By Marjorie Baumgarten
MARCH 1, 1999: The early part of the film-going year is always a hard one to categorize. Generally, it's a hodge-podge of movies dominated not by one or two types of styles, as are the other seasons (Summer: "event" blockbusters and youth-friendly fare; Fall: serious dramas and adult-minded material; Holiday: Oscar-worthy product and more hopeful blockbusters). During the first several months of the year, distributors release many of the odds and ends at their disposal in order to see what will stick or fulfill contractual obligations. Right now, the target date everyone has in mind is May 21 when Star Wars: Episode One -- The Phantom Menace opens. No matter what the calendars say, that movie's release date marks the official start of summer. Who knows ... maybe even the start of a whole new galaxy.
What trends can be discerned amid the hodge-podge? Some of the old literary chestnuts are being dusted off for further adaptations. The intriguingly titled 10 Things I Hate About You brings Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew to the modern teen world while William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream takes place in Tuscany at the turn of the 19th century. Les Liaisons Dangereuses gets its fourth screen adaptation in Cruel Intentions, a story of sexual games and competition in a contemporary high school.
Look for a noticeably increased number of Iranian films and Hong Kong films in mainstream release along with the usual European imports. The Iranian cinema, which is experiencing a creative resurgence and a flood of international attention, is represented by the award-winning films Children of Heaven, The Mirror, and The Apple. Also numerous Hong Kong films are on the schedule: Twin Dragons, made in 1982 and starring Jackie Chan (as twins); Black Mask, a 1996 Jet Li picture; The Apple, a controversial new film by a 17-year-old girl; The King of Masks, a heartfelt drama about life in modern China; and Mighty Peking Man, a 1977 Shaw brothers film about a King Kong-like beast.
Films by well-known directors are also plentiful. On the horizon are Clint Eastwood's
newspaperman story True Crime, Ron Howard's
The survey below covers nearly 90 films that are expected to open theatrically in Austin between the months of March and the end of May. Opening dates, when provided, are listed and reflect the specific dates movies are expected to first roll out locally. All dates and titles are subject to change ... on that you can depend.
D: Harold Ramis; with Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow.
A mob boss begins having panic attacks and goes to see a psychiatrist. Sounds awfully similar to the premise of HBO's The Sopranos; however, this movie stars Robert De Niro doing a comic version of his wiseguy persona and has Billy Crystal and Lisa Kudrow providing more comic relief. (Mar. 5)
D: Bob Clark; with Kathleen Turner, Christopher Lloyd, Kim Cattrall, Peter MacNichol, Ruby Dee.
Kathleen Turner plays the ambitious owner of a baby products company who (along with her partner in crime Christopher Lloyd) secretly funds a research lab that is devoted to cracking the code of the special baby language all infants are supposedly born with but lose by the age of two. With the key to baby talk she will rule the world. (Mar. 12)
D: Joe Carnahan; with Carnahan, Dan Leis, Ken Rudolph, Dan Harlan.
This bona fide no-budget feature, which has been garnering a lot of festival attention, follows the travails of two struggling used-car salesmen who suddenly find themselves in possession of a lemon that every crook, thief, and gangster in the land will kill for.
D: Majid Majidi; with Mohammad Amir Naji, Mir Farrokh Hashemian, Bahare Seddiqui.
This award-winning Iranian film is set in modern Teheran and follows the relationship between an impoverished brother and sister who decide to solve a problem on their own without telling their parents. (Mar. 19)
D: James Foley; with Chow Yun-Fat, Mark Wahlberg, Ric Young.
Oliver Stone executive-produced this film about a rookie cop whose idealism clashes with the compromises he encounters in the department. It stars Boogie Nights' Mark Wahlberg and Hong Kong superstar Chow Yun-Fat (still looking to make a big American crossover splash). (Mar. 12)
D: Roger Kumble; with Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair.
Games of sexual conquest among upper-crust Manhattan teenagers drive the plot in this new film version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses set in a contemporary high school. (Mar. 5)
D: Ulu Grosbard; with Michelle Pfeiffer, Treat Williams, Jonathan Jackson, John Kapelos, Ryan Merriman, Whoopi Goldberg.
A three-year-old son disappears in a split instant only to reappear nine years later at the age of 12, with no memory of his real parents or his troubled older brother. The film is based on the book by Jacquelyn Mitchard and focuses on the heartbreak of losing a child and its effect on the family. (Mar. 12)
D: Maurice Joyce; with the voices of Thomas McHugh, Becca Lish, Fred Newman, Chris Phillips, Alice Playten, Doug Preis, Connie Shulman.
This animated feature follows the misadventures of Doug Funnie, an adolescent boy caught between his civic duty to reveal the reality of a mythical local monster and taking his secret crush to the school dance. (Mar. 26)
D: Ron Howard; with Matthew McConaughey, Jenna Elfman, Woody Harrelson, Ellen DeGeneres, Sally Kirkland, Martin Landau, Rob Reiner, Dennis Hopper, Elizabeth Hurley.
Ron Howard switches back to comedy directing (following a string of dramas such as Apollo 13 and Ransom) for this story about a video store clerk who is plucked from obscurity when he agrees to have his "life" aired on cable TV 24 hours a day. An all-star cast depicts the ridiculous predicaments this causes for his oddball family. (Mar. 26)
D: Barry J. Hershey; with Norman Rodway, Camilla Soeberg, Peter Michael Goetz, Doug McKeon, Glenn Shadiz, Joel Grey.
Adolph Hitler is boldly re-imagined in this film that probes what might have happened inside the Führer's mind if he had survived World War II and was left to contemplate his deeds, his myth, and the man he really was.
D: Bronwen Hughes; with Sandra Bullock, Ben Affleck, Maura Tierney, Steve Zahn, Blythe Danner, Ronny Cox.
Boy meets girl -- only problems are that "boy" is on his way to his wedding and "girl" is a bit of an eccentric. America's sweethearts, Ben Affleck and Sandra Bullock, are sure to lend their charms to these characters, and if all else fails, Ben bares his butt in a gay bar during one scene. (Mar. 19)
D: John Boorman; with Brendan Gleeson, Adrian Dunbar, Sean McGinley, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Angeline Ball, Jon Voight.
John Boorman (Deliverance, Point Blank, Hope and Glory) directs this widely acclaimed film about the life of Martin Cahill, a notorious Dublin gangster who was the mastermind behind a series of Irish robberies during the Eighties. Boorman won the Best Director award at last year's Cannes Film Festival, and the film stars Brendan Gleeson and Jon Voight. (Mar. 5)
D: Doug Liman; with William Fichtner, J.E. Freeman, Katie Holmes, Breckin Meyer, Jay Mohr, Timothy Olyphant, Sarah Polley, Scott Wolf, Taye Diggs.
The follow-up film by Swingers director Doug Liman tells a story set over the course of 24 hours in which desperate supermarket check-out clerks, a couple of car thieves, and a pair of TV stars all find themselves colliding in some real-life misadventures in the underground scenes of L.A. and Las Vegas. (Mar. 26)
D: Joseph Vilsmaier; with Ben Becker, Heino Ferch, Ulrich Noethen, Heinrich Schafmeister, Max Tidof.
This German film follows the destinies of the six members of the popular a cappella group, Comedian Harmonists, whose careers were stunted by the rise of the Nazis since three of the Harmonists were Jewish. (Mar. 26)
D: Richard Rich; with the voices of Miranda Richardson, Christiane Noll, Martin Vidnovic, Allen Hong, Ian Richardson.
The timeless Rodgers and Hammerstein musical is given the animated treatment by the Warner Bros. team. (Mar. 19)
D: James Moll; with Renee Firestone, Alice Lok Cahana, Bill Basch, Irene Zisblatt, Tom Lantos.
Executive-produced by Steven Spielberg and the Shoah Foundation, The Last Days traces the experiences of five Americans who are Hungarian Holocaust survivors. (Mar. 5)
D: Guy Ritchie; with Nick Moran, Jason Flemyng, Jason Statham, Dexter Fletcher. Vinne Jones, Steve Mackintosh, Sting.
A runaway box-office hit in its homeland of Great Britain, this humorous and fast-paced caper picture is a stylish ode to pulp fiction antics, riveting bits of violence, human folly, and the many shades of gangsterdom. (Mar. 19)
D: Ken Loach; with Peter Mullan, Louise Goodall, Gary Lewis, Lorraine McIntosh, David McKay, Anne-Marie Kennedy.
Alcoholism and relationships are the latest subjects tackled by the social-realist British auteur Ken Loach (Raining Stones, Land and Freedom). Peter Mullan won the Best Actor award at Cannes last year, and the film has also won numerous other top British awards. (Mar. 5)
D: Sam Weisman; with Steve Martin, Goldie Hawn, Mark McKinney, John Cleese.
Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn succeed Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis in this remake of the sturdy Neil Simon comedy about a Midwestern couple on a disastrous 24-hour visit to New York City. (Mar. 26)
D: Katt Shea; with Emily Bergl, Jason London,
Darn the luck ... one town that spawns a telekinetic teen with each generation. Twenty years after Sissy Spacek laid waste to her high school, there's a new teen outcast by the name of Rachel (Emily Bergl), who also has the ability to move things with her mind. Fortunately, her guidance counselor is Amy Irving, who was the only survivor of Carrie's original rampage. (Mar. 12)
D: Antonia Bird; with Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, Jeremy Davies, David Arquette, Jeffrey Jones.
L.A. Confidential's Guy Pearce plays the leader of a posse of Mexican-American War vets whose fort in the snowy Sierra Nevadas in 1847 is stalked by a cannibalistic killer. This nourishing Hollywood fare is directed by Antonia Bird, the provocative director of Priest. (Mar. 19)
D: Randy Olsen; with Chad Nell, Adam Warren, Kelly Coffield.
Two twentysomething slackers attempt a variety of outlandish get-rich-quick schemes in this Austin-made indie that also throws a spotlight on the Alamo Drafthouse. (Mar. 4)
D: Carlos Saura; Mario Suarez, Laura Fuentes, Elena Flores, Carlos Nebbia, Julio Bocca, Angelo Larroca.
A part-fictional, part-documentary study of Argentina's national dance, this widely praised new film by Carlos Saura (and filmed by master cinematographer Vittorio Storaro) is in the vein of many of the director's previous dance films (most notably 1983's Carmen). (Mar. 26)
D: Gil Junger; with Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Larisa Oleynik, Larry Miller, David Krumholtz.
The Taming of the Shrew is adapted for modern teens in this story of a girl who wants to begin dating even though her family's strict rules forbid her to do so until her older sister has a boyfriend of her own. The only problem is that the older sister is an ill-tempered harridan who has never had a date. (Mar. 31)
D: Clint Eastwood; with Eastwood, James Woods, Denis Leary, Isaiah Washington, Diana Venora.
Clint Eastwood directs and stars in this story of an ex-alkie newspaper reporter in a last-chance job, who races the clock to prove a condemned man's innocence. The film is based on the popular novel by Andrew Klavan. (Mar. 19)
D: Myles Berkowitz; with Berkowitz, Richard Arlook.
Struggling filmmaker Myles Berkowitz attempted to change his luck in one fell swoop: For his first feature film he decided to make a document of his search for true love by candidly filming a series of 20 dates. The film was a hit at the Slamdance Film Festival last year. (Mar. 26)
D: Ringo Lam and Tsui Hark; with Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Teddy Robin Kwan, Nina Chi Li, Philip Chan.
Made in 1982, this Hong Kong film features Jackie Chan in dual roles as a pair of identical twins. Sounds like a good setup for the star's gifts of physical comedy, yet somewhat similar to Jean-Claude Van Damme's Double Impact made the year before. Many noted Hong Kong directors make cameos here. (Mar. 26)
D: John Greyson; with Matthew Ferguson, Michael Achtman, Peter Denham.
The title refers to the movie's two curiously inter-related themes: circumcision and copyright enforcement. Three gay characters, all named Peter (of course), are joined in this narrative that marks a more experimental bent for Canadian filmmaker John Greyson (Lilies). (Mar. 12)
D: Chris Roberts; with Freddie Prinze Jr., Matthew Lillard, Saffron Burrows, Jürgen Prochnow, Tcéky Karyo, David Warner, David Suchet.
The popular PC game is transposed into a silver screen spectacle. The project is directed by Digital Anvil's Chris Roberts of Austin, who also created the first four Wing Commander games for Origin Systems. (Mar. 12)
D: Sam Miller; with Pete Postlethwaite, Rachel Griffiths, James Thornton.
Pete Postlethwaite (In the Name of the Father) gets to play a romantic role as a British painter of power line pylons who falls in love with his Australian co-worker, Rachel Griffiths (Hilary and Jackie). (Apr. 23)
D: Daniel Lee; with Jet Li, Lau Ching Wan, Karen Mok, Francoise C.J. Yip.
Jet Li stars in this 1996 Hong Kong action spectacle that's getting a major U.S. push. Martial arts master Li must fight against his old friends, members of an elite squad of medically enhanced super-soldiers rendered void of emotional and physical pain. (Apr. 30)
D: Martin Duffy; with Elijah Wood, Rachel Leigh Cook, Roger Rees, Janeane Garofalo.
Adapted from the novel by Robert Cormier, the film tells the story of a 16-year-old boy (Elijah Wood) who knows no other life than the research center where he is a control subject.
D: Robert Altman; with Glenn Close, Julianne Moore, Liv Tyler, Chris O'Donnell, Charles S. Dutton, Patricia Neal, Ned Beatty, Courtney B. Vance, Donald Moffat, Lyle Lovett.
The prolific and always-interesting Robert Altman directs this outstanding cast in a Southern Gothic comedy of manners that centers around an eccentric matriarch and a colorful pastiche of characters. The film combines elements of farce, moral passion play, social drama, and mystery. (Apr. 16)
D: Matthew Diamond; with Paul Taylor.
Choreographer Paul Taylor is the subject of this documentary, which has been nominated for an Academy Award. (Apr. 16)
D: Andrew Fleming; with Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, Dave Foley, Dan Hedaya, Harry Shearer, Saul Rubinek.
This revisionist comedy finds the Watergate funnybone as two high-schoolers wander off during a class trip to the White House, meet President Nixon, become the official walkers of his dog Checkers, and eventually Tricky Dick's advisers, during the Watergate burglary and cover-up. The sequel should be a real doozy. (Apr. 30)
D: Michael Patrick Jann; with Kirstie Alley, Ellen Barkin, Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards.
Told in a mockumentary style, this ensemble comedy spoofs a small town's obsession with its teenage beauty pageant. The film's original title was Dairy Queens. (Apr. 30)
D: Alexander Payne; with Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Thora Birch, Chris Klein.
For his sophomore effort, Citizen Ruth director Alexander Payne gives us this satirical high school story about a student government adviser who sabotages the campaign of an over-achieving student. (Apr. 23)
D: Jon Amiel; with Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Ving Rhames, Will Patton.
A globe-trotting master thief (Sean Connery) meets his match when an insurance investigator (Catherine Zeta-Jones) poses as a thief to gain his trust. It all culminates in a big heist on the eve of the new millennium. (Apr. 30)
D: Dave Meyers; with Eddie Griffin, Master P, Andrew "Dice" Clay, Marla Gibbs, Bill Duke, Traci Bingham.
Foolish Waise, an X-rated standup comic, and Fifty Dolla, a low-level gangster, are brothers who decide to put on a comedy show of their own. Hip-hop entrepreneur Master P co-stars, and the film features cameos by Andrew "Dice" Clay, Marla Gibbs, and Bill Duke. (Apr. 2)
D: George Haas; with Stephen Baldwin, Danny Nucci, Alison Eastwood, Claudia Schiffer, David Rasche, Ann Magnuson, Robert Downey Jr.
A ski weekend provides the backdrop for this sex farce roundelay.
D: Amos Poe; with Barbara Hershey, Robbie Coltrane, John Leguizamo, Lisa Marie, Debi Mazar, Harry Hamlin, Clarence Williams III.
Legendary downtown filmmaker Amos Poe (Alphabet City, The Blank Generation) directs this neo-noir comic thriller about an ensemble of New York actors who literally kill for roles in a new production of David Mamet's American Buffalo.
D: Julia Sweeney; with Sweeney.
Julia Sweeney's acclaimed one-woman Broadway show is brought to film. She brings a comic spin to the year she and her brother both battled cancer, a year further complicated by her worried parents moving in with the siblings to help wage war on the cancers.
D: Roland Joffe; with Patricia Arquette, Dermot Mulroney, Ellen DeGeneres, Mary-Louise Parker, Don Johnson, Ray McKinnon, Alex Rocco, Andre Gregory, John Neville.
This comic and convoluted noir thriller centers around vampy Patricia Arquette, who is involved with two brothers, an insurance policy, murder, and blackmail. The film's story is by Austin Film Festival screenplay winner Ron Peer and it was shot by L.A. Confidential's Dante Spinotti. (Apr. 16)
D: Richard Lester; with Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Wilfrid Brambell.
For those of us who remember this movie from the initial go-around, it's sobering to realize that this 1964 Beatles film is getting the 35th anniversary re-release treatment. This pastiche of Beatlemania features digitally remastered sound and a restored negative as well as some added footage.
D: Gillies MacKinnon; with Kate Winslet, Said Taghmaoui, Bella Riza, Carrie Mulan.
Kate Winslet plays a single mother who packs up her two daughters and departs with them from London for the exoticism of Morocco. This filmed-in-Marrakech indie is the first film Winslet chose to make after her success in Titanic.
D: Rodman Flender; with Devon Sawa, Seth Green, Elden Henson, Vivica A. Fox.
In this comedy horror film a clueless teenage boy winds up with a bloodthirsty right hand that's guided by the devil -- but what ensues promises it will be "more moronics than demonics." (Apr. 23)
D: Ted Demme; with Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, Obba Babatunde, Ned Beatty, Clarence Williams III, Cicely Tyson, Bernie Mac.
Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence star in this prison buddy movie in which two men are wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to life in a Mississippi penitentiary where their friendship deepens over the course of 60 years. (Apr. 16)
D: Jeff Pollack; with David Spade, Sophie Marceau, Dina Spybey, Martin Sheen, Jon Lovitz, lane Smith, Lenny Clarke.
To meet his beautiful neighbor Sophie Marceau, restaurateur David Spade steals her dog in order to make her acquaintance. Then a lot of other people get in on the act. (Apr. 23)
D: Larry and Andy Wachowski; with Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Hugo Weaving.
The brother duo who directed the impressive indie caper film Bound is back with a studio budget this time and Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne as stars. It's a special-effects-laden cyber-thriller about Luddite terrorists who believe that computers have come to rule the world. (Apr. 2)
D: Philip Saville; with Christian Bale, Lee Ross.
Christian Bale (Velvet Goldmine) and Lee Ross (Secrets & Lies) star in the story of two London friends in the mid-Sixties who thumb their noses at the establishment and then go their separate ways. Years later they reunite and question the lifestyle choices and compromises they have made, one continuing his globe-trotting adventures and the other having settled down into a middle-class, suburban job and marriage.
D: Ho Meng-Hua; with Li Hsiu-Hsien, Evelyne Kraft,
Made in 1977, Mighty Peking Man is Hong Kong's answer to Dino De Laurentiis' 1976 version of King Kong. It's a lavish production with several locations and lots of effects and a wealth of campy exploitation film touches. (The press kit is the only one I've ever seen to have a pin-up centerfold.) It's also released by Quentin Tarantino's Rolling Thunder distribution arm. (Apr. 23)
D: Jafar Panahi; with Mina Mohammad-Khani,
For his second film, Jafar Panahi (the Iranian director of The White Balloon and a former assistant to Abbas Kiarostami) has made another tale about the plight of a child: This time the story follows a strong-willed young girl trying to find her way home from school through the congested streets of Teheran. (Apr. 16)
D: Scott Silver; with Claire Danes, Omar Epps, Giovanni Ribisi, Dennis Farina, Josh Brolin, Steve Harris, Michael Lerner.
Aaron Spelling's late-Sixties/early-Seventies "with it" TV show has been updated for the Nineties (without benefit of recent rerun refreshers). The premise involves three juvenile delinquents of different cultural backgrounds, who are enlisted to work as undercover police operatives and infiltrate youth culture -- sans guns. It should be interesting to see what the Nineties equivalent of co-opted hippie cops in hiphuggers and Afros will turn out to be. (Apr. 2)
D: John Duigan; with Elisabeth Shue, Aaron Eckhart, Jill Hennessy, D.W. Moffett, Thomas Jane.
The genius of a mentally challenged woman (Elisabeth Shue) is unlocked when she undergoes a program of highly experimental treatments. Aaron Eckhart (In the Company of Men) plays her brother whose carefree lifestyle is upended when he cares for the sister he hasn't seen since they were children. (Apr. 16)
D: Raja Gosnell; with Drew Barrymore, Molly Shannon, David Arquette, Michael Vartan, John C. Reilly, Leelee Sobieski, Garry Marshall.
Drew Barrymore co-produced and stars in this romantic comedy about a talented but nerdy copy editor at The Chicago Sun-Times who yearns to become a reporter. Her chance comes when she's given an assignment to go undercover at a local high school to report on contemporary teens. (Apr. 9)
D: Alejandro Amenábar; with Eduardo Noriega, Penélope Cruz.
Award-winning Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar helms this psychological thriller about a man disfigured in a car crash who has a hard time in the aftermath distinguishing between reality and illusion. (Apr. 16)
D: Vicky Funari; with Mathyselene Heredia, Carlos Arturo Corona, Maria Serbulo, Mariam Manzano Duran.
This unusual documentary about a Mexico City housekeeper blends narrative storytelling techniques with its factual portrait of a woman who confronts the man who raped her when she was a child.
D: Nettie Wild.
Nettie Wild and her camera crew ventured into the heart of Chiapas during the height of the Zapatista uprising to film this documentary. (Apr. 9)
D: Mike Newell; with John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett, Angelina Jolie.
John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton play competitive air traffic controllers whose rivalry threatens to sunder their careers, marriages, and the airplanes they guide. Cate Blanchett and Angelina Jolie (who have both recently been thrust into the popular spotlight) play their wives, and Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Donnie Brasco) directs. (Apr. 23)
D: Adam Bernstein; with Norman Reedus, Deborah Harry, Adrien Brody, Isaac Hayes, Elina Lowensohn.
An unbalanced young mob enforcer has his hands full dealing with an unreliable partner, his first love, his ex-lounge singer mom (with whom he lives), and various twists of fate. Deborah Harry plays the housebound mom in this perversely stylish tale.
D: Claude Chabrol; with Isabelle Huppert, Michel Serrault.
For his 50th film, France's gimlet-eyed master of the double cross, Claude Chabrol, has directed this comic thriller about a pair of grifters who find that when they raise the stakes that typify their scams they consequently raise the stakes that govern their personal lives. (Apr. 16)
D: Josef Rusnak; with Craig Bierko, Gretchen Mol, Vincent D'Onofrio, Dennis Haysbert, Armin Mueller-Stahl.
When a tycoon is mysteriously murdered in this science fiction thriller, all signs of guilt point to an employee who has created a virtual universe of 1937 Los Angeles on a computer chip and who must enter the world in search of the truth. (Apr. 9)
D: Tony Goldwyn; with Diane Lane, Viggo Mortensen, Liev Schreiber, Anna Paquin.
During the Woodstock summer of '69, a conventional Brooklyn housewife (Diane Lane) who spends her summer in the Catskills with her children while her husband commutes up on the weekends finds steamy love and generational conflict with Viggo Mortensen.
D: Paul Weitz; with Jason Biggs, Jennifer Coolidge, Shannon Elizabeth, Alyson Hannigan, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Chris Klein, Eugene Levy, Natasha Lyonne, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Chris Owen, Tara Reid, Seann W. Scott, Mena Suvari.
A group of high-school seniors makes a pact to lose their virginity by prom night. Sounds like just the right movie for the Memorial Day weekend. (May 28)
D: Samira Makhmalbaf; with Massoumeh Naderi, Zahra Naderi, Ghdrbanali Naderi.
Based on a true story and enacted by the actual protagonists, this unusual Iranian film tells the story of a fundamentalist father and a blind mother who kept their two daughters locked in the house behind bars and walls for all of their 12 years. The girls can barely communicate and know nothing of the outside world. Ironically, the film was made by a 17-year-old Iranian girl, the daughter of the acclaimed director Mohsen Makhmalbaf.
D: Emir Kusturica; with Srdan Todorovic, Florijan Ajdini, Jasar Destani.
Slapstick and folklore mix it up in Bosnian-born filmmaker Emir Kusturica's new comedy set among Gypsies along the Danube. The film is being hailed as a true crowd-pleaser by the director of the controversial Cannes Grand Prix winner Underground and Time of the Gypsies. (May 28)
D: Morgan J. Freeman; with Brendan Sexton III, Sara Gilbert, Kate Hudson, Christina Ricci, Casey Affleck, John Heard, Lucinda Jenney.
Morgan J. Freeman, the director of the troubling teen drama Hurricane Streets, follows up that debut film with this portrait of an odd weekend in a tiny California town during which several youths make peace with their dreams. (May 7)
D: Francis Veber; with Thierry Lhermitte, Jacques Villeret, Francis Huster, Daniel Prevost, Alexandra Vandernoot, Catherine Frot.
Friends compete in this French comedy to see who can bring the most boring guest to dinner. One man brings an accountant who then enters his life.
D: Erick Zonca; with Elodie Bouchez, Natacha Regnier, Gregoire Colin, Jo Prestia, Patrick Mercado.
The two stars of this French drama jointly won the best actress award at last year's Cannes Film Festival. The widely acclaimed feature debut by director Erick Zonca tells the story of two young women living in the economic margins of society and the bonds of friendship and responsibility human beings can develop for each other. (May 14)
D: Leslie Woodhead; with Haile Gebrselassie, Shawanness Gebrselassie, Gebrselassie Bekele.
The story of 1996 champion Olympic runner Haile Gebrselassie is told in this docudrama that focuses on the champion's early years in Ethiopia growing up with hardship and poverty and an unquenchable desire to run. (May 7)
D: David Cronenberg; with Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law, Ian Holm, Willem Dafoe, Sarah Polley, Christopher Eccleston.
Computer games systems designer Jennifer Jason Leigh slips into the alternate reality of her latest creation in order to flee assassins. Also getting sucked in is Gattaca's Jude Law. The oddly spelled eXistenZ is the first original script (rather than an adaptation) that Cronenberg has written since Videodrome.
D: Wu Tian-Ming; with Zhu Xu, Zhou Ren-ying.
Instead of the usual action fare we associate with Hong Kong filmmaking, this film is a compassionate drama about a Chinese street performer who comes up against the authorities when he tries to create an heir to his trade. It is the first film the director made after six years of political exile in the U.S.
D: Peter Chan; with Kate Capshaw, Blythe Danner, Ellen DeGeneres, Geraldine McEwan, Julianne Nicholson, Tom Everett Scott, Tom Selleck, Gloria Stuart.
An ardent and sensual but unsigned and unaddressed love letter wakes things up in a sleepy New England town when all the residents speculate about who wrote it and for whom it was meant. Everyone begins to eye each other with new curiosity in this secret-unlocking tale penned by The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love's Maria Maggenti. (May 21)
D: Stephen Sommers; with Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz.
This remake of the 1932 Universal horror classic has treasure-seeking Sahara explorers in 1925 setting loose a 3,000-year-old terror. The new version also has effects by Industrial Light & Magic. (May 7)
D: Benoit Jacquot; with Isabelle Huppert, Vincent Martinez, Vincent Lindon, Marthe Keller.
Adapted from a Yukio Mishima novel, this film tells the story of an attraction between an older woman and a younger man. (May 21)
D: George Lucas; with Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Terrence Stamp, Pernilla August.
George Lucas will no doubt own the summer (if not the year) with this prequel to the Star Wars saga. This first chapter finds Darth Vader (father of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia) as a hopeful nine-year-old boy and Obi-Wan Kenobi as a young Jedi warrior. (May 21)
D: Tony Bui; with Don Duong, Ngoc Hiep, Tran Manh Cuong, Zoe Bui, Nguyen Huu Duoc, Harvey Keitel.
Not only is Three Seasons the first American film to be shot in Vietnam since the war, it is also the unprecedented winner of three top awards at this year's Sundance Film Festival. The lyrical film interweaves stories of several different characters to capture a country in transition. Harvey Keitel co-stars. (May 14)
D: Michael Hoffman; with Christian Bale, Rupert Everett, Calista Flockhart, Kevin Kline, Sophie Marceau, Michelle Pfeiffer, David Straithairn, Stanley Tucci.
Shakespeare's magical comedy classic is transported to the Tuscan countryside at the turn of the 19th century. Director Hoffman (Restoration) has a flair for telling effective period stories and this all-star cast is sure to bring their own magic to the tale. (May 7)
D: Mark Pellington; with Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Hope Davis.
A recently widowed college professor and his son living in suburban Washington, D.C., are at first pleased with the easy friendship that develops with their new neighbors but soon begin to suspect that the newcomers harbor nefarious motives. Should the welcome wagon ostracize suspected terrorists? Director Mark Pellington (Going All the Way) filmed mostly in the Houston area.
CRAZY IN ALABAMA
D: Antonio Banderas; with Melanie Griffith, David Morse, Cathy Moriarty, Lucas Black, Rod Steiger.
Antonio Banderas directs his wife Melanie Griffith in this bittersweet tale of a young boy who learns life lessons from his aunt, who escapes an abusive husband and takes off for Hollywood to follow her dreams of TV stardom.
D: David Evans; with Colin Firth, Ruth Gemmell, Neil Pearson, Lorraine Ashbourne.
Based on the book by English writer Nick Hornby, the film depicts the romance between an uptight English teacher and a soccer coach during an exciting championship season.
D: Richard Wenk; with Andy Garcia, Andie MacDowell.
If he is to keep the girl he loves (Andie MacDowell), a New York City ticket scalper (Andy Garcia) must cash in his stubs.
D: Jerzy Domaradzki; with Toni Collette, Ruth Cracknell, Barry Otto, John Flaus, Iris Shand, Susie Lindeman.
Modeled after the life of an eccentric street person named Bea Miles in Sydney, Australia, who regaled passersby with renditions from Shakespeare, this 1995 film sounds somewhat akin to Shine.
D: John Sayles; with Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, David Straithairn, Vanessa Martinez, Casey Siemaszko.
John Sayles wrote and directed this story about a fisherman and a singer who are trying to reinvent their lives on the rugged frontier of the islands off southeastern Alaska.
D: John Forte; with William Ashe, Keri Russell.
A Catholic school boy in Belfast tries to improve his soccer footwork by studying Latin dance and falls in love with his partner, an upper-class girl.
D: Keith Gordon; with Billy Crudup, Jennifer Connelly, Ivonne Coll, Paul Hipp, Hal Holbrook.
An attorney is haunted by memories of his lover who was killed in a terrorist attack years before. Director Keith Gordon (Mother Night, Wild Palms) is no stranger to these kinds of narrative temporal and psychological twists.
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