A slew of summer
blockbusters is set to open. Matt Wilce gets the picture.
If the balmy days of a Tokyo summer make you want to lie down in a cool dark room, don'
despair head to your nearest cinema and hole up under the air-con with some popcorn and
|Jude Law displays his Artificial
Intelligence to Haley Joel Osmett
Warner Bros. & Dreamworks, LLC.
Steven Spielberg's most secret project to date, A.I. (Artificial Intelligence), is Pearl
Harbor's biggest competitor for the top spot. Originally, industry insiders were
tipping Pearl's double whammy of bombs and romance over the sci-fi epic, but as
Asian-Americans voice concern over a possible backlash and spurious gossip flies, the
media pundits are reversing their opinions.
Compared to the media blitz campaign waged by Pearl, A.I. has gone decidedly
underground, nonetheless creating a significant buzz with its labyrinthine Internet
campaign. Many eagle-eyed fans were alerted to the elaborate online puzzle after they
spotted a credit for "Sentient Machine Therapist: Jeanine Salla" in the trailer
for the movie. An Internet search for her name has led fans through a futuristic looking
glass - spot the "Alice in Wonderland" references - into a cyber world of
fictional sites such as the anti-robot organization www.unite-and-resist.org/ and
the Sentient Property Crime Bureau. With between 20 and 50 interrelated websites
documenting the movie's back-story, sci-fi sleuths have plenty of ground to cover before
the movie opens, and even after completing the whole trail, plenty of mystery remains.
Bringing Brian Aldiss' 1969 short story "Super Toys Last All Summer Long," upon
which A.I. is based, to the screen was a problem that plagued cinematic genius
Stanley Kubrick for more than three decades. After first trying to adapt the story in the
early '70s, Kubrick abandoned the project when George Lucas' Star Wars hit cinemas,
opting to make The Shining instead. Spielberg's E.T. inspired him to mull the
project over for a second time in the early '80s, but again he put it on the back burner
in order to film Full Metal Jacket. It took another Spielberg hit, Jurassic Park,
to convince Kubrick that FX technology had advanced far enough to make the film, but again
the project was stalled so that he could work on what turned out to be his last film, Eyes
Wide Shut. After discussing the project with Kubrick over the years, the tech-savvy
Spielberg stepped into the breach to helm the sci-fi extravaganza starring Haley Joel
Osment, Jude law and William Hurt.
Release date: June 30
|Monkeying around on the set of Planet
of the Apes
20th Century Fox
A few years ago, having Marky Mark play second fiddle to a bunch of apes could have been
an in-joke at a casting agent's pool party. But reinvented as a serious thespian,
ex-rapper Mark Wahlberg has bagged the lead in the much-anticipated remake of Planet of
the Apes. Talk of a return to the simian planet has been bandied around the Hollywood
hills and the Internet for years, and gossip that Oliver Stone would take on the project
were eventually quashed when the dark lord of cinema, Tim Burton, signed on as director.
Loosely based on the novel by Pierre Boulle - who also penned "Bridge Over the River
Kwai" and the original "Ape" trilogy - Burton's reinterpretation of an
ape-dominated earth is sure to be action-packed. And promises of a surprise ending to
rival Charlton Heston's discovery of the Statue of Liberty at the 1968 hit's climax
continue to circulate. Fansites have reported a latex ape mask slipped over Abe's head at
the Lincoln Memorial may be the shocker, and Heston's cameo appearance in disguise has
been confirmed in a recent interview.
Other behind-the-rubber roles are played by Helena Bonham Carter, Tim Roth and Michael
Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile), while Wahlberg's human love interest is played by
newcomer Estella Warren, whose previous appearance in Japan was in a JAL campaign.
Release date: July 28
|Ben Affleck runs for cover at Pearl
With the romance element getting greater emphasis than the attack in Japan - although the
rumors that the movie was re-cut for its release here are denied by Buena Vista - it's
difficult to predict just how big a hit this year's most expensive film will be. The star
power of lead Ben Affleck should go some way to drawing in the Japanese hordes, although
the lack of big names in the supporting roles - Josh Hartnett and Brit Kate Beckinsale
costar - and the three-hour-plus length may dampen the box office slightly - something
Mouse House execs have acknowledged. But even the savaging the movie received from a UK
critic, who called it "war pornography" and a "crude travesty of actual
events," failed to make much of a dent in its opening weekend haul in Blighty. With
its high gloss "shampoo and testosterone fabrication," the movie yet again
demonstrates Hollywood's ability to tweak historical fact to suit the box office, as it
did in last summer's U-571. It seems only Tinseltown, and uber-action-producer
Jerry Bruckheimer, could turn a humiliating military defeat into a mega money-maker.
Release date: July 14
Brendan Fraser wants
his Mummy again
One of the summer's first major hits to get unwrapped in Japan is a sequel to the '99 hit The
Mummy, starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. The storyline picks up eight years
later when the Egyptologists, with their kid son tagging along, manage to invoke the wrath
of mummy Imhotep again (despite the fact they killed him in the last movie) - cue much CGI
mayhem. Additional evilness is supplied by Dwayne Johnson (World Wrestling Federation's
The Rock) as The Scorpion King, who already has a spin-off prequel to the sequel's
prologue pic in production.
Stephen Sommers returns to direct and (over)write this blast from the past - it's very
loosely based on the old '30s mummy movies - that's fast approaching $200 million at the
box office in the States alone. While the critics haven't been kind, audiences seem to
love the mix of state-of-the-art effects and old-fashioned swash-buckling, and the movie
has racked up the second best three-day gross of all time behind The Lost World.
Release date: June 8
|Crocodile Dundee returns after a 13-year
break in the Outback
Man from Down Under
A kind of "Survivor: The Australian Outback" in reverse, this third installment
in the Aussie/American comedy franchise comes 13 years after Crocodile Dundee's first
sojourn Stateside. Costarring Paul Hogan's real-life wife, Linda Kozlowski, the
independently financed movie had the relatively small budget of US$38.5 million - almost
ten percent of the 1986 original's US$328 million worldwide take. No money for big-name
costars, it seems, and the shooting schedule was tight.
Since Hogan last ventured out from the sticks, the real-life inspiration for the Mick
Dundee character karked it. Rugged rancher Rodney Ansell's two-month battle to survive on
a remote desert island - he killed sharks and sipped buffalo blood, as there was no
drinkable water - in 1977 sparked Hogan's imagination. The real-life "Dundee"
led to the first movie's conception, with much of the fish-out-of-water humor stemming
from Ansell's book tour in Sydney. Unfortunately, in 1999 Ansell had a fatal brush with
the law, and was gunned down by police after he began a random shooting spree.
Director Simon Wincer (Free Willy) oversees Dundee's journey into the 21st century,
with the family in tow - it seems as if the addition of a pre-teen is part of the sequel
formula these days. The trip to LA to investigate some dodgy movie dealings offers
opportunity for plenty of in-jokes directed at distributor Paramount, and the usual
culture-clash setups, but there's little innovation in this flat sequel.
Release date: end of June
|Sam Neil's about to be eaten by
With Spielberg heading up A.I., the third installment of the dino vs anthropod
franchise, Jurassic Park 3, has been left to director Joe Johnston. Star Sam Neill, like
audiences, is enticed back to Site B for more limb-tearing and jungle chases along with
Tea Leoni, William H. Macy and Laura Dern (who appeared in the original but skipped the
first trip to The Lost World). Supposedly based on a story idea by Spielberg,
sparked by Michael Crichton's two novels, JP3 is reportedly darker than the
original two. New featured creatures are the pterodactyls, and everyone's favorite
carnivores, the raptors, get an IQ boost which stretches the boundaries of science even
further than the original premise.
Release date: August 11
Sly Stallone and Kip
Pardue live life in the fast lane in Driven
Driving Sly crazy
Scripted by Sly Stallone - who puts his ego aside and takes a supporting role - and
directed by action specialist Renny Harlin (Long Kiss Goodnight, Cliffhanger), Driven
purportedly regards Formula One as a "metaphor for the struggle of the human
race." Five years in the making, the movie casts serious doubts on those claims that
Sly has a genius-level IQ. Featuring an international cast that includes German
actor/producer/director Til Schweiger, Chilean actor Cristian de la Fuente and Hollywood
heartthrobs Kip Pardue (Remember the Titans) and Gina Gershon, the movie has plenty
of gloss and glamour.
Benefiting from some spillover sales from The Mummy, execs at Warner Bros were
pleased receipts for this high octane action flick weren't further damaged by the Egyptian
One's release. With a relatively poor domestic US take of US$31 million after a month on
release, Driven has a touch of Days of Thunder deja vu.
Release date: August
|Pierce Brosnan gets stitched up by
Geoffrey Rush in The Tailor of Panama
Pierce Brosnan was tailor-made for espionage and covert action flicks, and his latest
undercover incarnation is in the big screen adaptation of spy-master John Le Carre's The
Tailor of Panama. Set during the American hand-over of the canal to the Panamanians,
an all-star cast of Geoffrey Rush, Jamie Lee Curtis and Harold Pinter become embroiled in
ever-deepening intrigue with Brosnan as an anti-Bond at the center. Director John Boorman
(The Emerald Forest, Hope and Glory), making his fourth movie in the tropics,
steers Brosnan et al. through what promises to be the only truly adult movie of the
summer. Garnering praise for its richly humorous take on post-cold war treachery, the
Columbia Pictures release has been a bit of a sleeper at the US box office.
Release date: mid July
Eddie Murphy's Dr
Dolittle has an interesting bathing companion
Definitely only for the prepubescent, Eddie Murphy's return as Dr Dolittle promises more
of the same talking animal/bodily function humor that's a far cry from Hugh Lofting's
original children's books. Raven-Symone - who started out as Olivia on "The Cosby
Show" - and Lil' Zane (Finding Forrester) costar with a family-friendly Murphy
and some vocal animals.
Other juvenile thrills are delivered by Disney's The Emperor's New Groove, a Latin
romp voiced by Eartha Kitt and John Goodman. Taking a break from their recent fixation
with epic dramas, the Mouse House returns to slapstick comedy for some light relief.
Naturally it features an Academy Award-winning song by an aging British pop star: This
time, Sting does the honors with "My Funny Friend and Me."
Release dates: Dr Dolittle 2 July 21; The Emperor's New Groove July
Emperors New Groove