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Wednesday, May 21, 2008 12:09 pm

Burning up the screen

Summer’s flicks include a fighting panda, girls in pants, and one very angry green man

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Some of the big sequel guns (Indiana Jones, Narnia) had their releases in May, but plenty of action is left for the more traditional summer months. Release dates are subject to change.

JUNE 6
Kung Fu Panda
The title tells the story in this very high concept animated feature from DreamWorks. Jack Black voices the panda, who learns the art of kung fu to protect the Valley of Peace from an evil snow leopard. Dustin Hoffman and Angelina Jolie, among other stars, also provide voices.

You Don’t Mess with the Zohan
Adam Sandler stars as a Mossad agent who escapes his world by faking his own death and begins anew as a New York hairstylist. Judd Apatow, who has been creating a comedy dynasty beginning with Knocked Up, co-wrote the script with Sandler and Robert Smigel.

JUNE 13

The Happening
M. Night Shyamalan, one of the few directors of intelligent blockbusters, brings another saga of average people dealing with cataclysmic events to the big screen. Mark Wahlberg and the great scene-stealer Zooey Deschanel head a family on the run.

The Incredible Hulk
The odd casting of Edward Norton for one of the summer’s major comic-book adaptations promises to bring more character to the story, but that is what core fans usually hate. Norton is physicist Bruce Banner when he isn’t green with anger.

JUNE 20

Get Smart
Yet another classic TV show gets the big-screen treatment, but the casting of Steve Carell does seem ideal for the role of the bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart. Anne Hathaway is Agent 99, and Alan Arkin is an inspired choice for the Chief.

The Love Guru
Mike Myers continues on his career path of channeling Peter Sellers. This time he is an American raised by gurus who returns to the U.S. to start a romance-self-help business.
JUNE 27
WALL-E
The Pixar name is absolute gold at the box office, and this science-fiction saga looks to be one of the summer’s biggest hits. The title character is a trash-compacting robot who journeys through space to find the meaning of life.
Wanted
Morgan Freeman recruits James McEvoy, the son of a murdered government assassin, into the same secret organization. This is a very loose adaptation of a graphic novel. Angelina Jolie also stars.

JULY 4
Hancock
Will Smith stars as a superhero who has an attitude problem and is not well liked by the public. Enter a PR agent (Jason Bateman) who thinks he can repair the damage. Smith hasn’t had a box-office failure in years, and this comedy isn’t likely to end his string of hits.
JULY 11
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Actor Ron Perlman and director Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) reteam for a second movie featuring the demonic comic-book hero. Hellboy and his team are called upon to save earth from domination by the mythical world.
Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D
Brendan Fraser stars in the third big-screen adaptation of the classic Jules Verne adventure novel. Fraser is a geologist who discovers a lost world hidden inside the earth.

Meet Dave
An alien spacecraft takes the form of a human being (Eddie Murphy) during a mission by its tiny crew to save their planet. Plans go awry when the spaceship falls for an earthling (Elizabeth Banks).
JULY 18
The Dark Knight
Christian Bale returns as the Caped Crusader in this sequel to Batman Begins to battle the Joker, played by Heath Ledger in one of his last roles. Director Christopher Nolan bogged down the first one with an overlong set-up, so his second outing could be an improvement.

Mamma Mia!
Musical about a young bride-to-be who invites her mother’s three old boyfriends to her wedding to determine which one is her father. Meryl Streep is the mother; Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgård are the boyfriends; and the music is by the one and only ABBA.
Space Chimps
Animated feature about a trio of chimp astronauts who are sent into space by a devious senator to rid a planet of an evil dictator.

JULY 25

Step Brothers
Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are two immature adults who become bickering stepbrothers after their single parents marry. Ferrell and Reilly have teamed well in the past.

The Longshots
What could be stranger than Fred Durst (lead singer of Limp Bizkit) directing a family movie starring Ice Cube and Keke Palmer (Akeelah and the Bee)? Palmer plays the first girl to compete in the Pop Warner football tournament.
The X-Files: I Want to Believe
The first X-Files movie felt like a TV show transferred to the big screen, but in this case that’s OK. The plot is somewhere out there with the truth, but all that matters is that David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are again portraying Mulder and Scully.

AUGUST 1

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Brendan Fraser returns in this third installment; Rachel Weisz apparently had enough after the first two. The adventurer and his son unleash the mummy of a shape-shifting entity (Jet Li). Swing Vote
Kevin Costner stars in a far-fetched political comedy as an average citizen who is prevented from voting by a glitch in the system. He has the deciding vote, but he is given all the time he needs to make up his mind.
AUGUST 8

Pineapple Express
A stoner (Seth Rogen)  and his drug dealer (James Franco) are on the run from killer cops after witnessing a murder. David Gordon Green, the director of a handful of great indie films, jumps to the majors with this comedy.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2
The title is awful, but the original was a big hit with young girls. Part two is actually based on the fourth book in the Sisterhood series, in which the four girls travel to Greece, presumably with their pants.

AUGUST 15
Tropic Thunder
Comedy about three actors (Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black) in an action movie that, through some freak occurrences, becomes reality. Stiller also directed.

AUGUST 22

Bangkok Dangerous
Nicolas Cage stars as a hitman who travels to Thailand, to carry out several jobs. Of course, he must also fall for one of the local women. The Pang Brothers directed both the original and this loose remake.
The House Bunny
A rejected Playboy bunny (Anna Faris) becomes the housemother of a group of not-very-bright sorority girls. The writing team who gave us
Legally Blonde apparently didn’t veer too far from the formula.
The Accidental Husband
Some advice has its consequences, as a radio host (Uma Thurman) discovers. Her recommendation to a listener to dump her boyfriend backfires when he seeks revenge.
AUGUST 29

Babylon A.D.
Vin Diesel returns to the science-fiction genre as a mercenary assigned to protect a woman who carries a deadly synthetic virus that could end the human race.
Springfield’s Marc Sigoloff writes about film.
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