2003 Fall Movie Preview

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2003 Fall Movie Preview

After a fairly bleak summer movie season (with a few notable exceptions like “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Seabiscuit”) the fall movie season is almost upon us. As the leaves outside turn all shades of red and orange and begin to fall from their branches, we’ll be inside the theater, cool, comfortable, and actually watching something moderately good for a change. Without further delay, here’s a brief preview of some of the movies coming out this fall.

Coming in August:

The Medallion

– Director: Gordon Chan

– Starring: Jackie Chan, Claire Forlani, Lee Evans, John Rhys Davies

– Studio: Sony Screen Gems

– Release Date: August 22

– Rating: R for violence and language

Jackie Chan teams up with Lee Evans and Claire Forlani to bring down an international slave-trade organization. Apparently, some kind of medallion is also involved, and will probably be used as a weapon in hand-to-hand combat sometime during the movie, along with the mandatory ladders, chains and small children.

Jeepers Creepers 2

– Director: Victor Salva

– Starring: Jonathon Breck, Ray Wilse, Nicki Lynn Aycox

– Studio: MGM

– Release Date: August 29

– Rating: R – for horror violence and language

In this sequel to 2001’s “Jeepers Creepers,” a human-hungry winged demon terrorizes a bus full of high-school basketball players and cheerleaders. Did I mention that the demon can’t be killed and has been doing this sort of thing for thousands of years? Of course, the basketball players and cheerleaders don’t know this, so they’ll try and kill the thing themselves. So, in summary, the conflict in this movie is “Jock vs. Demon.” Personally, I’m putting my money on the demon.

Coming in September:

The Order

– Director: Brian Helgeland

– Starring: Heath Ledger, Shannyn Sossamon, Mark Addy

– Studio: 20th Century Fox

– Release Date: September 5

– Rating: R – for violent images, sexuality and language

Heath Ledger plays a priest investigating the mysterious murder of a French ambassador. No, he’s not Father Dowling, he’s Alex Bremier, a brooding New York priest who’s trying to find out why the body was covered in religious symbols and Aramaic text. His search leads him to Rome where he discovers that the murder may have been the work of a secretive sect within the Church, an ancient order called the Sin Eaters. Sounds like a rejected Food Network pilot. Still, the movie looks like it could be pretty good, sin consumption notwithstanding.

Matchstick Men

– Director: Ridley Scott

– Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Alison Lohman

– Studio: Warner Bros.

– Release Date: September 12

– Rating: PG-13 – for thematic elements, violence, some sexual content and language

With last year’s “Adaptation,” Nicolas Cage proved that, despite what you might think from junkers like “The Rock” or “Con Air,” he actually has some acting talent, even if it’s limited to characters who are far from perfect, psychologically speaking. In this Ridley Scott film, Cage plays Roy, an obsessive-compulsive con man. Along with his partner Frank (Sam Rockwell), they pull assorted scams and cons on the unsuspecting populace. Roy’s life is nice, immaculately neat, and in perfect order…until a daughter he never knew he had comes to stay with him. After the assorted wacky antics that naturally ensue when you put a 13 year-old girl in the same house as an obsessive-compulsive, Roy has to deal with the consequences of introducing his daughter into the world of con-art.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

– Director: Robert Rodriguez

– Starring: Antonio Banderas, Johnny Depp, Ruben Blades, Salma Hayek, Mickey Rourke, Willem Defoe, Enrique Iglesias, Cheech Marin

– Studio: Columbia

– Release Date: September 12

– Rating: R – for strong violence, and for language

It’s hard to believe that the same guy who directed the incredibly tame, saccharine “Spy Kids” series of movies is the same director who made the guns-‘n-explosions fest “Desperado.” “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” is the sequel to “Desperado,” which is itself a sequel to Rodriguez’s first movie, “El Mariachi.” Rodriguez has come a long way since “Mariachi” (which cost only $7000 to make) – just take a look at this cast; Banderas, Depp, Hayek, Rourke, Defoe, Iglesias, Marin. Rodriguez describes “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” as the “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” of his trilogy, so take that how you will.

Underworld

– Director: Len Wiseman

– Starring: Kate Beckinsdale, Scott Speedman

– Studio: Sony Screen Gems

– Release Date: September 19

– Rating: Not yet rated

Take “Romeo and Juliet.” Now, make the Capulets vampires, and the Montagues werewolves. Now make it so that the Capulet-Vampires and the Montague-Werewolves have been trying to kill each other for thousands of years, all unbeknownst to the rest of humankind. Let’s say that Kate Beckinsdale is the Juliet Capulet-Vampire and Scott Speedman is the Romeo Montague-Werewolf and they fall in love, even though, you know, they’re different species. Now add lots of neo-Gothic imagery, guns, tight leather pants, and change all the characters’ names to names like Kraven, Singe, Raze, Viktor, and Lucian. Throw in a dash of chart-topping n?-metal, a pinch of Matrix-esque bullet time, and voila! Instant “Underworld!”

Bubba Ho-Tep

– Director: Don Coscarelli

– Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis

– Studio: Silver Sphere (Independent)

– Release Date: Limited release September 19 – expands to other cities at later dates.

Let’s get this out of the way right now – Bruce Campbell is a god amongst men. The one-liner-slinging, chainsaw-wielding star of “Army of Darkness” takes up the mantle of the King of Rock and Roll in this indie film festival favorite. Campbell plays Elvis himself, who is trapped in a nursing home where no one believes he really is who he says he is. Along with fellow inmate JFK (Ossie Davis), Elvis has to fight off an evil mummy who is attacking and sucking the life out of other nursing home residents. Campy, cheesy goodness? Oh yes. But don’t look for it in your local theater come September – its initial release is limited to Seattle, expanding to other cities at a later date. But it’s something to keep an eye out for. Hail to the King, baby.

The Rundown

– Director: Peter Berg

– Starring: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Christopher Walken, Seann William Scott

– Studio: Universal

– Release Date: September 26

– Rating: PG-13 – for adventure violence and some crude dialogue

The Rock plays a bounty hunter who travels to South America to retrieve Stifler, I mean, Seann William Scott. However, they run afoul of Christopher Walken who wants the treasure that Stifler, I mean, Seann William Scott had found on his land. Cue bad wire stunts, fistfights, guns, explosions, guns, more fist fights, and more explosions. Oh, and Christopher Walken. How can you go wrong? Wait, don’t answer that.

Coming in October:

Scary Movie 3

– Director: David Zucker

– Starring: Charlie Sheen, Denise Richards, Anna Faris, Leslie Nielson

– Studio: Dimension Films

– Release Date: October 3

– Rating: R

The gross-out humor of “Scary Movie” has returned for a third helping with yet another parody fest, this time subtitled “Episode I: Lord of the Brooms.” How alluring. Mocking movies like “Signs,” “The Matrix,” “The Others,” “8 Mile” and many, many, many more, “Scary Movie 3” will throw itself into theaters October 3 with a sense of humor that, while wholly inappropriate for those under 13 years of age, definitely appeals to the mentality of that age group. If you still find fart jokes to be the height of cerebral humor, then by all means, enjoy this delightful slice of cinema. I’ll go see it for Leslie Nielson.

The House of the Dead

– Director: Uwe Boll

– Starring: Jurgen Prochnow, Jonathon Cherry, Ellie Cornell

– Studio: Artisan Entertainment

– Release Date: October 10

– Rating: R – for pervasive strong violence/gore, language, and some nudity

If you’ve spent any time in a video game arcade, you’ve probably seen this game – “The House of the Dead.” In it, you play some kind of agent, sent to the mansion of a wacky mad scientist who makes zombies in his spare time. The game consists of shooting zombies, over… and over… and over. It’s only natural that movie studios would want to get in on this kind of action, especially after last year’s zombie-fest (also based on a video game!) “Resident Evil” did fairly well in theaters. But of course, they have to completely change the story and throw in some gratuitous nudity and lots of eye-candy. If you haven’t seen the trailer for it (you can find it on movies.com) I’ll tell you what to expect – lots of zombie heads exploding, frequent slow-motion gunfights, lots of Matrix-inspired bullet time, and a whole bunch of unknown actors. But who cares about that? How important is plot or talent when you’ve got zombies? Come on! Zombies!

Kill Bill, Part 1

– Director: Quentin Tarantino

– Starring: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Lucy Liu, Darryl Hannah, Vivicia A. Fox, Samuel L. Jackson

– Studio: Miramax

– Release Date: October 10

– Rating: R

Anyone who’s seen “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” knows that Quentin Tarantino has a thing for excessive violence. According to Lucy Liu, Tarantino’s latest movie is no exception. “It’s so violent. People will leave the movie theater or get sick in the movie theater. But there’s so much violence that it becomes not numbing, but almost comedic” (from Movies.com). Sounds like Tarantino, all right. Also interesting is Miramax’s decision to split the movie in half and release each half separately. It’s quite a risk, considering that they could potentially scare away the audience for the second half if the first release doesn’t live up to expectations.

Runaway Jury

– Director: Gary Fleder

– Starring: John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz

– Studio: 20th Century Fox

– Release Date: October 17

– Rating: PG-13 – for violence, language, and thematic elements

Every now and then, I’ll run into a book-to-movie adaptation whose casting choices are absolutely dead on. I just finished reading “The Runaway Jury” by John Grisham and I have to express my delight at the decision to cast Gene Hackman as notorious jury consultant Rankin Fitch. He’s perfect! The movie revolves around a massive lawsuit against the tobacco industry – Rankin Fitch is a “jury consultant” hired by the defense to investigate and manipulate the perfect jury into place, and essentially ensure a favorable verdict… by whatever means necessary. His plans begin to fall apart when a mysterious woman (Rachel Weisz) begins predicting the jury’s behavior with an unbelievable accuracy. John Cusack plays Nicholas Easter, a juror in cahoots with Weisz. It was a very enjoyable book; I can only hope that it will be an enjoyable movie. I think it will.

Alien: Director’s Cut

– Director: Ridley Scott

– Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerrit, John Hurt, Ian Holm

– Studio: 20th Century Fox

– Release Date: October 31 (re-release)

– Rating: R

Since its release in 1979, Ridley Scott’s “Alien” has stood the test of time as one of the definitive sci-fi / horror movies to come out of Hollywood. Its sequels, Aliens and Alien3, helped jump-start the careers of future heavy-hitters like Sigourney Weaver, James Cameron, David Fincher, and Bill Paxton. Digitally re-mastered with added, never-before-seen footage, “Alien” will once again be scuttling across movie screens and showing a new generation that in space, no one can hear you scream.

Coming in November:

The Matrix: Revolutions

– Director: Larry and Andy Wachowski

– Starring: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne, Nona Gaye, Monica Belluci, Hugo Weaving

– Studio: Warner Bros.

– Release Date: November 5

– Rating: R

I can only hope and pray that “Revolutions” won’t be as disappointing as this year’s earlier “Reloaded” proved to be. In terms of special effects, the Matrix movies are rivaled by none, but if I have to watch Keanu Reeves struggle to look important and stately for much longer, I will quite possibly go insane. Have you noticed that he has only one or two lines that are longer than one sentence? Do you think it’s because he has a hard time memorizing, or is it just bad writing? I think it’s probably both, but mostly just bad writing. The Wachowski brothers are great at weaving mythology and religious symbolism together into a great story, but they can’t whip up emotion if their lives depended on it. However, I am delighted by the news that “Revolutions” will be simultaneously released in regular theaters and IMAX theaters nationwide. Forget the local Cineplex. I’m gonna see this puppy on a movie screen so big that I can see into each and every one of Laurence Fishburne’s pores.

Elf

– Director: Jon Favreau

– Starring: Will Ferrel, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner

– Studio: New Line

– Release Date: November 7

– Rating: Not yet rated

After stealing every scene he’s been in since he left SNL, Will Ferrel finally gets to star in a movie of his own. The concept goes a little like this: Santa Claus goes into this one house in the middle of the night to put presents under the tree, right? But there’s this baby, see, and the baby crawls into Santa’s sack only Santa doesn’t find out about it until he gets back to the North Pole. What’s Santa to do? The obvious choice is to raise the kid as an elf. The thing is, elves are really small and since this guy’s a human, when he grows up he’s a lot bigger than they are. Oh, and he grows up to be Will Ferrel. Eventually, the head elf (Bob Newhart) decides that it’s time to come clean and sends Ferrel back into the world of people. Crazy antics ensue.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

– Director: Peter Weir

– Starring: Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, Patrick Gallagher, John DeSantis

– Studio: 20th Century Fox

– Release Date: November 14

– Rating: Not yet rated

Based on the series of naval warfare novels by Patrick O’Brian, “Master and Commander” deals with Captain Jack Aubrey (Crowe) and ship’s surgeon Stephen Maturin during the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century. Aubrey and company are on a mission to Cape Horn to intercept an American frigate sent to interfere with the British whaling trade, but along the way Aubrey must deal with dangerous storms, shipwrecks, murder, and mutiny. And, judging from the trailer, excessive amounts of water.

Dr. Suess’ The Cat in the Hat

– Director: Bo Welch

– Starring: Mike Myers, Kelly Preston, Spencer Breslin, Alec Baldwin

– Studio: Universal

– Release Date: November 21

– Rating: Not yet rated

Mike Myers wishes he could be Jim Carrey. In this live-action rendition of the beloved Dr. Suess children’s book, Mike Myers plays that mischievous cat (in a hat) who turns the lives of two children upside down while their parents are out. I’ve seen the trailer for this beauty, and not only did they slap Myers in a whole lot of rubber makeup like they did Carrey in 1994’s “The Mask,” but Myers talks like Carrey, acts like Carrey, and generally causes havoc like Carrey. I’d rather save my money and go rent “The Mask” again. Dr. Suess was never meant to be performed live.

2003 Fall Movie Preview

2003 Fall Movie Preview

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