Think Different

Could it be that this year's crop of summer movies actually requires a brain cell or two?

Bruce Almighty Bruce (Jim Carrey) has a decent apartment, a job in TV news, and a girlfriend who looks like Jennifer Aniston. By movie standards, this means he's suffering, and when he blames God for it, the Supreme Being (Morgan Freeman, born to play God) gives Bruce the reins of power so he can see that it ain't easy being Lord. Carrey's Ace Ventura pal Tom Shadyac directs, so here's hoping the rubber man's back in form.

Marooned in Iraq Nope, it's not about your enlisted cousin -- well, probably. Celebrated Persian director Bahman Ghobadi (A Time for Drunken Horses) returns with Gomgashtei dar Aragh, this tale of Kurd musicians from Iran who cross into Iraq to save one of their own from oppression.

Respiro Those who found themselves briefly envying Dustin Hoffman when Valeria Golino kissed him in Rain Man may take heart as the saucy Italian cuts loose here. She plays a young mother of three on a tiny fishing island whose antics lead local villagers to think her insane. Well, duh -- she's an actress.

Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom on the high seas
Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom on the high seas
Martin Lawrence (left) and Will Smith are back in Bad Boys II
Martin Lawrence (left) and Will Smith are back in Bad Boys II

The Sea Another one of those humanistic Icelandic slices of life. No, really. Young director Baltasar Kormákur delivered the scintillating navel-gazing of 101 Reykjavik, and with Hafio he returns with a sort of homecoming, focusing on a father calling together his brood to assemble his life story. If you're into Icelandic imports, Björk is also touring this year. You have choices.

Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters A potential martial arts-horror classic from the director of Time and Tide. Possibly jealous that John Carpenter gets a vampire movie with his name in the title, Hark similarly delivers ... well ... hunters who hunt vampires. This time, however, we join four students with elemental superpowers in nineteenth-century China.

A Decade Under the Influence Ted Demme's last film, completed by Richard LaGravenese, is a documentary about most movie critics' favorite era of cinema, the Seventies. The Production Code had just ended, and the corporate blockbuster mentality had not yet begun, so a bunch of wild and crazy auteurs basically got to make whatever they wanted. Among the many interviewed are such obvious choices as Dennis Hopper, Francis Ford Coppola, Milos Forman, Jon Voight, Sidney Pollack, and Martin Scorsese; we also get to hear from contemporary directors working in a similar mold, like Alexander Payne and Neil LaBute.

Finding Nemo Pixar's latest computer-animated opus goes underwater, in this tale of a young clownfish who gets kidnapped by a diver and winds up in a tank in a dentist's waiting room. Fortunately, the fish's dad (Albert Brooks) is on the case, with the help of a CIA father-in-law ... wait, wrong movie. The sidekick in this one is another fish, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres. Advance word has it that the script isn't quite up to Pixar's usual high standards, but the deep-sea visuals look breathtaking.

Together Chinese auteur Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine, The Emperor and the Assassin) returns with He ni zai yi qi, this tale of a young, aspiring violinist who travels with his father to the bright lights of Beijing. Another "boy's journey" sort of movie, and an obvious bid by Kaige to bridge the gap between his Chinese roots and Hollywood paychecks, but indeed it looks -- and sounds -- charming.


2 Fast 2 Furious Star Vin Diesel and director Rob Cohen may have bailed on this particular franchise, but Paul Walker's still around, now directed by John Singleton, and hanging with a new bald-headed ethnic sidekick in the form of Tyrese Gibson. Multiculturalism was cited as a major part of the last film's success, so the cast also includes Ludacris, Eva Mendes, Cole Hauser, and the simply monikered Jin. We figure it's the fast cars (in Miami) people like, though, and there are plenty -- as long as they crash into stuff, it's all good.

The Eye From Thai directors the Pang Brothers comes this tale of terror about a blind woman who receives an eye transplant, then starts seeing things the deceased donor saw, including ghosts, visions of gore, and a reflection in the mirror that is not her own. Tom Cruise owns the U.S. remake rights; see this one now so you can sneer at your friends later about how much better the original was.

Love the Hard Way Alas, not a gay sequel to the James Woods-Michael J. Fox cop buddy movie (for that groove, refer to John Hurt and Ryan O'Neal in Partners). Rather, this is one of those movies about a thief who gets involved with a woman who teaches him about life while he steals stuff. Features that uppity guy from The Pianist, and helmed by German director Peter Sehr.

Prozac Nation Better bring a feather duster to clear off this 2001 shelf-warmer so you can actually see it. In the Nineties it was hip to be depressed, which gave rise to Elizabeth Wurtzel's self-obsessed novel. Christina Ricci stars as Wurtzel, having a rotten time in her first year at Harvard because Anne Heche and Jason Biggs are there. Boo hoo! Erik Skjoldbjaerg (the original Insomnia) directs.

Sweet Sixteen English workingman's filmmaker Ken Loach (Poor Cow, Bread and Roses) delivers the story of a Scottish lad (Martin Compston) struggling to make a new home for his mother, who's newly sprung from prison. Naturally, more hard knocks await.

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