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Where you should be in 2003

January 02, 2003|Mark Olsen

"The Matrix: Reloaded" and "The Matrix: Revolutions." "The Matrix," whose groundbreaking visual effects included that now-inescapable "bullet-time" shot, was a left-field watershed, and countless films since have simply floundered in its wake. Expectations are thereby running particularly high for these two sequels from writer-director brothers Andy and Larry Wachowski and uber-producer Joel Silver. Even if the films themselves are a letdown (perish the thought), perhaps the most radical notion this time out is the simple idea of unleashing these two major sequels barely six months apart.

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"The Hulk." During a year that also will see new "Terminator" and "X-Men" movies, as well as the competing comic book adaptation "Daredevil," this film fascinates on pedigree alone. Directed by Ang Lee, who before turning the kung-fu picture on its head with "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" was known for domestic dramas, "The Hulk" just might be an artful and intelligent summer popcorn movie. Plus, with a cast that includes Nick Nolte, Jennifer Connelly and rising star Eric Bana in the title role, can "The Hulk" be anything less than incredible?

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Outfest. Going into its 21st year, this once-renegade film festival, now the largest in Southern California, has become downright respectable. With an always intriguing lineup of films, seminars, parties and more, Outfest is now something more than just a film festival; it's a full-on happening. So if you're tired of the lunkheaded action pictures and lame comedies that make up far too much of the summertime's moviegoing fare, think about orienting yourself to this proud Los Angeles institution.

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"Pirates of the Caribbean." Yes, this does seem a little backward. Usually the hugely successful summer movie gets turned into a theme park ride, not the other way around. The venerable Disney attraction gets the Jerry Bruckheimer treatment as it hits the big screen with Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and potential It-girl Keira Knightley. Directed by Gore Verbinski ("The Ring"), the film has something to do with pirates, is set in the Caribbean and (if the teaser ads are to be believed) has really scary skeletons.

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"Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World." Hoping he can do for the seafaring adventure picture what "Gladiator" did for the sword-and-sandal epic, Russell Crowe appears in this film for director and fellow Antipodean Peter Weir alongside "A Beautiful Mind" co-star Paul Bettany. Once HMS Surprise sets sail across the screen, expect tall ships, roaring cannon battles and, if "Far Side of the World" does even halfway decent business, sequels. Based on the popular series of Napoleonic-era adventure novels by Patrick O'Brian.

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"Seabiscuit." The latest from "Pleasantville" director Gary Ross is a retelling of the true story of the underdog racehorse that captured the nation's imagination at the height of the Great Depression. Previously brought to the screen as a Shirley Temple vehicle in 1949, this time out it's the first post-"Spider-Man" role (and mega-star paycheck) for Tobey Maguire. Filmed in part at Santa Anita racetrack (whose 2003 season just got underway), this one is handicapped to win big.

-- Mark Olsen

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