Scott's World -- UPI Arts & Entertainment

By VERNON SCOTT, United Press International  |  Dec. 17, 2001 at 4:27 PM
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HOLLYWOOD, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Three months following the Sept. 11 terrorist atrocities, Hollywood has rebounded with its customary optimism in a year-end deluge of worthwhile movies.

This December's profusion of top-notch movies will propel the industry out of its year-long doldrums and the trauma following the terrorist attacks.

Box-office business is brisk nationwide as moviegoers are drawn back to theaters to see entertaining films with big time casts.

This weekend Tom Cruise yet again exercised his box-office muscle with "Vanilla Sky" ranking No.1 at the turnstiles, justifying his $25 million salary.

The edgy drama opened in 2,742 theaters and matched Cruise's salary.

Two other superstars kept the cash registers humming for "Ocean's Eleven," thanks to the star power of George Clooney and Julia Roberts, who command $20 million per picture themselves.

"Ocean's Eleven" was No. 1 the previous week and dropped to No. 2, while newcomer "Not Another Teen Movie" opened as No. 3 with a take estimated at $13 million.

"Ali," starring Will Smith as Muhammad Ali, is scheduled to open Christmas Day, further enriching theater owners, in time to qualify for Academy Award consideration.

"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" is still out there setting financial records, which will gather new momentum next week when school kids are on vacation.

Meanwhile a parcel of other pictures are filling theaters nationwide:

"Behind Enemy Lines," with Gene Hackman and Owen Wilson, is an action-packed war thriller with surprising military complexities.

Hackman also stars in "The Royal Tenenbaums" with a superb cast that includes Danny Glover, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray and Gwyneth Paltrow. The plot involves the comedy/drama of a genius-filled family in crisis.

"Black Hawk Down," another pulse-pounding story of men at war, is set in Somalia with aching realism of peace-keeping forces overrun by insurgents.

On a lighter note is "Kate & Leopold," a fantasy flick starring a contemporary girl (Meg Ryan) in love with a man (Hugh Jackman) from a previous century combining romance and laughter.

Yet to open are a couple of powerhouse dramas that promise to land in the Top 10 before year's end.

Sure to score high is "A Beautiful Mind,' starring Russell Crowe, last year's Oscar winner for his performance in "Gladiator," and Jennifer Connelly.

Also destined to keep cash boxes full is "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," Tolkien's classic filled with spectacle, heraldry and breathtaking vistas never seen on screen before.

The cast, too, is outstanding with Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett and John Rhys-Davies. They are matchless in their roles in a landmark film.

Coming to theaters before the Oscar deadline, too, is comedian Jim Carrey's new comedy/drama "The Majestic" in which he plays a '50s black-listed screenwriter who suffers amnesia.

Once more Carrey combines his flair for comedy with a touching mix of drama and romance that makes "The Majestic" appealing to all age groups.

God forbid a month should pass without an animated feature for the kiddies, which accounts for the release this week of "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius."

Adults intent on maintaining their sanity would be well advised to hang out in the theater lobby munching goodies and reading a good book while their offspring ooh and ahh over the special effects. But it will make money. A lot of money.

There are other, better, inducements to be sure. One is "The Shipping News" with a super talented cast: Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore, Judi Dench and the very busy Cate Blanchett.

It opens Christmas day and involves a diminished newspaperman who returns to his bleak origins in Newfoundland with his daughter to establish a new life -- with unexpected consequences amid dramatic circumstances.

Blanchett, the most in-demand actress in recent memory, stars in "Charlotte Gray," the story of an ordinary woman cast into a romantic whirlwind during World War II. Her love results in life-threatening peril when she seeks to find her love missing in action.

Not in years have so many worthwhile movies been crowded into such a short time frame.

One could spend the next two weeks in theaters spellbound by knockout new releases, including "Amelie from Montmartre," starring perhaps the most arresting new actress in the business, Audrey Tautou, who plays the title role.

Tautou's performance is the most beguiling since another French waif, Leslie Caron, captured the hearts of men around the world 50 years ago.

As if this festival of movie riches were not enough, other outstanding 2001 films are still showing:

"The Affair of the Necklace," "Life as a House," "The Business of Strangers," "Spy Game," "The Deep End," "In The Bedroom," "Iris" and "Bridget Jones's Diary."

The holidays not withstanding, 'tis the season for adults to see movies; all of them well worth seeing.

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