Upcoming Movies, Fall/Winter 2001
March 14th, 2004
By: Darwin Mayflower
(July 27, 2001)
Ive gotten E-mails recently complaining about how grumpy I sound every time the subject is current movies. "Is there anything out there you want to see?" they ask. Maybe. Maybe not.
Well, inspired by these brave people, Ive decided to present you with a near-full list of the movies set to come out later this year. And my thoughts on what to avoid and embrace. Starting with...
AMERICAN OUTLAWS. Youve probably heard nothing about it. But I think I can sell you on this one. Its pretty simple: Ali Larter and Colin Farrell will occupy the frame. Thats gotta be enough, right? And if you want more: its a western about Jesse James! True, it was directed by the guy that did BLUE STREAK, but you cant ask for everything, now can you?
AMERICAN PIE II. MARY was famous for sperm in the hair. This film became famous because someone violated a pie. (Which had a note on it with "your" spelled wrong.) Hearing that makes me want to salute a flag.
In all seriousness, PIE got carried on the wave of the gross-out movie rage and made a bundle of money. The sequel has been directed by Weiz brother first assistant director J.B. Rogers and written by PIE writer Adam Hertz. The kids are off in college now so you can expect ten times more sex. The trailer actually had a pretty funny bit, where Jims dad walks in on him and his girlfriend getting amorous (and then her parents walk in). From other footage shown it looks like Jim finally makes it to that infamous band camp. Thats either inspired or headed for utter failure.
The reason I think this will be a harmless, easy viewing is because of its young, attractive cast, which includes Chris Klein, Mena Suvari, Shannon Elizabeth and Sean William Scott.
Im not rushing out to see it, but how bad can it be? (ME, MYSELF & IRENE is slipping by my mind right now, of course).
CAPTAIN CORELLIS MANDOLIN. When I first saw this trailer in a packed movie theater a spontaneous group "Ugh!" shot up. Does this look like the most boring movie ever made or what? Penelope Cruz has an interesting career going: she never makes good movies, but shes always dating her co-stars (even stealing them from others) and that keeps the press glued to her every move. As for Nic Cage, the man who once ate a roach for a movie, I have to ask: Where have you gone, crazy man? Nic, pre-Bruckheimer, was one of our best actors, turning in one offbeat performance after another. Then came his big moment, the dramatic role of his life, LEAVING LAS VEGAS, and he won an Oscar. What Nic ended up leaving was his acting roots and hes been making crappy action films ever since. Doesnt he have enough dough at this point? Cant he get back to the good stuff -- like RAISING ARIZONA? The answer is no, I guess; all you have to witness is Nics somnambulant non-performance in BRINGING OUT THE DEAD to see that.
THE CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION. Ah, finally: an unmitigated pleasure. Every filmmaker has his experiments that dont work -- from Hitchcock to Scorsese -- but Ive never been disappointed by a Woody Allen film. His latest is about a hypnotist who uses Allen and co-star Helen Hunt to perform a heist. Woody Allen gets accused of sticking to the same format for all his movies, but I think hes one of the most diverse filmmakers working. He jumps from genre to genre (even making a semi-horror movie once) with total ease. Is it any wonder big stars line up to be in his films? This is Woodys second summer release, after the hit SMALL TIME CROOKS. And I suspect this will do even better because it has a larger set of big-name actors. Do yourself a favor and see this flick.
GHOST WORLD. From the man that brought you CRUMB comes this story of two isolated fringe-of-society people that bond and come together.
GLITTER. Mariah Carey...movie star? Doubt it. For her fans only. But lets hope she shakes all that extra meat she has, which shes been doing quite a bit lately. (Hey, selling tickets is selling tickets.)
JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK. Kevin Smiths best film, by far, was MALLRATS. Why? Because it was dumb fun in the teen-movie tradition of John Hughes and it highlighted Smiths potty-mouth humor. CLERKS was too stagnant, CHASING AMY too contradictory and falsely important, and DOGMA, amazingly, too forgettable. JAY AND SILENT BOB, however, is said to get back to the MALLRATS, no-seriousness mode again and that makes me think it will be Smiths best film to date. The cast hes lined up is stellar (including Ms. Ali Larter) and hes actually hired someone who knows how to work a movie camera.
JOHN CARPENTERS GHOSTS OF MARS. Definitely the movie you should skip. Anyone whos read my review knows how I feel about John and this material. This is nothing more than a cheesy rip-off of ALIEN and it will fade like tears on a childs face once it opens at the B.O.
ORIGINAL SIN. Starring Angelina Jolie and Antonio Banderas. This was filmed years ago (Angelina returned to this set right after she won her Oscar) and has been sitting around ever since. Not the greatest sign. Its another psychosexual thriller from director Michael Cristofer (GIA), who will forever be known as the man who butchered BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES with his awful screenplay. Even though the book this movie is based on was written by Cornell Woolrich (who wrote the screenplay REAR WINDOW) this looks like a mess and a bore -- even if Angelina does expose her fiery sexuality. At this point its trying to ride the wave of Angelinas other summer movie: LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER.
OSMOSIS JONES. This was one of the first scripts I reviewed here at Screenwritersutopia.com. I wasnt entirely blown away by it, but it had its charm. I thought the violent action and kid-ready humor never found a middle ground. Peter Farrelly, who co-directed the live-action section with his brother, said he thought the script was "the best (hed) ever read." Chris Rock takes on the lead character. David Hyde Pierce is his sidekick. Ive seen the animation and cant say Im impressed. It looks too much like a Saturday morning cartoon. The film does have the added benefit of funny-man Bill Murray (well be inside his bod for the animation part). The screenwriter, Marc Hyman, was smart enough to keep things lively, but I dont think this movie is going to work.
RAT RACE. An ITS A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD rip-off from one of our most talented comedy directors: Jerry Zucker. The MMMMW format isnt hard to imitate, but is, somehow, hard to make work. Zuckers a funny guy...they even got Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding to be in it...so who knows.
RUSH HOUR II. Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker and Brett Ratner are all back for the second outing. The only part of RUSH HOUR I liked was its outtakes at the end. Chris Tucker has never been funnier. ("Who the hell you think you got -- Chelsea Grammer?")
This time around Jackie and Chris are in Hong Kong. And you can just bet the comedy ensues! I must admit to being something of a fan of Ratners. Hes not a great director, but hes a nice guy and a good (verbal) storyteller. He said that when he and Tucker were in Hong Kong for the movies opening Chris was trying to talk to an Asian man with the help of Jackie Chan and the three were conversing and when they separated they each said, "I have no idea what he just said. I couldnt understand a word of it." And the sequel was born.
SUMMER CATCH. Doesnt Freddie ever give up? I think they hand him the same script again and again and just change the title.
BIG TROUBLE. I enjoyed this script (which I reviewed). Its based on a really funny book (by Dave Barry) and has a nice madcap charge to it. Unfortunately, Barry Sonnenfeld went ahead and rewrote the script I read. And because of this, plus his bad casting decisions, Im not offering any word on its value. Most likely the rewrite hurt the film, rather than helped, but the film should be worth it for its hilarious opening.
THE GLASS HOUSE. I had my hands on this script a few times over the past two years but it just never happened. Leelee Sobieski and Stellan Skarsgaard star. But thats not what intrigues me. What does is its cool director Daniel Sackheim (hes done great work on NYPD BLUE and THE X-FILES) and its occasionally brilliant screenwriter Wesley Strick (CAPE FEAR). This is a thriller, and we all know how hard that can be to pull off, but Stricks last script was RETURN TO PARADISE and I thought it was one of the best scripts ever written (the film was totally lost, which was a severe waste). Im hoping Strick comes through again and gives Daniel something worthwhile to work with.
HARDBALL. A redemptive movie about...Little League Baseball. True, I swear. The movie brought out some decent star power, but the premise sounds kooky. The good news is that the man behind the dont-snigger-because-it-really-is-good VARSITY BLUES directed it. The bad news is that the man who wrote the go-ahead-and-snigger-because-its-really-bad SUMMER CATCH wrote it.
HEARTS IN ATLANTIS. I wasnt entirely happy about the director, but everything seems set here for a spectacular Stephen King adaptation. Anthony Hopkins is perfectly cast. William Goldman once again left Kings story as it was. The only real problem is the title. HEARTS IN ATLANTIS was the title of the entire book and a different story. It makes no sense to name this HEARTS IN ATLANTIS because it refers to college kids who blow their studies to play the card game Hearts. This story was called LOW MEN IN YELLOW COATS and I hope someone figures this out before the films upcoming release.
HEIST. I didnt much care for Mamets script on this one (as youll see in my review of it). But, as I said in the review, nothing could keep me away from checking it out. Mamet making a heist/action film with Gene Hackman? Sounds like heaven on earth. Mamets films, especially his last three, have been uniformly brilliant. I dont think HEIST will be as sharp as STATE AND MAIN or THE SPANISH PRISONER, but it will still overshadow everything that dares to come next to it.
ROCK STAR. A cover-bands lead singer gets the chance of a lifetime: to sing for the band he covers. Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston star. Stephen Herek directed it. John Stockwell wrote the original script (which was in part based on a New York Times article). Callie Khouri rewrote it. I have no interest in this film and Stockwells script, which Ive flipped through on occasion, looked boring. What I want, though, is Callies career. I know Ill be pissing off Scott Frank for writing this, but...
Callie won an Oscar for THELMA & LOUISE, which was nothing more than a violent female version of EASY RIDER (only much more boring). The only other original script shes written is the bomb SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT. But shes still considered one of the top scribes, rewrites everything in sight, and is highly respected. Where can another find this gifted lifestyle?
SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK. Our most transparently derivative filmmaker strikes again. Ed Burns doesnt make movies; he remakes Woody Allen movies. This time his target is Woodys HUSBANDS AND WIVES (which is the true father of the Dogma 95 style). Just like THE BROTHERS MCMULLEN was almost scene for scene from Woodys amazing HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (he changed it from sisters to brothers), SIDEWALKS turns HUSBANDS AND WIVES married couples to single couples, but doesnt hind its theft and includes HUSBANDS unique interviews.
SOUL SURVIVOR. I know one man isnt supposed to say hes a fan of another man in this homophobic world of ours, but lets toss it to the wind. Our most exciting young actor is Wes (AMERICAN BEAUTY) Bentley. His breakthrough performance as Ricky Fitts was touching and amazingly mature. He was also outstanding in THE CLAIM (an ignored film), giving an understated performance (theres a wonderful romance between him and Sarah Polley in that movie). SOUL SURVIVOR was made right after BEAUTY and has been sitting collecting dust. This much-delayed, recut-by-the-studio film, directed by Steve Carpenter, is basically a college-set JACOBS LADDER (or, if you prefer that films bastard child, THE SIXTH SENSE). Luke Wilson also stars. The cast is young and pretty, and Im sure by the time the studio is done meddling the film will only be eighty minutes long. Wes is certainly worth that.
TRAINING DAY. Ethan Hawke plays a rookie L.A. undercover officer under the tutelage of corrupt cop Denzel Washington. Sounds like fun to me. James Ellroy without the bombast. Antoine Fuqua directs. Ive had the script for years but never got around to reading it. Maybe Ill quickly toss up a review before the film is released.
ZOOLANDER. Ben Stiller co-writes, stars and directs this tale of an egotistical male model who loses his hold as the biggest star in the world. Stiller has proved he can be very, very funny, but the plot of this movie -- which includes an assassination attempt -- sounds like it might have lost its way. I hope not. Because Stiller can work the camera and hes on a high right now thanks to THERES SOMETHING ABOUT MARY and MEET THE PARENTS.
BANDITS. A few people have said the script isnt the best. And I was starting to worry (director Barry Levinson had recently made a terrible caper comedy). But after seeing the trailer Im ready to see the flick. Billy Bob and Bruce (formerly co-stars in ARMAGEDDON) slapsticking it up in a wacky comedy suits me just fine. The addition of the phenomenal Cate Blanchett seals the deal. Blanchett might be Oscar-nominated, but she is undervalued. Chameleon turns in PUSHING TIN and THE GIFT show her to be the Streep of her generation. I hope this movie hits it big and more people sit up and pay attention to her.
COLLATERAL DAMAGE. Arnie is up against terrorists that killed his wife. As I feel with everything Arnold Schwarzenegger does nowadays: whatever. This man needs to reteam with James Cameron -- and fast!
THE CASTLE (a.k.a. THE LAST CASTLE). Stars Robert Redford. Directed by Rob Lurie. I read the script and my review will be up in a few weeks. Lets just say the script (co-written by SPEED scribe Graham Yost) doesnt take advantage of the prisons colorful history.
DONT SAY A WORD. I only mention this no-buzz project because the book its based on is so beloved. Its out of print right now, but it has a loyal following. I hear the movie doesnt stick very close to it. I have this script and I might write a review of it before the film comes out. Michael Douglas is one of the few big-name stars who consistently puts out quality films. Hes as much a producer as he is an actor, and its worked out into a fabulous, long-term career. A title like DONT SAY A WORD suggests a B-movie, but the cast and director tell a different story.
FROM HELL. The Jack the Ripper story from the Hughes Brothers. I suppose Id watch anything Johnny Depp put himself into (including NICK OF TIME), but this looks like a stinker to me. After seeing the two Hughes films -- one great, one horrible -- I cant imagine how contrasting their style will be with the imagery this story requires. Not only that, but the graphic novel its based on goes for the most ridiculous idea of who Jack really was.
K-PAX. I read this script years ago, back when Will Smith and Jonathan Demme were going to make it. It's a fairly unoriginal story of a man who comes to an insane asylum convinced hes from another planet. The patients rally around him and the head shrink starts to believe him. The story was dreadfully familiar, but the characters and comedy within was bright enough to forget it for a bit. Its obvious, short-sighted stuff, but still worked on some level. (Of course, theres no telling what the shooting script looked like, since it was rewritten.) The film now stars Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges.
MULHOLLAND DRIVE. David Lynchs latest. Started out as a pilot, as Im sure you know, and Lynch later added on some new bells and whistles and landed himself the best director award at Canne. Im not getting into plot details here -- you can get in trouble doing that with Lynch -- but from the still photos Ive seen, from what Ive heard, from the footage Ive seen -- I think what we have here is something similar to LOST HIGHWAY: a visually arresting film with an impenetrable plot. Lynch is surely one of our most odd filmmakers, but also one of the most heady. And this looks like its going to be a treat for anyone who is a fan and anyone who likes their movies slightly tweaked.
RAW DEAL: A QUESTION OF CONSENT. Easily the must-see film of the year. A documentary about whether a stripper performing at a frat-house party was raped or was engaging in consensual sex. Whats amazing is that the film will actually feature video taken from the party. The movie leaves it up to you to decide whos right and whos wrong.
STORYTELLING. I reviewed Todd Solondz script quite a while ago (while it was still untitled). I was truly baffled by the script: I simply had no idea what point Todd was trying to make. From what I hear of the movie, the script remained and the movie is a mishmash of the sublime and the pointless. Since this film will be filled with nudity and "naughty" explicit sex, Solondz is going to get a rep of "Lets See How Far Todd Goes," which will kill his future films. I, for one, know that once Todd settles down with a real story to tell hes going to be unstoppable.
TREMBLING BEFORE G-D. Documentary about gay Orthodox and Hasidic Jews who come out of the closet, and in doing so are forced to leave their shamed families. When homosexuality is reduced to sitcom jokes and religion is blasted when someone takes it seriously, its refreshing to see a movie tackle both issues in an honest, intelligent way.
BLACK KNIGHT. A time-travel movie about Martin Lawrence going back in time to the medieval days. This script has been sitting on my desk for three years. Never even looked through it. Sounds like another boring movie, like BIG MOMMAS HOUSE and BLUE STREAK, from Lawrence. Could be slightly better, though; at least it didnt originate with Lawrence -- Chris Tucker was going to star at one point.
HARRY POTTER. Dont read the books. Know nothing about it. Should make half a billion dollars. Which is a shame, because that will make Chris Columbus a very, very powerful man.
THE MAN WHO WASNT THERE. The new Coen brothers film. Enough said on that subject.
THE ONE. Jet Li stars in a story about...well...I think its something about a man living in parallel worlds and he kills the bad part of himself in one world and...
I dont know. Former X-FILES writer-producers Glen Morgan and James Wong write and direct here. Their first feature film, FINAL DESTINATION, had the stupidest plot you ever heard of and was absolutely fantastic fun. With the style they showed their first time out I think theyre going to take a stupid premise and make it work again.
SHALLOW HAL. Something turned me off when I first heard about this. A young man (Jack Black) is told by his father on his deathbed only to date beautiful women. He grows up shallow and without a deep relationship, until he meets Gwyneth Paltrow, who happens to be four hundred pounds. He falls in love, etc. Well, I actually saw some footage from the film and Ive changed my mind. It looks like a fun time and a respite from its loud competition. Gwyneth could use a playful role and I think she matches up just fine with Peter and Bobby Farrelly (who co-write and direct).
SPY GAME. My review of the script will be coming in a few days. Expect to a have a great time with this one.
WINDTALKERS. John Woo does WWII! This script was hardly the best WWII script ever written, even with its gimmick of being about Native American code-breakers. Im always wary of Nic Cage nowadays. But Christian Slaters a bright spot. And, despite some embarrassments in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE II, John Woo rarely lets you down.
ALI. The trailer is out and give it up to Will Smith: hes transformed his body into Alis and he even has Alis distinct speech pattern down. Its not clear what story they will tell (Ali had a long, tumultuous life), but with Michael Mann at the helm this is sure to be one of the best movies of the year. I personally hope they concentrate more on Alis private life and decisions rather than his boxing career. RAGING BULL is the boxing movie, and not even Mann can compete with that.
GANGS OF NEW YORK. Martin Scorseses delayed, ninety-million-dollar gang epic. Starring Leo D. (Who hasnt been seen in two years.) With a script co-written by Steve Zaillian, and turns by Daniel Day-Lewis and Cameron Diaz, this looks like it will be Scorseses most satisfying film since THE AGE OF INNOCENCE. Im hoping the term "epic" applies here; that way Scorsese might have a GODFATHER on his hands.
LORD OF THE RINGS. Dont get me started. Its not that I have anything against the books these movies are based on; its just the opposite, in fact. The problem I have is this: I dont believe these movies will generate enough interest to warrant the mind-blowing expense. Will J.R.R. fans come out in droves? Yeah, sure. Will anyone else? Nah. I have one word for you: WILLOW.
THE MAJESTIC. Formerly known as THE BIJOU. I reviewed the script last year. Its lighthearted trivia from a man, Frank Darabont, who usually gives us something to chew on. Jim Carrey stars as a blacklisted screenwriter who has a car accident, wakes up with amnesia, and is mistaken for someone else in a small California town. The movie will no doubt be a good crowd-pleaser, but I really expect more from Darabont.
MONSTERS BALL. This was going to star Wes Bentley, but he dropped out and his FOUR FEATHERS co-star Heath Ledger took his spot. Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry co-star in this tale about an incendiary interracial relationship set around the execution of a black man at the local prison (where Billy and Heath work). I hear the script is sloppy.
OCEANS ELEVEN. I liked Ted Griffiths script for this remake. It was a huge, elaborate heist story that kept hitting its mark. What makes the film even more exciting is its gaggle of bright-smiling stars. George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Brad Pitt, etc. Steven Soderbergh is an actors director and with him around it makes me think that even though this is a puffed-up action film, were going to be treated to a bacchanal of thespian one-upmanship.
THE SHIPPING NEWS. At one time this was a truly exciting project. Ron Bass had written the script and it was beautiful. It was this mythical amalgam of the supernatural and the heartfelt. A story about loss and renewed love, as well as crazy-thrilling stuff like a house flying off one night and landing somewhere else with nary a crack. Needless to say, I thought the script kicked major booty. And then...
Lasse Hallstrom stepped up and had his CHOCOLAT scribe Robert Nelson Jacobs rewrite the script. Now, Lasse has got to be the luckiest man around. He continues to put out poor films and the Academy cant stop themselves from showering them with nominations. Who really enjoyed CIDER HOUSE RULES and CHOCOLAT? You should be circumspect of Jacobs, by the way: he wrote the craptacular OUT TO SEA.
Kevin Spacey will star in the lead. That wonderful Cate Blanchette is his co-star. This movie depends on how much of Rons script they left. Hopefully Cates role remains and she gets to shine once more. In my eyes nothing can save it from Hallstroms candification.
VANILLA SKY. Cameron Crowe and Tom Cruise reteam for a psychological thriller. Toms new squeeze Penelope Cruz co-stars. Fly or fail, the film will be a tantalizing step for writer-director Crowe: it is the first time he is writing something based on anothers material, and it is his first non-comedy/drama. Can the Crowe-man switch genres so sharply? We shall see. Crowe must have really been struck by the original film to have sought out its American-remake rights. People who have seen it havent been impressed, which makes me think Crowe was inspired by something the first filmmakers left out and thought hed like to tell. And that means were probably in for something great. Crowe hasnt let us down yet.
WE WERE SOLDIERS (a.k.a. WE WERE ONCE SOLDIERS...AND YOUNG). You can check out my coworker Chris review on this script on the site. War movies will always be vital. And Randall Wallace, our writer-director, showed he can combine history with action and even throw in a little emotion. Theres a million stories to tell about Vietnam, and this looks like one worth telling. And from a movie standpoint, the cast is topnotch.
AND NOW SOME MOVIES WITHOUT RELEASE DATES.
ADAPTATION. Charlie Kaufmans insane adaptation of THE ORCHID THIEF, which will no doubt be destroyed by BEING JOHN MALKOVICH director Spike Jonze. Well always have the script, I guess. The premise alone makes it worth a viewing, though.
DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE. Ill be reviewing this script soon. It stars John Travolta, Vince Vaughn and Steve Buscemi. Its now famous as the film Vince was filming when he got into a brawl (along with Steve and Scott Rosenberg). Travolta and Vince somehow make a nice counter-acting team. Which gives it a certain vague interest for me.
EQUILIBRIUM. Kurt Wimmers dystopian saga -- or, if you rather, his rip-off of NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR. I have no interest in the movies story, which was a clear knockoff (check out my review of the script for more info), but it is always fun to see what a design team dreams up for a future world. The cast is also excellent and should be worth a peek.
EYE SEE YOU. Should be the comedy hit of the year. Yuck-yuck-yuck.
FOUR FEATHERS. Ladies, set your memories to "record," since this movie stars hot-young-things Wes Bentley and Heath Ledger. The conditions could be better, I guess. Set in the Sudan, 1898, Ledger, a British officer, resigns his post before a battle and his fiancee (Kate Hudson) and three friends give him four white feathers as a symbol of what they perceive to be cowardice.
HAPPY CAMPERS. Dan Waters finally gets off his duff and directs a movie and those jerks at New Line drop it. I havent seen the film, but I heard good things from its screening at Sundance and the script was hilarious. We can only hope it gets its due.
HOUSE OF A THOUSAND CORPSES. I hope this, too, will get released. We can use another old-style horror film filled with blood and gore just for the hell of it. I miss movies like this. Its about time we get back to getting grossed out by horror movies and not comedies.
THE WEIGHT OF WATER. Kathryn Bigelow made one of the most misunderstood and unfairly criticized movies of recent years: STRANGE DAYS. The film was rife with good performances, visual eye-candy, a wonderful-if-it-were true technology and even included a few tunes from P.J. Harvey. Kathryn has a commendable flair for her job and, though this movie is yet another about a serial killer, it does star Sean Penn and hes proved over and over that that makes the movie hes in no less than fascinating.
Thats it! Looking through this I think the movie season looks bleak. There are a few bright spots here and there. And certainly enough good cinema to keep a normal person happy for five months.
At this point TV writers are so better equipped it doesnt even matter. Just about every night of the week you can find scribes getting it done better on TV. And what with all the screenwriters running to the small screen to have creative control -- what does this spell out for la cinema?
We. Shall soon. See.
-- Darwin Mayflower.