer and the movies that just go
together. This year’s crop of summer blockbusters promises to hold
a little bit of something for everyone, from the dark, brooding
tale of

Batman Begins

to feel-good family flicks like

Herbie: Fully Loaded,

but the real focus this summer will be on history lessons.
Long days without a teacher in sight, warm buttered popcorn, lightly fizzing sodas and all the air conditioning a body could want: There’s something about summer and the movies that just go together. This year’s crop of summer blockbusters promises to hold a little bit of something for everyone, from the dark, brooding tale of “Batman Begins” to feel-good family flicks like “Herbie: Fully Loaded,” but the real focus this summer will be on history lessons.

The bulk of this summer’s bounty will be made up of re-makes – re-workings, re-tellings and re-imaginings of classic story lines from television such as “The Honeymooners,” “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “Bewitched,” to the radio spectacular of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds.” The Tom Cruise vehicle is poised to be the action hit of the summer, according to Howard Taormino, vice president and film buyer for Cinelux Theatres, whose chain includes a franchise in Morgan Hill.

“I haven’t seen the whole movie, but I’ve seen parts and the visuals are unbelievable,” said Taormino. “The other one that we think will do extremely well, that we’re very excited about is Johnny Depp’s new film, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.’ There have been some test screenings in the Midwest and the audiences have been through the roof.”

Taormino said the theater chain is preparing for the onslaught of summer audiences by planning midnight screenings of the season’s biggest action movies – “Batman” and “War of the Worlds” – but he thinks the summer’s biggest films will actually be sleepers.

“We’ve had a great run for the past five weeks with this film called ‘Crash,'” said Taormino. “I had to fight very hard to get a print for that marketplace because it’s distribution was going to be very limited, but Gilroy and Morgan Hill have gone bonkers for the film. I think the adults are going to like ‘Must Love Dogs’ with John Cusack. Family films are wonderful, but this will appeal to the crowd that liked ‘The Notebook.'”

Batman Begins

Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Ken Watanabe, Liam Neeson

The Batman saga returns to its dark roots in this Warner Brothers prequel exploring the origins of Gotham city’s hero, the disillusioned Bruce Wayne. Played in this installment by “American Psycho” star Christian Bale, Wayne travels the world in search of a means to turn fear against criminals and fight injustice, after the murder of his parents.

Opens: June 15, 2005

Rated: PG-13; intense action violence, disturbing images and thematic elements.

Cinderella Man

Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger, Paul Giamatti

The Oscar-winning team behind “A Beautiful Mind” – producer Brian Grazer, director Ron Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman – re-team with the film’s star, Russell Crowe, to tell the story of Jim Braddock, a light heavyweight boxer forced into retirement but who dreams of a comeback. As the nation slides deeper into the Great Depression, it’s Braddock’s time to shine. Dubbed “Cinderella Man,” he continues to win against all odds, becoming a light in the darkness for thousands of fans. But when Braddock goes up against his toughest foe, heavyweight champion of the world Max Baer who was known for having killed two men in the ring, can “Cinderella” work his magic?

Opens: June 3, 2005

Rated: PG-13; intense boxing violence and some language

Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Kerry Washington, Adam Brody

Just like the juicy gossip about its costars, 20th Century Fox promises its sexy action story will set tongues wagging. John and Jane Smith (Pitt, Jolie) are an ordinary suburban couple in a boring marriage, who discover they have a mutual secret, a la “True Lies.” Both are legendary assassins working for competing organizations, and the truth puts them both in peril: Between each other’s cross-hairs.

Opens: June 10, 2005

Rated: Not Rated

JUNE

The Adventures of Shark Boy & Lava Girl in 3-D

David Arquette, Kristin Davis, George Lopez

Robert Rodriguez (creator of “Spy Kids”) brings to life the adventures of a half-shark boy and a fire-throwing girl that sprang from the intergalactic superhero stories created by his 7-year-old son Racer Max. Ten-year-old Max (Cayden Boyd) becomes lost in his own fantasy world to escape his hum-drum life, but when he realizes his imagined characters, adventures and powers may not just be pretend, he must use his intellect to help Shark Boy and Lava Girl escape the clutches of the evil Mr. Electric.

Opens: June 10, 2005

Rated: Not Rated

The Honeymooners

Cedric the Entertainer, Regina Hall, Mike Epps, Gabrielle Union, Eric Stoltz

This remake of the 1950s TV classic stars Cedric the Entertainer and Mike Epps as bus driver Ralph Kramden and sewer worker Ed Norton, both of whom are dreamers hoping to get rich quick and get themselves out of Brooklyn. Hall and Union stand by their good-hearted, if hare-brained, men.

Opens: June 10, 2005

Rated: Not Rated

High Tension

Philippe Nahon, Maiwenn Nahon, Cecile de France

Director Alexander Aja, who co-wrote the script with childhood friend Gregory Levasseur, pays homage to the slash-fest films of his 1970s childhood with a gore-fest of maximum proportions in “Tension.” Schoolmates and best friends Marie and Alexia hope to prepare for their college exams in the peace and quiet of the secluded country farmhouse owned by Alexia’s parents, but when a stranger knocks on the door in the middle of the night, the weekend turns from a fight to study to an all-out battle for survival.

Opens: June 10, 2005

Rated: R; graphic, bloody killings, terror, sexual content and language

Herbie: Fully Loaded

Lindsay Lohan, Michael Keaton, Matt Dillon

Pre-skeletal Lindsay Lohan gets revved up with the help of the historic Number 53 in this family-friendly comedy adventure from Disney’s Buena Vista Pictures. Maggie Peyton (Lohan) puts the car through on-road, off-road and all-out wacky adventures on the road to becoming a NASCAR driver with the help of her Volkswagen sidekick.

Opens: June 22, 2005

Rated: G

Bewitched

Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine, Steve Carell

Fans of the 1960s television series should be satisfied with this self-conscious remake, according to critics. Kidman reprises the role of Samantha in a movie-within-the-movie, but her co-star (Ferrell) begins to get suspicious as he notices her own witch-y behavior.

Opens: June 24, 2005

Rated: Not Rated

War of the Worlds

Tom Cruise, Miranda Otto, Dakota Fanning, Tim Robbins

Director Steven Spielberg is back with an updated remake of the H.G. Wells drama starring man-of-the-moment Tom Cruise. As Earth comes under attack by alien forces, a battle for the future of humankind’s very existence is under way, and viewers can follow the entire saga through the eyes of one American family just trying to survive the mess.

Opens: June 29, 2005

Rating: Not rated

JULY

The Fantastic Four

Chris Evans, Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis

X-Men fans stuck waiting through another long year for the series’ third installment will be placated with this summer offering from Marvel Comics and 20th Century Fox. The comic book company’s first superheroes display a range of enviable powers – elasticity, invisibility, superhuman strength and the ability to shoot fire – but they must combine their talents if they are to thwart the evil plans of Dr. Doom.

Opens: July 8, 2005

Rated: Not Rated

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, Helena Bonham Carter, David Kelly

Tim Burton and the ever-eccentric Johnny Depp join forces in this remake of the Roald Dahl classic about Willy Wonka (Depp) and Charlie, a poor but good-hearted boy living in the shadows of Wonka’s factory. When Wonka launches a worldwide ticket-based contest to find an heir for his company, Charlie is one of the lucky few to have a chance at the prize.

Opens: July 15, 2005

Rated: Not rated

Wedding Crashers

Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams

Comedy veterans Wilson and Vaughn are a pair of friends on a mission … to bed lonely bridesmaids. Masterful wedding crashers and talented balloon artists both, their perfect plan for bachelor’s bliss is thrown off track when one falls for the charms of a disarmingly attractive woman. The only problem: She’s already engaged.

Opens: July 15, 2005

Rated: Not Rated

The Island

Scarlett Johansson, Ewan McGregor, Djimon Hounsou, Sean Bean, Steve Buscemi

From the director of “Armageddon” and “Pearl Harbor” comes this “Gattica”-like entry into the summer box office race, produced by DreamWorks. The edgy thriller takes on the ethical dilemma of cloning with the story of Lincoln Six-Echo (McGregor), the resident of a utopian contained area of Earth in the mid-21st century. Like the unit’s other residents, Lincoln hopes to be chosen for a trip to “The Island” – supposedly the last unpolluted spot on the planet – but he soon discovers the awful truth. Lincoln is a copy, a human clone who only exists to provide his double with “spare parts.” Knowing his time is limited, Lincoln makes a daring escape with another beautiful inmate (Johansson) to explore the real world in search of his maker.

Opens: July 22, 2005

Rated: Not Rated

The Bad News Bears

Billy Bob Thornton, Greg Kinnear, Marcia Gay Harden

Yet another re-make hitting the summer screen, “The Bad News Bears” offers a fresh spin on the 1976 original as it follows a grizzled former minor leagues player (Thornton) recruited to coach a band of inept Little Leaguers against their arch-rivals, the Yankees, for a championship pennant.

Opens: July 22, 2005

Rated: Not Rated

AUGUST

Valiant

Ewan McGregor, John Cleese, Tim Curry, Rupert Everett, Ricky Gervais

Valiant (McGregor), the brave but runt-sized protagonist of this animated comedy-adventure from the producer of “Shrek” and “Shrek 2,” dreams of joining the elite Royal Homing Pigeon Service during World War II. Despite his undersized stature, Valiant trains rigorously for the chance at a spot on the RHPS. He gets his chance – an order to deliver messages to troops behind enemy lines – when wingpower falls short following a series of devastating attacks by the vicious enemy falcons, led by General Von Talon. Can Valiant and the rest of Squad F save the day?

Opens: August 19, 2005

Rated: G

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