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Movies 25/08/2001

Weekend Movies: Winding down the summer, typically

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In a typical end-of-summer move, Hollywood's studios have loaded theaters with five new movies this week, ranging from romantic comedy ``Summer Catch'' to the very unromantic ``Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.''
Those movies join controversial coming-of-age comedy ''Bubble Boy'' and ``John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars'' in being aimed at teens and college kids before they head back to school this fall. The studios follow a similar strategy every year. But in a bit of counterprogramming for adults, Woody Allen's ``The Curse of the Jade Scorpion'' also hits theaters.

Of the group, ``Summer Catch'' packs the most promotional heat. Teen heartthrob Freddie Prinze, Jr. plays a college-age baseball pitcher, Ryan, trying to make it into the major leagues and team up with Jessica Biel of TV's ``7th Heaven.''
Prinze has starred in several of these youthful, romantic comedies in recent years -- ``She's All That,'' ``Head Over Heels,'' ``Boys and Girls'' -- but he's not worried about being typecast. ``It hasn't affected me with directors, and the way they look at my work,'' he said in recent interviews.

For her part, Biel, 19, said she was delighted to play college senior Tenley, torn between a job in San Francisco, graduate school, or a home run with hunky Ryan.
``This is more mature than most of the teeny scripts I get. (Tenley) just wasn't a 17 year-old cheerleader,'' said Biel. The pitch on PG-13 ``Summer Catch'' is that it's Tenley who chases Ryan around the diamond. The boys just want to play ball and hopefully lay claim to a major league contract, and the girls, well, they just want to have fun.


Having fun is what ``Jay and Silent Bob'' is all about. Director Kevin Smith of ``Chasing Amy'' fame says, ``You'd be hard-pressed to find a message.''
The two characters Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) show up repeatedly in Smith's movies as twentysomething slackers with little to do except hang out and smoke dope.
In ``Strike Back,'' the two learn that a movie featuring two comic book characters based on them is being made in Hollywood. But the film deal was brokered behind their backs, so they head west seeking revenge, or a paycheck, whichever comes first.

The R-rated flick is a typical road trip for buddies who smoke pot, learn the sex-filled rules of hitching rides, smoke pot, become pawns in a diamond robbery by four gorgeous jewel thieves, smoke pot and then finally wind up in Tinseltown.

Also in the vein of ``road movie'' comes ``Bubble Boy,'' in which Jimmy (Jake Gyllenhaal), whose immune system disorder has forced him to live in a germ-free environment all his life, falls for the girl next door, Chloe (Marley Shelton).
When he finds out she's getting married in only a few days, he fashions a plastic ``bubble suit,'' leaves the safety of this ''bubble room'' and heads to Niagara Falls to stop the wedding.

Outside parental boundaries for the first time, Jimmy hooks up with bikers, rock stars, cult members and others who help him determine how his bubble fits in the world.
On its surface, PG-13 ``Bubble Boy'' may seem like a typical coming-of-age comedy, but it has prompted groups that represent people with chronic immune disorders to lash out against the movie's distributor, the Walt Disney Co., with a letter-writing and media campaign.


Action fans have a film of their own this week -- ``John Carpenter's Ghost of Mars.'' The director is known as a master of horror. But he's also no stranger to action (''Escape From New York'') or science-fiction (''Starman''), so it would seem fairly typical to package all three into one R-rated ``Ghost of Mars.''
By 2176, Mars has been colonized by humans and some 640,000 people live and work there, mining the planet for its natural resources. But at one mine, a long-dormant Martian civilization is freed from its resting place and unleashed on the humans.

Lt. Melanie Ballard (Natasha Henstridge) of the Mars Police Force and notorious criminal James ``Desolation'' Williams (Ice Cube) team up to stop the Martians.
While it may be atypical to put a Woody Allen movie out amid an end-of-summer run at younger moviegoers, ``Curse of the Jade Scorpion'' is a fairly typical Allen film. Set in 1940, Allen plays a sleuthing insurance detective, C.W. Briggs, who's at odds with a new efficiency expert his boss has hired. She is Betty Ann Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt).
When the two of them are hypnotized by a criminal-minded nightclub magician, they find themselves unwittingly stealing jewelry from the insurance companies' wealthiest clients.

The PG-13 rated comedy will likely not go down as a classic Woody Allen film. Then again, it's been a fairly typical summer, so why change now?

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