The summer movie - the perfect thing for a cinematic season when the days get longer, the attention spans shorter and the explosions bigger and badder.
Every year about this time, Hollywood hits the multiplex with its fizziest confections and big-budget spectaculars aimed at an audience willing to flock to see costumed heroes or soaring spaceships. More high concept than high art, these summer movies rarely delve into existential questions of life, love or mortality, but they surely are fun. Here's a rundown of this summer's offerings:
STAR WARS: EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH: For all those beneath-a-rock dwellers, the final Star Wars installment, which answers once and for all who Darth Vader's tailor is, is being released this month. Reputed to be a grim and somewhat gory film, this less-kid-friendly tale is sure to have concerned parents wrestling with the dilemma of children clamoring to see PG-13 fare. May 19. See Sunday's Your Life section for a guide to the Star Wars universe, Wednesday's Your Life section for a review of the movie and the May 21 Religion section for a look at the Dark Side in us all.
MADAGASCAR: The story of a quartet of zoo-raised animals - lion, zebra, hippo and giraffe - who find themselves veldt-bound without a scrap of natural instinct, this computer-animated feature stars the voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett Smith as animals not born to be wild. May 27
THE LONGEST YARD: A remake, of sorts, of the 1974 felons-and-football comedy, this Yard stars Adam Sandler as a former pro quarterback and current convict enlisted to form an all-prison team. Burt Reynolds, who starred in the original, also appears in the remake. May 27
MR. AND MRS. SMITH: Hollywood heartthrobs Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie star as a married couple, both of whom lead secret lives as hired assassins. Their deadly dull marriage becomes, well, just deadly when each receives a contract on the other. This movie has attracted a lot of attention because of rumors of a Pitt-Jolie romance. It remains to be seen whether sparks fly on-screen, off-screen, neither or both. June 10
BATMAN BEGINS: Disappointed with the past few Batman movies, Warner Bros. decided to reboot the series, taking it back to its roots with this origin story. Christian Bale stars as the emotionally wounded billionaire who takes up the cape and cowl. The all-star cast also features Katie Holmes, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine as the always-faithful butler, Alfred. June 17
LAND OF THE DEAD: In 1968, filmmaker George Romero all but invented the zombie movie when he shot Night of the Living Dead on a shoestring budget. He followed the film with two sequels - Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. Now he's returning to familiar stomping, or shuffling, grounds 20 years later with Land of the Dead. His previous films have fervent fans, so expectations for this movie, at least among some, are high. June 24
BEWITCHED: Not strictly a remake, this film stars Will Ferrell as an almost-famous actor cast in a remake of the classic TV series opposite an actual witch. Nicole Kidman plays the nose-wiggler in this one, and Shirley MacLaine appears as her equally magical mother. June 24
WAR OF THE WORLDS: Using the classic H.G. Wells novel as a starting point, wonder twins Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise come together to update the original alien invasion story. Mr. Cruise stars as a deadbeat dad who is faced with the responsibility of saving his family from the laser-shooting tripods from Mars. June 29
THE FANTASTIC FOUR: Based on the Marvel comic book of the same name, this movie about four astronauts mutated into superheroes by cosmic rays has long been a favorite among comic fans. The biggest special effect in this film, a character known as the Thing, appears to have been hewn out of living stone. July 8
CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY: Less a remake of the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory than an adaptation of the source novel, this Tim Burton film stars Johnny Depp as the mysterious chocolate tycoon who grants a glimpse at his uncommon manufacturing process to a group of lucky children. The film also stars Freddie Highmore, a young actor who appeared with Mr. Depp in last year's Finding Neverland. July 15
THE WEDDING CRASHERS: This willfully raunchy comedy stars Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as a pair of divorce mediators who make a habit of preying on romance-stricken bridesmaids at weddings, whether they were invited or not. When one finds himself stricken with moon-June-swoon symptoms, zaniness ensues. June 15
THE ISLAND: Summer movie specialist Michael Bay (The Rock, Armageddon) directs this dystopian story about clones who discover that they've been raised to provide spare parts for wealthy counterparts. Understandably miffed, they decide to make a break for it. The film stars Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson as two improbably attractive clones who discover they could get filleted at any moment. July 22
BAD NEWS BEARS: A remake of the 1976 Walter Matthau movie, this updated version stars Billy Bob Thornton as a former minor league ballplayer who, despite being the worst role model in history, is enlisted to coach a Little League team. The film is directed by Richard Linklater, who had some success with the thematically similar School of Rock. June 22
SKY HIGH: Because there are never too many superheroes on the summer movie schedule, this film about a high school for the cape-and-tights set stars Kurt Russell and Bruce Campbell as educationally minded heroes and former Wonder Woman star Lynda Carter as the school's "gifted" principal. June 29
THE BROTHERS GRIMM: This film about two grifters who "rid" villages of enchanted beings has been sitting on a shelf for more than a year. The film, directed by twisted visionary Terry Gilliam and starring Matt Damon and Heath Ledger might have had studio heads a bit worried, but fans of Mr. Gilliam's abstracted worlds will rejoice at the prospect of the director's having a movie in theaters again. June 29
THE DUKES OF HAZZARD: Naysayers will say that this is a movie that never needed to be made, but a few inspired pieces of casting - Burt Reynolds as Boss Hogg, Willie Nelson as Uncle Jesse and Jessica Simpson as Daisy Duke - might attract a few converts. Aug. 8
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