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Summer Film Guide

By Devin D. O'Leary

MAY 29, 2000:  On your way to the cineplex this summer, Hollywood would appreciate it very much if you would stop off at an ATM and get plenty of money. Everyone's really hoping this will be another record-breaking summer at the box office, and you're expected to do your part. Buy early, buy often. Purchase tickets for friends, family members, those homeless guys who hang out on the freeway off-ramps. After all, if you don't help pay Mel Gibson's $25 million asking price, who will?

In order to assist our readers in figuring out where and when to dump their moviegoing money during this long, hot summer, we've compiled our annual guide to all the major releases hitting theaters between Memorial Day and Labor Day. We've included plots, stars, directors and assorted cynical analyses in an attempt to inform, entertain and make us feel superior to all those hack writers out in Hollywood making more than us. New this year is the handy-dandy patented Alibi Money Meter(r), which we are using to predict a film's potential box office impact. Feel free to hand your money over to the unstoppable freight train that is Mission: Impossible 2 or to toss your money down the bottomless well that is Bait.

Patented Alibi Money Meter®:

1/2 $ = under $10 million

$ = $10-$30 million

$$ = $31-50 million

$$$ = $51-$75 million,

$$$$ = $76-$99 million

$$$$$ = over $100 million


May 24

Mission: Impossible 2 (Paramount)The "impossible mission" of the first film was untangling the nonsensical plotline. While this shot-in-Australia sequel may not be any more lucid, it at least features some explosive action sequences courtesy of Hong Kong action king John Woo (The Killer, Face/Off). This time, Cruise & Co. (Ving Rhames, Thandie Newton and Anthony Hopkins) must stop a manufactured German virus from destroying the world.
Money Meter: $$$$$

May 26

Shanghai Noon (Touchstone)Jackie Chan's follow-up to his first American-made hit Rush Hour is basically the same movie, but with horses. Chan is a Chinese Imperial guard sent to the Wild West to rescue a kidnapped princess ("Ally McBeal's" Lucy Liu). Chan's karate-kicking cowboy soon teams up with a gun-slinging thief (Owen Wilson). Martial arts ensue. Not only was the ultra-laconic Wilson (Armageddon) born to play a cowpoke, but he's much less annoying than Chan's last sidekick, Chris Tucker.
Money Meter: $$$$

June 2

Big Momma's House (20th Century Fox)Martin Lawrence, apparently willing to do anything for money these days, puts on a fat suit and dresses in drag just like Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor (or was it Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire?). Do you really want to know what the excuse is? Lawrence plays an FBI officer who goes undercover by posing as a federal witnesses' long-lost grandmother. This lame attempt at humor is rendered even more lame by the fact that Eddie Murphy is reprising his own fat suit bit from The Nutty Professor later this summer with The Nutty Professor 2.
Money Meter: $$$

June 9

Gone in 60 Seconds (Touchstone) In this loose remake of the 1970s drive-in classic of the same name, Nicolas Cage stars as a retired car thief who must pull "one last job" in order to bail out his ne'er-do-well brother. Hey, at least he gets to hook up with Angelina Jolie (a.k.a. the soon-to-be ex-Mrs. Billy Bob Thornton). Money Meter: $$$$$

Groove (Sony Pictures Classics)The underground buzz is big for this hip-tip ensemble cast film about one night at a secret San Francisco rave party. The cast is a bunch of unknowns, but audiences went nuts for it at Sundance.
Money Meter: 1/2 $

Love's Labor's Lost (Miramax)Kenneth Branagh goes back to the Bard. This time he drags cutie Alicia Silverstone along with him to help interpret one of Shakespeare's sillier comedies about a king and his virtuous companions beguiled by a lovely princess and her attendants. Just to make things more interesting, Branagh has turned it into an old-fashioned Hollywood musical.
Money Meter: $

Sunshine (Paramount Classics)Ralph Fiennes stars in this epic story following a single Jewish family through three generations living in Hungary. Sounds long and Oscar-worthy.
Money Meter: 1/2 $

June 16

Jesus' Son (Lion's Gate)Billy Crudup (The Hi-Lo Country), Samantha Morton (Sweet and Lowdown), Denis Leary, Holly Hunter and Dennis Hopper fill the cast of this controversial black comedy about a drug-addicted young loser stumbling his way through 1970s America.
Money Meter: 1/2 $

Shaft (Paramount) Samuel L. Jackson, a badass mo fo if ever there was one, steps into the gumshoes of Richard Roundtree in this update of the 1970s blaxploitation classic. Jackson plays the nephew of the original "black private dick who's a sex machine with all the chicks." Isaac Hayes even comes back to record a new "Shaft 2000" theme song. Funky!
Money Meter: $

Titan A.E. (20th Century Fox)Animator Don Bluth (An American Tale, Anastasia) has given up trying to appeal to Disney's pre-teen girlie crowd and is aiming for a whole new demographic: videogame-addicted teenage boys. This action-packed sci-fi opus follows a group of pilgrims from a devastated future Earth trying to punch their way through an armada of evil space aliens to find a new home for the struggling human race. Hip young actors Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore and Janeane Garofalo supply some of the voices. What? No Rosie O'Donnell?Money Meter: $$

June 23

Chicken Run (Dreamworks)Ever watched The Great Escape? Ever wondered what it would be like with chickens instead of American POWs? Well, wonder no more. The English claymation team behind the charming Wallace and Grommit shorts is contributing its first feature film about chickens trying to bust out of a poultry farm. Mel Gibson tosses his voice into the ring as cock of the walk, Rocky.
Money Meter: $$$

Me, Myself and Irene (20th Century Fox)Those naughty, naughty Farrelly brothers (There's Something About Mary) are back and so is the rubber-faced Jim Carrey we all know and love (as opposed to the dramatic-acting Jim Carrey we all admired, but couldn't give an Oscar to). Carrey stars here as a state trooper with a split personality (one good, one bad) who gets involved in a two-person romantic triangle over a scrappy female prisoner (Renée Zellweger).
Money Meter: $$$$

June 28

The Patriot (Sony)Mel Gibson plays a simple, early American farmer who'd rather plant his 'taters than take up sides in the American Revolution--that is until his son (teen hunk Heath Ledger) enlists and is captured by the dirty Redcoats. Yes, it's Mel in full Mad Max revenge mode courtesy of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich (whom we still don't quite trust after that whole Godzilla debacle). Money Meter: $$$$$

June 30

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (Universal)Jay Ward's cartoon moose and squirrel end up in the real world after Boris and Natasha (Jason Alexander, Rene Russo) and their diabolical Fearless Leader (Robert DeNiro) escape into the real world. This one combines live-action and animation a la Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and features the voice talent of Rocky and Bullwinkle originator June Forey.Money Meter: $

The Perfect Storm (WB)This true story is based on the best-selling novel by Sebastian Junger. George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and John C. Reilly are among the crew of a fishing boat caught in a Force 12 gale off the coast of Newfoundland. If true-life tales of survival aren't your bag, you can always just sit back and enjoy the manly cast getting all soaking wet for two hours.
Money Meter: $$

July 7

Bounce (Miramax)Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow star in what sounds like an over-fabricated romantic comedy. Affleck is an ordinary Joe who nicely gives up his airline ticket to a guy who proceeds to die in an overcrowded plane crash. Overcome by guilt, Affleck hunts down the guy's wife to apologize and winds up--guess what--falling in love.
Money Meter: $

Disney's The Kid (Walt Disney)Bruce Willis plays a self-centered and unfulfilled middle-aged businessman who magically meets up with a seven-year-old version of himself. You can be pretty sure he learns to laugh and love and all that crap by movie's end.
Money Meter: $

Scary Movie (Miramax)Originally titled Scream If You Know What You Did Last Halloween, this post-modern horror film parody arrives a tad too late in the game to make fun of Scream (itself originally titled Scary Movie). Keenan Ivory Wayans "directed and stars in" or "should be held responsible," depending on how you look at it.
Money Meter: 1/2 $

July 14

Chuck & Buck (Artisan)The year after buying a little film called The Blair Witch Project at Sundance, little Artisan Films snapped up this offbeat black comedy about a grown-up guy stalking his about-to-be-married best friend from childhood, whom he hasn't seen in decades. Artisan liked it, but apparently audiences at Sundance were a little creeped out.
Money Meter: 1/2 $

X-Men (20th Century Fox)Fox is taking a big gamble, hoping that this relatively expensive ($75 million) adaptation of Marvel's best-selling comic book about a team of do-gooding mutants will be a Batman-sized franchise on the big screen. Unfortunately, few outside the comic book realm know the X-Men, and the budget wasn't quite large enough to afford any big-name box office stars. Star Trek's Patrick Stewart is the biggest moniker on the marquee. Money Meter: $$$$

Numbers (Paramount)Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail) contributes this film, which she swears is a non-sappy, anti-romantic comedy. John Travolta stars as a TV weatherman who conspires with his station's lotto gal (Lisa Kudrow) to defraud the lottery commission of big bucks.
Money Meter:

July 21

Loser (Columbia)Jason Biggs and Mena Suvari of American Pie fame are back with a college-based sex-comedy. Biggs plays a nerdy Midwesterner who moves to New York City and promptly develops a crush on an elusive classmate (Suvari). Unfortunately, she's got a crush on one of her professors (Greg Kinnear).
Money Meter:

Pokémon the Movie 2000 (WB)Haven't the kids who propelled the last Pokémon movie to a $50 million box office graduated to selling crack on the playground or some other useful purpose by now?
Money Meter: $

What Lies Beneath (Dreamworks)Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfieffer star in this twisty, Sixth Sense-style supernatural thriller about a college professor and his wife haunted by the ghost of a girl that the prof had a secret affair with. Director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) is being all hush-hush about this one, but that's the gist of it.
Money Meter: $$

July 26

Thomas and the Magic Railroad (Destination)The dirt-simple British kiddy show about bug-eyed trains and their transportation-based adventures moves to the big screen. For some reason Alec Baldwin is in it.
Money Meter: 1/2 $

July 28

I Was Made to Love Her (Paramount)Chris and Paul Weitz perhaps unwisely follow-up their smutty debut, American Pie, with this sweet romantic comedy, a remake of 1978's Heaven Can Wait (itself a remake of 1941's Here Comes Mr. Jordan). Chris Rock stars as a fast-talking stand-up comic (ah, method acting) who gets hit by a bus and, thanks to a mix-up in Heaven, ends up in the body of a white millionaire.
Money Meter: $

Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps (Universal)Eddie Murphy is back, this time doing more of the fat suit gags that landed him all the laughs in the first film. In addition to playing the title character (who's now getting married), he plays the entire overweight Klump clan. Dare we hope for more flatulence?
Money Meter: $$$

August 4

Coyote Ugly (Touchstone)A gang of sassy (but nonetheless Maxim sexy) gals try to run a New York City saloon. Hollywood ran out of ideas 16 months ago, so this movie is actually based on a 1997 article from GQ magazine.
Money Meter: 1/2 $

Hollow Man (Columbia)Paul Verhoeven, the man behind Robocop, could have the sleeper hit of the summer with this creepy take on The Invisible Man. Kevin Bacon stars as a truly nutty professor who becomes invisible after a lab accident, then decides that the colleagues working feverishly to "save" him, are actually trying to kill him. Naturally, our invisible wacko sets out to bump off his scientific pals in assorted ingenious ways.
Money Meter: $$$$

The Legend of Bagger Vance (Dreamworks)Under normal circumstances, any movie starring Matt Damon and Will Smith would be the smash hit of the entire summer season. It's unlikely, however, that this film's unusual subject matter will translate into high dollar revenue. In this period drama, Damon stars as a soldier who returns from World War I, takes up professional golf and is guided by a mysterious, worldly-wise caddy (Smith). The story is based on Steven Pressman's 1995 novel and is actually a retelling of the Hindu religious text the Bhagavad Gita. Robert Redford, who's apparently more literate than the rest of us, directs.
Money Meter: $

Space Cowboys (WB)Clint Eastwood (who also directed) leads a team of over-the-hill astronauts (including crusty dudes Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and Donald Sutherland) back into space to defuse a deadly Cold War satellite.
Money Meter: $$

August 11

Bait (WB)Did you catch Jamie Foxx's last comedy, Held Up? No? Never even heard of it? Well, odds are pretty good you won't be beating down cineplex doors to catch his latest. Unable to entertain audiences with his humor alone, Foxx has spent the last few months at Gold's Gym beefing up to star in this action comedy about a petty thief caught up in an FBI sting operation to recover $40 million in gold. Money Meter: 1/2 $

Bedazzled (20th Century Fox)Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley take over for Dudley Moore and Peter Cooke in this remake of the 1967 farce of the same name. Fraser plays a dissatisfied computer nerd who is granted seven wishes by a seductive Satan (Hurley).
Money Meter: $$$

Cecil B. Demented (Artisan)Trash culture auteur John Waters (Polyester, Hairspray) is back in rare form with this Hollywood parody about a band of "cinema terrorists" who kidnap a big-time starlet (Melanie Griffith) and force her to star in their own underground film.
Money Meter: 1/2 $

Girlfight (Screen Gems)Female boxers are this year's hottest fetish. Here's the fifth movie to hit screens this year about the sweet science (the third to feature women sluggers). Money Meter: 1/2 $

Godzilla 2000 (Columbia)Not at all related to the atrocious Devlin/Emmerich monstrosity of two summers ago, this is a straight-outta-Japan import featuring the real-deal Big G stomping up some Tokyo real estate with another giant opponent. This is how giant monster movies are supposed to be done.
Money Meter: $

Impostor (Miramax)Originally intended as part of a short sci-fi anthology entitled Alien Love Story, this adaptation of a Phillip K. Dick story got the bump to feature-length by duly impressed Miramax brass. Gary Sinise stars as a man suspected of being an alien terrorist on the verge of, well, blowing up. Vincent D'Onofrio is the detective assigned to hunt him down.
Money Meter: 1/2 $

August 18

The Cell (New Line)Jennifer Lopez as a world-renowned psychologist? Must be a science fiction movie. In this futuristic thriller, Lopez is called upon to enter the mind of a comatose serial killer (Vincent D'Onofrio) in order to find out what happened to his latest kidnapee.
Money Meter: $

Cheer Fever (Universal)In this parody of school spirit run amok, Kirsten Dunst (Dick) leads a high school pep squad to the state championships to battle their arch-rivals, a funky inner-city stepping squad.
Money Meter: 1/2 $

Head Over Heels (Universal)Freddy Prince Jr., who never met a romantic comedy he didn't like, stars alongside Monica Potter (Patch Adams) in what must be his third romantic comedy this year. She's a successful art restorer in New York City. He's the hunky man of her dreams. Only problem is, thanks to her romantic paranoia, she thinks he might be a ladykiller--literally.
Money Meter: $

August 25

The Replacements (WB)The NFL is in the midst of a player's strike and it's up to washed-up scrubs Keanu Reeves and Jon Favreau to take their team to the playoffs in this sports-centric comedy.
Money Meter: $$

Texas Rangers (Miramax)The cast for this historical hunk-fest includes Dylan McDermott ("The Practice"), James Van Der Beek ("Dawson's Creek"), Usher Raymond (The Faculty), Ashton Kutcher ("That '70s Show") and Rachel Leigh Cook (She's All That). They should have just called it Young Guns III and been done with it.
Money Meter: 1/2 $

September 1

Summer Catch (WB) Romantic comedy, rich girl, poor boy. Need we say more? Since it is a teen-oriented romantic comedy, this film is required to star Freddy Prinze Jr. by Hollywood law. Matthew Lillard (Wing Commander), Brittany Murphy (Girl, Interrupted) and Wilmer Valderrama ("That '70s Show") round out the cast.
Money Meter: $


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