Topic: TOP TEN Most Anticipated Films of 2008
10. "Tropic Thunder" Mark Your Calendar: July 11
Stars: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Nick Nolte, Steve Coogan, Danny McBride, Bill Hader, Tom Cruise and numerous celebrity cameos
The Story: Movie actors go on location and find themselves stuck in the middle of a real war zone. Hilarity ensues.
The Lowdown: Stiller has recruited a fantastic ensemble of comedic actors in his first directorial effort since 2001's underrated "Zoolander." Word is it's not the more recognizable names who have the biggest laughs, but that up-and-comers Hader and McBride steal the show.
Big Question Mark: Will Cruise stop suing Web sites for showing him in the bald cap and fat suit he wears in his Harvey Weinstein-like cameo in the movie? (Probably not.)
9. "WALL*E" Mark Your Calendar: June 27
Stars: WALL*E, EVE
The Story: After 700 years of cleaning up junk on a deserted planet Earth, inquisitive robot WALL*E mistakenly flies into space, where he discovers love in the form of another robot, EVE.
The Lowdown: Director Andrew Stanton is less heralded than Pixar peers Brad Bird and John Lasseter. But he's also the creative mind behind "Finding Nemo," and, from what's been shown so far, this flick may prove he's actually the superior talent.
Big Question Mark: Pixar and Disney reached $615 million worldwide with an animated movie about a French rat that takes place mostly in a kitchen. That pretty much proves they can do anything but bring peace to the Middle East. (Give them time!)
8. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" Mark Your Calendar: Nov. 26
Stars: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Elle Fanning, Julia Ormond
The Story: Based on a 1922 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Benjamin Button (Pitt) is born as a fully grown, old man in 1918 and lives his life by aging backward all the way to the 21st century.
The Lowdown: Director David Fincher's latest flick has an astronomical budget in part because of CG work used to place Pitt's face on all the different bodies that help portray Button along his journey, from elderly men to little kids.
Big Question Mark: Can "Button" hit a "Forrest Gump" nerve?
7. "Pineapple Express" Mark Your Calendar: Aug. 8
Stars: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Bill Hader, Gary Cole, Rosie Perez
The Story: Dale (Rogen) is a process server who buys a new type of marijuana called Pineapple Express from a drug dealer named Saul (Franco). They are forced to go on the run after they witness a murder committed by a corrupt cop (Perez) and a local gang leader (Cole).
The Lowdown: Already finished and beloved by test audiences, Sony Pictures is releasing this R-rated comedy from producer Judd Apatow and screenwriter Rogen on the same successful summer weekend as "Superbad."
Big Question Mark: Because of the questionable quality of the flicks that precede it in the spring ("Drillbit Taylor" and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall"), will this be the first Apatow movie not to have his name prominently displayed in the advertising?
6. "Mamma Mia!" Mark Your Calendar: July 18
Stars: Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Amanda Seyfried, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Walters, Christine Baranski
The Story: A young bride invites three of her mother's ex-flames to her wedding in hopes of determining which one of them is her father.
The Lowdown: The original stage musical composed of the greatest hits of 1970s pop band ABBA has been extremely popular with audiences, but not so much with critics.
Big Question Mark: It's not whether Streep can sing (she can), but without tween sensation Zac Efron in tow, can it make more money than last summer's $118 million grossing "Hairspray"?
5. "Star Trek" Mark Your Calendar: Dec. 25
Stars: Leonard Nimoy, Eric Bana, Karl Urban, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin
The Story: Shrouded in secrecy, but rumor has it that, in order to correct the timeline, Spock (Nimoy) is forced to return to the days when he first met James T. Kirk and team up with his younger self (Quinto) to prevent Kirk and the starship Enterprise from being erased from history entirely.
The Lowdown: Director J.J. Abrams ("Lost") is hoping to relaunch the franchise by introducing a new cast and reimagining the look of the original 1960s show for today. By bringing back Nimoy and teaming him with Quinto, he's basically making a Spock buddy picture.
Big Question Mark: Can Abrams and Paramount convince anyone under the age of 40 that "Star Trek" is actually cool again?
4. "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" Mark Your Calendar: Nov. 21
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Helena Bonham Carter, Jim Broadbent, Michael Gambon, Warwick Davis, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman
The Story: It's getting darker and darker at Hogwarts as Voldemort's influence is growing, but Dumbledore is preparing Harry and his friends for the inevitable climactic showdown. And just to make matters worse, teenage romance is in the air!
The Lowdown: Rickman has waited patiently through the first five films for Professor Severus Snape to finally get interesting, and, having read the book, he's no doubt thrilled he stuck around. (He also admits to having read the final book, "The Deathly Hallows," as well.)
Big Question Mark: Can director David Yates fashion a better picture than "Order of the Phoenix," and will he still be around for "Hallows"?
3. "Iron Man" Mark Your Calendar: May 2
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges
The Story: Billionaire industrialist and genius inventor Tony Stark is kidnapped by terrorists, who force him to build a devastating weapon. Escaping by building himself a powerful suit of armor instead, he realizes he has been a pawn in a sinister plot with global implications.
Determined to stop it, he develops a more advanced version of his armor and becomes Iron Man.
The Lowdown: When the first footage from the movie was shown in front of 5,000 Comic-Con fans last July, the audience freaked. And no one is questioning whether Downey has the chops to pull off a convincing action hero anymore.
Big Question Mark: There is no question it's going to be the summer's first hit. The question is: Just how big a hit will it be?
2. "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" Mark Your Calendar: May 22
Stars: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Shia LaBeouf, Karen Allen, John Hurt, Ray Winstone
The Story: Set in 1957, 19 years after "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," the professor's latest adventure has him racing against the Soviet Union to find the Crystal Skull, a mysterious object of possibly alien origin (bingo!) that has tremendous power.
The Lowdown: It's amazing the movie is being made at all with Ford a wry 65 years old, but that's why Steven Spielberg protÃ©gÃ© and teen heartthrob LaBeouf is along for the ride.
Big Question Mark: LaBeouf's character is described as a "motorcycle-riding greaser," but is he really Indy's son or not?
1. "The Dark Knight" Mark Your Calendar: July 18
Stars: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart
The Story: Batman (Bale) faces his greatest challenge: a punk/anti-establishment Joker (a sinfully intriguing Ledger) wreaking havoc across Gotham City. And, in the wings, another evil threat looms.
The Lowdown: Director Chris Nolan also smartly kept Wayne's love interest, Rachel Dawes, but thankfully replaced Katie Holmes with a much better actress, Gyllenhaal.
Big Question Mark: Just exactly how does Eckhart's portrayal of the villainous Two-Face fit into the picture?