Friday, June 7, 2002

Summer 2002: A Look Ahead

June 7, 2002

The June-to-August period is usually the busiest of the year at the local multiplex, but long lines and sold-out showings began popping up in during the first weeks of May as studios decided to jump-start the season of movie blockbusters by unleashing their endeavors before anyone else had a chance to. This year, that theory expanded to include the last weeks of April as well—Universal's "The Scorpion King" triggered a new wave of enthusiasm at theaters that has only strengthened turnouts since. In fact, this last May was the biggest record-breaker on history; in addition to groundbreaking profits racked up by major blockbusters like "Spider-Man" and "Star Wars Episode II - Attack of the Clones," the month also saw the biggest overall turnout in history, in which the top ten films at the box office ranked in over $200 million a Friday-to-Sunday period, the most ever for one weekend.

With those figures in mind, we turn our attention to the next three months of theatrical releases, wondering if that kind of success can be duplicated. The listing below emphasizes what are considered to be the 15 most anticipated releases during this time, and although they will not all collect the same kind of results commercially or critically, they do represent the growing trend that has surfaced at the cinema over the last few summers—a diverse selection for audiences to choose from.

Few cartoons in the past have the kind of cult following that "Scooby-Doo" does, and with good reason; at the height of its popularity, the crime caper was the only of its kind, a whimsical and silly endeavor that had no regrets in recycling plots and sight gags to the point of bafflement (it should also be noted that the cartoon also boasted a laugh track). Pushing for that kind of pure camp with this movie adaptation of the famous toon mystery, director Raja Gosnell, who helmed "Big Momma's House" and "Never Been Kissed," resorts to CGI gimmicks and quirky casting to bring the tongue-in-cheek saga to hilarious life. While Sarah Michelle Gellar and fiancé Freddie Prinze, Jr. take on the roles of Fred and Daphne, Matthew Lilliard is the dog's best bud Shaggy. Scooby himself, meanwhile is digitally rendered to bring out those cartoonish qualities that made the original character so popular with the masses. Rated PG. Opens June 14.

The Bourne Identity
Writer Robert Ludlum's trilogy of books based around the concept of an amnesiac mystery man named Jason Bourne have been in the movie pipeline for quite a few years (in fact, this, the first film, was even originally scheduled for release early last September). Now "The Bourne Identity" is finally being unleashed on the public, with Doug Liman ("Go," "Swingers") serving as the series director, and Matt Damon stepping into the role of the story's anti-hero. Early reports speculate that Damon was at one point in conflict over deciding between this role, and the Mark Wahlberg one in Tim Burton's "Planet of the Apes." Considering the quality of that particular movie, just hope he made a good career move. Rated PG-13. Opens June 14.

Nicholas Cage heads the cast of this John Woo-directed World War II epic, which revolves specifically around one single point: what would have happened 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 for soldiers to survive. The original release date for this war-fueled drama was last November, but for obvious reasons, it was pushed back. Rated R. Opens June 14.

Lilo & Stitch
There is no doubt by now that you have seen the trailers for Disney's newest animated feature, in which a little space creature that looks like a cross between a gremlin and a Pokémon pops up in familiar Disney films such as "Beauty and the Beast" and "Aladdin" at the least-convenient moments. With hype that suggests the studio is finally breaking free from its creative slump as far as standard animated motion pictures are concerned, "Lilo & Stitch" could breathe new life into a genre that has been sidelined by CGI-rendered films in recent years. The apparent adolescent humor of the project, of course, suggests that this may be more of a kid's movie rather than a feast for the adults, so if you're looking for something more mature from Disney, wait for "Treasure Planet" this fall. Rated PG (only the third Disney cartoon in history to receive higher than a G). Opens June 21.

Minority Report
Spielberg's recent descent into bizarre sci-fi stories (as seen with last year's "A.I.") takes the next turn with this very highly anticipated screen adaptation of a famous Philip K. Dick short story (a man who, incidentally, provided the outlines for such hits as "Blade Runner" and "Total Recall"). Tom Cruise stars as a cop in the year 2080, when the United States government has developed technology powerful enough to detect and arrest people for crimes before they are even committed. Cruise's character is a rookie in the newly-established pre-crime division, but one whose life is turned inside-out when he is accused of an illegal crime before it happens by someone within the force. Spielberg's production values appear to be topnotch, and if the script is as good as those of other Dick adaptations, this could easily be the summer's best offering. Not yet rated. Opens June 21.

Men In Black 2
It's wasn't that much of a surprise that Sony Pictures wanted to follow up their 1997 sci-fi comedy hit with a sequel; the only big shocker is that it took five whole years for director Barry Sonnenfield to commit himself to the project (in that space of time, he directed "Wild Wild West" and "Big Trouble," two major disappointments). The wait for this much-anticipated follow-up is almost at an end, but fans of the original film no doubt still feel frustrated, as very few details about the movie's premise have surfaced so far. What has been given away in the trailers, however, seems to be the cause for much excitement, and the returns of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones no doubt help that. Rated PG-13. Opens July 3.

Reign of Fire
Fantasy-based movie production is on a climb thanks to the success of "Harry Potter" and "The Lord of the Rings," but early hype on this apocalyptic fable starring Matthew McConaughey and Christian Bale suggests that the audience hasn't begun to see what potential is in store for the genre. Set around an original concept that has been in production stages for over a year, "Reign of Fire" tells the story of a group of British refugees who are sent out to destroy an abrupt arrival of dragons, who have been hiding in the Earth for hundreds of years and now want to overthrow humanity to reclaim the planet. This all may sound silly from a simple description, but those who have seen the promotional footage in TV spots or theatrical trailers will tell you otherwise. Not yet rated. Opens July 12.

Eight-Legged Freaks
Are you scared of spiders? How about ones the size of SUV's? If the smallest part of you is in any way unnerved at the mere thought provoked by these questions, then chances are you're the target audience for "Eight-Legged Freaks," a film about gigantic and mutated arachnids that looks like a throwback to the old 1950s creature features. David Arquette takes top cast credit, while Ellory Elkayem makes his directorial debut. The plot mentions something about a toxic waste spill leading to these mutations, but will any of that matter once you're in the theater? Rated PG-13. Opens July 12.

Halloween: Resurrection
Whoever said the days of slasher franchises were long gone spoke to soon; the eighth film of the infamous "Halloween" series is now upon us. Subtitled "Resurrection," the movie supposedly picks up where the last film, "Halloween: H20," left off (although the ending to that film lead many to believe that this series was all over and done with). The plot is the same old story—Michael Meyers is an endless killing machine who picks off stupid people as they walk into his traps—but there could be some hidden potential here; three years prior to this release, the official Halloween website asked for the fans' input on what to do with the next film (and sources suggest that some of the ideas that poured in were taken literally). Not yet rated (but expect it to attain an R). Opens July 19.

Austin Powers in Goldmember
When trailers for the newest incarnation into the "Austin Powers" saga surfaced in theaters earlier this year, there was immediate uproar over at MGM studios, the home of the Bond franchise, which were claiming that the title of the film infringed on that of the Bond classic "Goldfinger." Though it seemed to be a shaky claim, it almost meant tragedy for the release of the picture, as courts sided with MGM's claims and ordered New Line Cinema to rethink their strategy before it was released.Eventually, both studios reached a compromise so that the title could stay as it was (the catch: trailers for the next Bond film, "Die Another Day," must be shown at the movie), and now, as planned, the release of the third flick in the spy spoof series will go on. The cast reuinites Seth Green and Mike Meyers, and other appearances are made by Beyonce Knowles (of Destiny's Child) and Britney Spears. Rated PG-13. Opens July 26

The Country Bears
If you're familiar with the famous Disneyland attraction Country Bear Jamboree, then you're going to know exactly what "The Country Bears" is based on. Half live action and half computer animation, the much-publicized release of this long-awaited mouse house production tells a tale similar in structure to that of "Tarzan," in which an orphaned bear cub is taken in by a family of humans, later finding out that his heritage originates from a popular Tennessee establishment dubbed the Country Bear Hall. Hayley Joel Osment lends his voice to a computer-generated creature, while actors like Daryl Mitchell and Christopher Walken make flesh-and-blood appearances. Rated G. Opens July 26.

If you're a fan of either "The Sixth Sense" or "Unbreakable," the two sleeper hits by director M. Nigh Shyamalan, then you're already looking forward to his latest thriller "Signs," about the mysterious phenomenon known as crop circles in a rural community that slowly unnerve (and unravel) the sanity of a Pennsylvania farmer. Could this be another sleeper like the director's last two endeavors? Time will tell. Mel Gibson stars, while Joaquin Phoenix steps into a supporting role. Rated PG-13. Opens August 2.

Jackass: The Movie
As if the MTV series of the same name didn't lower humanity's standards enough with its gut-wrenching, shocking and downright dimwitted stunts, this much talked about movie is said to drop the bar even farther than anticipated. "Jackass: The Movie" reunites the crazed lunatics of the now-defunct cable series for 90 minutes of excruciating pain, as they perform deadly stunts that can result in open wounds, broken bones, injured egos or just plain embarrassment (depending on the severity of the action). It is recommended that you take a pain pill before going into the theater for this one. Not yet rated (although some sources suggest that the film will be lucky to get by with an R). Opens August 9.

Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams
The sequel to the biggest surprise success of 2001, a crime caper about two charming kids who were sent on a mission to save their super-spy parents from the threat of a detestable villain, may actually turn out to be just as big as its predecessor, if not one of the most successful releases of the summer. This time around, our adolescent agents Carmen and Juni come face to face with another duo of spy siblings, and the two sides may be the only hope for saving the world against an evil scientist named Romeo (played by Steve Buscemi) who runs the forbidden island of lost dreams. If the first film is anything to go buy, then don't expect to miss this one. Not yet rated (a PG is likely, though). Opens August 9.

No, this isn't some kind of porno flick; Triple X is actually the nickname of the movie's main character, an extreme sports competitor who is sent by the US government to disarm a major crime wave in Russia before it becomes too powerful to contain. The movie reunites director Rob Cohen and rising action star Vin Diesel, who both worked on last year's blockbuster "The Fast and the Furious." In true Cohen fashion, the movie has lots of fast vehicles and loud explosions. Rated PG-13. Opens August 9.

Final Word: As always, don't expect all of these movies to be released on the exact dates mentioned. Studios have been known to change their minds, even at the last minute.

Written by DAVID KEYES

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