Articles: The Buzz on 2002's Top Hopefuls
   
 



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by
Laurence Washington

Lights! Camera! Action! The Hollywood dream factory is gearing up for another year of drama, adventure and action flicks. And studio executives have long learned comic book heroes, sequels and remakes bring in big box office dollars. And it seems there’ll be no shortage of those films this year with Chris Rock going undercover, Will Smith ridding the Earth of alien scum, Denzel Washington taking hostages and Eddie Murphy serving Moon Lattes.


AUSTIN POWERS IN GOLDMEMBER
Bottom Line: The third installment of the successful James Bond spoof Austin Powers Man of Mystery.

Most Valuable Players: Mike Myers, Michael Cain, Seth Green

Selling Points: To the amazement of film critics, movie fans love this series about a 60’s spy transplant. The filmmakers promise more double-meaning gags, puns and banter, plus the introduction of a new villian.

Downside: Don’t worry if you miss this one, there will undoubtedly be others. (Summer)


BAD COMPANY

Bottom Line: A top CIA agent is killed in the line of duty, and the agency recruits his twin brother to take his place.

Most Valuable Players: Chris Rock, Anthony Hopkins, Gabriel Macht, John Slattery.

Selling Points: This flick has a lot of potential with funny man Rock and actor’s actor Hopkins as lead characters

Downside: Overexposure? Rock seems to be in almost every film these days. He did at least four this year, which might be too much of a good thing. (Spring)


BOND 20

Bottom Line: Super spy James Bond pursues a villain with an ability to change his facial features.

Most Valuable Players: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Rick Yune.

Selling Points: You know the name. You know the number. You also know the formula — and it works. Bond producers usually don’t cast actresses with acting abilities or presence, probably because they’ll upstage Bond. But on this 40th anniversary film, it looks like they’ve pulled out all the stops, casting Halle Berry who’ll sooner or later have an Oscar sitting atop her rocky mantel.

Downside: Hey, isn’t Bond the guy your Dad watches on those TBS marathon weekends? (Christmas)


JOHN Q

Bottom Line: A down-on-his-luck father commandeers a hospital's emergency room, forcing the doctors to give his son a much-needed heart transplant.

Most Valuable Players: Denzel Washington, Eddie Griffin, Robert Duvall, James Woods.

Selling Points: Strong dramatic cast with Washington, Duvall and Woods. Expect great performances.

Downside: Hostages, guns, terrorism, need we say more? OK, we will. It might be too soon for American audiences to get behind this flick. (Spring)


LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KINGS
Bottom Line: The second installment based upon J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic trilogy.

Most Valuable Players: Elijah Wood, Sir Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Sean Bean, Cate Blanchett.

Selling Points: There are only a few books in the last 100 years that are as universally hailed and revered within the realm of fantasy as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The first installment was great, knocking the much anticipated Harry Potter and Ali out of the top box-office slots. Since all three films were shot at once, the consisty should be there throughout the series.

Downside: Forget about it! Tolkien fans loved the first installment, which grossed more than $205 million by its third week, so there’s no reason to believe the next two Christmases won’t belong to Tolkien. (Christmas)


MEN IN BLACK 2

Bottom Line: Agents "J" and "K" must stop estrogen-charged extraterrestrials from invading Earth.

Most Valuable Players: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Famke Janssen, Michael Jackson.

Selling Points: Columbia/Tristar suits promise the worm creatures from agents "J" and "K’s" first outing will return once again wreak havoc. Plus, there’s an appearance by the "King of pop."

Downside: With Jackson in the mix, MIB2 has the warm feeling of another sequel based on marketing research instead of a solid script. (Summer)


THE ADVENTURES OF PLUTO NASH

Bottom Line: A lunar nightclub owner suddenly finds himself battling gangsters trying to muscle in on his club.

Most Valuable Players: Eddie Murphy, Pam Grier, Randy Quaid.

Selling Points: After a ton of remakes, looks like Murphy finally has an orginial script. Hey, wait a minute! On second thought, the plot suspiciously looks like Casablanca in outer space.

Downside: How great can this film be? First Pluto Nash was scheduled for release last year...then it wasn’t...then it was...then it wasn’t.... What’s the release date now? Which way is the wind blowing? After a year of false starts, Warner Bros. insiders have crossed their fingers and said late summer 2002. (Summer)


SIGNS
Bottom Line: A quiet Pennsylvania farmer suddenly finds himeslf caught in a media circus after several 500-foot crop circle designs appear in his fields overnight.

Most Valuable Players: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Cherry Jones

Selling Points: Heartthrob Gibson and director M. Night Shyamalan’s track record, i.e., The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. Could be "way cool" and "way scary."

Downside: Then again, sounds like it could be just a warmed-over episode of the X-Files if the filmmakers aren’t careful. (Fall)


SPIDER-MAN
Bottom Line: A freak accident bombards a stray spider with radiation. The spider bites high school student Peter Parker, who miraculously gains incredible spider-like abilities.

Most Valuable Players: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst.

Selling Points: Marvel Comics’ lead web-slinging superhero character. ‘Nuff said.

Downside: Too much of a good thing? Hollywood is cranking out comic book and video game heroes by the bushel. And they usually spend all their money on special effects, and nickel and dime the script. (Spring)


STAR WARS: EPISODE II - ATTACK OF THE CLONES
Bottom Line: Two Jedi knights are assigned to protect princess Padme Amidala from political separatist, only to become embroiled in a complicated relationship with devastating effects to the Republic’s stability.

Most Valuable Players: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson

Selling Points: Call it a cult following, pre-sold audience — call it what you will, Star Wars fans are already lined up to give George Lucas an armored car full of their hard-earned dollars.

Downside: Too many damn Muppets and the annoying shufflin’ Jar Jar Binks! (Spring)

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