A Bumper Crop of Summer Films: Fears of a Box-Office Slump in the Wake of the Events of Sept. 11 Proved Overly Apprehensive. about 90 New Releases Are Headed Our Way during the Next 18 Weekends. (Film)

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The summer movie season begins long before Memorial Day these days, with Spider-Man as the fearless pacesetter this year. The season will be given a second send-off when the latest Star Wars spectacle, subtitled Episode II: Attack of the Clones, debuts May 16. A new Hugh Grant comedy, About a Boy, concerning a well-to-do London wastrel redeemed by his contact with a troubled schoolboy, is cheeky enough to open opposite Star Wars (on May 17, to be specific).

Several summer movies have taken plots from their own back lots, including Hollywood Ending, the latest from Woody Allen; CQ, the debut feature of Roman Coppola, son of moviemaker Francis Ford Coppola; and The Kid Stays in the Picture, a documentary version of producer Robert Evans' autobiography. Andrew Niccol, the talented writer of The Truman Show, directs his own script in Simone, which revolves around Al Pacino as a desperate producer who tries to get away with a computer-graphics casting hoax. And there's Full Frontal, the latest original screenplay from Steven Soderbergh, who claims to have been fondly influenced by Francois Truffaut's Day for Night.

This will be the summer of sequels. Men in Black II reunites Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones with director Barry Sonnenfeld. Stuart Little 2 reunites Geena Davis and Hugh Laurie (and the voices of Michael J. Fox, Nathan Lane and Steve Zahn) with director Rob Minkoff. Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams, reunites grown-ups Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino and juveniles Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara with writer-director Robert Rodriguez. And Austin Powers in Goldmember reunites Mike Myers et al. with director Jay Roach. Myers will play the film's title role in addition to Powers, Dr. Evil and the loathsome Fat Bastard.

Retreads will compete with sequels this year. To start, there's Oliver Parker's remake of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, arriving 50 years after the delightful Anthony Asquith production that featured Michael Redgrave, Joan Greenwood, Edith Evans and Margaret Rutherford. Colin Firth and Rupert Everett are cast as Jack and Algy, respectively. Frances O'Connor and Reese Witherspoon play Gwendolyn and Cecily. Judi Dench is the new Lady Bracknell, and Anna Massey is an absolute physical opposite to Miss Rutherford as Leticia Prism.

In addition, Matt Damon stars in Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity, which was made as an exceptionally plodding two-part TV movie in 1988. Adam Sandler updates the Frank Capra-Gary Cooper--Jean Arthur 1936 classic, Deeds Goes to Town, shortening the title to Deeds. Winona Ryder plays the leading lady. Adrian Lyne's Unfaithful also would appear to echo his biggest hit, Fatal Attraction. This time, the director plunges unfaithful wife Diane Lane into an affair with Olivier Martinez, to the annoyance of her wounded spouse Richard Gere.

Christopher Nolan, last year's stylistic sensation with Memento, turns to a recent Scandinavian thriller for his second picture, Insomnia, starring Al Pacino as an erratic homicide detective and Robin Williams as his taunting prey. The Tom Clancy cycle continues with The Sum of All Fears, with Ben Affleck replacing Harrison Ford as CIA agent Jack Ryan, now a generation younger through the miracle of casting. …