Think Different

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

The Magdalene Sisters You know those "fallen women" forced into servitude by the Irish Catholic Church in the 1960s? Here's a movie about them. Written and directed by Peter Mullan.

The Samsara Very few people go to Kmart to find spiritual enlightenment, but rather travel into the Himalayas, as is the case here. In Tibetan with lavish views and philosophical insights, the film is helmed by Indian director Nalin Pan.

Buffalo Soldiers Hmm, this seems a bit familiar -- didn't we write about this one in last year's summer preview? Poor Miramax just can't find a good date to release a movie that's less than flattering toward the U.S. military (though they did okay with The Quiet American). That the movie's set in 1989 seems to be of no consequence. Anyway, to recap: Soldiers (Joaquin Phoenix, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, and others) stationed in Berlin shortly before the fall of the wall get involved in some shady business involving drugs.

The return of Jim Carrey, blaming it all on God, er, Morgan Freeman
The return of Jim Carrey, blaming it all on God, er, Morgan Freeman
Tang Yun stars as child violin prodigy Xiaochun in Together
Tang Yun stars as child violin prodigy Xiaochun in Together

Camp A musical in the tradition of Fame (with which it shares composer Michael Gore), set at a summer camp for young actors, singers, and musicians. The story centers around a group of misfit kids who somehow have to manage to pull it all together for one big final production. Apparently someone involved heard that musicals are hot again.

Boys Life 4: Four Play The popular anthology series of gay short films returns once more with a selection of favorites picked up from such film festivals as West Hollywood's Outfest. Allegedly there's a pun somewhere in the title, but we just can't quite figure it out.

Masked and Anonymous Hands up, who hangs around the Santa Barbara country clubs? Bob Dylan headlines this weird movie about a bogus benefit concert, also starring Jeff Bridges, Penelope Cruz, and John Goodman. Didn't anybody invite Bob Roberts?

Mondays in the Sun Spanish dockworkers get laid off and have a rotten time. Stars Javier Bardem of The Dancer Upstairs, directed by Fernando León de Aranoa.

Seabiscuit Tobey Maguire takes time out from slinging webs and wooing the daughter of a high-ranking Universal executive to pretend he's short enough to jockey a horse. Gary Ross (Pleasantville) takes on the novel by Laura Hillenbrand about the titular racehorse and the joy it brought to the country during the Great Depression.


28 Days Later A deadly biological agent breaks loose in the U.K.; in 28 days (the usual length of time for a mail-order package to arrive over there, sorta like "6-8 weeks" here) the entire nation has been quarantined, as the infected have become hideously unpleasant zombies who move in fast motion. Should mark something of a comeback for director Danny Boyle, who's floundered lately with the disappointing A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach.

American Wedding For all the so-called immorality that goes on in the American Pie movies, it now seems that in this third one, long-suffering protagonist Jim (Jason Biggs) will end up marrying the first and only girl he's ever had sex with (Alyson Hannigan). Cast members who've gotten progressively more expensive (Mena Suvari, Tara Reid, Chris Klein, Shannon Elizabeth, Natasha Lyonne) have been jettisoned, but Fred Willard (yes!) joins the series as Hannigan's dad. Bob Dylan's less famous son Jesse (How High) directs.

Dirty Pretty Things Audrey Tautou (Amélie) makes her English-language debut in this crime thriller from stylish Brit director Stephen Frears. In it she teams up with an illegal Nigerian immigrant (Chiwetel Ejiofor; great name, now how the hell do you pronounce it?) to solve a mysterious murder in a fancy London hotel.

Gigli At last you get to see it, folks: the movie that brought Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez together. What's the plot? Glad you asked: "B. Af" is Gigli, a hitman assigned to kidnap a retarded kid (Justin Bartha) and hold him for ransom. "J. Lo" is the lesbian hitwoman assigned to babysit Gigli when it seems he won't be up to the job. Both become better (heterosexual) people thanks to the innocence and purity of their mentally challenged prisoner. Sounds like a blast, right?

The Fighting Temptations Call it "Sweet Homeboy Alabama." Cuba Gooding, Jr. plays a hip-hop producer who goes home to the South after his aunt dies, only to find that in order to receive his inheritance, he has to form a successful gospel choir. Irritating Next Friday costar Mike Epps plays Cuba's country cousin, but with Beyoncé Knowles and Faith Evans lending their pipes, the gospel numbers should at least sound good.

Shaolin Soccer If the Bears are bad news and the Ducks suck, perhaps there's an antidote in these wacky footballers from China. Their martial arts training allows them to do supernatural moves, but they face equally formidable opponents. Stephen Chow acts, writes, directs, and cashes the checks.

American Splendor The popular favorite at this year's Sundance Festival mixes drama and documentary in its look at the life of Harvey Pekar, who chronicles his own true-life story in a comic book, also called American Splendor. Pekar appears as himself in the real-life segments; Paul Giamatti plays him in the re-enactments. Sounds like a tricky balance to pull off, but all indications are that the husband-and-wife directing team of Shari Berman and Bob Pulcini have done so with aplomb.

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