Wrapped and Ready

If this holiday season were a song it might be sung to the following refrain: "Have yourself a bloody little Christmas." Oh, there's plenty of the regular old drama standards and entertainment for the kids and family alike. But one of the most notable things about this year's holiday offerings is the amount of horror, guts, and blood in the lineup.

To see why this is happening you probably need to look back at least two years ago to the opening of Scream during the 1996 Christmas season. Initially, it wasn't meant to be released then. But filmmaker Wes Craven and his distributors at Miramax missed their window for a more conventional Halloween period release when they spent the better part of the fall haggling with the MPAA ratings board over its classification of Scream as an NC-17 pariah rather than a more crowd-friendly R entertainment. Scream eventually won its R rating, but it caused the release to be delayed till the end of the year. Rather than performing like a lump of coal at the bottom of the Miramax stocking, Scream turned into a certifiable blockbuster, and thus quite by accident, a new teen-scream release strategy was born. Last year we had Scream 2 among our holiday treats, and this year Miramax brings us the Christmas-day release of Robert Rodriguez's The Faculty, written by Scream scribe Kevin Williamson and starring a bevy of today's hottest young TV stars.

In addition to The Faculty, there is Gus Van Sant's shot-for-shot re-creation of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and such other dark tales as Very Bad Things, Home Fries, A Simple Plan, and the greatly anticipated war saga The Thin Red Line.

The season also offers a war of the animated features with The Rugrats Movie climbing to the top of the box-office heap on its opening weekend and A Bug's Life hoping to overtake Antz's insect kingdom when it opens on Thanksgiving weekend. By the time The Prince of Egypt rolls out in mid-December, it's anyone's guess as to which animated feature will hold screen dominance. Other movies on tap which will appeal to the kids include Babe: Pig in the City, Mighty Joe Young, and Jack Frost.

This selective survey covers the period between Thanksgiving and the end of January. When possible, Austin opening dates are provided, although all but a few titles are technically considered 1998 releases. And, as always, be forewarned that opening dates are subject to change. — M.B.


Mighty Joe Young

Mighty Joe Young

UN AIR DE FAMILLE

D: Cedric Klapisch; with Jean-Pierre Bacri, Agnes Jaoui, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Catherine Frot, Claire Maurier, Wladimir Yordanoff.

The director of the popular French hit When the Cat's Away directs this family study whose title translates as Family Resemblances. It began as a play written by two of the actors who also perform in the film, which won several French awards. It all takes place in the cramped quarters of a family reunion.

(Nov. 25)

THE ALARMIST

D: Evan Dunsky; with Stanley Tucci, David Arquette, Kate Capshaw, Mary McCormack.

Middle America's obsession with home security is the object of satire in this story of a house-alarm salesman who discovers his boss may be robbing their customers blind. (Nov. 25)

ARLINGTON ROAD

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 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. (Jan. 15)

AT FIRST SIGHT

D: Irwin Winkler; with Val Kilmer, Mira Sorvino, Kelly McGillis, Nathan Lane, Steven Weber.

Love is blind ... or is it? A blind-from-birth masseur (Val Kilmer) undergoes experimental surgery that will allow him to see the world as his architect love interest (Mira Sorvino) sees it. Then real problems arise. The story is based on an Oliver Sacks (Awakenings) case study. (Jan. 15)

BABE: PIG IN THE CITY

D: George Miller; with James Cromwell, Magda Szubanski, Mickey Rooney.

The good pig hoofs it to a faraway city where he again encounters a folklorist's heaven of animal friends and helps in steady-hearted Babe-ish fashion to heal some of the ills of the bad old world. The film's much-discussed 11th-hour hurdles included a mad rush to get the fine tuning finished in time, a cancellation of the L.A. benefit premiere due to its lack of readiness, the transposition of a couple of "damns" into "darns" and other accommodations to ensure a "G" rating, and a full-press marketing deployment that seeks to blanket the land in a veritable sty of pig paraphernalia. (Nov. 25)

A BUG'S LIFE

D: John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton; with the voices of Dave Foley, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kevin Spacey, David Hyde Pierce, Denis Leary, Madeline Kahn, John Ratzenberger, Bonnie Hunt, Phyllis Diller, Edie McClurg, Alex Rocco, Roddy McDowall.

The year's other animated insect movie tells the story of a misfit ant (Foley) who hires a down-on-its-luck flea circus to battle the evil grasshopper threatening his colony. With Antz still streaming steadily through the box office, we'll see if the Pixar computer animation team can launch A Bug's Life into "infinity and beyond" like they did so successfully with Toy Story. (Nov. 25)

CELEBRITY

D: Woody Allen; with Kenneth Branagh, Judy Davis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Melanie Griffith, Famke Janssen, Joe Mantegna, Gretchen Mol, Winona Ryder, Charlize Theron.

Allen puts together his oddest cast in years (Branagh?!? As the Woodman?!?) for his investigation of the phenomenon of celebrity -- deserved and specious. Allen has definitely earned his stripes as a man with an inside view of the (dis)advantages of celebrity. The worlds of book publishing, television, and fashion are all placed under Allen's microscope. (Nov. 20)

A CIVIL ACTION

D: Steven Zaillian; with John Travolta, Robert Duvall, James Gandolfini, Dan Hedaya, John Lithgow, William H. Macy, Kathleen Quinlan, Tony Shalhoub.

A Civil Action

A straightforward legal case turns into a labyrinthine nightmare of deceit and John Travolta plays the self-assured personal injury attorney whose greed sucks him ever more deeply into the case that may ruin his life. It's written and directed by Steven Zaillian (Searching for Bobby Fisher, and writer of Schindler's List, Awakenings, and The Falcon and the Snowman). (Jan. 8)

THE CRUISE

D: Bennett Miller.

This documentary offers a journey through New York City via the penetratingly eccentric, urgent, and honest eyes of Timothy "Speed" Levitch, a double-decker tour bus guide. It's been a huge film festival hit due to the wacky nature of the protagonist and his alternately tender and tempestuous love affair with the city. You're either on the bus with Levitch or part of the forces he regards as the "anti-cruise." (Nov. 25)

DANCING AT LUGHNASA

D: Pat O'Connor; with Meryl Streep, Brid Brennan, Catherine McCormack, Sophie Thompson, Kathy Burke, Michael Gambon.

Based on Brian Friel's Tony Award-winning play, Dancing at Lughnasa tells the story of the five sisters of the Mundy family in Donnegal, Ireland during the summer of 1936 as Europe is on the brink of war. Director O'Connor is best known for his resonant Circle of Friends and Kathy Burke came to worldwide attention with her turn in Gary Oldman's Nil by Mouth. Streep no doubt masters a new screen accent. (Jan. 15)

DEFYING GRAVITY

D: John F. Keital; with Don Handfield.

The boy next door has a secret, one that he's hidden from the guys in his fraternity, his best friend, and himself: He's sleeping with one of his frat brothers. (Jan. 15)

THE DISENCHANTED

D: Benoît Jacquot; with Judith Godrèche, Marcel Bozonnet, Malcolm Conrath, Ivan Desny, Thérèse Liotard.

In this French film from 1990, a 17-year-old girl who is just finishing school is emotionally caught between her boyfriend who encourages her to sleep with other men, her bedridden mother, the doctor who financially supports the girl's family and has his eye on her, and an older man with whom she discusses poetry. The director's subsequent film was the popular A Single Girl. (Dec. 4)

DOWN IN THE DELTA

D: Maya Angelou; with Alfre Woodard, Al Freeman Jr., Esther Rolle, Mary Alice, Loretta Devine, Wesley Snipes.

Down in the Delta

Maya Angelou, one of America's pre-eminent authors and poets, makes her directing debut with this drama about the tenacity of black family life. A woman demoralized by life in the Chicago ghetto gets to experience the country side of life when she stays with relatives in an old plantation house in the Deep South. (Dec. 25)

ELIZABETH

D: Shekhar Kapur; with Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Christopher Eddleston, Richard Attenborough, Fanny Ardant, John Gielgud.

Here's the latest cinematic exploration by the British into their favorite subject: their royalty. This one is a bio of Elizabeth Tudor, her escape from Bloody Mary, and her reign as the legendary Queen Elizabeth I. It stars Oscar andLucinda's Cate Blanchett and Shine's Geoffrey Rush, along with a distinguished international cast. The director last filmed the Indian action-bio, Bandit Queen. (Nov. 20)

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 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. (Jan. 29)

ENEMY OF THE STATE

D: Tony Scott; with Will Smith, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight, Regina King, Jason Lee, Gabriel Byrne, Seth Green.

When he's framed for murder by a corrupt intelligence officer, an attorney (Smith) finds his career and his home life destroyed as he is plunged into a labyrinth of assassins, government agents, and electronic paranoia galore. His only hope of finding a way clear lies with a mysterious ex-spy named Brill (Hackman). Director Tony Scott and producer Jerry Bruckheimer can be always counted on to deliver some of the showiest thriller moves around. (Nov. 20)

THE FACULTY

D: Robert Rodriguez; with Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall, Laura Harris, Josh Hartnett, Shawn Hatosy, Salma Hayek, Famke Janssen, Piper Laurie, Christopher McDonald, Bebe Neuwirth, Robert Patrick, Jon Stewart, Elijah Wood, Usher Raymond, Louis Black, Harry Knowles.

The Faculty

Filmed here in Austin, The Faculty finds Robert Rodriguez joining forces with screenwriter Kevin Williamson (Scream, Scream 2) and an impressive cast of young up-and-comers to create this science-fiction thriller that blends teen angst, comedy, and supernatural effects. And you thought your teachers were aliens. (Dec. 25)

GODS AND MONSTERS

D: Bill Condon; with Ian McKellan, Brendan Fraser, Lynn Redgrave, Lolita Davidovich.

Gods and Monsters

The Hollywood elite rubs elbows with the working class in this speculative re-creation of the final days leading up to the death of real-life director James Whale (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man). Fraser plays a young drifter who becomes the gardener -- and much, much more -- of the legendary gay filmmaker. (Jan. 1)

HARD CORE LOGO

D: Bruce McDonald; with Hugh Dillon, Callum Keith Rennie, Bernie Coulson, John Pyper-Ferguson, Julian Richings.

A legendary Vancouver punk band gets back together for a successful benefit concert, then goes on a reunion tour through Western Canada joined by a "documentary" film crew. (Jan. 8)

THE HI-LO COUNTRY

D: Stephen Frears; with Woody Harrelson, Billy Crudup, Patricia Arquette, Penelope Cruz, Sam Elliott.

Stephen Frears, the director of The Grifters and Dangerous Liaisons, takes these actors through the paces of a post-WWII love triangle set in the cattle land of New Mexico. (Jan.)

HILARY AND JACKIE

D: Anand Tucker; with Emily Watson, Rachel Griffiths, Jame Frain, David Morrissey.

Despite what the title sounds like, this is not the story of two First Ladies. Rather, it is the story of famous British cellist Jacqueline du Pre, who struggled with manic depression and multiple sclerosis, as well as with her husband and conductor Daniel Barenboim and sister Hilary. (Jan. 29)

HOME FRIES

D: Dean Parisot; with Drew Barrymore, Catherine O'Hara, Luke Wilson, Jake Busey, Shelley Duvall.

Drew Barrymore plays a single, pregnant woman who works at the local burger drive-thru and is in love with a married man, but it's his grown son who wants to marry her. When the older man dies amid mysterious circumstances, it ties in to some curious black-helicopter signals and other nefarious plots. The film is a romantic comedy, nevertheless, written by The X-Files co-producer Vince Gilligan and filmed in the Austin area around Bastrop and Coupland. (Nov. 25)

HURLYBURLY

D: Anthony Drazan; with Sean Penn, Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright Penn, Chazz Palminteri, Garry Shandling, Anna Paquin, Meg Ryan.

David Rabe adapted for the screen his Tony Award-winning play about life among the Hollywood power culture. The morally bereft characters struggle to find greater meaning and focus in their lives as they intersect in patterns of destruction. This knowing ensemble cast is sure to give their all to this biting morality tale. (Jan. 15)

I MARRIED A STRANGE PERSON

D: Bill Plympton; with the voices of Charis Michelson, Tom Larson, Richard Spore, Toni Rossi.

Animator extraordinaire Bill Plympton hand-drew every frame of this feature-length adult cartoon about a newlywed couple on their honeymoon night. (Dec.)

IN DREAMS

D: Neil Jordan; with Annette Bening, Robert Downey Jr., Paul Guilfoyle, Stephen Rea, Dennis Boutsikaris.

In this psychological thriller, a woman's dreams come true. But since they are being sent to her by a murderer, this is not a good thing. Director Neil Jordan has an affinity for this kind of stuff as seen in such films as The Butcher Boy, The Crying Game, Mona Lisa, and The Company of Wolves. (Jan. 22)

THE INHERITORS

D: Stefan Ruzowitzky; with Simon Schwarz, Sophie Rois, Lars Rudolph, Julia Gschnitzer, Ulrich Wildgruber.

In this rustic political allegory, seven Austrian peasants unexpectedly inherit their tyrannical master's farm after his death. They shock the townspeople by staying on and farming the land themselves -- wreaking utter havoc with the social order. (Nov. 25)

INSOMNIA

D: Erik Skjoldjaerg; with Stellan Skarsgård, Maria Mathiesen, Sverre Anker Ousdal.

This import from Norway hails itself as "reverse film noir," a film shot where the sun never sets in the summer. Two criminal investigators travel to a remote Arctic village to solve the murder of a young girl. This atmospheric, psychological thriller stars the hunky Stellan Skarsgård from Good Will Hunting, Breaking the Waves, and Ronin. (Dec. 11)

JACK FROST

D: Troy Miller; with Michael Keaton, Kelly Preston, Mark Addy, Joseph Cross.

A neglectful husband and father (Keaton) is killed in a car wreck only to receive a second chance to be a better dad when he comes back to life in the form of a snowman that his son has built. Now he's the coolest dad around - sub-freezing cool. (Dec. 11)

LITTLE VOICE

D: Mark Herman; with Jane Horrocks., Michael Caine, Brenda Blethyn, Jim Broadbent, Ewan McGregor.

Mark Herman, the director of Brassed Off, follows up his film about the redemptive power of music with Little Voice, a film based on an award-winning London play about a young girl who can only express herself through famous vintage songs. She can't speak but can belt out the songs of Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, and Billie Holiday. Jane Horrocks (Absolutely Fabulous, Life Is Sweet) reprises her stage role. (Jan.)

LOVE IS THE DEVIL

D: John Maybury; with Derek Jacobi, Tilda Swinton, Daniel Craig.

The destructive relationship between controversial British painter, Francis Bacon, and his muse, George Dyer, is the subject of this elaborative artist's biography. It explores the decadent underworld of 1960s Soho, Bacon's appetite for rough trade, and Dyer's alcoholic desperation and uses film stylistics that equal the daring techniques used by the story's subject. (Dec. 4)

MIGHTY JOE YOUNG

D: Ron Underwood; with Bill Paxton, Charlize Theron, RadeSerbedzija, Naveen Andrews, Regina King, David Paymer.

Where does a 15-foot gorilla sit? Anywhere he wants. This holiday season that means Mighty Joe Young will park in multiplexes throughout the land for this updating of the Ray Harryhausen special effects classic. In an attempt to save Joe from poachers, the magnificent animal is brought to the States, but he breaks free of his captivity and storms Los Angeles. Director Ron Underwood can be expected to mark this film with the same light touch to unnatural disaster that he brought to Tremors. (Dec. 25)

PATCH ADAMS

D: Tom Shadyac; with Robin Williams, Monica Potter, Daniel London.

Robin Williams plays a medical student who discovers the healing powers of laughter and uses them on his patients, much to the chagrin of the medical establishment. The story is based on the true story of the founder of the Gesundheit Institute. Director Tom Shadyac and writer Steve Oedekerk have worked together in the past on The Nutty Professor and both Ace Ventura projects. (Dec. 25)

PLAYING BY HEART

D: Willard Carroll; with Gillian Anderson, Ellen Burstyn, Sean Connery, Anthony Edwards, Angelina Jolie, Jay Mohr, Ryan Phillippe, Dennis Quaid, Gena Rowlands, Jon Stewart, Madeleine Stowe.

Set in Los Angeles, this film explores the dramatic, funny, painful, and complex ways that love touches the lives of a group of 11 people of various generations and lifestyles. Love is all around ... even when it isn't. The film was formerly titled Dancing About Architecture. (Jan. 22)

THE PRINCE OF EGYPT

D: Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, Simon Wells; with the voices of Sandra Bullock, Ralph Fiennes, Danny Glover, Jeff Goldblum, Val Kilmer, Steve Martin, Helen Mirren, Michelle Pfeiffer, Martin Short, Patrick Stewart.

The Prince of Egypt

DreamWorks' animated epic about Moses and Ramses arrives amid much fanfare and on the heels of Antz, this new studio's debut animation feature. Val Kilmer is the baby in the bulrushes, the "Go Down, Moses," the Jewish deliverer from slavery, and the brother to Ralph Fiennes' Pharaoh's son. The Red Seas promise to part more spectacularly for him than for anyone since Cecil B. DeMille. (Dec. 18)

PSYCHO

D: Gus Van Sant; with Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, Julianne Moore, Viggo Mortensen, William H. Macy.

PsychoHubris, chutzpah, or vision? On December 4 it's check-in time at the Bates Motel and we'll finally discover what's behind Van Sant's long-held desire to re-create Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic -- shot for shot, line by line. He even re-uses Bernard Herrmann's unforgettable soundtrack. Van Sant has scored big with such varied material as My Own Private Idaho, To Die For, and Good Will Hunting, but let's not forget how he fell flat with his film adaptation of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. (Dec. 4)

RINGMASTER

D: Neil Abramson; with Jerry Springer, Jaime Pressly, Molly Hagan, William McNamara, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Michael Jai White, Michael Dudikoff, Tangie Ambrose, Nicki Micheaux.

Jerry Springer brings his three-ring circus to the big screen. "Season's Beatings," blares the film's shameless tagline. It offers a fictionalized look behind the scenes at the controversial talk show. (Nov. 25)

THE RUGRATS MOVIE

D: Norton Virgien and Igor Kovalyov; with the voices of E.G. Daily, Christine Cavanaugh, Kath Soucie, Cheryl Chase, Tara Charendoff, Melanie Chartoff, Jack Riley, Joe Alaskey.

Nickelodeon's award-winning cable series leaps to larger-than-rugrat size in a story of birth, sibling rivalry, wacky inventions, getting lost in the woods, and scary weird stuff, with lessons about friendship and family along the way. (Nov. 20)

THE SALTMEN OF TIBET

D: Ulrike Koch.

The day-to-day rituals of the Tibetan nomadic community are recorded in this stunning-looking German documentary that follows a yak caravan on a three-month pilgrimage to the mysterious holy salt lakes of northern Tibet. (Jan.)

SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE

D: John Madden; with Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, Ben Affleck, Judi Dench.

Shakespeare with writer's block? Well, no wonder. Romeo and Ethel just isn't a resounding title and his opus is at a standstill until young Will is inspired by the love of a good woman. No matter that the woman is an actor who has disguised herself as a man in order to overcome the Elizabethan prohibition about women performing onstage. The fine cast is directed by Mrs. Brown marshal John Madden; Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman co-wrote the script. (Dec. 25)

A SIMPLE PLAN

D: Sam Raimi; with Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, Bridget Fonda.

A Simple PlanDirector Sam Raimi takes a detour from his cult horror visions with this dark story about a group of people whose quiet rural lives and relationships are deeply twisted by greed and suspicion when three of them find $4 million in cash in the wreck of a small airplane. As the authorities circle, the simple plan -- to hold on to the money and just avoid discovery -- begins to devolve as fear and violence take their toll. Scott Smith wrote the screenplay based on his celebrated novel. (Dec. 11)

SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS

D: Scott Hicks; with Ethan Hawke, James Cromwell, Max von Sydow, Anthony Harrison, Rick Yune.

Based on the novel by David Guterson, Snow Falling on Cedars is a romantic drama set in a small Pacific Northwest island community in 1950. It's directed by Scott Hicks of Shine fame. (Jan. 8)

STAR TREK: INSURRECTION

D: Jonathan Frakes; with Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, F. Murray Abraham, Anthony Zerbe, Donna Murphy.

Star Trek: InsurrectionIt's somehow fitting that this ninth outing of the Star Trek film franchise has the starship crew discovering a fountain of youth. This is the third movie featuring the Next Generation cast and it's directed by Commander Riker (otherwise known as Jonathan Frakes). (Dec. 11)

STEPMOM

D: Chris Columbus; with Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon, Ed Harris, Jena Malone.

An unlikely friendship develops between a divorced mother of two and the girlfriend of the divorcee's ex. In a Nineties twist on the valor-through-disease melodrama, the children bring the two women together as the dying mom chooses the younger woman to be her successor. (Dec. 25)

THE SWINDLE

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. (Jan.)

THE THEORY OF FLIGHT

D: Paul Greengrass; with Kenneth Branagh, Helena Bonham Carter, Holly Aird, Ray Stevenson.

An unlikely friendship begins when a frustrated artist at odds with the law is forced to perform 120 hours of community service in the home of a woman with Lou Gehrig's disease who wishes to lose her virginity before she dies. Kenneth Branagh and Helena Bonham Carter are certain to bring out the richness of these two characters. (Jan. 22)

THE THIN RED LINE

D: Terrence Malick; with Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson, John Cusack, Adrien Brody, George Clooney, Nick Nolte, Bill Pullman, John Travolta, Ben Chaplin, Jim Caviezel, Elias Koteas, John Savage, Jared Leto, Larry Romano, Tim Blake Nelson, John C. Reilly, Lukas Haas.

The Thin Red Line

Twenty years after Days of Heaven, the elusive screen legend Terrence Malick returns to the screen as the writer and director of this WWII combat drama based on the James Jones novel about the American campaign on Guadalcanal. If the Malick factor isn't enough to whet your curiosity about this year's second major WWII saga, then the high-powered, all-male cast ought to arouse some box-office ripples. (Jan. 8)

UNMADE BEDS

D: Nicholas Barker.

British filmmaker Nicholas Barker blends fiction and nonfiction in this study of four lovelorn New Yorkers. After finding his four subjects, Barker colluded with these characters to create a bracing documentary script for them to star in about the romantic self-delusions that govern their lives. (Dec. 4)

VARSITY BLUES

D: Brian Robbins; with James Van Der Beek, Jon Voight, Scott Caan, Thomas F. Duffy, Ali Larter, Ron Lester, Amy Smart, Eliel Swinton, Paul Walker.

Filmed here in the Austin area, Varsity Blues explores the religion of high school football in small-town Texas and the pressure it exerts on young Texans and the veteran head coach (played by Jon Voight) who is trying to win his 23rd division title. Director Brian Robbins ably demonstrated his command of teen think with last year's Good Burger. (Jan. 15)

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 Las Vegas bachelor party during which something goes terribly wrong and causes the attendees to emotionally pick away at themselves and each other. (Nov. 25)

VIRUS

D: John Bruno; with Jamie Lee Curtis, William Baldwin, Donald Sutherland.

This techno-thriller focuses on the crew of a Pacific Ocean tugboat who takes shelter aboard a top-secret Soviet research vessel during a typhoon, only to find that there are things -- like alien life forms -- that are worse than typhoons. John Bruno, James Cameron's special effects ace, is at the helm. (Jan. 15)

WAKING NED DEVINE

D: Kirk Jones; with Ian Bannen, David Kelly, James Nesbitt, Susan Lynch, Eileen Dromey.

Waking Ned Devine

This latest entry from the Irish "New Wave" follows the mischievous exploits of a couple of old hellraisers as they attempt to sniff out the unknown member of a tiny provincial village who has purchased the winning national lottery ticket. And don't you know nobody can keep a secret in a small town. It's The Full Monty crossed with three-card monte. (Jan. 8)

YOU'VE GOT MAIL

D: Nora Ephron; with Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Parker Posey, Jean Stapleton, Dave Chappelle, Steve Zahn, Greg Kinnear.

You've Got Mail

Sleepless in Cyberspace, anyone? Director and co-writer Nora Ephron re-teams with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, her two highly bankable co-stars from Sleepless in Seattle for this romantic comedy about love à la modem. Really, it's supposed to be an update of 1940's The Shop Around the Corner by Ernst Lubitsch, with a story of two booksellers who face off and fall in love through their e-mails. (Dec. 18)


Editorial assistance provided by Jessica Reisman and Jerry Johnson.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Movie Previews, Holiday Movies 1998

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