Cruise, Da Vinci, X-Men and Superman lead Hollywoods summer |

Cruise, Da Vinci, X-Men and Superman lead Hollywoods summer

DAVID GERMAINthe associated press

LOS ANGELES Theres something really wrong with Hollywood if it cant get off to a better start than it did during the dreary summer of 2005.Last years first big May releases: The historical snoozer Kingdom of Heaven and the forgettable comedies Kicking and Screaming and Monster-in-Law.This years summer lead-ins: Mission: Impossible III, pitting Tom Cruise against supervillain Philip Seymour Hoffman; Poseidon, a remake of The Poseidon Adventure directed by Hollywoods king of the sea, Wolfgang Petersen (The Perfect Storm, Das Boot); the animated Over the Hedge, an animals-against-humans comedy from the makers of Shrek; and The Da Vinci Code, reuniting Tom Hanks with director Ron Howard.A globe-trotting mystery, the adaptation of Dan Browns best-seller follows a symbologist (Hanks) and cryptographer (Audrey Tautou) racing to uncover clues about the murder of a member of a shadowy society harboring deep secrets about Christianity.The film was shot at churches, cathedrals and landmarks around the world, including the Louvre in Paris, where the story begins.It was an almost out-of-body experience filming there, director Howard said. The building itself is a monument, and youre surrounded by the works of so many of the great masters. Being there at 2:30, 3 oclock in the morning to film eerie, suspenseful scenes in this environment, it was one part heaven and the other part kind of almost haunted house. You didnt want to wander away from the rest of the film crew, let me put it that way.I did have a moment all alone with the Mona Lisa in the wee hours, and that was pretty fantastic.After stumbling out of the gate last year, when summer movie attendance fell 12 percent to its lowest level since 1997, Hollywood seems to have a more crowd-pleasing lineup to lure audiences back to theaters.

LOOKING FOR ACTION: Tom Cruises first two Mission: Impossible capers were heavy on action and style. Mission: Impossible III director J.J. Abrams, creator of TVs Lost and Alias, said he aimed to balance action with character interplay in the spirit of the television show on which the movies are based.The thing I loved about the show is watching these incredibly accomplished operatives seamlessly working together to pull off a very specific goal, Abrams said. I honestly felt that as entertained as I was by the first two Mission films, they didnt embrace that aspect, which to me was the fundamental thing of the series.Wolfgang Petersen is back on the water with Poseidon, starring Kurt Russell, Richard Dreyfuss and Josh Lucas in a remake of the 1970s disaster flick about a luxury liner overturned by a tidal wave.It was a chance to do a film reflecting our phobias today, our fear of terrorism or disaster, like 9/11 or whatever nature can do to us, Petersen said. A natural disaster like this is sort of a metaphor for the impossible and most disastrous thing you can imagine, and what would we do when it hits?Also returning to the water: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley and director Gore Verbinski with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Mans Chest, the follow-up to their 2003 blockbuster.Dead Mans Chest has Depps woozy pirate Jack Sparrow trying to weasel out of an old debt his soul, which he owes to the sea devil Davy Jones.Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell star in Miami Vice, written and directed by Michael Mann, creator of the 1980s cop show and Foxxs director on Collateral and Ali. Farrell and Foxx take on the roles originated by Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas, playing undercover cops who infiltrate a South Florida drug ring.The TV show was known for glitzy fashion and hip music, but Manns new take is a grittier glimpse of cops on the street, Foxx said.Its heavy, Foxx said. Heavy in a way that theres a real sense of danger, a real sense of what these guys go through as undercover cops. Tempted either to work for the other side or get caught up in the different characters they create.SUPERHEROES ON PARADE: Fighters for truth, justice and the rights of Mutant-Americans are back, led by X-Men: The Last Stand, the third installment in the franchise about the gang of super freaks, and Superman Returns, with the Man of Steel suiting up for his first big-screen adventure in almost 20 years.Bryan Singer, who made the first two X-Men movies, directed Superman Returns, which introduces Brandon Routh as Kryptons favorite flyboy.Co-starring Kevin Spacey as villain Lex Luthor and Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, the movie has Superman back on Earth after a prolonged absence. Though not a sequel to the Christopher Reeve Superman flicks, the film borrows from the look and mythology created in that series.Routh said he fashioned his performance to match, injecting his own personality into the character while trying to stay true to Reeves Superman.Chris did such an amazing job. You can change things, but if you do it could be horrible, Routh said. When somebody does something so great, theres certain things you can tweak, but to change it just to change it sometimes is dangerous.The X-Men sequel, directed by Brett Ratner (the Rush Hour movies), reunites all key cast members, including Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Rebecca Romijn and Famke Janssen.Driving the action this time is the discovery of a cure for mutancy. Jackman said the movie will wrap up the X-Men trilogy, though another film is in the works centered on his Wolverine character the bushy-haired mystery man with metal claws and rapid healing powers.Hes that reluctant hero, and hes a fairly classic version of it, Jackman said. He reminds me of characters I always liked, Mad Max, Dirty Harry, Han Solo, where theres more going on than what theyre letting on.Summer also offers superhero comedies. Ivan Reitmans My Super Ex-Girlfriend stars Uma Thurman as the ultimate woman scorned, a superhero who uses her powers to exact revenge on the boyfriend (Luke Wilson) who dumped her.Zoom stars Tim Allen and Courteney Cox in an Incredibles-like tale of a former hero gone soft.Tim plays a retired superhero, and I play a kind of comic-book-obsessed, nerdy scientist. Were trying to find people to train kids to become the next round of superheroes, Cox said of her first big-screen leading role since she and her Friends gang called it quits.SEPT. 11: Nearly five years after Sept. 11 comes the first major wave of big-screen films dealing with the terrorist attacks.United 93 mostly features a cast of unknowns in a gut-wrenching docudrama about the passengers who fought back and lost their lives during one of the Sept. 11 hijackings.Oliver Stones World Trade Center stars Nicolas Cage in the story of two policemen trapped in the rubble of the collapsed towers.On a smaller scale, The Great New Wonderful features Maggie Gyllenhaal, Tony Shalhoub and Olympia Dukakis in a sketch of five New Yorkers a year after the Sept. 11 attacks.ANIMATION MANIA: Featuring the voices of Owen Wilson, Paul Newman and Bonnie Hunt, Cars is the latest from computer-animation pioneer John Lasseter, who directed the Toy Story movies. The film follows a haughty race car (Wilson) who learns to slow down and make time for friends after hes stranded in a sleepy town.Summers animated tales also include Barnyard, a farm fable featuring the voices of Kevin James, Courteney Cox, Danny Glover and Andie MacDowell; the bug story The Ant Bully, with Nicolas Cage, Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep among the vocal cast; and the spooky-building adventure Monster House, with Steve Buscemi, Nick Cannon and Maggie Gyllenhaal providing voices.Led by voice stars Bruce Willis as a rascally raccoon and Garry Shandling as a cautious turtle, Over the Hedge is the story of a family of critters coping with new neighbors humans.How did Willis find his inner raccoon?I found that a lot of David Addison bled into the character, Willis said, referring to the crafty private eye he played on TVs Moonlighting. Wily and intrepid and a loner and gets a pretty big kick out of life. Its only when in this particular film that he is confronted with a family situation that he starts to find himself on shaky ground.JUST FOR LAUGHS: In the comedy You, Me and Dupree, Owen Wilsons the house guest from hell, who takes up permanent residence with his newlywed pals (Matt Dillon and Kate Hudson).Vince Vaughn, Wilsons Wedding Crashers comrade, and Jennifer Aniston star as ex-lovers living in hostile territory when neither will move out of the condo they share in The Break-Up.Click features Adam Sandler as a family guy who finds the remote control of his dreams, giving him magical power over his work and home life until the device starts acting up.Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly hit the NASCAR circuit in Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby, playing a duo that almost always finishes first and second in races until an upstart comes along.My character holds the record for most second-place finishes in the history of NASCAR, said Reilly, who also co-stars with Garrison Keillor, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan and Woody Harrelson in Robert Altmans A Prairie Home Companion, a fanciful look at Keillors radio show.CREEPY AND CRYPTIC: Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan has made late summer a Halloween prelude with such eerie hits as The Sixth Sense, Signs and The Village.Shyamalan is back with Lady in the Water, the tale of an apartment manager (Paul Giamatti) who discovers a water nymph (Village star Bryce Dallas Howard) living beneath his complexs pool and trying to escape creatures preventing her return to her own world.Lady in the Water began as a bedtime story Shyamalan made up for his children, but it grew to an epic that took a month to tell and a year to retell as the kids asked to hear it again and again.That one was so vivid, Shyamalan said. It became this kind of haunting story that stuck with us as a family. The movie is very original for the story being told, because its so absurd and not like anything youve heard before.Also on the fright front: The Omen, with Julia Stiles, Mia Farrow and Liev Schreiber in an update of the 1970s Antichrist tale, and An American Haunting, starring Sissy Spacek and Donald Sutherland in the story of a 19th century family tormented by a supernatural presence.

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