By Marjorie Baumgarten and Jessica Reisman
MAY 26, 1998: The clawed toe of Godzilla has finally set down - officially kicking off the summer movie season. After months of teasers, the original Bigfoot has arrived and promises to be every bit the summer spectacle the movie business thrives on. Size does matter. Joining the nuclear lizard in the ultra effects and thrills department are the dueling meteor movies Deep Impact (whose "killer" opening business has already set new summer records) and Armageddon (coming July 1 for the holiday weekend).
Yet when compared with last summer's overabundant thrill ride, when each new weekend piled big action and heavy effects movies on top of each other faster than pancakes stack up at IHOP, the summer '98 calendar appears more reasoned and sensible. Yes, this summer offers plenty of big popcorn pushers but not nearly in the same frequency overload as last year. More surprising is that in between the season's heavy hitters there lurks a remarkably diverse selection of movie fare.
A surprising number of thoughtful offerings are around to buck the restrictive mindlock of summer escapism: Warren Beatty's political satire Bulworth, Peter Weir and Jim Carrey's provocative meditation on media totalitarianism in The Truman Show, Robert Redford's intelligent reworking of romantic pulp fiction in The Horse Whisperer, and Steven Spielberg's non-Jurassic war drama starring Tom Hanks, Saving Private Ryan.
Also surprising is the lack of movies with numerals at the end of their titles - in other words, sequels. Usually out in abundance during the lazy sunbake season, the tanking of last summer's Speed 2 may have scared off more than a few potential recidivists. Lethal Weapon 4 and Air Bud 2 are the main repeat customers here. But the familiar also rises to the surface with a number of re-makes of old favorites: The Parent Trap, Dr. Dolittle, and The Avengers are some of the stand-outs. Likewise, films such as The Mask of Zorro with Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins, and Ever After: A Cinderella Story with Drew Barrymore and Angelica Huston update and rework some timeless classics.
Also on the summer horizon are a number of films from well-known autuers: Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Whit Stillman's The Last Days of Disco, Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight, Henry Jaglom's Déjà Vu, Hal Hartley's Henry Fool, Tom DiCillo's The Real Blonde, and Brian Di Palma's Snake Eyes, to name but a few.
Additionally, a number of films that have been high-fived in the course of their rounds of the festival circuit are now making it onto our local screens. Some titles to look for include Buffalo '66, Smoke Signals, The Hanging Garden, Hav Plenty, [[pi]] (Pi), High Art, and Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss.
Summer '98 looks like it might have more to offer than blockbuster mega-promotions and self-fulfilling prophecies. If nothing else, those air-conditioned movie emporiums are a great way to beat the summer heat. - M.B.
Harry Connick, Jr. and Sandra Bullock in Hope Floats
When her husband leaves her and her young daughter in a particularly humiliating fashion, a former high school beauty queen (Bullock) comes back to her hometown of Smithville, Texas to live with her wiggy mother (Rowlands). (May 29)
THE HORSE WHISPERER
D: Robert Redford; with Robert Redford, Kristin Scott Thomas, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Neill, Dianne Weist, Chris Cooper.
Nicholas Evans' romantic novel about a horse trainer (Redford) with a unique gift for curing troubled horses, a woman (Scott Thomas), and her daughter, who has been emotionally and physically scarred by a brutal riding accident, comes to the screen with Redford holding the reins. (May 15)
I GOT THE HOOK-UP
D: Michael Martin; with Master P, A.J. Johnson, Gretchen Palmer, Tommy "Tiny" Lister Jr., John Witherspoon.
Rapper Master P's self-financed film follows the fortunes of a couple of ghetto entrepreneurs whose scam operation of moving cell phones out of the back of a van hits some static. (May 27)
I THINK I DO
D: Brian Sloan; with Alexis Arquette, Maddie Corman, Guillermo Diaz, Marianne Hagan, Jamie Harrold, Christian Maelen.
Over the course of a wedding weekend, a group of misfit friends and lovers chase love with varying results in this screwball romantic comedy; against a backdrop of choice Partridge Family tunes, the girls get the guys, the guys get the guys, and everyone gets their happy ending. (May 22)
QUEST FOR CAMELOT
D: Frederick Du Chao; with the voices of Pierce Brosnan, Gabriel Byrne, Cary Elwes, Jessalyn Gilsig, Gary Oldman, Bronson Pinchot, Jane Seymour, Eric Idle, Don Rickles, Jane Seymour, John Gielgud.
A strong-willed girl living in the fabled days of King Arthur's court dreams of performing knightly deeds of loyalty and bravery and sets out with a young blind man to stop an evil villain from capturing the sword Excalibur and, through it, the Kingdom of Camelot. (May 15)
THE REAL BLONDE
D: Tom DiCillo; with Matthew Modine, Catherine Keener, Daryl Hannah, Maxwell Caulfield, Elizabeth Berkley, Bridgette Wilson.
Living in Oblivion director Tom DiCillo (a Sundance regular) once more treads the delicate line between sarcasm and comedy as he and his ensemble cast explore the differences between real blondes and synthetic beauty, intimacy and surface appearances, and true love and comfortable facades. (May 29)
D: Stefan Schwartz; with Dan Futterman, Stuart Townsend, Kate Beckinsale.
Updating the romantic comedy caper, this story follows the adventures of two young swindlers and their female accomplice, who are engaged in a bit of Robin Hoodery ripping off the wealthy and returning the money to poor, deserving orphans (in this case, them). (May 22)
June AYN RAND: A SENSE OF LIFE
D: Michael Paxton.
Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary recounts the life of writer Ayn Rand and the history of her philosophy of objectivism. (June 19)
D: Lucio Fulci; with David Warbeck, Sarah Keller, Antoine Saint-John, Veronica Lazar, Anthony Flees, Giovanni De Nava, Al Cliver, Michele Mirabella, Gianpaolo Saccarola, Maria Pia Marsala, Laura De Marchi.
Italian cult filmmaker Lucio Fulci, infamous for his extreme horror movies, filmed this one in 1981; in it, the cellar of an old building lies atop the gateway to the beyond - home to bloody zombies and other nasty ghoulies. (June 12)
D: Caroline Link; with Sylvie Testud, Tatjana Trieb, Howie Seago, Emanuelle Laborit, Sybille Canonica.
This German film, which was nominated for a best foreign language Oscar, uses deafness as a metaphor for a young girl's communication difficulties with her family. (June 26)
CAN'T HARDLY WAIT
D: Harry Elfont & Deborah Kaplan; with Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ethan Embry, Charlie Korsmo, Lauren Ambrose, Peter Facinelli, Seth Green.
A group of teenagers confront their unacted-on desires, scheme retributions, and contemplate their futures during the night of their graduation party. The breakfast club reconvenes for late-night pizza. (June 12)
D: Jill Sprecher; with Toni Collette, Parker Posey, Lisa Kudrow, Alanna Ubach.
Four office temp workers (played by some of the hottest young acting talents) share their humor and their humanity in this slice-of-life look at white-color work, directed and co-written by first-time filmmaker Jill Sprecher. (June 26)
D: Des McAnuff; with Jessica Lange, Elisabeth Shue, Bob Hoskins, Hugh Laurie, Kelly MacDonald, Aden Young.
Adultery and financial misfortune are at the heart of this film adaptation of the Balzac novel set in 1940s France; it marks the filmmaking debut of the Tony Award-winning director Des McAnuff. (June 19)
DAY AT THE BEACH
D: Nick Veronis; with Jane Adams, Patrick Fitzgerald, Paul Gleason, Neal Jones, Catherine Kellner.
Jimmy and his friends are having a rough few days after the prop briefcase from the film they're shooting causes an accidental death... and that's just the beginning of their problems, so they head out to Long Island for some R&R. (June 26)
D: Henry Jaglom; with Stephen Dillane, Victoria Foyt, Vanessa Redgrave, Glynis Barber, Michael Brandon, Vernon Dobtcheff, Graydon Gould, Noel Harrison.
In this typically idiosyncratic romantic melodrama by Henry Jaglom (co-scripted with wife and co-star Victoria Foyt), two smart and otherwise attached grown-ups fall for each other and must decide whether to risk their jobs, families, and even their nationalities to be together. (June 19)
D: Bob Saget; with Norm Macdonald, Chevy Chase, Christopher McDonald, Jack Warden, Artie Lange, Traylor Howard, Don Rickles.
Two losers find success in the revenge-for-hire business - a premise made all the more delicious ever since Norm Macdonald became the country's most famous fired "Weekend Update" anchorman. (June 5)
D: Betty Thomas; with Eddie Murphy, the voices of Norm Macdonald, Albert Brooks, Garry Shandling, Julie Kavner, Chris Rock, Jean Stapleton, Ellen DeGeneres, Paul Reubens.
Murphy is the doc blessed with the furry gift of gab in this remake of the 1967 kids film, this one sans the singing of the original. An impressive array of comics lend their voices, and their facial expressions via computer animation to Dolittle's talkative animal friends. (June 26)
D: Michael Winterbottom; with Robert Carlyle, Juliet Aubrey, James Nesbitt, Sophie Okonedo.
Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty, Trainspotting) is Nick, a Scotsman living in Bristol, England; Juliet Aubrey is Karen, the woman with whom he falls in love. Nick and Karen are happy, until everything begins to unravel as Nick finds out there's something wrong with him in this new film by the critically celebrated filmmaker Michael Winterbottom (Welcome to Sarajevo, Butterfly Kiss). (June/July)
GONE WITH THE WIND
D: Victor Fleming; with Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland, Leslie Howard.
Scarlett and Rhett's large popcorn, two-box of tissues epic love story, set against the sweeping backdrop of America's Civil War, has been remastered to digitally enhance the sound, revive the Technicolor, reinstate the film's original 1:33x1 ratio, and restore the film's original overture, intermission, and exit music. (June 26)
HANDS ON A HARDBODY
D: S.R. Bindler.
Longview, Texas provides the location for this lively documentary about a days-long endurance contest sponsored by a Nissan truck dealership in which the person who keeps one hand in contact with a hardbody truck gets to take it home. (June 12)
D: Chris Cherot; with Cherot, Chenoa Maxwell, Tammi Jones, Robinne Lee, Hill Harper, Reginald James.
Over the course of one New Year's Eve weekend, a man who has nothing but love falls for a woman who has everything but love in this twentysomething black American romance that has proven to be a festival favorite. (June 12)
D: Lisa Cholodenko; with Ally Sheedy, Radha Mitchell, Patricia Clarkson, Bill Sage, Tammy Grimes.
Love, ambition, identity, and addiction are some of the themes explored in this sinuously shot film about a retired lesbian junkie photographer (Ally Sheedy) and the conflicted woman who lives downstairs; writer-director Lisa Cholodenko's film won the screenwriting award at Sundance. (June 26)
D: Pål Sletaune; with Robert Skjærstad, Andrine Sæther, Per Egil Aske, Eli Anne Linnestad, Trønd Hovik, Henriette Seenstrup.
A mean-spirited and lovelorn mailman named Roy goes postal, Norwegian-style, as he falls in love with the woman in whose apartment he trespasses and becomes enmeshed in a world of crime and danger. (June 12)
D: David Leland; with Catherine McCormack, Rachel Weisz, Anna Friel, Steven Mackintosh.
In 1941 as World War II continues, England finds itself short of young men and the Women's Land Army is formed, dispatching young women across the countryside to pick up the slack. Three of them come to a remote farm where they discover a handsome son, hard work, and precious camaraderie. (June/July)
THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO
D: Whit Stillman; with Chloe Sevigny, Kate Beckinsale, Chris Eigeman, Matt Keeslar, Mackenzie Astin, Robert Sean Leonard, Jennifer Beals.
Filmed on location in and around New York, this story of two female college grads and the post-Harvard group of guys they fall in with at the most popular dance club of the day is the final installment in writer-director Whit Stillman's set of three romantic comedies, the first being Metropolitan, the second Barcelona. The dialectic this time is about the virtues of group social life vs. those of "ferocious pairing off." (June 5)
LEATHER JACKET LOVE STORY
D: David DeCoteau; with Sean Tataryn, Christopher Bradley, Nicholas Worth, Mink Stole.
A starry-eyed, 18-year-old Valley Boy seeks out the bohemian lifestyle in L.A.'s Silverlake district and finds himself in an affair with a cynical rough-trade stud in this romantic comedy. (June 5)
LITTLE BOY BLUE
D: Antonio Tibaldi: with Ryan Philippe, Nastassja Kinski, John Savage, Shirley Knight.
In this shattering drama filmed last year in Austin, a young man's struggle for normalcy and happiness uncovers his dysfunctional family's long-buried secret of incest. (June 26)
D: Noah Baumbach; with Eric Stoltz, Annabella Sciorra, Chris Eigeman, Carlos Jacott, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Brian Kerwin, Peter Bogdanovich, Bridget Fonda, John Lehr.
A jealous guy stalks his girlfriend's ex by joining his therapy group; a wonderful ensemble cast tackles the green-eyed monster. (June/July)
D: Barry Cook & Tony Bancroft; with the voices of Ming-Na Wen, Eddie Murphy, B.D. Wong, Harvey Fierstein, Jerry Tondo, Gedde Watanabe, James Hong.
Disney strives to do right by this traditional Chinese legend while translating it into a visually lush animation which tells the tale of a young girl who dons male attire and goes off to fight the invading Hun army with her tiny, fire-breathing dragon along as moral support and coach. (June 19)
George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez in Out of Sight
D: Steven Soderbergh; with George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Dennis Farina, Albert Brooks, Isaiah Washington.
A wily bank robber escapes from prison, plans to rob a tycoon, and seduces the female marshal who's supposed to capture him in Steven Soderbergh's sly, unpredictable crime story with a romantic twist. It's based on an Elmore Leonard novel with a script by Scott Frank, who also adapted Get Shorty. (June 26)
A PERFECT MURDER
D: Andrew Davis; with Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, Viggo Mortensen, David Suchet, Sarita Choudhury.
The Fugitive's Andrew Davis remakes Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder, a cat-and-mouse thriller about a tycoon, his unfaithful trophy wife, and her downtown lover. (June 5)
SIX DAYS, SEVEN NIGHTS
D: Ivan Reitman; with Harrison Ford, Anne Heche, David Schwimmer, Jacqueline Obradors, Temeura Morrison.
When the plane carrying a grumpy cargo pilot (Ford) and a New York magazine editor (Heche) called back from a holiday with her fiancé is forced down onto a deserted island during a storm, romantic adventure in an exotic locale ensues. (June 12)
THE TRUMAN SHOW
D: Peter Weir; with Jim Carrey, Ed Harris, Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich.
Truman Burbank (Carrey) is the unwitting star of a hugely popular television show; his whole life has been televised, his family are actors, and his town is one gigantic sound stage in this comedy-drama allegory. Carrey stands a better chance of avoiding his Cable Guy misstep with this pairing with director Peter Weir, the man who also guided Robin Williams' successful dramatic turn in Dead Poets Society. (June 5)
UNDER THE SKIN
D: Carine Adler; with Samantha Morton, Claire Rushbrook, Rita Tushingham.
Following her mother's death, a young woman plunges into a heart-breaking, self-destructive descent of sexual promiscuity, disguise, and flight. (June 12)
WARNER BROS. 75TH ANNIVERSARY FESTIVAL
To celebrate the studio's 75th year, 33 of Warner's finest films will be brought to the screen in a week-long series that focuses on a different decade each day of the week. (June 26)
WHEN I CLOSE MY EYES
D: Shunji Iwai; with Miho Nakayama, Takashi Kashiwabara, Etsushi Toyokawa.
A postal mix-up sets in motion an unusual series of events for a bereaved Japanese woman mourning the loss of her beloved fiancé. (June/July)
WILD MAN BLUES
D: Barbara Kopple.
Award-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple shot this documentary about Woody Allen and his Dixieland jazz band on tour through Europe. See Woody out of Manhattan, kvetching in real life, interacting with travel companion Soon-Yi Previn, explaining why his films are popular abroad, and likening the experience of New Orleans jazz to "taking a bath in honey," among other things. (June 5)
D: Brian Gilbert; with Stephen Fry, Jude Law, Vanessa Redgrave, Jennifer Ehle, Gemma Jones, Tom Wilkinson.
British comedian and wit Stephen Fry stars as the playwright Oscar Wilde in this film that provides an upfront portrayal of the scribe's homosexuality and his personally ruinous infatuation with the upper-crust Alfred Douglas, as well as a deeply biographical understanding of the artist's ideals, emotions, and experiences. (June 19)
D: Rob Bowman; with David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi, William B. Davis, Marin Landau, Blythe Danner, Armin Mueller-Stahl.
You don't really want speculation here, do you? Okay, X-Files creator Chris Carter, who wrote the screenplay that carries the television series to the big screen, says: "You'll finally learn what the conspiracy is all about." (June 19)
D: Michael Bay; with Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Ben Affleck, Will Patton, Keith David, Steve Buscemi.
Texas is heading for Earth... an asteroid the size of Texas, that is. Bad news. NASA sends the world's foremost deep-core oil driller (Bruce Willis) and his rough-and-ready drill team to land on the asteroid, drill it, and drop a nuclear device into the core. Summer adrenaline rush fueled by some solid casting plus those helpful news alerts of a few months back that warned of an asteroid that seemed headed for earth. (July 1)
D: David Zucker; with Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Robert Vaughn, Yasmine Bleeth, Jenny McCarthy, Bob Costas, Robert Stack, Ernest Borgnine.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone in BASEketball
When some slackers (Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of South Park) make up a new sport for the joy of it, it gets taken up by the major corporate madness that is professional sports, spawning a wildly popular league; this pairing of Comedy Central's impudent animators with spoof king David Zucker (Airplane!, Naked Guns) sounds just about right. (July 31)
BE THE MAN
D: Peter MacDonald; with Bob Einstein, Gia Carides, Dan Hedaya, Steve Van Wormer, Don Lake, Art Irizawa, Mike Walden.
Hapless stuntman Super Dave Osborne (aka Bob Einstein, aka Albert Brooks' genetically fraternal relation) runs a school for would-be fall guys in this comic narrative. Ouch. (July 31)
D: Vincent Gallo; with Gallo, Christina Ricci, Anjelica Huston, Ben Gazzara, Mickey Rourke, Rosanna Arquette.
Actor Vincent Gallo (The Funeral) made quite a splash at Sundance when he debuted this new film, which he wrote, directed, stars in, and composed; the mordant story follows the dramatic and comedic prospects of a young man suffering from extreme alienation. (July)
DANCE WITH ME
D: Randa Haines; with Vanessa L. Williams, Chayanne, Kris Kristofferson, Joan Plowright.
A young Cuban émigré brings new life to a fading dance studio in Houston and to a dance instructor who is looking to re-enter the ranks of professional ballroom dance; the Latin-salsa-meets-ballroom-dancing plot was reportedly inspired by director Randa Haines' own passion for the dance floor. (July 31)
DEAD MAN ON CAMPUS
D: Alan Cohn; with Tom Everett Scott, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Alyson Hannigan, Poppy Montgomery.
Faced with bad grades from too much partying, two college students decide to manipulate the college bylaw that allows "A"s for the semester if your roommate causes you grief and mental anguish by dying; it's directed by one of the creators of MTV's Real World, Alan Cohn. (July 24)
FULL TILT BOOGIE
D: Sarah Kelly.
This documentary on the making of From Dusk Till Dawn, which was directed by Robert Rodriguez and written by and co-stars Quentin Tarantino, provides an entertaining look at the behind-the-scenes activity that goes into making a motion picture - from dust storms and threats of union shutdowns to on-set romances and the art of craft services; also featuring George Clooney, Juliet Lewis, Lawrence Bender, and others. (July 31)
D: Tony Gatlif; with Romain Duris, Isidor Serban, Rona Hartner, Ovidiu Balan.
Filmmaker Tony Gatlif has made a couple of documentaries, Latcho Drom and Mondo, that explore his Gypsy heritage; Gadjo Dilo is a fictional work which uses the character of a musicologist as our eyes and ears on this same Romanian milieu.
THE HANGING GARDEN
D: Thom Fitzgerald; with Chris Leavins, Kerry Fox, Seana McKenna, Troy Veinotte, Peter McNeill, Sarah Polley.
Explosive family secrets come to life in this Canadian festival favorite that blends slice-of-life drama with surrealist fantasy to create a lusty comedy full of painful confrontations. (July 10)
I WENT DOWN
D: Paddy Breathnach; with Brendan Gleeson, Peter McDonald, Peter Caffrey, Tony Doyle.
A blackly comic road movie, crime caper, and buddy thriller about Bunny and Git, two bitty barnacles on the ship of crime who argue and bump their way across the Irish badlands on a crime boss' errand, which, of course, turns into anything but an easy job. The film, a critical and popular hit in Ireland (and SXSW), is written and directed by hot, young playwright Paddy Breathnach. (July 3)
JAMES ELLROY: DEMON DOG OF AMERICAN CRIME FICTION
D: Richard Jud.
A hand-held camera catches the writer James Ellroy (the L.A. Confidential screenwriter) on the fly in 1995 as he revisits some of his childhood haunts where he lived with his mother before she turned up strangled to death and then with his father, an L.A. bottom feeder. (July)
JANE AUSTEN'S MAFIA!
D: Jim Abrahams; with Jay Mohr, Lloyd Bridges, Olympia Dukakis, Christina Applegate, Billy Burke, Tony LoBianco.
The Godfathers I and II, and mob movies in general, get put through the same parody tumbler that produced Airplane! and progeny. In his last screen role, Lloyd Bridges stars as Vincenzo, who swims from Sicily to America to become the Cortino family patriarch. (July 24)
D: John Duigan; with Sam Rockwell, Kathleen Quinlan, Mischa Barton, Bruce Gill, Christopher MacDonald.
A lonely 10-year-old girl strikes up an incongruous friendship with an older, marginalized loner in this new film by British director John Duigan (Flirting, Sirens). (July 10)
LETHAL WEAPON 4
D: Richard Donner; with Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Chris Rock, Jet Li.
Gibson and Glover's detectives Riggs and Martaugh are back, with Russo, Rock, and Pesci on the team as they go up against an Asian crime overlord (Jet Li - kung fu action star extraordinaire). Apparently the film went to production in such a hurry that a lot of improvisation went down on the set. (July 10)
D: Daisy Mayer; with Frances McDormand, Hatty Jones, Nigel Hawthorne.
Ludwig Bemeleman's beloved series about the smallest one in a Paris school for girls, the fearless, mischievous Madeline, comes to the screen with Frances McDormand as Miss Clavel and Nigel Hawthorne as the villainous Lord "Cucuface." (July 10)
THE MASK OF ZORRO
D: Martin Campbell; with Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stuart Wilson.
Twenty years after Zorro slashed his crusading Z, Mexico's fight for independence from Spain goes on and the original Zorro, Don Diego (Anthony Hopkins) chooses a successor in a young bandit (Antonio Banderas) and passes on the mask in this film update originally scheduled for Robert Rodriguez to direct. (July 17)
THE OPPOSITE OF SEX
D: Don Roos; with Christina Ricci, Martin Donovan, Lisa Kudrow, Lyle Lovett, Johnny Galecki, Ivan Sergei.
A 16-year old girl (Ricci) runs away from a troubled home in Louisiana and comes to stay with her rich half-brother (Hal Hartley regular Martin Donovan). There she messes with the lives of everyone from her brother's new boyfriend to his sexually repressed best friend (Kudrow, stretching her acting muscles). (July 3)
THE PARENT TRAP
D: Nancy Meyers; with Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson, Lindsay Lohan, Lisa Ann Walter, Elaine Hendrix.
When a set of twins (Lohan in dual roles) - whose parents (Quaid and Richardson) had split up when they were babies - finally meet, they hatch a plot to get the parentals back together in this remake of the 1961 Hayley Mills classic. (July 29)
PASSION IN THE DESERT
D: Lavinia Currier; with Ben Daniels, Michel Piccoli.
Adapted from the 19th-century Balzac novella, Passion in the Desert tells the story of a lost Napoleonic officer who is befriended by a leopard. (July 10)
D: Theresa Connelly; with Lena Olin, Gabriel Byrne, Claire Danes, Adam Trese, Mili Avital, Daniel Lapaine.
Lena Olin heads this ensemble cast as the matriarch of a large, traditional Polish-American family in Detroit who is married to baker Gabriel Byrne and is the mother of tempestuous daughter Claire Danes. (July 24)
D: John Hamburg; with Sam Rockwell, Steve Zahn, Paul Giamatti, Harvey Fierstein, Michael Lerner, Christina Kirk.
In this crime comedy, Sam Rockwell (Box of Moonlight) and Steve Zahn (subUrbia, That Thing You Do!) play a pair of fabulously untalented singers who are mistaken as the town's best safecrackers and are subsequently drawn into the tangled world of the local Jewish mafia. (July 31)
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN
D: Steven Spielberg; with Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Matt Damon, Jeremy Davies, Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Ted Danson.
Eight American soldiers are sent on a mission behind enemy lines to find and rescue paratrooper James Ryan (Damon) in this World War II action drama that opens on the sands of Omaha Beach in a colossal reenactment of D-Day and proceeds from there into a tense character- and ethics-driven adventure. Director Steven Spielberg's grand-scale human drama also features American acting icon Tom Hanks as the platoon leader. (July 24)
D: Joe Dante; with Kirsten Dunst, Gregory Smith, Jay Mohr, Phil Hartman, Ann Magnuson, Denis Leary, the voice of Tommy Lee Jones.
The Commando Elite, action figures with military intelligence circuitry for brains, come to life and make all-out war with the Gorgonites, a band of monster figures, and with some of their human toy owners. With Gremlins director Joe Dante at the helm, it remains to be seen if Small Soldiers is a film or just a marketing plan. (July 10)
D: Chris Eyre; with Adam Beach, Evan Adams, Gary Farmer, Tantoo Cardinal, Irene Bedard.
Sherman Alexie penned this story about two young Native American men on an odyssey from the reservation and toward personal and cultural identity; the film was a double award-winner at Sundance and a hit at many other festivals. (July 17)
THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY
D: Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly; with Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon, Ben Stiller, Chris Elliot.
A man hires a private detective to hunt down the one love of his life. The gumshoe finds her, falls for her, then lies about her to his client. Sound like a noir tale? Perhaps, but it's noir as brought to you by the scatologically minded guys behind Dumb & Dumber. (July 17)
VERY BAD THINGS
D: Peter Berg; with Christian Slater, Cameron Diaz, Daniel Stern, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Jon Favreau, Jeremy Piven, Leland Orser.
Peter Berg (Chicago Hope's Dr. Billy Kronk) turns writer-director in this dark comedy about a Vegas bachelor party during which something goes terribly wrong and causes the attendees to emotionally pick away at themselves and each other. (July 24)
August AIR BUD 2
D: Richard Martin; with Kevin Zegers, Cynthia Stevenson, Gregory Harrison, Nora Dunn, Shayn Solberg, Perry Anzlilotti.
Buddy the basketball-playing wonder dog is back (even though in real life the first Buddy succumbed to cancer) in this new pick-and-rollover play. (August 14)
D: Jeremiah Chechik; with Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, Sean Connery, Eddie Izzard, Fiona Shaw, Jim Broadbent, Eileen Atkins.
Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman in The Avengers
Fiennes takes up John Steed's bowler, brolly, and inimitability; Thurman slips into Emma Peel's black leather and cool smarts in this 1990s re-invention of the trippy-cool 1960s television series. Connery also stars, trying on the black hat, as evil Sir August DeWynter. (August 14)
BILLY'S HOLLYWOOD SCREEN KISS
D: Tommy O'Haver; with Sean P. Hayes, Brad Rowe, Richard Ganoug, Meredith Scott Lynn, Matthew Ashford, Paul Bartel.
Set against the romantic imagery of old Hollywood, this visually eye-catching film tells the story of a modern gay romance between a photographer and a musician as it struggles to bloom amid the Hollywood ideal. (August)
D: Stephen Norrington; with Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, Traci Lords.
The half-vampire, half-human vampire hunter Blade, of comic book fame, comes to the big screen in this action sci-fi thriller. Snipes is the lone wolf anti-hero, Dorff the powerful vampire overlord whose toothy army of darkness is poised to conquer the earth and bring the era of humankind to an apocalyptic end. (August/Sept)
D: David Dobkin; with Joaquin Phoenix, Georgina Cates, Vince Vaughn, Janeane Garofalo, Scott Wilson.
Summer in Mercer, Montana finds Clay Bidwell (Phoenix) having an affair with his best friend's wife. When said friend finds out, he takes the news badly and proceeds to frame Clay for his own death - as a horrified Clay looks on. Soon Clay's in over his head with mind games, an FBI agent, and a serial killer in this dark comedy-thriller from Ridley Scott protégé David Dobkin. (August 14)
D: David Nutter; with James Marsden, Nick Stahl, Katie Holmes, Bruce Greenwood, William Sadler.
Frequent X-Files director David Nutter helms this teen thriller (written by Con Air's Scott Rosenberg) that's bidding to be this season's "I Know What You Did This Summer." It's about the new kid in town who stumbles into sinister doings when he notices all the rebellious teens turning into wholesome overachievers. (August 21)
THE EMPTY MIRROR
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 Fuhrer's mind if after World War II he had lived and was left to contemplate his deeds, his myth, and the man he really was. (August)
EVER AFTER: A CINDERELLA STORY
D: Andy Tennant; with Drew Barrymore, Anjelica Huston, Dougray Scott, Jeanne Moreau, Joroen Krabbé, Richard O'Brien.
This feminist retelling of the timeless fairy tale pictures Cinderella as a ballsy French Renaissance maiden, Angelica Huston as the evil stepmother, and Leonardo da Vinci as the fairy godmother; the film re-teams Drew Barrymore with her Long Island Lolita (the Amy Fisher TV movie) director Andy Tennant. (August 7)
D: Mark Christopher; with Mike Myers, Neve Campbell, Ryan Phillipe, Salma Hayek, Sela Ward, Breckin Meyer, Sherry Stringfield, Lauren Hutton.
Christopher wrote and directed this story of working class Jersey kid Phillipe making it as a bartender at the one-time center of the disco universe - Studio 54. Myers, in his first dramatic role, plays Steve Rubell, the club's real-life co-owner, who, in this fictionalized account, turns innocent Phillipe into a debauched stud. (August 7)
D: Sandra Goldbacher; with Minnie Driver, Tom Wilkinson, Harriet Walter, Florence Hoath, Bruce Myers, Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
A young Jewish woman in 1840s London uses her wiles to experience the world at large, support her family, and acquire the skills to become a celebrated photographer. (Summer)
D: Hal Hartley; with Thomas Jay Ryan, James Urbaniak, Parker Posey.
James Urbaniak in Henry Fool
Hal Hartley's new film pairs an unassuming garbageman with an egomaniacal writer to examine the responsibilities of influence and the possibilities of originality. (August)
D: Tsui Hark; with Jean-Claude Van Damme, Rob Schneider, Lela Rochon, Michael Fitzgerald Wong, Paul Sorvino, Carmen Lee.
Tsui Hark (A Chinese Ghost Story) directs Jean Claude Van Damme in this action adventure set in Hong Kong during the British handover which involves an undercover CIA agent, the Russian Mafia, and a deadly new technology set to flood the black market and arm terrorists worldwide. (August 21)
MARIE BAIE DES ANGES
D: Manuel Pradal; with Vahina Giocante, Frederic Malgras, Amira Casar, David Kilner.
A couple of hardened French street kids escape into a doomed romantic idyll on the French Riviera in this low-budget French indie whose antecedents include The 400 Blows, Pierrot le Fou, and Pixote. (Summer)
D: F. Gary Gray; with Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, David Morse, Ron Rifkin, John Spencer, Regina Taylor, J.T. Walsh.
When a police department hostage negotiator is falsely accused, he uses his specialized skills to buy himself some time and attention and holds the whole I.A.B. office at gunpoint; Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey head this guy-heavy crew that's helmed by Set It Off director F. Gary Gray. (August 7)
NEXT STOP, WONDERLAND
D: Brad Anderson; with Hope Davis, Alan Gelfant, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Callie Thorne, Holland Taylor, Robert Klein, Cara Buono, Jose Zuniga.
Hope Davis (The Daytrippers) plays a night-shift nurse who's been dumped by her activist boyfriend and finds a new life of romance and friendship with the respondees to her personal ad; the film is written and directed by The Darien Gap's Brad Anderson. (Sept. 4)
D: Darren Aronofsky; with Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman, Pamela Hart, Stephen Pearlman.
One of the big Sundance hits, this visually audacious, low-budget science fiction thriller follows a lonely genius on the verge of decoding the numerical pattern beneath the ultimate system of ordered chaos - the stock market. Even as he is finding order in the chaos, however, chaos is overtaking his world in the form of murderous Wall Street commandos and Jewish Kabbalah thugs, who want him to unlock the maddening secrets of their ancient mystic texts. (Early August)
POST COITUM, ANIMAL TRISTE
D: Brigitte Roüan; with Roüan, Patrick Chesnais, Boris Terral, Nils Tavernier.
A French woman in her 40s has a deliriously happy affair with a man in his 20s, but the ugly demise of the affair ends up threatening her marriage, her work, and her self-esteem; the film's title comes from the poet Ovid and roughly translates as, "after sex, man is left sad." (Summer)
RETURN TO PARADISE
D: Joseph Ruben; with Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, Joaquin Phoenix, David Conrad, Jada Pinkett Smith.
In the second film pairing this summer of Vince Vaughn and Joaquin Phoenix (the other is Clay Pigeons), they play young Americans whose drug crime in Malaysia proves to have long-lasting after-effects; the film title was changed from Force Majeure. (August 14)
D: Brett Ratner; with Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Tzi Ma, Tom Wilkinson, Mark Rolston.
An action-comedy pairing kinetic wonder Jackie Chan with funny guy Chris Tucker, here playing a rogue LAPD officer who keeps tabs on Chan's Hong Kong police detective, who has come to America to solve a kidnapping and avert an international crisis. (August 28)
SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS
D: Tamara Jenkins; with Marisa Tomei, Alan Arkin, Carl Reiner, Natasha Lyonne, David Crumholtz, Kevin Corrigan.
What is it like to grow up on the wrong side of the 90210 zip code? This comedy set in the mid-Seventies charts the lifestyle of the "nomads of divorce" through its focus on one family living out of its element and a teenager who suddenly discovers that she's "stacked." (August)
D: Brian De Palma; with Nicolas Cage, Gary Sinise, Carla Gugino, John Heard.
In this story hatched by De Palma and his frequent collaborator screenwriter David Koepp, Nicolas Cage plays a corrupt Atlantic City cop trying to nail the assassin who took out the U.S. secretary of defense during a casino boxing match. With the packed arena closed off to trap the killer inside, De Palma may have found his most elaborate set-piece yet. (August 7)
D: Takeshi Kitano; with "Beat" Takeshi, Aya Kokumai, Tetsu Watanabe, Masanobu Katsumura.
Japanese auteur Takeshi "Beat" Kitano (Fireworks) wrote, directed, edited, and stars in this 1993 story of a hard-boiled aggressive gangster that is long overdue for a stateside release. (Summer)
D: Sarah Kernochan; with Kirsten Dunst, Gaby Hoffman, Lynn Redgrave, Heather Matarazzo, Rachael Leigh Cook, Monica Keena, Tom Guiry.
Using some of the hottest young stars of the moment, Strike (formerly titled The Hairy Bird) tells the story of students at an exclusive girls' school in 1963 who oppose the administration's plan to go co-ed; writer-director Sarah Kernochan's previous film credits incongruously include screenplay credits for 9 1/2 Weeks and an Oscar for her co-direction of the documentary Marjoe. (August 20)
D: John Bruno; with Jamie Lee Curtis, William Baldwin, Donald Sutherland.
This techno thriller, based on the comic book series, gives us the crew of an ocean-going tugboat that takes shelter in the eye of a typhoon onboard a top-secret Soviet research vessel, only to find that there are worse things than typhoons. John Bruno, James Cameron's special effects ace, is at the helm. (August 14)
D: Susan Skoog; with Liza Weil, Chad Morgan, Frederic Forrest.
A Jersey girl at the end of high school and on the verge of adulthood struggles to realize her dreams in a world where there's no easy solutions or happy endings; set in the early 1980s, it's the last call for sex, drugs, and rock & roll before the realities of AIDS and "Just Say No" campaigns kick in. (Summer)
YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS
D: Neil LaBute; with Ben Stiller, Aaron Eckhart, Amy Brenneman, Catherine Keener, Nastassja Kinski, Jason Patric.
This sophomore entry from the writer-director of In the Company of Men
focuses on the sexual and emotional intimacies, deceits, and ravagings of six friends
and neighbors; here, as in his earlier film, words are the ultimate weapons. (August
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