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 V.13 No.21 | May 20 - 26, 2004 

Feature

Alibi's Summer Film Guide

You can't tell the players without a scorecard

Hot weather and high ticket prices tell us that the summer movie season is here. Last year's sequel-glutted schedule actually represented a downturn in profits for Hollywood. Will this year's wider selection prove more profitable? This year, we've got everything from computer-generated ogres to computer-generated cats, from robotic Nicole Kidmans to bleach-blond Tom Cruises, from Princess Diaries to Cinderella Stories.

Here, then, is the annual Alibi Summer Film Guild to help you navigate the who, what and why of this crowded summer season. Remember, you've only got 15 weeks. So get watching!

May 19

Shrek 2

What's It About?: The further, computer-animated adventures of a grumpy ogre, his cute bride and a talking donkey.

Who's In It?: The Voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas

Who Directed It?: Andrew Adamson (Shrek)

Why Should I Care?: The original made close to $270 million at the box office. You know you want more of the same.

May 26

Raising Helen

What Is It?: Comedy/drama

What's It About?: When her sister and brother-in-law are killed in a car accident, a trendy young Manhattanite finds herself saddled with three kids.

Who's In It?: Kate Hudson, John Corbett, John Cusack

Who Directed It?: Garry Marshall (The Runaway Bride)

Why Should I Care?: Tearjerking comedies are an easy sell to suburban housewives. Are you a suburban housewife?

May 28

The Day After Tomorrow

What Is It?: Action

What's It About?: A radical climate change sends tornadoes, tidal waves and a full-fledged ice age ripping across the globe.

Who's In It?: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ian Holm

Who Directed It?: Roland Emmerich (Independence Day)

Why Should I Care?: What would summer be without a ridiculously expensive disaster film? I assure you stuff blows up big time.

Saved!

What Is It?: Comedy

What's It About?: When a “good girl” at a Christian high school gets pregnant, she finds herself ostracized and demonized by her former friends.

Who's In It?: Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, Patrick Fugit

Who Directed It?: Brain Dannelly

Why Should I Care?: This snide comedy has already won kudos for turning teen comedy conventions on their ears.

Soul Plane

What Is It?: Comedy

What's It About?: After suing an airline company for discrimination, an entrepreneur starts the world's most funkadelic airplane company.

Who's In It?: Tom Arnold, DL Hughley, Method Man, Mo'Nique, Missi Pyle, Snoop Dogg.

Who Directed It?: Jessy Terrero

Why Should I Care?: If you liked the goofy humor of Airplane!, but wished it were more, you know, funky, then this one's for you. I mean, who's funkier than Tom Arnold?

June 4

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

What Is It?: Fantasy Adventure

What's It About?: The third book in the Harry Potter series finds our young wizard dealing with a possibly deadly escapee from wizard prison.

Who's In It?: Daniel Radcliffe, Gary Oldman, Emma Thompson

Who Directed It?: Afonso Cuarón

Why Should I Care?: The hugely popular Harry Potter series gets a boost from new director Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También). ... Wait, wasn't that the movie about Mexican teenagers having lots and lots of dirty sex with an older woman? This could be interesting.

I'm Not Scared

What Is It?: Drama/thriller

What's It About?: An imaginative young boy living in the Italian countryside uncovers evidence of a horrendous crime.

Who's In It?: Giuseppe Cristano

Who Directed It?: Gabriele Salvatores (Mediterranio)

Why Should I Care?: This “Boy Who Cried Wolf” parable has impressed a lot of critics for its mature themes and dark atmosphere.

June 11

The Chronicles of Riddick

What Is It?: Sci-Fi action

What's It About?: Riddick, the musclebound anti-hero from Pitch Black, finds himself imprisoned on a deadly planet lorded over by a fanatical cult leader.

Who's In It?: Vin Diesel, Thandie Newton, Judi Dench

Who Directed It?: David Twohy (The Arrival)

Why Should I Care?: Pitch Black is actually the only good movie Vin Diesel has ever appeared in. If you want to keep him in Hollywood, you'd better make this one a hit.

Garfield

What Is It?: Comedy

What's It About?: America's favorite suction-cupped window cling comes to life courtesy of some Scooby-Doo-style computer animation.

Who's In It?: Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt, the voice of Bill Murray

Who Directed It?: Peter Hewitt (Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey)

Why Should I Care?: Who could ever get tired of lasagne jokes?

The Stepford Wives

What Is It?: Comedy

What's It About?: Based on the book by Ira Levin, this satirical update still features a creepy, upscale suburb inhabited by perfect, roboticized wives.

Who's In It?: Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Bette Midler, Christopher Walken

Who Directed It?: Frank Oz (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels)

Why Should I Care?: Timely update of a classic social satire with a sharp cast. Hopefully all those rumors of behind-the-scenes troubles are unfounded.

June 16

Around the World in 80 Days

What Is It?: Comedy adventure

What's It About?: Jules Verne's classic novel about a round-the-world race gets a wacky, family-friendly update.

Who's In It?: Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rob Schneider

Who Directed It?: Frank Coraci (The Waterboy)

Why Should I Care?: It features a bunch of cameos from famous people, and all the goofy gizmos should entertain little tykes.

June 18

Darkness

What Is It?: Horror

What's It About?: A teenage girl moves with her family to a remote country house, only to uncover a deadly supernatural secret.

Who's In It?: Anna Paquin, Lena Olin

Who Directed It?: Jaume Balagueró (Los Sin Nombre)

Why Should I Care?: This hip, Spanish take on The Shining was a big hit in Europe.

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

What Is It?: Comedy

What's It About?: A group of misfits form a sports team to stop their local gym from being turned into an upscale fitness center.

Who's In It?: Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, Christine Taylor

Who Directed It?: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Why Should I Care?: Overexposed as he is, Ben Stiller is still a funny guy. Perhaps this campy comedy will return him to form.

The Terminal

What Is It?: Romantic drama

What's It About?: An Eastern European tourist ends up living at Kennedy Airport when his passport expires and his homeland erupts in war.

Who's In It?: Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones

Who Directed It?: Steven Spielberg (Schindler's List)

Why Should I Care?: Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg? It don't get any bigger than that.

June 23

White Chicks

What Is It?: Comedy

What's It About?: Two black, male FBI agents go way undercover, disguising themselves as bubbleheaded Long Island debutantes to protect a hotel heiress from a kidnapping plot.

Who's In It?: Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans

Who Directed It?: Keenan Ivory Wayans (Scary Movie)

Why Should I Care?: Well, if you've been desperately waiting for the sequel to Big Momma's House, this might satisfy your jones.

June 25

De-Lovely

What Is It?: Musical drama

What's It About?: Musical set-pieces illuminate the life of gay-but-married composer Cole Porter.

Who's In It?: Kevin Kline, Ashley Judd, Natalie Cole, Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, Mick Hucknall, Diana Krall, Alanis Morissette

Who Directed It?: Irwin Winkler (Life as a House)

Why Should I Care?: Everybody loves a musical, and check out that cast list.

Napoleon Dynamite

What Is It?: Comedy

What's It About?: A painfully awkward teen who wears moon boots and lives with his grandmother engages in a series of odd vignettes in small-town Idaho.

Who's In It?: Ron Heder, Efren Ramirez

Who Directed It?: Jared Hess

Why Should I Care?: This Sundance smash has “cult hit” written all over it, drawing comparisons to everything from “South Park” to Office Space.

The Notebook

What Is It?: Romance

What's It About?: This ensemble romance, based on yet another book by Nicolas Sparks (Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember), centers on a journal recounting a World War II love story.

Who's In It?: James Garner, Joan Allen, Gena Rowlands, Ryan Gosling

Who Directed It?: Nick Cassavetes (John Q)

Why Should I Care?: If you love Nicolas Sparks, there's no hope for you anyway. Enjoy.

Two Brothers

What Is It? Drama

What's It About?: Two baby tiger cubs, separated for years, are reunited as enemies by an explorer who inadvertantly pits them against each other.

Who's In It?: Guy Pearce

Who Directed It?: Jean-Jacques Annaud (Seven Years in Tibet)

Why Should I Care?: Who are you to resist super-cute animal antics from the guy who gave us The Bear and Quest for Fire?

June 30

Spider-Man 2

What Is It?: Action-adventure

What's It About?: Peter Parker gives up his role as the heroic Webslinger, only to be drawn back by the nafarious Dr. Octopus.

Who's In It?: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina

Who Directed It?: Sam Raimi (Evil Dead)

Why Should I Care?: Raimi's first stab at the Spider-Man franchise was probably the most purely enjoyable superhero outing to date. This one promises to be bigger and better.

July 2

Before Sunset

What Is It?: Drama/romance

What's It About?: This sequel to 1995's Before Sunrise reunites a man and a women nine years after they spent a single fateful night in Vienna walking and talking.

Who's In It?: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Who Directed It?: Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused)

Why Should I Care?: Admit it, occasionally you wonder what the Gen X slackers of yesteryear are up to these days.

The Clearing

What Is It?: Thriller

What's It About?: A high-power executive is kidnapped by a disgruntled employee and it's up to his wife to deliver the ransom.

Who's In It?: Robert Redford, Willem Dafoe, Helen Mirren

Who Directed It?: Pieter Jan Brugge

Why Should I Care?: We still love Redford.

The Door in the Floor

What Is It?: Drama/comedy

What's It About?: The troubled relationship between a children's book author and his beautiful wife becomes even more complicated when they start using their beach house handyman as a pawn. Based on a book by John Irving.

Who's In It?: Jeff Bridges, Kim Basinger, Mimi Rogers

Who Directed It?: Tod Williams (The Adventures of Sebastian Cole)

Why Should I Care?: John Irving's dense, character-driven novels haven't had the smoothest of page-to-screen translations (The World According to Garp, The Hotel New Hampshire, Simon Birch, The Cider House Rules), but the makers of this one may have solved the problem by concentrating on only a few chapters from Irving's A Widow for One Year.

July 7

King Arthur

What Is It?: Action-adventure

What's It About?: Super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Bad Boys, Pirates of the Caribbean) makes the legend of King Arthur as big and bombastic as possible.

Who's In It?: Clive Owen, Kiera Knightly, Stellan Skarsgård

Who Directed It?: Antoine Fuqua (Training Day)

Why Should I Care?: Pirates of the Caribbean was hugely entertaining when it probably shouldn't have been, so ...

July 9

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

What Is It?: Comedy

What's It About?: A pompous, empty headed newscaster is teamed with a sharp female journalist in Seattle in the '70s.

Who's In It?: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell

Who Directed It?: Adam McKay

Why Should I Care?: Funnyman Ferrell's on a hot streak following Elf.

Sleepover

What Is It?: Comedy

What's It About?: Four young gals about to enter high school challenge the popular clique to an all-night scavenger hunt.

Who's In It?: Alexa Varga, Jane Lynch

Who Directed It?: Joe Nussbaum

Why Should I Care?: At least the Olsen Twins aren't in it.

July 16

A Cinderella Story

What Is It?: Romantic comedy

What's It About?: Tween queen Hilary Duff is apparently the next in line to star in a contemporary Cinderella tale.

Who's In It?: Hilary Duff, Jennifer Coolidge

Who Directed It?: Mark Rosman (The House on Sorority Row)

Why Should I Care?: How many chances do little girls get to see an unrealistic story about handsome princes coming to their rescue? ... This month, I mean.

I, Robot

What Is It?: Sci-fi thriller

What's It About?: In a high-tech future society, one dedicated cop investigates a mysterious robot-based murder.

Who's In It?: Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan

Who Directed It?: Alex Proyas (The Crow)

Why Should I Care?: This one's based on the novel by seminal sci-fi author Isaac Asimov. ... Of course, the last film based on an Asimov book was Bicentennial Man.

Oliver Stone Presents: Bang Rajan

What Is It?: Historical epic

What's It About?: A handful of farmers in an 18th-century Siamese village fight off hoardes of Burmese invaders in this inspiring (and true) war story.

Who's In It?: Chumporn Tapephitak, Atthakorn Suwannaraj

Who Directed It?: Thanit Jitnukul

Why Should I Care?: This film (the biggest hit ever in its native Thailand) has been compared to Braveheart. Oliver Stone likes it.

July 23

The Bourne Supremacy

What Is It?: Mystery thriller

What's It About?: The amnesiac assassin from The Bourne Identity returns to find himself framed for the murder of the Chinese vice-president.

Who's In It?: Matt Damon, Joan Allen, Julia Stiles

Who Directed It?: Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday)

Why Should I Care?: A new director should lend even more gritty style to this surprisingly entertaining franchise.

Catwoman

What Is It?: Action-adventure

What's It About?: This loose spin-off from the Batman films has Halle Berry donning the leather catsuit as the questionably good and evil gal with feline superpowers.

Who's In It?: Halle Berry, Sharon Stone

Who Directed It?: Pitof (Vidocq)

Why Should I Care?: Halle Berry in a leather catsuit? You do the math.

A Home at the End of the World

What Is It?: Drama

What's It About?: Based on Michael (The Hours) Cunningham's acclaimed novel, this time-spanning drama traces the friendship between two pals from the '60s to the '80s.

Who's In It?: Colin Farrell, Robin Wright Penn, Sissy Spacek

Who Directed It?: Michael Mayer

Why Should I Care?: This one carries plenty of literary and indie film clout.

July 30

Garden State

What Is It?: Comedy

What's It About?: A young man returns home for his mother's funeral in suburban New Jersey, gets off his anti-depression medication and finds time to fall in love.

Who's In It?: Zach Braff, Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard

Who Directed It?: Zack Braff

Why Should I Care?: Zach Braff (star of NBC's “Scrubs”) impressed audiences on the film fest circuit with his writing/directing/acting debut.

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle

What Is It?: Comedy

What's It About?: Two stoner pals (one Chinese, one Indian) go on a late-night munchie run and encounter a series of far-out adventures.

Who's In It?: John Cho, Kal Penn

Who Directed It?: Danny Leiner (Dude, Where's My Car?)

Why Should I Care?: This one promises to reignite the “stoner film” genre, last dominated by Cheech & Chong.

The Manchurian Candidate

What Is It?: Psychological thriller

What's It About?: This remake of the controversial 1962 thriller replaces the Korean conflict with Desert Storm, but still sticks with the idea of American soldiers being brainwashed to nefarious ends.

Who's In It?: Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Jon Voight

Who Directed It?: Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs)

Why Should I Care?: OK, so Demme's last remake (his Charade update The Truth About Charlie) was a bit out of synch. He promises this one will be great. Plus, Meryl Streep plays a total evil bitch!

She Hate Me

What Is It?: Comedy/drama

What's It About?: Fired from his job at a biotech company, a young executive finds lucrative work impregnating wealthy lesbians.

Who's In It?: Anthony Mackie, Ellen Barkin, Monica Belluci, Jim Brown, Woody Harrelson

Who Directed It?: Spike Lee (Do The Right Thing)

Why Should I Care?: The always controversial Spike Lee turns his attentions to a new hot button issue.

Thunderbirds

What Is It?: Action-adventure

What's It About?: The classic British TV series (featuring an all-puppet cast) gets a high-tech, live-action update. Seems the members of International Rescue have been kidnapped by an evil mastermind, and it's up to a bunch of little kids to save them.

Who's In It?: Bill Paxton, Anthony Edwards, Ben Kingsley

Who Directed It?: Jonathan Frakes (Clockstoppers)

Why Should I Care?: People who grew up in the '60s probably have fond memories of the toy-filled original--all of which may be wiped away by this juvenile update.

The Village

What Is It?: Horror thriller

What's It About?: In 1897 Pennsylvania, villagers confront the long-standing legend of some horrifying “creatures” who live in the nearby woods.

Who's In It?: Joaquin Phoenix, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver

Who Directed It?: M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense)

Why Should I Care?: Despite a weak last outing (Signs), Shyamalan is still a hot property in the smart-and-scary category.

August 6

Code 46

What Is It?: Sci-Fi drama

What's It About?: In a rigidly bureaucratic future society, an investigator falls in love with a document forger.

Who's In It?: Tim Robbins, Samantha Morton

Who Directed It?: Michael Winterbottom (The Claim)

Why Should I Care?: Thought-provoking science fiction is a rarity in the summer months.

Collateral

What Is It?: Action Thriller

What's It About?: An L.A. cabbie finds himself in a particularly dangerous episode of “Taxicab Confessions” when he gives a ride to a professional hitman.

Who's In It?: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith

Who Directed It?: Michael Mann (Heat)

Why Should I Care?: Cruise has blonde hair, Mann directs stylish action films.

Danny Deckchair

What Is It?: Comedy

What's It About?: A bored Australian cement truck driver escapes his humdrum existance with the help of a lawn chair and a bunch of helium-filled balloons.

Who's In It?: Rhys Ifans, Miranda Otto

Who Directed It?: Jeff Balsmeyer

Why Should I Care?: Ifans was the only funny part of Notting Hill.

Open Water

What Is It?: Thriller

What's It About?: A vacationing couple are trapped in the middle of the ocean with some hungry sharks.

Who's In It?: Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis

Who Directed It?: Chris Kentis

Why Should I Care?: Enthusiastic crowds at Sundance Film Festival dubbed this a cross between The Blair Witch Project and Jaws. The filmmakers couldn't afford any special effects, by the way. Those are real sharks.

August 11

Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement

What Is It?: Romantic comedy

What's It About?: The newly crowned princess of Genovia now has to find herself a hubby.

Who's In It?: Anne Hathaway, Julie Andrews

Who Directed It?: Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman)

Why Should I Care?: Can little girls get enough of princess-worshipping romances?

We Don't Live Here Anymore

What Is It?: Drama

What's It About?: Two couples are torn apart by infidelity in a small, New England college town.

Who's In It?: Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Naomi Watts

Who Directed It?: John Curran

Why Should I Care?: It stars Mark Ruffalo (You Can Count on Me) and is based on a short story by Andre Dubus (In The Bedroom). Sounds like indie film gold.

Yu-gi-oh!

What Is It?: Animated sci-fi adventure/commercial

What's It About?: The stupidly popular Japanese card game-turned-cartoon now becomes the stupidly popular card game-turned-feature film.

Who's In It?: A bunch of squeaky throated American voice actors.

Who Directed It?: Ryôsuke Takahashi

Why Should I Care?: Are you eight years old? Can you tell the difference between Pokémon and Yu-gi-oh? If not, you need to step away from the ticket booth.

August 20

Exorcist: The Beginning

What Is It?: Horror-thriller

What's It About?: This prequel to the horror classic follows Father Merrin in his early days battling evil in Africa.

Who's In It?: Stellan Skarsgård, Gabriel Mann

Who Directed It?: Renny Harlin (Cliffhanger)

Why Should I Care?: Honestly, there was so much behind-the-scenes trouble with this one that the studio sent in Renny Harlin to basically rewrite and reshoot the entire film after original director Paul Schrader (American Gigolo) was done. Fair warning.

Hero

What Is It?: Historical action

What's It About?: A lone warrior defends the future emperor of China from three mysterious assassins.

Who's In It?: Jet Li, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, Donnie Yen

Who Directed It?: Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern)

Why Should I Care?: Nominated for an Academy Award nearly a year ago and criminally mishandled by distributor Miramax, this remains the most beautiful martial arts film ever made.

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

What Is It?: Thriller

What's It About?: A retired criminal returns to the underworld to investigate the death of his younger brother

Who's In It?: Clive Owen, Charlotte Rampling, Malcolm McDowell

Who Directed It?: Mike Hodges (Croupier)

Why Should I Care?: Brit beefcake Clive Owen reteams with the director of Croupier for more criminal mischief.

Without a Paddle

What Is It?: Comedy

What's It About?: After a friend's funeral, three city dwellers decide to go on a camping trip in search of hijacker D.B. Cooper's lost cash.

Who's In It?: Seth Green, Matthew Lillard,

Who Directed It?: Steven Brill (Little Nicky)

Why Should I Care?: There are relatively few dumb teen comedies this summer, and the cast is reliably funny.

August 27

Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid

What Is It?: Horror-thriller

What's It About?: A search for a rare flower in the jungles of Borneo puts a bunch of scientists in conflict with some mighty big snakes. A very loose sequel to the 1997 hit.

Who's In It?: Johnny Messner, Matthew Marsden, KaDee Strickland

Who Directed It?: Dwight Little (Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home)

Why Should I Care?: Well, since Jennifer Lopez' rump has gone on to bigger (though not necessarily better) things, the only reason for checking this one is for the hoardes of really big snakes.

Warriors of Heaven and Earth

What Is It?: Historical action

What's It About?: In the Gobi desert, a Japanese emissary winds up teaming with the renegade soldier he's been sent to execute in order to save a caravan transporting a Buddhist monk and a valuable treasure from some bloodthirsty thieves.

Who's In It?: Jiang Wen, Kiichi Nakai

Who Directed It?: He Ping (Red Firecracker, Green Firecracker)

“Wow” Factor: This epic martial arts flick was a big hit in China. (And they ought to know.)

September 1

Vanity Fair

What Is It?: Costume drama

What's It About?: William Makepeace Thackeray's classic novel follows a young social climber determined to claw her way up the ladder in 1820s London.

Who's In It?: Reese Witherspoon, Jim Broadbent, Gabriel Byrne, Bob Hoskins

Who Directed It?: Mira Nair

Why Should I Care?: Hollywood moves the Oscar race up to summertime with this classy period piece.

The Cookout

What is It?: Comedy

What's It About?: A top NBA pick, the only black man in an upscale white neighborhood, shocks his new neighbors by hosting a raucous backyard barbecue

Who's In It?: Queen Latifah, Ja Rule, Tim Meadows, Farrah Fawcett, Eve, Danny Glover

Who Directed It?: Lance Rivera

Why Should I Care?: Latifah, who's on a run after Bringing Down the House and Barbershop 2, helped create the story.

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