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Spring Forward

Early films for '04


Out of the 50 motion picture titles that appeared in CL's 2003 Spring Film Preview around this time last year, five were subsequently released during later seasons (including My Baby's Mama, which was delayed for nine months and finally opened this past weekend under the title My Baby's Daddy). Another three opened in limited release but never trickled down to Charlotte, one ended up going straight to video, and two have been placed back on the shelves after an embarrassing number of aborted release dates.

In other words, before perusing the following checklist of 57 flicks slated for spring release, go ahead and accept the fact that some of these movies will suddenly evaporate between now and the start of the summer season, with their final fate a mystery to everyone but their respective studios' top brass.

JANUARY 16: A jilted fiance (Ben Stiller) who decides to avoid any semblance of risk in his life makes the mistake of dating a reckless thrill seeker (Jennifer Aniston) in the romantic comedy ALONG CAME POLLY, co-starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Alec Baldwin . . . The grand prize winner at last year's Cannes Film Festival, ELEPHANT is director Gus Van Sant's fictionalized take on the Columbine shootings . . . One of the best films of 2003, MONSTER stars Charlize Theron in an Oscar-worthy turn as real-life killer Aileen Wuornos . . . Based on the short-lived TV series, Disney's animated TEACHER'S PET relates the adventures of a dog who's been turned into a human (voiced by Nathan Lane) . . . Last January gave us Biker Boyz; this year, we get TORQUE, in which a biker (Martin Henderson) falsely accused of murder tries to remain one step ahead of the gang leader (Ice Cube) whose brother he supposedly killed.

JANUARY 23: A troubled young man (Ashton Kutcher) discovers that by accessing the journals he had kept during his teen years, he's able to travel back to that period of time and alter the course of his life in the thriller THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT . . . A group of FBI trainees (including Val Kilmer, Christian Slater and LL Cool J) learns that there's a killer in their midst in MINDHUNTERS, a Ten Little Indians variation written by Wayne Kramer (whose enjoyable 2003 effort The Cooler should reach Charlotte at some point in "04) . . . Topher Grace competes against his That "70s Show co-star Ashton Kutcher this weekend by starring in WIN A DATE WITH TAD HAMILTON!, a comedy in which a small-town girl (Kate Bosworth) lands a date with a Hollywood hunk (Josh Duhamel), much to the dismay of a classmate (Grace) who's in love with her.

JANUARY 30: THE BIG BOUNCE, an adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel that was previously filmed in 1969 (with Ryan O'Neal and Leigh Taylor-Young), stars Owen Wilson as a drifter who ends up in Hawaii and finds his loyalty torn between various characters; Morgan Freeman, Gary Sinise and Willie Nelson co-star . . . Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth) discovers his muse in a young maid (Scarlett Johansson) in the interesting period drama GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, already in limited release elsewhere . . . Six teenagers (including Swimfan's Erika Christensen), objecting to the role of the SATs in student placement, attempt to sabotage the system at their high school in the long-delayed THE PERFECT SCORE . . . Various real-life musicians, including members of IMX and B2K, headline YOU GOT SERVED, a look into the world of street dancing.

FEBRUARY 6: BARBERSHOP 2, a sequel to the $75 million hit from 2002, finds most of the original cast (including Ice Cube and scene-stealing Cedric the Entertainer) returning for another go-round of spirited discussions at the community mainstay . . . In order to raise funds for an ailing parent, three teens decide to rob a bank in CATCH THAT KID . . . The true story of the 1980 US Olympic hockey team that improbably beat the Soviet squad is recounted in MIRACLE, starring Kurt Russell as the team's coach and The Station Agent's Patricia Clarkson as his wife . . . Finding Nemo earned plenty of kudos last year, but an even better animated feature from 2003 is THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE (presently in limited release), a bizarre French import about an elderly woman who teams up with three has-been singers to rescue her cyclist son from mobsters.

FEBRUARY 13: Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore were so likable together in The Wedding Singer that they've finally been re-teamed for 50 FIRST DATES, in which a veterinarian meets the woman of his dreams, only to learn that her short-term memory loss means that she doesn't remember him after each encounter.

FEBRUARY 20: In the Cut didn't revitalize her career as she had hoped, so Meg Ryan tries again with AGAINST THE ROPES, the story (loosely based on fact) of a female boxing manager and her relationship with a promising fighter (Omar Epps) . . . From some of the people who brought us Road Trip (moan) and The Cat In the Hat (groan) comes the comedy EUROTRIP, about an American dweeb (Scott Mechlowicz) who, after learning that his longtime German pen pal (Jessica Bohrs) is a girl and not a male as he had long assumed (moan and groan), embarks on an international jaunt to meet her in the flesh . . . With Vol. 1 fading fast after a strong opening, Quentin Tarantino doubtless hopes enough people have remained interested to make KILL BILL VOL. 2 a resounding success. Uma Thurman stars as the vengeance-seeking bride, with David Carradine (as Bill) guaranteed to rack up more screen time than he did in the first half.

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