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Summer blockbusters burst budget barriers

It's summer and I'm trying to keep an open mind. Maybe the third Jurassic Park will knock its two predecessors out of the water with spectacular new effects. Pearl Harbor might turn out to be this decade's From Here to Eternity. In video game heroine Lara Croft, Angelina Jolie may create a feminist icon worthy of the awe of teenage girls across the world.

Well, maybe not.

But this year I'm throwing all expectations to the wind and trying to approach the dreaded blockbuster season with an open heart and a sense of humor. Action-adventure flicks, sci-fi epics and futuristic thrillers will crowd the screen and I'll be enjoying the air conditioning with the rest of America, chomping expensive popcorn and swimming in Coca-Cola.

Well, maybe not.

Reading about most of this summer's crop of films is enough to make me wish to relocate to Greenland. Expensive remakes cast the same old stars in the same old roles, cracking the same old jokes, and budgets have crept well over the $100 million mark.

Here's what to expect:


Remakes and sequels

The bulk of the summer crop of 2001 fall into this category.

Jurassic Park III. Sam Neill is back, this time romping through the simulated jungle with Ta Leoni and William H. Macy. They're marooned and, you guessed it, under siege by giant dinosaurs. Directed by Joe Johnston who made the incredibly scary Jumanji.

Planet of the Apes. Best reason for hope: It's directed by Tim Burton who puts his unique signature on all his films. Mark Wahlberg takes on the Charlton Heston role of a stranded astronaut confronted by a bunch of simians who've taken over the planet. Tim Roth is the head ape. Also stars Helena Bonham Carter. It cost a mere $190 million to remake the '68 classic.

Rollerball. Beefy Chris Klein reprises the James Caan role, and the game is rougher than ever, capitalizing on the rising popularity of extreme sports.

Barely worth mentioning, but here goes: American Pie 2, in which Jason Biggs' sexual misadventure this time features a tube of Krazy Glue (ouch!); Scary Movie 2, a gross-out sequel to the gross-out champion, just one year later; Dr. Doolittle 2, in which Hollywood indulges Eddie Murphy with a $130 million budget to sequelize one the most repulsive "family" flicks ever made.

Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker pair up again for Rush Hour 2; Jet Li pairs up with Bridget Fonda for Kiss of the Dragon; and Kevin Smith's Silent Bob finally grabs the starring role in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.


The big guns

These are the films you'll here the most about this summer, on television documentaries titled The Making of ______________, on expansive, overblown movie trailers, and on Entertainment Tonight.

Moulin Rouge. Aussie Baz Luhrmann once again defies Hollywood trends by making a splashy, big-budget musical. Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor star as a nightclub singer addicted to the spotlight and her lover, a writer who wants to take her away from the life of glitz and decadence.

Pearl Harbor. Big cast, big explosions, big on historic memory. Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett are two pilots and Kate Beckinsale is a Navy nurse, all stationed in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941. Written by Randall Wallace (Braveheart) and directed by Michael Bay (Armageddon), war never looked so good. $135 million.

Tomb Raider. Video game action-adventure with Angelina Jolie as legendary Lara Croft, a heroine who can kick butt. Iain Glen plays the leader of the evil guys who want to take over the world. Filmed in Iceland, Cambodia and England, and directed by Simon West (Con Air) for $100 million.

A.I. Much awaited Stanley Kubrick project developed by Steven Spielberg. Haley Joel Osment stars as an 11-year-old android who develops something of a human self-consciousness. Also starring Jude Law as a physical pleasure-giving android. Crosses the human/machine line asking where and how we intersect.

America's Sweethearts. Hollywood makes fun of itself in this star fest which actually sounds pretty funny. Catherine Zeta-Jones is a prima donna film star, John Cusack is her miserable husband and co-star. On a junket to promote their latest film, the wrinkles in their marriage become all too apparent. Julia Roberts plays Zeta-Jones' unglamorous assistant. With Billy Crystal as the stars' publicist, and supporting appearances by Hank Azaria, Christopher Walken and Stanley Tucci.

Captain Corelli's Mandolin, the film version of the best-selling and acclaimed novel is currently being recut, not a good sign, following a collective pre-screening yawn, but Swordfish, a heist thriller with John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry and Don Cheadle, looks smart, slick and sexy.

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