Hot Movie Previews
Sneaking Into Summer
Between mid May and Labor Day, there are only 15 weekends - the weekends that define the summer movie season. To you and me that may sound like a lot (or at least a reasonable number), but to frantic movie executives trying to strategically place their product, 15 weekends is about a dozen too few.
Do the math. With more than 40 films opening nationwide during those weeks, and with all of them needing to come in first at the box office in order to remain viable (for better or worse, a movie's opening weekend numbers are interpreted as the most reliable indicator of its potential for success), jockeying for a favored position is something like Hollywood's version of Olympic competition. Go for the gold, rah. Add to those 40-something films in wide national release another 50 or so limited or "platformed" (staggered) pictures also scrambling for screen space, and you're on the verge of critical mass.
All this in the summertime, too, the period which has always released more movies than any other season. The number of available summer weekends has failed to keep pace with the growing number of movies. This year, there's also the great Titanic Watch situation that's threatening to steer everything off course. As the jockeying began taking shape, Titanic was set to dock on the July 4 weekend. This James Cameron event is purported to be the most expensive movie ever made (at something on the order of $200 million) and a behemoth like that can toss anchor just about anywhere it wants. But since the work needed to complete the final effects work and editing make the July 2 opening look unrealistic, it's likely that the whole delicate balance of Hollywood release strategies may get caught in the undertow. As we go to press, the studios (yes, it takes two to distribute this thing: Paramount for domestic and Fox for overseas) are keeping mum about their planned opening date. The party line still insists that Titanic is opening this summer, albeit not on July 2. Most reasoned observers predict an end-of-the-year opening but, suddenly, the mood has turned trepidatious as everyone fears that Titanic will sail into their territorial waters and... ahem... rock the boat. So those with declared stakes wait and watch. And those with deadlines to meet issue caveats to their readers. So here goes.
Caveat: Always remember that release dates are subject to change, especially given projections that cover a several-month period. However, should Titanic choose to dock in August, the trickle-down effect is bound to be enormous. Not only will some dates change but various titles are bound to drop in or out of the current line-up. Now, more than ever, everything is subject to change. Thought you should know.
The blockbuster mentality dominates in the summertime and the season is generally heavy on big-budget fantasies, action spectacles, sequels, and superhero derring-do. (More and more, some of the savvier indie distributors have been capitalizing on this fact and using the summer to successfully launch strong alternatives: Witness last summer's June launch of Lone Star by Sony Pictures Classics.) Of course, this summer offers dramas, romances, and comedies - although not much in the way of kids' stuff - but the big guys are gonna be the ones everyone's watching.
To accompany the Austin Chronicle previews, we've invited local movie maven Harry Jay Knowles to handicap the big summer films. Knowles should be familiar to readers of "Short Cuts," (and Entertainment Weekly, which profiled him recently) where his Ain't It Cool website has been recommended for its wealth of insider movie information and the attentive daily coverage of last summer's remarkable Quentin Tarantino Tour of Austin. Knowles has an extensive and reliable spy network within the industry and keeps the site focused on information rather than celebrity gossip. A lifelong collector of movie posters, comics, and other related materials, Knowles is a genuine fan and fount of information regarding these types of movies. We asked him to share some of his thoughts and enthusiasms here. The website address is http://www.aint-it-cool-news.com.
Let the summer begin.
ADDICTED TO LOVE
D: Griffin Dunne; with Meg Ryan, Matthew Broderick, Kelly Preston, Tcheky Karyo, Maureen Stapleton.
Jilted lovers Meg Ryan and Matthew Broderick team up in this romantic comedy to spy on their exes who have moved in together and, of course, discover their true love waits on the other side of the binoculars; this New York City love story is directed by Griffin Dunne, the actor (After Hours) and producer (Chilly Scenes of Winter, Running on Empty) who has now turned his hand to directing. (May 23)
D: Gregor Nicholas; with Rade Serbedzija, Aleksandra Vujcic, Julian Arahanga.
A contemporary New Zealand Romeo and Juliet story, Broken English tells the story of a love affair thwarted by the families of a Croatian immigrant girl and Maori boy; newcomer Aleksandra Vujcic looks terribly sultry, her boyfriend Julian Arahanga was the oldest son in Once Were Warriors, and dad Rade Serbedzija is best known for Before the Rain and The Saint. (May 23)
CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION
D: Peter Duncan; with Judy Davis, Sam Neill, F. Murray Abraham, Geoffrey Rush.
This Australian black comedy earned Judy Davis that country's best actress award in 1996 for her fictional portrayal of a woman whose fateful trip to Russia in 1949 and her tryst with Joseph Stalin has long- lasting and unforeseen consequences. (May 23)
D: Susan Streitfield; with Tilda Swinton, Amy Madigan, Karen Sillas, Paulina Porizkova.
Tilda Swinton and Amy Madigan play sisters who, despite appearances of professional and emotional success, are plagued by neurosis, self- doubt, and sociopathic behaviors, all of which is examined in a framework of feminist structural analysis; the film's narrative was informed by Louise J. Kaplan's non-fiction tome of the same title. (May 23)
D: Christopher Cain; with Joe Pesci, Danny Glover, Rosanna Arquette, Lynn Whitfield.
Joe Pesci and Danny Glover play life- long fishing buddies who win a grand- prize vacation to the Florida Everglades (which probably explains why this picture was postponed from release last summer); hilarious obstacles ensue en route. (May 30)
D: Lynne Stopkewich; with Molly Parker, Peter Outerbridge.
A Canadian film based on a story by Barbara Gowdry, the sensual and controversial Kissed by this first- time filmmaker follows a young girl's fascination with death as her curiosity grows into the adult fetish of necrophilia. (May 30)
THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK
The summer officially gets started with this T-Rex redux which will probably still be around to usher the season out - expectations are that colossal, as well they should be given Spielberg's track record with this sort of thing and the presence of that new anti-action hero Jeff Goldblum (I just love those plastic Goldblum action figures!); The Lost World bills itself as being a lot darker in tone than its predecessor, which may be a problem for the young 'uns... and their parents. (May 23)
D: John Waters; with Divine, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Mink Stole.
Still repulsive after all these years - there's something about that you have to admire; celebrate the 25th anniversary re-release of maverick shockmeister and satirist John Waters' American classic, but remember, this is the one in which Divine notoriously eats the dog doo. (May 23)
'TIL THERE WAS YOU
D: Scott Winant; with Jeanne Tripplehorn, Dylan McDermott, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Aniston.
Romantic destiny is the subject of this looking- for- love story written by My So- Called Life creator Winnie Holzman and directed by thirtysomething executive supervising producer Scott Winant. (May 30)
TRIAL AND ERROR
D: Jonathan Lynn; with Michael Richards, Jeff Daniels, Rip Torn, Charlize Theron.
My Cousin Vinny director Jonathan Lynn returns for more courtroom comedy as lawyer Jeff Daniels is impersonated in court by his best friend and actor Michael Richards, who steps up to the bar when Daniels is felled by the other kind of bar during his bachelor party the evening before. (May 30)
TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M.
D: Kiefer Sutherland; with Sutherland, Mykelti Williamson, Kevin Pollak, Vincent Gallo, Kim Dickens.
Kiefer Sutherland co- stars as well as directs this gritty romance about small- time criminals and lovers on the lam, whose petty crimes go awry and lead to dire consequences involving hostages and a dead undercover cop. (May 23)
BATMAN & ROBIN
Joel Schumacher, who directed Batman Forever, returns to the successful franchise as new enlistee George Clooney dons the cape and cowl; Schwarzenegger is decked out as the villainous Mr. Freeze and Uma Thurman and Alicia Silverstone should spice things up considerably. (June 20)
D: Leon Ichaso; with Rene Lavan, Mayte Vilan, Miguel Gutierrez.
A young deluded Cuban communist, whose brother is in constant trouble with the authorities for his rebellious behavior, falls for the daughter of a dissident and finds himself caught between the demands of patriotism, romantic love, and fraternal responsibility. (June 6)
D: Mark Herman; with Pete Postlethwaite, Tara Fitzgerald, Ewan McGregor.
Music and class struggle play dominant roles in this fictional Yorkshire mining town that is divided by labor strikes and family dissension; they also provide the town's salvation in this drama about the elevating power of the arts. (June 13)
D: Caroline Thompson; with Rene Russo, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Cumming, Irma P. Hall.
This first feature film from Jim Henson Pictures tells the true story of the eccentric 1920s socialite Gertrude Lintz, who raised a gorilla and chimpanzees in her home as if they were her children; this family film was written and directed by Black Beauty's Caroline Thompson. (June 6)
A CHEF IN LOVE
D: Nana Djordjadze; with Pierre Richard, Micheline Presle.
Although Bolshevism will disappear, fine cuisine will live forever, argues this co-production between France and the Republic of Georgia that stars French comedy veteran Pierre Richard (The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe); the movie is being marketed as the "foodie" film of the season. (June 6)
D: Simon West; with Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames, Colm Meaney, Mykelti Williamson, Rachel Ticotin.
Nicolas Cage plays a recent parolee in this high-stakes, high-altitude thriller in which a group of superbad convicts hijack a prison transport plane and send it careening toward Las Vegas (a town Nic Cage, the actor, can't seem to get enough of); this is producer Jerry Bruckheimer's first solo project since the death last year of his partner Don Simpson and last summer's project The Rock, which Con Air seems, in many ways, to resemble. (June 6)
D: Peter Cohn; with Richard Lewis, Dianne Wiest, Faye Dunaway, Spalding Gray, Parker Posey, Amanda Plummer, Howard Rollins.
The inner workings of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting are depicted in this raw drama adapted for the screen by Gary Lennon from his stage play Blackout; baring their souls is a stellar ensemble cast headed up by Richard Lewis, who has received some great notices for this dramatic work. (June 13)
D: John Woo; with John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Joan Allen, Alessandro Nivola.
Hong Kong action maestro John Woo appears to be returning to his roots with this complicated hothouse psychological thriller and non-stop bullet ballet in which John Travolta and Nicolas Cage exchange faces and identities - made all the more twisted by the fact that Cage is the man who murdered Travolta's son; sure to be one of the "events" of the summer. (June 27)
D: John Musker, Ron Clements; with voices by Danny DeVito, Tate Donovan, Susan Egan, Matt Frewer, Bobcat Goldthwait, Paul Shaffer, Rip Torn, Lillias White, James Woods, Charlton Heston.
Disney's turned to the writing- directing team behind The Little Mermaid and Aladdin for its 35th animated feature about "Herc," the son of Zeus (voiced by new NRA honcho Charlton Heston), who is taken from Mount Olympus and raised on earth; expect ample Disneyfication of the ancient Greek myths and a lighter overall touch than last summer's Hunchback. (June 27)
LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION!
D: Joe Mantello; with Jason Alexander, Randy Becker, Stephen Bogardus, John Glover, John Benjamin Hickey, Justin Kirk, Stephen Spinella.
Terrence McNally wrote this film adaptation of his Tony award- winning play about eight gay friends who gather together over the course of three summer holiday weekends; Jason Alexander joins the original Broadway cast of players. (June 13)
MESSAGE TO LOVE
D: Murray Lerner.
This newly released documentary about the five-day-long Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 features performances by Jimi Hendrix (12 days before his death), the Doors, the Who, Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Jethro Tull, Free, the Moody Blues, Tiny Tim, John Sebastian, Donovan, Ten Years After, Kris Kristofferson, Joan Baez, Leonard Cohen, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and more. (June 20)
MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING
D: P.J. Hogan; with Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Cameron Diaz, Rupert Everett, Philip Bosco, M. Emmet Walsh.
This romantic comedy is being marketed as Julia Roberts' return to the Pretty Woman/tough cookie persona adored by moviegoers everywhere (rather than these Mary Reilly-like forays into simpering Victorianism) as she plays a woman nearing 30 who busts up her best guy pal's nuptials when she realizes that he's the one who got away. (June 27)
D: Clare Peploe; with Bridget Fonda, Russell Crow, Jim Broadbent, D.W. Moffett, Paul Rodriguez.
Bridget Fonda and Russell Crow star in a romantic adventure involving magic, mysticism, and Mexico; this road movie has magician's assistant Fonda heading for the border after her jealous fiancée bumps off her mentor. (June 13)
SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL
The vehicularly challenged Annie (Sandra Bullock) boards a cruise ship with her new boyfriend (Jason Patric) and, well, you can guess the rest, especially since daredevil action director Jan De Bont also returns for the voyage (in between these Speed spectacles, he made those cows fly through the air in Twister). (June 13)
D: Victor Nunez; with Peter Fonda, Patricia Richardson, Christine Dunford.
Peter Fonda stars in this family drama from acclaimed Floridian filmmaker Victor Nunez (Ruby in Paradise, Gal Young 'Un); he plays a widowed beekeeper who cares for his estranged daughter-in-law and his grandchildren in this film that may become the summer's indie film to beat. (June 27)
D: Theo Angelopoulos; with Harvey Keitel, Erland Josephson, Maia Morgenstern.
The grand prize-winner of the 1995 Cannes Film Festival is a modern rendition of Homer's Odyssey which traces the journey of Mr. A. (Keitel) across the Balkans in search of several lost reels of film and gives witness along the way to the scope of the conflict in war-torn Mostar, Vukovar, and Sarajevo. (June 13)
D: Stephen Frears; with Stuart Dunne, Jack Lynch, Colm Meaney, Donal O'Kelly.
The Van is the third installment of Irish author Roddy Doyle's "Barrytown Trilogy" (The Commitments, The Snapper) that focuses on the daily lifestyles of working- class Irish residents; Eric Clapton contributed to the music score and the film is directed by Stephen Frears (The Grifters, Dangerous Liaisons). (June 27)
WEDDING BELL BLUES
D: Dana Lustig; with Illeana Douglas, Paulina Porizkova, Julie Warner.
Pushing 30 and wanting to get their families off their backs, three female friends and roommates decide to go to Vegas, snare husbands, and immediately divorce them (yup, that ought to make the folks happy); Illeana Douglas stars in this comedy about women rebelling against traditional family expectations. (June 13)
D: Hans Petter Moland; with Stellan Skarsgard.
This 1995 Norwegian film based on the Danish novel Larsen is an existential adventure saga and psychological thriller set in a remote outpost of Greenland in 1925 and stars Breaking the Waves' Stellan Skarsgard. (June 27)
Other June Releases
D: Julia Dyer and Gretchen Dyer; with Connie Nelson, Dee Hennigan, Gary Carter, Lisa Peterson, Esteban Powell.
Filmed in Dallas in 1995, Late Bloomers tells the story of a suburban high school secretary and geometry teacher who discover their physical and emotional attraction to each other over a few games of one-on-one basketball; the middle-aged women have no trouble coming out to the community, it's everyone else who has trouble accepting their love.
MOUTH TO MOUTH
D: Manuel Gomez Pereira; with Javier Bardem.
Seeking upward mobility, a struggling actor takes a job as a phone sex operator in this Spanish screwball comedy.
D: Chen Kaige; with Gong Li, Leslie Cheung.
This epic tale of passion, wealth, and decadence by the director of Farewell My Concubine stars the inimitable Gong Li (Raise the Red Lantern) and Leslie Cheung (A Better Tomorrow) and has been banned in its country of origin, China.
AIR FORCE ONE
D: Wolfgang Petersen; with Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Dean Stockwell, Glenn Close.
Add Air Force One to Absolute Power and Murder at 1600 and it seems as though U.S. presidents are becoming Hollywood's flavor- of- the- month protagonists; In the Line of Fire and Das Boot director Wolfgang Petersen continues his thematic exploration of threats on presidents' lives and action filmed in cramped modes of transport; Oldman once again plays the badass terrorist and Glenn Close the country's first female VP. (July 25)
D: Richard Donner; with Mel Gibson, Julia Roberts, Patrick Stewart.
Mel Gibson re-teams with his Lethal Weapon and Maverick director for this romantic thriller in which he plays a cabbie with paranoid theories about mind control who becomes the target of one of his wild conspiracies; add in Julia Roberts as his co-target and you have just might have a formula that can withstand the summer onslaught of costumed superheros and dinosaurs. (July 25)
D: Robert Zemeckis; with Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, John Hurt, James Woods, Tom Skerritt, David Morse, William Fichtner, Rob Lowe, Angela Bassett.
Based on the Carl Sagan bestseller, Contact would like to be the antithesis to the conventional interplanetary shoot-'em-up and instead, fill audiences with the sheer wonder of the universe and the possibility of peaceful encounters with extraterrestrial intelligence; the combination of the ever-thoughtful Jodie Foster, hot property Matthew McConaughey, computer effects-savvy Forrest Gump director Robert Zemeckis, and a little free publicity from the Hale-Bopp incident may actually be capable of delivering on the lofty premise. (July 11)
GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE
In this live- action version of the cheeky Jay Ward cartoon series, Brendan Fraser plays the jungle hero whose love for the socialite whom he rescues prompts him to leave the wild and follow her home to the urban jungle; George's mentor, Ape, is voiced by John Cleese. (July 16)
D: Brian Robins; with Kenan Thompson, Kel Mitchell, Abe Vigoda.
Nickelodeon's all-kids sketch comedy show All That is the original source of this feature-length breakout film about teens on the front lines of raging burger-joint wars. (July 25)
D: Angela Pope; with Martin Donovan, Sam Bould, Joely Richardson, Jason Flemyng, Ian Hart.
In his British film debut, Martin Donovan (The Portrait of a Lady and numerous Hal Hartley films) portrays a gay man in a solid relationship who, because of his sexual orientation, is allowed only limited access to his nine-year-old son, who lives with his mother; when it becomes apparent that the child is being physically abused at home, Donovan must confront his vulnerability as a gay parent in order to deal with the situation. (July 11)
MEN IN BLACK
D: Barry Sonnenfeld; with Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino, Vincent D'Onofrio, Rip Torn.
This time last year Independence Day ruled the roost; Will Smith is now back with co- star Tommy Lee Jones in this sci- fi adventure comedy based on the comics about a pair of secret government regulators of extraterrestrial immigration - sounds kind of like a cross between Ghostbusters and The X- Files. (July 2)
D: Guillermo del Toro; with Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Josh Brolin, Charles S. Dutton, Giancarlo Giannini.
The summer's leading horror entry about a genetic engineering trial that spawns a dangerous breed of humanoid insects comes from the director of the vampire stunner Cronos and Dimension Films, the division of Miramax that marketed Scream so successfully; the horror film also stars Oscar-winner Mira Sorvino and the script has been polished by none other than John Sayles and Steven Soderbergh. (July 18)
NOTHING TO LOSE
D: Steve Oedekerk; with Martin Lawrence, Tim Robbins, John C. McGinley, Giancarlo Esposito, Kelly Preston.
Martin Lawrence and Tim Robbins may prove to be the summer's oddest couple in this comedy about a car- jacking that goes astray when the unstable victim turns the tables on his mugger and the two men wind up becoming fast friends and partners in crime. (July 11)
D: Kevin Reynolds; with Samuel L. Jackson, John Heard, Kelly Rowan.
Waterworld evacuee Kevin Reynolds brings things back down to scale in this drama about high- school teacher Samuel L. Jackson who is the victim of a brutal assault by a gangbanger student and returns to the classroom as a drastically changed man and educator; the title 187 refers to the California state penal code for murder. (July 30)
OUT TO SEA
D: Martha Coolidge; Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, Dyan Cannon, Gloria DeHaven, Brent Spiner, Elaine Stritch, Hal Linden, Donald O'Connor, Rue McClanahan.
One dances, the other doesn't in the new comedy featuring America's favorite old cranks and directed by Martha Coolidge (whose recent career choices bear little in common with her early films such as Valley Girl and Rambling Rose); this time, Matthau and Lemmon play "dance hosts" aboard a cruise ship full of wealthy single women. (July 2)
THE PILLOW BOOK
As unorthodox as ever, Peter Greenaway (A Zed and Two Naughts, Prospero's Books, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover) embarks on a sensual story of calligraphy as erotica; his central character is a woman whose father was a calligrapher and whose former husband hated literature; now she encourages her lovers to write on her naked body and when she takes up writing, she also uses her own flesh. (July 25)
D: Ari Folman and Ori Sivan; with Lucy Dubinchik, Halil Elohev.
Set in a junior high school in 1999, this Israeli surrealist fantasy of love, power, and the supernatural on the eve of the millennium is based on the writings of Czech dissents Pavel Kohout and Jelena Machinova. (July 25)
SHALL WE DANCE?
D: Masayuki Suo; with Koji Yakusho, Tamiyo Kusakari, Naoto Takenaka, Eriko Watanabe, Akira Emoto.
A smash hit at the Japanese box office, this award-laden movie about an overworked accountant who finds passion in ballroom dancing has helped initiate the country's newfound ballroom dance craze; it's been wowing audiences elsewhere, as well. (July 11)
A SIMPLE WISH
D: Michael Ritchie; with Martin Short, Kathleen Turner, Mara Wilson, Robert Pastorelli, Francis Capra, Amanda Plummer, Teri Garr.
Affirmative action is the reason a seven-year-old girl winds up with inept spellcaster Martin Short instead of the fairy godmother she asked for; the mayhem increases when Kathleen Turner, as an evil fairy godmother, turns up to steal Short's magic wand. (July 11)
D: Kevin Allen; with Rhys Ifans, Llyr Evans, William Thomas, Huw Ceredig.
This black comedy about hard-core revenge is set in Swansea, South Wales and features a colorful ensemble of characters; it's the first feature film from documentary filmmaker Kevin Allen and is executive- produced by Andrew MacDonald and Danny Boyle of Shallow Grave and Trainspotting fame. (July 2)
D: William Dear; with Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Devon Sawa, Scott Bairstow, Jamey Sheridan, Frances Fisher.
Inspired by the true story of the young Stouffer brothers, this film tells the story of these daredevil nature documentarists who photographed American wildlife during the summer of 1967; teen heartthrob Jonathan Taylor Thomas stars, while Jamey Sheridan and Frances Fisher play mom and dad. (July 2)
Other July Releases
THE DESIGNATED MOURNER
D: David Hare; with Mike Nichols, Miranda Richardson, David de Keyser.
Wallace Shawn brings his three-person stage play to the screen; David Hare directs, and Mike Nichols makes his onscreen acting debut.
D: John Madden; with Judi Dench, Billy Connolly.
The rumored relationship between Queen Victoria and her horse trainer John Brown which allegedly followed the death of Prince Albert is the subject of this unusual romantic drama.
D: Miguel Arteta; with Douglas Spain, Efrain Figeuroa, Kandyce Jordan.
Discovered and quickly sold at the Sundance Film Festival, first-timer Miguel Arteta's film is a dark comedy about the dreams of an 18-year-old Mexican-American hustler who sells maps to celebrity homes on the street corners of Beverly Hills.
D: Charles Martin Smith; with Kevin Zegers, Michael Jeter, Bill Cobbs, Cynthia Stevenson, Buddy the Dog.
A basketball-playing golden retriever is befriended by a lonely boy. (August 8)
D: Paul Thomas Anderson; with Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, William H. Macy, Heather Graham, John C. Riley.
Set amid the late-Seventies, L.A., porno film world, Boogie Nights puts its focus on an extended family of filmmakers who are trying to redefine the adult entertainment film industry; Mark Wahlberg gives his Calvins a workout as the ensemble's lead and Burt Reynolds plays the idealistic producer in this film by the 26-year-old director of Hard Eight. (Sept. 5)
D: James Mangold; with Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Peter Berg, Janeane Garofalo, Michael Rapaport, Annabella Sciorra.
Anticipation over this eagerly awaited drama about a corrupt New Jersey community of xenophobic New York city cops only increased when the star-packed film wasn't ready in time for Cannes; so far, Stallone and his thespian weight gain and return to "serious" (and much lower-paying) acting have gotten most of the media attention in this star-laden line-up, but writer-director James Mangold (Heavy) is certain to give us more to talk about. (August 1)
DEAD MAN ON CAMPUS
D: Alan Cohen; with Tom Everett Scott, Mark-Paul Gosselaar.
Directed by one of the creators of MTV's Real World, Alan Cohen, this back-to-school diversion follows what happens when two near-flunking freshmen find an arcane rule in their school charter that could allow them to slip through with straight "A"s. (August 29)
DEF JAM'S HOW TO BE A PLAYER
D: Lionel C. Martin; with Bill Bellamy, Natalie Desselle, Lark Voorhies, Mari Morrow.
MTV's Bill Bellamy plays a smooth operator who has no trouble juggling all the women in his life until his sister - for her school anthropology project - throws him a party and invites all the ladies in his little black book. (August 15)
Michael Keaton plays a convicted multiple murderer who proves the perfect bone marrow match for San Francisco cop Andy Garcia's gravely ill son but whose trip to the hospital provides the criminal's opportunity for escape, leaving the cop/father in the uncomfortable position of pursuing and protecting the fugitive. (August 8)
DREAM WITH THE FISHES
D: Finn Taylor; with David Arquette, Brad Hunt, Patrick McGaw, Kathryn Erbe, Cathy Moriarty, J.E. Freeman.
An unlikely duo is formed between a suicidal young man afraid of life and a thrill-seeking neighbor who doesn't have long to live; they embark on a last blast of wild abandon that includes dropping LSD, bank robbery, and nude bowling. (August 1)
D: Paul Anderson; with Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan, Joely Richardson.
In the year 2046, Laurence Fishburne leads a reconnaissance mission to investigate a missing spaceship called the Event Horizon that has resurfaced near Venus after seven years away exploring the outer reaches of the solar system; we can expect that the ship harbors a few unanticipated surprises. (August 1)
D: Marco Brambilla; with Alicia Silverstone, Benicio del Toro, Christopher Walken.
Alicia Silverstone debuts as a producer in this dark comedy/adventure about a rich girl who fakes her own kidnapping to get back at her dad and becomes involved along the way with car thief del Toro (Unusual Suspects, Basquiat); the original script was Max Adams' Heart of Texas screenplay competition winner. (August 15)
FREE WILLY 3: THE RESCUE
D: Sam Pillsbury; with Jason James Richter, August Schellenberg, Vincent Berry, Patrick Kilpatrick, Annie Corley.
This orca is getting about as old as Jonah and the kid is now 17, but whales will be whales and they're continuously endangered and a boy will always have a special bond with his orca. (August 15)
D: Bill Duke; with Laurence Fishburne, Tim Roth, Vanessa Williams, Andy Garcia, Clarence Williams III, Cicely Tyson, Loretta Devine, Queen Latifah.
Laurence Fishburne portrays mobster Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson, the godfather of a Harlem crime syndicate in the 1930s, in this period crime story helmed by the entertaining action director Bill Duke (A Rage in Harlem, Deep Cover) Tim Roth appears as the notorious Dutch Schultz and Andy Garcia as crime lord Lucky Luciano. (August 29)
D: Olivier Assayas; with Maggie Cheung, Jean-Pierre Leaud, Nathalie Richard, Antonie Basler.
A creatively blocked film director played by Jean-Pierre Leaud (Day for Night) gets the idea to remake Louis Feuillade's silent serial Les Vampires and casts Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung in the part of Irma; this acclaimed French film is spoken mostly in English and presents a knowing comic perspective on the insanity of shooting a film. (August 1)
KULL THE CONQUEROR
D: John Nicolella; with Kevin Sorbo, Tia Carrere, Thomas Ian Griffith, Karina Lombard, Harvey Fierstein.
Kevin Sorbo, of TV's phenomenally successful Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, tests his acting mettle by playing another fantasy action hero (based on the Robert E. Howard pulp stories and later Marvel comics) in his motion picture debut; producer Raffaella De Laurentiis is the one who set the mold for Arnold Schwarzenegger's career when she cast him to play Conan the Barbarian. (August 29)
LEAVE IT TO BEAVER
D: Andy Cadiff; with Christopher McDonald, Janine Turner, Cameron Finley, Erik von Detten.
The Cleaver clan confronts the Nineties and emerges fairly intact; June Cleaver (Northern Exposure's Janine Turner) has traded in her pearls for jeans and a cookie business, but you can bet the family core values haven't changed a wink. (August 1)
D: Brett Ratner; with Charlie Sheen, Chris Tucker.
In this action comedy, Tucker plays a petty con artist who, overnight, goes from obscurity to celebrity when he is wrongly accused of killing police officers during a prison break and the only person who can save him is the obnoxious TV newsman played by Charlie Sheen. (August 22)
D: Glenn Gordon Caron; with Jennifer Aniston, Jay Mohr, Olympia Dukakis, Illeana Douglas, Kevin Bacon.
Ad exec Jennifer Aniston concocts a picture- perfect boyfriend and lifestyle in order to rise within the corporate world, then meets the guy (Kevin Bacon) she has framed on her desk; for her first leading role Aniston has the directing help of Moonlighting creator Glenn Gordon Caron. (August 1)
A SMILE LIKE YOURS
D: Keith Samples; with Greg Kinnear, Lauren Holly, Joan Cusack, Jay Thomas.
Rysher Entertainment CEO Keith Samples turns his hand to directing with this romantic comedy starring Greg Kinnear and Lauren Holly as a busy young married couple trying to mesh their careers with the practical complications of making babies. (August 15)
D: Kenneth Johnson; with Shaquille O'Neal, Annabeth Gish, Judd Nelson, Irma P. Hall, Richard Roundtree.
NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal takes another go at the movies after his dud with Kazaam; he plays a character based on the DC Comics hero, a former military metallurgist who fashions a steel suit of armor to make the world safe for a new humane era of arms technology. (August 8)
D: Mark Dippé; with Michael Jai White, Theresa Randle, John Leguizamo, Martin Sheen.
Based on the best-selling comic book, the film tells the story of a murdered soldier who makes a pact with Satan to return to earth to avenge his death and see the woman he loves; the tale has also provided inspiration for an animated HBO series, video games, and action figures, although the film version has special effects by ILM and villains played by John Leguizamo and Martin Sheen. (August 8)
WHEN THE CAT'S AWAY
D: Cedric Klapisch; with Garance Clavel, Zinedine Soualem, Olivier Py, Rene Le Calm.
As a woman searches for her lost cat in the streets near her Parisian apartment, the trail leads her down a path of romance, adventure, and greater understanding. (August 8)
D: M. Night Shyamalan; with Denis Leary, Dana Delaney, Rosie O'Donnell, Robert Loggia, Joseph Cross.
A 10- year- old boy searches for meaning and answers from God following the death of his beloved grandfather; school-teaching nun Rosie O'Donnell helps him along the way. (August 22)
Other August Releases
BOX OF MOONLIGHT
D: Tom DiCillo; with John Turturro, Sam Rockwell, Catherine Keener, Dermot Mulroney, Lisa Blount..
Living in Oblivion and Johnny Suede director Tom DiCillo adds a new wistful dimension to his offbeat humor with this road trip to self-discovery that stars John Turturro as a hard-working but emotionally distant boss and family man who sets off to find some half-remembered haunt from his childhood and winds up discovering a whole new approach to life; Turturro's guide along the way is newcomer Sam Rockwell's backwoods naïf in a Davy Crockett cap, who plays Pan to Turturro's uptight 20th-century man.
D: Mike Leigh; with Katrin Cartlidge, Lynda Steadman.
In his follow-up to Secrets & Lies, Mike Leigh focuses on two 30-year-old women who spend the weekend reminiscing about their university days and former classmates.
THE FULL MONTY
D: Peter Cattaneo; with Robert Carlyle, Mark Addy, William Snape, Steve Huison, Tom Wilkinson, Paul Barber, Hugo Speer.
Six unemployed steelworkers, led by Trainspotting's Robert Carlyle, are inspired to form an unlikely strip act when the Chipppendale dancers come to their town; somehow, the routine restores their confidence and self-esteem.
IN THE COMPANY OF MEN
D: Neil LaBute; with Aaron Eckhart, Matt Malloy, Stacy Edwards.
Winner of the Filmmaker's Trophy at this year's Sundance Film Festival, this low-budget indie is a dark drama about contemptible behavior whose stark visual style suits its narrative and emotional economy; as two mid-level corporate men hatch a plot to humiliate a random woman, it becomes clear that the abuse is but one symptom of the pathology and perversion of power.
D: Roger Christian; with Patrick Stewart, Vincent Kartheiser, Brenda Fricker, Matt Craven.
Evil mastermind Patrick Stewart takes an entire upscale suburban high school hostage; he is then forced to match wits with a 14- year- old hero playing hooky.
D: Mario Andreacchio; with voices by Adam Wylie, Bronson Pinchot, Debra Mooney, Wendy Makkena, David Ogden Stiers, Blythe Danner, Joan Rivers.
A 10-week-old golden retriever puppy is the hero of this live-action adventure that takes the pooch on an unexpected hot air balloon ride into the Australian outback where he meets up with all sorts of exotic creatures.
D: Jackie Chan; with Chan, Carol Cheng, Eva Cobo De Garcia, Ikeda Shoko.
The one and only Jackie Chan co-wrote, directs, and stars in this new action-adventure which showcases his legendary stuntwork in a tale that places him in the African forest in search of a cache of gold hidden by German soldiers during WWII.
SHE'S SO LOVELY
Son Nick directs an unproduced screenplay written by his father, the indie trailblazer John Cassavetes; mom Gena Rowlands shows up for a cameo while Sean Penn (whose performance was just honored with the best actor award at the recently concluded Cannes Film Festival), Robin Wright, and John Travolta booze, brawl, and bawl their way through this untidy love triangle.
UNDATED SUMMER RELEASES
ALL OVER ME
Made by the sister filmmaking team of director Alex Sichel and screenwriter Sylvia Sichel, All of Me tells the story of the friendship between two high school girls in Hell's Kitchen, and the way the dynamics change over the course of one volatile summer; Dolly Hall (The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love) produces.
D: John Schultz; with Kevin Corrigan, Steve Parlavecchio, Lee Holmes, Matthew Hennessey, Doug MacMillan.
Life inside a cramped traveling van isn't exactly what these guys thought they were getting into when they started a rock & roll band; this knowing comedy follows the North Carolina foursome from their initial pooling of talent and assets to the escalation of their tensions and disappointments.
D: Lance Young; with Craig Sheffer, Sheryl Lee, Terence Stamp, Spalding Gray.
Terence Stamp (Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) plays an unconventional sex therapist/surrogate named Baltazar, who becomes the focus of a young couple's sensual search for self- discovery as he teaches them the mysteries of tantric yoga.
D: Eric Schaeffer; with Schaeffer, Amanda DeCadenet, Sherry Stringfield.
Eric Schaeffer, who directed and starred in My Life's in Turnaround and If Lucy Fell, once again performs dual tasks in this story about a cabdriver whose erudite and seductive gab overcomes the resistance of his supermodel fare.
D: Paul Weiland; with Jean Reno, Mercedes Ruehl, Polly Walker.
In a small Italian village, Jean Reno's trattoria owner stops at nothing to grant his beloved wife's wish to be buried in the local cemetery but only three plots remain, which engenders madcap plots to win the parcels.
D: Steven Soderbergh; with Spalding Gray.
The anatomy in question is Spalding Gray's eyeballs; the famed monologuist uses his bout with oracular disease as the subject for this stage meditation about vision and self; Steven Soderbergh directs.
D: Tomas Gutierrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabio; with Carlos Cruz, Mirtha Ibarra, Raul Eguren.
From the Cuban Strawberry and Chocolate collaborators comes this screwball comedy realism about a civil servant who has an idea for a vehicular relay system for transporting corpses to far-flung destinations.
D: Bille August; with Maria Bonnevie, Ulf Friberg, Lena Endre, Pernilla August, Olympia Dukakis, Max Von Sydow.
This sweeping Swedish tale of love and sacrifice is set against a backdrop of religious fundamentalism as a young man must choose between maintaining the comforts and fortunes of his pastoral life or abandoning it all to follow his one true love to the Holy Land; it's directed by Pelle the Conqueror's Bille August..
D: Shirley Barrett; with Miranda Otto, Rebecca Frith, George Shevtsov.
Two sisters in rural Australia fall for the Barry White-loving deejay who has moved in next door; the Cannes award-winning black comedy is by a first-time filmmaker and features a soundtrack chock-full of Seventies classics.
D: Gregg Araki; with James Duval, Heather Graham, Beverly D'Angelo, Traci Lords, Shannen Doherty, John Ritter.
Dogged poet of L.A.'s sordid twentysomething underbelly, writer-director Gregg Araki (The Doom Generation, The Living End) describes his newest opus as "Beverly Hills, 90210 on acid"; he's sure got the cast to prove it..
D: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne; with Jérémie Renier, Olivier Gourmet.
In this gritty Belgian film, a 15-year-old boy, who is involved in his father's business of transporting illegal immigrant laborers, must choose between his filial loyalty and his own moral sense.
D: Mo Ogrodnik; with Monica Keena, Daisy Eagan, Gordon Currie, Ron Brice.
After surviving the car crash that killed their parents, two 15-year-old twin sisters take off on their own and wind up as stowaways on a military base where they act out differing reactions to their burgeoning sexuality and their presence provides a keen contrast to the male camaraderie and rituals of base life.
D: Jean-Pierre Melville; with Alain Delon, Francois Perier, Nathalie Delon.
Now that "hit-man chic" is the new movie rage, the time is right for the re-release of this taut 1967 gangster thriller by Frenchman Jean-Pierre Melville, the most "American" of the great French directors; this existential hit man drama has admirers ranging from Quentin Tarantino and Paul Schrader to John Woo.
D: Dale Rosenbloom; with Michael Moriarty, Scott Wilson, Blake Heron, Rod Steiger, Ann Dowd, Bonnie Bartlett.
This thoughtful family film zeroes in on an 11-year-old's growing realization of life's contradictions as they are filtered through his relationship with his dog.
D: Jonathan Nossiter; with David Suchet, Lisa Harrow, Jared Harris, Larry Pine, Joe Grifasi.
The grand prize winner of this year's Sundance Film Festival is a bittersweet story about two miserable people whose lives intersect for one incredible day due to a case of mistaken identity; lead David Suchet is best known for his TV work as PBS sleuth Hercule Poirot.
TALK OF ANGELS
D: Nick Hamm; with Polly Walker, Vincent Perez, Franco Nero, Frances McDormand.
A young Irish girl working as a governess in Spain on the eve of the civil war finds herself enveloped in politics and forbidden love.
THIS WORLD, THEN THE FIREWORKS
D: Michael Oblowitz; with Billy Zane, Gina Gershon, Sheryl Lee, Rue McClanahan.
Adapted for the screen from a Jim Thompson story, this crime movie is described by its director as "film trés noir" as Billy Zane, Gina Gershon, and Sheryl Lee twist their way through a treacherous narrative that includes murder, blackmail, drugs, sexual abuse, duplicity, incest, and patricide.
D: Roger Christian; with Denis Leary, Annabella Sciorra, Joe Mantegna, Larry Bishop, Abe Vigoda, Robert Costanzo, Traci Lords.
In this psychological thriller, an ex-con plans an unusual method of avenging the murder of his mobster father.
THE WATERMELON WOMAN
D: Cheryl Dunye; with Dunye, Guin Turner, Valerie Walker.
The black lesbian dating scene and the history of mammies in Hollywood are two of the key subjects in this debut feature by Cheryl Dunye, who also stars along with Go Fish's Guin Turner; the film is a mixture of fiction and a mock documentary that tracks Cheryl's research into a forgotten black actor known only as the Watermelon Woman.
D: Alex Cox; with Rebecca DeMornay, Vincent D'Onofrio, Michael Madsen, Billy Bob Thornton, Frank Whaley, Richard Edson, Saverio Gerra, Delroy Lindo.
Sid and Nancy director Alex Cox here takes on Las Vegas in this comically edgy tale about winning and losing and sure things.