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Triple threat

This summer, when it comes to box office, Hollywood is hoping that the third time really is a charm.

A bevy of threequels hits the cineplex, all bucking for blockbuster dollars. From now through the end of summer, several big-name franchises return to make it a trilogy, including "Spider-Man 3," "Shrek the Third," "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," "Ocean's 13," "The Bourne Ultimatum" and "Rush Hour 3."

The plain old sequel is no slouch, either. Twice is nice for "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," "28 Weeks Later," "Evan Almighty" and "Hostel: Part II."

And then the show-offs of the bunch, like "Live Free or Die Hard" (No. 4) and "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"(No. 5), also are banking on their past successes.

Seriously, you would think there were no new ideas in Hollywood or something.

The Bee breaks down the summer of deja vu with a viewers guide to the biggest and most intriguing offerings. Release dates are subject to change, so check your local listings and take some ginkgo biloba before heading out.

APRIL 20

Vacancy — Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson become trapped in their motel room and realize they are the stars of their own private slasher film. Sheesh, don't they know better than to check into the Bates Motel?

Hot Fuzz — Did you see "Shaun of the Dead?" This movie is from the same wickedly inspired minds, but this time it's all about cops, not zombies.

APRIL 27

Next — Nicolas Cage stars in this adaptation of a Philip K. Dick sci-fi novel. Cage plays a Las Vegas musician who can see into the near future. If that's true, why did he make "The Wicker Man"?

MAY 4

Spider-Man 3 — The webslinger examines his dark side in the third installment of the super hero franchise. This time, Spidey squares off with Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and Venom (Topher Grace), not to mention his own inner demons.

Waitress (limited release) — This Sundance Film Festival favorite was to be actress Adrienne Shelly's triumphant return to film, this time from behind the camera. Instead, the story of an unhappy small-town waitress (Keri Russell) is a bittersweet tribute to Shelly, who was murdered last year.

Away from Her (limited) — Another actress makes her directorial debut as Sarah Polley's first feature comes to the screen. Julie Christie stars in the film as a woman with Alzheimer's disease who faces institutionalization after decades of marriage.

MAY 11

28 Weeks Later ... — The follow-up to "28 Days Later" sees an even more frightening strain of the rage virus resurface six months after the initial outbreak. Modesto native and 1989 Beyer High graduate Jeremy Renner has top billing in the sequel to the sleeper hit.

Georgia Rule — This familial drama by director Garry Marshall stars Jane Fonda, Felicity Huffman and Lindsay Lohan as three generations of strong women. It also is known as the film Lohan called in sick to one too many times for the studio's liking.

Home of the Brave — The Iraq War is examined as a weary National Guard unit takes on one more mission before being sent home. It stars brave soldiers Samuel L. Jackson, 50 Cent and Jessica Biel.

MAY 18

Shrek the Third — It's pretty easy being green, especially if you're Shrek. The not-so-jolly green ogre is back, and he has brought Justin Timberlake (as the voice of King Arthur ) along for the ride. Also returning are Puss, Donkey, Fiona and the rest of regulars from Far, Far Away.

MAY 25

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End — Yo ho ho and a bottle of really, really big box-office expectations. Last summer, Johnny Depp's swashbuckling sequel, "Dead Man's Chest," sailed into the sunset as the sixth-highestgrossing film of all time. This summer, the gang's all back and then some, ready to shiver even more timbers.

Bug — Hasn't anyone in the movies learned to stay out of motels? Ashley Judd stars as a women who lets things in a seedy motel get under her skin, literally and figuratively, in this psychological thriller.

JUNE 1

Knocked Up — The latest from "40-Year-Old Virgin" writer/director Judd Apatow already is being hailed as the potential sleeper hit of the summer. This slacker comedy takes on unexpected pregnancy with "Grey's Anatomy" doc Katherine Heigl.

Mr. Brooks — Kevin Costner is a serial killer. Wow, that's even scarier than being forced to watch a "Waterworld"/"The Postman" double feature. It also stars Demi Moore and William Hurt.

JUNE 8

Ocean's 13 — The boys are back in town, this time with Ellen Barkin in tow, to pull of their third big heist. Rooting for the bad guys has never been more fun.

Hostel: Part II — While in Rome, three young American women are lured away to a Slovakian hostel. You know this can't end well.

JUNE 15

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer — Surf's up as our four superheroes face off with the enigmatic Silver Surfer.

Nancy Drew — The girl detective goes from page to screen as Julia Roberts' niece Emma Roberts takes on the role of the teenage sleuth.

I Could Never Be Your Woman — Michelle Pfeiffer returns to the big screen after a five-year absence in this May-December romance by "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" director Amy Heckerling. Pfeiffer's husband, David E. Kelley, heartily endorses the movie title.

JUNE 22

Evan Almighty — God (Morgan Freeman) returns to get Congressman Evan Baxter (Steve Carrell) to build an ark in anticipation of a great flood.

A Mighty Heart — Angelina Jolie stars in this real-life tragedy based on Mariane Pearl's frantic effort to save her journalist husband, Daniel. The Wall Street Journal reporter was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan in 2002.

JUNE 26

Live Free or Die Hard — The fourth "Die Hard" installment features Modesto native Timothy Olyphant as the baddie squaring off with Bruce Willis' hard-boiled cop, Detective John McClane. Expect fireworks and then some this Fourth of July.

JUNE 29

Ratatouille — The Pixar animated feature follows a rat who dreams of becoming a world-class French chef. Don't tell the health inspector.

JULY 6

Transformers — Expect more than meets the eye in this big-screen, live-action adaptation of the popular children's cartoon and toys from bombastic director Michael Bays.

JULY 13

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — The boy wizard must battle bad dreams, bureaucratic Dolores Umbridge and raging hormones in this fifth adaptation of the wildly popular children's series.

JULY 20

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry — Straight Philadelphia firefighters (Adam Sandler and Kevin James) pretend to be a gay couple to get domestic-partner benefits. Those expecting high-brow high jinks should probably leave now.

Hairspray — What happens when a cult film becomes a hit Broadway musical that then gets turned into a big-screen musical? John Travolta in drag, that's what happens. Also stars Michelle Pfeiffer.

JULY 27

The Simpsons Movie — D'oh! TV's first family of animation gets the big-screen treatment. Mmmm, beer, I mean popcorn.

No Reservations — The delightful German import "Mostly Martha" gets a Hollywood makeover with Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart and "Little Miss Sunshine" herself, Abigail Breslin.

Stardust — When it rains Michelle Pfeiffer movies, it pours. The screen siren is back with her third film of the summer, this time a fairy-tale adaptation of a Neil Gaiman novel that also stars Robert De Niro, Claire Danes and Sienna Miller.

AUGUST 3

The Bourne Ultimatum — Forgetful superspy Jason Bourne finds himself in the sights of a superkiller. Seriously, how long does amnesia last, anyway?

Becoming Jane — Anne Hathaway stars as the young Jane Austen before she blossomed into the famous novelist everyone remembers from high school English class.

AUGUST 10

Rush Hour 3 — High-flying Jackie Chan and fast-talking Chris Tucker team up again to fight Chinese gangsters in Paris. I'm all tingly with anticipation, aren't you?

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