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Harry Potter, Depp are summer’s top picks

The boy wizard is back, and he’s not alone. Stars such as Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep, Seth Rogen, Adam Sandler and Channing Tatum all hope to have this summer’s big box-office winner.
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Does it seem like a long time since there’s been a Harry Potter film? Well, the boy wizard is back, and he’s not alone. Stars such as Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep, Seth Rogen, Adam Sandler and Channing Tatum all hope to have this summer’s box office winner. And if you think Streep can’t do it, don’t forget that her “Mamma Mia!” beat out “The Dark Knight” in the U.K. last summer. We could also have some early Oscar contenders here in Streep, Amy Adams, Depp and even Sandler.

“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Jim Broadbent, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith Director: David Yates Story: Let’s start with a partial spoiler: A major character loses his life in this one. In Harry Potter’s (Radcliffe) sixth year at Hogwarts, Voldemort becomes more of a threat. Dumbledore (Gambon) and Harry enlist the help of Professor Slughorn (Broadbent) to help them jump through pools of liquid memory and trace Voldemort’s evolution. Love also blooms in this installment as Harry is drawn to Ginny (Bonnie Wright) and Ron gets fed some mysterious chocolates that make him fall for Romilda Vane (Anna Shaffer), to the chagrin of Lavender Brown (Jessica Cave). Worth seeing? If you’re a Potter fan, of course. Yates, who directed “Order of the Phoenix,” had to compress those liquid memories down for the film. “We've still got some really cool ones. We've got, you know, the wonderful thing is seeing Riddle as a child, which is really scary,” Yates told the folks at Grint told Entertainment Weekly that the film is “a lot lighter and funnier” than “Phoenix,” which does seem kind of odd considering the fact that there’s a huge death in the film. Web site: Release date: July 15

“Public Enemies”
Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Giovanni Ribisi, Billy Crudup, Stephen Dorff Director: Michael Mann Story: Depp stars as legendary bank robber John Dillinger, who, during the Great Depression, became a hero to the people by stealing from the very government they felt cheated them. Bale co-stars as FBI agent Melvin Purvis, who is determined to catch Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) and Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum). Crudup is J. Edgar Hoover, who just wants some prestige for his newly created bureau. Worth seeing? Yes. This film could be an Oscar contender. As with Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed,” the film is a prestige project disguised as an action flick. Producer Kevin Misher told the L.A. Times, “If you're looking for action, I don't think you'll be disappointed. We've got three bank robberies, two prison breaks, and who knows how many shootouts.” Mann, who directed “Heat” and “Collateral,” is a noted stickler for details. Misher added, “Whenever we could we shot exactly where the events happened — if we could find where Dillinger walked, we shot where he walked.” Mann definitely needs to redeem himself after the moronic “Miami Vice,” and with some help from Depp, it looks like he’ll do that with this film. Web site: Release date: July 1

“Julie & Julia”
Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, Linda Emond Director: Nora Ephron Story: Amy Adams plays Julie Emerson, a frustrated secretary, who decides to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in one year. Streep plays Child in 1950s Paris when she was first starting to make her rise in the world of cooking. Worth seeing? Yes. Streep’s “Mamma Mia!” was the surprise hit of last summer. Of this film, she told Entertainment Weekly, “It’s almost two movies that have blended together in a dialogue.” She added, “We’re so used to dysfunctional relationships. Here are these outsized, vivid, problematic women with great men of substance who love them in spite of all their prickliness.” Sounds like a recipe for a successful film. Web site: Release date: Aug. 7

“Funny People”
Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman, RZA Director: Judd Apatow Story: Sandler plays George Simmons, a comedian who has an inoperable blood disorder and is given less than a year to live. George sees fellow comedian Ira Wright (Rogen) perform one night and hires him to be his personal assistant and opening act and the two form a close bond. But when George discovers his disease has gone into remission, he starts to re-evaluate his life, including his chance to win back his former flame (Mann). Worth seeing? Yes. This is only the third film Apatow has directed, believe it or not, and his expertise is comedy with heart. Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeffrey Wells talked to an anonymous screening attender who said, “Really funny, a really sweet movie, a lot of veracity ... really a brilliant film. Everybody's game goes up a lot.” Wells even talked about this film being a possible Oscar contender. Apatow described the film to Entertainment Weekly as a “demented ‘Tuesdays With Morrie.’” Web site: date: July 31

“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”
Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Dennis Quaid, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sienna Miller Director: Stephen Sommers Story: G.I. Joe is not a man; instead it is an elite unit of soldiers, which includes Duke (Tatum), Hawk (Quaid), Ripcord (Wayans) and Snake Eyes (Ray Park). They take on villains including the Baroness (Miller) and the evil Cobra Commander (Gordon-Levitt). Worth seeing? Maybe, but there is some bad buzz. According to a nasty rumor written by an anonymous poster on Producer Don Murphy’s Web site, director Sommers was fired after a really bad test screening of the film. Movieline debunked the firing rumor, but they added, “Test screenings on ‘G.I. Joe’ happened months ago and though the studio was dissatisfied, one source doubts that the film could have reached the NRG depths of past Paramount product like ‘Marci X’ and ‘Timeline.’” What a ringing endorsement. Web site: Release date: Aug. 7