As summer's heat closes in, the season's movies open up HOT DAYS COOLS FLICKS

THE BALTIMORE SUN

As the poet and critic Fred M. Flintstone has so movingly written in his seminal essay, "Observations on Certain Themes of Anarchism in Mass Culture" (Partisan Review, June, 1992, pp. 567-789), "Yabba-dabba-doo."

That is to say: It's summer! Lighten up! Have some fun! The movies ahead are big, stupid, violent, loud, possibly two or three of them funny, and one or two of them actually good. Here's a preview of what's headed this way, following on the release of "Beverly Hills Cop III" and "The Flintstones" earlier this week.

On Friday, the action begins with Woody Harrelson in the first of two summer movies, "The Cowboy Way," in which he and cowpoke buddy Kiefer Sutherland mosey over to the East 40, the East 40 being the isle of Manhattan. It's a comedy-drama with horses on streets.

That same day Penny Marshall returns to the screen with "Renaissance Man," in which motivational expert Danny DeVito is charged with lifting the morale and IQs of an extremely dumb basic training platoon. Drill instructor Gregory Hines isn't happy about the dumpy civilian in Hawaiian shirts pitching in.

Then there's "Endless Summer II: The Journey Continues," which must set some sort of record for the biggest time period between original and sequel. Bruce Brown's first global surf-bum movie came out in 1966, 28 years ago. It's more of the same: two handsome L.A. dudes searching the world for the perfect wave. The original surfers weren't invited back, as they're now in their 50s!

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On June 10, the two big openers are "City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curly's Gold," in which Billy Crystal and Daniel Stern saddle up again to find their inner men, plus a lot of dough and Jack Palance's twin brother.

"Speed" also opens, starring Keanu Reeves as an LAPD SWAT guy who's matched against terrorist Dennis Hopper. Hopper has rigged an L.A. bus with a bomb that will explode if the bus goes below 50 miles per hour in L.A. rush hour traffic. The movie's four minutes long. No, it's not, but it should be.

The small, delightful "Widow's Peak," starring Mia Farrow, will open in this market that day, too.

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Your favorite cute little boy appears June 17, and I'm not referring to Macaulay Culkin, who opens on that day with Ted Danson in "Getting Even With Dad." No, instead I refer to Jack Nicholson, smooching up Michelle Pfeiffer with a bad case of hairy palms in "Wolf." This one has a curious reputation; it was moved back from the spring because it was supposed to be so good, but rumors persist of a disastrous screening.

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The summer's one guaranteed smash arrives June 24 (after opening in some bigger markets on the 15th) -- the Disney animated feature "The Lion King." A sequence showing up as a trailer with other Disney films looks terrific.

That same day, one of the more problematical big films opens -- "Wyatt Earp," with Kevin Costner in the title role and Dennis Quaid as Doc Holliday. This comes just a couple of months after Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer strapped on the guns for the same story in "Tombstone." The shootout at the O.K. Corral must be the most re-created single minute of violence in American history, and this time Lawrence Kasdan is directing. But why does it have to be three hours long?

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On June 29, America's favorite gal, who almost single-handedly dragged the dreary "The Pelican Brief" over the magic $100-million mark, shows up as a feisty newspaper reporter in Disney's "I Love Trouble." I speak, of course, of Julia Roberts, who is matched against Nick Nolte in this romantic comedy.

"Little Big League" also opens that day, with Luke Edwards as a 12-year-old who inherits the Minnesota Twins. Jason Robards is the token grown-up.

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Who knows what evil lurks in the early part of July? The Shadow does, and he hopes to profit from it July 1. The old radio series has made it to the big screen with Alec Baldwin as Lamont Cranston, socialite and crime-fighter.

Other crimes are fought on that day, notably by Jeff Bridges, attempting to stop Tommy Lee Jones from a) blowing up Boston, and b) stealing yet another movie. Bridges is some sort of police anti-bomb guy, Jones is a nemesis from the past, and the movie is "Blown Away."

The other big opening that day is slightly less incendiary: It's the John Hughes production of "Baby's Day Out," with Joe Mantegna, about a missing baby who wanders innocently through the inferno of city life.

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On Wednesday, July 6, Tom Hanks appears as "Forrest Gump," in which Hanks is a low-IQ kind of guy who gets what he wants out of life by just plugging onward. It's reminded some of the old Peter Sellers classic, "Being There." The buzz is very good on it.

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July 8 features "North," with Elijah Wood as a 12-year-old who divorces his yuppie parents, Bruce Willis and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and sets out to find new and better ones, directed by Rob Reiner.

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On July 13, "Angels in the Outfield" features Danny Glover in a remake of the '50s baseball fable. Let's hope that by then the Orioles have started hitting and don't need angels in their outfield!

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All guns are blazing July 15, when James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who brought us both "Terminators," return with "True Lies," in which Das Arnold plays a government agent so far undercover his own wife (Jamie Lee Curtis) doesn't know what he does. The trailer is terrific, but the buzz isn't good, particularly when the movie was moved back a couple of weeks.

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The big one on July 22 is "The Client," from the John Grisham book, with Susan Sarandon as the lawyer to whom a child with a dangerous secret turns. Tommy Lee Jones, done blowing up buildings in Boston, also stars as a federal prosecutor up to no good.

That same day the ever-hapless Charlie Sheen shows up in "Terminal Velocity."

In "Lassie," with Helen Slater, a beautiful collie wins the Nobel Peace Prize; well, not really, but what else could it be about? Actually, the world's favorite dog finds herself in the Shenandoah Valley, with city folks who've moved out for peace and quiet.

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Melanie Griffith gets a Wednesday showcase July 27, when her "Milk Money" opens. It's about a bunch of country kids who pool their milk money and head into town to see a naked woman. The woman they choose is Griffith, who is not amused. Ed Harris also stars.

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On July 29, "It Could Happen to You," happens to cop Nicolas Cage when he tips waitress Bridget Fonda $2 million -- by leaving her a lottery ticket as a tip and the ticket then hitting big.

Also on that day is "The Mask," which looks like another sure bet with the human special effect Jim Carrey, abetted by some mechanical and optical special effects. It's said to be the season's only other can't-miss film.

Then there's "Black Beauty," which gives David Thewlis, the corrosive star of "Naked," an introduction to mainstream audiences. It re-creates the horse classic for children.

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On Aug. 3, the ever-corpulent, ever-anxious, ever-desperate, ever-hilarious Albert Brooks appears as a New York Yankees (boo!) talent spotter in "The Scout." He uncovers hot shot Brendan Fraser.

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Two days later, Aug. 5, Oliver Stone returns to the screen with "Natural Born Killers," which is sure to inflame the media. It's a hyperviolent satire on the American fascination with serial killers, which watches as trashy-killers-on-the-run Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis become newspaper darlings.

That same day, Harrison Ford, director Phillip Noyce and Tom Clancy team up again, though reportedly Clancy is not a happy camper, as "A Clear and Present Danger" hits the big screen. It's about an American incursion in Central America to interdict drug cartels. At least that's what the book was about; who knows what the movie will be about.

Also on that day, Pauly Shore is "In the Army Now," which may signal the end of America as a world power. Also, "Camp 'D Nowhere," which features Christopher Lloyd, opens; and Pat Morita returns in "Karate Kid 4" (but Ralph Macchio, who must be 30 by now, is nowhere in sight).

Yet another opener that day is "The Little Rascals," an attempt to re-create the great Hal Roach come dies of the '20s and '30s, this time with a contemporary flavor.

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On Aug. 12, "A Troll in Central Park," an animated film from Don Bluth, arrives.

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On Aug. 19, don't look up in the air, it's not a bird, it's not a plane, it's not faster than a speeding bullet -- it's "Blankman," starring Damon Wayans as a not-so-super superhero. His uniform: his underwear! I like it already.

The late John Candy's last film, "Wagons East" is released that day also. Let's hope it's a good check-out number for this wonderful funny guy.

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Then, on Aug. 26, Bruce Willis arrives in an "erotic thriller" called "Color of Night" as a therapist who thinks that one member of his therapy group is a serial killer.

That same day, "Corrina, Corrina" gives Whoopi Goldberg a new vehicle, as a nanny hired by Ray Liotta to shepherd his daughter.

Finally, Steve Martin appears in "Simple Twist of Fate," as a stepfather who tries to prevent his stepdaughter's biological father from reclaiming her.

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And we go out with a riddle Sept. 2: What's neither here nor there, neither fish nor fowl, neither boy nor girl? "It's Pat: The Movie," with Julia Sweeney, which is also the only "SNL" clone of the summer. It's progress!

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