Last year was a banner one for nature movies, kicking off with The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill and ending up with the wild cowboys of Brokeback Mountain (c’mon, Jake wasn’t the only gorgeous scenery). In the middle, there were record-grossing Penguins, a trip to Syriana, and the horrors of The Island.

So what does 2006 hold? We took a gander at the major studios’ planned releases — which include such irritatingly surefire hits as Mission: Impossible III and The Da Vinci Code — to see whose screens will be tinted green. We hereby present a semi-informed, handily categorized list of eco-blockbusters coming soon to a theater near you.

The Ant Bully: Be kind to your six-legged friends … or else.

Photo: Inset courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.


 

Nature Is Fuzzy and Must Be Saved

Deep Sea 3D. This IMAX movie might be confused with similar underwater brethren, if not for Kate Winslet and the rainbow nudibranch. Need we say more? March.

Hoot. First of all: Luke Wilson. Second of all: a young boy trying his darnedest to save endangered owls in Florida. And third of all: Luke Wilson. April.

Sea it in 3D at IMAX.

Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Flicka. Well, animals were harmed in the remaking of this film, a sapfest about a ranch-dwelling girl and a wild horse. But Maria Bello wasn’t. July.

Open Season. File under “cuddly critters and the women who love them”: a hunted deer and bear become friends while a forest ranger tries to save their hides. September.

Happy Feet. Part of Hollywood’s fail-safe plan to incorporate penguins in every movie, this one follows the adventures of a bird named Mumble! Aww. November.

Flushed Away. The first of two upcoming movies featuring cosmopolitan rats spins the tail of a London rodent forced from his penthouse dwelling. Keep an eye out for the Parisian version, Ratatouille, in 2007. (No, seriously.) November.

Nature Is Scary and Must Be Stopped

Ice Age 2: The Meltdown. OK, the first one was actually kind of funny. The second obviously presents a cautionary tale about global warming. Right? March.

Slither. A mysterious, underground creature torments a town and eats all its puppies. Is it a snake? An eel? Karl Rove? We’re not allowed to tell. March.

The Hills Have Eyes. Hey, if you’re going to take your family on a cross-country road trip, watch out for New Mexico’s nuclear mutants. March. (P.S.: If you’re going to take your family on a cross-country road trip in an RV, watch out for Robin Williams.)

Snakes! On a plane!

Photo: James Dittiger/New Line Productions.

Poseidon. Tidal waves: bad. Being trapped on a luxury liner capsized by one: really bad. Being trapped with Kurt Russell and Richard Dreyfuss: priceless. May.

Snakes on a Plane. The artfully artless title of this film has already generated a cult following — as if Samuel L. Jackson spitting venom weren’t enough. August.

The Woods. Being a miserable teenager at a girls’ boarding school is a lot more miserable when the school is — cue scary music — in the woods! TBA.

There’s Something in the Water

Aquamarine. After a major coastal storm, two girls discover a mermaid in the pool at their beach club. Tweener antics abound. March.

The ultimate enviro.

Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Superman Returns. In the process of saving the earth, the man of steel ‘n’ tights travels to the depths of the ocean — and into outer space! Because he’s Superman! June.

The Lake House. Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock reunite, only there’s not so much Speed when the two exchange time-warped love letters in a pretty lakeside setting. June.

Lady in the Water. Stop us if you’ve heard this one: after a major mental storm, Paul Giamatti discovers a sea nymph in the pool at his apartment complex. M. Night Shyamalan antics abound. July.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. OK, you got us, Johnny Depp dueling supernatural pirates doesn’t have so much to do with nature. But … water! It’s a precious resource! July.

The Fountain. Millennial fable takes Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz on a quest for immortality after a tree of life is discovered in Central America. Co-starring Hugh Jass. TBA.

Um, Humans Are Ruining the World

Thank You for Smoking. In this Sundance contender, a big-tobacco rep stops fuming long enough to see the nic-stained future in his child’s eyes. Yes, public health is officially an environmental issue. March.

Over the Hedge. It’s sprawl from the critters’ point of view, as an all-star cast (Avril Lavigne! Allison Janney! Shatner!) gives voice to animals dealing with suburbia. May.

Cars. Owen Wilson provides the schnozzarific stylings for a car that learns there’s more to life than speed and gas-guzzling. It’s a parable! Or maybe not. June.

The Ant Bully. A kid who tortures ants gets cut down to size — literally. If nothing else, this one gives Snakes on a Plane a run for the Bad Title crown. August.

Sunshine. Think we’ve got it bad now? A mere 50 years hence, the sun is dying, and a spaceship trying to save our world with a fission bomb runs into trouble. Whooee. October.

The Reaping. When a Southern town suffers Biblical plagues, Hilary Swank has to figure out why. And as with most things natural-like, science just doesn’t help. October.