Summer Film Previews

Our critics enter the summer-movie fray

DIRECTORS: Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky (Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills)

PREMISE: Having established a prior relationship with Metallica -- who allowed its music to be used on film for the first time in Paradise Lost -- Berlinger and Sinofsky set out to chronicle the recording of the St. Anger album and very nearly captured the band's utter disintegration on camera.

OUTLOOK: Ticket sales to Metallica fans alone will more than make back the film's budget, but word from Sundance is that, much as The Osbournes appeals to more than just metalheads, the drama surrounding the combustible Hetfield and Co. is compelling even to viewers with no mastery of puppets whatsoever.

Napoleon Dynamite
Napoleon Dynamite

She Hate Me
STARRING: Anthony Mackie, Monica Bellucci, John Turturro, Chiwetel Ejiofor


PREMISE: A corporate whistleblower (8 Mile's Mackie) loses his job on Wall Street and winds up selling his sperm to rich childless lesbians who pay big bucks to get impregnated the old-fashioned way. Yes, it's a comedy.

OUTLOOK: Lee is often on shaky ground when it comes to comedies, and it'll be ironic if vocal minority groups (lesbians, in this case) start protesting him.

STARRING: Ben Kingsley, Bill Paxton, Anthony Edwards, Sophia Myles and some big, colorful spaceships

DIRECTOR: Jonathan Frakes

WRITERS: Peter Hewitt (Thunderpants), William Osbourne (Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot), Michael McCullers (both Austin Powers sequels)

PREMISE: Live-action rendition of the 1960s U.K. Supermarionation sci-fi show in which wooden string puppets saved the day from danger in, yes, some big, colorful spaceships. It remains to be seen which is creepier -- a vintage marionette or Bill Paxton.

OUTLOOK : Likely to do well in the U.K., but here? Frakes' track record is questionable: Other than Star Trek movies, the erstwhile Commander Riker is best known for directing the horrible kiddie sci-fi movie Clockstoppers.

The Village
STARRING: Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver

WRITER/DIRECTOR: M. Night Shyamalan

PREMISE: A nineteenth-century Pennsylvania village, hermetically sealed from the rest of civilization, is disturbed by an outside menace.

OUTLOOK: Shyamalan's a ding-dong. While The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable smartly mixed dank moodiness with semi-unpredictable "twist" endings, the flailing Signs dumbed things down into eye-rolling territory. This project appears to follow suit, with nice production values and cast but a lame, sub-sub-Twilight Zone "twist" even webheads have long since sussed. If you can't figure it out from the red paint marks on the villagers' doors, you are exactly the designated audience for this movie. Catch it in an Amish town for extra fun.

Alien Vs. Predator
STARRING: Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova and some big ugly meanies from outer space

DIRECTOR: Paul W.S. Anderson

WRITERS: Paul W.S. Anderson, Shane Salerno, Peter Briggs

PREMISE: Titular franchise thingies battle each other in Antarctica while humans stupidly interfere.

OUTLOOK: After two pointless placeholder sequels, at least the Aliens finally get to do something on Earth. Their interactions with the Predator species are sure to fuel many a comic-geek debate, but whoever wins, the human actors are brave to participate. Note: Director Anderson did Resident Evil (and its star, Milla Jovovich) and is not "that Magnolia guy."

Benji Returns: Rags to Riches
STARRING: Titular canine, some guest stars from Everwood and Touched by an Angel

WRITER/DIRECTOR: Joe Camp (of course)

PREMISE: Benji goes vegan. Naw, just kidding. Benji springs into a new adventure involving diabolical dog breeders.

OUTLOOK: Record-breaking 30-year-old hound celebrates anniversary and demonstrates staying power to wannabes like Beethoven. Could say more, but why kick a dog?

STARRING: Chris Evans, Kim Basinger, Jason Statham, Jessica Biel

DIRECTOR: David Ellis (Final Destination 2)

WRITERS: Larry Cohen (Phone Booth), J. Mackeye Gruber & Eric Bress (The Butterfly Effect), Chris Morgan

PREMISE: A young man (Evans) gets a random cell-phone call from a woman (Basinger) who has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom. Her phone battery is dying, and he's her only hope.

OUTLOOK: Looks like the cell-phone propaganda lobby is at it again! Just as all manner of businesses start to ban loud cell-phone conversations, those Hollywood liberals conspire to indoctrinate us with positive images of the inexpensive communication devices saving lives, damn them! Of course, any movie that cell-phone users can relate to is likely to make heaps of cash.

Code 46
STARRING: Tim Robbins, Samantha Morton

DIRECTOR: Michael Winterbottom (Welcome to Sarajevo, In This World)

WRITER: Frank Cottrell Boyce (24 Hour Party People)

PREMISE: A love story set in a near-future where travel is restricted to residents of cities, and even then only those who purchase a special type of insurance. Outside the cities, the world has become a desert filled with shanty towns and illegal immigrants.

OUTLOOK: Combining cautionary global politics with character-based drama is a Winterbottom trademark, but the sci-fi hook may garner him a new audience. And if that's not enough, the film's R-rating descriptive also promises "brief graphic nudity."

STARRING: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo

DIRECTOR: Michael Mann

WRITERS: Michael Mann, Frank Darabont, Stuart Beattie (contributor to Pirates of the Caribbean)

PREMISE: Foxx plays an LA cabbie forced into service by killer Cruise.

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