Summer Film Previews

King Arthur

STARRING: Clive Owen, Keira Knightley, Ioan Gruffudd, Stellan Skarsgård

DIRECTOR: Antoine Fuqua

WRITERS: David Franzoni (Gladiator), John Lee Hancock (The Alamo)

PREMISE: Supposed to be a more historically accurate, fantasy-free look at the legendary king of England, though Keira Knightley's tribal-tattooed warrior Guinevere looks more like a contemporary fantasy than anything else.

OUTLOOK: There's a basic rule for Jerry Bruckheimer-produced actioners: The PG-13-rated ones usually suck, and the R-rated ones smash stuff up real good (King Arthur's rating is pending). Pirates of the Caribbean was a major exception, though, and with Disney and Knightley back on board, this could duplicate last year's formula for success.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

STARRING: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell, Raul Rudd

DIRECTOR: Adam McKay

WRITERS: Ferrell and McKay

PREMISE: Ferrell mugs a lot as a sexist San Diego newscaster in 1973.

OUTLOOK: The trailer suggests easy summer retro laughs with no surprises whatsoever.

Metallica: Some Kind of MonsterSTARRING: James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett

DIRECTORS: Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky (Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills)

PREMISE: Having established a prior relationship with Metallica -- which allowed its music to be used on film for the first time in Paradise Lost -- Berlinger and Sinofsky set out to chronicle the recording of the St. Anger album and very nearly captured the band's utter disintegration.

OUTLOOK: Ticket sales to Metallica fans alone will more than make back the movie's budget, but word from Sundance is that, much as The Osbournes appeals to more than just metalheads, the drama surrounding the combustible Hetfield and company is compelling even to viewers with no mastery of puppets whatsoever.

Sleepover

STARRING: Alexa Vega, Mika Boorem, Kalli Flynn Childress

DIRECTOR: Joe Nussbaum

WRITER: Elisa Bell (Vegas Vacation)

PREMISE: Barely teens compete against popular high school girls in an all-night scavenger hunt.

OUTLOOK: The director of the silly George Lucas in Love wriggles his way into a feature-directing deal, proving that anything is possible in America. Elements including stealing a car and vying for the "best" table in the cafeteria suggest a spirited teen hit, but it nonetheless smells like Lean Girls.

I, Robot

STARRING: Will Smith and some robots

DIRECTOR: Alex Proyas

WRITERS: Jeff Vintar (Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within), Akiva Goldsman (Lost in Space)

PREMISE: Smith plays a detective investigating a crime that may be the first-ever murder of a human by a robot. Because, y'know, according to Isaac Asimov's three laws of robotics, the metal guys aren't supposed to do that.

OUTLOOK: Apparently the screenplay bears very little resemblance to Asimov's book, and the teaser trailer has been laughed at by fanboy types online, mostly because the CG robots aren't very convincing. But there's hope: First of all, the CG is far from finished at this stage. And second, while not all of Proyas' films have been hits (Dark City and Garage Days failed to make Crow-level dough), they're always interesting to look at.

Time of the Wolf

STARRING: Isabelle Huppert, Béatrice Dalle, Maurice Benichou, Patrice Chereau

WRITER/DIRECTOR: Michael Haneke

PREMISE: A French family finds its country vacation home occupied by strangers with guns. But that ain't the worst of it -- it slowly becomes clear that some unknown cataclysm is gradually causing the End of the World as We Know It.

OUTLOOK: So basically it's like Signs, but without aliens, and probably a less happy ending? Could be the first French film parents can take their teenage boys to.

The Bourne Supremacy

STARRING: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Joan Allen, Brian Cox

DIRECTOR: Paul Greengrass

WRITERS: Tony Gilroy, Brian Helgeland, novelist Robert Ludlum

PREMISE: This time Jason Bourne (or whatever his name is) must clear his name following brutal assassinations.

OUTLOOK: The first one proved a pleasant surprise, and this sequel promises lots of dark intrigue all over Germany, Russia, and India. In particular, the work of Greengrass holds appeal, as his documentary-style Northern Ireland riot re-enactment Bloody Sunday was truly stunning. Production here was apparently rushed, but whatever its flaws, at least it don't feature no Affleck.

Catwoman

STARRING: Halle Berry, Sharon Stone, Benjamin Bratt, and that French dude from the Matrix sequels

DIRECTOR: Pitof (one word, like Madonna. He's a former effects guy for Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro)

WRITERS: John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris (Terminator 3)

PREMISE: Jettisoning the Batman connection altogether, Halle Berry dons a Mouseketeer-meets-Matrix stripper outfit as Patience Philips, a graphic designer who gains some kind of super cat-powers.

OUTLOOK: Had this film come out in 1993, starred Michelle Pfeiffer, and been directed by Tim Burton, we'd be talking megahit. As it is, Halle's costume looks stupid (can't wait for the inevitable drag queen version, though), the trailer's lame (she likes sushi!), and Mattel recently canceled plans for a Barbie tie-in. Expect Gigli comparisons before the year is out, as well as endless puns like "Cat-astrophe." Sadly, this will probably cancel out any chance of the real Catwoman character appearing in the new Christian Bale Batman franchise.

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

STARRING: John Cho, Kal Penn

DIRECTOR: Danny Leiner (Dude, Where's My Car?)

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