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Your forecast of the summer's top movies

Summer is the season of high expectations and profound disappointments. That suntan looks more like sunburn, your beer stays ice-cold till the moment it's opened, and fat guys are the only ones hanging by the pool in bikini briefs. So it goes with summer movies: Sequels to beloved faves have all the flavor of week-old popcorn, blockbusters make pennies on their many dollars, and somewhere there's Adam Sandler pouring sour lemonade when you were craving something more refreshing. Maybe there's more hope this year, if only because last summer was such a bummer; Monster-in-Law, Stealth, or Dukes of Hazzard, anyone? — Robert Wilonsky The following previews were written by Luke Y. Thompson, Jordan Harper, Melissa Levine, and Robert Wilonsky.

June 28

Superman Returns

(Warner Bros.)

Starring:Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, and Kevin Spacey

Directed by: Bryan Singer (X-Men, X-2)

Written by: Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris

What it's about: Set five years after Superman II, more or less, Superman returns from self-imposed exile to find Lois Lane with a kid and Lex Luthor out of prison, with yet another plan for world domination.

Why you should see it: Singer made the X-Menmovies into something accessible to mainstream audiences without sacrificing its comic-book roots; he made superheroes human.

Why you should not: Look, it can't be any worse than Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Or can it?

June 30

The Devil Wears Prada


Starring: Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Adrien Grenier

Directed by: David Frankel (Entourage, Sex and the City)

Written by: Aline Brosh McKenna (Laws of Attraction) and Don Roos (The Opposite of Sex), based on the novel by Lauren Weisberger

What it's about: Big-screen adaptation of Weisberger's thinly disguised "fiction" book about working as assistant to Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour (Streep).

Why you should see it: Streep rarely chooses unredeemable projects.

Why you should not: Do we care how hard it is to work for a fashion magazine?

July 7

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

(Buena Vista)

Starring: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Keira Knightley

Directed by: Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl)

Written by: Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio (Shrek), based on the Disneyland ride

What it's about: Bill Nighy joins the fun as supernatural part-man/part-octopus villain Davey Jones, out to collect the soul of Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) just in time to ruin the marriage plans of Will (Bloom) and Elizabeth (Knightley).

Why you should see it: Depp's Sparrow is one of the most entertaining characters in cinematic history.

Why you should not: Bloom's still a stiff. And Chow Yun-Fat is in part three, not this one.

Strangers With Candy(THINKfilm)

Starring: Amy Sedaris, Matthew Broderick, and Philip Seymour Hoffman

Directed by: Paul Dinello

Written by: Stephen Colbert (The Daily Show), Paul Dinello, and Amy Sedaris

What it's about: A feature-film spinoff of the popular 1999-2000 Comedy Central series starring Sedaris as a 46-year-old ex-con high school student.

Why you should see it: If you don't think Stephen Colbert knows funny, you don't know funny.

Why you should not: It could feel like one long inside joke made for those who've seen the show.

A Scanner Darkly

(Warner Independent)

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, and Woody Harrelson

Written and directed by: Richard Linklater, based on the novel by Philip K. Dick

What it's about: In the near future, a government drug-enforcement agent (Reeves) winds up being ordered to spy on himself. Like Linklater's Waking Life, the entire movie is done in rotoscoped animation, so it's hard to tell whether or not it really counts that Winona Ryder does her first-ever nude scene.

Why you should see it: Previous Philip K. Dick-based movies: Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall ... Why you should not: ... also Paycheck, Screamers, and Impostor.

July 14

Leonard Cohen: Im Your Man

(Lions Gate)

Starring:Leonard Cohen, Bono, and the Edge

Directed by:Lian Lunson

What it's about: Lunson's doc about the singer-songwriter, featuring a pretty candid interview with the inexplicable ladies' man, uses a tribute show at the Sydney Concert Hall in 2005 to tell Cohen's beguiling journey from Montreal to a monastery on Mount Baldy.

Why you should see it: Because Lunson mingles footage of Cohen talking with scenes of his acolytes singing his famous-blue-raincoat songs.

Why you should not: See above; the performances are as mediocre as Cohen is magnetic.

Little Man


Starring: Marlon and Shawn Wayans

Directed by: Keenen Ivory Wayans (Scary Movie, Scary Movie 2)

Written by: The Wayans brothers

What it's about: A digitally remastered Shawn Wayans plays a weensy little criminal mistaken for a baby by a wannabe dad (Marlon).

Why you should see it: Consider it your biennial dose of Wayans charm.

Why you should not: Perhaps you recall White Chicks?

You, Me and Dupree


Starring:Matt Dillon, Owen Wilson, Kate Hudson, and Michael Douglas

Directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo (Welcome to Collinwood)

Written by: Mike LeSieur

What it's about: Wilson's the best man in Dillon and Hudson's wedding, and when he loses his job after traveling to Hawaii for the wedding, they let him stay in their house.

Why you should see it:The Russos have estimable TV credits, including stints on Arrested Developmentand FX's woefully unappreciated Lucky.

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