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Summer Movie Preview

By Arts Editors, Crimson Staff Writer

Directed by Ralph Zondag and Eric Leighton
Featuring the voices of D.B. Sweeney, Alfre Woodard, Julianna Margulies
MAY 19

The latest animated project from Disney combines the most recent technological advancements in character animation with real, albeit digitally enhanced, live-action backgrounds filmed in such bizarre sites as the Mojave Desert. The plot is typical and uncreative, yet sounds somewhat fantastic: a dinosaur gets separated from its family as an egg and is raised a by a group of lemur monkeys. The asteroid that supposedly wipes out the dinosaurs hits earth, and the dinosaur, who has been reunited with his kind, acts like a sort of Dino-Moses who saves the day with canny primate-know-how. Although there are voice-overs for the animals in the movie, it is not a musical comedy, and the dinosaurs do not break into song. The amazingly thrilling drama is only enhanced by the astonishing realism of the animals. Dinosaur makes the animation in Jurassic Park seem like claymation. If only seen for the computer effects, Dinosaur is a definite breakthrough in the field of animation.

Director Dominic Sena
Starring Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie, Robert Duvall

Formulaic and contrived like most other Jerry Bruckheimer productions (e.g. Armageddon and The Rock), his latest film Gone in Sixty Seconds tells the story of notorious car thief Randall Memphis Raines (Nicolas Cage) who could elude any form of theft deterrent, stealing any car in under sixty seconds. When the law becomes too intense, he abandons his life of crime, only to be pulled back in to save his kid brother (Giovanni Ribisi) who has become entangled in a high stakes scheme. Much like Bruckheimer's multi-million dollar child, Armageddon, Cage must follow the conventional prescription. Instead of a team of experts racing against the clock to save the world, Cage must race against the clock to steal 50 cars and save Ribisi. Based on the original, shot in 1974, Bruckheimer's quite predictable production is saved by the hilarious interaction between Cage and Jolie. While not a "must see," Gone in Sixty Seconds is definitely worth attending this summer.

Directed by Keenan Ivory Wayans
Starring Marlon Wayans,Cheri Oteri, Shawn Wayans

Just when you have come to terms with the fact that there will be no Scream 4, thankfully, Keenen Ivory Wayans and his 96 brothers (2 appear in the film) are ready to give you their own twist. With Scream, we got a highly entertaining parody of the horror genre (yes, it was a parody) but with Wayans' brilliant sense of subtlety we get an even more devastating parody of a parody. Yes it can be done, and who better than 476 Wayans Brothers to pull it off. Scary Movie, as if not implicit in the name, is made to shock and not just with its feeble attempt at reviving Carmen Electra's career after her long and emotionally draining marriage with Denis Rodman (approximate time-five hours). And if that is not enticing enough, just the fact that 5,689,000 Wayans Brothers appear should be reason enough to sample this comedy-horror (master)piece?

Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Starring Harrison Ford, Michelle Pfeiffer

In this spooky thriller, Pfeiffer is happily married to Ford, a college professor, when she begins to suspect that their house is being haunted. She soon discovers that her perfect husband is not so perfect after all, and the ghost that's haunting them may or may not be the spirit of a murdered student her husband once had an affair with. Based on an idea by Steven Spielberg, the film promises to be a sly adventure, full of twists and surprises, comparable to The Sixth Sense. Zemekis has wrapped his production in a shroud of secrecy, although the film is said to boast computer effects and shocks in the tradition of his earlier films Forrest Gump and the dubious Death Becomes Her. But even though Internet surfers are buzzing with conspiracy theories of their own about the film's plotline, test screenings have been less than spectacular.

Directed by John Woo
Starring Tom Cruise, Thandie Newton, Ving Rhames
MAY 24

After failing to turn Eyes Wide Shut into an art-house blockbuster, Tom Cruise has returned to safer ground, teaming with much-worshipped action director John Woo for a high-octane sequel to his 1996 smash Mission: Impossible. Although it might seem as if Cruise is abandoning his lofty artistic ambitions in favor of instant box office, he actually continues his admirable tradition of seeking out the industry's top directors. Woo is an absolute master at bringing a graceful touch to epic action sequences, and much of his Hong Kong work, such as The Killer and Bullet in the Head, is regarded as classic cinema. The sequel brings back Cruise's superagent Ethan Hunt, who romances a sexy female agent (Thandie Newton of Beloved) while chasing a group of terrorists armed with a lethal virus. A flashy premise and Cruise's mega-watt appeal helped the original gross $180 million. The addition of Woo, in his first film since Face/Off, should push the sequel into the stratosphere. If the jaw-dropping trailer is any indicator, M:I2 could easily be the highlight of the summer.

Directed by Robert Iscove
Starring Jason Biggs, Freddie Prinze Jr.

Boy meets girl, boy hates girl, girl hates boy even more, boy and girl grow up hating each other. But suddenly when boy and girl end up at the same college, poof-a strange and interesting friendship arises. Such is the extremely unique excuse used to fuel the modern day brat packers in another round of self-promoting teeny-exploitation. Hey, and didn't that kid have sex with a pie?! Yes, as if his talents in American Pie didn't give him all of creative and anatomical exposure to last a lifetime-Jason Biggs is back, this time in a supporting role. Fortunately (or unfortunately) the limelight is occupied by the good Wing Commander himself, Freddie Prinze Jr.. Add that up with director Robert Iscove, we've got all the makings of a She's All That II. Although the recent online reviews reveal a surprising number of stars, we are utterly convinced that these unproven starlets probably can't act, but may wield some kind of bizarre control over the critics.

Directed by Peter Segal
Starring Eddie Murphy, Eddie Murphy, Eddie Murphy

The first time Eddie Murphy slapped on the layers of latex to play the lovably obese Sherman Klump, the result was the $140 million-grossing Nutty Professor. In predictable fashion, the studio promptly began plans to crank out a sequel. This second outing focuses predominantly on Sherman's Klump clans-so much so, in fact, that Universal is considering dropping the Nutty part and simply calling the film The Klumps. In lieu of his plans to get married (to Janet Jackson, of all people), Sherman decides to excise the DNA of his altar-ego, Buddy Love, from his system, but unwittingly turns Buddy into his own person. Slapstick chaos ensues. All in all, Murphy, who's had a bit of a golden touch with family comedies the last couple of years, juggles six different characters, Buddy Love being the only one that didn't require extensive makeup. The quality of the original was severely lacking and the teaser for this sequel suggests new lows in gross-out humor. There's no doubt it will make a bundle, but will it be watchable?

Directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman
Starring Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, Bill Pullman

In this long-delayed animated/CGI film, a young boy named Cale must search for the key to humanity's salvation after the destruction of Earth at the hands of aliens. Fox Animation Studio's latest full-length feature film promises to break new ground in the animation department. Titan, originally conceived as a completely CGI movie, will feature a unique mix of computer-generated images and traditional animation, resulting in visual sequences that are no less than stunning. As for the tone? Don't expect a G-rating. The story of humanity's desperate struggle for survival in a dangerous and hostile galaxy, without the luxury of home, is a marked departure from Fox's predominantly kid-friendly fare (i.e. Anastasia). Expect lots of things to blow up (most notably Earth). Titan A.E has been in development for years, originally going under the name Ice Planet. When Bluth and Goldman signed on, the movie took on a new title and a new direction-due to expenses and the difficulty involved with character animation in CGI, the original plan of a 100 percent CGI epic was scrapped in favor of the current format. The production survived despite the numerous delays, and now that the movie is finally poised to debut. The accumulated buzz (as well as the impressive special effects) should help the film's chances at the box office.

Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Starring Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger

A Revolutionary War movie? Actually, by all appearances, it looks like Braveheart 2. Mel Gibson stars in another earth-shattering epic carnage movie from the director of Independence Day and-gasp!-Godzilla. So it could be good popcorn fun or well, just terrible. According to published reports, the first 40 minutes are wonderfully deep-so maybe we'll actually get some decent dialogue. (But I'm petrified that Gibson will give his "They'll never take our freedom" speech as "They'll never take our tea.") Heath Ledger (soooo silly in Ten Things I Hate About You) is said to give a rip-roaring performance as Gibson's son, but all eyes will be on the Lethal Weapon star, who was paid $25 million for his services. Competing against The Perfect Storm and Rocky and Bullwinkle, The Patriot will have to carve out its audience based on solid critical reviews-because if people think it's going to be another Godzilla, the adults will split and go to see the wave and the kiddies will go for the moose.

Directed by Tom Dey
Starring Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Lucy Liu
MAY 26

A general crowd pleaser that will hopefully revive the Western genre that was so badly maimed after last year's Western bomb, Wild Wild West, Shanghai Noon is an entertaining action and adventure flick that mixes the Wild West and the Far East. Jackie Chan, the talented martial arts guru, stars as the acrobatic Imperial Guard, Chon Wang who travels to America to rescue the beautiful kidnapped Chinese Princess (Lucy Liu). Chan must rely on the help of a partner who he does not trust (Owen Wilson), a wife he doesn't want, and a horse he cannot ride. Combining mean martial arts moves and impeccable charm, Chan seems much more comfortable on the American screen than he did in his previous hit, Rush Hour. While Chan is always dynamic, the real star of this funny summer hit seems to be Owen Wilson whose previously impressive performances in Armageddon and Bottle Rocket pale in comparison to his appearance in Noon. A definite "yes" for the summer.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Starring Kenneth Branagh, Alicia Silverstone

Figuring that it should stick to its roots of critical success, Miramax Studios is once again exploiting William Shakespeare. With the 1998 success of Shakespeare in Love, the fictional adaptation of the life of Shakespeare, this time the studio is at least sticking to the great bard's words-or some of them, at least. (Haven't we seen this before) The only catch is they are grossly distorting the traditional setting to a glitzier Hollywood of the 1930s. The classic and comedic tale of oaths and devotion, love and loyalty, takes on an entirely new twist when plopped down into the world exploited and adored by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Not that any setting can ever replace the original, but Kenneth Branagh's adaptation is an acclaimed success, having already screened in London.

Directed by Peter Lord and Nick Park
Featuring the voices of Mel Gibson, Jane Horrocks, Miranda Richardson

This Dreamworks claymation film hopes to take kids to Tweedy's Chicken Farm, where any hen that doesn't make her egg quota can meet a "fowl" fate. Ginger and her fellow hens, with the help of Rocky, a Yankee rooster, hatch a plan of escape before they end up fried. This send-up of the classic Steve McQueen film, The Great Escape, features more cool animated effects from the England-based Aardman Animations, the Academy Award-winning team behind the popular "Wallace and Gromit" shorts; Chicken Run marks their first full-length claymation feature. With Disney releasing its summer kid fare Dinosaur a month earlier than the usual mid-June release date for its animated films, Chicken Run is expected to challenge Disney's hold on younger audiences.

Directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly
Starring Jim Carrey, Rene Zellweger

Jim Carrey plays Charlie, a friendly state trooper with a heart of gold. He also plays Hank, a mean-spirited guy who likes to pick fights. The catch? They're both the same person. Confused? Don't be. Just another case of multiple-personality disorder, Carrey style. Throw in the beautiful Zellweger, whom both alter-egos fall in love with, and you've got the recipe for a side-splitting summer comedy. The Farrelly Brothers, directors of the wildly successful There's Something About Mary, are at it again-and this time, they've got one of the greatest comedic minds of our generation to play with. Carrey has proven that he can assume a nearly infinite number of outrageous personas, so it shouldn't be too much of a stretch for him to take on two in one movie. With the combination of Carrey and the Farrelly Brothers, audiences are guaranteed to witness at least a few scenes even more shockingly hilarious than those made famous in Mary. The movie tested extremely well in advance screenings-some sources say the response was even better than it was for There's Something About Mary. If the trailer is any indication of the laughs to come, Me, Myself and Irene promises to live up to, and perhaps surpass, the comedic standard set by its predecessor.

Directed by Robert Redford
Starring Matt Damon, Will Smith, Charlize Theron

Matt Damon tees off as Steven Pressfield's World War One hero Rannulph Junah, who-with the help of a spiritual caddy (Will Smith) and his supportive girlfriend Adele (Charlize Theron)-shows up a pair of pro golfers in this feel-good mystical sports drama. Will Smith attempts to flex his acting chops in a role 180 degrees from his typical July 4 weekend fare. Director Redford, no stranger to mystical sports dramas himself (The Natural), decided to give Smith and Damon a chance after deciding that he and Morgan Freeman, the original stars, were too old. The buzz is iffy-the mystical bent of the whole Bagger Vance character has audiences commenting on the film's overall "Touched By An Angel" type of feeling.

Directed by Raja Gosnell
Starring Martin Lawrence, Nia Long

Martin Lawrence plays an undercover FBI agent who is sent to Georgia to protect a mother and her son from an escaped convict. In order to do this, he must take on the identity (and the heavyset physique) of an old grandmother. For his scenes as Big Momma, Lawrence dons a prosthetic "fat suit" (a l Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor and Mike Myers in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me). The result is a frighteningly realistic, bad-mouthing Southern granny with an attitude. Prior to filming, Lawrence made headlines when he collapsed from a heat stroke and slipped into a coma after jogging in heavy clothing. As a consequence, extreme measures were taken during filming to ensure Lawrence's comfort and safety while in the fat suit. As for the fat suit itself, it looks like the film's success will depend largely on its effectiveness-Lawrence's appearance will have to draw enormous amounts of laughs for Big Momma's House to do well.

Directed by Des McAnuff
Starring Robert De Niro, Rene Russo, Jason Alexander

For those who cringe at the idea of having to experience the famously crude animation of the original Rocky and Bullwinkle series on the big screen, never fear-this big-budget update of Jay Ward's beloved cartoon (celebrating its 40th anniversary) is actually in the same vein as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, placing everyone's favorite flying squirrel/moose tandem in an otherwise live-action world. More than just a simple retread of the original series, the new film works under the premise that the show was cancelled, leaving Rocky and Bullwinkle in the real world, looking for work. They suddenly have a chance to save the day when diabolical Fearless Leader (De Niro) and his henchmen, Boris (Alexander of Seinfeld) and Natasha (Rene Russo) manage to escape into flesh and blood bodies and plot to take over the world. The script promises to be filled with the same kind of sly pop-culture references and parodies that made the original show such a cult favorite. The preview looks amusing and the filmmakers appear to have put some legitimate thought into a potentially clever story. But the real question is whether today's youth will flock to see cartoon characters who had their heyday decades ago.

Director Jon Turteltaub
Starring Bruce Willis, Spencer Breslin, Lily Tomlin

If you saw yourself as a 40-year old when you were eight, how would you react? When Russ Duritz (Bruce Willis) meets eight-year-old Rusty (Spencer Breslin), he did not have the slightest clue that his life would be forever changed. Rusty, a sweet, but slightly geeky, pudgy little kid plays the young Willis who is not at all happy with who he turns out to be-a 40-year old loser "image consultant" without a wife, or a dog. Breslin helps Willis to remember his childhood dreams in order to become the adult that he really wants to be. Banking on the uncanny success of the Bruce Willis-young kid-quality script trio that worked so well for The Sixth Sense, Disney's The Kid may prove to be the surprise hit of the summer.

Directed by Wolfgang Peterson
Starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg

You gotta love Wolfgang Peterson summer popcorn flicks. (Not Wolfgang Puck. He makes pizzas. Though Spago's pies in the summer time are warm and refreshing!) In any case, The Perfect Storm, Peterson's entry in to this year's derby, is building up buzz as the film to beat. His films always have a balance of compelling drama and the requisite action; Air Force One and In the Line of Fire both were international box-office smashes. Here, Clooney and Walhberg (it's two of the Three Kings) star in the adaptation of the best selling book about a monster storm that attacks a boat of hapless fishermen. It's Twister plus Jaws-the giant shark. Besides its disaster movie attraction, The Perfect Storm has several things going for it. 1) Movies with waves always do well. i.e. Deep Imact. 2) It's opening on the prime July 4 weekend (though The Patriot will provide stiff competition). 3) Peterson has a built in fan base and 4) Warner Bros. is going bonkers with promotion. So will it be Perfect or a Storm in a teacup? All signs are pointing to the former.

Directed by Bryan Singer
Starring Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman

The premise comes straight from the comic book: Professor Charles Xavier leads a group of superpowered mutants against the evil forces of Magneto, a mutant bent on destroying humanity. Amidst the persecution of a society that fears and hates them, the X-Men seek the allegiance of a new mutant named Wolverine, who must make a choice. Does he choose Xavier's idealistic dream of a peaceful co-existence between humanity and mutantkind, or does he opt for Magneto's vision of a world in which mutants replace humans on top of the evolutionary ladder? Translating a comic book onto the silver screen is no easy task-just ask Joel Schumacher of Batman infamy. But die-hard X-fans rejoiced when Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects) signed on to direct the adaptation of the most popular comic book of all time. Singer's reputation for making edgy, character-driven films ensures that X-Men will have substance underneath all the flash. Add to this an A-list cast (Stewart was born to play Professor X) and a healthy dose of special effects, and you get a summer blockbuster that does justice to its comic book inspiration. It wouldn't be a stretch to call this the most eagerly anticipated comic flick of all time. Fans of the X-Men have waited patiently for years to see their favorite heroes and villains in live action, and you can be sure that they'll be out in force July 14. Advance peeks at the production, including the costumes and special effects, look extremely promising, though there has been some Internet outrage from traditionalists who prefer the blue-and-yellow uniforms of the comic book over the Matrix-esque black leather used in the film. Nevertheless, there is every indication that X-Men will be one of the smash-hits of the summer.

Directed by Steve Miner
Starring James Van Der Beek, Dylan McDermott

Ahh yes. Ever since James Van Der Beek demonstrated his dramatic prowess as a hunky high-school quarterback in Varsity Blues, the rest of the God-fearing world has been anxiously awaiting his next big-screen performance. Substituting football pants for equally tight leather chaps, this time Van Der Beek serves under one legendary cowboy, Leander McNelly (Dylan McDermott) and must woo Joey Potter and simultaneously battle an army of renegade outlaws, namely John King Fisher (Alfred Molina) and Pacey Witter. The hype is good for this gun toting, rough riding drama set in Texas, 1875, the one setback being it threatens to diminish the number of syllables Dawson can intelligently use in a sentence to just under one. Seriously, in their quest for freedom, the Texas Rangers put it all on the line to protect their homeland, their country, their women and the Potter B&B-after all, they have a history.

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