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Looking ahead
to 2001's movie
offerings


January 4, 2001
By Franklin Harris

I don't know why I get my hopes up. I really don't.

I remember when I had high hopes for "Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda." Then I saw the first episode. And the second. And the third.

Still, as 2001 begins, I cannot help but eagerly anticipate some upcoming science fiction and fantasy films.

The movie I most want to see this year is the one that got the best reviews last year, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

Unfortunately, most of us in "fly-over country" will have to wait for it. Sony Pictures Classics is giving the martial-arts epic a slow rollout. So far, it's playing only in Los Angeles and New York, and there is no date yet for a wide release, although that could change if "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" gets the Oscar nod everyone (in New York and L.A., anyway) is talking about.

Set in ancient China, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" stars Chow Yun Fat ("The Replacement Killers"), Michelle Yeoh ("Tomorrow Never Dies") and newcomer Zhang Ziyi. Overseeing the effort is director Ang Lee, whose other films include the Jane Austen romance "Sense and Sensibility" and the Civil War drama "Ride With the Devil."

If the trailer is any indication, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is a lush, beautifully filmed adventure, with high-flying action sequences the equal of anything you'll find in even the best Hong Kong action movies. It may out-"Matrix" "The Matrix."

The only question is will American audiences warm to a film shot in Mandarin Chinese with English subtitles even if it is, as some say, a better "Star Wars" movie than the last two "Star Wars" movies?

You won't have to work so hard, however, to see "Shadow of the Vampire." It goes into wide release on Jan. 26.

"Shadow" is a fictionalized account of the making of one of the cinema's earliest masterpieces, the silent horror classic "Nosferatu," directed by F.W. Murnau and released in 1922.

In "Shadow," Murnau (John Malkovich) sets out to make the most realistic vampire movie ever. (How many had there been in 1922? Never mind.) So, for that added authenticity, he casts a real vampire, Max Schreck, played by Willem Dafoe, as the film's villain.

Unfortunately, Murnau starts to lose control of his production when his undead star begins making meals of the crew.

"How dare you destroy my photographer!" Murnau demands. "Why not the script girl?"

To which the vampire replies, "I'll eat her later."

Again, I only have the trailer to go by, but "Shadow" looks like a winner.

Then on Feb. 9, the most anticipated sequel (or prequel) since "The Phantom Menace" opens.

"Hannibal," the sequel to "The Silence of the Lambs," stars Sir Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter and Julianne Moore as FBI Special Agent Clarice Starling, replacing Jodie Foster, who won an Oscar in the role.

Nearly 10 years after "Silence," Lecter is still on the loose, but one of his victims, the horribly disfigured Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), has a plan to flush Lecter out, and Starling is the bait.

The original screenplay for "Hannibal," based on Thomas Harris' novel, was altered to meet Foster's demands, but with Foster out of the picture, literally, we will hopefully see a finished product that remains true to Harris' over-the-top gothic thriller.

But the biggest of all 2001's films won't come out until December. That is when the first installment of "The Lord of the Rings" arrives in theaters.

The big-screen adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy stars Elijah Wood as Frodo, Sean Astin as Sam, Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins, Christopher Lee as the sorcerer Saruman and Ian McKellan ("X-Men") as the wizard Gandalf.

In the meantime, we have Angelina Jolie in "Tomb Raider"; Steven Spielberg's latest film, "A.I."; and Tim "Sleepy Hollow" Burton's remake of "Planet of the Apes."

And besides movies, we have a few other things to look forward to.

In the spring, Chris Carter's "X-Files" spin-off, "The Lone Gunmen," will finally hit the airwaves. And, hopefully, midseason will bring "The Tick," a superhero comedy starring "Seinfeld" alum Patrick Warburton and based on Ben Edlund's comic book of the same name.

And speaking of comics, there will be plenty of reason to start reading them again as J. Michael Straczynski ("Babylon 5") takes on the writing chores on "The Amazing Spider-Man," Kevin Smith ("Clerks") revives "Green Arrow" for DC Comics and Frank Miller springs "The Dark Knight Strikes Back," his sequel to "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns," on an unsuspecting public.

2001 is shaping up to be a good year. After 2000, we could use one.

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