Summer Lovin'

Summer 2006 may be a season to remember at the multiplex.

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Ah, summer. That special time when Hollywood eases us back in our cushy seats, lets the multiplex air conditioning massage our frazzled nerves, and allows us to bask in the spectacle of worlds being destroyed and created over and over again.

There's no shortage of catastrophe in store this summer, with disaster flicks aplenty (sinking ships and burning buildings are favorites this year), but there are also plenty of superheroes on hand to maintain order. And things rarely get too intense for too long, since for every creepy supernatural thriller there are scads of romantic comedies as well as animated movies featuring a seemingly endless supply of adorable talking animals.

There are bound to be some surprises in this year's batch of summer movies, but we're unlikely to know what they are until they're breathing down our necks. From this vantage point, the summer of 2006 looks like a fairly solid but conspicuously conservative season, filled with the usual suspects of action blockbusters and star vehicles, mostly of the sequel, prequel and remake variety. Many of what are likely to be the true gems of the season aren't even listed in the preview guide that follows, since they're smaller films that could show up in local theaters at any point during the summer (or not at all).

That said, be on the alert for the appearance of any of the following under-the-radar releases, all of which I've managed to preview and can heartily recommend: the unusually smart and classy British horror flick The Descent; Nick Cave's oddly lyrical but unabashedly violent oat opera The Proposition; the South Korean mind-melter Lady Vengeance; the fascinating documentaries Word Play and Leonard Cohen I'm Your Man; Larry Clark's button-pushing Wassup Rockers; and Claude Chabrol's elegantly insidious thriller The Bridesmaid.

Add a few I haven't yet seen to the mix — Richard Linklater's eagerly anticipated A Scanner Darkly; Michael Gondry's The Science of Sleep; and the Sundance fave Little Miss Sunshine — and we might just have a summer to remember on our hands.

MAY 12


With a $175-million budget and A-list director Wolfgang Peterson (Das Boot, The Perfect Storm) at the helm, don't expect a pungent cheesefest to rival the 1972 Shelley Winters disaster flick upon which this movie is very loosely based. Everything about this Titanic-sized project ensures that the only thing likely to go down with the ship is the audience's hard-earned cash at the box office.

Goal! The Dream Begins

Disney's de rigueur inspirational sports drama tells the story of a young Mexican-American athlete who travels to England to play soccer for the Brits. Too much squawking about illegal immigrants on this side of the pond, maybe?

MAY 19

The Da Vinci Code

Here's a no-brainer recipe for box office gold: Take one of the most widely read books in the world, add one of our most popular actors and one of our most consistently crowd-pleasing directors, sprinkle liberally with controversy, bake and serve. Tom Hanks and Ron Howard team up for the hugely hyped big screen adaptation of Dan Brown's bestselling page-turner about ancient conspiracies and theological dirty business.

Over the Hedge

Neurotic squirrels, raccoons and possums are among the menagerie of beasties gorging on suburban garbage in this latest CG animation from DreamWorks. Garry Shandling, Steve Carell, Bruce Willis and Nick Nolte lend their voices to the fray.

See No Evil

What would summer be without at least one horror flick featuring attractive but terminally stupid teenagers having sex and then being slashed to bits? This one's for you, gore-hounds, and bon appetit.

MAY 26

X-Men 3: The Last Stand

The studio suits insist that this is the final X-Men movie, but we'll believe that when we see it. The real story here is the new director at the helm, Brett Ratner (Rush Hour) — a not particularly inspired choice to replace Brian Singer, who turned this into one of the best superhero franchises on the block. Other changes include a few new mutant faces in the X-crew, including Frasier's Kelsey Grammer under a mountain of blue fur. Curiouser and curiouser.


The Break-Up

This one's a must for pop culture fetishists, if only because its romantic leads, Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn, reportedly turned into a real-life couple while on the set. The Break-Up also features a premise with promise — modern world economics necessitate Aniston and Vaughn living together in their jointly owned condo even after their relationship implodes. Rumors of some partial nudity from Aniston probably won't hurt ticket sales either.


The Omen

The Da Vinci Code will be getting most of the attention this summer, but this might be a better bet for those who prefer their theological thrillers straight up (with a dash of demon seed). Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles star in a remake of the 1976 creepy-kid classic about a couple whose adopted child is actually the offspring of the Antichrist. In any event, you just gotta love the 6/6/06 opening date.

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