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Summer of Salvation

The Terminator is back. Plus lots of other movies we can't wait to see this season.

The cinema is not a slice of life but a piece of cake," Alfred Hitchcock once said, and if that's true — and who are we to dispute the Master? — then summertime is when we gorge. Unhealthily, most of the time, on ear-splitting smash-'em-ups and nerd-filled sex comedies. This year's summer movie season is sure to contain its share of brain goo — is that the march of angry robots we hear? — but there are more satisfying things on the menu, too. Gorging, we say, is good — it's the American way — but as we peruse the upcoming multiplex offerings, let's pledge to seek out the occasional rare delicacy. To help, we've narrowed down the season's gazillion releases, and what follows is our list of the best, most intriguing or most promising films. Happy summer.

$9.99

Directed by Tatia Rosenthal

New York animator Rosenthal traveled to Australia to make this acclaimed stop-motion comedy concerning the peculiar adventures of the residents of an Aussie apartment building, including two boys who've spent $9.99 (and not a penny more) on a book that promises the secret to life.

Away We Go

Directed by Sam Mendes

Married novelists of staggering genius, Dave Eggars and Vendala Vida, team with Mendes (Revolutionary Road) to send pregnant newlyweds (John Krasinki and Maya Rudolph) on a sweetly comic road trip across America. Allison Janney, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Paul Schneider co-star as the friends and family (a.k.a. eccentrics) who offer the couple temporary refuge.

The Beaches of Agnès

Directed by Agnès Varda

The renowned French filmmaker, Varda (Vagabond), now 80, continues her ongoing cinematic autobiography with this César-winning documentary. Using the world's beaches as both backdrop and metaphor, Varda recalls the important people of her life, including her late husband, filmmaker Jacques Demy, as well as rock star Jim Morrison.

The Boat That Rocked

Directed by Richard Curtis

It's 1966, and rock and roll has yet to make it to the airwaves of the BBC, which controls all radio stations in England. So Philip Seymour Hoffman leads a renegade band of disc jockeys as they broadcast the devil's music from a boat off the U.K. shore in this comedy from the director of Love Actually.

Bruno

Directed by Larry Charles

Sacha Baron Cohen jettisons Borat for Bruno, a gay, hot pants-wearing Australian fashion reporter. Beyond that, words fail us.

The Cove

Directed by Louie Psihoyos

In the 1960s, Richard O'Barry captured five dolphins and trained them to play "Flipper" on the popular TV show. Since then, he's become obsessed with getting footage of the brutal slaughter of dolphins in a Japanese port town. Psihoyos tracks O'Barry's quest in this wrenching documentary.

Dance Flick

Directed by Damien Dante Wayans

Damon Wayans Jr. dons tights and ballet shoes for this parody of those teen dance dramas in which a white girl from the 'burbs and a black youth from the 'hood find true love in time for the big recital.

Departures

Directed by Yojiro Takita

This year's surprise winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar tells of an unemployed cellist (Masahiro Motoki) who lands a job for which he displays an unexpected aptitude — bathing, dressing and grooming the dead before cremation. A comedy, with tears.

District 9

Directed by Neill Blomkamp

From first-time director Blomkamp and producer Peter Jackson, a sci-fi epic about extraterrestrials that landed in South Africa 30 years ago, only to be captured, segregated and brutally mistreated by the government. The rest of the plot is a secret (so far), but we all know what happens when you piss off a space creature.

Drag Me to Hell

Directed by Sam Raimi

Raimi (Spiderman, The Evil Dead Trilogy) returns to his horror film roots for this tale of a young banker (Alison Lohman) who makes the fatal mistake of denying a loan to an old gypsy woman. Demonic curses soon follow. (Does this explain the banking crisis?)

Easy Virtue

Directed by Stephan Elliott

Jessica Biel moves up the social ladder in this adaptation of Noël Coward's 1920s comedy about an American bombshell about to marry into an aristocratic British family. Kristin Scott Thomas plays Biel's future mother-in-law/nemesis.

500 Days of Summer

Directed by Marc Webb

An L.A. greeting card writer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) finds true love in the form of a beautiful co-worker (Zooey Deschanel) in Webb's romantic comedy, which literally counts the days of this up-and-down relationship.

Flame & Citron

Directed by Ole Christian Madsen

Flame (Thure Lindhardt) and Citron (Mads Mikkelsen) were the code names for two resistance fighters in Denmark during the Nazi occupation. Madsen tells their story in a film that's been a smash hit in its home country, where Mikkelsen is a superstar.

Food, Inc.

Directed by Robert Kenner

Moviegoers aren't likely to rush to the supermarket after seeing this disturbing exposé of the underregulated, profit-mad American food industry. It's time to plant that garden.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Directed by David Yates

A nerdy but increasingly sexy teenage boy with magical powers and an invisible cloak learns the true history of his archenemy, whose name we dare not utter.

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