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Film: Also in theaters

'Titanic' gets a sequel

By STEVE PERSALL, Times Film Critic

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 10, 2003

The joke in Hollywood when Titanic rolled up 11 Academy Awards and nearly $2-billion worldwide was that director James Cameron wouldn't be able to make a sequel. Then he did. Ghosts of the Abyss is a 59-minute voyage to the wreckage of the massive steamship with underwater scientists and actor Bill Paxton, who played one in the 1997 film. The film was designed for IMAX theaters with 3-D capabilities, but Tampa's Channelside Cinemas, the only local venue with those capabilities, declined Disney's deal to show it. Instead, Regal Citrus Park 20 refurbished one of its auditoriums for 3-D projection with conventional 35mm projection. The image won't be nearly as immense as it would be in IMAX form, but should be vivid if the equipment works. Nothing in Ghosts of the Abyss was scripted, including a segment in which the expedition crew is forced to the surface by mechanical problems on Sept. 11, 2001, only to discover what happened to the world while it was out of touch. Cameron blends underwater footage, computer models and snippets of Titanic to explain what happened on the ill-fated 1912 voyage. Now if he can only convince moviegoers that this is a sequel to Titanic and not The Abyss, his water-logged adventure from 1989.

Martial arts monk

The last thing anyone needs after Shanghai Knights is another buddy flick featuring an Asian martial arts expert and a Yankee wiseguy. But wait a minute. Chow Yun-Fat is leaner, meaner and speaks English more clearly than Jackie Chan, and Seann William Scott can be a cooler screen presence than goofball roles in American Pie and Dude, Where's My Car? seem to indicate. Perhaps Bulletproof Monk will actually be as exciting and humorous as preview trailers suggest. Chow plays the Monk with No Name, a spiritual butt-kicker and protector of an ancient scroll that gives superpowers to whoever possesses it. The Monk is getting old, and a new protector is required. Enter Kar (Scott), a street hustler who may be the chosen one, if he can get the hang of all that Matrix-type stuff. He had better learn fast; a sinister kung fu master wants that scroll. If you didn't guess, Bulletproof Monk is based on an underground comic book. We'll see if anyone outside that particular cult is interested when the film opens Wednesday.

Love, Hispanic style

Hispanic culture is muy caliente in Hollywood after Frida and Pedro Almodovar (Talk to Her) won Academy Awards last month. The success of those films opens a wider path to megaplexes for Chasing Papi, a romantic comedy with rising Hispanic star Roselyn Sanchez, who recently co-starred in Basic and Boat Trip. In Chasing Papi, Sanchez plays Lorena, one of three women engaged to a serial romancer named Papi (Eduardo Verastegui). Papi has done a nifty job of juggling three lovers in three states until he inadvertently invites them all to visit Los Angeles on the same weekend. The premise has been used plenty of times in movies and TV sitcoms but rarely with minority actors, so this could be interesting. Chasing Papi opens in theaters Wednesday. A review will be in next Thursday's Weekend section.

How many corpses is too many?

Death-rocker Rob Zombie makes his directorial debut with House of 1,000 Corpses, a gorefest with a group of teenagers stranded on a road during a storm and a creepy old house nearby. We all thought the Scream trilogy hammered the final nail in that cliched coffin. Lions Gate Films wouldn't show this one to critics before Friday's opening day, and nobody can blame it. The cast is mostly unknown, but small roles are available for (very) old, familiar faces, such as Karen Black (Five Easy Pieces), Michael J. Pollard (Bonnie and Clyde) and Sid Haig (the leering guy in several women-in-prison flicks from the 1970s). The R rating is due to "strong sadistic violence/gore, sexuality and language." What? No nudity? What kind of a headbanging anti-role model does Zombie think he is?

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