Excess Hollywood

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

Why it will be dreadful: It won't be. Seriously. Don't worry.

SARABAND

Starring: Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson

Written and directed by: Ingmar Bergman

What it's about: A sequel to Bergman's 1973 drama Scene From a Marriage, 30 years on, in which Marianna (Ullmann) and Johan (Josephson) meet again, having had no contact since then.

Why it will be fabulous: Apparently this guy Bergman has quite the reputation in cinematic circles.

Why it will be dreadful: Bergman's own description of the film is this: "The drama consists of ten dialogues that follow a particular pattern, and it's an attempt at analysis of a difficult situation." Yikes.

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY

Starring: Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore and Helena Bonham Carter

Directed by: Tim Burton

Written by: John August

What it's about: Charlie Bucket (Highmore, Depp's Finding Neverland co-star) finds one of the golden tickets that allows him to tour the candy factory of demented sweets-maker Willy Wonka (Depp). Also on the treacherous tour are the usual suspects, including Charlie's Grandpa Joe, Veruca Salt, Augustus Gloop and the Oompa-Loompas.

Why it will be fabulous: There's no music this time, and Burton promises to go deeper and darker than Mel Stuart did in his 1971 Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.

Why it will be dreadful: Because as much as you and I and everyone else loves Johnny Depp, he ain't no Gene Wilder. And because, alas, "Pure Imagination" is a swell song that will be missed.

HAPPY ENDINGS

Starring: Lisa Kudrow, Tom Arnold, Steve Coogan, Jesse Bradford and Maggie Gyllenhaal

Written and directed by: Don Roos

What it's about: A Sundance surprise fave this year, this is a portmanteau about a dozen or so folks whose lives collide in tales tragic and comic. In one story a father (Arnold) and his gay-but-fighting-it son (Jason Ritter) turn out to be sleeping with the same woman (Gyllenhaal). In another connected tale, Kudrow plays an LA abortion counselor being blackmailed by a would-be documentarian (Bradford) who says he's found the child she secretly gave up for adoption years ago (the result of her sleeping with her now-gay stepbrother, played by Coogan) and insists he wants to film their reunion for his film-school application. Fun!

Why it will be fabulous: Roos wrote and directed The Opposite of Sex.

Why it will be dreadful: Roos wrote and directed Bounce.

HUSTLE & FLOW

Starring: Terrence Howard, DJ Qualls, Ludacris and Taryn Manning

Written and directed by: Craig Brewer

What it's about: In the sweaty climes of Memphis, a pimp named Djay (Howard) aspires to hip-hop stardom like his idol Skinny Black (Ludacris). He enlists a skinny white kid (Qualls) and a heavy-set pal from way back (Anthony Anderson) to record his autobiographical rhymes; meanwhile, Djay has to deal with the three prostitutes who live with him -- one he kicks out, one he uses to get the equipment he needs and one he falls in love with. Hope turns to tragedy turns to triumph in the most overwrought, hackneyed hit to come out of Sundance this year.

Why it will be fabulous: Terrence Howard, also starring in the ensemble drama Crash, is stunning -- worth the price of admission, especially if you can get the early-bird discount.

Why it will be dreadful: Sold for $9.5 million at Sundance this year -- money that went to its producer, John Singleton, not its writer-director. And because it is dreadful, in a seriously-that-can't-be-happening kind of way.

THE WEDDING CRASHERS

Starring: Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams and Christopher Walken

Directed by: David Dobkin (Shanghai Knights)

Written by: Steve Faber & Bob Fisher

What it's about: Two wild and crazy guys keep crashing wedding parties in order to score with chicks, but when they hit up the wedding of a presidential candidate's (Walken) daughter, one falls in love while the other meets a psycho obsessive girl.

Why it will be fabulous: Any movie that envisions Christopher Walken as a presidential candidate must ipso facto be fabulous.

Why it will be dreadful: Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson aren't the most picky actors in the world when it comes to scripts.

THE BAD NEWS BEARS

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Sammi Kraft and Ridge Canipe

Directed by: Richard Linklater (Before Sunset, Dazed and Confused)

Written by: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, based on the screenplay by Bill Lancaster

What it's about: A broken-down, beer-guzzling Little League coach (Thornton) takes on a diamondful of hopeless-but-feisty kids who start to win and, with that, renew the old man's spirit.

Why it will be fabulous: Thornton has a way of giving an edge to icons. If he can make Santa hip, he can do the same for sandlot ball.

Why it will be dreadful: It's awfully hard to top 1976's original Bears as a baseball movie -- or as an endorsement of redemption. Sorry, unless the kids shoot steroids, this is bound to seem corny.

THE DEVIL'S REJECTS

Starring: Sid Haig, Shari Moon and Bill Moseley

Written and directed by: Rob Zombie

What it's about: This sequel to House of 1,000 Corpses sees the homicidal Firefly clan on the run from the law, and a genre shift from horror to crime movie (though the '70s stylings are still fully in play).

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