Summer jobs waiting tables, internships, the GRE and the LSAT all take a back-seat to mindless entertainment between May and August. Candy seems to be the prevalent theme this summer, both in the realms of major theatrical releases and dome-filling popular music. The sugary gum bubbles of pop icon’s 15 minutes find their way to the stage while eye candy rules the celluloid (or digital) jungle. It’s important to keep your eyes open to find the true gems wedged between the studio hype. “High Fidelity” scribe Nick Hornby’s novel “About a Boy” finds life on the very same day Hayden Christensen comes of age in “Star Wars: Episode II.” here’s a lot to do this summer, and we’ve decided to help you think by looking at some of the summer’s best offerings, and contemplating a few events too large to ignore.
— Lyle Henretty
Austin Powers 3
Our second favorite (but annoyingly over exposed) British spy returns in the formerly known as (and thanks to Hollywood back-rubbing, soon to be named again) “Goldmember.” The franchise quickly grew from smart and satirical to gross-out humor with “The Spy Who Shagged Me” and No. 3 is sure to continue this downward trend while also ironically bowing to sponsors that Wayne and Garth vowed to never do. If you thought Heather Graham’s laugh-deprived performance was as low as a Powers girl could go wait ’til you get a load of Beyonce Knowles. Yes, that Beyonce. July 26.
Woody Allen has made a film a year, every year, for the past 33 years, and major Hollywood actors still worship his tiny little feet. In “Ending,” Allen plays a film director hired by a studio boss to direct the boss’ girlfriend (and the director’s ex wife) in a new film. Tea Leoni plays the ex, and Treat Williams the studio boss. Let’s hope that this revives Williams’ career after he single-handedly soiled the good name of “The Substitute” franchise. May 3.
Men in Black II
Oscar-winning actor Tommy Lee Jones and the guy that sang “Nightmare on My Street” team up for a second outing as J and K, two government agents with the special task of keeping giant CGI aliens at bay. The first film was a brainless summer extravaganza produced for the sole purpose of selling giant plastic cups at Burger King, so the it’s doubtful the sequel will have any measure of artistic integrity. Though, in the typical summer fashion, the bugs will be bigger, the one-liners more plentiful and the exposition slightly less trite. On the plus side, what other special effects-driven franchise pays homage to Kafka? July 3.
Like “Blade Runner” and “Total Recall,” this film is based on a Phillip K. Dick story. Tom Cruise plays Detective John Anderton, a cop in a division that arrests criminals before they commit crimes. But when he is accused of a crime, he has to prove his innocence. Colin Farrell, the best part of “Hart’s War,” and Max von Sydow (“The Exorcist,” “The Greatest Story Ever Told”) are in the supporting cast. Director Steven Spielberg could redeem himself for last year’s pretentious “AI,” or he could drag this story into the ground as well. June 21.
Road to Perdition
Mr. American movie star Tom Hanks teams up with acclaimed “American Beauty” director Sam Mendes for a Depression-era tale of a Chicago hit man. Hank’s hitman will less resemble Bruce Willis’ “Jackal” and more closely mirror Jean Reno’s “Leon,” a killer with a heart of gold. Mendes’ reputation for “spectacular” direction of actors on stage and in “Beauty” has lured a supporting cast of Jude Law, Jennifer Jason Leigh and the almost retired Paul “Butch” Newman. The buzz is good so far but we all know that in order to be successful one must project an image of success at all times. July 12.
It has Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath, and Rowan Atkinson (“Bean”), but what remains to be seen is if Freddie Prinze Jr. (Fred) and Matthew Lillard (Shaggy) can do better here than in their last disaster, 2001’s “Summer Catch.” Sarah Michelle Gellar could be the perfect Daphne, but seeing the live-action Scooby in the trailers is just sad. What makes this movie any different than the on-stage production of “Scooby Doo in: Stagefright?” Translating a hit cartoon series into a movie can be hit or miss. June 14.
This is the newest film from M. Night Shyamalan, director of the wildly successful “The Sixth Sense” and less-than-successful but underrated “Unbreakable.” “Signs” deals with those wacky crop circles that appear every once in a while in fields and frequently on “Unsolved Mysteries.” Despite the fact that many of these supposed alien graffiti have been de-bunked as a prank involving two jackasses and a board, the film deals with the possibility that these circles are some sort of warning. Mel Gibson and Joaquim Phoenix star. August 12.
Director Sam Raimi, a big fan of this weekend’s Bill Paxton thriller “Frailty,” has already signed on to direct the sequel. “Spiderman” will have to make money fast, because it has only two weeks before summer behemoth “Star Wars” hits theaters. Young heartthrobs Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst fill the roles of Peter Parker and Mary Jane, while brilliant character actor Willem Dafoe dons the Green Goblin suit. Between “Spiderman” and its sequel, Raimi plans on finally making the fourth installment in the cult “Evil Dead” series. Groovy. May 3.