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Killing Bill, Christ, and many more 

We're going to break from movie preview dogma a little bit here. Usually, I refuse to write about sequels or remakes. But one of each will be discussed in the following.

          I don't know what to call Quentin Tarantino's second installment of Kill Bill, since it's both a sequel (technically) to Vol. 1 and a remake (of every Shaw brothers' wuxia film), so feel free to categorize that any way you deem fit. And then there's Gus Van Sant's Elephant, which in a way is a remake of the Columbine tragedy.

          But I draw the line at previewing Starsky and Hutch, even though I still want to see it really badly.

Kill Bill, Vol. 2

Release date: February 20

The skinny: We know the Bride (Uma Thurman) was beaten, shot, and left for dead by her former coworkers, and that she managed to off two of them after waking from a four-year coma. Vol. 2 will, presumably, pit the Bride against Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), Budd (Michael Madsen), and the eponymous Bill (David Carradine).

Target audience: People who like the Shaw brothers, spaghetti westerns, and gallons of spurting blood.

Blockbuster potential: The first film didn't exactly set the world on fire, but the word of mouth was strong, and it's appearing on a lot of critics' top-ten lists (this one included). In other words, moderate.

Oscar contender? There's a reason Bill's halves were released in two different years. In other words, yes.

The Passion of Christ

Release date: February 25

The skinny: Everyone already has an opinion about Mel Gibson's directorial follow-up to the Oscar-winning Braveheart, and the loudest voices belong to those who haven't even seen it yet. Jim Caviezel plays Jesus Christ, and the film shows the last 12 hours of the carpenter's life.

Target audience: People with open minds who are able to separate movies from reality. Also, people who enjoy subjecting themselves to things they know will upset them.

Blockbuster potential: Of the aforementioned target audience, there aren't a lot of the former, but latter might make up for it. Should be mixed.

Oscar contender? If it's really as anti-Semitic as everyone thinks it will be, then probably not.

Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights

Release date: February 27

The skinny: This is the part of the movie preview where I pick the stupidest-sounding movie on the schedule, and this time the "winner" is this sequel to the Patrick Swayze-Jennifer Grey blight on humanity. Or is it a remake? Who cares, so long as there are two attractive young people who dance, dance, dance the night away?

Target audience: Imbeciles and ultramaroons.

Blockbuster potential: You know the dopes who saw the original? They're coming back, and they're bringing their kids with them this time.

Oscar contender? Not unless they invent a new category called Best Dumb Idea.

Spartan

Release date: March 12

The skinny: Writer-director David Mamet (Heist) is back with yet another taut thriller revolving around double crosses and William H. Macy. Val Kilmer plays a secret agent who must liberate the president's daughter from a group of kidnappers. But are things that simple? With Mamet, you can bet they won't be.

Target audience: Anyone who hasn't eaten rat poison after reading about Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.

Blockbuster potential: Slim. Kilmer hasn't had a hit in so long, it hurts.

Oscar contender? Mamet is always a threat for his screenplays.

Jersey Girl

Release date: March 19

The skinny: Stop thinking of it as another Gigli-ish Ben-and-Jen movie. Instead, herald this film as the latest Kevin Smith offering (and when was the last time he let you down?). Affleck is a publicist in the music business whose life as he knows it comes to a screeching halt when he spawns with Lopez.

Target audience: Kevin Smith fans who aren't frightened away by the presence of J.Lo.

Blockbuster potential: Don't count on it.

Oscar contender: Unlikely.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Release date: March 19

The skinny: Screenwriter-of-the-century Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) returns with another wacky story, this one directed by his Human Nature helmer, Michel Gondry. Jim Carrey plays a guy who decides to have his girlfriend (Kate Winslet) erased from his memory, only to change his mind and "smuggle" his recollections into odd parts of his brain.

Target audience: The hip and the edgy.

Blockbuster potential: Too weird to be a hit.

Oscar contender? A sure screenplay candidate.

The Ladykillers

Release date: March 26

The skinny: Those wacky Coen brothers remake the 1955 comedy about a criminal genius (Tom Hanks) who attempts to tunnel from a rented room in a New Orleans house to a riverboat casino for purposes of robbery. But his frail old landlady (Irma P. Hall) has other ideas.

Target audience: Fans of somewhat sophisticated comedy.

Blockbuster potential: Moderate.

Oscar contender? The Coens haven't been in the big race for a while, but nobody can get filmmakers on track like Hanks.

At the arthouse

The Triplettes of Belleville

Release date: January 30

The skinny: A surefire Oscar nominee and Finding Nemo's only real competition in the best animated Picture category, this French import blends musicians, dancers, kidnapping, dogs, and the Tour de France into a film Roger Ebert called "creepy, eccentric, eerie, flaky, freaky, funky, grotesque, inscrutable, kinky, kooky, magical, oddball, spooky, uncanny, uncouth, and unearthly."

RIYL (recommended if you like): Ebert also said he couldn't think of another film like it.

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons of Robert S. McNamara

Release date: TBD

The skinny: Documentarian Errol Morris points his amazing interrotron at former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and gets all kinds of interesting information about Vietnam, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the firebombing of Japan during World War II.

RIYL: American politics, history, or Morris's unique and fascinating documentary style.

Monster

Release date: TBD

The skinny: Charlize Theron dons 25 pounds and lots of unflattering makeup to portray Aileen Wuornos --- this country's first female serial killer --- in this biopic that is blessed with a plumb lead performance and not much else. Christina Ricci costars as --- what else? --- an irritating, morally ambiguous person!

RIYL: Gritty performances in empty films.

The Company

Release date: TBD

The skinny: Fresh from closing night at the High Falls Film Festival, Robert Altman's latest is a fly-on-the-wall drama set in Chicago's Joffrey Ballet Company, where a young dancer (Neve Campbell, a former ballet star in real life) is given the lead role in a new production. Malcolm McDowell plays the hammy company director.

RIYL: Steven Soderbergh films, the French documentary To Be and to Have.

Osama

Release date: TBD

The skinny: Another High Falls vet, as well as a triple Cannes winner, Afghanistan's official entry to the Oscars, and the first post-Taliban film to be made in that country. It's about a young girl who is forced to chop off her hair, ditch her burqa, and pretend she's a boy in order to earn money to feed her family (her male relatives are all dead from the various wars).

RIYL: Seeing what questionable foreign policy can lead to.

Elephant

Release date: TBD

The skinny: Gus Van Sant won the Golden Palm and Best Director at Cannes for what amounts to a graphic re-creation of the Columbine massacre. It's one of the most overrated films of 2003, so I guess it makes sense that Elephant edged out the even more overrated Mystic River at Cannes.

RIYL: Shots of teenagers walking in slow motion.

Monsieur Ibrahim

Release date: TBD

The skinny: Little Momo doesn't get along with his nasty father, so he strikes up a friendship with a Turkish shopkeeper (Omar Sharif) who takes the teenage Parisian under his wing and introduces him to a glorious and magical world of flying carpets and filling the cherry Squishy machine.

RIYL: Heartwarming dramas about grown men befriending young boys, but not taking them to their creepy Neverland ranch.

At the Dryden

The Dryden Theatre has something for everyone this winter, whether you're looking for Super Bowl counter programming (the six-hour La Commune on February 1), allegedly anti-American shorts from the world's top filmmakers (11'09"01 on January 31), a slew of Beatles flicks (continuing through January and February), seven Elia Kazan movies (throughout March), and pairs of films from Lars Von Trier, Alfred Hitchcock, and Russ Meyer.

          The Dryden will also screen Rochester premieres of Claire Denis's Friday Night (February 13), Rolf de Heer's controversial Alexandra's Project (March 13), Alex Proyas's Garage Days (March 19), and the Dardenne's Cannes-winning Rosetta (March 26). When Mark Moskowitz visits on February 21, he'll unspool his critically acclaimed Stone Reader.

In This Guide...

    Winter Guide 2004

    Don't forget the wonder
    It's just too easy to sit around and lament Rochester's winter weather. We all live here; we know how cold and snowy it is outside.

    Going to great speeds to enjoy nature

    It wasn't a smart decision, and deep down Darrell Dietrich had to know that. But the idea of snowmobiling for a few days at his family's campsite was just so alluring that no ferocious snowstorm --- not even one that dumped four feet of snow in a matter of hours --- was going to cancel the family fun.

    Listen and you will hear

    Eastman School of Music Eastman Wind Ensemble, Fri, Jan 23, Jim Pugh, trombone, Mark Davis Scatterday, conductor. | Sun, Jan 25, Zvi Zeitlin, violin, Barry Snyder, piano, the Amernet String Quartet, 3 p.m.

    Winter blues? Stuff it.

    I know I'm not alone in my post-holiday hangover, a mixture of queasiness brought on by the credit card bills rolling in and stress from all the extra stuff I now have to find room for. Despite the fact that fifty-four percent of consumers started the season paying off credit card debt, polls showed that we still planned to increase our holiday spending by more than six percent.

    Six ways to celebrate winter

    Our winter scene breeds Scrooges if left to its own devices. Prizes like the Golden Snowball Award, an unofficial prize given last year to the Upstate city with the highest snowfall, bring only a small smile amidst snow heaps, icy winds, and flu strains.

    There’s a whole wide world out there

    The calendars in City Newspaper will keep you apprised of event details and updates on a weekly basis. But here is an outline of important winter happenings to help you sketch out in advance your personal must-do and must-see lists.

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