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How about those summer movie trailers? We're checking them out

The best parts of many movies are often two minutes long, cleverly packaged in preview trailers.

What you see in advance of opening day isn't always what you get.

Speed Racer looked awesome before the feature-length version blew its gaskets. Leatherheads was a must-see in previews and a must-skip in theaters. And 88 Minutes seemed cool with a two-minute running time.

Sometimes you can even believe the hype.

Nothing hustles tickets — especially in summertime — like entertaining trailers. So, we're focusing our summer movie preview on previews of summer movies.

Any movie can become The Most Important Thing You'll Do Next in Your Life with smart editing, catchy music and a deep-voiced narrator: "In a world where . . ." is a common opener, and characters live happily "until . . ."

After viewing dozens of these mini-flicks (several have multiple versions), I give you the 10 that make me truly look forward to their movies' release dates — plus 10 that make me think a flat tire on the way to the theater might be a blessing.

These trailers are solely evaluated on their fun quotient or lack thereof — that's what summer movies are all about. Click each movie link to view the trailer from Youtube.com.

1. Hancock (July 2)

Overall vibe: Begins like The Pursuit of Happyness 2, with disheveled Will Smith sleeping on a bench. Then the concept literally blasts off, as antisocial Hancock rockets to protect Los Angeles, casually leaving a wake of collateral damage.

Gotta see that again: Hancock's Herculean rescue of a beached whale — at the expense of a sailboat a mile away — may be the summer's best sight gag.

Leaves you thinking: Every other Fourth of July weekend movie should heed Ludacris' soundtrack advice: "Whoa, get out the way."

2. The Dark Knight (July 18)

Overall vibe: Just as dark as the title implies, for the uber-brooding atmosphere director Christopher Nolan added to Batman's legacy and the late Heath Ledger's macabre take on the arch villain Joker.

Gotta see that again: Ledger's killer-clown makeup, a smear of greasepaint and lipstick to launch a thousand nightmares.

Leaves you thinking: A posthumous Academy Award nomination isn't out of the question.

3. WALL*E (June 27)

Overall vibe: Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp fathered R2-D2's child, who resembles robot No. 5 from Short Circuit. WALL*E is an abandoned garbage-bot whose routine is interrupted by a mysterious spaceship whisking him through the cosmos to reunite with humans.

Gotta see that again: Pixar's computer animation geniuses make outer space appear suitable for framing.

Leaves you thinking: Children will be so smitten with WALL*E that they won't mind he speaks only in beeps and boops.

4. Wanted (June 27)

Overall vibe: Gunpowder cool, with Angelina Jolie in Mr. and Mrs. Smith mode as a super-duper assassin. She even inspires that Atonement dweeb (James McAvoy) to pull some trigger magic.

Gotta see that again: Jolie's stunt double executing a car chase maneuver, with passenger door open, to scoop up McAvoy's CGI double while barely touching the brakes.

Leaves you thinking: U.N. goodwill ambassadors shouldn't behave like this.

5. Tropic Thunder (Aug. 15)

Overall vibe: Apocalypse Now meets Bowfinger when stars of a Hollywood war movie (Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr.) are captured in Southeast Asia and must play their roles for real.

Gotta see that again: Downey's character going outrageously Method playing an African-American soldier, having his bluffs called by a black co-star.

Leaves you thinking: Smart move not to spoil Tom Cruise's cameo, which spoofs Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone, who once booted him off Paramount's lot.

6. The Happening (June 13)

Overall vibe: Very creepy, with director M. Night Shyamalan making things go bump in broad daylight. A virus of some kind is wiping out civilization, leaving Mark Wahlberg to wrangle survivors. It could pass as a superior prequel to I Am Legend.

Gotta see that again: Actually, hear it. An announcement that whatever is happening isn't a terrorist attack makes the unknown even scarier.

Leaves you thinking: Shyamalan's creative and commercial slump (Lady in the Water, The Village) is over.

7. The Incredible Hulk (June 13)

Overall vibe: Basically a do-over for the Marvel Comics icon after 2003's version disappointed fans. Edward Norton's casting could provide a Downey-style surprise, trading the first movie's dreary psychoanalysis for breakneck conspiracy thrills.

Gotta see that again: Hulk and his evil clone, the Abomination, flying full force into a showdown at Harlem's Apollo Theater.

Leaves you thinking: Jason Bourne should lay off those gamma rays.

8. Kung Fu Panda (June 6)

Overall vibe: This trailer has talking animated critters doing martial arts moves. What else do children need?

Gotta see that again: The mock-grindhouse introduction to zoo-fu fighting styles. Chopsocky pioneer Run Run Shaw would be flattered.

Leaves you thinking: Po the panda (voice of Jack Black) makes a softer plush toy than WALL*E does.

9. Pineapple Express (Aug. 8)

Overall vibe: Lethal Weapon meets Up in Smoke when a pot-smoking businessman (Seth Rogen) witnesses a murder, and his dealer (James Franco) joins him on the lam.

Gotta see that again: Rogen swan-diving 20 feet to tackle a bad guy. Is that guy stoned or what?

Leaves you thinking: Buttered popcorn would taste sweet right now.

10. You Don't Mess with the Zohan (June 6)

Overall vibe: Adam Sandler isn't a convincing professional assassin or hairdresser, but somehow the combination suits his wacky style. At least he's back to being funny.

Gotta see that again: Zohan's killer skills are displayed at extremely close range, going nose-to-nose with an adversary, yet slapping the guy with his bare foot: "Smell it, smell it. Now take it."

Leaves you thinking: What's the deal with that dumb title?

Going to theaters to see them isn't necessary anymore. YouTube, the Internet Movie Database and other entertainment Web sites offer them 24/7, including extended versions before they're chopped into 30-second TV ads.

How about those summer movie trailers? We're checking them out 05/21/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 23, 2008 11:27am]

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