Good riddance to a spring that subjected us to "Basic Instinct 2," "Date Movie" and "Running Scared" because the summer movie season officially begins with "Mission: Impossible III." While your mission is to make it to the end of August without wasting your time in too many big-budget stinkers, our mission is to give you the lowdown on which of the biggest summer releases will be sizzlers and which will be duds. So buckle up, because this page will self-destruct in 3 2 1
Mission: To keep the "M:I" franchise going and tell a story that isn't too confusing--and to prove Cruise can still a carry a movie despite his offscreen antics.
Outlook: We'll never get sick of that theme music, and the third installment in the franchise is downright explosive. The film is a thrilling feature debut for director J.J. Abrams ("Lost," "Alias"), instilling genuine personality into these action heroes and providing a cold, villainous performance from Best Actor winner Philip Seymour Hoffman. Let's hope all the summer blockbusters are this much fun.
Mission: To adapt the wildly popular novel and leave no more than half of the audience whining, "The book was way better."
Outlook: The movie looks almost too generically action-packed, and it remains to be seen if fans of the book will find suspense in twists they'll be expecting. But Tom Hanks is one of the most reliable stars in the biz, and "The Da Vinci Code" is likely to be a smash.
5/26: X-Men: The Last Stand
Mission: To maintain the momentum of "X2" without director Bryan Singer--who jumped ship to direct "Superman Returns," leaving the latest installment of the comic book superheroes in the hands of "Rush Hour 2" director Brett Ratner.
Outlook: Ratner isn't exactly a master of style, but "The Last Stand" looks to at least keep up the adrenaline levels of the last "X Men" flick.
6/2: The Break-Up
Mission: To continue Jennifer Aniston's ascent to leading lady status, to replicate Vaughn's "Wedding Crashers" success and do Chicago proud with all of its on-location scenery.
Outlook: As if we needed any other reason to see this--the Vaughnifer gossip, shots of Chicago and Jon Favreau appearing as Vaughn's sidekick are plenty--"The Break Up" actually looks like a funny and semi-believable romantic comedy.
6/28: Superman Returns
Outlook: Superfans may never be impressed by anything but the Christopher Reeve original, but "Superman Returns" should deliver as a solid summer popcorn flick with a well-chosen cast. At the very least, it will be better than "Batman Returns."
Mission: To recapture the freewheeling spirit of the first "Pirates" movie, to let Depp keep up his drunken demeanor as Captain Jack Sparrow, and to find the same treasure at the box office.
Outlook: Though possibly a bit less swashbuckling than "The Curse of the Black Pearl," "Dead Man's Chest" looks like just as much fun. All hands on deck.
7/21: Clerks II
Mission: To do justice to the fans who have been craving this sequel for over a decade and to rekindle our love for the Kevin Smith who did "Mallrats," not "Jersey Girl."
Outlook: This might not be the most necessary sequel, but with an amusing trailer that seems to indicate a return to form for Smith, we're looking forward to seeing Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) back behind the counter.
Outlook: Ferrell as a Southern NASCAR driver? Sacha Baron Cohen as a gay French Formula One driver? John C. Reilly as a trusty sidekick, a la "Boogie Nights"? This looks like a surefire winner to us, likely to spark the kind of overused inside jokes inspired by "Anchorman."
8/9: World Trade Center
Mission: To tell the true story of John McLoughlin and William J. Jimeno, the last two survivors taken from Ground Zero.
Outlook: The excellent "United 93" proves that a 9/11 film can be delivered respectfully. Rumor has it that the yet-to-be-seen trailer for "World Trade Center" indicates a stronger attempt at a "message of hope" than the hard-hitting "United 93," shot in a documentary style with no familiar actors. The presence of Nicolas Cage, Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhaal in "WTC" will allow audiences the slight comfort that, at least while they're in the theater, it's just a movie.
8/18: Snakes on a Plane
Mission: To succeed as a film so inherently stupid that people will see it just to find out how ridiculous it is.
Outlook: Whatever cracks you up more--the buzz generated behind a movie expected to be just plain silly, the bloggers coming up with imaginary sequels like "Sharks on a Roller Coaster" and "Camels on a Submarine" or the fact that "Snakes on a Plane" is an unintentional acronym for SOAP--this might just be the most anticipated movie of the summer. Can't wait.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun