Joel Siegel Movie Reviews

Kids are out of school, every day is Saturday night — that's why summer is movie's biggest season. Studios generate almost half their income in summer. But after a bad winter and early spring, Hollywood is worried.

Action films aren't doing well. Weekend grosses are dropping for the first time in years. But they are so smart in Hollywood. Here's what they did: They didn't make the movies better, they made summer longer.

In fact summer starts … today, with the opening of X-Men 2: X-Men United.

And what can we expect? A lot of familiar faces: 18 of this summer's biggest movies are based on comic books, TV shows or video games. One, Pirates of the Caribbean, was an amusement park ride.

Familiar faces are back in action. Harrison Ford returns in Hollywood Homicide; so does Sean Connery, in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Sly Stallone is the villain in Spy Kids 3-D. And Arnold's back in Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines.

If you've been there before, you'll be there again. At least 11 big-time summer movies are sequels.

Arnold’s Bigger Than Ever (Financially Speaking) Here's a quick course in Hollywood economics. The Terminator, in 1984, cost $6.8 million. Arnold's salary was an estimated $250,000. The film — a great film, by the way — grossed $38.4 million.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day, in 1991, cost $100 million and Arnold got bumped to $15 million. That film grossed $500 million around the world.

Now, Terminator 3 was budgeted at $170 million and Arnold's salary is $30 million.

It's been eight years since the original Bad Boys, the film that made stars of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Now, both have become $20 million actors. Bad Boys 2 cost so much they couldn't afford cue cards.

The summer's most anticipated action-adventure film has to be Matrix Reloaded, which opens in two weeks, and I can't wait. And if you think mid-May is early for summer, guess again. In Hollywood, summer starts today.

X-Pect Sequels X2 is truth in advertising. It's twice as much fun as the original, based on the comic book about a group of mutant humans, all with different superpowers.

Returning is a great cast that plays superhero action for real. Sir Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart could be doing Richard III. Instead, they're playing sci-fi with the same amount of skill. Also returning: Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and Halle Berry as Storm

Sure, the special effects are terrific. That's not news. With computer-generated imagery and plenty of money, there isn't anything a filmmaker can imagine that can't be put on a screen.

X-Men works because it isn't about the effects. It's really about being different (in this case, a mutant). That's why it resonates so with its adolescent fans.

Will there be a sequel? As long as there's one person left in Hollywood who knows how to spell X3, you can bet the farm on it. Grade: B+

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