Summer's hottest films--coming soon to a bus stop near you.

By Josh Wolk
Updated June 29, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

If a picture is worth a thousand words, and movies go by at 24 frames per second, then…carry the two…. Oh, we can’t do the math, but we do know a movie poster makes a crucial first impression of a film. This season, some one-sheets lure us drone-like to the multiplex, but others should have gone back to the proverbial drawing board. Here’s our semiannual critique of poster come-ons.


Just call Steven Spielberg Mr. Modesty. For his long-anticipated A.I. Artificial Intelligence, he settles for a small above-the-title ID, while the intriguingly simple silhouetted-boy graphic makes its own case (and suggests Spielberg is reexploring his E.T.-era childhood jones). Burying his name in the Jurassic Park III lower-credit list wisely plays down the fact that he didn’t direct this sequel, only exec-produced. However, the torn ”III” doesn’t pop out enough; this could be mistaken for a leftover ad from an earlier installment — not a good omen for this edition’s originality. A.I. B+ JURASSIC PARK III B-


This summer’s poster girls strut their stuff to mixed success. Tomb Raider’s sultry Angelina Jolie is such the Lara Croft doppelganger that her drooling videogame admirers will have a hard time keeping their hands off their joysticks. For the bubblegummy Legally Blonde, Reese Witherspoon and the double-taking onlookers seem like they’re in a cookie-cutter college comedy, albeit one from the 1980s. The most explosive bombshell is transsexual rocker Hedwig (John Cameron Mitchell), who’s ready for her close-up: With that sass, edge, and fury, Courtney Love and Gwen Stefani aren’t fit to hold her jock. TOMB RAIDER B+ BLONDE D+ HEDWIG A


A good teaser poster needs only one symbol to make you drop your popcorn. For Rush Hour 2, it’s Jackie Chan taking the phrase ”They’re back!” literally (costar Chris Tucker also has a poster). While the shyness boosts the ”tease” quotient, buddy-comedy partners work better as a team than apart. Fans of the original Planet of the Apes will give an opposable thumbs-up to the remake’s teaser, with its single warlike monkey (chimps, not Mark Wahlberg, are the champs of this film) hinting at Tim Burton’s darker take on this ”damn dirty” tale. Unfortunately, there is no Ape-size following for 1975’s Rollerball, which will lose the uninitiated with its confusing sphere-in-glove image. Call it Gutterball. RUSH HOUR 2 B- APES A ROLLERBALL C-


These two gross-out sequels hope to repeat the originals’ big grosses by assuring fans they’ll get more of the same. Scary Movie 2 strictly duplicates its predecessor’s poster setup, replacing references to Scream with Cast Away and Hannibal jabs to indicate its parody targets will be up-to-date. American Pie 2 relies on a benign all-cast shot touting the characters’ names, which fans may well remember more than the actors’. But other than the band-camp flute and the ”sticking” catchphrase, there’s no hint of outrageous flavor to this Pie. Break out the banana cream! SCARY MOVIE 2 A- AMERICAN PIE 2 B-