Televisions the size of small automobiles. Speaker systems that can rattle a house's foundations. Picture quality that offers more clarity than laser eye surgery.
With the kind of home entertainment set-ups available today — and with the amount of money poured into them by consumers — is there really any reason to head to crowded theaters for summer blockbuster films?
Here's a look at this season's most anticipated movies.
<ro>Mission Impossible 3
<lst>Starring Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Keri Russell. Directed by J.J. Abrams.
Release Date: May 5
The Plot: Tom Cruise returns to one of his signature roles, Secret Agent Ethan Hunt, in "Mission: Impossible III." Hunt confronts Owen Davian (Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman), an international weapons and information provider with no remorse and no conscience.
The Buzz: The film claims to be returning to the roots of the TV show with a full team returning and a more complicated story line than MI:2’s. But more to the point the film is a litmus test for whether or not Cruise is still a box office draw after going crazy over the past year. Of course with so many other factors like Philip Seymour Hoffman and “Alias”/”Lost” director and creator J.J. Abrams behind the camera maybe it's not.
<lst>Starring Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell, Jacinda Barrett, Emmy Rossum and Richard Dreyfuss. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen.
Release Date: May 12.
<bt>The Plot: Can a 1970s disaster flick find true happiness married to 21st century special effects? Stay tuned.
The Buzz: Irwin Allen’s “The Poseidon Adventure” was never about the special effects. The story of passengers trying to escape an upside-down cruise ship was a soggy melodrama at best. Still, it was eminently entertaining to watch and a huge financial success. Hopefully, the filmmakers of this remake have taken a cue from the original and not swamped the story with CGI tidal waves and explosions.
<ro>Over the Hedge
<lst>Starring the voices of Bruce Willis, Garry Shandling, William Shatner, Steve Carell. Directed by Tim Johnson and Karey Kirkpatrick.
Release Date: May 19.
The Plot: Based on the long-running comic strip, RJ the raccoon (Willis) owes a surly (and hungry) bear for stealing its food. So he scams a group of naïve woodland creatures — including possums (Shatner and singer Avril Lavigne), a squirrel (Carell) and a turtle (Shandling) — into helping him replace the grub by stealing from the suburban development just over the hedge. Trouble comes when the suburbs turn out to be anything but quiet.
The Buzz: The film ads boast “From the makers of Shrek,” but that’s misleading: “Over the Hedge” is more similar in humor and heart to Pixar’s animated classics than that overrated ogre. Shandling and Willis form a brilliant comedy team, and all the other star voices shine. Unlike some of recent soulless (RE: non-Pixar) CGI films, this one has plenty to say about ecology, consumerism, and self-identity — not bad for a movie about a bunch of animals digging through the trash.
<ro>“The Da Vinci Code”
<lst>Starring Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou and Paul Bettany. Directed by Ron Howard.
Release Date: May 19.
<bt>The Plot: Based on the best-selling novel by Dan Brown, this summer movie has a recipe for success.
The Buzz: “The Da Vinci Code” is all about the ingredients. First, take a best-selling thriller about a centuries-old secret hidden in Da Vinci paintings, mix with America’s favorite actor (two-time Oscar-winner Hanks), stir in a script by Akiva Goldsman (“A Beautiful Mind,” “Cinderella Man”) and fold in direction by Howard (“Apollo 13,” A Beautiful Mind”). You should have something that audiences will want to eat up. If “The DaVinci Code” fails to entertain, then Hollywood should just close the kitchen for good.
<ro>X-Men: The Last Stand
<lst>Starring Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman and Ian McKellan. Directed by Brett Ratner.
Release Date: May 26
The Plot: In X-Men: The Last Stand, the “final” chapter in the X-Men motion picture trilogy, a "cure" for mutancy threatens to alter the course of history. For the first time, mutants have a choice: retain their uniqueness, though it isolates and alienates them, or give up their powers and become human. Fighting ensues.
The Buzz: Though the shoot was reportedly plagued with problems the cast and crew of X-Men 3 come out united. There was some doubt over whether new director Brett Ratner could fill Bryan Singer’s sizable shoes but the trailers and reports from those in the know show he has done a pretty impressive job with an ever increasing cast this time including mutants such as Beast and Kitty Pryde. Expect more fighting, action and special effects than before along with that healthy dose of tight leather outfits.
<lst>Starring Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Anniston, Jon Favreau, Joey Lauren Adams and Judy Davis. Directed by Peyton Reed.
Release Date: June 2.
<bt>The Plot: Real-life celeb couple Vaughn and Anniston play duo who split painfully and comedically.
The Buzz: Anyone who’s been there can sympathize with the romantic break-up, an emotionally painful experience rife with comic possibilities. Much has been made about the chemistry between the two leads in promoting this film. Vaughn is a master at playing the lovable clod and Anniston has a sharp edge to her comedy (think “Office Space”). The combo should make for the summer’s best date movie. “See honey, we’re much better off than them.”
<lst>Starring Owen Wilson, George Carlin and Paul Newman. Directed by John Lasseter.
Release Date: June 9
The Plot: Lightning McQueen (Wilson) is a cocky, rookie race car. He crashes into Radiator Springs, destroying most of the inhabitants' belongings on his way to a race. In order to make up for what he did he is sentenced to community service. Life lessons and PIXAR fun follow.
The Buzz: In the incredibly unlikely event that this movie is bad and doesn’t do well there are going to be a lot of disappointed kids out there but even more disappointed Disney executives since they paid $7.4 billion dollars for PIXAR in January. Of course the PIXAR/Disney combination has yet to fall short so why should they start now. “Cars” is the last movie on the current distribution agreementment.
<lst>Starring Jack Black. Directed by Jared Hess.
Release Date: June 16.
The Plot: Yawn…ANOTHER Mexican monk chef by day who’s secretly a luchador and wrestles at night to raise money for children at the orphanage where he was raised? Do these things come off the assembly line or what?
The Buzz: There are two litmus tests for potential “Nacho Libre” viewers. First question: do you giggle like a schoolgirl every time you see Jack Black’s barrel chest covered with teal wrestling tights? Second question: are you or have you ever been in the cult that worships every line of “Napoleon Dynamite?” If it’s yes and yes, then this movie might just work for you. From a box office perspective, it will be interesting to see if “from the makers of ‘Napoleon Dynamite’” carries as much clout as actually having Mr. Dynamite himself in your movie — as the recent “Benchwarmers” did, where Jon Heder’s presence earned an awful film some legit coin.
<lst>Starring Adam Sandler, Kate Beckinsale, Sean Astin and Christopher Walken. Directed by Frank Coraci.
Release Date: June 23.
<bt>The Plot: A put-upon father finds a TV remote that allows him to control the world.
The Buzz: Never bet against a Sandler comedy. Never. OK, “The Longest Yard” was a gimmie, but the “Saturday Night Live” alum still knocks more balls out of the park than he strikes out — we’re not including dramas, of course. But Sandler being funny is a safe bet. He’s honed his everyman-against-the-universe persona into comic gold. This time around, he’s finding laughs in a universal remote that gives him the power to fast-forward, rewind or pause the real world. While this treads similar ground as Jim Carrey’s “Bruce Almighty,” Sandler’s comedy tends to play a bit more down to earth.
<ro>The Devil Wears Prada
<lst> Starring Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker, Emily Blunt, and Adrian Grenier. Directed by David Frankel.
Release Date: June 30.
The Plot: Based on the best seller of the same name, this cynical comedy stars Streep as fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly and Hathaway as her put-upon new assistant.
The Buzz: The book was a literary smash because it was viewed as a veiled tell-all about author Lauren Weisberger’s time at Vogue magazine. The film promises to capture some of the novel’s outlandish behavior; think of it as “Swimming with Sharks” set in the New York fashion industry. The cast is great, the director is a “Sex and the City” veteran, and any film that gets Streep in ferocious diva mode is worth a look.
<lst>Starring Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, Parker Posey and Eva Marie Saint. Directed by Bryan Singer.
Release Date: June 30.
<bt>The Plot: Warner Bros. and DC Comics attempt to revive flagship superhero franchise with unknown lead, “X-Men” director and Oscar-winning villain.
The Buzz: Superman was not only the first ever superhero, but, thanks to Christopher Reeve’s four turns in cape and tights, he was the character that established the genre of blockbuster superhero flicks. The last son of Krypton’s absence from the big screen has been sorely missed. Newcomer Routh looks the part of the "alpha" superhero. Director Singer breathed life into two “X-Men” films by balancing special effects with strong character interplay. Throw in Spacey as villain Lex Luthor — anyone remember his cameo as Dr. Evil in “Goldmember?” — you get the summer’s most anticipated film.
<ro>Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
<lst>Starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush and Bill Nighy.
Release Date: July 7.
<bt>The Plot: This sequel hopes to recapture the magic of the surprise hit of 2003.
The Buzz: Some sequels, when you hear about them, you know they aren’t going to work. “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” succeeded because audiences had low expectations. A pirate movie based on an amusement park ride, how is that going to be good? No one anticipated Depp’s scene-stealing turn as Capt. Jack Sparrow. This time around, with all the cast returning, where’s the surprise? Will Depp’s shenanigans be enough to carry the film? Probably not.
<ro>You, Me and Dupree
<lst>Starring Matt Dillon, Kate Hudson and Owen Wilson.
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo.
Release Date: July 14.
The Plot: Remember that old “SNL” sketch with John Belushi called “The Thing that Wouldn’t Leave?” Meet Randy Dupree (Wilson), a deadbeat who ends up crashing on the couch of his best friend Carl (Dillon) and new bride Molly (Hudson). Three quickly becomes a crowd, and the squirm-worthy fun begins.
The Buzz: Wilson is coming off the comedic high of last year’s “Wedding Crashers,” Dillon is red-hot after “Crash,” and Hudson is a proven winner in light comedy. The writer/directors are veterans of the much-acclaimed TV comedy “Arrested Development.” This could be Wilson’s “What About Bob?”, but the real question is whether he’ll be able to turn either of his co-stars into the comedic foil he’s relied on in the past — like Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and brother Luke.
<ro>Lady in the Water
<lst>Starring Paul Giamatti and Bryce Dallas Howard. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
Release Date: July 21
The Plot: Cleveland Heep (Giamatti) rescues a mysterious young woman (Howard) and discovers she is actually a narf, a character from a bedtime story who is trying to make the journey from our world back to hers. As Cleveland falls in love with the woman, he works together with the tenants to protect his new fragile friend from the deadly creatures that are determined to prevent her from returning home.
The Buzz: Director Shyamalan says this movie is based on a bedtime story he tells his children and is different from his other films. But with mythical creatures, a strange girl and a collection of characters it seems all the mystery and suspense of his previous films are going to be present here to. “The Sixth Sense” was Shyamalan’s last true hit, but all his films have had a sort of eerie greatness, maybe this one do both.
<ro>My Super Ex-Girlfriend
<lst> Starring Uma Thurman, Luke Wilson, Anna Faris, and Eddie Izzard. Directed by Ivan Reitman.
Release Date: July 21.
The Plot: Matt Saunders (Wilson) dumps his girlfriend, Jenny Johnson, for being too needy. But Jenny (Thurman) turns out to be G-Girl, a superheroine, and she exacts some revenge against Matt and his new girl (Faris) using her powers in this high-concept comedy.
The Buzz: Reitman can be very good (“Stripes,” “Dave,” “Ghostbusters”) or really, really off the comedic mark (“Evolution,” “Father’s Day”). Uma showed in “Kill Bill” that she can bring shades of empathy to even the most hard-edged revenge fantasy. Wilson’s proven to be a great romantic accomplice. But don’t expect a straight-forward relationship comedy here; there’s also secondary plot involving Izzard as a supervillain called Professor Bedlam. Oh joy.
<lst>Starring Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx. Directed by Michael Mann.
Release Date: July 28
The Plot: Ricardo Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) and Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell) return in a drug rattled, gritty Miami full of undercover detective work involving a drug ring, an Asian-Cuban girl and far too few pastel colored suits.
The Buzz: Director Michael Mann says that this version of Vice will be far removed from the television show (which he also helped create) with a far grittier and more real world look at Miami and drug-related crime. But who wants that? Bring on the bad hair and ugly suits. At least the action will be good, even though Mann can be hit or miss with that too.
<ro>Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (7)
<lst>Starring Will Ferrell, John Baker and Sacha Cohen. Directed by Adam McKay.
Release Date: August 4
The Plot: NASCAR car driver Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) is a national hero because of his "win at all costs" approach. When flamboyant French Formula One driver Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen) challenges him for the supremacy of NASCAR he must face the challenge and become the better driver.
The Buzz: Can Will Ferrell add another pop comedy icon to his ever-growing list of characters (Ron Burgundy and Alex Trebek to name two)? Probably. The pitch the producers gave when selling the movie was only six words, “Will Ferrell as a NASCAR driver.” That’s all we need here too.
<ro>World Trade Center
<lst>Starring Nicholas Cage and Jake Gyllenhaal. Directed by Oliver Stone.
Release Date: August 9
The Plot: The true story of John McLoughlin and William J. Jimeno, the last two survivors rescued from Ground Zero and the rescuers who got to them.
The Buzz: If “United 93” was the right way to make a movie about 9/11 then "World Trade Center" is probably the wrong way. Big time budget, big name actors and a director notorious for overblown, sentimental work. Hopefully it will avoid cheap emotions and express something real.
<ro>Snakes on a Plane
<lst> Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Margulies. Directed by David R. Ellis.
Release Date: August 18.
The Plot: What part of “Snakes on a Plane” didn’t you catch? This film literally features a variety of killer snakes being unleashed on a plane in an assassination attempt.
The Buzz: Even if the movie lacks bite, “Snakes” is already a phenomenon thanks to the geek fervor on the Internet regarding its outlandish plot, perfect title, and the involvement of the iconic Sam Jackson. Fan sites and fan-made trailers started appearing months before the film’s scheduled release, and some fan ideas were incorporated into newly shot scenes. Seeing this with a big, geeked-out crowd is mandatory, but one hopes the film is more “Anaconda” and less “Alien vs. Predator.”
<lst>Starring Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, and Jay and Silent Bob. Directed by Kevin Smith.
Release Date: August 18
The Plot: A calamity at Dante and Randall's shop, the same one from the first “Clerks” which took place ten years ago, sends them looking for new horizons - but they ultimately settle at Mooby's, a fictional Disney-McDonald's-style fast-food empire.
The Buzz: After the fiasco that was “Jersey Girl” Kevin Smith has returned to his low budget roots, sorta. The film only cost $5 million. Hopefully the smaller budget will rein in Smith and bring back the indie comic genius that departed us when Jay and Silent Bob struck back. The problem is it just looks like another juiced up sequel made to profit off of the originals cult popularity.