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Summer Film Preview: Combat Fatigue Gives Escapist Films a New Lease on Life

Express Staff - May 1st, 2003
Chances are you were too busy watching the war in Iraq on TV this spring to make it out to the flicks. But with the war winding down and a serious groove developing in your couch, perhaps you‘ll be more inclined to check out summer‘s lineup of escapist fantasies from Hollywood.
After a glut of post-9/11 war films (“Once We Were Soldiers,“ “Tears of the Sun“), a cease-fire has apparently been declared in Tinseltown in the wake of the war. It‘s all quiet on the western front as far as war films go this summer, but there‘s a renewed emphasis on sci-fi fantasies, super heroes and sequels, sequels and more sequels. Not that there won‘t be plenty of shooting and bombs going off on screen, but the mayhem will be employed by such proxy warriers as mutants (“X2“), machines (“Terminator 3“) or computer projections (“Matrix Reloaded“) rather than the U.S. Marines. Call it combat fatigue.
So, let the shows begin. Here‘s a taste of the films you‘ll be viewing this summer:

The Matrix Reloaded: Four years ago, it looked as if Neo (Keanu Reeves) had figured out a way to discombobolate the nasty machines of the life-sucking Matrix. In the sequel, the machines surge back, attacking Zion, the human‘s last underground city. Neo and his fellow rebels counterattack with the sort of karate chops and backflips designed to put the machines in their place, but he has troubling dreams about his girlfriend Trinity (Carie-Anne Moss). Could she be just another computer projection in disguise? May 15

Down With Love: Renee Zellweger stars as a Cosmo-style author who writes a bestseller advising women to be as crass and carefree in love as men. Ewan McGregor is the sneaky journalist who sets out to prove that her cavalier feminist shtick is just an act. Romantic comedy ensues. May 16.

Bruce Almighty: Comedian Jim Carrey is a bored TV reporter on the fluff beat in Buffalo who gets a chance to fill in for God while the Almighty takes a vacation. Co-starring is Jennifer Aniston as his doubting Thomasina love interest, blown away by his miraculous new abilities. Expect the funny side of Carrey to be back in a big way after such snoozers as “The Majestic.“ May 23.

The In-Laws: Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks attempt a remake of the hilarious 1979 film of the same title which starred Peter Falk and Alan Arkin. Fathers of the bride and groom get involved in CIA intrigue in France on the eve of the big wedding. May 23

The Italian Job: Another remake, this time of a1969 heist flick that was a big hit in Britain. Mark Wahlberg leads a crew bent on making gold heists from Venice, Italy, to the subways of Los Angeles. Tools of the trade include speedboats and Mini Coopers. May 30

Finding Nemo: Pixar Animation Studio gives fish the same treatment which worked so well on insects in “A Bug‘s Life“ and ghouls in “Monsters, Inc.“ After young fish Nemo is snared by scuba divers, his clown fish dad swims off in hot pursuit in a sea full of predators and goofy characters. Hey, what‘s funnier than an octopus? May 30

2 Fast 2 Furious: The first “F&F“ hot rod film was born brain-dead, relying mainly on chase scenes, games of “chicken“ and freewheeling machismo. Can “2F2F“ live up to that legacy? This time, undercover cop Paul Walker goes deep on the mean streets of Miami to puncture the tires of a hoodlum played by Cole Hauser. More humor and action are promised, along with the crash of 200 cars in one scene. June 6

Love the Hard Way: Adrien Brody is a con man and a bookworm all rolled into one. Charlotte Ayanna is a biology student who tries to keep her brainy luv from the clutches of the law. June 6

Prozac Nation: A downer for the depressed set. Christina Ricci portrays Elizabeth Wurtzel, the music writer from the New Yorker whose revelations about her depression introduced Prozac as a household word. June 6

Whale Rider: When a tribe of Maori fishermen in New Zealand begin the search for a new chief, a young girl discovers an unlikely talent that may lead her to the top. June 6

Hollywood Homicide: Harrison Ford and Josh Harnett are moonlighting homicide detectives who collect extra cash as a real estate agent and yoga instructor, respectively, in a buddy cop comedy that‘s perfect for a moms-and-daughters outing. June 13

When Harry Met Lloyd: Dumb and Dumberer: A prequel to the comedy series, this features Eric Christian Olsen and Derek Richardson as younger versions of the characters made infamous by Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. The two start their own special needs class and uncover the school‘s dark secret. June 13

From Justin to Kelly: American Idol winners Justin Guarini and Kelly Clarkston hook up at the beach during Spring Break and sing and dance their way into each other‘s hearts after the usual mix-ups are resolved. Dude! A must-see for fans of “Crossroads.“ June 13

Alex & Emma: He‘s an author with writer‘s block, a 30-day deadline and the mob breathing down his back for gambling debts. She‘s a stenographer who can‘t help critiquing his work and suggesting new plot lines and characters. Luke Wilson and Kate Hudson star in a modern comedy that mimics the true-life tale of Russian novelist Fyodor Doestoyevsky falling for his steno. June 20

The Hulk: Eric Bana is a scientist who gets dosed with gamma rays with very green, unfortunate results. Each time he loses his temper, he turns into the Hulk, a 15-foot-tall semi-human godzilla on everyone‘s smart bomb list. The bigger problem, however, may be whether the computer-generated Hulk lives up to the film‘s $100 million price tag. June 20

Bollywood/Hollywood: A millionaire from India hires a call girl to pose as his fiancè to get his wedding-addled parents off his back in this musical comedy. Naturally, they begin to fall for each other. June 20

Charlie‘s Angels: Full Throttle: Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu are back, trying to protect folks in the FBI‘s Witness Protection program after its list of stool pigeons gets leaked. Comedian Bernie Mac guides the team as Bosley‘s brother (a role which Bill Murray declined to reprise). The sequel promises more action in the way of karate kicks, explosions, stunts and such. Plus Demi Moore as a fallen Angel. June 27

The Hard Word: Three brothers from Down Under hunger for one last heist in Melbourne to set themselves up for life. A meddling wife (Rachel Griffiths) upsets the best-laid plans. June 27

28 Days Later: Shades of SARS. Animal activists unleash a killer virus called Rage and London is left filled with corpses and zombies. Inspired by the ‘60s gross-out film, “Night of the Living Dead.“ June 27

Rise of the Machines: Terminator 3: Arnold Schwarzenneger is back once again as a helpful cyborg aiding the humans in their battle with a terminatrix played by model Kristanna Loken. As usual, the pesky machines of Skynet in the far future have sent a metal murderer back in time to kill off John Connor (Nick Stahl), the human race‘s only hope. The rebs fire up another version of Arnold to put her bad bitch ways down. July 2

Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde: Reese Witherspoon is back as ditsy blonde Elle Woods, this time on a mission to Washington, D.C. as a lawyer with an animal rights agenda on behalf of her chihuahua, Bruiser. July 2

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: The “curse“ is a spell that turns pirates into no-fun skeletons. Pirate leader Geoffrey Rush enlists the aid of n‘er-do-well Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) to break the hex in this 17th century swashbuckler. He teams up with a blacksmith (Orlando Bloom) to rescue an imprisoned lass (Keira Knightley) who holds the key to breaking the curse. Sounds like a comedy, but it‘s supposed to be a supernatural thriller, kinda‘ like “The Scorpion King“ does the Spanish Main. July 9

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Imagine if the heroes of 19th century literature got together to save Victorian England from an evil genius. That‘s just what Tom Sawyer, Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll, the Invisible Man, Dorian Gray and the like set out to do, with Sean Connery as adventurer Allan Quatermain. July 11

Johnny English: “Mr. Bean“ Rowan Atkinson plays goofball secret agent Johnny English who sets out to stop a French businessman (John Malkovich) from toppling Britain‘s queen and taking her place on the throne. A comic take on James Bond. July 18

Seabiscuit: Film version of the bestselling book “Seabisquit: An American Legend“ about the astounding racehorse which boggled trackgoers in the Great Depression. Did you know that race horses travel at speeds up to 45 mph? You will after this film comes out. July 25

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life: Another save-the-world venture starring Angela Jolie as the buxom video game commando. Lara bounces from Greece to Africa, Hong Kong and outer space in a quest to find Pandora‘s Box. July 25

Masked and Anonymous: Bob Dylan stars as a brooding rocker making a comeback to play a charity concert. With Jessica Lange, John Goodman and Jeff Bridges. July 25

American Wedding: The sequel to the American Pie sequel. Jason Biggs and Alyyson Hannigan want to get married, but have to deal with their uncouth friends and an unwanted wedding guest. Aug. 1

Gigli: Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez are contract killers who haven‘t the heart to bump off a prosecutor‘s mentally-challenged brother at the mob‘s behest. Aug. 1

Matchstick Men: Nicholas Cage as an obsessive-compulsive con man who is pushed into a big time swindle by complications involving his 14-year-old daughter and his grifting buddy, Sam Rockwell. Aug. 8

S.W.A.T.: A SWAT team led by Samuel L. Jackson captures a drug dealer who offers $100 million to anyone who can set him free. It‘s Fort Apache all over again... Aug. 8

Uptown Girls: Brittany Murphy plays a wealthy New York party girl who loses her inheritance and is forced to work as a nanny for an irritating 8-year-old (Dakota Fanning). Aug. 15

The Secret Lives of Dentists: Campbell Scott and Hope Davis are a husband and wife pair of dentists who really get on each other‘s nerves in this drama set in suburban New York. All about the ups and downs of being married with three kids. Even a dentist‘s salary can‘t dull the ache. August 22

Highwaymen: Jim Caviezel plays a widow with a police scanner, on a hunt across America for a serial killer who runs over women with his ‘72 El Dorado. Question: wouldn‘t that car get awfully dented up by the first dozen or so? Aug. 27

Wonderland: Val Kilmer plays porn god John Holmes in this exploration of the murder of four people in a drug house on Wonderland Avenue in L.A. in 1981. With Lisa Kudrow as Holmes‘ wife in a true crime drama about a drugged-out porn star who goes even deeper into the gutter. Aug.

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