Film Previews

By Luke Y. Thompson and Gregory Weinkauf

OUTLOOK: Combining cautionary global politics with character-based drama is a Winterbottom trademark, but the sci-fi hook may garner him a new audience. And if that's not enough, the film's R rating descriptive also promises brief graphic nudity.

(MGM, August 6)

Collateral

STARRING: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo

DIRECTOR: Michael Mann

WRITERS: Michael Mann, Frank Darabont, Stuart Beattie (contributor to Pirates of the Caribbean)

PREMISE: Foxx plays an L.A. cabbie forced into service by killer Cruise.

OUTLOOK: Frankly, this sounds less like a movie than a template for a screenwriting workshop. Mann's affection for L.A.'s mean streets (Heat, TV's Robbery Homicide Division) may score him another hit, but -- baddie or otherwise -- isn't the entire world completely sick of Tom Cruise by now?

(DreamWorks-Paramount, August 6)

Exorcist: The Beginning

STARRING: Stellan Skarsgård, James D'Arcy, Isabella Scorupco

DIRECTOR: John Frankenheimer . . . no, wait, Paul Schrader . . . oops, make that Renny Harlin

WRITERS: William Wisher (The 13th Warrior), Caleb Carr (The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy), Alexi Hawley

PREMISE: Skarsgård plays the younger version of Max von Sydow's Father Merrin character, tangling with the devil in mid-20th-century Africa.

OUTLOOK: Frankenheimer died before filming had started. Then Schrader directed the film as a psychological thriller. Once the studio saw his cut, it decided it wanted more of a head-turning and green-puking kind of horror flick, so it recast most of the major roles and hired Harlin (Schrader's version will still apparently come out on DVD). This level of creative differences usually doesn't bode well for a film's quality, not to mention the fact that no Exorcist sequel to date has exactly been an aesthetic or commercial triumph.

(Warner Bros., August 20)

Open Water

STARRING: Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis

WRITER/DIRECTOR: Chris Kentis (1997's Grind, not to be confused with the recent skateboarding flick of the same name)

PREMISE: A vacationing couple goes on a scuba-diving trip and is accidentally left out to sea, surrounded by sharks. Based on a true story.

OUTLOOK: The filmmakers used real sharks. Real. No one's gonna be bitching about how fake they look, like they did with all the Jaws movies. Audiences jaded by mega-budget computer-generated stuff who want a good water-based scare are gonna eat it up like Jaws at a beach party.

(Lions Gate, August 6)

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