Summer Film Previews

WRITERS: John Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg

PREMISE: Stoner Indian student and stoner Korean student quest for burgers.

OUTLOOK: Sometimes the title says enough.

The Manchurian Candidate

STARRING: Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber, Jon Voight

DIRECTOR: Jonathan Demme

WRITERS: Daniel Pyne (The Sum of All Fears), Dean Georgaris (Paycheck)

PREMISE: John Frankenheimer's Cold War suspense film gets an update, with Washington stepping in for Frank Sinatra and Streep for Angela Lansbury. The actual region of Asia referenced by the title is no longer part of the story; this time it's a big company called the Manchurian Corp. that plans to install a puppet president (Schreiber) mentally programmed to do their evil bidding.

OUTLOOK: A president who automatically does whatever a big corporation tells him to do? Isn't that a little far-fetched?

Thunderbirds

STARRING: Ben Kingsley, Bill Paxton, Anthony Edwards, Sophia Myles, and some big, colorful spaceships

DIRECTOR: Jonathan Frakes

WRITERS: Peter Hewitt (Thunderpants), William Osbourne (Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot), Michael McCullers (both Austin Powers sequels)

PREMISE: Live-action rendition of the 1960s U.K. "Supermarionation" sci-fi show in which wooden string puppets saved the day from danger in, yes, some big, colorful spaceships. It remains to be seen which is creepier -- a vintage marionette or Bill Paxton.

OUTLOOK: Likely to do well in the U.K., but here? Frakes' track record is questionable: Other than Star Trek movies, the erstwhile Cmdr. Riker is best known for directing the horrible kiddie sci-fi movie Clockstoppers.

The Village

STARRING: Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver

WRITER/DIRECTOR: M. Night Shyamalan

PREMISE: A 19th-century Pennsylvania village, hermetically sealed from the rest of civilization, is disturbed by an outside menace.

OUTLOOK: While The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable smartly mixed dank moodiness with semi-unpredictable "twist" endings, the flailing Signs dumbed things down into eye-rolling territory. This project appears to follow suit, with nice production values and cast but a lame, sub-sub-Twilight Zone "twist" even Webheads have long since sussed. If you can't figure it out from the red paint marks on the villagers' doors, you are exactly the designated audience for this movie. Catch it in an Amish town for extra fun.

Code 46

STARRING: Tim Robbins, Samantha Morton

DIRECTOR: Michael Winterbottom (Welcome to Sarajevo, In This World)

WRITER: Frank Cottrell Boyce (24 Hour Party People)

PREMISE: A love story set in a near future in which travel is restricted to residents of cities, and even then only to those who purchase a special type of insurance. Outside the cities, the world has become a desert filled with shantytowns and illegal immigrants.

OUTLOOK: Combining cautionary global politics with character-based drama is a Winterbottom trademark, but the sci-fi hook may garner him a new audience. And if that's not enough, the film's R-rating descriptive also promises "brief graphic nudity."

Collateral

STARRING: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo

DIRECTOR: Michael Mann

WRITERS: Mann, Frank Darabont, Stuart Beattie (contributor to Pirates of the Caribbean)

PREMISE: Foxx plays an L.A. cabbie forced into service by a killer Cruise.

OUTLOOK: Frankly, this sounds less like a movie than a template for a screenwriting workshop. Mann's affection for L.A.'s mean streets (Heat, TV's Robbery Homicide Division) may score him another hit, but -- baddie or otherwise -- isn't the entire world completely sick of Tom Cruise by now?

Open Water

STARRING: Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis

WRITER/DIRECTOR: Chris Kentis (1997's Grind, not to be confused with the recent skateboarding flick of the same name)

PREMISE: A vacationing couple goes on a scuba-diving trip and is accidentally left out to sea, surrounded by sharks. Based on a true story.

OUTLOOK: The filmmakers used real sharks. Real. No one's gonna be bitching about how fake they look, like with all the Jaws movies. Audiences jaded by megabudget computer-generated stuff who want a good water-based scare are gonna eat it up like Jaws at a beach party.

She Hate Me

STARRING: Anthony Mackie, Monica Bellucci, John Turturro, Chiwetel Ejiofor

WRITER/DIRECTOR: Spike Lee

PREMISE: A corporate whistle-blower (8 Mile's Mackie) loses his job on Wall Street and winds up selling his sperm to rich childless lesbians who pay big bucks to get impregnated the old-fashioned way. Yes, it's a comedy.

OUTLOOK: Lee is often on shaky ground when it comes to comedies, and it'll be ironic if vocal minority groups (lesbians, in this case) start protesting him.

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement

STARRING: Anne Hathaway, Julie Andrews

DIRECTOR: Garry Marshall

WRITER: Gina Wendkos

PREMISE: Last time around, she found out she was a princess. Now our heroine learns that she has 30 days to find herself a prince or give up the throne. There's something like seven of these books already in print, so this cinematic series has only just begun.

OUTLOOK: The first Princess Diaries was surprisingly appealing, and all the same people are back, including Heather Matarazzo as the less attractive best friend. John Rhys-Davies joins the cast on this outing, and he knows a thing or two about picking franchise projects.

Alien Vs. Predator

STARRING: Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, and some big ugly meanies from outer space

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