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Xpress, the Coolest Section of the St. Petersburg Times, is the home for features, news and views of interest to young readers. Most of the work in Xpress, which appears on Mondays in Floridian, is produced by the Times' X-Team. The team of journalists ages 9-17 from around the Tampa Bay area is selected every year at the end of the school year to serve during the following school term. The current team of 12 was chosen out of 150 applicants. Watch for X-Team application forms in Xpress during the month of May.


Read the reviews by Xpress Film Critic Billy Norris


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Hot prospects

Summer films will be in a heated competition with the impressive Shrek 2, but here are a few that aren't likely to be green with envy at the ogre's success.

By BILLY NORRIS
Published May 24, 2004

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Warner Bros. Pictures
New dangers in the form of an escaped wizard who has come to Hogwarts to get Harry must be met by Professor Severus Snape (Alan Rickman, center) and the three friends, from left, Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
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[Twentieth Century Fox ]
Garfield
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[Columbia Pictures]
Spider-Man 2
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[Warner Bros. Pictures]
A Cinderella Story

Billy Norris
Read the reviews by Xpress Film Critic Billy Norris

Now that Shrek 2 has hit the ground running, it will be interesting to watch possible blockbusters, promising sequels and probable bombs vie for the attention of summer audiences. This sunny season holds much in store for us in the way of high budget, highly anticipated cinematic gold.

You will have to stay on your toes to keep up with the fast pace of this summer's releases, but you definitely will be rewarded with some first-class movie experiences.

The following are my predictions for the films most likely to stay in the race against that lovable green ogre. (All opening dates are subject to change.)

The Day After Tomorrow (PG-13), starring Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal (scheduled to open Friday): This is 2004's big-budget disaster offering (no, Will Smith is not in this one) and comes from writer-director-disaster film master Roland Emmerich (who also wrote and directed Independence Day). Global warming finally takes a catastrophic toll on the earth and begins to cause massive natural disasters. Dr. Jack Hall (Quaid) is a climatologist who claims to have a way to stop the apocalypse, and he sets out to reverse it while trying to reach his son, Sam (Gyllenhaal), in New York.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (PG), starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Gary Oldman (June 4): This is the third installment in the young wizard's adventures, based on J.K. Rowling's novels. Harry (Radcliffe), now in his third year at Hogwarts, has learned of a wizard name Sirius Black (Oldman). Sirius was once a highly guarded prisoner at Azkaban, but he has escaped. What Harry isn't aware of is that Sirius escaped to come after him.

The Stepford Wives (not yet rated), starring Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Christopher Walken, Glenn Close, Bette Midler (June 11): This is a more comedic take on the original '70s flick of the same name. Joanna (Kidman) has moved to the suburban community of Stepford with her husband (Broderick). She immediately notices a strange artificiality and lack of personality in all of her female neighbors, except one named Bobbie (Midler), whom she befriends. They discover together that these wives have all been replaced by cyborgs that perform without any hassle all the tasks their husbands want. Will Bobbie and Joanna be next?

Garfield: The Movie (NR), starring Bill Murray, Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt (June 11): Finally, everyone's favorite fat orange tabby is making an appearance on the big screen. Garfield (voice of Academy Award nominee Murray) is quite jealous when Jon Arbuckle (Meyer) adopts that gullible yellow mutt, Odie, into the family. Odie is kidnapped, and Garfield overcomes his jealousy, setting out to save his fellow house pet.

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (PG-13), starring Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, Christine Taylor (June 18): In what promises to be a hilarious outing, a group of oddballs enters a Las Vegas dodgeball tournament to save a local gym from being taken over by a corporate fitness franchise. If you mix Old School, Zoolander, and throw in a little bit of Meet the Parents, you'll probably come out with something similar to this goofy flick.

Around the World in 80 Days (PG), starring Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Kathy Bates, Arnold Schwarzenegger (June 16): This comedic version of the novel employs Chan's martial arts skills and adept stunt work to give it a twist that Jules Verne never could have imagined. Set in 1872, Passepartout (Chan) is a fugitive who teams up with a London inventor named Phileas Fogg (Coogan). Fogg has made a bet that he can make it around the world in 80 days, and seeking refuge in the fact that they will be constantly on the move, Passepartout goes along. His job is to use his karate to defend Fogg artfully along the way.

Spider-Man 2 (PG-13), starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina, James Franco (June 30): Peter Parker (Maguire) is now tormented as he tries to keep his alter ego, the crime-fighting Spider-Man, a secret from those closest to him while attempting to maintain a somewhat normal existence. But after defeating the Green Goblin, the alter ego of his best friend's dad, in the first film, all was not calm. He knows Harry Osborn (Franco) is seeking revenge against Spider-Man for the death. He also faces a new villain - Dr. Otto Octavius (Molina), a mad scientist who is on a mission to obliterate Spider-Man and take over the world using his new mechanical creation - Doctor Octopus.

King Arthur (NR), starring Keira Knightley, Clive Owen (July 7): This epic film, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl), takes the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table beyond the legend by depicting the government and civilization, circa 450 A.D. as accurately as possible.

Anchorman (PG-13), starring Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate (July 9): In the mid 1970s, Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) is the hottest anchorman in Portland. But when he is pitted against a female newscaster who is actually a knowledgeable journalist (Applegate), he starts to realize that his good looks aren't everything.

A Cinderella Story (PG), starring Hilary Duff, Chad Michael Murray (July 16): This is exactly what the title suggests - a modern Cinderella story that stars Duff as the downtrodden Sam, who is living under the strict control of her evil stepmother.

The Bourne Supremacy (NR), starring Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Julia Stiles (July 23): A followup to the cleverly done The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy is just as intricate, possibly even more so. The plot involves two nations, China and the United States, on the brink of war because of the theft of (the CIA created) James Bourne's identity and the assassination of an extremely important member of the Chinese government. If I got much more detailed than that, your head would be spinning.

Catwoman (PG-13), starring Halle Berry, Sharon Stone, Benjamin Bratt (July 23): This one is suggestive of a female version of Spider-Man. Berry portrays a woman endowed with all the finely tuned senses of a feline, and she becomes a crime-fighter extraordinaire. But her powers push her too far, and she toes the line between villain and hero.

Collateral (NR), starring Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx (Aug. 6): This one stars Foxx as a failed comedy writer-turned cabdriver named Max. He picks up Vincent (Cruise), one fare he wishes he never had encountered, who turns out to be a serial hit man. Max has to figure out how to stop Vincent from killing another witness and, more important, from killing him.

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (NR), starring Julie Andrews, Anne Hathaway, Heather Matarazzo (Aug. 11): This sequel should prove to be a popular choice among younger female and family audiences because there aren't many films of this genre scheduled for release this summer. The Princess Diaries was G-rated, so when this one receives a rating, I expect it to be the same.

Cellular (NR), starring Kim Basinger, Jason Statham, Chris Evans (Aug. 20): A young man (Evans) receives a call on his cellular phone from a woman (Basinger) who says she's been kidnapped (by Statham's character). She thinks she's going to be killed soon, along with her husband and son, whom the kidnappers have targeted next. The phone owner wants to help, but the caller has no clue about where she is, and his phone battery is running on fumes.

[Last modified May 21, 2004, 14:28:11]

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