- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2003

Movies this time of year tend to fall into two categories: Oscar hopefuls and last year's leftovers. The former, known as "platform releases," are highly touted prestige films that opened in New York City and Los Angeles over the holidays to qualify for Academy Awards consideration. They expand to additional markets during January and February in hopes of cashing in on their Oscar buzz. Such films this year include "The Hours" and "The Pianist."
The latter category are movies whose original release dates were scrubbed, typically because the studios decided the films couldn't compete during more hotly contested seasons such as spring, summer or fall.
Theaters still need to fill their screens with new products every Friday during the winter months, but studios are unlikely to gamble with some $100 million blockbuster only to have its opening-weekend box office buried by a snowstorm that immobilizes much of the heavily populated Northeast.
Instead, the studios clear their shelves in hopes of scoring a surprise hit or at least recouping some of their production costs.
Apart from platform releases and a few rare exceptions, nearly every film slated for this month and next was scheduled originally to open in 2002 or earlier. "National Security," the Martin Lawrence buddy-cop comedy that opened Friday, was first scheduled for November 2001, then April 2002 and then August 2002. Sure enough, the critics skewered it.
The same is true of last week's other openings. "A Guy Thing," a romantic comedy starring Jason Lee and Julia Stiles, was scheduled for three Fridays in August 2002, then rescheduled for Sept. 20. Critics gave it two thumbs down.
Last week's caper comedy "Kangaroo Jack," originally titled "Down & Under" and starring Jerry O'Connell and Anthony Anderson, was first scheduled for Aug. 2, 2002. The word from the critics: "Ick."
Of course, some films are postponed for legitimate reasons. "The Hunted," an action thriller due March 14, was delayed five months because Benicio Del Toro broke his wrist during filming. "Phone Booth," a sniper drama also scheduled to open March 14, was pulled from release in November out of respect during the Washington-area sniper crisis.
Still, plenty of questionable, if not rotten, stuff is on the way. Here is a roster of the moldy movies due this month and next and their originally scheduled release dates.
View From the Top: Flight-attendant comedy starring Gwyneth Paltrow. First scheduled for April 19, 2002, then Aug. 16 and then Oct. 18. Oops, it just moved again to March 21.
Darkness Falls: Teen horror thriller, originally titled "The Tooth Fairy," starring Emma Caulfield of "Buffy." Originally scheduled for Dec. 6, 2002.
Jan. 31
The Recruit: Spy thriller originally titled "The Farm," starring Al Pacino and Colin Farrell. Originally touted as an October 2002 release.
Feb. 7
Shanghai Knights: Action-comedy sequel starring Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson. Originally scheduled for Dec. 13, but presumably pushed back to distance it from the Wilson-Eddie Murphy flop "I Spy."
Deliver Us From Eva: Romantic comedy starring Gabrielle Union and LL Cool J. Originally intended for September 2002.
Feb. 14
Daredevil: Comic-book action-thriller starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. Originally scheduled for November 2002, but the production start was pushed back to March 25, 2002 from Nov. 19, 2001.
Feb. 21
The Life of David Gale: Crime drama starring Kevin Spacey and Kate Winslet. Once considered a possible Oscar contender, the promising film originally was scheduled for December 2002.
Old School: Campus comedy starring Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn. Originally intended for summer 2002, then scheduled for September and October.
Feb. 28
The Guest: Romantic comedy starring Ashton Kutcher and Tara Reid. Previously scheduled dates include Oct. 25 and Nov. 15, 2002.
Tentative for February
The Guru: Erotic comedy originally titled "The Guru of Sex," starring Heather Graham. Reportedly planned as a fall 2002 release.
Tentative for March
Dark Blue: Crime drama, originally titled "The Plague Season," starring Kurt Russell. First slated for Sept. 27, 2002.

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