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Entertainment - AP Movies
Sure Things on List of Fall Films
Fri Aug 30, 1:37 PM ET


LOS ANGELES (AP) - Harry Potter ( news - web sites) at Hogwarts, Frodo Baggins bound for Mordor, Hannibal Lecter in his nuthouse cell, Jean-Luc Picard on the bridge of the Enterprise, and James Bond in bed with Halle Berry.

AP Photo

Who says there are no sure bets in Hollywood?

Most fall films are uncertain commodities, but a handful have such built-in appeal, they can pretty much count their tickets before they're sold:

_ "Red Dragon": Anthony Hopkins does diabolical killer Lecter in his early asylum days in a prequel to "Silence of the Lambs" and "Hannibal." Edward Norton stars as the FBI ( news - web sites) agent who captured Lecter and years later needs his help on a new case.

Though it's set years before the action of "Silence" and "Hannibal" and Hopkins is a decade older than when he first played the role, "he's one of the greatest actors ever. If you're looking at the wrinkles on his face, I'm not doing a very good job," said "Red Dragon" director Brett Ratner. "In the first five minutes, you may say, `Yeah, he looks older,' but then you get into the story. Anthony Hopkins is Hannibal. Whether he looks younger or older, he's Hannibal Lecter."

_ "Die Another Day": Agent 007 ( Pierce Brosnan) beats up on villains as he pursues a mega-weapon. Brosnan said he and Berry share one of the steamiest Bond love scenes ever and that the movie is ripe with fond allusions to earlier 007 flicks.

"This particular film for any Bond aficionado will be a connoisseur's delight in terms of picking out lines used in other movies and paying certain homages to past films," Brosnan said. "I don't think it will disappoint when you have the beautiful Halle Berry coming out of the water" in a take on Ursula Andress in the first Bond movie, "Dr. No."

_ "Star Trek: Nemesis": Patrick Stewart and the Enterprise crew find a nasty new enemy on a peace mission to the Romulans. For those subscribing to the theory that even-numbered "Trek" films are the best, this is No. 10.

"In two or three years (when an 11th "Trek" film is likely), I will pooh-pooh that theory, but for now, I'll hold on to it dearly," said producer Rick Berman. "This is probably the most action-packed and exciting, edgy and dark of the movies we have made. There's startling and shocking elements to it, and I would say we've probably got the best `Star Trek' villain we've ever had (British actor Tom Hardy)."

As for the season's main events, need we say more than "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers"?

Blessed with lead-in films last year that each took in more than $300 million domestically, "Chamber of Secrets" and "Two Towers" are set to disprove the old Hollywood notion that audiences need a two- or three-year breather between blockbuster sequels.

"Conventional wisdom would be that 12 months is too close together to have a sequel," said Mark Ordesky, an executive producer of the three "Lord of the Rings" films. "But what's become evident with ours is that people are perceiving the films as what they are. Not sequels, but one giant, epic story told in three installments."

Since director Peter Jackson shot all three "Lord of the Rings" films simultaneously, fans can expect another dose of class and quality.

It doesn't hurt that J.R.R. Tolkien's saga of Middle-earth and a hobbit named Frodo has almost 50 years of built-in fandom, and that Jackson left audiences salivating for part two with last year's opening chapter, "The Fellowship of the Ring."

Likewise, 2001's top moneymaker, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," has fans itching for the next big-screen adaptation from J.K. Rowling ( news - web sites)'s fantasy series about the boy wizard.

"Chamber of Secrets" director Chris Columbus, who also made "Sorcerer's Stone," said audiences can expect another two-and-a-half-hour adventure as Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) fights fresh evil at Hogwarts school.

Columbus found two big advantages this time. He could jump right in on the action, without the character set-up and scene-setting necessary in the first film. And he said "Chamber of Secrets" makes for a more visual tale — "I found it to be the most cinematic of all the books, except maybe `Goblet of Fire.'"

The action is buoyed by improved special effects, Columbus said, including a bigger and better round of quidditch, a game played on flying broomsticks, crafted by George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic effects house.

Inevitable blockbusters, the only question about "Chamber of Secrets" and "Two Towers" is where they will stack up on a 2002 box-office chart that already has produced a $400 million sensation in "Spider-Man" and a $300 million smash in "Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones."

Beyond this fall's A-list, big new releases include Tim Allen's return as Kris Kringle in "The Santa Clause 2"; singer Eminem ( news - web sites) in the hip-hop drama "8 Mile"; "The Banger Sisters," a reunion tale between ex-rock groupie siblings ( Susan Sarandon and Goldie Hawn); Sarandon, Dustin Hoffman, Holly Hunter and Jake Gyllenhaal in "Moonlight Mile," a comic drama about the aftermath of a bride-to-be's death; and Reese Witherspoon as a fashion designer coming to grips with her redneck roots in "Sweet Home Alabama."

There's Madonna ( news - web sites) as a rich snob marooned with a sexy sailor in "Swept Away," directed by her husband, Guy Ritchie; "Treasure Planet," Disney's animated sci-fi update of "Treasure Island"; Heath Ledger as a British officer out to prove his valor in "The Four Feathers"; Roberto Benigni's live-action version of "Pinocchio"; "Maid in Manhattan," a romance starring Jennifer Lopez and Ralph Fiennes; and an update of the 1960s TV show "I Spy," with Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson as mismatched agents.

"Eddie plays more his `48 Hours' and `Beverly Hills Cop' Eddie. He's much rawer and looser and funnier than he's been in years," said "I Spy" director Betty Thomas. "Owen's more intellectual and subtle, and Eddie's so out there dangling ... We've got two scenes in the movie, I would challenge you to find two funnier scenes in any movie, ever."

Also upcoming are Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg's "Catch Me If You Can," a cat-and-mouse tale of a con man and a G-man; DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis and Cameron Diaz in Martin Scorsese's 1860s mob tale "Gangs of New York"; Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere in the musical "Chicago"; Zellweger, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robin Wright Penn and newcomer Alison Lohman in the mother-daughter drama "White Oleander"; Samuel L. Jackson in the misadventures of a drug designer in "Formula 51"; and Jackie Chan as a chauffeur-turned-spy in "The Tuxedo."

There's Jack Nicholson as a widower on a road trip of self-discovery in "About Schmidt"; George Clooney in Steven Soderbergh's sci-fi psychological drama "Solaris"; Denzel Washington's directing debut "Antwone Fisher," about a troubled sailor and his psychiatrist; Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep in the Hollywood tale "Adaptation," from the creators of "Being John Malkovich"; "The 25th Hour," Spike Lee's story of a prison-bound dope peddler (Edward Norton); the animated comedy " Adam Sandler's 8 Crazy Nights," with the "Mr. Deeds" star providing the three main voices; Robert De Niro as a homicide detective whose son is a murder suspect in "City By the Sea"; and De Niro and Billy Crystal with another mob couch trip in the sequel "Analyze That," as crime lord De Niro tries to go straight.

"I tend to never think sequel," said Harold Ramis, director of "Analyze This" and the new sequel. "I stayed out till I thought we really had a sound psychological notion to hang the story on. That's this notion of sociopathy. Can the criminal mind be changed?"

"Ironically, one of the straight jobs he gets is as a movie consultant to a TV show like `The Sopranos ( news - Y! TV),'" the HBO series about a mob boss in therapy.

Besides "8 Crazy Nights," Sandler has his own change in mind, branching out from teen-oriented humor in Paul Thomas Anderson's "Punch-Drunk Love," a comic romance co-starring Emily Watson. Sandler plays a man incapable of falling in love because of the emotional neutering he suffered growing up among seven cruel sisters.

"You might think, Adam Sandler and Emily Watson in the same movie?" said Watson, who also co-stars in "Red Dragon."

"I've sort of been in all these angst-ridden independent movies. I've died horribly a lot of times. And Adam's been a very different slice of the pie. He's still very charming and funny, all those things people love about him. But he's also gone quite daring. He's very layered. It feels very real, and Adam's incredibly romantic in this film."

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