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
Johnny Depp should make a great Willie Wonka, but 
can't someone stomp 
on Steve Martin for arrogantly bogarting Peter Sellers? 
Same goes for 
Stacy Peralta's tired, dirty skater dudes and anything 
with Tom Cruise 
and Dakota Fanning -- blecchh!
Johnny Depp should make a great Willie Wonka, but can't someone stomp on Steve Martin for arrogantly bogarting Peter Sellers? Same goes for Stacy Peralta's tired, dirty skater dudes and anything with Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning -- blecchh!
Didn't you hear? Flat Duo Jets broke up. Vince Vaughn 
and Owen Wilson 
are the dream team. For a Southern fella, Johnny 
Knoxville is suh-mokin' 
hot. You knew krumping was going to break big, and it 
did. What's more 
boring than professional basketball? High school 
basketball
Didn't you hear? Flat Duo Jets broke up. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are the dream team. For a Southern fella, Johnny Knoxville is suh-mokin' hot. You knew krumping was going to break big, and it did. What's more boring than professional basketball? High school basketball


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

Directed by:John Schultz (Like Mike)

Written by:Danny Jacobson, Saladin Patterson, Barry W. Blaustein, David Sheffield, and Don Rhymer

What it's about:Hollywood's latest raid on vintage TV: Cedric puts a new ethnic spin on Jackie Gleason's beloved loudmouth Ralph Kramden.

Why it'll be fabulous:Cedric's ability to play blue-collar could send this one to the moon.

Why it'll be dreadful:Nobody can channel the spirit of The Great One. Do you get the feeling you'll pine for the murky black-and-white images and canned laughs that once emanated from your old Philco?

Mr. and Mrs. Smith Starring:Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie

Directed by:Doug Limon (The Bourne Identity)

Written by:Simon Kinberg

What it's about:An unhappy married couple who earn their paychecks as assassins learn they've been hired to kill each other.

Why it'll be fabulous:The Pitt-Jolie twosome should be fun to watch under Limon's fast-action framing.

Why it'll be dreadful:This promises to be a plot-heavy romp that could easily fire blanks.

Batman Begins Starring: Christian Bale, Katie Holmes, Morgan Freeman, and Liam Neeson

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Written by: David Goyer (Blade)

What it's about: This relaunching of the moribund franchise tells how Bruce Wayne (Bale) became the Dark Knight after seeing his parents executed in a Gotham City alley. In this version Bruce heads to the Himalayas to train (with Neeson, shades of The Phantom Menace) and returns to Gotham to find a bad city run by a good cop, Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), and overrun with creepy villains, chief among them The Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy).

Why it'll be fabulous: No Joel Schumacher, no Alicia Silverstone, no Batnipples. Did I mention no Joel Schumacher?

Why it'll be dreadful: Because origin stories are boring, and because the idea of sitting through one more Liam Neeson "training session" is about as appealing as sliding down the Batpole naked.

My Summer of Love

Starring:Nathalie Press, Emily Blunt, and Paddy Considine

Written and directed by: Paul Pavlikovsky (Last Resort), from the novel by Helen Cross

What it's about: A working-class Yorkshire girl (Press) befriends a rich girl (Blunt). Lesbian high jinks ensue. Considine is a born-again ex-con who comes between them.

Why it'll be fabulous:That one shot in the trailer of the two leads in wet underwear. Yeow!

Why it'll be dreadful: It's called My Summer of Love.

Land of the Dead Starring: Simon Baker, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, Asia Argento, and ZOMBIES!

Written and directed by: George Romero

What it's about: The creator of Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Deadfinally gets to make a new big-budget zombie movie, after the mediocre Dawnremake made a pretty penny. Continuing the Romero Dead saga, the film envisions a postapocalyptic world in which humans live in fortified cities while trying to ignore the fact that every place outside their walls is inhabited by flesh-hungry zombies.

Why it'll be fabulous: It's a sequel that's been requested for twenty years -- almost as long as Revenge of the Sith. And Romero is not the kind of director who will go soft.

Why it'll be dreadful: John Leguizamo? Why?

March of the Penguins Directed by: Luc Jacquet

Written by:Jacquet and Michel Fessler

What it's about: Documentary that follows a year in the life of a flock of emperor penguins at the North Pole.

Why it'll be fabulous: Penguins are well-liked birds, and some of the footage looks amazing.

Why it'll be dreadful: Giving them French voices sounds like a bad idea. Let's hope it's done sparingly and tastefully.

Rize

Starring:Tommy the Clown, Tight Eyez, Swoop, and Big X

Directed by: David LaChappelle

What it's about: Documentary about an up-and-coming style of street dancing called "krumping."

Why it'll be fabulous: Sooner or later, everyone's gonna be doing it, so you might as well get the skinny first.

Why it'll be dreadful: Just to be clear -- David LaChappelle is a fashion photographer, not the comedian who says, "I'm Rick James, bitch!"

War of the Worlds Starring:Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, and Tim Robbins

Directed by:Steven Spielberg

Written by: David Koepp and Josh Friedman, based on the novel by H. G. Wells

What it's about:A family fights for survival amid an invasion of "alien tripod fighting machines."

Why it'll be fabulous:Expect lots of special-effects dazzle in the Close Encounters/Jurassic Park style and more of Spielberg's characteristic empathy for the little guy.

Why it'll be dreadful:Tom Cruise.


July

Rebound Starring: Martin Lawrence, Horatio Sanz, Megan Mullally, and Breckin Meyer

Directed by: Steve Carr (Daddy Day Care)

Written by: Jon Lucas and Scott Moore

What it's about: A misbehaving college basketball coach (Lawrence) is fired and winds up having to coach a losing middle school team.

Why it'll be fabulous: It could do for Martin Lawrence what School of Rock did for Jack Black. That's clearly the intent anyway.

Why it'll be dreadful: Gee, um, Martin Lawrence?

Undead Starring: Mungo McKay, Felicity Mason, and Rob Jenkins

Written and directed by:Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig

What it's about: The small town of Berkeley, Australia, gets infected with Zombie Plague from Outer Space!

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 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-Manand X-Menfranchises.

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 isfabulous, 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 lotof 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 Neverlandcostar) 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 isdreadful, 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.

Why it'll be fabulous: Any movie that casts Christopher Walken as a presidential candidate must ipso facto be fabulous.

Why it'll be dreadful: Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson aren't the most picky actors in the world when it comes to scripts.

The Bad News Bears Starring:Billy Bob Thornton, Sammi Kraft, and Ridge Canipe

Directed by:Richard Linklater (Before Sunset, Dazed and Confused)

Written by:Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, based on the screenplay by Bill Lancaster

What it's about:A broken-down, beer-guzzling Little League Baseball coach (Thornton) takes on a diamondful of hopeless but feisty kids who start to win and, with that, renew the old man's spirit.

Why it'll be fabulous:Thornton has a way of giving an edge to icons. If he can make Santa hip, he can do the same for sandlot ball.

Why it'll be dreadful: It's awfully hard to top 1976's original Bearsas a baseball movie -- or as an endorsement of redemption. Sorry, unless the kids shoot steroids, this is bound to seem corny.

The Edukators

Starring: Daniel Brühl, Julia Jentsch, and Stipe Erceg

Directed by: Hans Weingartner

Written by: Weingartner and Katharina Held

What it's about: A trio of anti-capitalist revolutionaries likes to break into houses of rich people and "rearrange" things. When one break-in goes awry, they end up kidnapping the owner.

Why it'll be fabulous: You don't see anticapitalist movies that often nowadays.

Why it'll be dreadful: And the last great German film you saw was?

November Starring: Courteney Cox Arquette and James LeGros

Directed by: Greg Harrison (Groove)

Written by: Benjamin Brand

What it's about: A photographer seems to be losing her mind as she repeatedly replays, in her mind, the events that led up to her boyfriend's shooting.

Why it'll be fabulous: It's about time Cox Arquette branched out.

Why it'll be dreadful: Is Cox Arquette capable of branching out?

The Aristocrats Directed by:Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette

What it's about:Ostensibly it's about 100 comedians (from Bob Saget to Robin Williams to Gilbert Gottfried to Phyllis Diller) telling the same infamous ribald joke about 100 different ways -- but it's much, much more. It's more like a comedy jam session, during which several generations of stand-ups reveal their technique and approach, using "The Aristocrats" (a joke about a family of would-be performers auditioning for an agent, more or less) as their springboard.

Why it'll be fabulous:Because Sarah Silverman's telling of the joke alone is worth the price of admission. And because you'll remember why you or anyone else thought Gottfried was funny in the first place. And because Saget has the foulest mouth this side of Ashley Olsen. And because the South Parkclip kills.

Why it'll be dreadful:It's about twenty minutes too long, but you'll have laughed yourself into a coma by the end, so you won't really mind or even notice.

The Brothers Grimm Starring: Matt Damon and Heath Ledger

Directed by: Terry Gilliam

Written by: Ehren Kruger

What it's about:A fictionalized fantasy about the German fairy-tale authors, here portrayed as con men who lift fake curses, only to encounter a genuine form of black magic that forces them to deal with things about which they've only written.

Why it'll be fabulous: After Gilliam's aborted Don Quixote effort, The Brothers Grimmsees him back in fantasy mode, which is what he does best.

Why it'll be dreadful: Its release was postponed for a year, as Miramax's Harvey Weinstein tried recutting it. His version then scored lower with test audiences than Gilliam's.

Stealth Starring: Jamie Foxx, Jessica Biel, and Josh Lucas

Directed by: Rob Cohen

Written by: Cohen and W. D. Richter (Big Trouble in Little China)

What it's about: After a superadvanced stealth fighter is struck by lightning, the onboard computer takes on a life of its own and decides to initiate the next world war.

Why it'll be fabulous: WarGames meets Short Circuit? How could it not be?

Why it'll be dreadful: Okay, yeah, it's made by the director of xXx and The Skulls, so it might be pretty bad.


August

Broken Flowers Starring:Bill Murray, Sharon Stone, Tilda Swinton, Jessica Lange, and Julie Delpy

Written and directed by:Jim Jarmusch

What it's about:Murray plays Don Johnston (heh), an aging, sweatsuit-sporting lothario who's dumped by his young girlfriend (Delpy) just as he receives news of a twenty-year-old son he never knew. (Shades of The Life Aquatic, but still ... ) Jeffrey Wright (Basquiat) is the pal who convinces Murray to take a trip down Amnesia Lane to see his old lovers, including Stone and Swinton and Lange and other all-stars, and find out if any of them might be the mother.

Why it'll be fabulous:Did you not just read the synopsis?

Why it'll be dreadful:Seriously, read it again. And then rent Coffee and Cigarettes for the Bill Murray scene with the RZA and the GZA. Dreadful. Hardly. Then again, Dead Mandoes kinda suck.

The Dukes of Hazzard Starring:Seann William Scott, Johnny Knoxville, Burt Reynolds, and Jessica Simpson

Directed by:Jay Chandrasekhar (Club Dread)

Written by:Jonathan Davis, John O'Brien, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Erik Stolhanske, and Paul Soter

What it's about:Based on the TV series in which two lovable good ol' boys tool around Hazzard County in their bright orange Dodge Charger, finding trouble at every turn.

Why it'll be fabulous:Chandrasekhar reportedly keeps the proceedings as delightedly mindless as their boob-tube inspiration.

Why it'll be dreadful:Burt as the Duke boys' nemesis Boss Hogg could be the high point of this low-concept fare.

Grizzly Man Directed by: Werner Herzog

What it's about: It's not another Dan Haggerty movie (whew!) but rather a documentary about animal activists who lived with grizzly bears for a time and felt like they were making a connection. Then they were mauled to death.

Why it'll be fabulous: Herzog is a mad genius.

Why it'll be dreadful: Unless you really despise animal activists, it sounds like one hell of a downer.

The Pink Panther Starring:Steve Martin, Kevin Kline, Beyoncé Knowles, and Jean Reno

Directed by:Shawn Levy

Written by:Len Blum, Steve Martin, Michael Saltzman, and Glen Bloomberg

What it's about:A new take on Peter Sellers's surpassingly incompetent French detective, in which Jacques Clouseau (Martin) tackles a case combining a murdered soccer coach, a priceless diamond, and the usual selection of beautiful women.

Why it'll be fabulous:It takes les grandes balles for Martin to assail the rich life and high art of Inspector Clouseau.

Why it'll be dreadful:Can The Jerk out-bumble Peter the Great? The smart money says non.

Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo Starring: Rob Schneider and Eddie Griffin

Directed by: Mike Bigelow (a newcomer hired for his surname perhaps)

Written by: Rob Schneider and David Garrett & Jason Ward (Corky Romano)

What it's about: In this sequel to the comedy that introduced the term man-whore into the wider lexicon, Schneider's hapless Deuce is duped into prostituting himself in Amsterdam, where more-experienced hookers are being murdered.

Why it'll be fabulous:The first one was surprisingly amusing.

Why it'll be dreadful: Amusing films are a rarity in the Rob Schneider canon.

Everything Is Illuminated Starring: Elijah Wood, Eugene Hutz, and Boris Leskin

Written and directed by: Liev Schreiber

What it's about: In his directorial debut, Schreiber adapts Jonathan Safran Foer's successful novel. Apparently this flick is a comedic drama about a young Jewish American (Wood) in search of the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. The movie poster gives no indication of any of this; it shows Wood with a flower in his mouth and the tagline "Leave Normal Behind."

Why it'll be fabulous: Films in which Elijah Wood goes on a quest that leads him to a barren and hostile land tend to do rather well.

Why it'll be dreadful: Was there really a demand to see Liev Schreiber direct anything?

Asylum

Starring: Ian McKellen, Natasha Richardson, Hugh Bonneville, and Marton Csokas

Directed by:David Mackenzie

Written by:Patrick Marber

What it's about:Stella Raphael (Richardson) is married to Max (Bonneville), a psychiatrist at an asylum for the criminally insane. She becomes infatuated with Edgar Stark (Csokas), a sculptor who mutilated and then murdered his wife -- so of course Stella and Edgar wind up having an affair after he starts working in the couple's asylum-grounds garden. Eventually Edgar escapes to London, Stella follows him, and the poor lad goes bonkers all over again.

Why it'll be fabulous: It's based on Patrick McGrath's best-selling novel, which is chilling, and was penned by Marber, whose Closerranks a close second when it comes to curdling the blood.

Why it'll be dreadful:Bet you twenty quid it's a bummer -- with an English accent to boot.

Romance & Cigarettes Starring: James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Steve Buscemi, and Christopher Walken

Written and directed by:John Turturro

What it's about: Believe it or not, it's a musical. A "savage" one. The plot involves Gandolfini's character, who goes by the name of Murder, having to choose between his wife (Sarandon) and his mistress (Winslet).

Why it'll be fabulous: It's just insane enough to work.

Why it'll be dreadful: Love those actors, but can they sing?

The Transporter 2 Starring: Jason Statham, Amber Valletta, and Hunter Clary

Directed by:Louis Leterrier and Corey Yuen

Written by:Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen

What it's about:In truth, who knows? There's been little info provided on this sequel to the 2002 "hit." But let's offer a guess: Frank Martin (Statham) drives around in his sweet ride, picking up trouble wherever he goes. How's that. Oh, and this one is set in the United States. So, see, it's completely different from the original.

Why it'll be fabulous:Because we always loved those BMW "The Driver" minifilms upon which this burgeoning franchise was clearlybased.

Why it'll be dreadful:The first Transporterwas released direct to Betamax.

The Woods Starring: Agnes Bruckner, Patricia Clarkson, Bruce Campbell, and Lauren Birkell

Directed by: Lucky McKee

Written by: David Ross

What it's about: A troubled girl (Bruckner) is sent to boarding school after pushing her parents too far. But the school, located deep in the middle of the woods of New England, is not what it appears to be, and there are dark forces at work with more than a passing interest in the newcomer. Or are they all in her head?

Why it'll be fabulous: McKee has already made one good movie about a troubled girl who hears voices (May). This one has a bigger budget plus Oscar-nominee Clarkson and fan-favorite Campbell.

Why it'll be dreadful: Will the male-skewed horror audience turn out for a movie with a mostly female cast and no nudity?

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