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Mark your calendar: Summer movie preview
Movie critic Michael Clark takes a look at this summer's blockbusters and a few sleepers that might surprise

In 2007, the roster of summer studio blockbusters was long on sequels and spin-offs and low on original material. For the first time in anyone's memory, it was the post-July 4th offerings that most pleased audiences and critics. This year's slate of releases is relatively low on sequels, but still long on formula. Here's a list of some of the higher profile titles along with what could be some surprising, low-visibility sleepers. All release dates are subject to change.

May 2

· IRON MAN - The next big proposed comic book franchise kicks things off with the unlikely Robert Downey Jr. in the title role. The all-star supporting cast includes Samuel L. Jackson, Hilary Swank, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges and for all you Black Sabbath fans, the answer is yes. A version of their "Iron Man" song is included on the soundtrack.

· MADE OF HONOR - Following the smash success of "Enchanted" and still breaking hearts on "Grey's Anatomy," Patrick Dempsey channels Julia Roberts in "My Best Friend's Wedding." After learning his platonic gal-pal friend (Michelle Monaghan) is engaged to another, Dempsey's character attempts to drive them apart.

· SPEED RACER - The '60s Anime TV series gets the live action treatment with Emile Hirsch in the title role and Christina Ricci and John Goodman offering support. This one is worthy of serious attention as it was written and directed by the Wachowski brothers, the masterminds behind "The Matrix" trilogy.

May 9

· WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS - First there was the TV commercial, now it's a feature film. Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz star as strangers that meet in Sin City, get drunk, then married and wake up with the ultimate love hangover. Didn't Ross and Rachel already do this in an episode of "Friends?"

May 16

· THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN - A virtually unknown leading cast propelled the first "Narnia" into the box office stratosphere. The sophomore effort is generally where planned trilogies stumble, but the four principals (plus the voice of Liam Neeson and recent Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton) are all returning and the early buzz is very positive.

· MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN - Based on a Clive Barker short story, this gorefest featuring Brooke Shields and Vinnie Jones about a photographer trying to nab a serial killer could turn out to be a major sleeper. On the other hand, it could end up being as cheesy as its title implies.

· SON OF RAMBOW - This low-budget British fantasy effort might be too heady for children to absorb, even if the leads are elementary school-aged boys. A bully and an imaginative doormat become unlikely friends and collaborate on their own guerrilla remake of "Rambo: First Blood."

May 22

· INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL - After nearly two decades, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and leading man Harrison Ford resuscitate the legendary action/adventure franchise. The first and third were classics and the fourth includes the return of Karen Allen as Indy's feisty, long-lost love interest Marion. Everyone's hopes are way high.

May 30

· SEX AND THE CITY: THE MOVIE - The final episode of the popular and acclaimed HBO series ended with more of a whimper than a bang. While the details of the film's plot have been a closely guarded secret, insiders have confirmed that there will be major fireworks, cat fighting and some level of closure. Let's hope someone somewhere does the same exact thing with "The Sopranos."

June 6

· DON'T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN - The good news: leading man Adam Sandler co-wrote the screenplay with reigning King of Comedy Judd Apatow. The bad news: it stars Sandler as a Middle Eastern man assuming a fake identity and starting a new life in New York City. This is potentially touchy material and will end up being a major flop or a huge smash. Given Sandler and Apatow's track records, the latter is more likely.

· KUNG FU PANDA - Jack Black voices the title character, an ill-prepared slacker who must rescue his village from impending doom. The animated adventure features an impressive supporting cast including Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen and Ian McShane.

June 13

· THE INCREDIBLE HULK - What started out as a sequel to Ang Lee's disastrous original was overhauled by lead Edward Norton and turned into more of a remake. Anything will be better than Lee's huge misstep and with Norton replacing the always unimpressive Eric Bana, we can at least count on better acting.

June 20

· GET SMART - Most of the revampings of '60s TV shows have been ill-conceived and poorly executed, but this one looks promising. Steve Carell is a perfect choice for Smart, a dedicated, but largely inept secret agent. The great unknown factor lies in the performance of Anne Hathaway as sidekick Agent 99. Hathaway can certainly do cute, but deadpan funny is a much tougher beast.

· LOVE GURU - For his first live-action project in five years, Mike Myers plays Pitka, a new age/self-help mystic who specializes in repairing romances of the rich and famous. The supporting cast includes Ben Kingsley, Justin Timberlake, Jessica Alba, Jessica Simpson and "Mini-Me" himself, Verne Troyer.

June 27

· WALL-E - Leave it to Pixar to come up with yet another groundbreaking animated fantasy. However, this one might be a tough sell. In a post-Apocalyptic world, a robot (which looks a lot like Johnny 5 from "Short Circuit"), must figure out how to restore life to planet Earth. Most of the first act is presented without any dialogue. This will be a real attention span test for the tots.

· WANTED - Based on the graphic novel, "Wanted" is the first English language effort from Timur Bekmambetov, the Russian genius behind the "Night Watch" vampire flicks. Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie play professional assassins who recruit a "Neo" type greenhorn (James McAvoy). Even if the plot is shaky, the visual effects previewed in the trailer indicate it to be a tour de force.

July 2

· HANCOCK - Summer action staple Will Smith is the title character, a reluctant, politically incorrect and recently fallen superhero who hires a public relations agent (Jason Bateman) to help him with his tarnished image. The trailer looks like "The Pursuit of Happyness" meets "Men in Black" and the unknown quotient is director Peter Berg ("The Kingdom"), a practitioner of style overkill.

July 11

· HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY - The first "Hellboy" was that rare comic-book adaptation that had as much brain as brawn. The second looks to be more of the same - in a good way. Instead of the Nazis, the enemy is an army of "Transformer" like robots led by a white-haired undead dude. Most of the original cast returns as does the superb director Guillermo del Toro.

July 18

· THE DARK KNIGHT - After the death of Heath Ledger (as The Joker), this second project featuring Christian Bale as Batman took on a whole new meaning. Early reports indicate that Ledger steals every scene and owns the movie, which allows his career to end on a bittersweet up note. Maggie Gyllenhaal replaces Katie Holmes as Batman/Bruce Wayne's principal love interest.

· MAMMA MIA! - The early buzz on this screen adaptation of the Abba-inspired smash musical is not good. Many die-hard fans feel that Meryl Streep is simply too old for the part of Donna and Amanda Seyfried doesn't have the chops to pull off the role of her daughter Sophie. Having Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan in supporting roles may help, but not enough to prevent a huge flop.

July 25

· STEP BROTHERS - "Talladega Nights" co-stars Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly reunite in yet another Judd Apatow production. When their respective single parents meet and get hitched, the two grown men engage in some major sibling rivalry shenanigans.

Aug. 1

· SWING VOTE - Smacking of his acclaimed role in "The Upside of Anger" Kevin Costner plays a boozing, yet dedicated single father who finds himself being wooed by opposite sides that fight for his deciding vote in a presidential election. The timing for the movie is perfect. If played cutesy and inspirational, it could crash and burn. If dark and scathing, it might just be a major winner.

· THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR - The third installment in what has been a mostly unimpressive franchise looks to be more of the same - in a bad way. Brendan Fraser returns as explorer Rick O'Connell who heads to Asia to battle a resurrected emperor (Jet Li). Maria Bello replaces Rachel Weisz as O'Connell's wife and fellow traveler.

· THE ROCKER - Rainn Wilson ("The Office") plays a has-been '80s hair band drummer who gets a second chance at rock immortality when his high school nephew lets him join his band. Those who have seen it have described it as "This is Spinal Tap" meets "School of Rock."

Aug. 8

· AMERICAN TEEN - Screened for the press months in advance, this spellbinding documentary from director Nanette Burstein chronicles the lives of four very different Indiana high school students during their senior year.

· EAGLE EYE - Shia LeBeouf reunites with his "Disturbia" director D.J. Caruso in this action thriller about a slacker teen and a single mom (Michelle Monaghan) who reluctantly join a terrorist cell in order to clear their names for a murder they didn't commit.

· PINEAPPLE EXPRESS - The Judd Apatow juggernaut continues with this action comedy about a stoner (Seth Rogen) and his dealer (James Franco) who must take it on the lam after one of them witnesses a corrupt cop committing a murder.

· SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS 2 - Despite the clunky title and the obvious teen-girl content, the first SOTTP was a surprise critical and box-office success. As two of the four lead cast members (Blake Lively and America Ferrera) are now starring in popular TV shows, it's more than likely the sequel (now set at various colleges) will post decent, if not very strong numbers.

Aug. 15

· TROPIC THUNDER - Ben Stiller wrote and directed this action/comedy spoof about three prima donna actors (Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr.) trying to make a Vietnam war movie. The trailer has riffs on "Apocalypse Now," "We Were Soldiers," "Forrest Gump" and "Rambo" and appears to strike an ideal balance between the ridiculous and the sublime.

· THE ACCIDENTAL HUSBAND - After a "love doctor" radio talk host (Uma Thurman) talks his fiancée into dumping him, jilted suitor fireman (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) sets out for revenge. Colin Firth co-stars as Thurman's boyfriend caught in the middle. It has all the trappings of the typical chick-flick rom-com and shades of Thurman's own "The Truth about Cats & Dogs."

· THE INTERNATIONAL - High-level bank fraud and illicit international arms dealing provides the backdrop for his espionage thriller from director Tom Tykwer ("Run, Lola, Run"). Clive Owen plays an Interpol agent who teams with a Manhattan deputy D.A. (played by Naomi Watts) to find the truth behind the possible conspiracy.

· STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS - Creator George Lucas abandons Fox for Warner Brothers in the first of what will likely be many animated spin-offs from the two trilogies. Being as this flick is based on one of the weakest in the lot ("Episode II - Attack of the Clones"), expectations are low, save for the "Star Wars" faithful already getting in line to buy tickets.

Aug. 22

· FLY ME TO THE MOON - This 3-D animated adventure could be a great vehicle to teach the tots as well as entertain them. Three house flies stow away on the historic 1969 Apollo 11 mission. Thinking the trip will last mere minutes, the flies and their earth-bound families do a collective freak out when they realize it will be closer to a week.

· HAMLET 2 - In an effort to save his department's drama class, a high school teacher (Steve Coogan) pens a sequel to Shakespeare's most famous work in the hopes it will receive national attention. The early buzz is mixed and those who have liked it are comparing it to Christopher Guest's classic "Waiting for Guffman."

· THE HOUSE BUNNY aka I KNOW WHAT BOYS LIKE - "American Idol's" Katharine McPhee makes her big screen debut in this comedy about a fallen Playboy bunny (Anna Faris) who ends up in a sorority house whose seven members are "socially challenged." Sounds a lot like last year's dismal "Sydney White," itself a modern-day spin on "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves."

· WILD CHILD - Emma Roberts grows up some more and hopes to erase "Nancy Drew" from our collective memories. Smacking of "The House Bunny," Roberts plays a rambunctious Malibu teen whose father ships her off to a stuffy New England boarding school where she immediately shakes up the status quo and gets involved in a love triangle.