By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Summer is the season of high expectations and profound disappointments. That suntan looks more like sunburn, your beer stays ice-cold till the moment it's opened, and fat guys are the only ones hanging by the pool in bikini briefs. So it goes with summer movies: Sequels to beloved faves have all the flavor of week-old popcorn, blockbusters make pennies on their many dollars, and somewhere there's Adam Sandler pouring sour lemonade when you were craving something more refreshing. Maybe there's more hope this year, if only because last summer was such a bummer; Monster-in-Law, Stealth, or Dukes of Hazzard, anyone? Thought not.
There is certainly more potential in the 2006 lineup. Film freaks and fanboys find it difficult not to get a little worked up over the returns of Superman, Crockett and Tubbs, Jack Sparrow, and Dante and Randal (well ). A Prairie Home Companion, with its all-star cast and NPR roots, promises to be this year's Cinderella Man: a great movie nobody sees, because the crowds will be too busy huffing Freon with Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, and Vince Vaughn again. Much of what you'll find below feels like yesterday's movies reheated like someone went to Blockbuster and cut-and-pasted everything on the comedy shelf. But they'll all need a prayer to hold their own against The Da Vinci Code. Here's twenty dollars right now that says only the pope won't see it. Though even he might get around to it, once he has checked out Snakes on a Plane. Robert Wilonsky
The Break-up (Universal)
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Aniston, and Jon Favreau
Directed by: Peyton Reed (Bring It On )
What it's about: Vaughn and Aniston play a couple on the outs, neither of whom wants to abandon the house they share. So they take turns pissing each other off; it's a bit like The War of the Roses, only nobody dies. Far as we know.
Why you should see it: At their best, Vaughn and Aniston have the whole comedy thing down pat.
Why you should not: Test audiences absolutely despised the ending, so a new, happier one was recently reshot.
Starring: Kyra Sedgwick, Matt Dillon, and Marisa Tomei
Directed by: Kevin Bacon
What it's about: This first notch in Kevin Bacon's feature-directing belt stars Sedgwick as an overprotective mother who must send her son off to school for the first time. Will she watch him bloom into a man, or possibly resent another woman in his life and go all wacky?
Why you should see it: That special something that has made Bacon the sixth degree in our celluloid consciousness might reveal cinematic genius.
Why you should not: What are the odds of Bacon being a triple threat of decent actor, middling musician, and awesome director?
Starring: Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, and a freaky evil kid who isn't Dakota Fanning for once
Directed by: John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines)
What it's about: A prominent ambassador (Schreiber) adopts a little boy who turns out to be the son of Satan. This movie has been made a bunch of times already, but June 6 will be 6-6-06, which seems reason enough for another half-baked remake.
Why you should see it: The 1976 Richard Donner movie didn't exactly cry out for a do-over, but at least this one has a high standard to aim for.
Why you should not: Compelling remakes of Seventies horror movies come around about, oh, never.
A Prairie Home Companion(Picturehouse)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan, and Garrison Keillor
Directed by: Robert Altman
What it's about: Set behind the scenes of Keillor's beloved National Public Radio show, the movie chronicles a fictional finale in which the Saint Paul station that airs the show has been sold to a Texas conglomerate.
Why you should see it: It is a great movie a two-hour good-time grin with some surprising moments of heartbreak.
Why you should not: Fact is, even if you don't love Keillor's show or Altman's movies, this sucker packs some profound magic. Perhaps that's not your thing either?
Starring: The voices of Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt, and Paul Newman
Written and directed by: John Lasseter (Toy Story, A Bug's Life)
What it's about: Wilson plays hotshot racer Lightning McQueen, who gets stuck in podunk Radiator Springs, where antics and puns ensue, and, shucks, he just might learn a little something about life.
Why you should see it: This is Pixar, people. Its mixture of eye-popping animation, anthropomorphic characters, and celebrity voices hasn't yielded a single dud.
Why you should not: Something in the trailers suggests this might be the movie in which the Pixar formula goes astray. After the talking toys, fish, monsters, and insects, cars just seem a little pedestrian.
Agnes and His Brothers(First Run)
Starring: Martin Weiss, Moritz Bleibtreu (Run Lola Run), and Herbert Knaup
Written and directed by: Oskar Roehler
What it's about: Three brothers one now a woman attempt to discover the reasons behind their unhappy relationships. Could it be Dad?
Why you should see it: Sex addiction, suburban anomie, and transsexual chic.
Why you should not: German family dramas: always a pleasure.