With summer comes the most overcrowded cinematic season of the year — and some of these warm-weather releases are the year’s most vacuous. The onslaught of big-budget blockbusters audiences face in 2005 aren’t looking to deviate from this standard. Audiences can trap themselves in for another four months of the usual suspects: glossy comic book adaptations, a few high-profile remakes and a trigger-happy action flick or two. But maybe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel after all: Ron Howard and Russell Crowe will work together again, Batman returns with a filmmaking prodigy at the helm and Dark Night alum Tim Burton will release his updated version of a beloved children’s story that seems about one Oompa Loompa creepier than any of the countless horror movies filmgoers can expect to come their way. Oh yeah, there’s also something about a Jedi going to the dark side. In any case, summer 2005 is shaping up to be the season we’ve come to expect; the masses will find no shortage of cineplex diversions, but into the hazy depths of July, the rest of us will be left asking: is it Oscar season yet?
Kingdom of Heaven
20th Century Fox
Teen heartthrob Orlando Bloom digs for depth as a dishy crusader in Ridley Scott’s big-budget epic. And while the astounding trailers all but ensure that “Kingdom” will put its myriad predecessors (“Troy,” “King Arthur,” “Alexander”) to proper shame, can we still hope Bloom will one day outgrow his boys-with-swords phase?
Revenge of the Sith
20th Century Fox
The most popular franchise in cinematic history comes to an end as the emotionally unstable Anakin Skywalker finally makes his transformation into Darth Vader. Expect appearances from other characters from the first trilogy, more corny dialogue and — a “Star Wars” first — a PG-13 rating. Nearly everyone hated the first two prequels, but that isn’t going to stop audiences from lining up around the block for this one.
There’s no time like summer to release a film about a Depression-era boxer who can’t get fights any more. But with Ron Howard in the director’s chair and Russell Crowe and Renée Zellweger playing leads, this biopic of everyman folk hero Jim Braddock should exploit heroism-hungry middle America with ease. It has to be better than “Seabiscuit,” right?
Eight years after Joel Schumacher tried to swap anatomically correct Batsuits for plot, the near-dead franchise will fly again under director Christopher Nolan (“Memento”) with a complete conceptual revamp that promises to play like a character piece, rather than a study of those infamous bat nipples.
Yet another classic television show is being made into a movie, and this one features an interesting twist. Famed writer-director Nora Ephron (“When Harry Met Sally”) takes a movie-within-a-movie approach — the story centers on the filmmakers of the “Bewitched” movie who cast a real witch (Nicole Kidman) for the lead (confused yet?). The film also stars Will Ferrell, who, for better or worse, seems to be in every other movie as of late.
War of the Worlds
As if “Star Wars: Episode III” won’t already send fanboys over the edge, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel that practically started the sci-fi genre is this summer’s most anticipated spectacle that doesn’t star Chewbacca and Jar-Jar. Little green men, Tom Cruise and shit blowing up? Smells like a blockbuster to us.
The Fantastic Four
20th Century Fox
The trailers have been terrible, Internet geeks won’t stop complaining — and hell, it’s made by the guy who directed “Taxi.” The latest big-budget Marvel comic book adaptation focuses on four amazing superheroes who must battle the evil Dr. Doom. Even though “The Fantastic Four” features TV star Michael Chiklis (“The Shield), will this adaptation reach skyscraper heights like “Spider-Man” or sink to become the next “Hulk”?
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The eccentric Willy Wonka and those freaky little Oompa Loompas are back! Tim Burton’s (“Big Fish”) long-anticipated remake of the seminal ’70s children’s classic promises to be equal parts wacky, whimsical and weird. With none other than Johnny Depp (one of Burton’s favorite actors) as the headliner expect the audiences to come out in droves.
After classing it up in Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation,” the luminous Scarlett Johansson takes her first step into the fame-whoring world of big-budget Hollywood fare. Co-starring Ewan McGregor and directed by explosion coordinator/sometime director Michael Bay (“Bad Boys II”), the film is a sleek-looking adrenaline thriller about a futuristic colony of genetic clones.
— Compiled by Daily Arts Writers Amanda Andrade, Jeffrey Bloomer and Zach Borden