Sequels, remakes, comics dominate summer movies
By Jack Garner
Gannett News Service
|The voice of the title character is provided by Brad Pitt in the animated film "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas," opening July 2.
|Orange Julius (Amaury Nolasco, left), Suki (Devon Aoki) and Slapjack (Michael Ealy, right) surround Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker), who is back and ready to race in "2 Fast 2 Furious."
|Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger star in "Down With Love," a comedy set in the early 1960s that pays homage to that era's Rock Hudson-Doris Day romantic comedies.
20th Century Fox
That's how Yogi Berra would probably sum up the forthcoming summer movie season.
What else can you say about four months May through August that'll include 15 (15!) sequels and six remakes? Has the prospect of phenomenal summer box office success drained all originality from Hollywood? It would appear so.
We're about to be visited by old friends dressed all in black ("The Matrix Reloaded") or pretty in pink ("Legally Blonde 2"). They're even dumber than before ("Dumb and Dumberer"). They're driving faster ("2 Fast 2 Furious"). They're devilish ("Bad Boys II") or angelic ("Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle") or playful ("Spy Kids 3-D").
But one thing's for sure: They're all familiar.
That's how Hollywood producers and their bankers try to hedge their bets in the expensive world of filmmaking. If you're going to spend $100 million on a movie, try to make something that is a proven winner. Thus, the sequel.
And ditto the remake, which this summer includes versions of "The In-Laws," "The Hulk" and "The Italian Job," among others. The season even brings a movie version of a popular Disney theme park attraction.
In fact, if you're looking for something original, yet with potential high quality, you might be waiting till July 25. That's when "Seabiscuit," the story of the legendary race horse, breaks from the gate, with a prestigious cast on board.
Here's our look at the movies of summer for 2003 (and remember, dates are always subject to change, thanks to the marketing whims of distributors):
"The Matrix: Reloaded," is the first of two long-awaited sequels to the smash hit sci-fi actioner about battles fought between enslaved humans and ruling cybermachines in another dimension. The first film was a special-effects landmark though we all got tired of that freeze-frame, rotating camera trick seen in subsequent films. Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss and Laurence Fishburne all return with the original writer-directors Andy and Larry Wachowski. The third film in the trilogy is due in November.
"Down with Love," is a romantic comedy purposely adapting the visual style, music and ambiance of the Rock Hudson-Doris Day films of the '50s. Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger co-star (and sing the end-credit song).
"Bruce Almighty," a comedy in which Jim Carrey plays Bruce, a disgruntled complainer who is given one day by God (Morgan Freeman) to take over the top job, just to see if he can do any better with the whole creation thing.
"The In-Laws," a remake of the 1979 comedy of the same name, starring Albert Brooks and Michael Douglas as soon-to-be fathers-in-law who become entangled in an adventure that takes them to South America just before their kids are due to wed.
"Finding Nemo," the latest computer-animated magic from Pixar the folks behind "Toy Story" and "A Bug's Life." This time, fish try to find a missing little fish in an ocean full of marine life.
"The Italian Job," a remake of a highly regarded British caper comedy; starring Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron as two thieves whose recent big take is taken in turn by Edward Norton. They vow to get it back.
"Wrong Turn," a horror flick in the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" tradition about four car crash victims who are lost in the woods and pursued by cannibalistic thugs. Ummm, can't wait.
"2 Fast 2 Furious," a sequel to the surprise hit "The Fast and the Furious," continuing the adventures of street racers who aren't bright enough to spell "too." Paul Walker returns, but Vin Diesel does not.
"Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd," a prequel to the Jim Carrey-Jeff Daniels lame-brain comedy hit. This one stars look-alike younger actors Eric Christian Olsen and Derek Richardson in a tale about how the mentally challenged heroes first met.
"From Justin to Kelly," a fictional story in which "American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson and the top runner-up, Justin Guarini, play themselves and share an adventure. Can we say "milking it"?
"Hollywood Homicide," a police thriller from writer-director Ron Shelton about two cops (Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett) who investigate the murder of a rap star.
"Rugrats Go Wild," a combo platter of Nickelodeon animation spin-offs, combining characters from "The Rugrats" and "The Wild Thornberrys." The adventure is presumably in the jungle, where the Thornberrys are right at home. Listen for Bruce Willis as the voice of Spike the Dog.
"Alex and Emma," is Rob Reiner's modernization and Americanization of the classic 19th century Russian novel, "The Gambler," by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Luke Wilson is a writer who decides to nudge himself out of writer's block by taking a large advance to complete a book, even though the consequences will be dire if he fails. He hires Kate Hudson to help him.
"The Hulk," the justifiably angry big green crime-fighting monster is back, this time in a prestigious big-screen adventure directed by of all people Ang Lee, of "Sense and Sensibility" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" fame. Eric Bana plays the mild-mannered Dr. Bruce Banner who is enlarged to superhero status whenever he gets emotional (thanks to special effects).
"Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle," more of the three karate-kickin' chicks and their tricks in this sequel to the hit adaptation of the '70s TV show. This time, Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu are joined by Bernie Mac.
"Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde," pretty-in-pink Harvard Law School graduate Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) moves to Washington in this sequel, where she becomes active in a fight to get an animal-rights bill through Congress. Bob Newhart co-stars as the Watergate doorman who guides her through the maze that is Capitol Hill.
"Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas," an animated adventure from DreamWorks, the gang that brought us "Prince of Egypt," "Spirit" and "The Road to El Dorado." The high-end voice talent includes Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
"Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," the tale of the first battles between humans and the artificial intelligence of the SkyNet network. This time the advanced android played by Arnold Schwarzenegger will go up against a female cyborg (Kristanna Loken). Creator-director James Cameron is not involved this time.
"Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," in a case of reverse symbiosis, the Disney folks have created a film based on a popular Disneyland attraction. Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush co-star in this Caribbean pirate adventure.
"The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," a character-heavy adventure, adapted from a comic book series about a group of 19th century superheroes who are actually lifted directly from literary classics by the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson, Jules Verne and Mark Twain. Sean Connery stars.
"Bad Boys II," more comedy-action adventures involving the two Miami cops played by Martin Lawrence and Will Smith. The latest case takes them to London, so imagine some fish-out-of-water antics.
"Exorcist: The Beginning," the start of the devilishly scary battle between the good Father Merrin and the Evil One. Stellan Skarsgaard plays the young Merrin for edgy filmmaker Paul Schrader, who signed on after the death of veteran director John Frankenheimer.
"How to Deal," an adolescent romance about a girl (Mandy Moore) who's given up on love because of her parents' messy divorce. Of course, the right guy comes along to change her mind.
"Johnny English," a "James Bond" spy parody, starring Rowan "Mr. Bean" Atkinson.
"Mission Without Permission," a young-folks adventure, originally titled "Catch that Kid," and aimed squarely at the "Spy Kids" market. A 12-year-old girl (Kristen Stewart) breaks into a vault to steal millions so her father can have a necessary operation. (You see, he broke his back climbing Mount Everest with her.) Are you getting all this?
"Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life," Angelina Jolie returns in her second Croft film, as the British adventurer who is part Cat Woman and part Indiana Jones.
"Seabiscuit," the true-life adventures of a famous race horse that captured the public's imagination during the down days of the Depression. Jeff Bridges, Tobey Maguire and Oscar-winner Chris Cooper co-star in Gary Ross' adaptation of the fabulous, smash hit book. I predict this will be the saving grace for thoughtful adult filmgoers burned out by the summer's rash of high-energy sequels and comic-book romps.
"Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over," the final chapter in the popular Robert Rodriguez action trilogy that's a "James Bond" for youngsters. This time in 3-D.
"American Wedding," two key characters of the first two "American Pie" gross-out sex comedies assemble for a presumably wacky wedding. No word yet if they'll substitute a pie for the wedding cake.
"Gigli," real-life loves Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez co-star in this saga about a Los Angeles hit man always seeking The Big Score. He hatches a bizarre kidnapping scheme and then Lopez happens on the scene.
"Freaky Friday," another live-action Disney remake involving some of the folks who remade "The Parent Trap." Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan co-star.
"The Fighting Temptations," a comedy with Cuba Gooding Jr. as a hip-hop producer who is called back to Alabama when his wealthy aunt leaves him a sizable inheritance. But to earn it, he has to form a gospel choir and lead them to success.
"Matchstick Men," Ridley Scott's latest, the saga of a con man (Nicolas Cage) who meets the daughter he never knew he had.
"S.W.A.T.," a theatrical version of a short-lived TV series, with Samuel L. Jackson as the head of the special police unit assigned to guard a dangerous criminal. Colin Farrell co-stars.
"Freddy Vs. Jason," the clash of two horror-flick titans. My money's on Freddy, 'cause he's got more imagination.
"The Medallion," the latest Jackie Chan effort, an action flick set in the world of international smuggling, but with a metaphysical angle: Chan's character may be a ghost.
"Uptown Girls," Brittany Murphy plays a spoiled Manhattan socialite who loses her money to an unscrupulous manager. So she hires on as a nanny to a horrendously bratty 9-year-old girl. We better hear the Billy Joel song; that's all I have to say.
"The Boss's Daughter," a comedy about a young man (Ashton Kutcher) who house sits for his domineering boss, but then tries to woe the boss' daughter (Tara Reid).
"Grind," an adolescent skateboard saga with Colin McKay, Robert Baker and Adam Brody.
"Marci X," a comedy about a young white woman (Lisa Kudrow) who is forced to take over a hard-core hip-hop record label. Damon Wayans co-stars.
"Highwaymen," a horror thriller about a guy (James Caviezel) who seeks revenge against a psycho murderer whose weapon of choice is the 1972 Cadillac Eldorado he drives with deadly accuracy.
"Jeepers Creepers II," another horror sequel to end the summer on a frightening note, one way or the other.