Road To Perdition (July 12): “Pray for Michael Sullivan.” So commands the mysterious tagline on the website for Road to Perdition, the sophomore film of Sam Mendes (American Beauty). Tom Hanks, in one of his less family-friendly roles, is the eponymous Michael Sullivan, a hit man who seeks revenge after he is betrayed and half of his family decimated. If the 1998 graphic novel of the same title by Max Allan Collins is any indication, the film should feature some stunning cinematography of noir-era Chicago. -TIH
The Importance of Being Earnest (May 17): Director Oliver Parker, who also shot Wilde’s droll An Ideal Husband for Miramax in 1999, reunites on Earnest with Husband’s Rupert Everett, teaming him this time with Reese Witherspoon, Dame Judi Dench and Colin Firth. Despite the film’s cumulative pedigree, its promotional footage looks weak; the movie should be early summer fluff.
Full Frontal (Aug. 2): Director Steven Soderbergh’s latest foray into the mosaic-of-L.A.-life genre has been described as a thematic follow-up to Soderbergh’s first (and still best) film sex, lies, and videotape. Considering his last three films have grossed a combined $433 million domestically, his track record has secured him a place atop Hollywood’s A-list; odd then, that apart from Julia Roberts and David Duchovny, Soderbergh has recruited a stable of B-list talent to star in his latest film (Catherine Keener, David Hyde Pierce and infamously unfamous Cultural Rhythms host Blair Underwood). Stories of Full Frontal’s filming also sound lacking in Hollywood slickness: a quick shooting schedule, occasional improvisation, and digital shooting all suggest that an indie attitude will assert itself onscreen.
Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (Aug. 7): The studio’s biggest commercial hit of the season is apt to be this sequal, which chronicles the further adventures of the pint-sized action duo seen in the original. - BJS
Windtalkers (June 14): In John Woo’s World War II drama about the Allies’ use of the Navajo language to convey messages, Nicolas Cage plays a Marine guarding a Navajo man involved in the operation. In recent summers, historical war movies like The Patriot and Saving Private Ryan have fared well at the box office, and Woo’s Face/Off and Mission: Impossible II have met with similar success. Whether Windtalkers will succeed is another matter; it appears to be a more serious endeavor than the stylish, bullet-clogged popcorn flicks Woo has concentrated on making until now.
The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course (July 12): After Emeril got a TV series, I should have expected that crocodile hunter Steve Irwin, another star from a third-tier cable channel, would net a star vehicle. Don’t expect any grisly battles, though; the movie’s rated PG.
Also around will be Pumpkin, in which Christina Ricci plays a sorority girl who falls for a handicapped boy; Igby Goes Down, which follows a rich-yet-dysfunctional family and which features such offbeat greats as Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Claire Danes and Susan Sarandon; and CQ, a film by Francis Ford Coppola’s son Roman, concerning a 1960s film director helming a sci-fi movie set in 2001. -BJS
The Sum of All Fears (May 31): In this newest installation of the Jack Ryan saga, Ben Affleck replaces Harrison Ford (Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games) as Ryan, a CIA analyst who’s tracking down bad guys in possession of an unlicensed nuclear weapon. If you like seeing professionally-made thrillers that you feel like you’ve seen before, you’ll like seeing this one.
The Emperor’s New Clothes (June 14): With a veteran TV director and novice screenwriters, this dodgy enterprise stars Ian Holm in this Prince and the Pauper affair. As Napoleon, he escapes from prison late in life and heads to France to reclaim his throne, leaving a double in his place (also Holm). But drama and wholesome highbrow romance derail his plans.