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Sizzlers from Hollywood

Action, adventure and romance laced with special effects — Hollywood is ready with its package for summer. Go ahead and enjoy, says SREEDHAR PILLAI.

This thriller is a real grosser... ``Panic Room''.

THE HOT and happening Hollywood summer releases have already started hitting the silver screen. Most of these summer blockbusters are also coming to India in less than a month after its U.S. release. With at least 10 big and some not so big English films due for release over the next three months, it is party time for the Hollywood aficionados in India. Some of the biggies due this summer in India include ``Spider-Man," "Collateral Damage," "Scorpion King" (Mummy3), "Star Wars Episode-2: Attack Of The Clones," "Minority Report," " Panic Room," "The Accidental Spy," and "Eight Legged Freaks."

The golden rule followed by Hollywood during summer blockbusting is to have a super star movie or to make a sequel to a popular movie. This formula of action or special effects movies, works well in the Indian market where "Anaconda" and the "Mummy" keep the till ringing.

For Hollywood, India is the fastest growing market in Asia. In 1992, the gross business done by foreign films in India was a little over Rs. 6 crores. By March 2002, its haul from India crossed Rs. 200 crores! According to Uday Singh, chief of Columbia Tristar in India, "The market is growing by almost cent per cent every year as Hollywood films have mass appeal and dubbing our films in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu has also created a new market."

Trade analysts say that this market increase in box-office performance is largely due to the continued failure of Indian Films in the domestic market. The Hollywood summer in India seems to be packed with action and our audience loves such movies. The first of the big releases would be the long delayed Warner Brothers' "Collateral Damage" starring the number one Hollywood star in India, Arnold Schwarzenegger. In the U.S., after the tragic events of September 11, the release of "Collateral Damage" was shelved for four months for fear of seeming to be insensitive. The story is about a Los Angeles fireman, who loses his family in a Colombian terrorist attack and decides to take on the enemies single-handed. Arnie fights the baddies in the Colombian jungles, where even the CIA cannot penetrate and says his favourite dialogue: "Its payback time..." The movie has loads of action and should do well in India, where a 55-year-old super star is still a safe bet.

On May 24, the Colombia Tristar film, "Spider-Man," will be coming to Indian cinema halls, just three weeks after its U.S. release. The story is about a high school student who gets bitten by a radioactive spider, and thus acquires the abilities of the insect. He can scale walls and ceilings, emit fluid from his wrists and he also develops a "spider sense" that warns him of approaching danger. And this friendly neighbourhood superhero fights evil.

Tom Cruise arrives with Steven Spielberg's ``Minority Report''.

The film has lots of special effects plus glamour in the form of Kinsten Dunst, who essays the role of spider man's girlfriend. Not to be left behind, 20th Century Fox is releasing "Star wars Episode 2: Attack Of The Clones" on June7, three weeks after its U.S. release. It is the most hyped summer film in the U.S. with the Time magazine carrying a cover story in its American edition claiming that the series would return to its former glory.

The tagline of George Lucas movie says, "The saga continues, everything good has a hidden mask!" The response to "The Star Wars" franchise sci-fi adventure movies is pretty lukewarm in the Indian market.

The much-hyped "Phantom Menace," a mega hit in the U.S., met with a poor reception here, as people just cannot understand what a `Jedi' or planet Naboo means!

In June, there will be two thrillers with the female stars taking on the baddies — Sony Pictures' "Panic Room" and Warner Brothers' "Murder By Numbers". The Jodie Foster thriller, "Panic Room," is on the verge of creating box-office history inching towards the $100-million gross, a month after its release. The suspense tale about a recently divorced mother and her daughter hiding from burglars in a concrete-and-steel encased room in their New York home is all about female resilience. The other thriller with Sandra Bullock (last seen in "Miss Congeniality"- a hit in India) is once again a cop on a homicide investigation that points to two teenagers.

This Warner movie, which also has some gory scenes, is expected to do well in India. The gun toting Sandra Bullock is advertised as the Vijay Shanti of Hollywood by local distributors in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, which account for the main market share for such films in the country.

The ``Scorpion King'' comes here as ``Mummy 3''.

The other female-oriented thriller is Jennifer Lopez's "Enough" in which an abused wife discovers that the dream man she married is not whom she thought he was and wants to take revenge on him. The Indian trade loves sequels especially if it is from the "Mummy" franchise. Remember Mummy grossed over Rs. 30 crores when it was first released in1999. And last year "Mummy Returns" also did bumper business and Paramount Pictures that controls Indian rights sells it directly to the local distributors. The new action packed adventure film "Scorpion King" starring WWF superstar, The Rock, in the title role was released in the U.S. on April 19 raking in $37 millions in the first week. The ``Scorpion King" is being marketed in India as "Mummy-3." The villain of "Mummy Returns" becomes the hero of "Mummy-3" which is actually a prequel. But in the U.S., critics have dubbed it "formulaic and cheesy". However Bipin of Hansa Pictures, Chennai distributor who had distributed the earlier "Mummy" movies said, "The Indian audience expects a lot of action, adventure, special effects and more fight scenes from Mummy-3, and it is all there. After all people don't pay money to see The Rock dance!"

At the fag end of the long and hot summer in August three big movies are slated for release. Steven Spielberg, most bankable director according to a survey conducted by Hollywood Reporter will be coming out with his "Minority Report" starring Tom Cruise, to be released on August 2 by 20th Century Fox. The film is releasing in the U.S. on June 21, but carries super pre-release reports in American Film Journals. After a long gap, Spielberg is coming out with an action movie set in a futuristic judicial system in which killers are arrested before they commit murder! The USP of the movie is Tom Cruise and his red two-seater Lexus car from the year 2054. The car was exhibited at the recent New York International Auto show. Another August release is Warners "Eight Legged Freaks," an Indian specific animal special effects film. The movie comes from the producers of "Independence Day' and "Godzilla" and is reported to have mind blowing special effects.

The story is about a chemical spill in a rural mining town that causes hundreds of spiders to mutate overnight to the size of huge trucks! These giant spiders go on an eating spree feeding on humans, which means the film will run in India! Warner is dubbing this film into Tamil as "Silandi" and has pitted it against Rajnikanth's "Baba", due for release on August 15.

The Hollywood biggies dominate the Indian market squeezing out independent foreign film distributors. One of the few surviving Indian importers of foreign films is Sridhar Viswanathan of Celebrity Film, Chennai. Sridhar has lined up quite a few movies this summer — Jackie Chan's "Accidental Spy," Van Damme's "Replicant" and Adam Sandler's "Little Nicky."

Meanwhile the Mumbai based Shringar Films is bringing quality movies like the French film "Amelie", Iranian director Majid Majidi's "Baran" and probably the Bosnian film, " No Man's Land" which won the Oscar for the Best Foreign Film. According to Shravan Shroff of Shringar Films, "There is definitely a market for niche films in key cities. We are trying to create an audience for such films by screening them in smaller halls and multiplexes."

``The Accidental Spy"... an action packed holiday for Jackie Chan fans.

And there are other Hollywood films to be released like "Rollerball," "Insomnia," "Mr Deeds," "Crocodile Hunter," "Men In Black-2" and others. So get ready for what is surely a three month period (May17-August 15) of sizzling hot summer releases, as some of the most expensive big-budget films roll out of Hollywood studios.

Grab a Cola, munch popcorn and watch in the cool comfort of a theatre, these forthcoming blockbusters.

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