Hollywood always did love a formula, so did you really expect it to change it for its most lucrative season of the year? As per usual, this summer will abound with sequels, remakes and blockbusters just waiting to be bestowed with your hard-earned cash, and most of these films will make it at least past the $100 million mark. But there are also some prestige pictures and smaller independent dramas that may be more worth your time. And then there are always the surprises every summer (á la Napoleon Dynamite). Here's a sampling of films most likely to tickle your fancy, whatever that fancy may be. So read them over, choose wisely, have fun, and may the force be with you!
Kingdom of Heaven (May 6)
It's no secret that since the Oscar and box office success of Gladiator, the historical epic has been underperforming, to put it nicely. Troy, Alexander and others have fallen flat, with Alexander nominated for a number of Razzie awards. So Ridley Scott decided to come in and attempt to revive the lagging genre as he did five years ago with Gladiator. Starring Liam Neeson and Orlando Bloom, it tells the story of Balian (Bloom), a blacksmith from Jerusalem who attempts to protect his people from foreign invaders during the Crusades.
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (May 19)
Starting the summer with a bang, the final Star Wars film is already stirring up a media whirlwind as its release approaches. And all the diehard fans are sure to turn out regardless of critical response. But for the average moviegoer, the addition of purportedly more human dialogue and the story of Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) going to the Dark Side may be reason enough to give this series one final look. Reported to be much gorier than previous Star Wars films, it also stars Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Natalie Portman as Skywalker's wife.
Cinderella Man (June 3)
The premier prestige picture of the summer. Featuring a number of Oscar winners including Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger, as well as director Ron Howard, it is the first serious contender for Oscar attention come next March. The film tells of Depression-era boxer Jim Braddock, whose story is effectively a mix of previous Oscar successes Million Dollar Baby and Seabiscuit. Jim fights back to get himself into a fight with the current heavyweight champion.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith (June 10)
Interest in this movie is already bubbling over due to stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's much discussed relationship, which broke up his marriage to Jennifer Aniston. Expectations are high to see the two play a married couple who, unbeknownst to each other, are assassins. But their secret lives are about to collide when their next target turns out to be each other.
Batman Begins (June 17)
Indie director Christopher Nolan (Memento) is back directing the prequel to the Batman saga, and genre fans are unlikely to be disappointed. Starring four Oscar nominees (Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Ken Watanabe and Tom Wilkinson), an Oscar winner (Morgan Freeman) and Christian Bale in the title role, the potential for this film is high both commercially and critically. The film tells the story of how Batman came to be, from his parents' murder to the people who helped him to transform and fight Gotham's sinister forces.
The War of the Worlds (June 29)
The reuniting of Cruise and Spielberg is bound to turn more than a few heads. This classic tale tells the story of Martians invading the Earth. Classic film director and star Orson Welles iconized it with his infamous radio reading which had New Jersey denizens running out of their homes in fright. It's too early to tell whether it will have a similarly frightening effect on moviegoers.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (July 15)
The big question is whether this remake starring Johnny Depp and directed by Tim Burton will suffer in comparison with the original. Devout fans may consider it blasphemous, but it also may be embraced for its quirky sensibility that has won over filmgoers with previous Depp-Burton collaborations like Edward Scissorhands. The plot concerns Charlie Bucket, a poor boy who receives one of the five golden tickets and gains entry into Willy Wonka's secret factory. Freddie Highmore (Finding Neverland) stars as Charlie.
Dark Water (August 12)
A summer flick with potential for critical success stars Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly and is directed by Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries). It tells the story of a mother and daughter holed up in a run-down apartment building who become aware of a ghostly presence in their home. The question is whether it will rise above the clichés of average horror films. It's too soon to tell.
Romance and Cigarettes (August 19)
The only musical of the summer features an all-star cast including Kate Winslet, Susan Sarandon, James Gandolfini and Christopher Walken. It tells the story of a two-timing husband who must choose between his mistress and wife. This film is an independent feature hoping to break out to a wider audience.