The Agronomist: Jonathan Demme, keeping his hand in documentaries and pursuing his fascination with Haiti (previously reflected in a CD compilation of Haitian music), tells the story of the volatile Caribbean nation through the dissident voice of Jean Dominique. A wealthy agriculturist turned agitator, Dominique founded Radio Haiti Internationale and made an enemy of murderous dictator Papa Doc Duvalier and his equally nasty son.
The Battle of Algiers: Gillo Pontecorvo's legendary political film is about the Algerian rebellion against French colonial rule.
Super-Size Me: One of the big-buzz films at this year's Sundance festival, this first-person documentary has filmmaker Morgan Spurlock eating at McDonald's exclusively for a month and comically charting the physical and mental reactions he experiences. Though subject and director Spurlock attempts to portray himself as a Michael Moore-esque everyman, he's apparently had some experience making reality shows, and charges have already started to fly that he danced around, or at least exaggerated, some of his conclusions.
Raising Helen: Kate Hudson is Helen, a New York modeling agency assistant whose older sister and brother-in-law are killed in an accident, leaving her to raise their children -- a teen girl, a 10-year-old boy and a kindergartner played by Abigail Breslin, the little girl from Signs. The cast includes John Corbett as a minister she turns to for help and eventually comfort, Helen Mirren as her boss and Paris Hilton as a sideshow attraction.
The Day After Tomorrow: Another save-the-world epic from director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day). Dennis Quaid plays a paleoclimatologist whose knowledge comes in pretty handy when global warming turns out to be more than a political scare tactic, and every disaster-movie threat, from hurricanes to earthquakes, comes at us all at once. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the son he has to save from an Ice Age assault on New York City, and computer-generated effects play very bad weather.
I'm Not Scared: A young Italian boy discovers a boy his own age chained in a hole in the ground. The boy brings the other child food but doesn't tell anyone else about his existence, and soon he begins to discover why the child has been confined.
A Slipping Down Life: Lili Taylor stars as a woman who hears a song by an obscure rock-poet named Drumstrings Casey (Guy Pearce) and becomes so obsessed that she drops everything to attend a club performance in North Carolina, where she decides on the spur of the moment to carve his last name on her forehead. This gets his attention, and that of a lot of other people as well. Based on a novel by Anne Tyler, this low-budget film, made five years ago, was a labor of love for Toni Kalem, an actress making her directing debut.
Soul Plane: Despite the title, its producers say this comedy is not Airplane goes to the 'hood: It's said to be more on the lines of Barbershop. Kevin Hart plays a young entrepreneur who parlays a $1-million settlement he receives when his dog dies from airline neglect into his own business, a small airline catering to black customers. On the other hand, the airline is called NWA and Snoop Dogg is a pilot, leaving us to believe some farce may in fact be involved.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: The third installment loses director Chris Columbus, who abandoned his plan to make three Potter movies in three years, replacing him with. Mexico's Alphonso Cuaron, whose last film was the sexy hit Y Tu Mama Tambien, but who also has the fine family film A Little Princess on his resume. The story, as everyone probably knows, begins the summer before Harry's third year at Hogwarts, in which he discovers his powers can't always be controlled, and that the escaped wizard of the title (Gary Oldman) is out to get him.
Young Adam: Ewan McGregor and Tilda Swinton star in this story about a drifter who works on a barge and the mystery that unfolds when he and the couple he works for discover a corpse floating in the water.
The Chronicles of Riddick: Vin Diesel, who for a minute or two looked like the next big action-movie star, regroups with a sequel to the low-budget sci-fi thriller that got him on the radar, Pitch Black. The first of what is planned as a trilogy has escaped space convict Riddick caught up in some sort of intergalactic warlord rivalry that gets him imprisoned again, but we're guessing he'll use his ability to see in the dark, not to mention his masculine wiles.
Garfield: Hard to believe that this benign comic strip about the relationship of a fat, surly cat and his owner was ever considered cutting edge, and harder yet to believe that it's taken 30 years for it to get to the big screen. CGI effects are apparently a major part of the family comedy, in which Garfield, voiced by Bill Murray, is forced to help his owner (Breckin Meyer) find that dumb dog Odie, who has disappeared.
The Stepford Wives: Less a remake, as they like to say, than a re-imagining of the 1975 thriller about a housewife who discovers all is not what it seems in a perfect little suburb, with director Frank Oz and writer Paul Rudnick (who previously teamed on In & Out) going for laughs instead of chills. Nicole Kidman has the role originally played by Katherine Ross, and Matthew Broderick is the husband who figures having a less opinionated, eager-to-please spouse might be an improvement.
Around the World in 80 Days: Jackie Chan takes the role of Passepartout, the lovable thief memorably played by Cantinflas in the high-budget, high-spirited and highly disregarded 1956 movie of the Jules Verne novel. Steve Coogan, who was terrific in 24 Hour Party People, is Phineas Fogg, the Victorian dandy who bets the members of his London gentleman's club that, with the advent of air and rail travel, he can indeed circumnavigate the globe in 80 days.
The Darkness: Anna Paquin stars in this haunted-house story about a teen-ager who discovers her family's new home has a secret past. Though filmed in English, this was made in Spain, where it was released as Darkness two years ago. With little spookum on the summer schedule, Miramax's genre division Dimension is looking to fill a void.
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story: Vince Vaughn tries to save his neighborhood gym by competing with a ragtag team in the national dodgeball tournament in Las Vegas, ultimately going up against a corporation-backed super-squad led by Ben Stiller. The 11th film this year to star Stiller -- OK, it's just the fourth, but it seems like many more -- it is apparently not a true story, though it does co-star his wife, Christine Taylor.
The Terminal: Steven Spielberg and pal Tom Hanks reunite for a romantic comedy apparently inspired by the true story of an expelled Iranian who, after having his briefcase stolen at Paris' De Gaulle airport, was stranded there. In this version, Hanks is a citizen of a war-torn Eastern European country that officially ceases to exist at the same time he lands in New York, making him literally a man without a country -- so the airport becomes his home. Catherine Zeta-Jones co-stars.
White Chicks: Marlon and Shawn Wayans co-star as FBI agents who attempt to redeem themselves after a foul-up by protecting the hard-partying hotel heiresses the Wilton sisters (get it?) from a kidnapping scheme. To pull it off, they have to masquerade as, yep, rich, white chicks. If you've seen the trailer, you'll know that the makeup is both impressive and a little unsettling and that the gags are not exactly Tootsie-style. But anything that keeps these talented guys from making another Scary Movie is OK.
Baadasssss!: Mario Van Peebles directs and plays his father, Melvin, in this film, which tells the story of the making of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, the groundbreaking 1971 independent film.
The Notebook: James Garner and Gena Rowlands appear in the framing story of this adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks best seller about a notebook chronicling a 1946 love triangle involving a young woman (Rachel McAdams) forced to choose between two suitors (Ryan Gosling and Kevin Connolly). Sparks wrote the novels that spawned the similarly sentimental films Message in a Bottle and A Walk to Remember, both of which were minor hits.
The Story of the Weeping Camel: When a mother camel rejects her newborn calf, a family of herders in the Gobi Desert turns to an ancient ritual to persuade the mother to nurse her baby.
Two Brothers: Jean-Jacques Annaud, director of the surprise international hit The Bear, returns to nature to tell the stories of two tiger cubs separated at birth, one of which becomes a legendary predator in 1920s French Indochina, while the other becomes a circus star. Guy Pearce is the explorer who unknowingly reunites them. Should this have any of the savage poetry and romanticism of The Bear, lightning could strike twice.
Spider-Man 2: Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is now a college student and part-time shutterbug for the Daily Bugle -- when he's not using the powers he inherited from a radioactive arachnid to battle super-freaks like Dr. Octopus (Alfred Molina), that is. The rest of his time is spent pining for girl-next-door Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), now a model dating the astronaut son of his Spider-Man-hating boss, and trying to help his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) through her grief over the death of Uncle Ben. The first two scripts were rejected, and comic-loving novelist Michael Chabon was brought in to spin the tale, only to have that re-written by Alvin Sargent. But Sam Raimi is still at the helm, and Bruce Campbell has a cameo, so how wrong could this really go?
Riding Giants: This film documents the history of surfing, starting with its early Polynesian roots, then follows the development of Southern California's surf culture in the 1940s, particularly a group of surfers who began searching for the biggest waves, or the "unridden realm."
Saved!: The latest in the recent spate of films about just how mean high school girls can be to each other -- and everybody else -- boasts an interesting twist. It's set in an evangelical Christian school where the queen bee, played by Mandy Moore, turns on former best friend Jena Malone when Malone gets pregnant during an act of charity -- attempting to convince her boyfriend he's not really gay.
America's Heart and Soul: Filmmaker Louis Schwartzberg traveled the length of America shooting its beauty and wonder and interviewing citizens with some remarkable stories to tell in a documentary that just happens to be released in time for the nation's birthday. This is being released by Walt Disney Co., which has been accused of getting too far away from mainstream American values in recent years, so expect more heart-tugging than soul-searching.
Dear Frankie: A 9-year-old boy travels from town to town and hand-to-mouth with his mother (Emily Mortimer), occasionally receiving a letter from his father at sea, a sailor on the HMS Accra, who recounts his adventures in faraway lands. We know, of course, that the mother is writing the letters, creating a problem when Frankie hears the Accra is due to dock near their current home.
The Door in the Floor: The son (Jon Foster) of a private prep school teacher takes a summer job as an assistant to a famous children's book author and illustrator (Jeff Bridges) living in East Hampton, only to fall in love with his wife (Kim Basinger), who is still grieving the death of her two sons. If the premise sounds slightly familiar, that's because it's based on John Irving's last solid novel, A Widow For One Year, or at least the first third of it.
Napoleon Dynamite: The title character -- whose name is not, its litigation-fearing producer insists (though not very convincingly), taken from Elvis Costello's one-time pseudonym -- is a teen-age geek-outcast in Preston, Idaho, with an even geekier best friend, an amusingly screwed-up family life and a compulsion to break into a little dance at comically inopportune moments. Stuff happens. To the surprise of some and dismay of others, the self-consciously eccentric trifle became a must-see at Sundance.
King Arthur: The first meeting of the Round Table since 1995's First Knight is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, but don't look for exploding castles and super-swords. It aims to put the legend into historic context, with Arthur attempting to reunite a British kingdom that has been divided into fiefdoms by warlords. Clive Owen, of Croupier, is Arthur; Stephen Dillane is right-hand wizard Merlin; Keira Knightley is Guinevere and hunky Ioan Gruffudd, TV's Horatio Hornblower, gets a shot at movie stardom as Lancelot.
Anchorman: Had Broadcast News been a comedy -- wait, it was. OK, if Broadcast News had been a Will Ferrell comedy, it might have gone something like this. Ferrell is a top-rated, bona fide media star in San Diego in the '70s, beloved by the public and management, chased by local ladies, king of the world, until the arrival of Christina Applegate, a real reporter who challenges his authority, news skills and ethics. If you don't want to see this, you either a) have never seen Ferrell; b) have never seen local news; or c) don't remember how TV newsmen dressed in the '70s.
Before Sunset: Nine years after the romantic chance encounter between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise, the pair are reunited in a sequel set in Paris, where Hawke, now a successful writer, is on a book tour. Linklater, fresh off his first studio hit, School of Rock, shot this in a little more than two weeks on a minuscule budget.
Sleepover: Alexa Vega (Spy Kids) is one of a quartet of recent eighth-grade graduates who, on a summer sleepover, are challenged by the popular girls to an all-night scavenger hunt that takes them from the suburbs to the city with all manner of unexpected adventures. One prediction: Some lucky lady will get her first kiss.
A Cinderella Story: Hilary Duff, liberated from Lizzie McGuire after Disney, in what looked like a bonehead move, failed to fatten her paycheck, moves to Warner Bros. for a comedy about a San Fernando Valley dork who works in a diner run by a stepmother (Jennifer Coolidge) who dumps all the hard work on her. But her life takes a turn when a mysterious boy finds her lost cell phone and they begin a notes-and-e-mail courtship that will, she hopes, become real on the night of -- no looking ahead now -- the big dance.
I, Robot: Based on science-fiction pioneer Isaac Asimov's anthology of the same name, it incorporates elements of all nine stories about a future society where robots live with humans but must follow three iron-clad rules: A robot can never injure a human or allow a human to come to harm; a robot must obey all human orders unless it's to violate the first law; a robot must protect himself unless that violates the first or second law. In what is said to be a sort of prequel to the Asimov stories, Will Smith stars as a detective investigating a murder that seems to be a result of robot rule-breaking. Alan Tudyk (A Knight's Tale) is the primary robot suspect.
The Bourne Supremacy: 2002's The Bourne Identity, starring Matt Damon as a spy with amnesia, was a mid-sized hit for Universal, so they went ahead with the plan of adapting two subsequent novels by the late Robert Ludlum featuring the character. In this one, his identity goes missing again, this time stolen by a mysterious operative who assassinates a Chinese vice premier, putting a serious crimp in U.S.-Chinese relations that Damon has to sort out. CIA colleagues Brian Cox and Julia Stiles return, as does Franka Potente as Bourne's girlfriend. New agent Joan Allen joins them.
Catwoman: Warner Bros. has been trying to get this off the ground ever since Michelle Pfeiffer stole Batman Returns from the star and the other villains, but the result is very different from what was originally imagined. The character now bears little relation to pet-groomer Selina Kyle; she's a graphic artist named Patience Philips, played by Halle Berry, who is murdered when she stumbles across some evildoing. Fortunately for her, a cat she once befriended is an immortal Egyptian who resurrects her so she can defend the rights of felines and other animals. We can only hope this film lays on the camp.
Harold and Kumar go to White Castle: A simple Friday-night run to White Castle for a munchie-curing bag of burgers turns into an altogether larger sack o' woe for the roommates of the title, a Korean-American (John Cho) investment banker and an Indian-American med student (Kal Penn). Think, "Hey Dude, where're my fried onions?"
The Manchurian Candidate: A remake of John Frankenheimer's Cold War paranoia thriller, set in the present and starring Denzel Washington and Liev Schreiber in the roles originally played by Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey. They're veterans of the first Gulf War who have been brainwashed and given code signals that, when activated by the enemy, are designed to trigger political and international turmoil. The original film was not successful when released, but after being withheld from circulation for 20 years (not, as rumor had it, because of the JFK assassination, but over a rights dispute) it became a cult classic.
Thunderbirds: A live-action version of the '60s British sci-fi show that used marionettes and stop-motion animation to chronicle the adventures of an Air Force colonel, his five sons and a high-tech support team who used their skills -- along with a lot of souped-up rockets, satellites, flying cars and other cool, fast-moving stuff -- in elaborate rescue missions. Bill Paxton plays the colonel, leading a lot of good-looking young people (and Anthony Edwards, as brilliant scientist Brains) in an attempt to prevent a power-mad villain, played by Ben Kingsley, from stealing all their cool stuff and using it for evil.
The Village: M. Night Shyamalan looks to raise a few more goose bumps with his first period thriller. Set in a small Pennsylvania village in 1897, the residents never leave, fearing that the mysterious creatures who dwell in the surrounding woods and with whom their elders apparently forged a truce will hurt them. Joaquin Phoenix is a young man looking to challenge the myth by leaving and taking the daughter (Judy Greer) of the village leader (William Hurt) with him. Adrien Brody, Sigourney Weaver and Cherry Jones are also in the impressive cast.
The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi: Zatoichi, a beloved character from Japan's longest-running film series, is at the center of this film from director Takeshi Kitano, who blends light comedy with action.
The Clearing: Robert Redford is a successful, self-made businessman whose very good life goes very bad when he is kidnapped by a former employee and held for ransom in a forest. His wife, Helen Mirren, takes on the job of getting him freed. Though Redford may be the world's best-known champion of independent film through his Sundance Institute, this is the first time the aging movie star has ever participated in one -- save his financing and narrating Incident at Oglala, an agitprop documentary about the Leonard Peltier case.
De-Lovely: No one can dispute the casting in this Cole Porter biography, which has Kevin Kline playing the songwriter looking back on his life as one mad musical about a gay songwriter who is nevertheless madly in love with his wife, played by Ashley Judd. Scorsese toyed for a long time with the idea of making this movie, but the job has been left to his sometime producer, Irwin Winkler, who has hired Elvis Costello, Costello's wife Diana Krall and Sheryl Crow, among others, to interpret Porter's brilliant songs.
Collateral: Tom Cruise does a John Travolta in this drama directed by Michael Mann (Ali), taking the villain role as a taxi passenger whose driver, played by Jamie Foxx, realizes his fare is a contract killer and that, when he finishes his rounds, he'll be the last victim. Mark Ruffalo is a detective looking for Cruise, and Jada Pinkett Smith, playing a district attorney, is the penultimate target.
The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement: Anne Hathaway returns as the teen who discovered she was royalty in the 2001 hit, based on a young readers' novel. That book spawned a follow-up, but this sequel was made from an original script, in which the part-time princess of tiny Genovia moves there to prepare to wear the crown, only to discover an arranged marriage comes with the title. Nearly all the original supporting cast returns, including Julie Andrews as Hathaway's grandmother, Hector Elizondo as Genovia's security chief, and Welcome to the Doghouse's Heather Matarazzo, as the princess' misfit best friend.
Alien Vs. Predator: The long-rumored match-up of two monsters in the employ of 20th Century Fox finally comes to screen, but don't expect Sigourney Weaver or the Governator to be in their corners. The much-worked-upon script, set in the present, has a billionaire (Lance Henriksen) ordering up an excavation that uncovers some unfriendly face-huggers. That's good news for some teen-age predators from outer space, who come to Earth every thousand years to prove their hunting skills.
Yu-Gi-Oh! the Movie: Animated children's film based on the Americanized edition of the Japanese TV series. Teen-agers of the future uncover the secrets of the ancient "Shadow Game" that almost destroyed the entire universe, only to find that summer movie synopsis writers are losing interest even as they write this. With Pokemon apparently -- hopefully -- played out, Warner is out to launch another cheaply made franchise with product synergy.
Cellular: Proud -- and talented -- shlock salesman Larry Cohen wrote this thriller about a man (Chris Evans) who receives a call on his cell phone from a woman (Kim Basinger) who claims she has been kidnapped, that the bad guys are going after her husband and son, and all will be killed unless the man can figure out where she is. Meanwhile, he's getting that telltale beep that his battery is about to go dead. If this sounds suspiciously close to Phone Booth, that could be because Cohen wrote the original version of that script, too, which was far better than the one that finally got filmed.
Excorcist: The Beginning: As the title implies, this takes place before the events of the horror classic and its sequels -- one of which was also set before the original film, but never mind -- telling the story of how Father Merrin (Stellan Skarsgard), as a young African missionary, discovered that evil wasn't just a concept, but an entity.
Jet Li's Hero: Li and Zhang Ziyi star in the Quentin Tarantino film about three opponents who want to assassinate the king and the single subject who is determined to stop them.
Open Water: A husband and wife (Daniel Travis and Blanchard Ryan) attempt to relieve the stress of their demanding, if ordinary, big-city lives with a scuba-diving vacation, but make the mistake of signing on to a boat where the guy who has the job of making sure that everyone comes out of the water can't count. Shot on digital video with unknown actors, this documentary-style drama will be endlessly described as Blair Witch meets Jaws, but that's exactly what it is. For 80 excruciating minutes, you will rightly fear the worst.
She Hate Me: Spike Lee returns to independent-style moviemaking with this story of a Wharton grad (Anthony Mackie) who gets fired from his biotech job after threatening to go to the SEC with some damning information. Now unemployable, he's amenable when a former college girlfriend, now an executive and a lesbian, offers him cash to impregnate her partner. Soon he's in the baby-making business with ethical issues of his own.
Without a Paddle: Seth Green, Matthew Lillard and Abraham Benrubi have all been previously resigned to best-pal roles, and now they're playing second fiddle to a dead guy, taking a canoe trip together in Washington State in hopes of using their late friend's map and research to find the cash stolen by D.B. Cooper. Unfortunately, they run into some backwoods mountain men, and since Burt Reynolds plays one of them, guess what movie we're spoofing?
Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid: Now here's what we've been awaiting to cap the summer: A sequel to the big deadly snake movie that does not star Owen Wilson, Jon Voight, Ice Cube and the artist formerly known as J-Lo. No, Eugene Byrd heads the cast for this sequel, along with Morris Chestnut and Salli Richardson, who are ... Well, who cares, when there are big deadly snakes slithering around? The horror, the horror.
Garden State: Zach Braff of NBC's Scrubs wrote and directed this film about Andrew Largeman, a man whose life was bathed in lithium until he decides to get off the meds after his mom passes away. Back in his hometown, he catches up with friends (including gravedigger Peter Sarsgaard) and meets Sam (Natalie Portman), who ends up changing his life.
From staff and wire reports