Tomorrow, 'Iron Man' kicks off a blockbuster summer at the cinema. With such a vast array to choose from, Tim Walker picks the films to watch out for.
1. Iron Man (2 May)
The first feature to be produced solely by Marvel Comics' film studio arm, Iron Man opens a packed summer blockbuster season tomorrow.
And the producers have taken a few refreshing risks: writer-director Jon Favreau is best known for writing and starring in the distinctly low-budget indie hit Swingers, while stars Robert Downey Jr and Jeff Bridges are famous for their acting chops rather than their box office clout.
Early word suggests both acquit themselves admirably alongside Gwyneth Paltrow and Terrence Howard, and even if the film isn't perfect, it nonetheless promises to generate a healthy franchise.
2. Speed Racer (9 May)
The Wachowski brothers' first film since the conclusion of the Matrix trilogy, this brash, colourful confection based on a popular Japanese cartoon series from the 1960s stars Emile Hirsch as a daredevil racing driver, who wants to win the race that killed his brother.
There's more acting muscle in the form of John Goodman, Susan Sarandon and Christina Ricci. And with the Wachowskis at the helm, it ought to be a visual treat.
3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (22 May)
Indiana Jones's legion of fans have waited 18 long years for the franchise to make a fourth outing, and just hearing that familiar orchestral theme is enough to get the blood pumping. Set during the Cold War, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull sees Cate Blanchett and a phalanx of ferocious commies chasing Indy around the world on his latest quest.
Joining Harrison Ford on the adventure are Ray Winstone, as the archaeologist's British sidekick, and Shia LaBeouf, as Indy's young protégé. Meanwhile, Karen Allen returns to the role of Marion Ravenwood, Indy's love interest from the very first film, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Guaranteed to be better than The Mummy: Tomb of The Dragon Emperor (8 August).
4. Sex and the City: the Movie (28 May)
It might be a barren week for the boys, but this is the one the wives and girlfriends have been waiting for. Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha return four years after the end of the final series, as they prepare for Carrie's imminent wedding to Mr Big (whose real name, by the way, turns out to be John James Preston).
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The plot is shrouded in secrecy, but rest assured it will include fun, heartbreak, laughter and tears. In short, something for everyone – except, perhaps, your boyfriend.
5. The Incredible Hulk (13 June)
When Marvel announced its latest attempt to film The Incredible Hulk, the company promised a movie that would consign memories of Ang Lee's unpopular 2003 effort to the recycling bin of film history.
Yet rumours of rows between the studio and their star Edward Norton (who also writes the screenplay) persist. Director Louis Leterrier has an unremarkable pedigree – his greatest claim to fame is action pot-boiler The Transporter and its sequel. And the recent trailer seemed humourless, with CGI that marks only a slight improvement on Lee's.
The impressive cast – including William Hurt, Liv Tyler and Tim Roth – gives cause for hope, but perhaps the big green guy just isn't cut out for the big silver screen.
6. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (26 June)
His Dark Materials was meant to be the next Lord of the Rings, but The Golden Compass was such a spectacular failure that it helped to sink an entire studio.
So The Chronicles of Narnia steps into the breach instead with its second instalment, Prince Caspian. Some people will be put off by the Christian overtones of C S Lewis's creation, and Narnia is more resolutely a children's world than Tolkien's Middle Earth, but Caspian promises yet more action and spectacle than its predecessor.
The tone is darker, too, as the Narnians wait for the resourceful Pevensie children to help alleviate their suffering at the hands of their ruler, Caspian's evil uncle King Miraz.
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