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Hero no. 1

HERO, JET LI'S acclaimed martial-arts epic, vanquished giant snakes, serial killers and a gang of super babies to debut as the top weekend film with $17.8 million. Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, a sequel to 1997's monster-serpent flick, opened in second place with $13.2 million.The weekend's other new movies debuted weakly. The serial-killer tale Suspect Zero, starring Aaron Eckhart, Ben Kingsley and Carrie-Anne Moss, came in at No. 10 with $3.4 million. Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2, a follow-up to the 1999 kid flick, finished at No. 11 with $3.3 million. The previous weekend's No. 1 movie, Exorcist: The Beginning, tumbled to fifth-place with $6.7 million, a steep 63 percent drop from its $18.1 million debut.

Critic's choice

Hero, nominated for the foreign-language Academy Award for 2002, is director Zhang Yimou's saga of China some 2,000 years ago. The film stars Li, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi, Chen Dao Ming, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Donnie Yen, a lineup of Asian superstars that distributor Miramax calls the "Ocean's Eleven of Chinese films."

Presented in Mandarin with English subtitles, Hero twists through several retellings of an assassination plot against the ruthless leader of Qin, who seeks to subjugate China's other six kingdoms and became the land's first emperor. The stories, character motivations and even colour schemes change with each retelling as the film weaves toward the ultimate truth of events.

Critics raved over the cinematography, romance, lush imagery and glorious fight sequences, whose balletic grace rivals that of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the 2000 martial-arts hit.

1. Hero

2. Anacondas: The Hunt for

the Blood Orchid

3. Without a Paddle

4. Princess Diaries 2: Royal

Engagement

5. Exorcist: The Beginning

6. Collateral

7. Open Water

8. Alien vs. Predator

9. The Bourne Supremacy

10. Suspect Zero

AP

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