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
2006 summer movie guide
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?
The Omen (Fox)
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.
Only Human (Magnolia)
Starring: Norma Aleandro, Guillermo Toledo (El Crimen Perfecto), and Marián Aguilera
Written and directed by: Wife and husband Teresa De Pelegrí and Dominic Harari
What it's about: It's Meet the Jewish Parents in Spain. Leni brings home fiancé Rafi to her cockamamie family, only belatedly informing them he's Palestinian. When he drops the soup out the seventh-floor window and hits a pedestrian, it's slapstick hilarity all the way to the Wailing Wall.
Why you should see it: It could be funny. Right?
Why you should not: No, actually. It can't be.
Shadowboxer (Lee Daniels Entertainment)
Starring: Helen Mirren, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Directed by: First-timer Lee Daniels (coproducer of Monster's Ball)
What it's about: Mirren plays a terminally ill professional killer hired for one last job; Gooding plays her stepson and lover (!).
Why you should see it: It sounds like a train wreck, but it could be a glorious one.
Why you should not: Word is there are a couple of explicit sex scenes. Do you really want to see Cuba and Helen get it on?
The Heart of the Game (Miramax)
Starring: Ludacris (Crash), Devon Crosby Helms, and Maude Lepley
Written and directed by: Ward Serrill
What it's about: The world of high school basketball gets another documentary treatment, this one about a Seattle girls' team and its irrepressible coach.
Why you should see it: The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and you are there!
Why you should not: There's no reason to believe the gender switch will help circumvent the sports-movie clichés.
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (Universal)
Starring: Lucas Black (Jarhead), Bow Wow, and Zachary Ty Bryan
Directed by: Justin Lin (Better Luck Tomorrow)
What it's about: Brightly colored cars in illegal street races this time in Japan. The bad news is that efforts to bring back Vin Diesel fell through. The good news is Paul Walker is gone too.
Why you should see it: Better Luck Tomorrow showed that Justin Lin had the chops to direct an edgy youth movie
Why you should not: but Annapolis proved he's capable of much worse.
The Lake House (WB)
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, and Shohreh Aghdashloo
Directed by: Alejandro Agresti (Valentin)
What it's about: It's like Speed, but without a bus, bomb, or Dennis Hopper. And with a mailbox that transports love letters through time. A remake of the Korean film Il Mare, in which a man and woman write each other letters, only to discover they're both living in the same house but in different time periods two years apart.
Why you should see it: Could Keanu plus time travel equal an excellent adventure?
Why you should not: Every other love story Keanu has ever done. Also, Valentin was cloying, annoying crap.
Nacho Libre (Paramount)
Starring: Jack Black and Efren Ramirez
Directed by: Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite)
Written by: Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess, and Mike White
What it's about: Black (Nacho) plays a Mexican cook who stuffs his face into a wrestler's mask to save his financially strapped orphanage.
Why you should see it: Mike White wrote the best part Jack Black has ever been given, as Dewey Finn in School of Rock.
Why you should not: Because Napoleon Dynamite was a great four-minute movie that went on just a little too long.
Starring: Will Shortz, Bill Clinton, and Jon Stewart
Directed by: First-timer Patrick Creadon
What it's about: A documentary about puzzle master Will Shortz, longtime editor of the New York Times crossword and weekly guest on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday.
Why you should see it: 13 down: J-O-N-S-T-E-W-A-R-T.
Why you should not: Virtually no chance of car chases or steamy sex.
Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man (Lions Gate)
Starring: Leonard Cohen, Bono, and The Edge
Directed by: Lian Lunson
What it's about: Lunson's doc about the singer-songwriter, featuring a pretty candid interview with the inexplicable lady's man, uses a tribute show at the Sydney Concert Hall in 2005 to tell Cohen's beguiling journey from Montreal to a monastery on Mount Baldy.
Why you should see it: Lunson mingles footage of Cohen talking and scenes of his acolytes singing his famous blue-raincoat songs.
Why you should not: See above; the performances are as mediocre as Cohen is magnetic.
Starring: Adam Sandler, Christopher Walken, and David Hasselhoff
Directed by: Frank Coraci (The Waterboy)
What it's about: Sandler obtains a magic universal remote control that can control the universe! Pausing, rewinding, and slow-motion-replaying the world around him is a lot of fun until the remote gets stuck in fast-forward.
Why you should see it: Whatever you might think of Sandler, a movie that brings Walken and Hasselhoff together cannot be all bad.
Why you should not: Seems like a good premise, but so did The Benchwarmers at one point.
Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties (Fox)
Starring: Bill Murray, Breckin Meyer, and Jennifer Love Hewitt
Directed by: Tim Hill (Muppets from Space)
What it's about: America's favorite fat cat twenty years ago takes a trip to Jolly Old London and switches places with a rich, fat feline in this essential sequel to 2004's Garfield. For more information, read Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper.
Why you should see it: Old pro Bill Murray can get laughs reading obituaries.
Why you should not: He's Bill Murray, not He Who Is Risen.
Waist Deep (Focus)
Starring: Tyrese Gibson (Four Brothers), Meagan Good (Roll Bounce), and Larenz Tate (Crash)
Directed by: Vondie Curtis-Hall (Gridlock'd)
What it's about: An ex-convict (Gibson) is driven to desperation when his son is kidnapped and held for ransom by a vicious crime lord. He begins to rob banks to raise the ransom but only banks where the thug has an account.
Why you should see it: It's rated R, and based on the preview, it looks like the two beautiful leads get sweaty.
Why you should not: Hall directed Glitter. Yep, that Glitter.
Strangers with Candy (THINKfilm)
Starring: Amy Sedaris, Matthew Broderick, and Philip Seymour Hoffman
Directed by: Paul Dinello
What it's about: A feature-film spinoff of the popular 1999-2000 Comedy Central series starring Sedaris as a 46-year-old ex-con high school student.
Why you should see it: If you don't think Stephen Colbert knows funny, you don't know funny.
Why you should not: It could feel like one long inside joke made for those who've seen the show.
The Devil Wears Prada (Fox)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Adrien Grenier
Directed by: David Frankel (Entourage, Sex and the City)
What it's about: Big-screen adaptation of Lauren Weisberger's thinly disguised "fiction" book about working as assistant to Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour (Streep).
Why you should see it: Streep rarely chooses unredeemable projects.
Why you should not: Do we care how difficult it is to work for a fashion magazine?
Superman Returns (Warner Bros.)
Starring: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, and Kevin Spacey
Directed by: Bryan Singer (X-Men, X-2)
What it's about: Set five years after Superman II, more or less, Superman returns from self-imposed exile to find Lois Lane with a child and Lex Luthor out of prison, with yet another plan for world domination.
Why you should see it: Singer made the X-Men movies into something accessible to mainstream audiences without sacrificing its comic-book roots; he made superheroes human.
Why you should not: Look, it can't be any worse than Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
Little Man (Sony)
Starring: Marlon and Shawn Wayans
Directed by: Keenen Ivory Wayans (Scary Movie, Scary Movie 2)
What it's about: A digitally remastered Shawn Wayans plays a weensy little criminal mistaken for a baby by a wannabe dad (Marlon).
Why you should see it: Consider it your biennial dose of Wayans charm.
Why you should not: Perhaps you recall White Chicks?
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man' s Chest (Buena Vista)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Keira Knightley
Directed by: Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl)
What it's about: Bill Nighy joins the fun as supernatural part-man/part-octopus villain Davey Jones, out to collect the soul of Capt. Jack Sparrow (Depp) just in time to ruin the marriage plans of Will (Bloom) and Elizabeth (Knightley).
Why you should see it: Depp's Jack Sparrow is one of the most entertaining characters in cinematic history.
Why you should not: Bloom is still a stiff. And Chow Yun-Fat is in Part 3, not this one.
A Scanner Darkly (Warner Independent)
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, and Woody Harrelson
Written and directed by: Richard Linklater, based on the novel by Philip K. Dick
What it's about: In the near future, a government drug-enforcement agent (Reeves) winds up being ordered to spy on himself. Like Linklater's Waking Life, the entire movie is done in rotoscoped animation, so it's difficult to tell whether or not it really counts that Winona Ryder does her first-ever nude scene.
Why you should see it: Previous Philip K. Dick-based movies: Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall ...
Why you should not: also Paycheck, Screamers, and Impostor.
Clerks II (MGM)
Starring: Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, and Rosario Dawson
Written and directed by: Kevin Smith (Clerks)
What it's about: Dante (O'Halloran) and Randal (Anderson) are still slacking away their lives, except their twenties have turned into their thirties, and both work at fast-food joint Mooby's. In other words, this is what Kevin Smith does when his attempt at maturity (Jersey Girl) tanks and he's left going back to the well. Again. And again.
Why you should see it: Because it's just like Clerks. With a Jason Lee cameo.
Why you should not: It really is just like Clerks.
Lady in the Water (Warner Bros.)
Starring: Paul Giamatti (Sideways, Cinderella Man), Bryce Dallas Howard (Manderlay), and Freddy Rodriguez
Written and directed by: M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, The Village)
What it's about: A lonely apartment building superintendent (Giamatti) discovers a beautiful woman (Howard) in the building's swimming pool, who turns out to be a mermaid. And there are other supernatural creatures after her.
Why you should see it: Advance word says there's no gratuitous twist ending this time. Shyamalan is a good director when he doesn't paint himself into a corner; even The Village had its moments until that terrible "surprise" finish.
Why you should not: This film has been labeled a "bedtime story." What does that even mean?
Monster House (Sony)
Starring: Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Lee, and Nick Cannon
Directed by: First-timer Gil Kenan
What it's about: Sounds like The 'Burbs meets Poltergeist: Three kids live next door to a creepy house that turns out to be dun-dun-dun a monster.
Why you should see it: Uh uh it's animated?
Why you should not: Have you seen the trailer? Was it made in 1992?
Super Ex-Girlfriend (Fox)
Starring: Uma Thurman, Luke Wilson, and Anna Faris
Directed by: Ivan Reitman (Old School)
What it's about: Wilson plays a normal dude who dumps the superneedy superhottie G-Girl (Thurman), who proves hell hath no fury like a superwoman scorned. In other words, what if Lois Lane broke up with Superman, and he didn't take it well? At all.
Why you should see it: Ivan Reitman directed Ghostbusters, Stripes, and Meatballs.
Why you should not: Ivan Reitman directed Six Days Seven Nights, Father's Day, and Evolution.
Starring: Kevin James, Courteney Cox Arquette, and Danny Glover
Written and directed by: Steve Oedekerk (Kung Pow: Enter the Fist)
What it's about: The owner of a farm leaves his animals to go udderly (that's all mine, baby) nuts when he leaves the place under their control.
Why you should see it: You have to assume nobody saw this the first time, when it was called Home on the Range.
Why you should not: The only people who havent tired of talking-animal animated movies havent been born yet.
Starring: Alison Lohman (Big Fish), Tim McGraw (Friday Night Lights), and Maria Bello (The Sisters)
Directed by: Michael Mayer (A Home at the End of the World)
What it's about: A young girl tames a wild horse in a heartbreaking attempt to win her father's love.
Why you should see it: Girls, horses, summer, love, magic.
Why you should not: If Mayer's treatment of Flicka is anything like his Home at the End of the World, we're in for a sapfest of personal triumph set to music.
John Tucker Must Die (Fox)
Starring: Jesse Metcalfe (Desperate Housewives), Brittany Snow (The Pacifier), and Ashanti (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Directed by: Betty Thomas (The Brady Bunch Movie)
What it's about: When a trio of hotties discover they're dating the same cad (Metcalfe), they plot to bring about his ruination (but not, despite the title, his demise).
Why you should see it: By July 28, the effects of global warming will have cooked our brains into pink paste. Perfect time for teen comedy.
Why you should not: Because this is the 9432rd movie to try to convince us that an obvious beauty is a plain Jane for the first 30 minutes, the idea could be losing a spot of freshness.
Miami Vice (Universal)
Starring: Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, and Gong Li
Written and directed by: Michael Mann (Ali, The Insider )
What it's about: Gee, lessee. Crockett and Tubbs. Drug dealers. Speed boats. Guns. Flashy suits. Bad accents. Expensive cars. Hot chicks. That about covers it.
Why you should see it: See above.
Why you should not: See above. And no Jan Hammer theme song. Rip. Off.
The Bridesmaid (First Run)
Starring: Benot Magimel (The Piano Teacher) and Laura Smet (Gilles' Wife)
Directed by: Claude Chabrol (The Flower of Evil)
What it's about: A hard-working, straight-arrow salesman (Magimel) falls in love with his sister's free-spirited bridesmaid (Smet), who turns out to be quite frighteningly insane.
Why you should see it: It sounds like Wedding Crashers, but scarier.
Why you should not: Fans of Bill O'Reilly may still want to boycott French things.
Brothers of the Head (IFC)
Starring: Harry and Luke Treadaway, Will Kemp, and Ken Russell
Directed by: Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe (Lost in La Mancha)
What it's about: Conjoined twins (Harry and Luke Treadaway) under the control of an unscrupulous music promoter become a rock and roll success story in the Seventies. Loosely based on a true story.
Why you should see it: The directors and screenwriter have worked with Terry Gilliam a fair amount, so one might imagine they've picked up a thing or two.
Why you should not: Fulton and Pepe are documentarians, and this is their first narrative feature. The transition doesn't always work (remember Michael Moore's Canadian Bacon?).
The House of Sand (Sony Classics)
Starring: Fernanda Montenegro, Fernanda Torres, and Ruy Guerra
Directed by: Andrucha Waddington (Me, You, Them)
What it's about: An early-twentieth-century Brazilian saga about an unhappy woman, a delirious husband, and a barren landscape that proves difficult to escape.
Why you should see it: Waddington's got props back in Brazil.
Why you should not: Fifty-nine years on a dune equals um pouco louco.
Little Miss Sunshine (Fox Searchlight)
Starring: Toni Collette (Connie and Carla), Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, and Alan Arkin
Directed by: First-timers Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
What it's about: Kinnear is a scowling motivational speaker waiting for a book deal; Collette is his patient wife who wants to drive the family VW from Albuquerque to Los Angeles so their daughter (Abigail Breslin) can compete in what turns out to be the creepiest talent contest ever. Also in the van are suicidal uncle Carell, smack-happy Arkin, and Paul Dano as the sullenest teen ever.
Why you should see it: It was a knockout hit at Sundance, where this National Lampoon's Vacation-with-a-darker-side sold for $10.5 million.
Why you should not: Dunno, unless you hate hearing Alan Arkin curse. A lot.
Quinceañera (Sony Classics)
Starring: Emily Rios, Chalo Gonzalez, and Jesse Garcia
Written and directed by: Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland
What it's about: On the verge of her fifteenth birthday, pregnant Magdalena is thrown out of her house and moves in with her great-great uncle and gay cousin, but she may lose even this makeshift family to urban gentrification.
Why you should see it: Love the Latina mama drama.
Why you should not: Wacky outsiders overcome forces of oppression!
Starring: Jet Li, Nakamura Shidou, and Betty Sun
Directed by: Ronny Yu (Freddy vs. Jason)
What it's about: Jet Li kicks some ass. Then a tragedy happens, and he doesn't want to kick any further ass, so he goes into seclusion, where he learns the true way of the warrior. The claim is that this will be Li's last martial-arts epic.
Why you should see it: Sigh. If you know your Hong Kong films, you'd have no doubt that Jet Li and Ronny Yu and Yuen Woo-ping teaming up can only be awesome.
Why you should not: Steer clear if action isn't your thing.
Starring: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, and Sacha Baron Cohen
Directed by: Adam McKay (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy)
What it's about: NASCAR champeen Ricky Bobby (Ferrell) finds his title being usurped by a French rival played by Ali G., a'ight?
Why you should see it: Anchorman had some brilliant moments.
Why you should not: Anchorman had some brilliant moments only if you were really, really high.
Starring: Justin Long (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story), Adam Herschman, and Jonah Hill
Directed by: First-timer Steve Pink
Written by: Bill Collage, Adam Cooper, and Mark Perez
What it's about: A slack senior (Long) finds out he has failed to get into college. So, of course, he and his similarly unmotivated pals fool their parents by inventing their own fraud of a university, which suddenly becomes crowded with similar rejects. Hey, it couldn't be any more worthless than your liberal arts degree, right?
Why you should see it: If a fake frat was funny (as it was in Old School), an entire fake university has to be a knee-slapper, right?
Why you should not: Of course not. Old School was funny only because it had Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn in it. No similar heavyweights present here.
Step Up (Buena Vista)
Starring: Channing Tatum (Coach Carter), Rachel Griffiths, and Heavy D
Directed by: Anne Fletcher
Written by: Duane Adler and Melissa Rosenberg
What it's about: Tatum plays a streetwise punk (is there any other kind?) who trashes a performing arts school and is sentenced to community service. He comes to find it ain't dat bad a joint, once a hot dancer at the school wiggles his broom just a little.
Why you should see it: Rachel Griffiths and Heavy D in the same movie! I only dared to dream!
Why you should not: Because it has to be awful.
World Trade Center (Paramount)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Michael Peña, and Maggie Gyllenhaal
Directed by: Oliver Stone (J.F.K. , The Doors)
Written by: Andrea Berloff
What it's about: Cage and Peña play real-life Port Authority cops who made it out of the World Trade Center alive after the terror attack September 11, 2001. Word is this isn't the work of a paranoid Ollie Stone, but a sober, down-to-the-details docudramatization of the events of the day, already seen this year in United 93.
Why you should see it: Cage is at his best when playing an Everyman stuck in a horrific, real-life situation. (His portrayal of an EMT in Martin Scorsese's Bringing Out the Dead remains among his career highlights, even if no one saw it.)
Why you should not: Oliver Stone is a real hit-or-miss moviemaker; pray this is closer to Platoon and Salvador than Alexander or Any Given Sunday. Or Natural Born Killers. Or U-Turn. Or Nixon.
Starring: Tim Allen, Courteney Cox Arquette, and Chevy Chase
Directed by: Peter Hewitt (Garfield)
Written by: David Berenbaum (Elf)
What it's about: Remember that Disney movie Sky High, about a retired superhero and the superschool his kids attend? This is pretty much the same thing, but with a bigger budget. And it's based on an actual comic book, Zoom's Academy for the Super-Gifted.
Why you should see it: Sky High was fun
Why you should not: but do we need another version? Tim Allen instead of Kurt Russell isn't exactly what you'd call trading up.
The Night Listener (Miramax)
Starring: Robin Williams, Toni Collette, and Rory Culkin
Directed by: Patrick Stettner (The Business of Strangers)
Written by: Armistead Maupin & Terry Anderson (The Young Graduates) and Stettner, based on the novel by Maupin
What it's about: Williams plays a Garrison Keillor-like public radio host who tells embellished stories of his life and friends, but when he receives the manuscript of a memoir from an abused child (Culkin), he doesn't realize it might be equally embellished.
Why you should see it: Stettner deftly dealt with similar issues of deceit in The Business of Strangers; Williams can certainly be as annoying as your typical talk-radio host.
Why you should not: When it comes to drama, Williams is either spot-on (One Hour Photo) or insufferably mawkish (What Dreams May Come). His character here is a gay man whose lover has battled AIDS, which may mean lots of hugging, tears, and Williams doing that grinning thing that's supposed to make him look sad but really doesn't.
Snakes on a Plane (New Line)
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, some snakes, and a plane
Directed by: David R. Ellis (Final Destination 2)
Written by: John Heffernan and Sebastian Gutierrez (Gothika)
What it's about: The title says it all here. For full disclosure, it really should be Snakes on a Plane with a Bald-Headed Bad-Ass Black Guy Who Yells a Lot. Yes, the snakes deserve to die, and he hopes they burn in Hell.
Why you should see it: Pay attention. Snakes. Plane. Samuel L. Jackson. What's not to love?
Why you should not: Sorry, there's just no good excuse not to.
Starring: Matt Dillon, Lili Taylor (I Shot Andy Warhol), and Marisa Tomei
Written and directed by: Bent Hamer, based on the novel by Charles Bukowski
What it's about: Dillon plays Henry Chinaski (Bukowski's alter ego) in this movie about drinking, writing, having sex, and drinking. In other words, Bukowski.
Why you should see it: Dillon hasn't had a role this dark and juicy since Drugstore Cowboy, and the wonderful Lili Taylor just hasn't had enough roles, period.
Why you should not: Aren't we, as a people, dead-tired of Bukowski yet? Mickey Rourke nailed it in 1987's Barfly, and there hasn't been anything new to say about talented but pathetic drunks ever since.
Trust the Man (Fox Searchlight)
Starring: David Duchovny, Julianne Moore, Billy Crudup, and Maggie Gyllenhaal
Written and directed by: Bart Freundlich (The Myth of Fingerprints)
What it's about: Four New Yorkers in various stages of relationships hash out the old issues (sex, friendship, marriage, adultery) as they struggle to make sense of modern love. With jokes!
Why you should see it: The foursome of Duchovny, Moore, Crudup, and Gyllenhaal has more than its fair share of talent (and vowels). And it looks like it doesn't take itself too seriously, which is instant death in these kinds of movies.
Why you should not: Are you really concerned about the problems of rich, white, wealthy, beautiful, and well-apartmented Manhattanites?
Starring: André Benjamin (Four Brothers), Antwan Patton (ATL), and Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow)
Written and directed by: First-timer Brian Barber
What it's about: Benjamin and Patton (the real-life duo OutKast) play a couple of, um, ahead-of-their-time musicians in a 1930s Southern juke joint. Elaborate musical numbers compete for airtime with gangster politics as big bad Howard comes to town to muscle in on the club.
Why you should see it: Musically, Benjamin and Patton are at the top of their game, the concept of injecting their tunes with the flavor of old-school jazz has major promise, and Benjamin has already shown he's got screen skills.
Why you should not: Neither period black gangster films (Harlem Nights) nor musical gangster films (Bugsy Malone) tend to stand the test of time.
Material Girls (MGM)
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Starring: Hilary Duff, Haylie Duff, and Anjelica Huston
Directed by: Martha Coolidge (The Prince & Me)
Written by: John Quaintance, Jessica O'Toole, and Amy Rardin
What it's about: Duff and Duff play sisters how about that? who have plenty of dough from their family's cosmetics company. But when the family biz is bankrupted by scandal, will the Duffs ever learn how to cope with being poor?
Why you should see it: Coolidge directed Valley Girl
Why you should not: four years before Hilary Duff was born.
The Descent (Lions Gate)
Starring: Shauna MacDonald, Natalie Mendoza, and Alex Reid
Written and directed by: Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers)
What it's about: Six female spelunkers become trapped deep in the bowels of the Earth, and wouldn't you know it, this cave happens to be the home of flesh-eating creatures of the dark.
Why you should see it: It's a tight concept with plenty of opportunities for cat scares and gore for the popcorn crowd.
Why you should not: Man can take only so many cat scares before it's all a big wall of black-and-red noise.