Summer movies full of action

It’s shaping up to be a comical summer for moviegoers, in more ways than one. On one hand, Hollywood has laid out a promising selection of lighthearted comedic bonbons starring the likes of Jim Carrey (“Bruce Almighty”) and Reese Witherspoon (“Legally Blonde 2: Red, White ‘ Blonde”). On the flip side of the comic coin, we find ourselves fired up by the WHAP! SLAM! CRACK! of the X-Men and a certain less-than-jolly green giant named the Hulk.

1. “The Matrix Reloaded”: Let me hear ya say “Whoa.” Rarely admired for his eloquence, Keanu Reeves spoke for a generation when he coined that curt, one-syllable catchphrase in Larry and Andy Wachowski’s mindbending kung fu blockbuster “The Matrix.” After all, who among the masses who saw the movie wasn’t awestruck by the blistering bullet-eye special effects and trippy, Lewis Carrollesque story line? Four years in the making, this lavish follow-up promises to be the defining cinematic event of the summer.

(Release date: May 15) Predicted gross: $375 million

2. “The Hulk”: On the surface, the story of a mutated, green-skinned brute who flings tanks around like pool toys doesn’t have much to offer the serious cineaste, but remember, it was directed by Ang Lee, the Chinese auteur who so subtly explored suburban alienation in “The Ice Storm” and conjured the delicate feminist lyricism of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” So, even with the mayhem and wanton destruction, expect “The Hulk” to be heady, something along the lines of “Eat Drink Behemoth Woman.” Eric Bana and Jennifer Connelly star. (June 20) Predicted gross: $310 million

3. “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines”: Series creator James Cameron has resigned himself to executive producer duties, but his replacement in the director’s chair, Jonathon Mostow (“U-571”) is a rising action specialist who has done wonders with limited budgets. Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as the now-antiquated T800 cyborg, this time sent back in time to save an 18-year-old John Conner (Nick Stahl) from a deceptively sexy terminatrix (Kristanna Loken). (July 2) Predicted gross: $240 million

4. “X2: X-Men United”: Marvel’s mutant heroes return for a second outing behind the sure hand of director Bryan Singer (“The Usual Suspects”), battling their humanity-hating brethren along with a bellicose Army general (Brian Cox) who overruns Professor Xavier’s mutant academy. All of the core cast return, joined by a few fresh noble freaks: Alan Cumming (“Spy Kids”) as the shape-shifting Nightcrawler and Kelly Hu (“The Scorpion King”) as Wolverine’s claw-wielding nemesis, Deathstrike. (May 2) Predicted gross: $220 million

5. “Bad Boys II”: Martin Lawrence and Will Smith wield considerably more box office clout than they did in 1995, when the original “Bad Boys” jump-started their careers. This time Lawrence and Smith junket to London to investigate a money-laundering scheme involving Lawrence’s half-sister, played by Gabrielle Union. (July 18) Predicted gross: $205 million.