Summer Film Previews

Our critics enter the summer-movie fray

White Chicks
STARRING: Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Brittany Daniel, James King

DIRECTOR: Keenen Ivory Wayans

WRITERS: Assorted Wayanses and friends

PREMISE: African-American FBI officers go undercover as, essentially, the Hilton sisters.

OUTLOOK: Since blondes and black men absolutely never fraternize in American society, this movie should build the vital bridges of tolerance and understanding. Ha. Whatever. At least someone's finally making a joke out of that damned annoying Vanessa Carlton song.

JULY
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
STARRING: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd

DIRECTOR: Adam McKay

WRITERS: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay

PREMISE: Will Ferrell mugs a lot as a sexist San Diego newscaster in 1973.

OUTLOOK: The trailer suggests easy summer retro laughs with no surprises whatsoever.

Before Sunset
STARRING: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater

WRITERS: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke

PREMISE: The romantic Yank and Frog from the 1995 film Before Sunrise reunite nine years later.

OUTLOOK: From Slacker to School of Rock, Linklater throws his heart into his work. This quickie sequel (shot in fifteen days) may deliver the same offhand charm and believable characters as its predecessor. This time Hawke pretends that he's an author -- an obvious case of art reflecting life.

The Bourne Supremacy
STARRING:Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Joan Allen, Brian Cox

DIRECTOR: Paul Greengrass

WRITERS: Tony Gilroy, Brian Helgeland, novelist Robert Ludlum

PREMISE: This time Jason Bourne (or whatever his name is) must clear his name following brutal assassinations.

OUTLOOK: The first one proved a pleasant surprise, and this sequel promises lots of dark intrigue all over Germany, Russia and India. In particular, the work of Greengrass holds appeal, as his documentary-style Northern Ireland riot reenactment Bloody Sunday was truly stunning. Production here was apparently rushed, but whatever its flaws, at least it don't feature no Affleck.

Catwoman
STARRING: Halle Berry, Sharon Stone, Benjamin Bratt and that French dude from the Matrix sequels

DIRECTOR:Pitof (one word, like Madonna. He's a former effects guy for Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro)

WRITERS: John D. Brancato & Michael Ferris (Terminator 3)

PREMISE: Jettisoning the Batman connection altogether, Halle Berry dons a Mouseketeer-meets-Matrix stripper outfit as Patience Philips, a graphic designer who gains some kind of super cat-powers.

OUTLOOK: Had this film come out in 1993, starred Michelle Pfeiffer, and been directed by Tim Burton, we'd be talking mega-hit. As is, Halle's costume looks stupid (can't wait for the inevitable drag-queen version, though), the trailer's lame (she likes sushi!), and Mattel recently canceled plans for a Barbie tie-in. Expect Gigli comparisons before the year is out, as well as endless puns like "Cat-astrophe." Sadly, this will probably cancel out any chance of the real Catwoman character appearing in the new Christian Bale Batman franchise.

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
STARRING: John Cho, Kal Penn

DIRECTOR: Danny Leiner (Dude, Where's My Car?)

WRITERS: John Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg

PREMISE: Stoner Indian student and stoner Korean student quest for burgers.

OUTLOOK: Sometimes the title says enough.

I, Robot
STARRING: Will Smith and some robots

DIRECTOR: Alex Proyas

WRITERS: Jeff Vintar (Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within), Akiva Goldsman (Lost in Space)

PREMISE: Smith plays a detective investigating a crime that may be the first-ever murder of a human by a robot. Because, y'know, according to Isaac Asimov's three laws of robotics, the metal guys aren't supposed to do that.

OUTLOOK: Apparently the screenplay bears very little resemblance to Asimov's book, and the teaser trailer has been laughed at by fanboy types online, mostly because the CG robots aren't very convincing. But there's hope: First of all, the CG is far from finished at this stage. And second, while not all of Proyas's films have been hits (Dark City and Garage Days failed to make Crow-level dough), they're always interesting to look at.

King Arthur
STARRING: Clive Owen, Keira Knightley, Ioan Gruffudd, Stellan Skarsgård

DIRECTOR: Antoine Fuqua

WRITERS: David Franzoni (Gladiator), John Lee Hancock (The Alamo)

PREMISE: Supposed to be a more historically accurate, fantasy-free look at the legendary king of England, though Keira Knightley's tribal-tattooed warrior Guinevere looks more like a contemporary fantasy than anything else.

OUTLOOK: There's a basic rule for Jerry Bruckheimer-produced actioners: The PG-13 rated ones usually suck, and the R-rated ones smash stuff up real good (King Arthur's rating is pending). Pirates of the Caribbean was a major exception, though, and with Disney and Knightley back on board, this could duplicate last year's formula for success.

The Manchurian Candidate
STARRING: Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber, Jon Voight

DIRECTOR:Jonathan Demme

WRITERS: Daniel Pyne (The Sum of All Fears), Dean Georgaris (Paycheck)

PREMISE: John Frankenheimer's Cold War suspense film gets an update, with Washington stepping in for Frank Sinatra and Streep for Angela Lansbury. The actual region of Asia referenced by the title is no longer part of the story; this time it's a big company called the Manchurian Corporation that plans to install a puppet president (Schreiber) mentally programmed to do their evil bidding.

OUTLOOK: A president who automatically does whatever a big corporation tells him to do? Isn't that a little farfetched?

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
STARRING: James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett

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