Think Different

Could it be that this year's crop of summer movies actually requires a brain cell or two?

The Princess Blade Donnie Yen (Iron Monkey, Blade II) choreographed the fight scenes in this adaptation of the Japanese comic book about samurai wars in the near future. A sequel's already in the works, so presumably international audiences have grooved to the ass-kicking. (ADV Films)

Shaolin Soccer If the Bears are bad news and the Ducks suck, perhaps there's an antidote in these wacky footballers from China. Their martial arts training allows them to do supernatural moves, but they face equally formidable opponents. Stephen Chow acts, writes, directs, and cashes the checks. (Miramax)

S.W.A.T. Oh, come on already. Fine, here's another cinematic remake of an old TV show. The thing is -- from the story by George Huang (Swimming With Sharks) to an all-star cast including Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, and LL Cool J -- it shows significant promise. Still, it begs the question: Will S.W.A.T. be fly? (Sony)

August 15

Freddy vs. Jason The walking corpse of a drowned redneck with Down's syndrome heads to Elm Street to take on a Kentucky Fried child-murderer who only exists in dreams. Fans of '80s slashers have awaited this showdown for more than a decade; given that most of the Freddy movies are pretty good and the Jason ones shoddy, there's a 50-50 chance of suckitude, especially since the producers totally dissed Kane Hodder by recasting Jason (with another stunt guy, no less). However, Hong Kong director Ronny Yu does have a track record of stylishly resurrecting '80s horror icons -- Bride of Chucky rocked. (New Line)

The Magdalene Sisters You know those "fallen women" forced into servitude by the Irish Catholic Church in the 1960s? Here's a movie about them. Written and directed by Peter Mullan. (Miramax)

The Medallion Jackie Chan plays a Hong Kong detective with a medallion that gives him superpowers. Julian Sands plays a character called "Snakehead," so what more do you need to know? (Screen Gems)

OT: Our Town Scott Hamilton Kennedy's video documentary about inner-city high-schoolers putting on a play for the first time in 22 years isn't exactly objective, given that he cohabits with the gorgeous drama teacher at the movie's center. It's the kids' tale, though, and a triumphant one at that -- any pitch for the value of the arts in schools is a welcome one, especially when it's as eloquent as this. (Film Movement)

Passionada When a Portuguese-American singer falls for the wrong man, things go haywire. Starring Sofia Milos and Jason Isaacs, directed by Dan Ireland (The Velocity of Gary, and co-founder of the Seattle International Film Festival). (IDP/Samuel Goldwyn/Fireworks)

Step Into Liquid"The simple truth about surfing," according to the trailer -- with footage from Northern California's Maverick's, the Easter Islands, Ireland, and Cortez Banks (near San Diego), among other places -- directed by Dana Brown of Endless Summer 2. Includes a soundtrack of original music by Richard Gibbs of Oingo Boingo. (New Visual Entertainment)

Uptown Girls Brittany Murphy plays a New York socialite who becomes nanny to a little girl to impress her boyfriend. Originally called Molly Gunn, which could have led to a cool sequel called Molly Gunn 2: Gunn Control. There's still hope. (MGM)

August 20

Thirteen Evan Rachel Wood stars in this shocking tale of juvenile delinquency in Los Angeles. Shocking, that is, if it never occurred to you that teenagers do drugs, have sex, and use profanity. Co-screenwriter Nikki Reed is only 14, which puts her mental age a good two years higher than that of the average studio scribe. (Fox Searchlight)

August 22

American Splendor The popular favorite at this year's Sundance festival mixes drama and documentary in its look at the life of Harvey Pekar, who chronicles his own true life story in a comic, also called American Splendor. Pekar appears as himself in the real-life segments; Paul Giamatti plays him in the re-enactments. Sounds like a tricky balance to pull off, but all indications are that husband-and-wife directing team Shari Berman and Bob Pulcini have done so with aplomb. (Fine Line)

Bollywood/Hollywood Director Deepa Mehta is best known for her hard-hitting social commentary in films like Fire and Earth, but here she tries her hand at a more traditional Indian genre -- musical comedy. Earlier this year, The Guru failed to fully integrate the Bollywood style with Western sensibilities, but if anyone can do it, Mehta can. (Magnolia)

Civil Brand Perhaps, if we're lucky, this film could spark a revival of the "bimbos in cages" genre popularized by Jonathan Demme back when he worked for Roger Corman. It's set in a women's prison, where conditions are hard, the protagonist is unjustly accused, and so the inmates rise up. Mos Def plays a sympathetic law student. (Lions Gate)

Don't Tempt MeAn angel from heaven (Victoria Abril) and a demon from hell (Penélope Cruz) come to Earth to try to win over the soul of a boxer with a potentially fatal brain injury. Sounds totally insane, and an absolute must-see. (First Look)

Grind Skateboarding's the cool thing right now, so they say, and to cash in on this hot new trend that all the kids are into, here comes a movie about it. Four young would-be Tony Hawks follow the summer tour of their favorite skateboard star, hoping to learn some new tricks and get noticed by the pros. The cast and crew are all pretty much unknown, so the skating action and cinematography had better be good. (Warner Bros.)

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