Films Of Fall 2002

scene from "Spirited Away"
Walt Disney
Hollywood's autumn offerings have a familiar air about the, and it's not just the return of the wizards in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" and hobbits in "The Two Towers." There are prequels, like "Red Dragon," and sequels, like "Star Trek: Nemesis." CBS News Sunday Morning Correspondent Jerry Bowen reports.

And, from Broadway, there is the movie version of "Chicago," a film that took more than a quarter century to make it to the big screen because, once again, the studios are wagering that something familiar is about the safest bet around. And safe bets, says Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan, help studio executives sleep better.

"The gambling that goes on in the making of films," says Turan, "makes Las Vegas look like a kind of penny-ante poker… When you wager $100 million, anything you can say to yourself, 'Well, they liked it the first time,' or 'They liked the first film,' that's what studios are looking for, because they want to sleep at night."

They really liked "Lord of the Rings," and "The Two Towers," the second in the trilogy, is out in December.

"I thought the first film was very exciting," recalls Turan. "This is the middle part. This is the heart of the story. I'm really anxious to see what they've done with events in this one."

And there's "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" in November. Same cast, same director, same old box office magic.

"I was a little disappointed in the first Harry Potter film," says Turan. "It was not that interesting artistically, and I'm assuming, with everyone back, this is going to be more of the same."

And Bond is back – film no. 20 in 40 years, featuring Pierce Brosnan and last year's best actress Oscar winner, Halle Berry.

"They almost make these James Bond films as if it's still the 1960s," observes Turn, "so I'm not quite sure how modern this one's going to be. But it's got a good cast, and it could be fun."

"I Spy" could be fun, too, with Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson.

There are familiar faces in unfamiliar roles. Denzel Washington makes his directing debut in "The Antwone Fisher Story." Rap star Eminem makes his acting debut in "Eight Mile," a film about (what else?) a troubled young man who finds himself through music.

And Jack Nicholson acts his age in "About Schmidt," which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival.

"It's a very funny film," says Turan. "It's got a delicate sense of humor. It is a really spectacular performance from Nicholson. This is one of the ones I think people will be happy with."

There is no shortage of films starring women: Michelle Pfeiffer in "White Oleander" and eight French actresses in "Eight Women."

Salma Hayak plays Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in "Frida," and Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon are "The Banger Sisters," one of three Sarandon films to be released in September.

The fall movies are different from what comes out in the summer. The summer is about making big money, and this past summer set another box office record with more than $3 billion in ticket sales. Of course, every season is about making money. But the fall is when movies turn serious, and movie makers start thinking about the Oscars.

Explains Turan, "A lot of the films that come out during the summer are intended for people in their teens, people in their early 20s. This is the demographic that spends… For the rest of us, (films) tend to come more in the fall. Almost all the Oscar contenders will be coming out in the fall."

Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, and Meryl Streep star in "The Hours," which, says Turan, "is based on a novel by Michael Cunningham that won the Pulitzer Prize. It's definitely one of the highbrow offerings of the year."

Anthony Hopkins does another turn as Hannibal Lecter in "Red Dragon."

"Punch Drunk Love," says Turan, "is a different kind of Adam Sandler movie. It's a very interesting film, and I don't know how audiences will respond to it. But I, personally, liked it a lot."

There's "The Four Feathers," the sixth remake of a saga about British honor, and "The Ring," the first remake of a creepy Japanese film where watching a video guarantees death.

The animated Japanese film, "Spirited Away," the story of a young girl's adventures in the spirit world, is perhaps the sleeper of the season.

Says Turan, "My jaw dropped when I watched this. It's just an astonishing visual treat… There's no words to describe it. Everyone who sees it says, 'I've never seen anything like it.'"

Roman Polanski offers a World War II story of survival in "The Pianist." And there is the very grim "The Grey Zone" of compromises made in a concentration camp.

Greg Kinnear gives us the darker side of the late "Hogan's Heroes" star Bob Crane in "Auto Focus." And there's the very odd "Adaptation," the story of a screenwriter from the creators of "Being John Malkovich."

And Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York," delayed from release last year by the Sept. 11 attacks and very public disputes with the Miramax studio over budget and running time.

Notes Turan, "This has been anticipated for so long, it's kind of beyond anticipation, I think. I feel like I've seen the thing already, and it hasn't come out yet."

So welcome to the fall films of 2002. In many ways, it shapes up as a "been there" kind of season. And Hollywood is betting audiences won't mind coming back.