The films of summer

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Here are highlights from the long list of movies that are hoping to win big this summer. As always, some will change their release dates or drop out of the game altogether.

May 19

A Little Princess: From "Secret Garden" author Frances Hodgson Burnett, another tale of a plucky young British girl uprooted from her home in India and deposited in a grim place, this time a strict New York boarding school.

Die Hard With a Vengeance: Bruce Willis' third attempt to stop the destruction of a large space pits unlucky detective John McClane against a mad bomber terrorizing Manhattan. Jeremy Irons provides the villainy.

May 24

Braveheart: Mel Gibson's Scottish action epic, which he stars in and directs.

Tales From the Hood: From director Rusty Cundieff, executive producer Spike Lee and producer Darin Scott ("Menace II Society"), a rap horror story about three street thugs who go to the local mortuary to retrieve some drugs and wind up seeing more of its guts than they wanted.

May 26

Casper: The friendly ghost returns with a trio of less amiable cohorts in this haunted-house comedy produced by Steven Spielberg.

Johnny Mnemonic: Keanu Reeves stars in this science-fiction thriller about a high-tech courier with a big chip on his shoulder and a little one in his brain.

Mad Love: Chris O'Donnell gets paired with Drew Barrymore in this love-on-the-run drama directed by Antonia Bird.

Picture Bride: An orphaned Japanese teen-ager (Youki Kudoh) in 1918 is persuaded to marry a man she's never met, a Japanese sugar-cane worker in Hawaii.

June 2

The Bridges of Madison County: Clint Eastwood directed Robert James Waller's best-selling romance and also stars with Meryl Streep.

Fluke: Family man Matthew Modine dies and is reincarnated as a dog. Reuniting with spouse Nancy Travis proves problematic, probably because that hunky Eric Stoltz is hanging around.

The Glass Shield: A rookie Los Angeles police officer (Michael Boatman), the only African-American assigned to a sheriff's office, teams up with the only woman (Lori Petty) to expose the framing of a crime suspect (Ice Cube).

June 9

Congo: Michael Crichton's Tarzanish tale of the search for a lost jungle treasure city and some really smart apes.

Little Odessa: Tim Roth plays an emigre Russian mobster on assignment in Brighton Beach's community of expatriate Russian Jews, home to the family he hasn't seen in years. Edward Furlong, Moira Kelly, Vanessa Redgrave and Maximilian Schell co-star.

Smoke: Harvey Keitel, William Hurt, Forest Whitaker, Stockard Channing and Ashley Judd star as regular clients at a Brooklyn

cigar store.

June 16

Batman Forever: Reportedly lighter than the Tim Burton-Michael Keaton films, with a less-distinctive director (Joel Schumacher), a younger Caped Crusader (Val Kilmer) and Jim Carrey as the Riddler. There'sanother villain, Tommy Lee Jones' Two-Face, and the first appearance of Robin in the current film series, played by a punked-up Chris O'Donnell.

June 21

Roosters: A breeder of fighting cocks (Edward James Olmos) returns home after seven years in prison and becomes involved in a conflict with his son (Danny Nucci) over a valuable rooster the youth has inherited from his grandfather.

June 23

Pocahontas: Disney's first animated feature based on a true story, the famous encounter between the American-Indian princess and Capt. John Smith in Colonial Virginia. It's also the first one in ages with no talking animals (although there is a talking tree).

Wigstock: The Movie: Drag queens, comedians, musicians and big hair populate this documentary about the 10th anniversary of Wigstock, underground New York's annual sendup of the famed music festival.

June 30

Apollo 13: Just as nail-biting as the fate of the astronauts on one of history's most problem-filled space missions is whether Tom Hanks will ride this vehicle to an Oscar three-peat. Ron Howard directs.

The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love: A rebellious white tomboy (Laurel Holloman) from a working-class neighborhood and an upscale African-American young woman (Nicole Parker) fall in love during their senior year in high school.

Judge Dredd: A futuristic British comic-book hero played by Sylvester Stallone fights for survival against corrupt powers. Fortunately, Armand Assante, Diane Lane and Max von Sydow provide the acting.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie: The fate of the

planet, as always, hangs in the gooey balance.

July 7

First Knight: A beautiful woman comes between a celebrated Englishman and his best friend. It's King Arthur again, told this time from Lancelot's point of view. Richard Gere plays Lance, Julia Ormond plays Guinevere and Sean Connery, quite rightly, plays Arthur.

Species: When alien DNA is sent to Earth with helpful instructions on how to combine it with our own, a bunch of rocket scientists are dumb enough to try it. The resulting female thing proves as dangerous as she is lonely. Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Alfred Molina, Forest Whitaker and Natasha Henstridge star.

July 14

Grosse Fatigue: French actor-writer-director Michel Blanc finds himself reviled and accused of crimes he knows nothing about in this comedy about the trials and tribulations of fame. Winner of the best screenplay award at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival.

The Indian in the Cupboard: Fantasy about a toy cowboy and Indian that magically come to life.

Nine Months: A romantic comedy about impending parenthood's impact on a couple's relationship. The expectant father is played by Hugh Grant, and the mama-to-be is Julianne Moore. Robin Williams drops in as a Russian obstetrician.

Operation Dumbo Drop: 'Nam. It was bad for the men who fought it. And worse on the elephants. Yes, they've finally made a Vietnam War service comedy, in which Danny Glover, Ray Liotta and Denis Leary have to transport a problem pachyderm to a remote village.

Under Siege 2: Dark Territory: Steven Seagal attempts to stop evil genius Eric Bogosian from blowing up the whole Eastern seaboard, somehow, from a locomotive barreling through the Rockies.

July 19

Dead Presidents: The young, explosively talented Allen and Albert Hughes follow their "Menace II Society" feature debut with this tale of a Vietnam vet (Larenz Tate) who teams with other war survivors on an armored-car heist.

Kids: A controversial slice-of-life film about young teens doing all kinds of unsafe sex and drug things. Harmony Korine, 19, wrote the screenplay.

July 21

Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home: Jason James Richter must once again come to the aid of his orca friend. This time, Willy and his siblings are separated from their pod by a deadly oil spill.

To Die For: A Buck Henry satire of America and television starring Nicole Kidman.

July 28

Clueless: Alicia Silverstone stars in a comedy about a Beverly Hills princess whose philosophy of life goes something like "make-overs give one a sense of control in a world of chaos." Indispensable new teenspeak words such as "tscha" and "postal" will be explained.

Dangerous Minds: Michelle Pfeiffer plays an ex-Marine who becomes a teacher in a tough, inner-city high school. The script, by "Rain Man's" Ron Bass, is based on a true story.

Dr. Jekyll & Ms. Hyde: In a twist on the Robert Louis Stevenson horror classic, Tim Daly ("Wings") plays a scientist who samples great-granddad Jekyll's secret formula, which turns him into Sean Young!

The Innocent: A naive espionage technician (Campbell Scott) dispatched to Berlin shortly after the end of World War II disregards the advice of a colleague (Anthony Hopkins) and has an affair with a beautiful local (Isabella Rossellini).

The Tenderfoot: Daniel Stern headlines this comedy about a falsely accused dope who hides out from a murder rap with a troop of camping scouts.

Waterworld: Kevin Costner fights to save the flooded planet from Dennis Hopper's evil pirates in this huge-budget extravaganza.

Unscheduled in July

Living in Oblivion: A group of wannabes struggles to make an ultra-low-budget film. Steve Buscemi, Catherine Keener, Dermot Mulroney and James Le Gros star.

Safe: An affluent Los Angeles housewife's placid existence is turned on end when she comes down with a mysterious environmental illness. Julianne Moore stars.

Aug. 4

Arabian Knight: Richard Williams, whose creations include Jessica and Roger Rabbit, directed this animated fable featuring the voices of Vincent Price, Donald Pleasence, Bobbi Page, Clive Revill and Mona Marshall.

A Walk in the Clouds: Keanu Reeves plays a young soldier who pretends to be a lovely young woman's husband. True love ripens, however, when they return to her Napa Valley home to confront her domineering vintner father.

Babe: Continuing its celebration of the Year of the Pig, Hollywood serves up another film about a lovable porker.

Jeffrey: Fearful of becoming infected with AIDS, a struggling gay New York actor (Steven Weber) swears off sex, even after meeting the seemingly perfect mate (Michael T. Weiss).

Lord of Illusions: A horror film from novelist-director Clive Barker, in which private eye Scott Bakula's investigation of a magician leads to mystic mysteries.

The Net: Sandra Bullock tangles with Dennis Miller in another computer thriller. Irwin Winkler directs.

Something to Talk About: Julia Roberts and Dennis Quaid star in this comedy-drama about marriage, directed by Lasse Hallstrom.

Virtuosity: In the near future, a virtual-reality supercriminal escapes into the real world from the police computer that designed him. Edgy cop Denzel Washington is the only one who can stop him.

Aug. 11

Learning Curves: An Ivy League-bound high school senior (Jason London) falls for a teacher's sexy wife (Tia Carrere).

Mallrats: Shannen Doherty, Michael Rooker, Jeremy London and Jason Lee co-star in a comedy set in the world of boutiques, food courts and 3-D art.

The Amazing Panda Adventure: Filmed in the Chinese Himalayas. Christian Slater's little brother Ryan makes friends with some locals and saves a panda cub from poachers.

Fair Game: Megamodel Cindy Crawford makes her movie debut in this action extravaganza from producer Joel Silver.

Aug. 18

The Baby-Sitters Club: Director Melanie Mayron turns her attention to young people, in this case seven teen-age girls played by a cast of unknowns.

Hackers: Another cyberthriller about computer jockeys who discover data they would be better off not knowing.

Mortal Kombat: Big ugly things fight to save the planet from bigger, uglier things in this futuristic stomp romp. Christopher Lambert is appropriately cast.

The Usual Suspects: Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri, Kevin Pollak, Pete Postlethwaite and Kevin Spacey play assorted cops and cons in this caper piece from director Bryan Singer.

Empire: Another summer teen comedy, this one set in a big record store. Liv Tyler and Rory Cochrane are in the ensemble, along with more mature talents Anthony LaPaglia and Debi Mazar.

Aug. 25

Beyond Rangoon: Patricia Arquette and Frances McDormand play sisters whose vacation to Myanmar turns dangerous.

Desperado: Director Robert Rodriguez revisits the terrain of his low-budget hit "El Mariachi" for this story of a musician who can shoot bullets around corners with a snap of the wrist. Antonio Banderas stars.

Purple Noon: A handsome American playboy (Alain Delon) sent to Italy to bring home a rich man's son has a good time on the dad's tab, then ends up involved in murder and forgery to maintain his lifestyle.

Steal Big, Steal Little: Andy Garcia plays identical, good/evil twins in an action comedy revolving around their tug of war over a billion-dollar inheritance. Alan Arkin and Rachel Ticotin co-star.

Unscheduled in August

An Awfully Big Adventure: Dark comedy about a British teen-ager who joins the backstage intrigue at a repertory theater company in Liverpool in 1950. With Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman.

Big Bully: When Rick Moranis returns to his hometown, he's amazed to find the bully who made his childhood a nightmare (Tom Arnold) grown into a passive, hen-pecked shopkeeper.

Double Happiness: An aspiring Chinese-Canadian actress (Sandra Oh) agrees to date an eligible Chinese lawyer to keep her parents happy, only to find herself attracted to a white university student.

Lucky Break: A trashy romance writer falls for a jewelry dealer rTC (Anthony LaPaglia) who is pledged to another (Rebecca Givney). Ben Lewin wrote and directed.

The Tie That Binds: Take your standard, adopted-child custody-case TV movie, toss in a couple of wanted outlaws (Daryl Hannah and Keith Carradine) as the kid's biological parents, and voila: You have a theatrical-quality, cheesy thriller.

Wild Bill: Jeff Bridges is the famous frontiersman; Ellen Barkin is his Calamity Jane.

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