Film diary 2002

The year ahead in movies.

Allison Felus

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It’s obviously impossible to forecast this year’s sleeper hits, laughter-inducing bombs and star-making performances, but there’s no time like the present to map out the cinematic landmarks already looming over the Year of the Palindrome.

The post-holiday surplus

A host of exciting films will swim over to the UK and Europe from America, after opening in New York and Los Angeles for Oscar consideration.

Omnipresent director Steven Soderbergh triumphs once again with Ocean’s 11, a remake of the 1960 Rat Pack film of the same name. It is technically flawless and a welcome confection after his recent ‘serious’ films, but somehow lacks the rangy, underdog energy of his other Clooney collaboration, Out of Sight.

The Royal Tenenbaums is only the third film from wunderkind director Wes Anderson, but he has assembled an A-list cast including Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Danny Glover, Bill Murray, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller and the irrepressible, irresistible Wilson brothers, Luke and Owen. (Owen also co-wrote the script with Anderson.) It is as funny and touching in its own ways as Anderson’s masterpiece Rushmore, but also dabbles in darker tones that may point to a different mode of filmmaking in his future.

Russell Crowe shines in A Beautiful Mind, despite director Ron Howard’s best efforts to turn Nobel-prize-winning mathematician John Nash’s life into a ‘triumph of the human spirit’ inspiration-fest. Leave it to Opie to knock the edges off mental illness and economic theory leaving nothing but heart-warming mush behind. James ‘Titanic’ Horner’s slobbery score doesn’t help matters, either.

Critics and audiences have been sharply divided in their reactions to Cameron Crowe’s second feature starring Tom Cruise, Vanilla Sky. Some have found it overly long and pretentious, others have hailed it as a sexy, brainy thriller. It is probably a little bit of all those things. But perhaps it’s most enjoyable for the ways it shares ideas and intersects with other recent films, like Eyes Wide Shut, AI, Waking Life and even Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Ali, directed by Michael Mann, is a beautifully kinetic piece of filmmaking. The first twenty minutes alone are worth the price of admission. Will Smith’s performance as The Champ is masterful, harnessing a depth of feeling never expected from this bubble-rap star, former sitcom actor and action movie staple.

The franchises

Before the popcorn was even cold on the floors of cinemas showing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, die-hard fans and casual movie-goers alike were already discussing the second instalments in these much beloved series. Both are due out for holiday season money-grubbing, though there was some speculation Rings director Peter Jackson might rush to complete The Two Towers by May in order to compete with Star Wars, Episode 2.

The previews for Star Wars: Attack of the Clones have, predictably, elicited cheers from audiences hungry for the next sermon from dodgy populist pseudo-guru George Lucas. The developing love story between Queen Amidala and Anakin seems to have skipped over dramatic high camp and gone straight to soap opera. Natalie Portman’s royal wardrobe, however, promises to be one of the more intriguing characters in the movie; that flowing, rainbow-colored thing is fantastic. The faithful are already lining up for opening day tickets.

No discussion of sequels would be complete without mention of the third Austin Powers movie, Goldmember. Destiny’s Child diva Beyonce Knowles has apparently signed on as the next in the series’ revolving female sex objects, but you’d never know it from the preview. It features an exact replica of the famous dance sequence from the first movie, this time staged entirely with midgets. It’s too bad the midgets aren’t also fat and gay for the ultimate in cruel and puerile humour.

Summer blockbusters

Cartoons will rule the day in summer 2002. The live action version of Scooby Doo stars only the most annoying refugees from teen movies (Matthew Lillard, Freddie Prinze Jr) and a CGI dog as the title character. It is hotly anticipated by everybody who has ever longed to be a five-year-old laying on the living room floor gazing at the telly again and everybody who’s ever spent an obscene amount of time watching the show while stoned. Maybe those two groups are essentially the same.

Evil Dead auteur Sam Raimi is at the helm of the Spiderman film, starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and Willem Dafoe. Insiders are already calling it the ‘anti-Batman’ for its refusal to succumb to dark and dreary self-importance.

The third cartoon of the bunch is pro-wrestler The Rock, who stars as the title character in The Scorpion King. The movie spins off from The Mummy series, and, from the looks of the trailer, he’s having a blast transforming himself into an action hero for the twenty-first century. The energy is infectious.

Guy Pearce alert

Guy Pearce, the other reportedly moody, wildly talented, lavishly praised Australian actor-of-the-moment giving Russell Crowe a run for his money, is set to star in two pretty cool-looking movies this year: The Count of Monte Cristo (based on the Dumas novel) and The Time Machine (based on the Wells novel). Coming fresh off the success of 2001’s Memento, he brings more than a little street cred to these literary period pieces. Just watching him sneer the line ‘it’s complicated’ through his practically non-existent lips in the Monte Cristo preview is thrilling.

And so on…

2002 kicks off with war movies, and these will be big all year. Look for choppy editing, rousing music and plenty of archetypal characters in We Were Soldiers (Mel Gibson, Vietnam), Hart’s War (Bruce Willis, WWII), Windtalkers (Nicolas Cage, also WWII) and Black Hawk Down (Josh Hartnett, the USA in Mogadishu).

M Night Shyamalan, the thoughtful director of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, comes out with Signs this year. Mel Gibson stands in for Bruce Willis in this tale of crop circles and the farmers who fear them.

The real doozy of the year comes courtesy of everyone’s favourite Lolita figure, Britney Spears. She stars in her first feature-length movie, Crossroads. Those who believe in the power of plastic are already saying she’s following in Madonna’s footsteps. Given Mrs Guy Ritchie’s track record as an actress, though, is that really a good thing?

Read on:

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Film diary 2002

Black Hawk Down: opens 18 January USA and UK

Vanilla Sky: opens 25 January UK; currently in wide release USA
Ocean’s 11: opens 15 February UK; currently in wide release USA

Ali: opens 15 February UK; currently in wide release USA

Hart’s War: release date unavailable for UK; opens 15 February USA

A Beautiful Mind: opens 22 February UK; currently in wide release USA

We Were Soldiers: opens 8 March UK; 1 March USA

The Royal Tenenbaums: opens 15 March UK; currently in wide release USA

Crossroads: opens 29 March UK; 15 February USA

The Count of Monte Cristo: opens 5 April UK; 25 January USA

The Scorpion King: opens 26 April UK; 19 April USA

Spiderman: opens 10 May UK; 3 May USA

The Time Machine: opens 31 May UK; 8 March USA

Star Wars, Episode 2: Attack of the Clones: opens 16 May UK and USA

Scooby Doo: opens 26 July UK; 14 June USA

Austin Powers in Goldmember: release date unavailable for UK; opens 26 July
USA

Windtalkers: opens 16 August UK; 14 June USA

Signs: opens 13 September UK; 2 August USA

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: opens 15 November UK and USA

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: opens 27 December UK; 18 December USA

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