By Kathleen Vanesian
By Amy Silverman
By Robrt L. Pela
By Jim Louvau
By Kathleen Vanesian
By Benjamin Leatherman
By New Times
By Becky Bartkowski
By our count, there are but two sequels waiting to have oil rubbed on their backs this summer -- one featuring an evil lord named Vader, the other featuring an evil lord named Schneider -- so the season has that going for it, which is nice.
But in lieu of sequels come comic-book superheroes (Batman, the Fantastic Four) and small-screen retreads (Bewitched, cursed with the worst trailer ever, and The Dukes of Hazzard, which not even General Lee's been waiting for) and big-screen redos (The Pink Panther, The Bad News Bears, The Honeymooners, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and War of the Worlds).
Of the 130-something movies scheduled to play this summer, few will warm the hearts of the most air-conditioned critic. Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers, with Bill Murray and Jessica Lange and Sharon Stone; Ron Howard's Cinderella Man, starring Russell Crowe as boxer Jim Braddock and Paul Giamatti as his trainer; and Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm, with Matt Damon and Heath Ledger, arrive without action figures and Happy Meals -- and bless their sunburned souls for trying to make art during a season of commerce. Perhaps it won't be such a long, hot summer after all. -- Robert Wilonsky
Opening June 10
Starring: Cécile De France, Mawenn Le Besco and Philippe Nahon
Directed by: Alexandre Aja
Written by: Aja and Grégory Levasseur
What it's about: Two young women on vacation in the French countryside are terrorized by a psychotic killer who wears workman's overalls.
Why it will be fabulous: This no-holds-barred French slasher has already been a horror hit internationally.
Why it will be dreadful: The version being released here has been trimmed for an R rating and dubbed into English.
Starring:Cedric the Entertainer, Mike Epps, Gabrielle Union and Regina Hall
Directed by:John Schultz (Like Mike)
Written by:Danny Jacobson, Saladin Patterson, Barry W. Blaustein, David Sheffield and Don Rhymer
What it's about:Hollywood's latest raid on vintage TV: Cedric puts a new ethnic spin on Jackie Gleason's beloved loudmouth Ralph Kramden.
Why it will be fabulous:Cedric's ability to play blue-collar could send this one to the moon.
Why it will be dreadful:Nobody can channel the spirit of The Great One. Do you get the feeling you'll pine for the murky black-and-white images and canned laughs that once emanated from your old Philco?
Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Starring:Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie
Directed by:Doug Limon (The Bourne Identity)
Written by:Simon Kinberg
What it's about:An unhappy married couple who earn their paychecks as assassins learn that they've been hired to kill each other.
Why it will be fabulous:The Pitt-Jolie twosome should be fun to watch under Limon's fast-action framing.
Why it will be dreadful:This promises to be a plot-heavy romp that could easily fire blanks.
Opening June 15
Starring: Christian Bale, Katie Holmes, Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: David Goyer (Blade)
What it's about: This relaunching of the moribund franchise tells how Bruce Wayne (Bale) became the Dark Knight after seeing his parents executed in a Gotham City alley. In this version, Bruce heads to the Himalayas to train (with Neeson, shades of The Phantom Menace) and returns to Gotham to find a bad city run by a good cop, Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), and overrun with creepy villains, chief among them The Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy).
Why it will be fabulous: No Joel Schumacher, no Alicia Silverstone, no Batnipples. Did I mention no Joel Schumacher?
Why it will be dreadful: Because origin stories are boring, and because the idea of sitting through one more Liam Neeson "training session" is about as appealing as sliding down the Batpole naked.
Opening June 24
Starring:Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine
Written and directed by:Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally . . .)
What it's about:A spin-off of the sitcom: A TV producer revives the classic show and inadvertently casts a real witch in the title role. Enter Kidman.
Why it will be fabulous:If the acidic journalist and fictioneer Ephron has put some punch into it, this could prove to be dark fun. The cast is certainly high-octane, and the plot-tinkering sounds interesting.
Why it will be dreadful:The reason the show was canceled is that the one-joke premise grew stale. It's no fresher today.
Herbie: Fully Loaded
Starring: Lindsay Lohan, Matt Dillon, Breckin Meyer and Michael Keaton
Directed by: Angela Robinson
Written by: Thomas Lennon & Ben Garrant and Alfred Gough & Miles Millar
What it's about: Maggie Peyton (Lohan) is the latest owner of the possessed Volkswagen Beetle, which first appeared in 1969's The Love Bug. With her old man (Keaton) cheering her on, and with the competition (Dillon) doing everything he can to sabotage the antique, Maggie enters Herbie in a NASCAR race against the likes of Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Gee, wonder who wins.
Why it will be fabulous: It's written by Lennon and Garrant, creators of Reno 911!, and Gough and Millar, responsible for Smallvilleand Spider-Man 2 story.
Why it will be dreadful: Written by Lennon and Garrant, who penned The Pacifierand Taxi, and Gough and Millar, responsible for Lethal Weapon 4and Showtime.