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SUMMER MOVIE PREVIEW: Hollywood delivers big names, big action this season

Photo by Brian Giandelone

Photo by Brian Giandelone

Although the nights are still chilly and the calendar would say otherwise, next week marks the official start of the movie industry's coveted summer season. Unlike recent past years, this roster of titles isn't top heavy with sequels, which might be good news. While Hollywood is still banking mostly on comedies, action flicks and familiar brand names, it appears that it is at least trying to avoid repetition and is taking chances with new material and unproven, potential future franchises.

As always, all opening dates are subject to change.

May 7

* Babies -- Conveniently tied-in with the Mother's Day holiday, this documentary chronicles the lives of four newborns over the course of a year.

* Casino Jack and the United States of Money -- D.C. power lobbyist Jack Abramoff is the subject of what will likely be a muckraking documentary from director Alex Gibney.

* Iron Man 2 -- Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell team up with the returning Gwyneth Paltrow and title character Robert Downey Jr. in the action/adventure sequel.

* Mother and Child -- Annette Bening, Naomi Watts and Kerry Washington play the leads in this weepy chick-flick drama about three women and their stories about adoption.

May 14

* Letters to Juliet -- Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave star in this variation on "Under the Tuscan Sun" about a girl looking for answers in the Italian town of Verona.

* Robin Hood -- Director Ridley Scott and lead Russell Crowe join forces yet again in the latest version of the classic adventure, which looks a lot more like a retooling of "Gladiator."

May 21

* MacGruber -- Action/Spy spoof on the "classic" TV show "MacGyver" with Will Forte in the title role and his "SNL" co-star Kristen Wiig as his romantic interest. Val Kilmer plays the evil foil.

* The Secret in Their Eyes -- This surprise winner of this year's Best Foreign Language Academy Award is a murder thriller set in Spain.

* Shrek Forever After -- The returning principal cast is joined by many guest star voices in the fourth (and supposedly last) installment of the hugely successful animated franchise.

May 27

* Sex and the City 2 -- Dividing time between New York and Morocco, the follow-up to the unimpressive original should again provide groups of women a reason for another girls' night out.

May 28

* George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead -- What can you say? It's another Romero movie about zombies. This one will be available on demand a month before it hits theaters.

* Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time -- Jake Gyllenhaal bulked up to play the Middle Eastern title character in this action adventure based on an enormously popular video game.

June 4

* Get Him to the Greek -- The latest effort from the Judd Apatow stable stars Jonah Hill as a record company intern charged with transporting a rock star (Russell Brand) to an L.A. concert.

* Killers -- Shamelessly aping "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher play a suburban married couple, one of whom is a secret high-paid assassin.

* Marmaduke -- Owen Wilson voices the title canine character in this live-action family comedy based on the long-running comic strip.

* Ondine -- Recalling "The Secret of Roan Inish," this romantic fantasy from director Neil Jordan stars Colin Farrell as an Irish fisherman who believes he has just found a mermaid in his nets.

* Splice -- Adrien Brody and the recently MIA Sarah Polley star as scientists in this sci-fi/horror thriller that shows what can go wrong when folks try to spawn hybrid species.

June 11

* The A-Team -- The presence of Liam Neeson in the principal cast indicates this might be something more than just a big-screen adaptation of the cheesy '80s TV adventure series.

* Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky -- The third film in as many years featuring the iconic fashion designer covers the period in her life when she had an affair with the Russian composer.

* The Karate Kid -- Will Smith and his wife Jada are producers for this remake, which features their son Jaden in the title role and Jackie Chan as his wise mentor.

June 18

* Jonah Hex -- Josh Brolin plays the title character, a bounty hunter working for the CIA who is charged with hunting down an international terrorist (John Malkovich).

* Toy Story 3 -- The highly-anticipated third installment of the animated franchise finds Woody, Buzz and the others being dumped at a day care center when their owner Andy leaves for college.

June 25

* Grown-Ups -- Adam Sandler and most of his off-screen cronies team up for what will surely be an exercise in excessive man-child hi-jinx and lots of adolescent bathroom humor.

* Knight and Day -- James Mangold directs Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz -- both playing crazy -- in what looks to be a yet another variation on "Mr. and Mrs. Smith."

June 30

* The Twilight Saga: Eclipse -- If the first two installments were any kind of indicators, "Eclipse" will be long, slow, boring and sullen and will absolutely thrill its worldwide female fan base.

July 2

* I Am Love -- Tilda Swinton learned both Italian and Russian for her role as a woman who tries to repair her fractured family and opulent lifestyle after a series of unforeseen tragedies.

* The Last Airbender -- Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan attempts to put an end to his long losing streak with this Asian-flavored fantasy adventure with a no-name cast.

July 9

* Despicable Me -- In this truly bizarre looking animated adventure, Steve Carell voices an evil neighborhood loner whose plans to steal the moon are sidetracked by three orphaned girls.

* Predators -- The latest in the sci-fi franchise that began back in the '80s, this new installment stars Adrien Brody, Topher Grace and Laurence Fishburne as astronaut mercenaries.

July 16

* Inception -- Current "Batman" steward Christopher Nolan returns to "Memento" beginnings with this psychological thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page ("Juno").

* The Sorcerer's Apprentice -- Not to be confused with the Mickey Mouse character in "Fantasia," this action/fantasy stars Nicolas Cage, Alfred Molina and Monica Bellucci.

July 23

* Dinner for Schmucks -- "Austin Powers" director Jay Roach teams up with Steve Carell and Paul Rudd in what could be either a brilliant black comedy or a totally unfunny misfire.

* Ramona and Beezus -- Based on the series of feel-good best-sellers by Beverly Cleary, this family fantasy features newcomer Joey King and Selena Gomez in the title roles.

* Salt -- In a role originally earmarked for Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie plays the title character, a government spook who must go on the lam after she's accused of being a Russian spy.

July 30

* Adjustment Bureau -- Matt Damon and the impossibly beautiful Emily Blunt are each other's romantic interests in this loose adaptation of the obscure short story by Philip K. Dick.

* Beastly -- In this retooling of "Beauty and the Beast," Vanessa Hudgens and newcomer Alex Pettyfer play two New Yorkers brought together after an evil spell is cast on him by a witch.

* Cats & Dogs: Revenge of Kitty Galore -- The sequel to the nearly 10-year-old original that wasn't very good to begin with will likely appeal only to children and female pet owners.

* The Extra Man -- John C. Reilly, Katie Holmes and a treasure trove of supporting players star in this offbeat comedy about a Manhattan male escort who takes a new recruit under his wing.

* Get Low -- Shot on location in North Georgia, this period piece drama stars Robert Duvall as a dying man planning his own pre-death funeral. Co-stars include Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek.

* Morning Glory -- Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton play once-successful morning TV anchors whose show gets a big jolt courtesy of a new hot-shot producer played by Rachel McAdams.

Aug. 6

* The Other Guys -- Will Ferrell tries to recover from "Land of the Lost" and other recent turkeys in this mismatched cop/buddy comedy in which he's paired with Mark Wahlberg.

* Step Up 3-D -- With few of the original cast members returning, the third installment of the "Fame"-flavored franchise trades in its Baltimore setting for Paris.

Aug. 13

* Eat Pray Love -- Julia Roberts plays a recent disillusioned divorcee who tries to heal by taking a trip to India, where she quickly falls for the exotic Javier Bardem.

* The Expendables -- Sylvester Stallone wrote, directed and stars in this South American-based action adventure that could have just as easily been titled "Rambo V."

* Hubble 3-D -- This IMAX documentary about seven astronauts attempting to repair the Hubble space telescope should prove to be a huge chunk of eye candy.

* Scott Pilgrim vs. the World -- Michael Cera appears to be playing himself again in this comedy about a guy who must confront one girl's seven ex-boyfriends before he can win her heart.

Aug. 20

* Lottery Ticket -- Urban comedy starring singer Bow Wow about a city dweller who wins the lottery and tries to keep it a secret from the rest of the neighborhood during a three-day weekend.

* Nanny McPhee Returns -- Title character Emma Thompson reprises her role in this sequel to the family fantasy. New additions to the cast include Ralph Fiennes and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

* The Switch -- In the wake of the horrific "Back-Up Plan," Jennifer Aniston plays a 40-something woman who is unaware the sperm donor she used years earlier might be an old friend.

* Takers -- Matt Dillon stars as an idealistic detective bent on upsetting the plans of a band of bank robbers. Singers T.I. and Chris Brown, both recently in trouble with the law, play two of the thugs.

Aug. 27

* Centurion -- Set in the year 117, this action drama follows a group of Roman soldiers who must defend a fortress against overwhelming odds in what would eventually become Great Britain.

* Going the Distance -- Real life on-off couple Drew Barrymore and Justin Long play lovers attempting to keep their long-distance relationship alive.

* The Last Exorcism -- Not affiliated with the classic horror franchise, this faux-documentary is being marketed as something akin to "Paranormal Activity" or "The Blair Witch Project."