Let the War begin
No one knows how to make a big, classy, gotta-see-it summer movie like Steven Spielberg , who practically invented the genre. War Of The Worlds , adapted from H. G. Wells 's sci-fi classic, is set in present-day New York, with Tom Cruise playing a dad trying to escape unspeakable death with kids Justin Chatwin and Dakota Fanning . The last time Spielberg and Cruise cozied up with a sci-fi script was 2002's superb Minority Report, based on an Isaac Asimov story. This one looks just as good, full of suspense, chases and many-legged creatures. The trailers are terrific, especially the shot of a terrified Fanning looking back through the car window as something - aliens? adolescence? - comes chasing after her. Opens June 29.
Rooting for Roos
Let's bounce right by Don Roos 's last pic, the dreadful Ben Affleck/Gwyneth Paltrow comedy called, well, Bounce. Instead, we'll remember his terrific 1998 indie film called The Opposite Of Sex, which proved that Lisa Kudrow had better dramatic chops than all of her Friends combined. Kudrow is back in Happy Endings , playing an abortion counsellor who gets caught up in a plot involving blackmail, young film students and massage parlours. Here's hoping the title, er, comes true. Opens in July, date tba.
A lot of comedies are competing for your laughs this summer: Steve Martin in The Pink Panther (August 5); Steve Carell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin (August 19); and Billy Bob Thornton in Bad News Bears (July 22). And don't forget Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo (August 12). Just make sure you RSVP to The Wedding Crashers . Buddies Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson play the titular dudes who pick up girls from the singles table until they crash the wrong nuptials and meet Canada's own sweetheart, Rachel McAdams (also in the Wes Craven summer thriller Red-Eye ). Expect lots of tacky bridesmaid dresses, embarrassing speeches and the gross-out bar to be lowered a bit more. Here's toasting the closest thing to a cinematic sure thing. Opens July 15.
Christopher Nolan directed Memento and Insomnia, so how bad can Batman Begins be? That's our hope, anyway, as Christian Bale packs on the 60 pounds he lost for The Machinist plus some muscle and a latex suit to play the young, questing Bruce Wayne in this caped-crusader prequel. The cast includes 28 Days' Cillian Murphy , The Last Samurai's Ken Watanabe and Oscar winners Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman . The token woman is Tom Cruise's current plus-one, Katie Holmes . Bad news: the last Batman movie, Batman & Robin, tanked. Good news: comic book fans have already caught glimpses of the script online, and they're not pissed off. Opens June 15.
Wild at heart
If audiences don't flock to every big studio release, The Wild Parrots Of Telegraph Hill could take off. It's a quirky, G-rated documentary about philosophical San Fran musician and drifter Mark Bittner , who bonds with some pretty mouthy (beaky?) fine-feathered creatures. Some parrots have escaped captivity, others were abandoned by their owners. Already a hit in selected cities south of the border, this doc takes wing July 15.
Baby boomers' kids are now grown up and hungry for popcorn. How else to explain the studios' insane churning out of horror films? Agents are clamouring to get their biggest actors into fright flicks. Hence, Jennifer Connelly in Dark Water . The Oscar winner plays a separated mom with a five-year-old who moves into a creepy Manhattan apartment that's full of dripping, leaking water. Are the pipes bad or is it all in her head? The solid supporting cast for this remake of the 2002 Japanese box-office smash includes John C. Reilly as a real estate agent and Tim Roth as a lawyer. This marks a major break for director Walter Salles , who's moving into the big leagues after arthouse hits Central Station and The Motorcycle Diaries. Opens July 8.
Do the Hustle
If all goes according to plan, this time next year you'll know Terrence Howard 's name. Smaller roles in pics like Ray, Crash and Dead Presidents have made his leading-man-handsome mug familiar, especially those clear, unmistakable eyes and that mischievous grin. His turn as a Southern pimp who aims for rapper stardom in Hustle & Flow is generating big buzz, especially after the flick's debut at Sundance netted producer John Singleton a three-picture, $16-million contract. Opens in July, date tba.
The last time Nicole Kidman played a witch was in a terrible movie called Practical Magic, and the last time she tried comedy was in a big flop called The Stepford Wives. Let's hope there's better comic alchemy in Bewitched , based on the sitcom about a suburban homemaker with a twitchy nose. Nora Ephron directs a cast that includes Will Ferrell as husband Darrin and Shirley MacLaine as Endora. Opens June 24.