Summer: The Sequel

From Harry Potter to Homer Simpson, cool off at the movies

Maybe the reason summer movies tend to be so bland, bloated, and generic is that we're a captive audience. Where else are we going to go on a blazing 100-degree day? And the truth is, maybe our standards are lowered ever so slightly by that cool rush of conditioned air -- not to mention the scent of buttered popcorn and sight of multicolor candy wrappers lining those glass cases. This summer, movie audiences' high tolerance for sequels, remakes, and retreads will be put to the test, but there are enough potential gems scattered throughout the schedule to attract even the most jaded filmgoers. -- Frank Houston


June 27

Live Free or Die Hard
Cast: Bruce Willis, Timothy Olyphant, Justin Long, Maggie Q.
Director: Len Wiseman
Twelve years and many flops after Die Hard with a Vengeance, Willis competes for box office gold as maverick cop John McClane, who takes on a cyber terrorist (Olyphant) with the help of a computer-geek sidekick who just happens to be played by Mac ad kid Justin Long.

June 29

Death at a Funeral
Cast: Ewen Bremmer, Peter Dinklage, Matthew MacFadyen
Director: Frank Oz
It's a black comedy about a proper British funeral where the mourning family is slowly coming unhinged, thanks to accidental drug trips, unexpected trysts, and the unnerving appearance of the dead patriarch's secret gay lover. Great trailer.

Evening
Cast: Claire Danes, Toni Collette, Vanessa Redgrave, Patrick Wilson, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close
Director: Lajos Koltai
Novelist Michael Cunningham (The Hours) wrote the screenplay for this star-packed adaptation of Susan Minot's exquisite 1999 novel, in which a dying woman flashes back to a wedding 40 years earlier at which she fell madly, and tragically, in love.

Ratatouille
Voice cast: Patton Oswalt, Brian Dennehy, Brad Garrett, Janeane Garofalo
Director: Brad Bird
Pixar Animation and the director of The Incredibles team up to tell the inspiring tale of Remy the Parisian rat, who dreams of being a master chef in a world that doesn't always respond enthusiastically to a rodent in the kitchen. Even a cute one.

Sicko
Director: Michael Moore
After taking on the car industry (Roger & Me), the gun industry (Bowling for Columbine), and the war industry (Fahrenheit 9/11), Michael Moore shifts his obsessive gaze to the American health care system. Hey, insurance companies: No publicity is bad publicity, right?

July 4

License to Wed
Cast: Robin Williams, Mandy Moore, John Krasinski
Director: Ken Kwapis
Sadie (Moore) dreams of marrying her fianc' (Krasinski) at her family's church, but it's all booked up for the next two years. Except: There is one open day, and to score it, the couple must survive a marriage-prep course devised by a most unorthodox pastor, played by the ever-unorthodox Robin Williams.

Transformers
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel, Anthony Anderson
Director: Michael Bay
Imagine if those nimble robot action figures gathering dust under your kid's bed decided to bulk up, rise up, and take over Earth. With the director of Pearl Harbor and Armageddon at the helm, expect a long, noisy war.

July 13

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson
Director: David Yates
An obscure British import, for which there's very little advance publicity.

July 20

Hairspray
Cast: John Travolta, Queen Latifah, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken
Director: Adam Shankman
Filmmaker John Waters's lifelong dream of invading the suburban multiplexes of America finally comes true with this big-budget version of the hit Broadway play, which in turn was based on Waters's nonmusical 1988 comedy. In full drag, Travolta plays a Fifties mom, continuing a tradition set by the late, great, and much-missed drag queen Divine, to whom the part will always truly belong.

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry
Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Jessica Biel
Director: Dennis Dugan
About Schmidt and Sideways writers Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor go seriously mainstream, teaming up with co-writer Barry Fanaro (Kingpin) for this broad comedy about two perpetually single New York firefighters who pretend to be lovers in order to receive domestic partnership benefits.

July 27

I Know Who Killed Me
Cast: Lindsay Lohan, Julia Ormond, Neal McDonough, Brian Geraghty
Director: Chris Sivertson
After escaping from a sadistic serial killer, a young woman named Aubrey Fleming (Lohan) awakens from a coma to say she is not who authorities believe she is, and that the real Aubrey Fleming is still out there, in danger.

The Simpsons Movie
Director: David Silverman
Please be funny.

August 1

El Cantante
Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony
Director: Leon Ichaso
Latin singing sensation Anthony stars as the wildly popular Sixties and Seventies salsa star Hector Lavoe, who couldn't overcome his addiction to cocaine and heroin. J. Lo plays Lavoe's wife.

August 3

Hot Rod
Cast: Andy Samberg, Isla Fisher, Sissy Spacek, Ian McShane
Director: Akiva Schaffer
Saturday Night Live star Samberg plays Rod Kimble, a motorcycle stuntman who plans to jump fifteen buses to raise money for a lifesaving operation his abusive stepfather (McShane) desperately needs. Once said stepfather is healthy, Rod plans to kick his ass.

The Bourne Ultimatum
Cast: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Joan Allen, David Strathairn
Director: Paul Greengrass
In the final film of the Bourne trilogy, former CIA assassin Jason Bourne (Damon) dodges bullets and flying cars (again) while investigating (again) the mysteries of the past he can't remember (again). Regression therapy might have been easier.

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