Film Previews

By Luke Y. Thompson and Gregory Weinkauf

JUNE

Around the World in 80 Days

STARRING: Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Cécile De France, Jim Broadbent

DIRECTOR: Frank Coraci

WRITERS: David Goldstein, David Benullo, Michael Weiss . . . and Jules Verne

PREMISE: Chan and Coogan take to the skies in the umpteenth remake of this classic novel.

OUTLOOK: Looks like good, old-fashioned fun -- if any market for such a risk still exists. Coogan (star of British TV hit I'm Alan Partridge) and Chan are both geniuses of their craft, and the stunt casting -- including the Gropenator as a polygamist in a fugged-up wig -- seems amusing. In the case of director Coraci (The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy), this appears to be evidence that if you survive Adam Sandler, you are allowed to make a cool movie.

(Disney, June 16)

The Chronicles of Riddick

STARRING: Vin Diesel, Colm Feore, Alexa Davelos, Judi Dench

WRITER/DIRECTOR: David Twohy

PREMISE: That bald brute from the supercool Pitch Black returns, perchance to save the universe.

OUTLOOK: Looks like a very heavy-handed allegory for the European Crusades, writ science-fictiony in the 26th century. Dench may be seeing Alec Guinness potential as the mystical guide of the nice-guy Elementals, whom Richard Dick B. Riddick (Diesel) assists in battling the probably-not-nice Necromongers, led by Feore. Pitch Black was an Alien knockoff done right, but this may be the beginning of an action trilogy done silly.

(Universal, June 11)

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

STARRING: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Christine Taylor, Rip Torn

WRITER/DIRECTOR: Rawson Marshall Thurber (the short film/commercial Terry Tate, Office Linebacker)

PREMISE: Another month, another Stiller-in-a-wig movie. Does the man never sleep? Anyhow, the film's title says it all, except that the movie isn't really based on a true story.

OUTLOOK: Didn't that one episode of South Park already exhaust every possible gag to be wrung from the notion of a dodgeball world championship? Here's a bold prediction: Dollars to doughnuts there'll be more than one scene of a man getting hit in the crotch.

(Fox, June 18)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

STARRING: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Gary Oldman

DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuarn

WRITER: Steven Kloves, based on the J.K. Rowling book

PREMISE: Boy wizard and friends must confront a scary spell-caster.

OUTLOOK: Probably another strong installment in a quality series. Michael Gambon's a good choice to replace woefully departed Richard Harris as Dumbledore. Whether the charm of director Chris Columbus can be replaced by the rough edges of Cuarn (the teen sex exposé Y Tu Mamá También) remains to be seen, but the odds are now greater that Harry and Ron will masturbate together on diving boards at the Hogwarts pool.

(Warner Bros., June 4)

Spider-Man 2

STARRING: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina, James Franco

DIRECTOR: Sam Raimi

WRITERS: Michael Chabon, several others

PREMISE: Sony spends and recoups another shitload of money.

OUTLOOK: Seems like a winner, reuniting the forces that capably succeeded the first time out -- although it would have been cool if Dunst replaced onscreen sweetheart Maguire with the more intriguing Jake Gyllenhaal, as in real life. Molina takes over villain's duties as tentacle-thrashing Doctor Octopus. More of the cheeseball humor of Raimi (the Evil Dead movies) would be welcome, but perhaps screenwriter Chabon (Pulitzer Prize winner for his novel Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay) will add some weird literary pedigree to this pricey pulp.

(Sony, June 30)

The Stepford Wives

STARRING: Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler, Matthew Broderick, Christopher Walken

DIRECTOR: Frank Oz (Miss Piggy)

WRITERS: Paul Rudnick (In & Out), Ira Levin (original novel)

PREMISE: Dark-comedic remake of paranoid-sexist 1970s sci-fi movie about suburban horror and systematic wife-replacement.

OUTLOOK: The producers pulled a bait-and-switch on Kidman, luring her with promises of fanciful co-star John Cusack, then ironically replacing him with middle-aged Ferris Bueller. Entire production sounds similarly confused, and after The Score it's impossible to trust Yoda-Piggy in the director's chair anymore. Theme is ridiculously threadbare, too: Ask your female boss to phone you from her Escalade to tell you how the movie's oppression relates to her.

(Paramount-DreamWorks, June 11)

The Terminal

STARRING: Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stanley Tucci, Chi McBride

DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg

WRITERS: Sacha Gervasi (The Big Tease), Jeff Nathanson (Catch Me If You Can)

PREMISE: Realizing that they don't yet have all the money in the world, Hanks and Spielberg decide to team up and make another movie together. Spielberg has an entire airport terminal built on a sound stage, and Hanks does a funny accent. Or something like that.

OUTLOOK: It's Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. What part of that don't you get? It's probably critic-proof, but frankly the concept -- of a guy living in an airport because he can't go back to his fictional foreign country or enter the U.S. -- sounds kinda painful, as does Hanks' Boris Badenov voice.

(DreamWorks, June 18)

JULY

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

STARRING: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell, Raul Rudd

DIRECTOR: Adam McKay

WRITERS: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay

PREMISE: Will Ferrell mugs a lot as a sexist San Diego newscaster in 1973.

OUTLOOK: The trailer suggests easy summer retro laughs with no surprises whatsoever.

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