BEASTLY SUMMER Godzilla, aliens, and asteroid and a Hunter Thompson book are all headed for theaters. Here's a look at those movies and more.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Don't kids yourself. Size always matters in Hollywood, especially in summer. Much Tinseltown is holding its breath, waiting to se if the big guy has legs -- and whether his ravenous appetite will leave room for anyone else.

The big guy, in case you've been living in a cave the past few months, is Godzilla, the humongous, firebreathing, Tokyo-destroying lizard that Tristar is reviving. With its ubiquitous "size Does Matter" ad campaign, plus some clever trailers, "Godzilla" is pretty much guaranteed a monster opening weekend; the queston is, where does it go from there?

Will the world's favorite ticked-off dinosaur have the legs to move beyond its opening-week bonanza and dominate the vacation months? Or will "Godzilla" follow the lead of "The Lost World" and open huge, then fade quickly, allowing other films to seize the spotlight.

And what of the other films of summer, those whose heroes don't have cold blood running through their veins?

Here's a look at what Hollywood will be sending to theaters over the next few months, presented with the usual caveat; Release dates (in parentheses) can change; don't be surprised if "Dr. Dolittle" shows up at your local multiplex a week or two late.

May

"Godzilla" (Wednesday): Oh, no, there goes Tokyo! Or, in the case of this big-budget remake of the 1956 Japanese classic, New York City. Unfortunately, this "Godzilla" won't have Raymond Burr to help move things along, but it looks to have everything else -- including the creative team (Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin) that brought us the 1996 summer 1996 blockbuster, "Independence Day." The cast includes Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Maria Pitillo (seen recently on "ER") and Hank Azaria. Advance buzz suggests good things.

"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (Friday): Does gonzo still work in the '90s? Universal thinks it does, which is why it's bankrolling the adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's book. With Terry Gilliam ("Brazil," "12 Monkeys") at the helm, there's cause to hope for the best. If nothing else, it should be better than an earlier attempt to put Thompson on screen, 1980's "Where the Buffalo Roam." This time, Johnny Depp stars, with cameos from just about everyone.

"Shooting Fish" (Friday): A pair of con artists try to impress a woman (Kate Beckinsale).

"Bulworth" (Friday): Warren Beatty plays a U.S. senator who has compromised his ideals away, until he sees the light and decides to speak the un-P.C. truth.

"Chinese Box" (Friday): Jeremy Irons is a British journalist in Hong Kong. Gong Li and Maggie Cheung are the objects of his desire. From director Wayne Wang.

"I Got the Hook-Up" (May 27): Hip-hop artist Master P comes to the screen as one of two ghetto guys trying to hawk cell phones from the back of their van.

"Hope Floats" (May 29): Sandra Bullock, attempting to prove there's life after "Speed 2" (there sure wasn't any life in it), plays a woman fleeing a bad marriage who moves in with her mother (Gena Rowlands) and finds the love of a good man (Harry Connick Jr.).

Also scheduled for May:

"Twentyfourseven": Bob Hoskins establishes a boxing club in a small English town as a way of channeling the resident youths' aggression.

"Almost Heroes": The late Chris Farley teams up with Matthew Perry ("Friends") in an Old West buddy comedy.

"Go Now": Robert Carlyle ("The Full Monty") in a love story of a man whose body is falling apart, and the woman who cares for him. Michael Winterbottom ("Welcome to Sarajevo") directs.

June

"The Truman Show" (June 5): Jim Carrey's back, and despite the film's name, he's not playing the president who guided us through the final days of World War II (thank God!). This time, the rubber-faced one is cast as the unwitting star of a TV sitcom; everyone around him is an actor and he's the only one without a script. Laura Linney and Ed Harris co-star.

"The Last Days of Disco" (June 5): Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny ("Kids") star as upscale young lasses who dance their frustrations away every night in 1981. Directed by Whit Stillman.

"Dirty Work" (June 5): Hoping to find life after "Weekend Update," Norm MacDonald comes to the big screen as a dude who'll help you get even with anyone for a price.

"A Perfect Murder" (June 12): Michael Douglas plots the murder of unfaithful wife Gwyneth Paltrow. Andrew Davis ("The Fugitive") directs this remake of "Dial M for Murder."

"Six Days, Seven Nights" (June 12): Will the public accept an out-of-the-closet lesbian playing a heterosexual love interest? That's the big question facing Anne Heche as one half of a mismatched couple stranded on a desert island. The other half is played by Harrison Ford, one of Hollywood's most dependable drawing cards.

"Hav Plenty" (June 12): A love story -- she has it all, he has nothing -- that made a big splash at this year's Sundance Festival.

"Can't Hardly Wait" (June 12): Just-graduated high-schoolers search for love -- which shouldn't be tough, since Jennifer Love Hewitt ("Party of Five") stars.

"The X-Files" (June 19): The truth may be out there as Mr. and Ms. Paranoid Conspiracy, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson (that's Scully and Mulder to those in the know), star in this much-anticipated big-screen version of the TV series. Creator Chris Carter promises some answers, but also plenty more questions.

"Mulan" (June 19): The latest animated feature from Disney, about a Chinese girl straining against her tradition-bound society. Among the voices: Ming-Na Wen (as Mulan), Eddie Murphy and Harvey Fierstein.

"Doctor Dolittle" (June 26): Eddie Murphy stars as the guy who talks to the animals. The animals answer back in the voices of Chris Rock, Garry Shandling and Albert Brooks, among others. This should be miles better than its predecessor, a bloated beast from 1967 starring Rex Harrison.

"Out of Sight" (June 26): Steven Soderbergh, still trying to capture the magic he displayed in "sex, lies and videotape," directs an adaptation of this Elmore Leonard book, with George Clooney as an escaped bank robber and Jennifer Lopez as the federal marshal who's not so sure she wants to bring him in.

"High Art" (June 26): Former brat packer Ally Sheedy is a photographer fallen on hard times, living with her drug-addicted girlfriend.

"Cousin Bette" (June 26): Jessica Lange is the heroine of Honore de Balzac's novel of love and vengeance in 1840s France.

"Beyond Silence" (June 26): Oscar-nominated German film about young girl whose love of music threatens her relationship with her deaf parents.

"Gone With the Wind" (June 26): New Line re-releases the classic.

Also scheduled for June:

"Wilde": Stephen Fry is the famed and flamboyant British author-playwright.

"Artemisia": The true story of the Italian artist who made a name for herself in the male-dominated world of Italian painting.

"The Land Girls": British women are asked to pitch in and keep the country going while the men are off fighting World War II.

July

"Armageddon" (July 1): This could turn out to be the summer blockbuster if "Godzilla" stumbles. Bruce Willis leads a team of -- oil drillers charged with burying a nuclear bomb on an asteroid headed straight for Mother Earth. Others facing doomsday include Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Ben Affleck and Steve Buscemi.

"I Went Down" (July 3): The Irish invasion continues with Paddy Breathnach's road picture about two small-time gangsters on an ill-conceived mission in the Irish back country.

"The Opposite of Sex" (July 3): Christina Ricci sets her sights on her gay brother's lover.

"Small Soldiers" (July 10): Moviegoers who thought the soldiers were the best part of "Toy Story" won't want to miss this mix of live-action and computer animation in which action toys declare war on a small town. Joe Dante ("Gremlins") directs.

"Madeline" (July 10): From Ludwig Bemelmans' story of a girl trying to save her school.

"Passion in the Desert" (July 10): From a Balzac short story about an officer in Napoleon's army and a leopard.

"Smoke Signals" (July 10): Two young Native American men travel to Phoenix when the father of one dies.

"Lethal Weapon 4" (July 10): Mel Gibson and Danny Glover keep the franchise going. This time with Joe Pesci, Renne Russo and Chris Rock.

"The Mask of Zorro" (July 17): It's time to swash those buckles, with Anthony Hopkins riding into town as the aging masked swordsman and Antonio Banderas as his hand-picked successor, both struggling to free Mexico from Spanish rule.

"Saving Private Ryan" (July 24): Steven Spielberg teams with Tom Hanks. It's D-Day, June 6, 1944, and an Army squad is sent out to find a lone paratrooper (Matt Damon) and send him home to his family. Expect tears.

"Jane Austen's Mafia!" (July 24): An "Airplane!"-style spoof about a crime family starring Jay Mohr, Lloyd Bridges, Christina Applegate and Olympia Dukakis.

"Dead Man On Campus" (July 24): A black comedy (from MTV and Paramount) about two college freshmen who'll resort to anything to get their grades up.

"Very Bad Things" (July 24): A dark comedy about a bachelor party gone wrong, starring Christian Slater, Cameron Diaz, Daniel Stern and Jeanne Tripplehorn.

"The Parent Trap" (July 29): Young Lindsay Lohan has the Hayley Mills role(s) in this remake of identical twins conniving to bring their estranged parents (Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson) back together.

"BASEketball" (July 31): A satirical look at our obsession with professional sports. The tale of some slackers who invent a game -- and see it become a new national craze. From director David Zucker ("Airplane!" "The Naked Gun"). It stars the two guys responsible for "South Park," Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

"Dance With Me" (July 31): Think "Dirty Dancing" with a Latin beat. Stars Vanessa L. Williams as a dance teacher hot to get back into the professional ranks and Latin pop star Chayanne as a hot-blooded Cuban she hopes is the partner she's been looking for.

Also scheduled for July:

"My Life So Far": Colin Firth, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Malcolm McDowell in a child's-eye view of an unusual family.

"Polish Wedding": Lena Olin and Gabriel Byrne as the heads of a Polish-American family living in Detroit and Claire Danes as their spirited daughter.

"There's Something About Mary": Ben Stiller is a longtime loser who hires a creep of a private eye (Matt Dillon) to track down his long-lost love (Cameron Diaz).

"Be The Man": Dave Osborne, the world's greatest stunt daredevil, finally makes it to the big screen. Duck!

August

"54" (Aug. 7): Mike Myers plays it straight as Steve Rubell, the New Jersey guy who made Studio 54 the place to be seen in the Big Apple. It also stars Salma Hayek and Neve Campbell.

"Snake Eyes" (Aug. 7): Nicolas Cage is an Atlantic City police detective trying to solve a ringside murder with 14,000 potential suspects. Brian DePalma directs.

"The Avengers" (Aug. 14): Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman bring the '60s TV show to the big screen, doing their best to make us forget Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg (good luck!). At least they've brought Sean Connery along to play the bad guy.

"Virus" (Aug. 14): Jamie Lee Curtis, William Baldwin and Donald Sutherland stumble onto a nasty microbe aboard a secret Russian research vessel.

"Air Bud: Golden Receiver" (Aug. 14): That basketball-playing pooch is back.

"Clay Pigeons" (Aug. 14): Joaquin Phoenix is a gas-station attendant whose life heads downhill after he admits to sleeping with his best friend's wife, in a dark comedy also starring Janeane Garofalo and Vince Vaughn.

"Return to Paradise" (Aug. 14): Vaughn and Phoenix team up again, this time joined by David Conrad as three friends who journey through Malaysia, where one of them runs afoul of the drug laws -- even though all three are guilty. Anne Heche and Jada Pinkett Smith also star.

"Knock Off" (Aug. 21): Renowned thespian and kick-boxer Jean-Claude Van Damme stars as a CIA operative in Hong Kong.

"Rush Hour" (Aug. 28): Human dynamo Jackie Chan teams with Chris Tucker as police detectives from Hong Kong and L.A., respectively, out to solve a kidnapping.

"Your Friends & Neighbors" (Aug. 28): Ben Stiller, Aaron Eckhart, Nastassja Kinski, Amy Brenneman and Jason Patric use sex as a sort of chess game. From writer-director Neil LaBute ("In the Company of Men").

"Strike" (Aug. 28): Set in an exclusive girls' school in 1963, this comedy stars Kirsten Dunst, Gaby Hoffmann and Heather Matarazzo.

"Next Stop, Wonderland" (Aug. 28): Hope Davis ("The Myth of Fingerprints") is a Boston nurse whose mother places a personals ad for her in the local newspaper.

Also scheduled for August:

"Blade": Wesley Snipes is a vampire hunter and Stephen Dorff is a vampire. Based on the Marvel Comics characters.

"Slums of Beverly Hills": A female coming-of-age comedy set in the '70s. Marisa Tomei and Natasha Lyonne star.

"Wrongfully Accused": Unregenerate goofball Leslie Nielsen is at again, this time spoofing "The Fugitive" and various crime thrillers.

"Disturbing Behavior": In this high school comedy-thriller, a new kid in town discovers there's evil afoot.

"Pi": A mathematician is about to figure out that most indecipherable of mysteries: the stock market.

Pub Date: 5/15/98

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