By Josh Wolk
April 26, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT


Starring Vin Diesel, Samuel L. Jackson, Asia Argento, Marton Csokas

Written By Rich Wilkes

Directed By Rob Cohen

It’s a Vin Diesel movie” is how Vin Diesel describes it. Enough said. But here’s a little more anyway: Diesel plays Xander Cage, a.k.a. XXX, a snarling, antisocial extreme-sports enthusiast who’s recruited by a supersecret government agency (headed by Jackson) to put his unique athletic abilities to use as a spy. Director Cohen describes exactly what that means: ”He surfs down a stairway using a waiter’s tray. He steals a senator’s Corvette and drives it off a bridge and surfs on it all the way down. He does stunts on a motocross freestyle bike while being chased by a helicopter with a Vulcan cannon. Basically, we’re reinventing the spy movie.”

And, they hope, inventing a franchise that, if all goes according to plan, will turn Diesel into the hottest secret agent since that English dude who’s always shaking his martinis. It’s an expensive gamble — Sony is investing upwards of $90 million in the film — but Diesel and Cohen do have a proven track record. The two teamed up for last year’s The Fast and the Furious, which ended up reinventing the hot-rod movie to the tune of $145 million. Plus, there does seem to be an opening for a new big-screen spy these days.

”Look, James Bond is cool,” says Diesel. ”He’s the father of all movie spies. But James Bond is a leftover from the Clark Gable mentality. James Bond is a guy in a suit, and I don’t know a kid today who wears a suit. My character is totally different. He doesn’t give a s — – about anything but himself and his thrills. He’s a guy who’s proficient at what he does because of all the time he spent not doing his homework and instead learning how to do Superman seat grabs on a motocross.” THE LOWDOWN It’s a Vin Diesel movie—which, astonishingly enough, is starting to sound like a good thing. (Aug. 2)


Starring Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin, Cherry Jones, Michael Showalter

Written And Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

There is one thing M. Night Shyamalan wants folks to know about his new movie. ”Signs is not Unbreakable,” he says. ”Signs is The Birds. Signs is Night of the Living Dead. Signs is War of the Worlds.” Got that? After exploding seemingly out of nowhere with The Sixth Sense in 1999, the 31-year-old filmmaker grossed almost $100 million with his next outing, Unbreakable, but the film was derided by detractors as gloomy and airless. So Shyamalan went back to the drawing board for his new supernatural thriller. And the drawing board had…crop circles.

”I love the idea of this big prank going on all over the world,” he says. ”But then I thought, What if there’s another meaning behind them?” So he set to work on the script, about a lapsed minister and widowed father of two (Gibson) who is living on a farm with his younger brother (Phoenix) when mysterious patterns appear in his cornfields.