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Hollywood clears the decks

By STEVE PERSALL
Published April 26, 2007


Hollywood is running a closeout sale, clearing studio shelves of movies that can't compete with Spidey, Shrek and Capt. Jack Sparrow when the blockbuster season begins next week.

First is Next (PG-13), starring the increasingly undependable Oscar winner Nicolas Cage as Las Vegas magician Cris Johnson, whose act depends on his ability to see a few minutes into the future. Guessing which playing card an audience member picks is easy; using his power to thwart a terrorist plot will be the big finish to director Lee Tamahori's movie.

Should-be Oscar winner Julianne Moore co-stars as government agent Callie Farris, who's aware of Cris' gift/curse. She wants him to assist in capturing terrorists who plan to detonate a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles. Jessica Biel is also in the cast, since every movie needs someone to grab the teen crowd.

Next is Tamahori's first release since his bizarre arrest for allegedly offering sex-for-payment to an undercover Hollywood police officer while dressed in drag. The prostitution charge was dropped when Tamahori pleaded no contest to criminal trespassing and received three years probation.

A review of Next will be published Friday on Page 2B.

Professional wrestler "Stone Cold" Steve Austin stars in The Condemned (R), a story of reality television gone bonkers (or bonkier).

Austin plays Jack Conrad, an American on death row in a Central American prison. Jack is purchased by a television producer planning a new series. He'll compete against nine other condemned prisoners in an ultimate game of Survivor on an island wired for worldwide Web and TV broadcast. Last man breathing wins his freedom.

The Condemned was screened too late for Weekend review.

Also opening unseen is The Invisible (PG-13), a supernatural thriller that ads proclaim is "from the producers of The Sixth Sense." A lot of folks liked that movie and no doubt interpret that ad claim as guaranteeing the same kind of experience.

In reality, The Invisible is merely another Spyglass Entertainment production being released by Disney. Spyglass also produced Memoirs of a Geisha, Mr. 3000 and The Pacifier, so marketers could just as easily throw in those connections.

The Invisible stars Justin Chatwin (The Chumscrubber) as Nick Powell, a murder victim in movie limbo, able to walk among the living, who can't see him. Nick seeks his killer, finding an ally in Annie Newton (Margarita Levieva), a ghost whose death was caused by her neglectful mother.

Academy Award winner Marcia Gay Harden co-stars as Nick's worried mother. Funny, nobody talked about this role during her recent tributes at the Sarasota Film Festival.

Last and probably least among the movies not screened in advance is Kickin' It Old Skool (PG-13), starring Jamie Kennedy in a sorta-sequel to Malibu's Most Wanted, as if we needed one.

Once again, Kennedy gets to play a white kid with a hip-hop heart, although it almost stopped beating 20 years ago. A break-dancing accident left his character, Justin Schumacher, in a coma. When he awakens, Justin begins a quest to reunite his crew and win a dance contest by busting old moves. Isn't that exactly what anyone would do in such circumstances?