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Hollywood's Cross to Bear 

CL's 2006 summer film preview

Part of the reason the summer movie season is perennially popular is because it truly offers something for everyone -- and this year is no exception. From macho to Nacho, from snakes to worms and from Adam Sandler to the Antichrist (some would argue they're one and the same), this year's slate should help keep the box office out of those ditches in which it's increasingly finding itself.

After all, it's hard to bet against the Boys of Summer, guys like Tom Hanks, Johnny Depp and even the overexposed Tom Cruise. Superheroes are always a safe commodity, and this summer we get Superman flying solo and the X-Men fighting together. And don't forget the comedies, always a sound investment when such summer crashers as Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn are involved. Locally, of course, the most excitement centers around the debuts of two NASCAR-related flicks, both of which have regional ties: One was shot here, the other will premiere here.

But enough idling; now it's time to wave that checkered flag. Below are 50 films scheduled for release between the beginning of May and the end of August, as well as a checklist of a half-dozen limited releases that might reach us during these hot-weather months. As always, dates are subject to change, though in most cases, I wouldn't count on it.

MAY 5

HOOT

click to enlarge Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick in The Omen - VINCE VALITUTTI / FOX
  • Vince Valitutti / Fox
  • Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick in The Omen

Plot: A young boy (Logan Lerman) leads the good fight to save endangered owls.

Talking Points: This is based on the novel by Carl Hiaasen ... Not only did Jimmy Buffett compose the film's music score, but he also produced the picture and appears in a supporting role as a science teacher.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III

Plot: This time, it's personal, as agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) goes after the criminal mastermind (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who threatened to kill Hunt's girlfriend (Michelle Monaghan).

Talking Points: Despite Cruise's tiresome off-screen antics and the disappointing 2000 sequel, this merits a look-see since it's directed and co-written by the talented J.J. Abrams (Alias, Lost) ... Ving Rhames returns as Hunt's comrade-in-arms Luther Stickell, while cast newbies include Keri Russell and Laurence Fishburne.

THE PROMISE

Plot: A princess (Cecilia Cheung) harboring a secret curse becomes entangled with a general (Hiroyuki Sanada) and a slave (Dong-Kun Jang).

Talking Points: The latest from Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine) opens in limited release May 5, with Charlotte atypically expected to be included in that opening salvo ... This is the most expensive film in Chinese history, though it's already proven to be a potent earner internationally.

MAY 12

GOAL! THE DREAM BEGINS

Plot: A Mexican-American kid (Kuno Becker) is given a shot at playing for a British soccer team.

Talking Points: Director Danny Cannon is best known as a driving force on the various CSI TV series ... Due to the international popularity of soccer, this has been playing around the rest of the globe since last September.

JUST MY LUCK

Plot: A college graduate (Lindsey Lohan) who experiences nothing but good luck shares a quick kiss with a mysterious man (Chris Paine) who has nothing but bad luck, and suddenly their lives' fortunes are reversed.

Talking Points: Two summers ago, the Olsen Twins opened New York Minute opposite Van Helsing, so why shouldn't another teen actress -- one with more theatrical clout -- try her hand at similar counter-programming? (Note: New York Minute died a horrible death at the box office.) ... Umm, didn't Lohan already go a similar route with the Freaky Friday remake?

POSEIDON

Plot: After a wave capsizes a luxury cruise ship, the survivors struggle to make their way to the surface in order to escape.

Talking Points: Those familiar with the 1972 version (also based on Paul Gallico's novel) may be surprised to find a different roster of passengers, including ones portrayed by Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell, Richard Dreyfuss and The Phantom of the Opera's Emmy Rossum ... Wolfgang Peterson is no stranger to water, having previously directed The Perfect Storm and Das Boot.

MAY 19

THE DA VINCI CODE

click to enlarge Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou in The Da Vinci Code - COLUMBIA
  • Columbia
  • Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou in The Da Vinci Code

Plot: A murder at the Louvre in Paris plunges a Harvard professor (Tom Hanks) into a labyrinthine mystery that brings up secrets from the distant past.

Talking Points: The colossal success of Dan Brown's book insures that this will be the one summer film that adult audiences will want to see, if only to gauge if director Ron Howard and scripter Akiva Goldsman got it right or screwed it up ... The high-powered cast also includes Ian McKellen and Amelie's Audrey Tautou.

OVER THE HEDGE

Plot: Led by a mischievous raccoon (voice of Bruce Willis), various furry critters discover the joys -- and dangers -- of life in the suburbs.

Talking Points: Garry Shandling, Steve Carell, William Shatner and the Best In Show/A Mighty Wind team of Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara are among those lending their vocal chords to the cause ... The trailer is terrible, but regardless of quality, it's difficult for an animated feature not to rake in the dough these days (anybody catch those Hoodwinked grosses?).

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