Grand Dames

The big-screen gals of cinema 2003 will keep you watching

That's just a taste of feminine film in '03, but we'd better get to the rip-snortin' dude movies. First let's toot our own horn: Inspired by the feature story of the same name by former New Times Los Angeles writer Michael Gougis comes Reggie Rock Bythewood's Biker Boyz (January), with Laurence Fishburne and newcomer Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher) battling through the California desert to prove who rides a motorcycle the coolest. If that gets your blood pumping, see also rapper Ludacris in John Singleton's 2 Fast 2 Furious (June) and Robert Rodriguez' Once Upon a Time in Mexico: Desperado 2 (Autumn), reteaming Frida stars Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas.

The aforementioned ass-whoopin' and skull-crackin' may seem mild when compared to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Christopher Walken in Peter Berg's Helldorado (September) or Quentin Tarantino's return with Kill Bill (October), based loosely upon his forthcoming first novel of the same name. The highly anticipated Bill, lensed in Hong Kong, will feature Uma Thurman as a very annoyed assassin and Lucy Liu as a Yakuza queen, with music by RZA (Ghost Dog) and stunt work choreographed by Yuen Woo-Ping . . . who also happens to be stuntmeister on a couple of little movies coming out this year called The Matrix: Reloaded (May) and The Matrix: Revolutions (November). Virtually everyone on the planet will be dropping their cash into the buckets of directors Andy and Larry Wachowski and producer Joel Silver, but rather than being a mindless joiner, you can tell people you're there to do a comparative analysis on the annual action output of Laurence Fishburne.

Summoning moderate doubt in '03, the Coen brothers' October release Intolerable Cruelty (as opposed to . . .?) has a stupid title, and July's When Harry Met Lloyd: Dumb and Dumberer would be more inventive if it were called Dumb and Dumbledore (incidentally, welcome aboard, Michael Gambon), but from this early vantage point, the year looks compelling. There may be some dreck Like Hell: Jeepers Creepers 2 and American Wedding (a.k.a. American Pie 3) in August, William Friedkin's The Hunted (a.k.a. Slumbo) in February but, thankfully, no more than average.

Bob Newhart joins Reese Witherspoon in a Legally Blonde sequel slated for July.
Sam Emerson
Bob Newhart joins Reese Witherspoon in a Legally Blonde sequel slated for July.
Eric Bana can only hope his transformation into The Hulk this summer will have Spider-Man-like appeal.
Eric Bana can only hope his transformation into The Hulk this summer will have Spider-Man-like appeal.

I'm keen to catch Liam Neeson in Paul Schrader's Exorcist: The Beginning (July), creepy Suspect Zero (October) from E. Elias Merhige (Shadow of the Vampire), and the single-shot art film Russian Ark (presently rolling out). Let's not forget Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe's Terry Gilliam disaster documentary, Lost in La Mancha (rolling out), the obvious hoot of Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler in Anger Management (April), and maybe even Steven Norrington's Alan Moore comic adaptation, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (July), during the shooting of which Sean Connery was rumored to have cheerfully threatened the infamously irritating director's life.

Men. They talk smack, they crack skulls, and, bless 'em, they still run the movies. But something's shifting. Every time I see the faces of great actresses such as Shirley Henderson (24 Hour Party People, American Cousins) or Rachel Griffiths (Amy, The Kelly Gang), catch the work of Ann Lu (Dreamers) or reflect upon Hulk producer Gale Anne Hurd, a sharp grin appears. Considering current and coming cinema, I get the feeling that we've all come a long way, baby, with a vast expanse yet to chart.

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