LOS ANGELES -- Harry Potter at Hogwarts, Frodo Baggins bound for Mordor, Hannibal Lecter in his nuthouse cell, Jean-Luc Picard on the bridge of the Enterprise, and James Bond in bed with Halle Berry.
Who says there are no sure bets in Hollywood?
Most fall films are uncertain commodities, but a handful have such built-in appeal, they can pretty much count their tickets before they're sold:
- "Red Dragon": Anthony Hopkins does diabolical killer Lecter in his early asylum days in a prequel to "Silence of the Lambs" and "Hannibal." Edward Norton stars as the FBI agent who captured Lecter and years later needs his help on a new case.
Though it's set years before the action of "Silence" and "Hannibal" and Hopkins is a decade older than when he first played the role, "he's one of the greatest actors ever. If you're looking at the wrinkles on his face, I'm not doing a very good job," said "Red Dragon" director Brett Ratner. "In the first five minutes, you may say, 'Yeah, he looks older,' but then you get into the story. Anthony Hopkins is Hannibal. Whether he looks younger or older, he's Hannibal Lecter."
- "Die Another Day": Agent 007 (Pierce Brosnan) beats up on villains as he pursues a mega-weapon. Brosnan said he and Berry share one of the steamiest Bond love scenes ever and that the movie is ripe with fond allusions to earlier 007 flicks.
"This particular film for any Bond aficionado will be a connoisseur's delight in terms of picking out lines used in other movies and paying certain homages to past films," Brosnan said. "I don't think it will disappoint when you have the beautiful Halle Berry coming out of the water" in a take on Ursula Andress in the first Bond movie, "Dr. No."
- "Star Trek: Nemesis": Patrick Stewart and the Enterprise crew find a nasty new enemy on a peace mission to the Romulans. For those subscribing to the theory that even-numbered "Trek" films are the best, this is No. 10.
"In two or three years (when an 11th "Trek" film is likely), I will pooh-pooh that theory, but for now, I'll hold on to it dearly," said producer Rick Berman. "This is probably the most action-packed and exciting, edgy and dark of the movies we have made. There's startling and shocking elements to it, and I would say we've probably got the best 'Star Trek' villain we've ever had (British actor Tom Hardy)."
As for the season's main events, need we say more than "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers"?
Blessed with lead-in films last year that each took in more than $300 million domestically, "Chamber of Secrets" and "Two Towers" are set to disprove the old Hollywood notion that audiences need a two- or three-year breather between blockbuster sequels.
"Conventional wisdom would be that 12 months is too close together to have a sequel," said Mark Ordesky, an executive producer of the three "Lord of the Rings" films. "But what's become evident with ours is that people are perceiving the films as what they are. Not sequels, but one giant, epic story told in three installments."
Since director Peter Jackson shot all three "Lord of the Rings" films simultaneously, fans can expect another dose of class and quality.
It doesn't hurt that J.R.R. Tolkien's saga of Middle-earth and a hobbit named Frodo has almost 50 years of built-in fandom, and that Jackson left audiences salivating for part two with last year's opening chapter, "The Fellowship of the Ring."
Likewise, 2001's top moneymaker, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," has fans itching for the next big-screen adaptation from J.K. Rowling's fantasy series about the boy wizard.
"Chamber of Secrets" director Chris Columbus, who also made "Sorcerer's Stone," said audiences can expect another two-and-a-half-hour adventure as Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) fights fresh evil at Hogwarts school.
Columbus found two big advantages this time. He could jump right in on the action, without the character set-up and scene-setting necessary in the first film. And he said "Chamber of Secrets" makes for a more visual tale - "I found it to be the most cinematic of all the books, except maybe 'Goblet of Fire."'
The action is buoyed by improved special effects, Columbus said, including a bigger and better round of quidditch, a game played on flying broomsticks, crafted by George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic effects house.
Inevitable blockbusters, the only question about "Chamber of Secrets" and "Two Towers" is where they will stack up on a 2002 box-office chart that already has produced a $400 million sensation in "Spider-Man" and a $300 million smash in "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones."
Beyond this fall's A-list, big new releases include Tim Allen's return as Kris Kringle in "The Santa Clause 2"; singer Eminem in the hip-hop drama "8 Mile"; "The Banger Sisters," a reunion tale between ex-rock groupie siblings (Susan Sarandon and Goldie Hawn); Sarandon, Dustin Hoffman, Holly Hunter and Jake Gyllenhaal in "Moonlight Mile," a comic drama about the aftermath of a bride-to-be's death; and Reese Witherspoon as a fashion designer coming to grips with her redneck roots in "Sweet Home Alabama."
There's Madonna as a rich snob marooned with a sexy sailor in "Swept Away," directed by her husband, Guy Ritchie; "Treasure Planet," Disney's animated sci-fi update of "Treasure Island"; Heath Ledger as a British officer out to prove his valor in "The Four Feathers"; Roberto Benigni's live-action version of "Pinocchio"; "Maid in Manhattan," a romance starring Jennifer Lopez and Ralph Fiennes; and an update of the 1960s TV show "I Spy," with Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson as mismatched agents.
"Eddie plays more his '48 Hours' and 'Beverly Hills Cop' Eddie. He's much rawer and looser and funnier than he's been in years," said "I Spy" director Betty Thomas. "Owen's more intellectual and subtle, and Eddie's so out there dangling ... We've got two scenes in the movie, I would challenge you to find two funnier scenes in any movie, ever."
Also upcoming are Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg's "Catch Me If You Can," a cat-and-mouse tale of a con man and a G-man; DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis and Cameron Diaz in Martin Scorsese's 1860s mob tale "Gangs of New York"; Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere in the musical "Chicago"; Zellweger, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robin Wright Penn and newcomer Alison Lohman in the mother-daughter drama "White Oleander"; Samuel L. Jackson in the misadventures of a drug designer in "Formula 51"; and Jackie Chan as a chauffeur-turned-spy in "The Tuxedo."
There's Jack Nicholson as a widower on a road trip of self-discovery in "About Schmidt"; George Clooney in Steven Soderbergh's sci-fi psychological drama "Solaris"; Denzel Washington's directing debut "Antwone Fisher," about a troubled sailor and his psychiatrist; Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep in the Hollywood tale "Adaptation," from the creators of "Being John Malkovich"; "The 25th Hour," Spike Lee's story of a prison-bound dope peddler (Edward Norton); the animated comedy "Adam Sandler's 8 Crazy Nights," with the "Mr. Deeds" star providing the three main voices; Robert De Niro as a homicide detective whose son is a murder suspect in "City By the Sea"; and De Niro and Billy Crystal with another mob couch trip in the sequel "Analyze That," as crime lord De Niro tries to go straight.
"I tend to never think sequel," said Harold Ramis, director of "Analyze This" and the new sequel. "I stayed out till I thought we really had a sound psychological notion to hang the story on. That's this notion of sociopathy. Can the criminal mind be changed?"
"Ironically, one of the straight jobs he gets is as a movie consultant to a TV show like 'The Sopranos,"' the HBO series about a mob boss in therapy.
Besides "8 Crazy Nights," Sandler has his own change in mind, branching out from teen-oriented humor in Paul Thomas Anderson's "Punch-Drunk Love," a comic romance co-starring Emily Watson. Sandler plays a man incapable of falling in love because of the emotional neutering he suffered growing up among seven cruel sisters.
"You might think, Adam Sandler and Emily Watson in the same movie?" said Watson, who also co-stars in "Red Dragon."
"I've sort of been in all these angst-ridden independent movies. I've died horribly a lot of times. And Adam's been a very different slice of the pie. He's still very charming and funny, all those things people love about him. But he's also gone quite daring. He's very layered. It feels very real, and Adam's incredibly romantic in this film."
FALL LINEUPLOS ANGELES -- Highlights of Hollywood's fall film lineup (release times may change, and some films play in limited release):
APOLLO 13: THE IMAX EXPERIENCE: Tom Hanks and Ron Howard's mission to the moon is relaunched for huge-screen IMAX theaters.
BALLISTIC: ECKS VS. SEVER: Rival agents (Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu) pursue a microscopic assassination device that's injected into victims.
THE BANGER SISTERS: Ex-rock groupie siblings (Susan Sarandon and Goldie Hawn) reunite after 20 years. With Geoffrey Rush.
BARBERSHOP: Ice Cube and Cedric the Entertainer lead an ensemble cast of oddballs at a struggling Chicago barbershop.
BIGGIE AND TUPAC: Documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield scrutinizes the deaths of rappers Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls.
CITY BY THE SEA: Robert De Niro as a homicide detective whose chief suspect on his latest case is his son (James Franco). Frances McDormand co-stars.
8 WOMEN: A French-language comic mystery about eight female suspects in the murder of a patriarch.
THE FOUR FEATHERS: A British officer (Heath Ledger) seeks redemption after his friends and fiancee brand him a coward.
A GUY THING: A prenuptial comedy of errors starring Jason Lee, Selma Blair and Julia Stiles.
IGBY GOES DOWN: A teen rebel (Kieran Culkin) goes AWOL from military school. Jeff Goldblum, Susan Sarandon, Bill Pullman and Claire Danes co-star.
IN PRAISE OF LOVE: Jean-Luc Godard's musing on love, about a director casting a film on the stages of romance: meeting, sexual passion, separation and rediscovery.
INVINCIBLE: Werner Herzog tells a 20th century Samson story about a Jewish vaudeville strongman who antagonizes the Nazis in 1930s Berlin. With Tim Roth.
JUST A KISS: A romantic comedy mixing live action and animation, featuring Marisa Tomei, Taye Diggs and Kyra Sedgwick.
MIYAZAKI'S SPIRITED AWAY: The latest animated tale from Hayao Miyazaki ("Princess Mononoke") follows a young girl in a fantasy land of spirits.
MOONLIGHT MILE: Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon, Holly Hunter and Jake Gyllenhaal in a story of a bereaved bridegroom who finds new love.
SECRETARY: Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader in a romance about a self-mutilating woman who goes to work for an ideally sadistic boss.
SKINS: Chris Eyre's followup to "Smoke Signals" examines fraternity and alcoholism among modern American Indians. With Graham Greene.
STEALING HARVARD: Jason Lee plays a moneyless uncle trying to make good on his pledge to pay his niece's college tuition.
SWEET HOME ALABAMA: A fashion designer (Reese Witherspoon) returns to her Deep South roots to shed the redneck hubby she married in high school.
SWIMFAN: An obsessive fan's fixation on a world-class swimmer leads to betrayal and violence.
THE TRANSPORTER: Luc Besson ("La Femme Nikita") co-wrote and co-produced this story of a mercenary hired to abduct the daughter of a Chinese crime lord.
TRAPPED: A couple (Charlize Theron and Stuart Townsend) and their daughter are victimized by kidnappers (Courtney Love and Kevin Bacon).
THE TUXEDO: Jackie Chan is a chauffeur turned into a super spy by his boss's magic tux. Jennifer Love Hewitt co-stars.
ABANDON: College life is tough for Katie Holmes, who faces exams, her thesis and a cop (Benjamin Bratt) investigating her boyfriend's disappearance.
ALL OR NOTHING: Director Mike Leigh ("Secrets & Lies") tells the tale of an old married couple in working-class London. Timothy Spall stars.
ALL THE QUEEN'S MEN: Matt LeBlanc in a comedic World War II tale about spies who dress in drag to steal a Nazi code machine from an all-female factory.
AUTO FOCUS: The life and sordid death of "Hogan's Heroes" star Bob Crane (Greg Kinnear). Willem Dafoe co-stars.
BLOODY SUNDAY: A dramatization of the bloodshed in Northern Ireland on Jan. 30, 1972, when 13 Catholic protesters were slain by British troops.
BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE: Filmmaker Michael Moore ("Roger and Me") has a go at America's gun culture.
BROWN SUGAR: Childhood pals (Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan) who discovered hip-hop together find romance as adults.
FORMULA 51: Samuel L. Jackson finds nothing but trouble in a scheme to introduce a new designer drug in Europe.
FRIDA: Julie Taymor, director of the stage version of "The Lion King," examines the life of artist Frido Kahlo. Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina and Geoffrey Rush star.
GHOST SHIP: Gabriel Byrne and Julianna Margulies get a lesson in horror when they lead salvagers onto a ship missing for 40 years.
THE GREY ZONE: Tim Blake Nelson directs a dark drama about Jews who aided in the Holocaust then rebelled at Auschwitz. With Mira Sorvino, Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel and David Arquette.
HANSEL & GRETEL: The Brothers Grimm fairy tale features Lynn Redgrave, Tom Arnold, Howie Mandel, Delta Burke and Sinbad.
HEAVEN: A Brit (Cate Blanchett) whose husband was victim of a drug overdose seeks justice in the narcotics underworld of Turin, Italy. Giovanni Ribisi co-stars.
[filtered word] THE MOVIE: Johnny Knoxville and his gang bring their insane stunts from the MTV series to the big screen.
JONAH: A VEGGIETALES MOVIE: Larry the Cucumber, Bob the Tomato and other talking vegetables from the TV show in an update of the Jonah and the whale tale.
KNOCKAROUND GUYS: John Malkovich, Vin Diesel and Barry Pepper in a tale of Brooklyn mobsters and a mislaid stash of cash in Montana.
LOVE IN THE TIME OF MONEY: The NASDAQ boom is the scene of an update of Arthur Schnitzler's play "Reigen," about a series of sexual rendezvous. With Steve Buscemi.
MADISON: A father-son drama about a boat racer (Jim Caviezel) along the Ohio River in 1971. With Bruce Dern, Mary McCormack and Jake Lloyd.
THE MAN FROM ELYSIAN FIELDS: A failed writer (Andy Garcia) takes a job at an escort service run by an elegant Brit (Mick Jagger). James Coburn and Anjelica Huston co-star.
PIPE DREAM: A depressed plumber stumbles into a film-directing gig after swiping a screenplay. With Martin Donovan, Mary-Louise Parker and Rebecca Gayheart.
POKEMON 4EVER: A new adventure for the animated "pocket monsters," who band together to save an endangered forest.
PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE: Adam Sandler and Emily Watson in a comic romance about a man emotionally gutted by his seven sisters. Paul Thomas Anderson ("Magnolia") directs.
REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES: A Mexican-American teen learns lessons in life and love while working in her sister's garment shop.
RED DRAGON: Anthony Hopkins serves his third meal as Hannibal Lecter in a prequel about the FBI agent (Edward Norton) who captured him.
THE RING: Naomi Watts stars in a remake of the Japanese hit about a sinister video whose viewers inevitably die within a week.
ROGER DODGER: A womanizer (Campbell Scott) trains his nephew in the art of seduction. With Isabella Rossellini.
THE RULES OF ATTRACTION: An adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' satiric novel about love and sex among the young and privileged.
SWEPT AWAY: Madonna and director hubby Guy Ritchie spin the tale of a spoiled rich woman who falls for a studly sailor when they're marooned on an island.
TEKNOLUST: Tilda Swinton plays four roles - a meek geneticist and her three idiosyncratic clones, who require sperm to survive.
THE TRUTH ABOUT CHARLIE: Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton channel Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in a remake of the crime caper "Charade." Directed by Jonathan Demme.
TUCK EVERLASTING: A girl with a hard home life stumbles on a family with a mysterious secret. With Sissy Spacek, William Hurt and Ben Kingsley.
WELCOME TO COLLINWOOD: George Clooney, William H. Macy and Luis Guzman lead an ensemble of lowlifes pursuing the perfect heist.
WHITE OLEANDER: Alison Lohman stars as a teen forced into foster homes after her mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) is jailed for murder.
ADAM SANDLER'S 8 CRAZY NIGHTS: Mr. Deeds goes animated in a cartoon comedy about a party animal sentenced to help ref a youth basketball league. Sandler provides the three lead voices.
ARARAT: Director Atom Egoyan ("The Sweet Hereafter") follows a modern family coping with its tragic Armenian past. The cast includes Christopher Plummer and Eric Bogosian.
BLUE CAR: David Strathairn and newcomer Agnes Bruckner in a drama about a neglected teen and her English teacher.
THE CORE: Aaron Eckhart and Hilary Swank journey to the center of the earth to fix a pesky core that threatens to destroy the atmosphere.
DIE ANOTHER DAY: Pierce Brosnan stars in James Bond's 20th movie escapade, battling villains with a high-tech weapon. Halle Berry co-stars.
8 MILE: Singer Eminem in a drama about an aspiring hip-hop artist in Detroit. Kim Basinger co-stars and Curtis Hanson ("Wonder Boys") directs.
THE EMPEROR'S CLUB: Kevin Kline is a classics professor soul-searching over his career when he's reunited with a troublesome former student.
FAR FROM HEAVEN: Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid in a portrait of false bliss and racial and sexual morals in 1950s suburbia. Todd Haynes ("Safe") directs.
FEMME FATALE: Brian De Palma's thriller stars Rebecca Romijn-Stamos as a seductress targeting a photographer (Antonio Banderas) whose photo could expose her dark past.
THE FRIDAY AFTER NEXT: The third "Friday" flick has pals Ice Cube and Mike Epps working as mall guards after their Christmas presents and rent money are stolen.
HALF PAST DEAD: Crooks storm newly reopened Alcatraz to force an inmate to reveal the location of a gold fortune. Undercover FBI guy Steven Seagal beats them up.
HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS: Boy wizard Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) saddles up his broomstick to face new dangers at Hogwarts school.
INTERVIEW WITH THE ASSASSIN: The neighbor of a down-and-out news cameraman claims he was the gunman on the grassy knoll who helped kill President Kennedy.
I SPY: The TV chestnut gets an update as a boxing champ (Eddie Murphy) and a CIA super-spy (Owen Wilson) are paired in a hunt for a missing stealth bomber.
PERSONAL VELOCITY: This year's top Sundance festival winner stars Parker Posey, Kyra Sedgwick and Fairuza Balk in a trilogy directed by Rebecca Miller from her short story collection.
PHONE BOOTH: A man (Colin Farrell) is trapped in a phone booth by a serial killer who rings up his victim and tells him he'll be shot if he hangs up.
THE SANTA CLAUSE 2: Tim Allen returns as jolly old St. Nick, who'll lose his Santa gig if he doesn't get married by Christmas Eve.
SOLARIS: George Clooney in a new adaptation of Stanislaw Lem's sci-fi novel about ghostly manifestations on a space station. Steven Soderbergh directs.
STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN: A documentary look at the jazz-rooted musicians who provided the backbone for the Motown sound. Andre Braugher narrates.
TREASURE PLANET: Disney's new animated adventure transplants Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island" into space.
THE WEIGHT OF WATER: Sean Penn headlines the story of a modern couple's rocky relationship juxtaposed against their obsession with a 19th century murder case.
ABOUT SCHMIDT: Jack Nicholson as a widowed insurance man reexamining his life on a road trip in a motor home. Alexander Payne ("Election") directs.
ADAPTATION: Nicolas Cage in a dual role as a movie writer and his no-good twin. Meryl Streep co-stars in the film that reunites the director and writer of "Being John Malkovich."
ANALYZE THAT: Mob boss Robert De Niro tries to go straight with help from his analyst (Billy Crystal) in a sequel to "Analyze This." Harold Ramis directs again.
ANTWONE FISHER: Denzel Washington directs and co-stars in the story of a violent sailor (Derek Luke) whose troubled childhood is unmasked through therapy.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN: Leonardo DiCaprio is a master deceiver pursued by an FBI agent (Tom Hanks) in Steven Spielberg's latest.
CHICAGO: Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere take on the musical about two imprisoned singers riding their crimes to scandalous fame.
CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND: Game-show personality Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell) "moonlights" as a CIA operative. Co-starring Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore and George Clooney, who also directs.
CONFIDENCE: Grifters plots an elaborate con to repay a debt to a crime boss. With Dustin Hoffman, Edward Burns, Andy Garcia and Rachel Weisz.
EVELYN: Pierce Brosnan as a 1950s Irishman fighting the Church and courts after his kids are put in orphanages. Bruce Beresford directs.
A FEW GOOD YEARS: Kirk Douglas, son Michael and other family members in a story of three generations of a New York City clan.
GANGS OF NEW YORK: Martin Scorsese spins a tale of 1860s mobsters and vengeance, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis and Cameron Diaz.
THE HOURS: The adaptation of the Pulitzer-winning novel weaves the tale of three women: a book editor (Meryl Streep), a California mom (Julianne Moore) and Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman).
THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE: A capital-punishment opponent (Kevin Spacey) lands on death row for the murder of another activist. Kate Winslet and Laura Linney co-star.
THE LION KING: The monarch of animated flicks is back in a new version for IMAX and other large-screen theaters.
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS: Frodo and friends return for more mythological mayhem in the middle chapter of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy epic.
MAID IN MANHATTAN: Jennifer Lopez scrubs hotel bathrooms as a maid wooed by a political heir (Ralph Fiennes).
MAX: An art gallery owner (John Cusack) in 1918 Munich becomes mentor for young artist Adolf Hitler (Noah Taylor). Leelee Sobieski co-stars.
NICHOLAS NICKLEBY: A big ensemble including Christopher Plummer, Jim Broadbent and Nathan Lane bring the Dickens classic to life.
THE PIANIST: Roman Polanski earned top honors at this year's Cannes Film Festival with the story of a Jewish musician who survived the Warsaw ghetto in World War II.
PINOCCHIO: Roberto Benigni ("Life Is Beautiful") directs and stars in a live-action take on the puppet yearning to become a boy.
STAR TREK: NEMESIS: Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the Enterprise encounter a deadly foe on a peace mission with the Romulans in the franchise's 10th big-screen voyage.
THE 25TH HOUR: Spike Lee directs the story of a prison-bound drug dealer (Edward Norton) on his last day of freedom.
TWO WEEKS NOTICE: Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant in a romance about a needy business mogul and his departing chief counsel.
THE WILD THORNBERRYS MOVIE: The animated TV family encounters elephant poachers in Africa. Voice talent includes Lynn Redgrave, Marisa Tomei and Rupert Everett.