Excess Hollywood

In the season of sequels and Happy Meal toys, '05 may be a pleasant surprise

Opening July 22

The Bad News Bears
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Sammi Kraft and Ridge Canipe
Directed by: Richard Linklater (Before Sunset, Dazed and Confused)
Written by: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, based on the screenplay by Bill Lancaster
What it's about: A broken-down, beer-guzzling Little League coach (Thornton) takes on a diamond full of hopeless-but-feisty kids who start to win and, with that, renew the old man's spirit.
Why it will be fabulous: Thornton has a way of giving an edge to icons. If he can make Santa hip, he can do the same for sandlot ball.
Why it will be dreadful: It's awfully hard to top 1976's original Bears as a baseball movie -- or as an endorsement of redemption. Sorry, unless the kids shoot steroids, this is bound to seem corny.

Opening July 29

Jessica Alba in Fantastic Four.
Jessica Alba in Fantastic Four.
Johnny Knoxville, Jessica Simpson and Seann William Scott in The Dukes of Hazzard.
Johnny Knoxville, Jessica Simpson and Seann William Scott in The Dukes of Hazzard.

The Brothers Grimm
Starring: Matt Damon and Heath Ledger
Directed by: Terry Gilliam
Written by: Ehren Kruger
What it's about: A fictionalized fantasy about the German fairy-tale authors, here portrayed as con men who lift fake curses, only to encounter a genuine form of black magic that will force them to deal with things they've only written about.
Why it will be fabulous: After Gilliam's aborted Don Quixote effort, The Brothers Grimm sees him back in fantasy mode, which is what he does best.
Why it will be dreadful: Its release was postponed for a year, as Miramax's Harvey Weinstein tried recutting it. His version then scored lower with test audiences than Gilliam's did.

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Jessica Biel and Josh Lucas
Directed by: Rob Cohen
Written by: Cohen and W.D. Richter (Big Trouble in Little China)
What it's about: After a super-advanced stealth fighter is struck by lightning, the onboard computer takes on a life of its own and decides to initiate the next world war.
Why it will be fabulous: WarGames meets Short Circuit? How could it not be?
Why it will be dreadful: Okay, yeah, it's made by the director of xXx and The Skulls, so it might be pretty bad.

Opening August 5

The Dukes of Hazzard
Starring: Seann William Scott, Johnny Knoxville, Burt Reynolds and Jessica Simpson
Directed by: Jay Chandrasekhar (Club Dread)
Written by: Jonathan Davis, John O'Brien, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Erik Stolhanske and Paul Soter
What it's about: Based on the TV series, in which two lovable good ol' boys tooled around Hazzard County in their bright orange Dodge Charger, finding trouble at every turn.
Why it will be fabulous: Chandrasekhar reportedly keeps the proceedings as delightedly mindless as their boob-tube inspiration.
Why it will be dreadful: Burt as the Duke boys' nemesis Boss Hogg could be the high point of this low-concept fare.

The Pink Panther
Starring: Steve Martin, Kevin Kline, Beyoncé Knowles and Jean Reno
Directed by: Shawn Levy
Written by: Len Blum, Steve Martin, Michael Saltzman and Glen Bloomberg
What it's about: A new take on Peter Sellers' surpassingly incompetent French detective in which Jacques Clouseau (Martin) tackles a case combining a murdered soccer coach, a priceless diamond, and the usual selection of beautiful women.
Why it will be fabulous: It takes les grandes balles for Martin to assail the rich life and high art of Inspector Clouseau.
Why it will be dreadful: Can The Jerk out-bumble Peter the Great? The smart money says non.

Opening August 12

Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo
Starring: Rob Schneider and Eddie Griffin
Directed by: Mike Bigelow (a newcomer hired purely for his surname, apparently)
Written by: Rob Schneider and David Garrett & Jason Ward (Corky Romano)
What it's about: Sequel to the comedy that introduced the phrase "man-whore" into the wider lexicon. This time, Schneider's hapless Deuce is tricked into prostituting himself in Amsterdam, as more-experienced hookers are being murdered.
Why it will be fabulous: The first one was surprisingly amusing . . .
Why it will be dreadful: Amusing films are a rarity in the Rob Schneider canon.

Four Brothers
Starring: André 3000, Tyrese, Mark Wahlberg and Chiwetel Ejiofor
Directed by: John Singleton
Written by: David Elliot (The Watcher) and Paul Lovett
What it's about: Four adopted brothers team up to find out if their mother was murdered, and if so, to get revenge. Inspired by the John Wayne Western The Sons of Katie Elder, and updated to modern-day Detroit.
Why it will be fabulous: Ejiofor and Andr 3000 have shown a lot of promise as actors.
Why it will be dreadful: Aside from Boyz N the Hood, Singleton really isn't all that great.

Opening August 19

Red Eye
Starring: Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Ex-Xena and Buffy scribe Carl Ellsworth
What it's about: An airplane passenger with a fear of flying (McAdams) is blackmailed by her seatmate (Murphy) into becoming his accomplice in a murder plot. She has until the plane lands to try to stop him without endangering her fellow passengers or her father, who's held hostage by Murphy's allies.
Why it will be fabulous: Carl Ellsworth writes well about smart, butt-kicking chicks.
Why it will be dreadful: It already was dreadful back when it was called Turbulence and starred Lauren Holly.

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