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Spring 2007 movie preview

EW’s guide to all the new (fun) flicks heading to theaters next season

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Traditionally, spring is a time of renewal, when vestiges of the old year fall away and the world seems full of potential. Unless, of course, you like movies. The season is no longer packed solely with the studios’ misfits and rejects, but, let’s face it, it’s still kinda summer’s ugly cousin. Fortunately, hope springs eternal. What follows are 15 films we’re actually sort of excited about: some for their promise of intense drama (Zodiac, The Kingdom), others for their promise of giggles (Blades of Glory, Hot Fuzz). Here’s hoping that we don’t get fooled again.

Zodiac
STARRING Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo

In his first movie since 2002’s Panic Room, maestro of the mind-bender David Fincher tackles the story of San Francisco’s most infamous serial killer. Trying to unravel the twisty trail of torture are Gyllenhaal as a cartoonist obsessed with the case, Downey as a strung-out San Francisco Chronicle reporter, and Ruffalo as a cool-as-ice cop. And maybe, if you’ve been good, there will be more heads in boxes. (March 2)

Music and Lyrics
STARRING Hugh Grant, Drew Barrymore

For reasons only a Hollywood movie can explain, an unapologetically callow ’80s pop has-been (Hugh Grant) teams up with a ditzy plant-waterer (Drew Barrymore) to write a song for a serene, Buddhism-obsessed pop starlet who writhes around like Shakira. They have only a matter of a days to come up with a hit, fall in love, or both. (Feb. 14)

Ghost Rider
STARRING Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes

It’s a bit of a kick when Oscar winners star in movies no Oscar winner should be seen in. So the prospect of watching Nicolas Cage light his head on fire to play Johnny Blaze, a stuntman who becomes the fiery, crime-fighting spirit of vengeance, sounds kinda fun. Let’s hope the filmmakers didn’t take the comic-book pulp too seriously. (Feb. 16)

Reno 911!: Miami
STARRING Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant

Lieut. Dangle (co-writer Thomas Lennon) and his team of hapless cops take it to the streets of Miami for a law enforcement convention in this adaptation of the Comedy Central series. Audiences can expect exploding whales, viral outbreaks, and officer Trudy Wiegel (Kerri Kenney-Silver) on patrol wearing a scoliosis bra. (Feb. 23)

Black Snake Moan
STARRING Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci

For his Hustle & Flow follow-up, writer-director Craig Brewer tells the story of a broken bluesman (Jackson) who reforms a promiscuous girl (Ricci) through unorthodox methods. Like chaining her up. Tales of redemption don’t excite you? Well, Moan also has a blistering blues soundtrack. (Feb. 23)

300
STARRING Gerard Butler, Rodrigo Santoro

If you think ”the Hot Gates” is the Microsoft honcho’s MySpace handle, check your history: It’s Thermopylae, where 300 Spartan soldiers took on the massive Persian army in 480 B.C. Adapted by Zack Snyder from Frank Miller’s gruesome graphic novel, the CG-heavy, hard-R flick will send viscera flying in cool new ways. (March 9)

I Think I Love My Wife
STARRING Chris Rock, Kerry Washington

Granted, Rock’s first effort as a writer-director, 2003’s Head of State, didn’t have viewers humming ”Hail to the Chief.” But with this relationship comedy — about a married suburbanite (Rock) who gets the seven-year itch — the comic will unleash his wit on a reliably funny stand-up target: the leg-iron-like bonds of matrimony. (March 16)

Pride
STARRING Terrence Howard, Bernie Mac, Kimberly Elise

First came Rocky Balboa. Then, Invincible‘s Vince Papale. Make way for Philly’s newest long shot. Oscar nominee Howard plays Jim Ellis, who, with the help of a graying janitor (Bernie Mac) and a group of troubled teens, founded the City of Brotherly Love’s first African-American swim team in the mid-1970s. We love the smell of chlorine in the morning…smells like victory! (March 23)

Reign Over Me
STARRING Adam Sandler, Don Cheadle, Liv Tyler

Good grief. It’s Mike Binder’s secret weapon. The writer-director of 2005’s The Upside of Anger offers us Adam Sandler (in full-on serious mode) as a man emotionally incapacitated by the loss of his family in the attacks of Sept. 11. Don Cheadle plays the rediscovered college buddy who prods him to reengage in life. (March 23)

Meet the Robinsons
STARRING THE VOICES OF Angela Bassett, Tom Selleck, Adam West

Greenlit by the old guard at Disney animation, this dysfunctional-family odyssey about a kid inventor got retooled after Pixar’s John Lasseter took over. Can Disney make an in-house CG flick better than 2005’s Chicken Little? Shouldn’t be hard. And it’s in 3-D, which is always a plus. (March 30)

Blades of Glory
STARRING Will Ferrell, Jon Heder, Will Arnett

Will Ferrell. Competitive figure skating. A silly, frilly Lord of the Dance costume. What else do you really need to know? The plot? Okay, fine: Two rival Olympic figure skaters (Ferrell and Heder) who have been barred from competition find a loophole that allows them to take to the ice again — but only if they’re partners. Oh, pas de deux it to us one more time… (March 30)

Grindhouse
STARRING Kurt Russell, Rose McGowan

For males of a certain age, this is the must-see film of the spring. B-movie geeks Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino pool their drool for a double feature: Rodriguez’s Planet Terror is a zombie flick, while Tarantino’s Death Proof stars Russell as a homicidal stunt driver. Admit it, you’re either repulsed or already dialing 777-FILM. (April 6)

Hot Fuzz
STARRING Simon Pegg, Nick Frost

Simon Pegg + dead people = good times. In the 2004 horror comedy Shaun of the Dead, Pegg took on an army of zombies. Here, reunited with that film’s creative team, he plays a hard-charging London cop who gets reassigned to a sleepy English village that seems devoid of crime — until bodies begin popping up. Gun-based hilarity ensues. (April 13)

The Kingdom
STARRING Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner

Who bombed an American housing compound in Saudi Arabia? As an FBI investigator in director Peter Berg’s thriller, Foxx hunts for answers. Oscar winner Chris Cooper plays an explosives whiz, Garner a forensics expert, and Jeremy Piven ditches his Entourage to strut as a diplomat. (April 20)

The Nanny Diaries
STARRING Scarlett Johansson, Paul Giamatti, Laura Linney

The directors of the splendid American Splendor explore the wilds of Manhattan’s moneyed Upper East Side in their adaptation of the satiric best-selling novel. Johansson is a college grad who cares for a spoiled tot, falls for a privileged hunk, and tries to figure out why rich people are so mean. (April 20)