(Fox, August 13)
STARRING: Chris Evans, Kim Basinger, Jason Statham, Jessica Biel
DIRECTOR: David Ellis (Final Destination 2)
WRITERS: Larry Cohen (Phone Booth), J. Mackeye Gruber and 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 like 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.
(New Line, August 20)
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 where 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 shanty towns 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 descriptive also promises brief graphic nudity.
(MGM, 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?
(DreamWorks-Paramount, August 6)
Exorcist: The Beginning
STARRING: Stellan Skarsgård, 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: Skarsgård 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, it decided it wanted more of a head-turning and green-puking kind of horror flick, so it 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.
(Warner Bros., August 20)
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 to 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, like 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.
(Lions Gate, August 6)