Excess Hollywood

Some interesting horror flicks, a couple of relationship movies, and plenty of action save summer from sequels

By our count, only a few sequels are waiting to have oil rubbed on their backs this summer -- one featuring an evil lord named Vader, another 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 has been waiting for) and big-screen redos (The Pink Panther, The Bad News Bears, The Longest Yard, The Honeymooners, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and War of the Worlds), which doesn't even take into account Jiminy Glick in Lalawood, which is barely a movie anyway.

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, 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

Superhero motifs are prominent in this summer's crop 
of films, from 
adaptations such as The Fantastic Four and 
Batman Begins 
to the Star Wars finale; meanwhile Brad Pitt 
and Angelina Jolie are 
hired assassins in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, children 
will dig 
Madagascar, and The Sisterhood of the 
Traveling Pants 
appeals to the teenage girl market
Superhero motifs are prominent in this summer's crop of films, from adaptations such as The Fantastic Four and Batman Begins to the Star Wars finale; meanwhile Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are hired assassins in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, children will dig Madagascar, and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants appeals to the teenage girl market


May Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith Starring: Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid, Natalie Portman, and Chewbacca

Directed by: George Lucas

Written by: Lucas, though word is that Tom Stoppard did some ghostwriting

What it's about: Anakin Skywalker (Christensen) finally turns into Darth Vader and kills a lot of people. Chewbacca shows up. Yoda fights a lightsaber duel with the Emperor (who's also known as Darth Sidious, just for confusion's sake). New baddie General Grievous fights with four lightsabers at once, thereby owning Darth Maul's dead, cut-in-half ass.

Why it's fabulous: Darth Vader and Chewbacca, people! Plus Jar Jar apparently shows up only in the background and doesn't speak.

Why it's dreadful: Jar Jar doesn't die.

Mad Hot Ballroom Directed by: Marilyn Agrelo

What it's about: In this documentary, New York City public school students compete to be the best ballroom dancers. Since mad hot is contemporary parlance, and the ballroom somewhat retro, we can probably expect some amusing scenes in which the teens deride these dances as old-fashioned, only to realize one can still be cool and like square stuff too.

Why it'll be fabulous: It's Spellbound but with ballroom dancing!

Why it'll be dreadful: Who cares about ballroom dancing?

Cronicas Starring:John Leguizamo, Damian Alcazar, and Alfred Molina

Written and directed by:Sebastian Cordero (Rodents)

What it's about:An ambitious TV reporter from Miami sets out for Ecuador in search of a serial killer known as the "Monster of Babahoyo."

Why it'll be fabulous:Cordero has an obvious taste for the macabre, and this suspense thriller appears to indulge it again. The violence is said to be both extreme and inventive, and the tension high.

Why it'll be dreadful:If the gore overwhelms, audiences may not stomach this visceral exercise.

Madagascar Starring: The voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, and Sacha Baron Cohen

Directed by: Eric Darnell (Antz) and Tom McGrath

Written by: Mark Burton (Spitting Image) & Billy Frolick (It Is What It Is) and Eric Darnell & Tom McGrath

What it's about: A curious zebra (Rock) escapes from the zoo with a lion (Stiller), hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), and giraffe (Schwimmer). They're caught and shipped off to the wilds of Madagascar. Having been bred in captivity, these animals are out of their league in a natural habitat. Hilarity ensues.

Why it'll be fabulous:The computer-animation style, which looks like weird origami, gives the trailer a unique look.

Why it'll be dreadful:Every single member of the voice cast tends to be an over-the-top scene-stealer, which could get mighty tiresome.


June The Lords of Dogtown Starring:Heath Ledger, Emile Hirsch, and Johnny Knoxville

Directed by:Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen)

Written by:Stacy Peralta

What it's about:Another of Peralta's cinematic valentines (this one lightly fictionalized) to the Seventies beach-fun culture in Venice, California.

Why it'll be fabulous:If you didn't get your sun-kissed fill from her Dogtown and Z-Boys and Riding Giants, this may be the summer movie for you.

Why it'll be dreadful:You've more than likely had your fill of her surf-and-skate cheerleader act.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling PantsStarring: Amber Tamblyn, Blake Lively, Alexis Bledel, and America Ferrera

Directed by: Ken Kwapis (Dunston Checks In)

Written by: Delia Ephron and Elizabeth Chandler

What it's about: Based on a popular novel by Ann Brashares, this teen-girl flick is the story of four friends whose lives go in separate directions. To keep in touch, they pass around a pair of pants that happens to be a perfect fit for all of them.

Why it'll be fabulous: It has the coolest title of the year by far.

Why it'll be dreadful: One pair of pants that fits four different adolescent girls equally well?

The Honeymooners Starring:Cedric the Entertainer, Mike Epps, Gabrielle Union, and Regina Hall

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