Recently, while on a walk, my wife and I came across a homemade sign that read: "Tom Plts."

"Tom Pluts?" I said, trying to pronounce the second word. "Is that a political sign for a candidate I haven't heard of?

Stifling a laugh, my wife said, "It's 'tomato plants."'

I looked a bit bewildered, prompting her to add, "Hey, we live in a text-message world."

Which leads me to the conclusion that Prince ... you know, the artist formerly known as Prince and now again known as Prince and somewhere in between known as a symbol no one could pronounce ... is the inventor of texting.

Remember his song titles? "U Got the Look," "Money Don't Matter 2 Night," "Eye Hate U," "I Would Die 4 U," "Love 2 the 9's."

Really, don't they look like antique text messages?

· · · · ·

An alert reader, Jacob Rawlins, pointed out an error in a column awhile back, wherein I wrote "Batman Returns" when I meant "Batman Begins."

It's not the first time. A few weeks before that I wrote "The Bourne Supremacy" when I meant "The Bourne Ultimatum."

In another e-mail, Rawlins wrote, "It was much easier when they just gave sequels numbers."

Amen, brother.

Although by the time you get up to the fourth sequel or beyond, it does become cumbersome. "Shrek the 37th" anyone?

But all those "Batmans" and "Bournes" are too much alike. Ditto the "Die Hard" movies. "Live Free or Die Hard"? What does that even mean?

I prefer sequels with entirely different titles, such as the James Bond and Dirty Harry pictures.

Although some of those titles are really obtuse. "Die Another Day"? "The Dead Pool"?

Or how about the upcoming 007 movie, due in November: "Quantum of Solace." Say what?

Maybe "James Bond 22" wouldn't be so bad.

· · · · ·

In addition to being the summer of superhero movies/sequels, it's the summer of superhero apologia.

Three years ago, the introduction to "The Dark Knight," "Batman Begins," was essentially an apology for "Batman & Robin." "Batman Begins" could have been titled "Batman Starts Over" or maybe "Batman's Penance for One Sequel Too Many."

Similarly, this summer's "The Incredible Hulk" was an attempt to reinvigorate that franchise after the failure of 2003's "Hulk." But there's no truth to the rumor that the working title was "The Hulk: We Blew It the First Time But Please Give Us Another Chance."

· · · · ·

There's a school of thought that suggests the "star" age of movies has passed. That movie stars today — including star directors — are not what they once were.

It may be true. Remember when poster ads used to mention, say, Bette Davis' previous hit film, or Alfred Hitchcock's last box-office success? These days they tout people so obscure that they don't even bother to name them.

Last weekend: "The House Bunny" was celebrated as "From the screenwriters who brought you 'Legally Blonde'" and "Hamlet 2" touted as "From the producers of 'Little Miss Sunshine' and 'Election.'"

What's next? A new film "from the head gaffer on 'Titanic'" or a picture from "the guy who choreographed Toby Maguire's little dance for 'Spider-Man 3'"?


E-mail: hicks@desnews.com