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Fast cars, fast girls and special FX: It must be spring at the megaplex.

Spring Fever

It's a testosterone-fueled season as Hollywood idles its creative engines, awaiting the start of summer. But that doesn't mean quality is in hibernation; it's just in limited supply. Fast cars, fast girls and guys who know how to handle both seem to dominate the screen for spring. The good news? Spring continues to shrink. As has been the trend of late, Memorial Day weekend no longer signals the start of the summer rush at the box office. Either the threat of — or hopes for — a megahit has studios scrambling to find a solitary slot for their expensive releases, which means big stars, big directors and big FX will hit the local megaplex as early as the first weekend in May. To whet your appetite, here's a month-by-month sampling of the good, the bad and the in-between teen dreams.


First out of the gate, Robert De Niro returns to the mean streets of New York in "15 Minutes," a dark comic thriller about a homicide detective (De Niro) and a rookie fire marshal (Edward Burns) who team up to track down a pair of Eastern European serial killers.

Then Kirsten Dunst holds on to her title of teen romance queen with "Get Over It." She's the object of desire of her older brother's best friend, and big bro' doesn't like the idea much.

Things take a turn toward the epic with Jean-Jacques Annuad's "Enemy at the Gates," a World War II thriller about a famous Russian sniper (Jude Law) and his Nazi counterpart (Ed Harris) sent to kill him. And Pierce Brosnan and Geoffrey Rush costar in John Boorman's adaptation of John Le Carré's spy thriller "The Tailor of Panama."

Expect a similar high body count in "Exit Wounds," a gritty look at police corruption starring rapper/singer DMX and Steven Segal. Also count on plenty of fight scenes and high-speed, fiery crashes. Mangled metal takes a starring role in "The Fast and the Furious," a movie about rival L.A. street gangs who use street racing as a way to establish power.

The Mars-Venus conundrum gets top billing this month in several flicks — Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sigourney Weaver star in "Heartbreakers," Ashley Judd deals with breaking up in "Someone Like You," while D. L. Hughley leads an ensemble cast in "The Brothers," a look at what happens when wedding bells threaten to break up some serious male bonding. Finally, Chris Klein and Heather Graham star in "Say it Isn't So," a dark comic look at true love and incest. Oops, make that presumed incest, hence the comedy.


Johnny Depp continues his recent string of unique screen roles with "Blow." Based on the true story of George Jung, the man given the credit — and blame — for introducing cocaine to the United States in the '70s. Ted Demme directs this look at the moment America switched from pot to coke, and why.

Morgan Freeman returns to the screen as Dr. Alex Cross in "Along Came a Spider," another thriller based on the best-selling series by James Patterson. Then Rachael Leigh Cook, Tara Reid and Rosario Dawson bring the popular "Archie" comic-book girl band "Josie and the Pussycats" to the big screen.

Westerns make a comeback this spring with "Texas Rangers," showcasing both James Van Der Beek and Rachael Leigh Cook, and "American Outlaws," with Kathy Bates as Ma to Jesse James and the rest of her thieving clan. Both pictures explore the fine line between hero and outlaw.

Then Hugh Grant joins Rene Zellweger for "Bridget Jones's Diary," about a thirty-something woman who gains 74 pounds (and loses 72), smokes more than 5,000 cigarettes, has an affair she might regret and attends parties where all her married friends bemoan her single state.

Going for the lowest-common-denominator crowd are "Joe Dirt," David Spade's search for his trailer-trash parents who abandoned him, and Paul Hogan's "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles." Don't even ask why 13 years later Dundee returns for a third visit to America. Guess somebody needs to pay for those shrimps on the barbie.

In the midlife crisis comedy "Town and Country," Warren Beatty is an architect who hits the road looking for some action only to find that the only woman for him is his wife, Diane Keaton. Infidelity also lies at the heart of "Wakin' Up in Reno," a film about two redneck couples who head to a monster truck show in Reno. Billy Bob Thornton, Natasha Richardson, Charlize Theron and Patrick Swayze are the couples.

April ends with plenty of mangled metal in the Sylvester Stallone action-adventure "Driven." All about life in the fast lanes of CART racing (a kissing cousin to Formula One/Indy-style racing), the film features Stallone as a veteran driver called in to help a young driver who no longer seems content to risk life and limb.


Here come the big guns. The first weekend of the month offers up not only the expected megahit "The Mummy Returns" with Brendan Fraser and The Rock, but there's Baz Lurhmann's take on the "Moulin Rouge." Nicole Kidman and Ewan MacGregor star in this look at the Bohemian lifestyle circa 1899, where it's all about sex, drugs and the cancan.

So far, the next weekend's sole opening presents "The New Guy," a tale of the agony of being the "uncool" kid in high school. To beat the rap, DJ Qualls gets himself expelled and sent to prison where his cellmate — the very funny Eddie Griffin — gives him tips on remaking his image.

DreamWorks holds the single entry the following week, offering up "Shrek," an animated tale about a no-nonsense ogre who's upset his swamp has been overrun by annoying fairy-tale creatures. Mike Meyers and Eddie Murphy voice the characters of Shrek and his wisecracking donkey of a best friend.

On Memorial Day Weekend, the big news is Jerry Bruckheimer's epic extravaganza "Pearl Harbor." Boasting a cast of thousands and incredible cinematography, the summer's first guaranteed moneymaker looks at the day that will live in infamy. The only movie brave enough to go head-to-head with "Pearl," is "Cats and Dogs," an animated tale about another battle for supremacy. But this time, it's not humans seeking world domination; oh no, this is about the age-old conflict between canine and

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