Excess Hollywood

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

Why it'll be fabulous: The lead actor's name is Mungo, and he fights zombies.

Why it'll be dreadful: Conservatives may be disappointed that it isn't Berkeley, California, being destroyed.

Dark Water

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

Starring: Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly, Pete Postlethwaite, and Ariel Gade

Directed by: Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries)

Written by: Rafael Yglesias (From Hell)

What it's about: American remake of Ringu director Hideo Nakata's other movie about a malevolent drowned girl-ghost with hair in her face and the power to manipulate water.

Why it'll be fabulous: The original is one of the scariest movies ever, and Salles is no slouch.

Why it'll be dreadful: Nakata's film came out three years ago, and since then, audiences may have overdosed on that whole long-black-hair-covering-the-face bit. Also both of the Hollywood Ring movies and The Eye cribbed liberally from the original already.

Fantastic Four

Starring: Michael Chiklis, Jessica Alba, and Julian McMahon

Directed by: Tim Story

Written by: Michael France, Simon Kinberg, and Mark Frost

What it's about: Four astronauts -- Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) and sister Sue (Alba), Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), and Ben Grimm (Chiklis) -- are bathed in gamma rays during an outer-space trip and are transformed, respectively, into the Human Torch, the Invisible Woman, the stretchy Mr. Fantastic, and the hideous Thing. The superhero team, a 44-year-old Marvel Comics institution, battles its armor-clad nemesis Doctor Doom (McMahon). Chaos ensues -- duh.

Why it'll be fabulous: Because Marvel has managed to do the superhero movie thing right with the Spider-Man and X-Men franchises.

Why it'll be dreadful: Then again, The Punisher, Daredevil, Elektra, and Hulk were superawful, and the trailer looks fantastically horrid.

Murderball

Directed by: Henry-Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro

What it's about: This documentary about quadriplegic rugby players, who manhandle and mangle their opponents from souped-up wheelchairs that look like they were salvaged from a futuristic garbage dump, tells of Team U.S.A.'s struggle to capture the title at the 2004 Olympics.

Why it'll be fabulous: It is fabulous, so much so that when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January, the members of Team U.S.A. were treated like movie-star royalty at every party they attended. And they attended a lot of them. (These guys love to party.)

Why it'll be dreadful: It won't be. Seriously. Don't worry.

Saraband

Starring: Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson

Written and directed by: Ingmar Bergman

What it's about: A sequel to Bergman's 1973 drama Scene from a Marriage, 30 years on, in which Marianna (Ullmann) and Johan (Josephson) meet again, having had no contact since then.

Why it'll be fabulous: Apparently this guy Bergman has quite the reputation in cinematic circles.

Why it'll be dreadful: Bergman's description of the film is this: "The drama consists of ten dialogues that follow a particular pattern, and it's an attempt at analysis of a difficult situation." Yikes.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Starring: Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, and Helena Bonham Carter

Directed by: Tim Burton

Written by: John August

What it's about: Charlie Bucket (Highmore, Depp's Finding Neverland costar) finds one of the golden tickets that allows him to tour the candy factory of demented sweets-maker Willy Wonka (Depp). Also on the treacherous tour are the usual suspects, including Charlie's Grandpa Joe, Veruca Salt, Augustus Gloop, and the Oompa-Loompas.

Why it'll be fabulous: There's no music this time, and Burton promises to go deeper and darker than Mel Stuart did in his 1971 Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Why it'll be dreadful: Because as much as we all love Johnny Depp, he ain't no Gene Wilder. And because, alas, "Pure Imagination" is a swell song that will be missed.

Hustle & Flow

Starring: Terrence Howard, DJ Qualls, Ludacris, and Taryn Manning

Written and directed by: Craig Brewer

What it's about: In the sweaty climes of Memphis, a pimp named Djay (Howard) aspires to hip-hop stardom like his idol Skinny Black (Ludacris). He enlists a scrawny white kid (Qualls) and a heavy-set pal from way back (Anthony Anderson) to record his autobiographical rhymes; meanwhile Djay has to deal with the three prostitutes living with him -- one he kicks out, one he uses to get the equipment he needs, and one he falls in love with. Hope turns to tragedy turns to triumph in the most overwrought, hackneyed hit to come out of Sundance this year.

Why it'll be fabulous: Terrence Howard, also starring in the ensemble drama Crash, is stunning -- worth the price of admission, especially if you can get the early-bird discount.

Why it'll be dreadful: Sold for $9.5 million at Sundance this year -- money that went to its producer, John Singleton, not its writer-director. And because it is dreadful, in a seriously-that-can't-be-happening kind of way.

The Wedding Crashers

Starring: Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams, and Christopher Walken

Directed by: David Dobkin (Shanghai Knights)

Written by: Steve Faber and Bob Fisher

What it's about: Two wild and crazy guys keep crashing wedding receptions in order to score with chicks, but when they hit up the wedding of a presidential candidate's daughter, one falls in love while the other meets a psycho, obsessive girl.

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