MOVIES Summer sequels dominate

It was the summer of documentaries, too.
The summer of 2004 could ruin the sequel's bad reputation.
For years, we've been used to seeing summer blockbuster schedules loaded with II's, III's and IV's. And we've watched respectable franchises from "Rocky" to "Batman" to "Star Wars" sullied by lamer and lamer retreads.
But this was the summer of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," "Shrek 2" and the best superhero movie ever, "Spider-Man 2."
All three equaled, if not exceeded, their predecessors.
"Harry Potter" was essentially reimagined by new director Alfonso Cuaron with a darker palette and teen angst -- loved when Harry threatens Uncle Vernon and Hermione clocks Malfoy.
"Shrek 2" kept the spirit of the original going with great new additions such as Antonio Banderas as "Puss in Boots" and John Cleese and Julie Andrews as the king and queen.
But "Spider-Man 2" was the stunner, completely beating its predecessor and making a two-dimensional story a fully realized, three-dimensional character exploration. All that, and it was funny (the elevator scene) and exciting (the subway scene).
Other than sequels ...
The downside of sequel strength is a dearth of blockbuster releases with original concepts. "Collateral" and "The Notebook" were exceptions in a summer dominated by remakes and big-budget serials.
But, wait. While there was sequel strength, this was the summer of the documentary. Leading the way was Michael Moore's unprecedented hit "Fahrenheit 9/11," which became the first documentary ever to open at No. 1 at the box office and clear $100 million in domestic receipts.
Moore's anti-President Bush polemic led a parade of other docs, including "Super Size Me," "Control Room," Jehan Noujaim's look at the Arab satellite news station Al Jazeera, and Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster," an inside look at the older, mellower heavy metal superstars.

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