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Movie News & Reviews
Reel Time
Monotonous summer movie season stammers to an end
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With far more duds than diamonds at the box office this summer, Hollywood must be wondering where all the movie magic went – and praying for a little inspiration. Unfortunately, nothing scheduled in the coming weeks seems set to salvage a relatively insipid season.

It wasn’t all bad, of course. “The Da Vinci Code” lured a faithful following. “X-Men: The Last Stand” impressed the comic book crowd with mutant mayhem, and the Man of Steel resurfaced in “Superman Returns.” Pixar took audiences for one of the best rides this year in “Cars.”

With the exception of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” nothing so far this summer has lived up to its own inflated hype. Remember “Poseidon,” “Mission Impossible III,” “The Break-Up,” “The Lake House,” “The Omen” or “Lady in the Water.” No? You’re not alone.

[Image]
Will Ferrell stars in Columbia Pictures’ “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.”
[Image]
Paul Giamatti, left, and Edward Norton star in “The Illusionist.”
[Image]
“Barnyard” reminds audiences that what happens in the barn stays in the barn.
[Image]
Unspeakable subterranean horror awaits in Lionsgate Films’ “The Descent.”
What lies ahead?

Opening Friday, Aug. 4 is “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.” Set against a larger-than-life NASCAR backdrop, this comedy promises genuine laughs as Will Ferrell portrays racing sensation Ricky Bobby. This movie might just work, assuming that publicists haven’t crammed the funniest bits into the trailer.

The same day sees the release of “The Night Listener” with Robin Williams. The comedic madman once again takes on a serious role in a psychological thriller. If this film is anything like Williams’ other dark roles, as in “Insomnia” and “One Hour Photo,” it will be an uneasy fit.

Opening Wednesday, Aug. 9 is “World Trade Center” starring Nicolas Cage, Michael Pena and Stephen Dorff. Based on the true story of two Port Authority police officers caught inside one of the towers when it collapsed on 9/11, this film will portray real superheroes facing real disasters. No matter how good it is, though, moviegoers seeking an escape from the constant carnage broadcast by cable news networks may opt for something less tragic.

Edward Norton stars in period piece “The Illusionist,” opening on Friday, Aug. 18. The latest film from the producers of “Crash” and “Sideways,” the drama pits a stage magician against an Austrian prince for the love of a woman.

Though the kids are due back in school soon, a few more big screen blasts await. “Barnyard” hits theaters Friday, Aug. 4. Later this month, New Line Cinema will teach children “How to Eat Fried Worms.”

For horror hounds, several upcoming shriek-fests will offer thrills and chills alike. Kicking off the bloodcurdling barrage is “The Descent,” opening Friday, Aug. 4. Set in a cave in the remote Appalachians, claustrophobics should probably avoid this one.

“Pulse,” opening Friday, Aug. 11, revisits an old “Twilight Zone” formula: Will breakthroughs in communications technology inadvertently open up a line to the other side? A missing girl, pagan rituals and a remote island off the coast of Maine all add up to wicked weirdness in “The Wicker Man,” opening Friday, Sept. 1. Finally, on Friday, Sept. 8, “The Covenant” will dig up the dirt on the descendants of the Ipswich colony founders.

Horror movies generally look great in previews but rarely deliver uncontrollable shivers in the theater. Hopefully at least one of these will satiate the horror-hungry fans.

Don’t fear. Next summer has to be better. Consider this tentative lineup: “Spider-Man 3,” “28 Weeks Later,” “Shrek the Third,” “Pirates of the Caribbean 3,” “Fantastic Four and the Silver Surfer,” “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” “The Borne Ultimatum” and “Rush Hour 3.”

With a solid schedule of sequels, how can Hollywood go wrong?
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