Summer movies set to blow up the big screen

Wilfredo Reyes

Hollywood loves summer. Some of the biggest explosions, fastest car chases and the most intense special effects always find their way to the big screen in the sunny season. As the temperature rises, crowds turn to the air-conditioned comfort of the movie theater and escape for a few hours into an exciting, intense and often purely entertaining summer cinematic experience. Though typically not the type of deep, complex, end-of-the-year films that emerge to slip in for an Oscar, summer movies have their own redeeming qualities and are often smashing the box office rather than wooing the Academy. They are the movies for the people and the weekend competition is cutthroat. Here is a quick rundown on ten of the summer’s top prospects.

Granted, summer does not technically start until June 20 (though judging by the weather it may feel like summer a lot earlier) but in the movie industry, May and early June have a history of big releases. “Gladiator” and “Pearl Harbor” are some of the most recent non-summer summer hits. With “Spiderman,” “Men in Black II” and the long awaited “Star Wars Episode II,” this pre-summer period has potential to be better than ever.

“Spiderman” (May 3)

In the latest comic book adaptation to hit the big screen, Tobey Maguire stars as the superhero Spiderman/Peter Parker, who receives miraculous powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider. Fascinated by this development, he begins to use these powers for financial gain until a criminal he failed to stop kills his uncle, causing Spiderman to devote himself to crime fighting. His nemesis is Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) who, like Parker, has been altered and granted super powers. Spiderman has to deal with all this and compete for the affections of Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) with classmate Harry Osborn, who happens to be the son of the Green Goblin’s alter ego.

“Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” (May 16)

After three long years, the second installment of George Lucas’ new “Star Wars” trilogy is finished and hits theaters in four short weeks. Young Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) has grown up and his Jedi training from Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan Macgregor) is in full swing. After saving ex-queen, now-senator of Naboo, Padme (the beautiful Natalie Portman), from an assassination attempt, a forbidden love blossoms amidst the childhood friends. This love grows while a war is waged involving lots of Jedi, Jango Fett (Boba’s father) and a host of clones. Behind all this, a dark Sith Lord plots the final move that will bring him control of the galaxy.

“Men in Black II” (June 3)

The plot around MiB II is very hush-hush. Jay (Will Smith) is faced with an extraterrestrial problem and he seeks help by restoring the memory of former mentor, Kay (Tommy Lee Jones). It centers around an intergalactic war that draws the agents off Earth and into the fray. Elle (Linda Fiorentino) also returns and the villainess is played by Lara Flynn Boyle. Patrick Warburton, Johnny Knoxville and Rosario Dawson fill out the rest of the cast.

“Bourne Identity” (June 14)

This Matt Damon spy thriller is based on the Robert Ludlum book of the same title. Jason Bourne washes up on the Mediterranean shore with no memory and a bullet-riddled body. He must sort out his identity and his mission with only a few clues- initials, evidence of plastic surgery and a microfilm surgically implanted beneath his skin. After finding his way to a Swiss bank account and a small fortune, Bourne must face the world’s top assassin while racing to unravel his past. Of course, only a woman can help him.

“Lilo and Stitch” (June 21)

Disney’s latest summer movie introduces audiences to Lilo (Daveigh Chase), a young Hawaiian girl who takes in an ugly “dog,” Stitch (Christopher Michael Sanders), to cure her loneliness. In reality, Stitch is a genetic experiment from an alien planet that escaped and crashed on Earth. The main story line follows Lilo and her love for Stitch, which brings him to finally care for another being. Also featured are the first ever Disney cameos; from “Aladdin” to “Beauty and the Beast,” Stitch has a run-in with all kinds of classic scenes. Tia Carrere, Ving Rhames and Jason Scott Lee also provide voices.

“Reign of Fire” (July 12)

In London, a beast is awakened from a primitive slumber and sets about to destroy humanity in order to have the planet for herself and her offspring. Twelve years later, Quinn (Christian Bale) is in charge of defending his small community from these fire-breathing monsters in this post-apocalyptic action movie. An American “Dragonslayer” (Matthew McConaughey) arrives on the scene with an innovative way to destroy their enemy and save humanity.

“Austin Powers III” (July 26)

Like “Star Wars” and “Men in Black,” “Austin Powers” has a sequel coming out this summer. Mike Meyers comes back in all his old roles along with the new villain, Goldmember. Expect plenty of time-travelling, a kidnapping of Powers’ father, Nigel Powers and a stop in the ’70s to seek help from his latest squeeze, Foxy Cleopatra (Beyonce Knowles).

“XXX” (Aug. 3)

Vin Diesel is ripped and now he is a spy “hired” by the government to battle evil in the form of the nihilistic Yorgi. Going from extreme sports athlete Xander Cage to super spy Triple X, he enlists the support of Samuel Jackson’s character, Gibbons, in order to save the world.

“Signs” (Aug. 3)

This movie examines the mysterious crop circles that are rumored to be extraterrestrial graffiti. Mel Gibson stars as a farmer (from nearby Bucks County, Pa.) whose fields have been experiencing this phenomenon and now he must determine the source amidst the media swarm that accompanies it. Joaquin Phoenix and the seventh Culkin sibling, Rory, also star.