Excess Hollywood

In the season of sequels and Happy Meal toys, 05 may be a pleasant surprise.

WAR OF THE WORLDS

Starring: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning and Tim Robbins

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Written by: David Koepp and Josh Friedman, based on the novel by H.G. Wells

What it's about: A family fights for survival amid an invasion of "alien tripod fighting machines."

Why it will be fabulous: Expect lots of special-effects dazzle in the Close Encounters/Jurassic Park style, and more of Spielberg's characteristic empathy for the little guy.

Why it will be dreadful: Tom Cruise.

JULY

REBOUND

Starring: Martin Lawrence, Horatio Sanz, Megan Mullally and Breckin Meyer

Directed by: Steve Carr (Daddy Day Care)

Written by: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore

What it's about: A misbehaving college basketball coach (Lawrence) is fired and winds up having to coach a losing middle-school team.

Why it will be fabulous: It could do for Martin Lawrence what School of Rock did for Jack Black. That's clearly the intent, anyway.

Why it will be dreadful: Gee, um...Martin Lawrence?

RIZE

Starring: Tommy the Clown, Tight Eyez, Swoop, and Big X

Directed by: David LaChappelle

What it's about: Documentary about an up-and-coming style of street dancing called "krumping."

Why it will be fabulous: Sooner or later, everyone's gonna be doing it, so you might as well get the skinny first.

Why it will be dreadful: Just to be clear -- David LaChappelle is a fashion photographer, and not the comedian who says "I'm Rick James, bitch!"

WILD SIDE

Starring: Stéphanie Michelini, Yasmine Belmadi, Edouard Nikitine and Josiane Stoléru

Directed by: Sébastien Lifshitz

Written by: Lifshitz and Stéphane Bouquet

What it's about: A three-way polysexual relationship between an ex-hooker (Michelini), a Russian deserter (Nikitine) and a gay hustler (Belmadi).

Why it will be fabulous: They probably all get naked, so there's something for everyone.

Why it will be dreadful: They probably all get naked. This is not always a good thing.

YES

Starring: Simon Abkarian and Joan Allen

Written and directed by: Sally Potter (The Tango Lesson)

What it's about: Two unnamed characters begin a love affair that changes their lives.

Why it will be fabulous: Abkarian looks like Super Mario, which may lead to unintentional laughs.

Why it will be dreadful: Sally Potter films usually appeal to a specific niche crowd. And bore the crap out of everyone else.

UNDEAD

Starring: Mungo McKay, Felicity Mason and Rob Jenkins

Written and directed by: Michael & Peter Spierig

What it's about: The small town of Berkeley, Australia, gets infected with Zombie Plague From Outer Space!

Why it will be fabulous: The lead actor's name is "Mungo," and he fights zombies.

Why it will be dreadful: Conservatives may be disappointed that it isn't Berkeley, California, being destroyed.

DARK WATER

Starring: Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly, Pete Postlethwaite and Ariel Gade

Directed by: Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries)

Written by: Rafael Yglesias (From Hell)

What it's about: American remake of Ringu director Hideo Nakata's other movie about a malevolent drowned girl ghost with hair in her face and the power to manipulate water.

Why it will be fabulous: The original is one of the scariest movies ever, and Salles is no slouch.

Why it will be dreadful: Nakata's original came out three years ago, and since then, audiences may have overdosed on that whole "long black hair covering the face" bit. Also, both of the Hollywood Ring movies and The Eye cribbed liberally from the original already.

FANTASTIC FOUR

Starring: Michael Chiklis, Jessica Alba and Julian McMahon

Directed by: Tim Story

Written by: Michael France, Simon Kinberg and Mark Frost

What it's about: Four astronauts -- Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) and sister Sue (Alba), Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) and Ben Grimm (Chiklis) -- are bathed in gamma rays during an outer-space trip and are transformed, respectively, into the Human Torch, Invisible Woman, the stretchy Mr. Fantastic and the hideous Thing. The superhero team, a 44-year-old Marvel Comics institution, battles its armor-clad nemesis Doctor Doom (McMahon); chaos ensues, duh.

Why it will be fabulous: Because Marvel has managed to do the superhero movie thing right with the Spider-Man and X-Men franchises.

Why it will be dreadful: Then again, The Punisher, Daredevil, Elektra and Hulk were super-awful, and the trailer looks fantastically horrid.

JULIE JOHNSON

Starring: Lili Taylor, Courtney Love, Spalding Gray and Noah Emmerich

Directed by: Bob Gosse (Niagara, Niagara)

Written by: Gosse and Wendy Hammond

What it's about: Lili Taylor leaves her husband for Courtney Love. Presumably, this is someone's fantasy, somewhere.

Why it will be fabulous: Conspiracy theorists have new proof that Love drove Spalding Gray to suicide.

Why it will be dreadful: That's Bob Gosse, not Fosse.

MURDERBALL

Directed by: Henry-Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro

What it's about: This documentary about quadriplegic rugby players, who manhandle and mangle their opponents from souped-up wheelchairs that look as though they were rescued from a post-apocalyptic garbage dump, tells of Team U.S.A.'s struggle to capture the title at the 2004 Athens games.

Why it will be fabulous: It is fabulous, so much so that when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January, the members of Team U.S.A. were treated like movie-star royalty at every party they attended. And they attended a lot of them. (These guys love to party.)

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