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Guide to Summer Films

<i>The Perfect Storm</i>
The Perfect Storm

Action-Packed Blockbusters

Gone in 90 Minutes?

Back in the days when François Truffaut sat around complimenting the artistry of his favorite Hollywood directors, the beast known as the summer movie blockbuster had not yet fully reared its head to challenge his pet auteur theory. But nowadays, filmmaking by committee determines the look of most gargantu-budget monstrosities, in which producers -- not directors -- call the shots. For example, take this summer's four biggest action-packed blockbusters -- a sequel, a remake, a natural-disaster drama, and a Mel Gibson battle epic, each produced by some of the biggest names in the biz -- and just try to spot a new trick amongst them. Well, maybe we don't get a Revolutionary War movie every summer, but we can still guess the kind of over-the-top bonanza we'll get from the Roland Emmerich/Dean Devlin production team (Independence Day, Godzilla). With waves of computer-generated extras charging forth into full-scale battle mode, The Patriot (June 30) stars Gibson as a colonial militiaman who stripes those dastardly redcoats with a familiar-sounding lesson: They may threaten our families, but they'll never take away our freedom!

We can always count on the summer-movie testosterone crew to make everything bigger, louder, and longer. The recently released Mission: Impossible 2 looks promising, with producer/star Tom Cruise teaming with Beloved beauty Thandie Newton and hauling the inimitable John Woo onboard to direct. Woo is so slick, he can give audiences whiplash using only slo-mo photography, which only begins to suggest the kind of trouble agent Ethan Hunt (stranded Down Under and answering to Anthony Hopkins this time around) faces off with when the camera's running full-speed. But if it's speed that you crave, stay tuned for the obligatory summer Jerry Bruckheimer (Armageddon) movie, a remake of 1974's car-thievin' classic Gone in 60 Seconds (June 9) that promises to reinstate the lost art of the car chase. In what could prove to be the ultimate motion picture, Nicolas Cage plays leader of the pack to a car-jacking gang (that includes Angelina Jolie, Giovanni Ribisi, and Delroy Lindo) racing against the clock to deliver 50 hotrods in one night. Or else. Facing even greater odds are George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and crew in the real-life "six men and a monsoon" movie The Perfect Storm (June 30), from producer/director Wolfgang Petersen (Air Force One, In the Line of Fire) and written by Austinite Bill Wittliff from the Sebastian Junger bestseller. Considering Petersen's success with the German U-boat adventure Das Boot, it's safe to assume the film can stay afloat where others have been lost at sea.

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