Summer movies are similar to buttered popcorn: They tend to give you a savory taste but not much substance.
Summer 2001 had few high-quality movies and few bright spots. That’s why fall films, which tend to take more chances, are more worthy Oscar contenders. The fall 2001 lineup is remarkably diverse and includes comedies, period pieces and fantasy escapes.
Here is a look at the no-popcorn-necessary films that are coming out this fall.
Who’s in it: Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke.
What it’s about: Jake Hoyt (Hawke), a young and ambitious undercover investigator, is assigned to an anti-drug squad led by decorated veteran Sgt. Alonzo Harris (Washington). Harris is a corrupt official who is as terrible as the criminals he is chasing. Hoyt is faced with a problem as his morality is challenged by the decadent ways of his boss.
Outlook: Two great actors are paired well in this drama. The plot is overdone by Hollywood, but whenever you get Washington in a good role, he usually steals the show.
Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Christine Taylor, Jerry Stiller and Milla Jovovich.
What it’s about: Derek Zoolander (Stiller) is the world’s most famous supermodel. Trouble ensues when male models are being brainwashed by an organization to assassinate world leaders. Derek must work with his archrival, Hansel (Wilson), to stop the plan and save the world.
Outlook: Stiller has been on a roll since his charming performance in “”Meet the Parents.”” “”Zoolander”” looks like another movie that will make it big the theaters. Although silly and childish, expect much laughter not only from Stiller but also from the promising Wilson. Also look for Stiller’s dad, Jerry, who plays a modeling agent.
Who’s in it: John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale.
What it’s about: Fate seems to be shining down upon Cusack’s and Beckinsale’s characters as a chance encounter leads to a wonderful night on the town. They like each other, but Beckinsale decides to let destiny decide the future of their affection and leaves a possible second meeting to chance. They next meet a decade later when Beckinsale’s character is about to be married.
Outlook: “”Sleepless In Seattle”” redux? This is a nice date movie or chick flick, but unfortunately the far-fetched plot lacks both the charisma and charm of “”Sleepless In Seattle.”” Cusack is an excellent actor with great range, but this looks like another “”America’s Sweethearts”” fiasco.
Who’s in it: Chris Kattan, Peter Berg, Chris Penn and Peter Falk.
What it’s about: Kattan plays a vegetarian obsessed with 1980s music. When his mobster family gets into trouble with the law, they ask him to infiltrate the FBI to destroy any incriminating evidence.
Outlook: Some films were born to be funny and witty. This lackluster movie should have been stillborn. Kattan’s annoying comedy is unfortunately the main attraction. Like most “”Saturday Night Live”” skits that are transferred to the big screen, this movie’s minimal appeal will cause it to die out faster than you can drop an o-chem course.
Who’s in it: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham and Robbie Coltrane.
What it’s about: In Victorian London, the streets are ominous as Jack the Ripper goes on a killing rampage. Psychic inspector Abberline (Depp) suspects a conspiracy and is determined to solve the mystery and identify the serial killer. In his hunt, he falls for a Cockney prostitute (Graham) who is in imminent danger.
Outlook: The Hughes brothers, who have directed many urban street dramas, are an awkward fit for this period drama, but it will be interesting to see if their expertise can make it something gripping.
This is not another “”Sleepy Hollow,”” but expect a great performance from Depp. Unfortunately, this cannot be extended to Graham, whose acting abilities, like Jack’s identity, are unknown and missing.
Who’s in it: Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Mary McCormack and Alfred Woodard.
What it’s about: In a mental hospital, Prot (Spacey), a mysterious patient, claims to come from the planet K-PAX. A doctor (Bridges) who monitors Prot tries to convince him otherwise, but the further he delves into Prot’s mind, the more he starts believing that Prot may be an alien after all.
Outlook: Remember “”Don Juan Demarco?”” If not, you’re missing out on a film with a similar plot to “”K-PAX.”” Spacey has played quirky characters in “”American Beauty”” and “”The Usual Suspects,”” and it looks like he’s displaying his excellent acting abilities once again. The movie seems like an Oscar-contender with a cast that also includes the venerable Bridges. But be warned: Although the movie looks promising, it may be a dud (remember “”Pay it Forward?””).
Who’s in it: Steve Martin, Laura Dern and Helena Bonham Carter.
What it’s about: Martin plays a fairly normal doctor with a thriving practice. He lives a predictable life with his obsessive-compulsive fiancee (Dern). After meeting a drug-addicted patient (Carter), his once-normal life is turned upside down and he is accused of several crimes involving bizarre murders.
Outlook: This is a different step for Martin as this film is much more awkward and darker than his previous films. However, there is no one better than Martin to bring life to awkward screwball-comedy. If you’re willing to step outside the norm, this eccentric film should be a joy to watch.
“”Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone””
Who’s in it: Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Daniel Radcliffe, Richard Harris, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson.
What it’s about: Based on the first book of J.K. Rowling’s series, 11-year-old Harry (Radcliffe) begins his travels in a magical world of fantasy and delight. An explanation of his mysterious childhood and his training as a sorcerer are guided by his mentor, Professor Dumbledore (Harris). While at his new school, Hogwarts, mysterious occurences trouble him.
Outlook: This is one of fall’s most anticipated films. A variety of viewers, even college students, will be delighted. With spectacular special computer and graphic effects, Harry’s world is now visualized. Read the books, then see the movie. You’ve been warned.