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Summer film preview 

Yeah, we know, we know: With X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Star Trek (among others) already in theaters, the summer movie season has already begun in earnest. But geez, it's not like there aren't plenty more reasons to check out our checklist of upcoming summer flicks -- 45 reasons, to be exact.

A couple of things to keep in mind. First, this compilation only includes pictures which have been assigned release dates by their respective studios -- there will be a handful of other films opening in the next few months (including the latest from Woody Allen), but as no local release dates have been given to them yet, they're not cited here. And second, release dates are always subject to change. So if you show up at your local multiplex expecting to see Pixar's Up on May 29, you're safe, but the same can't be said for some of the smaller titles opening later during the hot-weather months. And now, on with the show.

MAY 21

TERMINATOR SALVATION - The fourth film in the Terminator series (and the first without Gov'nor Schwarzenegger) shifts all the attention to "savior of humanity" John Connor (Christian Bale), who here has his hands full trying to figure out if a helpful stranger (Sam Worthington) is really a friend or foe.

MAY 22

DANCE FLICK - Years after spoofing slasher flicks in Scary Movie, the Wayans are back with a comedy that sticks it to such hip-shaking titles like Save the Last Dance, You Got Served and, of course, Flashdance.

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN - Security guard Ben Stiller again contends with talking historical figures and rampaging dinosaurs; Amy Adams joins the cast as Amelia Earhart.

MAY 29

DRAG ME TO HELL - After reaping a fortune from three Spider-Man flicks, director Sam Raimi returns to his Evil Dead roots by helming this horror yarn about a bank loan officer (Alison Lohman) who's cursed after she signs off on a foreclosure that leaves a strange old woman homeless.

UP - Fresh off back-to-back Oscar wins for Ratatouille and WALL-E, Disney-Pixar now presents this toon tale about a 78-year-old man who ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies up, up and away ... only to learn that he has an unwelcome passenger in the form of an annoying 8-year-old boy.

JUNE 5

AWAY WE GO - Director Sam Mendes (Revolutionary Road) tackles this road movie about an expectant young couple (John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph) who travel around the country searching for the right place to start a new life.

THE HANGOVER - Following a wild party in a Las Vegas hotel room, three groomsmen (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis) wake up only to realize that they don't have much time to find the now-missing husband-to-be.

LAND OF THE LOST - Based on the kitschy kids' TV show from the 1970s, this update finds a scientist (Will Ferrell) and two companions (Danny McBride and Anna Friel) transported to a prehistoric land filled with dinosaurs and strange creatures. Sleestaks, anyone?

JUNE 12

IMAGINE THAT - After his successful career takes a turn for the worse, a businessman (Eddie Murphy) discovers that (shades of Bedtime Stories) whatever his daughter (Yara Shahidi) dreams up in her imaginary world becomes a reality in his, thereby giving him ideas on how to save his job.

THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3 - A remake of 1974's terrific The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (starring Walter Matthau), this action yarn finds a New York subway dispatcher (Denzel Washington) forced to negotiate with criminals (led by John Travolta) demanding a sizable ransom in exchange for the hostages they're holding on a subway car.

JUNE 19

THE PROPOSAL - In this romantic comedy, a Canadian book editor (Sandra Bullock) who faces deportation decides that the only way she can remain in the U.S. is to command her harried assistant (Ryan Reynolds) to marry her.

YEAR ONE - The world's first slackers, cavemen Zed (Jack Black) and Oh (Michael Cera) are banished from their tribe for habitual laziness, only to embark on a series of adventures that finds them crossing paths with (among other Biblical figures) Cain and Abel (Paul Rudd and David Cross).

JUNE 24

TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN - Sam (Shia LaBeouf), Mikaela (Megan Fox) and their robot friends (the Autobots) again square off against the bad 'bots (the Decepticons).

JUNE 26

CHERI - The Dangerous Liaisons team of director Stephen Frears, writer Christopher Hampton and actress Michelle Pfeiffer reunite for this adaptation of Colette's novels about a middle-aged courtesan (Pfeiffer) who embarks on a scandalous affair with a young man (Rupert Friend), much to the concern of the lad's mother (Kathy Bates).

FIREFLIES IN THE GARDEN - Released in Europe last summer, this drama stars Julia Roberts as a matriarch whose death causes family members (including ones played by Willem Dafoe and Ryan Reynolds) to reexamine their lives.

MY SISTER'S KEEPER - A little girl (Abigail Breslin) comes to resent the fact that her parents (Cameron Diaz and Jason Patric) constantly expect her to save her cancer-stricken sister (Sofia Vassilieva), so she hires a slick lawyer (Alec Baldwin) to help extricate her from the situation.

THE STONING OF SORAYA M. - The antithesis of typical summer fare, this adaptation of the bestselling novel relates the true story of the young Iranian woman who was stoned to death by other villagers after her husband falsely accused her of adultery.

JULY 1

ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS - is this really only the third film in this animated series? I could have sworn I've skipped at least 12 sequels by now. (Oh, wait, that's The Land Before Time; never mind.)

PUBLIC ENEMIES - John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) proves to be such a gangland hit in the 1930s that the FBI assigns a special agent (Christian Bale) to track him down in this period epic directed by Michael Mann (Heat, The Last of the Mohicans).

JULY 10

BRUNO - It's Sacha Baron Cohen again in Borat mode; only this time, he's a homosexual Austrian fashion reporter shocking people worldwide with his antics.

I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER - At their high school graduation, a nerd (Paul Rust) openly declares his adoration for a popular cheerleader (Hayden Panettiere).

JULY 15

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE - The kids (Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson) are definitely not alright in this sixth cinematic installment of the J.K. Rowlings cash cow, as they must contend with Draco Malfoy's (Tom Felton) sinister deeds as well as the increasing presence of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes).

JULY 17

ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE - Amber Heard, the frequently nude co-star of The Informers, headlines this (according to the press release) "hip, horny horror film" about a 16-year-old blonde beauty and the gruesome deaths that meet all of the guys who are trying to deflower her.

JULY 24

G-FORCE - Producer Jerry Bruckheimer takes both the animated and 3-D routes by overseeing this kiddie fare about government-trained guinea pigs (voiced by Sam Rockwell, Penelope Cruz and Tracy Morgan) who, with the help of an equally intelligent mole (Nicolas Cage), seek to protect the world from evildoers.

ORPHAN - In this horror flick, a couple (Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga) who have just lost their own child ignore the, ahem, omens that point to the fact that their adopted daughter (Isabelle Fuhrman) might be a problem child in the worst sense.

THE UGLY TRUTH - A TV show producer (Katherine Heigl) who's unlucky in love takes advice from a misogynistic co-worker (Gerard Butler) in this romantic comedy.

JULY 31

BANDSLAM - High School Musical's Vanessa Anne Hudgens and fellow Disney Channel starlet Aly Michalka headline this teen-oriented tale about two girls who hope to beat an ex-boyfriend (Aly's) in a battle of the bands.

THE COVE - Beautiful oceanic imagery is at the service of an ugly reality in this documentary in which two nautical authorities expose the environmental atrocities being committed by those involved in the illegal capturing and trading of dolphins.

FUNNY PEOPLE - After he's diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, a successful comedian (Adam Sandler) bonds with an inexperienced comic (Seth Rogen) in the latest from writer-director Judd Apatow.

ALIENS IN THE ATTIC - Formerly titled They Came from Upstairs, this finds teenage siblings (Carter Jenkins and High School Musical's Ashley Tisdale) forced to protect their home from extraterrestrial invaders.

AUGUST 7

G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA - After successfully pairing with Hasbro on Transformers, Paramount reunites with the toy company for this adventure saga in which the elite squad of commandoes takes on an insidious organization bent on destroying the world.

JULIE & JULIA - Based on the bestselling book, this reunites Doubt co-stars Meryl Streep and Amy Adams in the real-life story of a blogger (Adams) who decides to cook every last recipe in Julia Childs' (Streep) cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

SHORTS - Writer-director Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids, Grindhouse) has assembled a topnotch cast (William H. Macy, Kat Dennings, James Spader, Leslie Mann) for this family film about a magical rock that affects all the members of a small town.

AUGUST 14

DISTRICT 9 - This science fiction tale (co-produced by Peter Jackson) centers on an alternate world in which extraterrestrials are considered refugees and sent to live in South Africa.

THE GOODS: LIVE HARD, SELL HARD - Will Ferrell's production company is behind this comedy about Don Ready (Jeremy Piven), a sleazy salesman who agrees to help a car dealership stave off bankruptcy.

PONYO - The latest from animation icon Hayao Miyazaki (the Oscar-winning Spirited Away) borrows a page from The Little Mermaid by focusing on a goldfish who longs to be human; vocal stars for this dubbed American version include Liam Neeson, Cate Blanchett, Tina Fey and Matt Damon.

POST GRAD - After graduating from college, a young woman (Alexis Bledel) does what any intelligent person would do when faced with bleak career options: She moves back in with her eccentric family (whose members are played by Michael Keaton and Carol Burnett, among others).

THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE - In this big-screen translation of Audrey Niffenegger's bestseller, a man (Eric Bana) inexplicably finds himself periodically traveling through time. much to the dismay of the woman (Rachel McAdams) who loves him.

AUGUST 21

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS - In Quentin Tarantino's loose remake of the 1978 grindhouse favorite, Inglorious Bastards, a special team of commandoes (led by Brad Pitt's character) are assigned to enter Nazi-occupied France and wipe out as many Germans as possible.

AUGUST 28

THE BOAT THAT ROCKED - A ship that illegally broadcasts rock 'n' roll off the coast of England in the 1960s is the setting for this comedy starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kenneth Branagh and Bill Nighy.

FINAL DESTINATION: DEATH TRIP 3D - The fourth installment in the slasher series that began back in Y2K again finds teens gruesomely being slaughtered, this time in the three-dimensional format.

H2 - Rob Zombie's Halloween remake was dumped into theaters at the end of summer 2007 (although it went on to gross an impressive $58 million, half of that during its opening weekend), and the same fate befalls this sequel in which Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) still seeks his sister Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton) while trying to avoid his adversary, Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell).

SPREAD - In what sounds suspiciously like an unauthorized redo of the French comedy Priceless, Twitter twit Ashton Kutcher plays a man-whore who falls for a woman (Margarita Levieva) who, like him, uses her sexual wiles to live off members of the opposite sex; she mistakenly believes him to be rich, but once the gig is up, they both hit the streets sharing trade secrets with one another.

SEPTEMBER 4

CITIZEN GAME - In a future in which gaming has reached a point where humans can control the fates of other humans through online games, one player (Gerard Butler) tries to break free from the grid.

EXTRACT - A factory owner (Jason Bateman) deals with personal problems as well as personnel problems in this comedy written and directed by Mike Judge (Office Space) and co-starring Mila Kunis, Ben Affleck and Juno dad J.K. Simmons.

 

 

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