Excess Hollywood

In the season of sequels and Happy Meals toys, '05 may be a pleasant surprise

Why it will be fabulous: No Joel Schumacher, no Alicia Silverstone, no Batnipples. Did I mention no Joel Schumacher?

Why it will be dreadful: Because origin stories are boring and because the idea of sitting through one more Liam Neeson "training session" is about as appealing as sliding down the Batpole naked.

June 24Bewitched

Starring:Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Shirley MacLaine, and Michael Caine

Written and directed by:Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally)

What it's about:A spinoff of the sitcom: A TV producer revives the classic show and inadvertently casts a real witch in the title role. Enter Kidman.

Why it will be fabulous:If the acidic journalist and fictioneer Ephron has put some punch into it, this could prove to be dark fun. The cast is certainly high-octane, and the plot-tinkering sounds interesting.

Why it will be dreadful:The reason this was canceled is that the one-joke premise grew stale. It's no fresher today.

June 24Land of the Dead Starring: Simon Baker, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, Asia Argento, and zombies!

Written and directed by: George Romero

What it's about: The creator of Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Deadfinally gets to make a new big-budget zombie movie, after the mediocre Dawnremake made a pretty penny. Continuing the Romero Dead saga, the film envisions a post-Apocalyptic world in which humans live in fortified cities while trying to ignore the fact that every place outside their walls is inhabited by flesh-hungry zombies.

Why it will be fabulous: It's a sequel that's been requested for 20 years -- almost as long as Revenge of the Sith. And Romero is not the kind of director who will go soft.

Why it will be dreadful: John Leguizamo? Why?

June 29War of the Worlds

Starring:Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, and Tim Robbins

Directed by:Steven Spielberg

Written by: David Koepp and Josh Friedman, based on a novel by H.G. Wells

What it's about:A family fights for survival amid an invasion of "alien tripod fighting machines."

Why it will be fabulous:Expect lots of special-effects dazzle in the Close Encounters/Jurassic Park style and more of Spielberg's characteristic empathy for the little guy.

Why it will be dreadful:Tom Cruise.

July 8Dark Water Starring: Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly, Pete Postlethwaite, and Ariel Gade

Directed by: Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries)

Written by: Rafael Yglesias (From Hell)

What it's about: American remake of Ringu director Hideo Nakata's other movie about a malevolent drowned girl ghost with hair in her face and the power to manipulate water.

Why it will be fabulous: The original is one of the scariest movies ever, and Salles is no slouch.

Why it will be dreadful: Nakata's original came out three years ago, and since then, audiences may have overdosed on that whole "long black hair covering the face" bit. Also, both of the Hollywood Ring movies and The Eye cribbed liberally from the original already.

July 8Fantastic Four

Starring: Michael Chiklis, Jessica Alba, and Julian McMahon

Directed by: Tim Story

Written by: Michael France, Simon Kinberg, and Mark Frost

What it's about: Four astronauts -- Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) and sister Sue (Alba), Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), and Ben Grimm (Chiklis) -- are bathed in gamma rays during an outer-space trip and are transformed, respectively, into the Human Torch, Invisible Woman, the stretchy Mr. Fantastic, and the hideous Thing. The superhero team, a 44-year-old Marvel Comics institution, battles its armor-clad nemesis Doctor Doom (McMahon); chaos ensues, duh.

Why it will be fabulous: Because Marvel has managed to do the superhero movie thing right with the Spider-Manand X-Menfranchises.

Why it will be dreadful: Then again, The Punisher, Daredevil, Elektra, and Hulk were superawful, and the trailer looks fantastically horrid.

July 15Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Starring: Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, and Helena Bonham Carter

Directed by: Tim Burton

Written by: John August

What it's about: Charlie Bucket (Highmore, Depp's Finding Neverlandco-star) finds one of the golden tickets that allows him to tour the candy factory of demented sweets-maker Willy Wonka (Depp). Also on the treacherous tour are the usual suspects, including Charlie's Grandpa Joe, Veruca Salt, Augustus Gloop, and the Oompa-Loompas.

Why it will be fabulous: There's no music this time, and Burton promises to go deeper and darker than Mel Stuart did in his 1971 Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Why it will be dreadful: Because as much as you and I and everyone else loves Johnny Depp, he ain't no Gene Wilder. And because, alas, "Pure Imagination" is a swell song that will be missed.

July 22The Island Starring: Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi, and Michael Clarke Duncan as "The Big Bald Black Guy"

Directed by:Michael Bay

Written by: Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (Mission: Impossible III) and Caspian Tredwell-Owen (Beyond Borders)

What it's about: In the future, residents of a secluded facility all dream about going to "The Island," allegedly the last uncontaminated place on Earth. Naturally, it's all a lie: The Island is really a place where they get harvested for their vital organs. When amusingly named protagonist Lincoln Six-Echo (McGregor) learns this uncomfortable truth, a bunch of chases and explosions and really quick edits ensue.

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