Spiders, spies & sequels

I started the school year raving about Pearl Harbor. Then Sept. 11 happened, and it occurred to me that one day, someone will make a movie about that day of infamy and throw a love triangle into it. It will be trivial and silly and sad.

Looking back on Pearl Harbor, I didn’t know what I was thinking.

It just seemed to me that there had to at least be one good movie released last summer. With the crop we had to look forward to a year ago – A.I., Moulin Rouge, Tomb Raider – there had to be something worth five bucks and two hours (sometimes three) to go see, right? Maybe that’s why I felt the need to praise something – anything – even if it was made by the same guy who did Armageddon.

Then again, it could be that after reviewing films for a year, I realize that the truly good movies are the ones that stand the test of time. After Sept. 11, people did talk about Pearl Harbor – but not the Michael Bay movie of the dismal 2001 summer movie season.The question now is: Which summer 2002 release looks to be the one we’ll be talking about – in a positive light – next year?

This summer offers its usual fare of sequels and other adaptations of familiar source material. There is the obligatory Jerry Bruckheimer action buddy-comedy (Bad Company) and Disney cartoon (Lilo & Stitch). But the new trend seems to be the amount of television shows – Crocodile Hunter, Powerpuff Girls, Jackass – that are making their way onto the big screen. Even Scooby Doo gets a live-action treatment this season.

But the movie that everyone seems to want to see is Spider-Man. And who can blame them? It’s pretty and energetic, and the effects look amazing. But will it be able to stand the hype?Although Star Wars and Austin Powers throw in their usual ante, it seems filmgoers are looking for something fresh – something new.

They certainly won’t find it in fare such as The New Guy (dorky kid from Road Trip switches high schools with a new attitude) or The Master of Disguise (Dana Carvey still in Mike Myers’ shadow). And while Undercover Brother and Eight Legged Freaks sound just as stupid, at least they are somewhat original.

There is a war film with an original angle and a submarine flick with Harrison Ford speaking with an original accent. But that’s all you’ll find in Windtalkers, the Nicolas Cage Vietnam pic that has been delayed almost two years and K-19: The Widowmaker, in which Ford and Liam Neeson are Russians playing the Crimson Tide roles.

Like always, there’s something for everyone this summer – from brainwashed kids to mindless teens – as two pairs of sequels are released. This summer, Jason X and Halloween: Resurrected will complement the kiddy sophomore efforts of Stuart Little and Spy Kids.

Spies seem to be the hip trend as a slew of films ranging from Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report to XXX, a Fast and the Furious reunion for Vin Diesel and director Rob Cohen.

Also, another pair of spy films arrives as buddies Matt Damon and Ben Affleck each throw their hats into the arena with The Bourne Identity and Tom Clancy’s The Sum of All Fears, respectively.

And with what does Will Smith follow his Oscar nomination for Ali? That’s right, Men in Black II – another spy film of sorts – but doesn’t he know that the first one wasn’t funny, either?Where’s James Bond when you need him?

At least there are a few possible non-action gems to which we can look forward.

Woody Allen’s latest, Hollywood Ending, seems to be a self-referential romp with co-stars Treat Williams, Debra Messing and Tea Leoni. And Oliver Parker (An Ideal Husband) will direct the adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s other popular play, The Importance of Being Earnest. Rupert Everett returns with Reese Witherspoon joining the company of Brits, which include Colin Firth, Tom Wilkinson and Judi Dench.

Another stellar-casted drama comes in the form of The Joy Luck Club meets Thelma and Louise with Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Maggie Smith, Ellen Burstyn, Ashley Judd and Sandra Bullock lend their talents to this family dramedy.

But as far as this summer’s blockbuster hopefuls are concerned, let’s just hope they don’t disappoint like their summer 2001 brethren.

Contact William Albritton at oraclewill@yahoo.com


Directed by: Sam Raimi
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst

1 Raimi (Army of Darkness, A Simple Plan, For Love of the Game) directs the most improbable of action stars – Tobey Maguire (The Cider House Rules) – in the big-screen adaptation of Spider-Man. If the film can sustain the excitement of its trailer, it could be one of the biggest splashes this summer. It looks great. But let’s hope the character development that is necessary in any first installment won’t bog down an otherwise fun action fantasy. The film’s troubles started when its early previews depicted a crucial scene involving the World Trade Center towers. Recently, it has been criticized for altering a real-life Times Square advertisement of one of the studio’s competitors. But hey, it’s fiction, right? Let’s just hope the entertainment is real. (May 3)


Directed by: George Lucas
Starring: Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Samuel L. Jackson

2 Jar Jar Binks is back and annoying as ever. Actually, there’s a report that his role has been scaled down and even winks at his critics in an early self-deprecating gag. Lucas made a kid’s movie with Episode I but apparently returned to his roots with this installment. The dark tone will complement his main character’s transformation from sweet, little Anakin into big, bad Darth Vader. Christensen raised eyebrows when he showed up to the set with the black hair and Goth makeup he donned in Life as a House, the film which solidified his acting ability. Let’s hope he can keep us on our toes better than his predecessor Jake Lloyd, as the franchise will hang on his ability to make Darth Vader a reality. If not, expect harsher treatment than that given to Jar Jar. For those not interested in a romantic drama, Samuel L. Jackson and Yoda each reportedly have elaborate fight scenes. (May 16)


Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin

3 He threw a fascinating twist at the end of the bore-fest Sixth Sense. He did the same with the darker, but brilliant, Unbreakable. What will be the shocking conclusion to a film about a religious farmer (Gibson) who discovers someone making holes in his crop fields? We will find out as Shyamalan is releasing his new film without much more of a description than that. And does he need to give more of an explanation? Who wouldn’t rush to see what thrills and chills he has up his sleeve this time? Phoenix plays Gibson’s brother and Rory Culkin (bother of Macaulay and Kieran) steps into Haley Joel Osment’s shoes as the kid in the equation. (Aug. 2)


Directed by Jay Roach
Starring: Mike Myers, Mike Myers, Mike Myers, Mike Myers, Michael Caine, Seth Green, Verne Troyer

4 He gave us a denture-handicapped British spy stuck in the 1960s and a sinister evildoer in the first one. Then grossed us – well, at least Heather Graham – out with a 400-pound, hairy Scotsman in the sequel. Now, the titular character in Goldmember is an eccentric missing a few of his bits – and not just the ones in his head – as Myers wears four hats in his third installment of the spy-spoof series. The title outraged MGM, the studio that produced the Bond films, and the Motion Picture Association of America stepped in and stripped AP3 of a moniker. Once that nonsense was resolved – an agreement with the studios that future titles will need approval – Goldmember was able to resume with its plan to shock and hopefully entertain audiences this summer. Otherwise, there may not be any future titles requiring approval. (July 26)


Directed by: Sam Mendes
Starring: Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Stanley Tucci

5 OK, here’s a cast for you. Hanks and Newman play mobster hitmen during the Depression. Based on a DC Comics book, director Mendes (first project since American Beauty) and cinematographer Conrad Hall reteam with Dreamworks and use the studio’s biggest star to tell its tale of vengeance and self-discovery. Leigh plays Hanks’ wife whose murder gets the ball rolling. Hanks, sporting a 1930s mustache, should be worth the price of admission alone. (July 12)


Directed by: Raja Gosnell
Starring: Matthew Lillard, Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Rowan Atkinson

6 Lillard is the epitome of animated mimicry, but at least for his role as Shaggy, that’s a good thing. He looks and sounds just like the gangly sidekick to everyone’s favorite canine detective in the upcoming release of Scooby Doo. Why is this one of the top films to watch this summer? Simple: actors of the current college-age generation bringing our childhood Hanna Barbara memories to life. Although Scooby is entirely computer generated and may face criticism for it, so is Yoda in Episode II. Plus, you get the opportunity to hear Atkinson say, “And I would’ve gotten away with it, too…” And isn’t hearing catchphrases from children’s Saturday morning cartoons what going to the movies is all about? (June 14)


Directed by: Steven Brill
Starring: Adam Sandler, Winona Ryder, Peter Gallagher, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro

7 Every critic has his or her own guilty pleasures. Mine are Adam Sandler movies. Ever since he had me rolling in the aisles with Happy Gilmore, I have come to appreciate the genius that Sandler possesses. In this one, Sandler plays a regular guy who inherits money and changes the ways of the rich and smug. It’s a tired tradition that every actor from James Stewart to James Belushi has followed. But do you see Sandler’s films for the plot? Or, do you show up to see him compare the merits of shampoo and conditioner? Little Nicky hasn’t swayed my opinion, and it shouldn’t sway yours. And with Sandler-movie staple Buscemi bringing his Big Lebowski buddy Turturro along for the cameo ride, there are bound to be laughs that may just go right over the target audience’s heads. (June 28)


Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Maura Tierney

8 Last summer, we got to see a guy who lost his memory every time he woke up. Now we get to see a guy who can’t fall asleep. Nolan (Memento) has assembled three Oscar winners for his tale that takes place in Alaska, where the sun shines 23 hours a day. He’s proven he can show audiences a thing or two with his ability to do a murder mystery. With Pacino and Swank on the case and Williams as the killer, expect something different as well as something unforgettable.


Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tom Cruise, Samantha Morton, Max von Sydow

9 Fascinating. One word can describe Spielberg’s last two ventures into the future. However, will Minority Report fail as miserably as last summer’s A.I. did? Well, with Cruise in top billing and no references to Pinocchio in sight, we should be safe. However, time will tell with this tale about a futuristic police agency that can detect crimes before they occur. Cruise is the man on the run who may or may not be prone to murder. Fascinating. Entertaining? We’ll see. (June 21)


Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Julia Roberts, Blair Underwood, David Hyde Pierce, Catherine Keener, David Duchovny, Brad Pitt

10 What’s up with Soderbergh putting Roberts in everything he does? At least this low-budget video-looking project brings the Oscar-winning director back to his roots. Not to say Erin Brockovich or Ocean’s Eleven were by any means sellout gestures, rather that if he is going to use the biggest female star in Hollywood, at least it’s not an excuse to further glamorize her. Instead, Soderbergh himself shot this day-in-the-life exposé of an eccentric collection of characters with a hand-held digital camera. Not exactly your typical summer-blockbuster fare, but at least it’s original and, with this cast, most likely entertaining. (Aug. 2)