Sizzlin' Summer Blockbusters

This undated photo provided by Warner Bros., shows actor Brandon Routh as Superman in the 2006 film "Superman Returns." Borrowing from the look and style of the Christopher Reeve "Superman" franchise that took flight in 1978, "Superman Returns" also follows that movie's pattern in casting. (AP Photo/Warner Bros., David James) AP/Warner Bros.

The 2006 summer movie season has gotten off to a great start.

We've seen Tom Cruise fall off buildings and run at lightening speed away from blazing explosions, a floppy-haired Tom Hanks trot the globe solving cryptic clues about the Holy Grail, and Hugh Jackman sharpen his mutant claws to the tune of more than $100 million in box office ticket sales.

But wait! There are many more delicious summer movies coming to a theater near you.

After an 8 percent drop in movie attendance last year, Hollywood is positioned for a solid summer. Attendance is running about 1 percent ahead of last year's, with what looks like a solid crop of blockbusters still to come, including the Warner Bros. adventure "Superman Returns" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

On June 9, "A Prairie Home Companion," a Robert Altman comedy starring Meryl Streep and Lindsay Lohan, opens opposite "Cars," the latest family comedy from Pixar Animation Studios.

The Altman film cost just under $10 million to make and is about a fictitious radio show that struggles to survive in the age of television. Lohan plays a mopey teenager who pens suicide poetry, Streep plays her mother, a country singer. The film is expected have an automatic audience due to the success of Garrison Keillor's radio show, on which the movie was based.

"Cars," which has been received fairly well by critics, is about a racecar named Lightning McQueen and the lesson he learns traveling along Route 66. The film is directed by John Lasseter, who brought us the "Toy Story" and "A Bug's Life." Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, George Carlin and John Ratzenberger are among the all-star cast.

If you've been dying to see Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock on screen together since they were sweating bullets behind the wheel of a speeding bus in 1994's "Speed," then you've got a movie to see June 16. Although — and you've been warned — the trailer does suggest that they're not actually on screen together because their characters are apparently living two years apart and corresponding only by letters. Click here to see the trailer.

That same weekend, Jack Black returns with a new comedy, "Nacho Libre," which comes from director Jared Hess of "Napoleon Dynamite" fame.

In Hess' Hollywood debut, Black plays a cook who moonlights as a wrestler to raise money for orphans and is seen prancing around in primary-colored tights and a cape. It's based on the true story of Mexican fighter "Fray Tormenta," or Brother Storm, a real Roman Catholic cleric who wrestled in more than 4,000 bouts to raise money for his orphanage.

Speaking of primary-colored tights, the much anticipated action-thriller "Superman Returns" comes June 28, nearly 20 years after the last "Superman" film and stars newcomer Brandon Routh as the man of steel. It's a break out role for a fresh-faced kid whose prior acting gigs include a flurry of TV roles. "X-Men" director Bryan Singer helms the film which also stars Kevin Spacey as Lex Luther and Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane.

Meryl Streep also stars in "The Devil Wears Prada," which opens June 30 and is based on a 2003 best-selling novel by Lauren Weisberger. Streep stars as a high-powered magazine editor (a character purportedly based on real-life Vogue editor Anna Wintour) who torments her new assistant (Anne Hathaway).

In Disney's "Pirates of Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," opening July 7, Captain Jack (Johnny Depp) sets sail for the second installment in the franchise. Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom return for the anticipated sequel which was filmed in the Bahamas along with the third installment that is due next year. "Dead Men's Chest" premieres a little more than a week after potential blockbuster "Superman Returns."

Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx play detectives who go undercover to breakup a Florida drug ring in "Miami Vice" which hits theaters July 28. It's directed by Michael Mann (2004's "Collateral") who says his adaptation is much grittier than the '80s TV show starring Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas, so there's not a flamingo-pink blazer in site.

Oliver Stone's much-talked about film "World Trade Center" debuts on Aug. 11 and tells the true story of the last two Port Authority officers rescued from the rubble at Ground Zero.

Much like the release of "United 93" by Universal Pictures in May, the "Is it too soon?" controversy overshadows this film, which features big names like Nicolas Cage, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Maria Bello. A gripping trailer for the film began playing in theaters last month. Click here to view it.
  • Amy Bonawitz

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