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The Powers That Be: Mike Meyers and Beyoncé Knowles are 'spoof' positive that the Austin Powers franchise is too profitable to kill off.

Spy Games

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Find a spy movie worth seeing this summer

By Richard von Busack

GOSH, HAS it only been two years since the $70 million Memorial Day opening of Mission: Impossible II? And, what a coincidence, it takes two years to put a movie in production from the first meetings to final cut. So, this summer's most predictable trend is spy films: good-looking spooks and wacky comedy spies alike. Not since the late 1960s has there been such a strong Bond (and wannabe Bonds) market.

Potentially the most lucrative entry would seem to be XXX, with bald-is-beautiful poster boy Vin Diesel as Secret Agent XXX (Aug. 2). Diesel, who starred in last summer's surprise hit The Fast and the Furious, plays an Ultimate Sportsman who uses his snowboarding skills to triumph over the enemy. The film, directed by Furious' Rob Cohen, will be sold under variations of the phrase "He's not your father's secret agent." (The formula "not your father's ... "is exclusively used by people who turn out to be as old as your father.)

Austin Powers in Goldmember (July 26). The first Austin Powers movie, a risky in-joke, begot the Mike Meyers egofest The Spy Who Shagged Me, and this summer brings us Goldmember, even though Meyers had nearly run out of spy-movie gags last time around and had to fortify his film with fat-guy jests and dialect humor. This time it's Austin Powers vs. Dr. Evil in a pousse-café of different eras. Co-stars include Michael Caine (as Mr. Powers Sr.) and, as an agent named Foxxy Cleopatra, Destiny's Child singer Beyoncé Knowles. (My French dictionary doesn't include the verb "beyoncer"--anyone care to translate?

Undercover Brother (May 31) stars Eddie Griffin as the big-haired Man from B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. Based on the UrbanEntertainment.com web-cartoon site, the film arrives loaded with inside jokes about such arcana as the 1974 blaxploitation spy film Three the Hard Way (hint: the villains in both movies are named "Mr. Feather"). See review.

The Sum of All Fears (May 31) The once-paternal CIA agent Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger has been transmogrified into the young Ben Affleck. Much rewritten from Tom Clancy's peculiar thriller, the film solaces us after the atom-bombing of Baltimore by making sure the "incident" purchases nuclear peace--and recalling that Firesign Theater jest in which an army general puts the epitaph before the massacre, like a cart before the horse: "Those men did not--nay, will not--die in vain."

Bad Company (June 7) Remember 1966's Operation Kid Brother, a.k.a. Operation Crossbow, seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000? Neil Connery, Sean's little brother, plays a Scots golfer recruited to replace a spy who is basically 007 with the serial numbers filed off. Such Bond co-stars as Danielle Bianchi, Bernard Lee and Adofo Celli turn up to make the illusion convincing. So convincing, in fact, that Neil Connery has been a household name ever since--in the Connery household, anyway. Bad Company, a variation of the Operation Kid Brother plot, stars Chris Rock as the living twin of a demised CIA assassin mentored by Anthony Hopkins.

The Bourne Identity (June 14) Not to be outdone by his acting buddy Affleck, Matt Damon stars in a remake of Robert Ludlum's amnesiac-spy story with Franka Potente, formerly of Run Lola Run and The Princess and the Warrior, adding some sinister European beauty. (June 14)

Master of Disguise (August) introduces sun-addled summer audiences to Pistachio Disguisey (Dana Carvey), an Italian waiter with the genetic ability to camouflage himself. His arch-nemesis is master criminal Devlin Bowman (Brent Spiner, Data from Star Trek: TNG).

All this doesn't count Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (August 7) and later fall arrivals, including an updated version of TV's I Spy (with Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy as the partners), the delayed Jackie Chan spy movie The Tuxedo, and a new Bond film--the 20th--due on Nov. 22, under the peculiar title Die Another Day.

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From the May 16-22, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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