George Lucas built the Star Wars trilogy around a blond named Skywalker fighting Darth Vader. This summer, he finishes the prequel trilogy with a blond named Skywalker becoming Darth Vader. Steven Spielberg warmed our hearts by bringing friendly aliens to Earth in Close Encounters and E.T.. Now, he chills our blood by bringing mean Martians to Earth in War of the Worlds.
The actors go all evil on us, too. Jane Fonda, former champion of liberal causes, returned to film last week as a straight-laced mom from hell in the comedy Monster-in-Law. Burt Reynolds' '70s flicks like Smokey and the Bandit inspired "The Dukes of Hazzard" TV show. Now, Reynolds plays rapacious Boss Hogg in the screen version. "Saturday Night Live" alumni used to tweak authority in Animal House. Now, SNL alums prop up media franchises with films like The Longest Yard and Bewitched.
Here's a guide to would-be blockbusters, with some suggested art-house fare to cleanse the palate. (Release dates subject to change.)
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. The suspense comes not from wondering whether Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) will succumb to the Dark Side of the Force - we already know he will - but from wondering if director George Lucas can redeem the underwhelming predecessors, The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. The trailer looks cool - but then Star Wars trailers always look cool. See review on p. 99. (May 19)
Oldboy. Grand Jury Prize winner of the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, this weird, in-your-face Korean revenge flick - about a man held in solitary confinement for 15 years for reasons unknown - has ignited arguments across continents. See review on p. 100. (May 20)
Kontroll. Hungarian filmmaker Nimród Antal (yes, that's his real name) presents this Kafkaesque thriller, set entirely underground, about rival subway inspectors. (May 27)
The Longest Yard. Adam Sandler plays an imprisoned pro-footballer who leads fellow inmates in a grudge match against the guards. Burt Reynolds, star of the original Yard, plays a former coach and longtime jailbird. (May 27)
Madagascar. Four New York zoo animals become fish out of water when they are mistakenly "set free" in the wilds of Madagascar. With voices provided by Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith and Chris Rock, expect a computer-animated gagfest more comparable to Shrek and Shark Tale than The Incredibles. (May 27)
JUNEThe Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Despite being separated by miles, four 16-year-old girls share a pair of thrift-shop blue jeans one summer. Sure to be this year's finest pants-based metaphor for girl power. Stars Alexis Bledel and Amber Tamblyn. (June 1)
Cinderella Man. A Beautiful Mind star Russell Crowe and director Ron Howard reunite for this Depression-era boxing drama that looks sentimental enough to make Rocky feel like Million Dollar Baby. With Renee Zellweger and Paul Giamatti getting all choked up and misty-eyed. (June 3)
Lords of Dogtown. The director of Thirteen presents this street-level teen drama about early skate-punk culture, starring Heath Ledger and Emile Hirsch. (June 3)
The Nomi Song. Andrew Horn's documentary profiles freakazoid German singer Klaus Nomi, from his new wave diva rise to his AIDS-related death in 1983. (June 3)
Mr. & Mrs. Smith. In this action-romance, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie play a married couple out to kill each other after they learn they're each working for competing organizations as assassins. That kind of thing comes up in couples counseling all the time. (June 10)
The Honeymooners. In this African-American take on the classic sitcom, Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton (Cedric the Entertainer and Mike Epps) come up with crazy get-rich-quick-schemes and require rescue from their wives (Gabrielle Union and Regina Hall). Wonder how that "Pow! Right in the kisser!" line will play today? (June 10)
Schizo. A 15-year-old boy nicknamed "Schizo" becomes embroiled in Kazakhstan's culture of underground boxing in this gritty Russian drama. Expect roughly the opposite of Cinderella Man. (June 10)
Batman Begins. Memento director Christopher Nolan relaunches the Caped Crusader franchise with a grittier tale of how Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) decided to fight muggers by dressing in a bat suit. Former good guys Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later) and Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai) play the villains. (June 15)
Howl's Moving Castle. In this year's most eagerly awaited animated film, Spirited Away director Hayao Miyazaki spins a fantasy epic about witches, demons, war and a walking castle. But will it have more legs than The Sisters of the Traveling Pants? (June 17)
The Perfect Man. In this teen-girl comedy, Hilary Duff plays a teenager who convinces a friend's uncle (Chris Noth) to pose as the fictional secret admirer she invented for her single mom, Heather Locklear. You know, because anyone who looks like Locklear needs help finding a boyfriend. (June 17)
Bewitched. Acknowledging the absurdity of cinematic adaptations of TV shows, Nora Ephron directs a movie about the making of a movie based on "Bewitched" - only the star (Nicole Kidman) really is a witch! Featuring Will Ferrell as Darrin, along with Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine. (June 24)
George A. Romero's Land of the Dead. Zombies are hot, so Romero, who launched the genre with Night of the Living Dead, makes a big return with his fourth film about the living-impaired. (June 24)
Herbie: Fully Loaded. The Love Bug bites Lindsay Lohan in this comedy set on the NASCAR circuit. With gas prices so high, the time is ripe for the Volkswagen's comeback. (June 22)
War of the Worlds. Just in time for, uh, Independence Day, Steven Spielberg presents a new version of H.G. Wells' classic alien invasion novel, this time set in modern-day America with Tom Cruise, Tim Robbins and Dakota Fanning. (June 29)
Dark Water. Jennifer Connelly hopes to follow in the footsteps of Naomi Watts by starring in the remake of a moody Japanese thriller about a vengeful ghost. (July 8)
Fantastic Four. Here's hoping they picked the right person to direct Marvel Comics' longest-running title, about the wild adventures of a quartet of superpowered do-gooders. Let's see: Director Tim Story helmed the first Barbershop movie and Jimmy Fallon's Taxi. Hmmm ... (July 8)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Tim Burton tinkers with the scrumpdilicious formula of Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory by casting Johnny Depp as the eccentric chocolatier in this super-stylized remake. Depp's young Finding Neverland co-star Freddie Highmore plays the title character (Charlie, that is, not the factory). (July 15)
Wedding Crashers. Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn play a couple of Casanovas who specialize in sneaking into weddings and seducing bridesmaids. The real question is not whether they'll change their ways, but with Wilson and Vaughn starring, who will cameo? Ben Stiller? Will Ferrell? Luke Wilson? (July 15)
The Bad News Bears. Richard Linklater of Before Sunset and School of Rock directs this take on the hard-luck Little League team, with Billy Bob Thornton substituting for Walter Matthau, giving it more promise than all those other damn remakes. (July 22)
The Devil's Rejects. The wait is over: Rob Zombie has written and directed another movie, taking up where House of 1000 Corpses left off. Apparently, House of 1001 Corpses wasn't as good a title. (July 22)
The Island. In Michael Bay's futuristic thriller, Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson play residents of a utopian community who learn that they're actually clones kept in isolation in case "real" people need spare parts. Guess the title Attack of the Clones was taken by that other Ewan McGregor movie. (July 22)
The Brothers Grimm. Terry Gilliam re-imagines the classic fairy-tale authors as Napoleonic con artists (played by Matt Damon and Heath Ledger) who vanquish fake monsters and demons - until they face the real thing. (July 29)
The Dukes of Hazzard. Seann William Scott, Johnny Knoxville and Jessica Simpson play Bo, Luke and Daisy Duke, respectively, in the big-screen version of the Southern-fried TV series. M.C. Gainey - the ugly naked guy from Sideways - plays Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane. (Aug. 5)
The Pink Panther. Apparently a glutton for critical punishment, Steve Martin stumbles into the shoes of Peter Sellers' accident-prone Inspector Clouseau, with Kevin Kline as his apoplectic foil Inspector Dreyfus. (Aug. 5)
Domino. Pirates of the Caribbean's Keira Knightley plays the daughter of movie star Laurence Harvey. She turns from fashion model to bounty hunter in a film based on a true story. No, really. (Aug. 19)
The Cave. "Beneath heaven there is hell. And beneath hell there is ... The Cave!" Hey, at least this horror flick isn't a remake. (Aug. 26)
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Mo gibs muh 'dat.
One step forward, two steps back.
Hey "Here's Your Editorial", what does Dale Earnhardt Junior have to do with this article?