Wednesday, September 26, 2001

Fall 2001: Things to Come

Stepping out of the summer for most vacationers is like leaving behind an endless party, but for many of the moviegoers of the 2001 summer releases, walking away from a train wreck would be a more appropriate comparison. Not that the last three months were a total waste, mind you: the variety of things to see at the local multiplex was extremely diverse, ranging from big special effects extravaganzas (“Pearl Harbor”) to hilarious comedies (“American Pie 2”) to ambitious sequels (“Jurassic Park III”) and even to digitally-rendered epics (“Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within”). Unfortunately, the many selections did not always produce glowing results, and at some points even the most avid moviegoers couldn’t help but scratch their heads in disbelief at what big studios had to offer during the busiest time of the year at the movies. Is this a normal reaction? Sometimes. But even just plain badness can exceed the limits, and unlike recent years, summer 2001 saw its fair share of cinematic garbage.

But now the fall movie season is beginning to show over the horizon, promising those of us disappointed by the majority of this year’s endeavors something fresh and worthwhile. These last months of the year, as every movie fan should know by now, is usually the time when Hollywood studios release the best they have to offer—movies that that are driven more by story and less by action, and as such are more superior and effective compared to the material released early on in the year. Not coincidentally, this is also the time that members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences look forward to when thinking about who (or what) they feel deserves award recognition during the next Oscar ceremony.

It’s hard to say whether anything being offered at the theater over the next several weeks will be of improvement over most of everything from earlier in the year, but it’s fun to wonder...

A Look Ahead

Hearts In Atlantis
The first sign of seriousness at a movie theater is the sight of a new Steven King screen adaptation, and this year that honor belongs to “Hearts In Atlantis,” which is actually a rendition of one of five stories King wrote for his multiple short-story novella of the same name. And like the majority of recent works based on his material, this one is not horror-oriented, either. Anthony Hopkins leads the cast as the strange neighbor of a local 11-year old boy who doesn’t realize he has something special inside him, but is about to find out once the two become close friends. Directed by Scott Hicks (“Shine,” “Snow Falling On Cedars”) and scripted by William Goldman (“Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid,” “Misery”). Rated PG-13. Opens September 28

Ben Stiller resumes his successful career as a comedic actor in “Zoolander,” an offbeat comedy about a male model who is no longer the best in his field, and gets mixed up all sorts of plots that turn his life upside down (one of them involving the CIA). The picture also stars Will Ferrell, Owen Wilson and Milla Jovovich, and contains several cameo appearances from actors such as Jon Voight, David Bowie, Natalie Portman, Vince Vaughn, and even Andy Dick. Stiller is also the director here, not to mention one of two screenwriters (the other being Drake Sather, who often contributed to “The Larry Sanders Show.”). Rated PG-13. Opens September 28

Iron Monkey
In the mood for martial arts? “Iron Monkey” is the picture that everyone is talking about, and not just because it is loosely based on the old “Robin Hood” legend. What makes this particular release so interesting is that, for a fact, the picture was made in 1993 has been available on video for a couple of years now. Miramax has sought the rights to release it theatrically ever since, and just recently they were given them. Because it has garnered such little attention in the past, the studio hopes this wide domestic release will finally find its audience here in the western hemisphere. Opens October 5

Joy Ride
Leelee Sobieski, currently seen in “The Glass House,” has obviously been a busy woman lately, as “Joy Ride” is her fourth (count ‘em, fourth) big acting job to be released this year alone. She stars opposite Paul Walker and Stephen Zahn, who play brothers on a road trip across half of the country who, for fun, decide to play a practical joke on a lonely truck driver over a CB Radio. What they don’t realize, however, is that the man they have come in contact with doesn’t really know how to take a joke, and he decides to stalk the two unknowing brothers cross country in order to seek some very disturbing revenge... The film is being promoted as a teen thriller, but will the picture manage to rise above the label that is responsible for many recent flops in the genre? Directed by John Dahl (“Rounders”) and written by J.J. Abrams and Clay Tarver. Rated R. Opens October 5

“Bandits” is the long-awaited picture from director Barry Levinson, who hasn’t been seen on screen since the disaster that is “Sphere” sent him into a seeming reclusive hiding. The movie is considered to be a modern version of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” and features Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton as bank robbing partners who kidnap a woman, but are then greatly discouraged when they both realize that they are each falling in love with her. Also stars Cate Blanchett and Bobby Slayton. Written by Harley Peyton. Rated PG-13. Opens October 12

The Last Castle
Those who loved “The Shawshank Redemption” may want to mark this feature on their calendars, because much of the material is reflected here. Robert Redford stars as a three-star General who is wrongly sentenced for a crime he did not do, sent to prison, and becomes an active voice against the ineptitude of prison affairs (most notably of the warden, whom he and 1200 inmates rally against). Directed by Rod Lurie (“The Contender”) and written by Graham Yost. Rated R. Opens October 12

From Hell
There have been countless retellings of the difficult investigations surrounding the infamous Jack the Ripper, but it is unlikely that any of them are as stylish and ambitious as “From Hell,” a movie that, judging from the previews, seems to be part costume drama, part murder mystery. This particular rendition of the events sees Frederick Abberline (Johnny Depp), an investigator from Scotland Yard, furiously pursue the man behind several gruesome killings around London during a time when poverty and disease were very high. Also stars Heather Graham. Directed by Albert and Allen Hughes (“Dead Presidents”). Written by Terry Hayes and Rafael Yglesias, and based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore, which is strongly considered to be one of the most comprehensive and detailed retellings of this infamous serial killer. Rated R. Opens October 19

If you are familiar with David Mamet’s work as a writer, than “Heist,” a crime story about a gang of thieves seeking to take over a jewelry store, should seem rather familiar. Mamet’s traditional forte is writing crime stories, something which he has avoided most recently with films like “The Winslow Boy” and “State and Main.” And like most of his work, this film also contains a large ensemble cast, consisting of Gene Hackman and Danny DeVito, among others. Mamet is also the director here. Rated R. Opens October 19

13 Ghosts
The low-budgeted 1960s horror movies of William Castle apparently needed a face-lift, as “13 Ghosts” is the second recent remake of his material (the first being “House on Haunted Hill” from two years before). Among this cast of unknowns is a story in which a wealthy doctor dies, and then leaves his nephew and niece-in-law a large mansion containing a treasure buried somewhere deep inside. The only thing that stands in their way are 13 ghosts, who haunt the mansion because, well, that’s just what they do in these movies. Directed by newcomer Steve Beck and written by Todd Alcott, James Gunn and Rich d’Ovidio. Not yet rated. Opens October 26

The Man Who Wasn’t There
Joel and Ethan Coen, two of the most popular moviemakers of the 90s, are behind this black-and-white film noir style production about a 1940s barber who discovers that his wife is cheating on him, and decides to blackmail the man whom she is having the affair with. Stars Billy Bob Thornton and Frances McDormand in roles that already have people talking Academy Award. It also won the Best Director prize at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival. Rated R. Opens November 2

Monsters, Inc.
After a line of highly successful hits involving parts of life we often ignore, the computer animated experts at PIXAR are prepared to unleash their latest project onto the public, this time tackling the subject of every child’s nighttime fear: monsters in the closet. In the story, gigantic creatures appear from behind closet doors to frighten kids not because they want to, but because it’s their job. What kids don’t know, however, is that sometimes they scare the monsters right back, and when a fearless little girl is accidentally brought back to the main headquarters of closet monsters, things go haywire. Features voices from Billy Crytal and John Goodman. Rated G. Originally planned for a Thanksgiving release, the movie has been pushed forward to avoid competing with “Harry Potter.” Opens November 2

Shallow Hal
Jack Black plays a middle-aged ladies man who was told to date only the youngest and prettiest women he could find, but finds himself searching for love on the inside when he begins to show interest in an older, much heavier person. Controversy behind this quirky romance comedy surfaced long before it ever went into production stages, initially because it stars Gwyneth Paltrow, one of the most petite actresses in Hollywood, in the role of an extremely obese woman (which many say is “insulting”). Written and directed by the notorious Farrelly brothers (“There’s Something About Mary,” “Me, Myself & Irene”). Not yet rated. Opens November 9

Nicholas Cage heads the cast of this John Woo-directed World War II epic, which revolves specifically around one single point: what would have happeed if the Japanese had the resources to break the code used in top secret messages that were delivered between the United States and its allies? Woo’s action-oriented penchant is set to play itself out on screen during a time period when action was a necessity in order fo soldiers to survive. Rated R. Opens November 9

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
The fastest-selling children’s story of all-time is now getting the obligatory screen treatment, and the first picture of a reported four in planning, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” opens this Thanksgiving to some of the highest expectations among young viewers ever. The film stars young Daniel Radcliffe as the title character, a boy with special talents who is invited to study at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and becomes involved in many rousing adventures. Directed by Chris Columbus (“Home Alone,” “Bicentennial Man”) and written by Steven Kloves (who is also writing the scripts for the next two installments of the franchise). Rated PG. Opens November 16

Black Knight
Martin Lawrence, best known for his comedy on television, returns to the big screen for the first time since “Big Momma’s House” in “Black Night,” a film which sees an employee at a miniature golf course accidentally transported back to medieval times, in which he must participate in overthrowing an evil king. Directed by Gil Junger. Written by Darryl Quarles. Rated PG-13. Opens November 21

In Brief

The highly anticipated movie biography of famed boxing heavyweight Muhammed Ali, starring, surprisingly enough, Will Smith in the title role. Directed by Michael Mann (“The Insider”). Opens December 7

Ocean’s Eleven
A remake of the Rat Pack Heist movie, “Ocean’s Eleven” is the latest from acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic”), who once again organizes a large ensemble cast here to help carry out his complex style of filmmaking (including such faces as Don Cheadle, George Clooney, and Brad Pitt). Rated PG-13. Opens December 7

Vanilla Sky
The latest offering from director and writer Cameron Crowe (“Almost Famous”), which stars Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz, whom reportedly became involved during the making of this picture. Opens December 14

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Perhaps the most anticipated release since the last “Star Wars” picture, the first of three screen adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s timeless tales of the middle-earth fantasy “The Lord of The Rings.” Stars Elijah Wood and Ian McKellen and is directed by Peter Jackson. The next two films follow sometime next year. Rated PG-13. Opens December 19

Gangs of New York
The story of how the Mafia got its big start in New York during the 1860s, and how crime belonged to the Irish and Italian Americans in New York during that time. Directed by Martin Scorcese. Rated R. Opens December 21

The Majestic
Jim Carrey fans take note: the popular actor has returned to the big screen, this time in a drama about a man who loses his memory and is lead into the role of a separate identity. Directed by Frank Darabont, the director’s first endeavor not based on a Stephen King story (the previous works being “The Green Mile” and “The Shawshank Redemption”). Opens December 21

The Shipping News
The latest from famed Miramax director Lasse Hallstrom—a movie that already has Oscar written all over it—about the difficult life of a struggling reporter of a newspaper who tries to rediscover himself through family and friends. Stars Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore and Cate Blanchett. Opens December 25

The Time Machine
The latest adaptation of the famous H.G. Wells novel in which a man invents a time machine, is not taken seriously, and then is transported thousands of years ahead in time during a test run. This time, unfortunately, also sees an evolution of humanity far above anything ever imagined. Stars Guy Pearce. Directed by Simon Wells and Written by John Logan. Opens December 25 Notice: The action vehicle “Collateral Damage” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, originally planned for a November release, has been pulled from the schedule because of its eerie similarities to the recent terrorist attacks on the east coast. A new release date has not been set, but is expected for sometime next year.

*note: release dates are subject to change

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