Each year the beginning of the summer movie season comes a little earlier as the studios try to get the jump on each other for the huge profits the hottest months of the year bring. If this trend continues, the summer movie season will begin around Groundhog’s Day in a few years.

The first “summer” release is “The Scorpion King”, a prequel of sorts to the successful “Mummy” series This rehash of every sword and sorcery tale makes turkeys like “The Beastmaster” and “Red Sonja” look like cinematic gems. The biggest attraction of the film is its star, The Rock, who may have some star charisma in the ring, but not here.

This is a complete rip-off of “Conan the Barbarian” and The Rock, as an actor, is a complete rip-off of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but without the acting chops. This is an escapist film, by which I mean the moviegoer will want to escape the theater within the first 20 minutes.

But one bad film doesn’t necessarily mean a bad summer season. Last year gave us the vomit-inducing “Pearl Harbor,” but also saw the release of “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” “Shrek” and “Evolution.”

One has to understand there are little in the way of art films during these months, so it’s best to let the brain take a summer vacation while seeing most of these films (a heavy dose of Thorazine for some). These potential blockbusters rarely live up to our expectations, but the kid in us scans the slate of summer films and hopes for the best. Here are some of the more interesting films to be released this summer:

“Spider-man” (Sam Raimi) The comic book webslinger finally makes it to the big screen in what should prove to be one of the most successful movies of the summer. Tobey Maguire, who beefed up to play Peter Parker and his superhero alter ego, is joined by the always adorable Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson.

“Star Wars Episode II: The Attack of the Clones” (George Lucas) Lucas gives us another chapter in the saga of flawed hero Anakin Skywalker. Despite the campy title, this installment may provide the adrenaline rush the series needs to get back on track. It can’t be worse than Episode I, can it?

“About a Boy” (Chris and Paul Weitz) Based on Nick Hornby’s brilliant book, this film follows the very shallow Hugh Grant as he joins a single-parents group in order to hit on single mothers. Instead, he ends up befriending a 12-year-old boy who shows him there is more to life than himself.

“The Sum of All Fears” (Phil Alden Robinson) Based on the behemoth Tom Clancy book, this techno-thriller has Jack Ryan, played by the non-Harrison Ford Ben Affleck, trying to stop World War III.

“Minority Report” (Steven Spielberg) Tom Cruise is a cop of a special police division that stops crimes before they are committed, but he is forced to run when someone frames him for a murder he won’t commit. Based on short story by Philip K. Dick, whose novels have spawned, among others, “Blade Runner” and “Total Recall.”

“Windtalkers” (John Woo) After a number of delays, audiences will finally get to see this World War II epic by the world’s best action director. Based on the missions of real life Navajo codetalkers, this film tells of their important role in the war, but like every studio film dealing with racial issues, it is seen through the eyes of the white man.

“Austin Powers: Goldmember” (Jay Roach) Mike Myers is back as Austin Powers, Dr. Evil and Fat Bastard. He has a new identity for the third installment of this great comedic series: Goldmember. Audiences should expect the same humor that made the first two films comedic gems.

“Men in Black II” (Barry Sonnenfeld) Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are back to deal with more alien scum. The first film was so much fun, the only complaint one could have was that it was so short.

“Road to Perdition” (Sam Mendes) Tom Hanks plays a vengeful mobster in Mendes’ first film since “American Beauty.” Sure, the film gives Hanks another avenue in which to display his ever-expanding talents, but whatever happened to the fun guy who made Splash and Dragnet?

“K-19: The Widowmaker” (Kathryn Bigelow) Great director, fantastic cast, bad title. Harrison Ford plays the captain of the Soviet’s first nuclear submarine, which suffered a reactor malfunction in 1961 and almost caused World War III. Based on a true story, this film is helmed by the very talented Bigelow who made the criminally underappreciated “Strange Days”.

Staff Writer Stephen Allan can be contacted at: [email protected]

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