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Summer Films

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This could be a much quieter summer at the movies. Based on an unscientific assessment, there appear to be not only fewer films opening, but among them, fewer explosions and less wall-to-wall action. But popcorn vendors can relax: The season has some big-name guests -- Harry Potter, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp and Brüno -- whose stops at the multiplex should fill plenty of seats.

Ice Age - July 1
  • Ice Age - July 1

It will be laughs on both sides of the marital ceremony on June 5: A Las Vegas bachelor party turns typically insane in The Hangover, while John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph try to find the fun in pregnancy in Away We Go. Worrywarts Larry David and Woody Allen team up for humorous musings in Whatever Works (June 19); and Y Tu Mamá También's Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal reunite in Rudi y Cursi, a Mexican football comedy (June). The buzz is smokin' for Sacha Baron Cohen's Brüno, the "real-life" adventures of a gay Austrian fashion writer (July 10). And on July 31, Judd Apatow brings the funny and the male-bonding with Funny People; Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen star.

The full-on gun battles start July 1, when Michael Mann delivers Public Enemies, a shoot-'em-up bio-pic about Depression Era bank robber John Dillinger (Johnny Depp). G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra (Aug. 7) pits a live-action version of the little toy warrior against an evil organization seeking world domination. Guess Joe didn't make the cut for Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino's WWII actioner due out Aug. 21; Brad Pitt did, though.

Bruno - July 10
  • Bruno - July 10

And on the home front: An adaptation of Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper, about a kid with cancer, looks like a triple-hanky affair; Cameron Diaz and Abigail Breslin star (June 26). Foodies will rejoice (hopefully) as thespian Meryl Streep channels the late, great cook Julia Child, in Julia & Julia (Aug. 7). Imagine coming of age with a million other people: That's the story of Taking Woodstock, set at the historic music fest (Aug. 14).

Other intriguing features include The Hurt Locker (June 26), Kathryn Bigelow's drama set amid the Iraq war; and on Aug. 28, The Boat That Rocked, a fictional look at pirate-radio ships in the 1960s, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Summer lovin' will be in full swing with these adorable rom-com couples: Nia Vardalos and some Greek guy, in the holiday romance My Life in Ruins (June 5); Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, in The Proposal (June 19); and Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler, in The Ugly Truth (July 24).

For the indie-kids-in-love: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel team up for (500) Days of Summer, on July 17; the adaptation of the squirmy-funny hit novel I Love You, Beth Cooper hits screens on July 19; and Juno's Michael Cera stars in Paper Heart, a docu-hybrid directed by his real-life girlfriend Charlyne Yi, about whether true love exists (August).

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - July 15
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - July 15

Animation rules the kids' films this season. A Boy Scout and a cranky old man go on a wild adventure in Pixar's Up (May 29). And picture this: an elite team of spies who are also guinea pigs; see the chubby, furry crime-fighters for yourself in G-Force (July 24). On Aug. 14, from Japan's Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away) comes Ponyo, a tale about a friendship between a little boy and a fish that yearns to be a girl (Aug. 14).

Past summers have offered a surfeit of documentaries, but the pickings look lighter this year. Food, Inc. (June) is Robert Kenner's exposé of what corporately produced dreck we're eating. (Tip: Don't get the popcorn "butter.") In July, Soul Power revisits a 1974 concert in Zaire that paired R&B legends such as James Brown and B.B. King with African musicians. And filmmaker David Guggenheim warns It Might Get Loud, in his doc about the electric guitar featuring axemen Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White (August).

Even the ever-popular Remakes and Sequels category seems smaller this year. The 1970s Saturday-morning TV show, Land of the Lost, gets updated with digital effects and Will Ferrell (June 5). Also warping in from the 1970s on June 12 is the New York City subway drama, The Taking of Pelham 123; the remake stars Denzel Washington and John Travolta. Those angry shape-shifting car-monster-aliens are back in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (June 24); this will have explosions.

Julia & Julia - August 7
  • Julia & Julia - August 7

The premise behind the re-animated-for-the-third-time Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (July 1) should have both scientists and creationists fuming. The sixth -- and penultimate -- chapter of the Harry Potter saga, The Half-Blood Prince, opens July 15, when things get even more hairy for our boy wizard. And for fans of horror-franchise retreads, a two-fer on Aug. 28: Final Destination: Death Trip and H2 (as in the second version of Halloween 2).

There's a smattering of fresh chills for the steaming dog days: Sam Raimi (Evil Dead) returns to horror with Drag Me to Hell (May 29); and South Africans go head to head with criminally minded extraterrestrials in District 9 (Aug. 14). Some little movies bypass the 'Burgh entirely, so we can only hope for this one: Dead Snow, a Norwegian Nazi zombie horror comedy.

In June, Pittsburgh Filmmakers brings in Tyson, James Toback's documentary about the troubled boxer, as well as Atom Egoyan's new drama Adoration that finds a high school student using technology to riff on fears of terrorism. Booked for mid-summer: O' Horten, a spare Norwegian drama about a retiring train engineer; Anvil! The Story of Anvil, a doc about Canadian heavy metalers; and a new print of Fellini's Amacord.

The warmer weather means area drive-ins are open, and Pittsburghers can also walk to several city parks for outdoor films: The Cinema in the Park series returns on June 10, with family faves including Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar 2 and WALL*E. Two-wheelers will want to head for the International Bicycle Film Festival, screening at The Warhol July 2-3.

The Oaks Theater in Oakmont kicks off its annual Moonlit Matinees series of cult favorites with a local premiere of The Room, on May. 22. Other highlights include the Patrick Swayze neo-classic Roadhouse, Friday the 13th Part 3 in 3-D and the Vegas train-wreck, Showgirls. Scheduled for July 24 and 25 is an exploitation double-feature with the local premiere of the recent Black Devil Doll paired with the 1975 Rudy Ray Moore vehicle, Dolemite.

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