The Other Stars in the Galaxy
For better or worse, there's no getting away from the juggernaut called Star Wars: Episode 1 -- The Phantom Menace. It is assumed that every man, woman, and child in the galaxy will see the film at least once. The only serious question up for scrutiny now is how many viewers will want to queue up to see the movie over and over again. Will the returnees be dominated by the PG crowd for whom the prequel is carefully calibrated? Will the hordes outside the theatres in the makeshift Tentooine villages return to the end of the line as soon as their current ticket stubs are used up?
Hollywood's never been known as a one-horse (or is that one Force?) town. We all know there are many more movies out there to choose from this summer. Of course, none of them will receive the same kind of free media blitz the Star Wars phenomenon has received. Most of them will have to struggle just to break out of the pack. The following listings provide a guide to the movies expected to open in Austin this summer. Odds are that many of the opening dates and titles will change over the next few weeks as distributors take full measure of the Star Wars factor and juggle their calendars accordingly.
Last summer was the season of the mega-movie. Big-budget would-be blockbusters such as Armageddon, Lethal Weapon 4, Godzilla, and Deep Impact hit the screens with a vengeance. This summer's offerings seem more modest by comparison, as though all the studios long ago abdicated the number-one blockbuster spot to Star Wars and never even gave a thought to trying harder. Will Smith and director Barry Sonnenfeld will give it a go with their Wild Wild West, hoping to repeat their success a couple summers ago with Men in Black. Mike Myers will try to shag another hit with the fly spy-guy sequel, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
Comedies will be plentiful in the weeks following Star Wars. Included here are the feature-length South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Adam Sandler's Big Daddy, Bowfinger with Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy, the Nixon-era comedy Dick (can't wait to see the promotional giveaways for this one), the all-star superhero spoof Mystery Men, the teen picture American Pie, and at least a couple of romantic comedies starring Julia Roberts -- Notting Hill and Runaway Bride.
Probably the summer's two other most talked-about movies are Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut and Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez's The Blair Witch Project. Any Kubrick movie is highly anticipated because of the security that surrounded his productions and the overall creative challenge of his output. The circumstances of his death shortly following the film's first screening and the rumors and teasers surrounding its subject matter have made Kubrick's final film one of the events of the decade. The Blair Witch Project has been building a steady buzz after its cliffhanging season closer on an episode of the TV show Split Screen and a bravura run through this year's Sundance. The low-budget horror film uses creativity and nerve to create its authentically chilling state of horror and uncertainty.
Counter-programming has become one of the recent hallmarks of summer schedules. DreamWorks has not just scheduled the romantic comedy, The Love Letter, to open up the same weekend as Star Wars. The studio has also slotted its adult horror film, The Haunting, to open the same weekend this summer that proved so successful for them last year with Saving Private Ryan. Arthouse distributors have increasingly found the summer's lighthearted fare to be a good time for releasing their more thought-provoking products. New works to look for by European auteurs include Bernardo Bertolucci's Besieged, Eric Rohmer's Autumn Tale, and Wim Wenders' The Buena Vista Social Club. Also slated for summer release are mavericks Spike Lee's Summer of Sam and John Sayles' Limbo.
There will also be many screenings unique to Austin throughout the summer. Included with these listings are the City of Austin Summer Splash pool party movie schedule. Next week look in these pages for a profile of the Austin Film Society's Summer Free-for-All series -- a tribute to George Morris; the week after, we'll offer a rundown of the Paramount Theatre's annual Summer Classics series. Opening for a theatrical run later this summer will be Bob Ray's Austin-made movie Rock Opera (which premiered at SXSW '99) and a special celebration to mark the one-year steady run of Hands on a Hard Body at the Dobie. After one straight year, Hands still often pulls in bigger crowds than some of the theatre's newest releases. Only in Austin ...)
The listings that follow are meant as a guide. All dates are subject to change. --M.B.
FROGS FOR SNAKES
D: Amos Poe; with Barbara Hershey, Robbie Coltrane, John Leguizamo, Lisa Marie, Debi Mazar, Harry Hamlin, Clarence Williams III.
Legendary downtown filmmaker Amos Poe (Alphabet City, The Blank Generation) directs this neo-noir comic thriller about an ensemble of New York actors who literally kill for roles in a new production of David Mamet's American Buffalo. (May 21)
D: Gillies MacKinnon; with Kate Winslet, Said Taghmaoui, Bella Riza, Carrie Mulan.
Kate Winslet plays a single mother who packs up her two daughters and departs with them from London for the exoticism of Morocco. This filmed-in-Marrakech indie is the first film Winslet chose to make after her success in Titanic. (May 28)
THE LOVE LETTER
D: Peter Chan; with Kate Capshaw, Blythe Danner, Ellen DeGeneres, Geraldine McEwan, Julianne Nicholson, Tom Everett Scott, Tom Selleck, Gloria Stuart.
An ardent and sensual but unsigned and unaddressed love letter wakes things up in a sleepy New England town when all the residents speculate about who wrote it and for whom it was meant. Everyone begins to eye each other with new curiosity in this secret-unlocking tale penned by The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love's Maria Maggenti. It's also the only major nationwide release to have the chutzpah to open up against the new Star Wars.(May 21)
D: Roger Michell; with Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts, Hugh Bonneville, Gina McKee.
Grant plays the owner of a small bookstore whose life is changed when starlet Roberts visits his establishment and browses his stacks. Screenwriter Richard Curtis knows the territory of the romantic comedy, having also penned Grant's outing with Andie MacDowell, Four Weddings and a Funeral. (May 28)
THE SCHOOL OF FLESH
D: Benoît Jacquot; with Isabelle Huppert, Vincent Martinez, Vincent Lindon, Marthe Keller.
Adapted from a Yukio Mishima novel, this film tells the story of an attraction between an older woman and a younger man. (May 21)
STAR WARS: EPISODE I -- THE PHANTOM MENACE
D: George Lucas; with Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Terrence Stamp, Pernilla August.
George Lucas is expected to own the summer (if not the year) with this prequel to the Star Wars saga. This first chapter finds Darth Vader (father of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia) as a hopeful nine-year-old boy and Obi-Wan Kenobi as a young Jedi warrior. (May 19)
D: Claude Chabrol; with Isabelle Huppert, Michel Serrault.
For his 50th film, Claude Chabrol, France's gimlet-eyed master of the double cross, 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. (May 28)
THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR
D: Josef Rusnak; with Craig Bierko, Gretchen Mol, Vincent D'Onofrio, Dennis Haysbert, Armin Mueller-Stahl.
When a tycoon is mysteriously murdered in this science fiction thriller, all signs of guilt point to an employee who has created a virtual universe of 1937 Los Angeles on a computer chip and who must enter the world in search of the truth. (May 28)
D: Tony Bui; with Don Duong, Nguyen Ngoc Hiep, Tran Manh Cuong, Zoe Bui, Nguyen Huu Duoc, Harvey Keitel.
Not only is Three Seasons the first American film to be shot in Vietnam since the war, it is also the unprecedented winner of three top awards at this year's Sundance Film Festival. The lyrical film interweaves stories of several different characters to capture a country in transition. Harvey Keitel co-stars. (May 28)
D: Roger Nygard.
This documentary is about the die-hard Star Trek fans who have made the series a global phenomenon. Co-executive-produced by former Next Generation actress Denise Crosby and released by Paramount, the production company in the long-term enterprise of the U.S.S. Enterprise, the movie's release during the same weekend as the debut of the Star Wars prequel shows a certain spunky sense of counter-programming. (May 21)
D: Paul Wagner; with Dadon, Jampa Kelsang, Richard Chang, Lu Yu, Taije Silverman.
Filmed clandestinely in Tibet and Nepal, this drama tells the story of the contemporary Tibetan situation through the lives of three cousins whose lives take different paths. (May 21)
THE APPLE (SIB)
D: Samira Makhmalbaf; with Massoumeh Naderi, Zahra Naderi, Ghdrbanali Naderi.
Based on a true story and enacted by the actual protagonists, this unusual Iranian film tells the story of a fundamentalist father and a blind mother who kept their two daughters locked in the house behind bars and walls for all of their 12 years. The girls can barely communicate and know nothing of the outside world. Ironically, the film was made by a 17-year-old Iranian girl, the daughter of the acclaimed director Mohsen Makhmalbaf. (June 4)
AUSTIN POWERS: THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME
D: Jay Roach; with Mike Myers, Heather Graham, Elizabeth Hurley, Robert Wagner, Michael York, Rob Lowe, Gia Carides, Seth Green.
International Man of Mystery, Austin Powers (Myers), puts the "ger" in swinger in this Sixties-era time travel comedy, which pits the British spy against his old nemesis, Dr. Evil (also Myers). In a hunt to recover Powers' stolen libido, Boogie Nights' sex kitten, Graham, joins our flaccid hero in this sequel to the original film. (June 11)
D: Dennis Dugan; with Adam Sandler, Joey Lauren Adams, Jon Stewart, Josh Mostel, Cole Sprouse, Dylan Sprouse, Kristy Swanson.
Adam Sandler adopts a five-year-old boy in order to prove his maturity to his frustrated girlfriend. It doesn't work. Will the world's biggest (or, at least, richest) kid finally grow up? (June 25)
BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB
D: Wim Wenders; with Ry Cooder.
Better known for such existential meditations as Wings of Desire and Paris, Texas, Wim Wenders this time turns his camera on his frequent soundtrack composer Ry Cooder to record Cooder's collaborations and concert with several top Cuban musicians. (June 18)
D: Rob Sitch; with Michael Caton, Anne Tenney, Stephen Curry, Sophie Lee.
Australia's highest-grossing film of 1997, The Castle is a comedy about a tow truck driver who fights the system to save his family's home from an expanding international airport next door. The film's play date in Austin should just about coincide with the opening of our own new airport. (June 4)
D: Lynn Hershman Leeson; with Tilda Swinton, Karen Black, Timothy Leary, John Perry Barlow.
A contemporary hacker is obsessed with the life of Lady Ada Lovelace, a math genius who was Lord Byron's daughter. Believing her to be the inventor (before her time) of rudimentary computer language, the hacker invents a time travel computer mechanism that allows her to observe the truth. The late Timothy Leary is one of the film's oracles. (June 4)
D: Morgan J. Freeman; with Brendan Sexton III, Sara Gilbert, Kate Hudson, Christina Ricci, Casey Affleck, John Heard, Lucinda Jenney.
Morgan J. Freeman, the director of the troubling teen drama Hurricane Streets, follows up that debut film with this portrait of an odd weekend in a tiny California town during which several youths make peace with their dreams. It was the opening-night film at this year's SXSW Film Festival. (June 4)
D: Leslie Woodhead; with Haile Gebrselassie, Shawanness Gebrselassie, Bekele Gebrselassie.
The story of 1996 champion Olympic runner Haile Gebrselassie is told in this docudrama that focuses on the champion's early years in Ethiopia growing up with hardship and poverty and an unquenchable desire to run. (June 4)
D: Tanya Wexler; with Wendy Makkena, John Benjamin Hickey.
A lonely Brooklyn woman (Wendy Makkena of Sister Act and Broadway's Side Man) finds her ideal man. Only problem is ... he's gay, but that doesn't stop them from embarking on a screwball road trip to Texas. The film first played Austin during SXSW '98.
THE GENERAL'S DAUGHTER
D: Simon West; with John Travolta, Madeleine Stowe, James Cromwell, Timothy Hutton, Leslie Stefanson, Clarence Williams III, James Woods.
Travolta plays an Army investigator who lands in the midst of an explosive case when the daughter of a famous general is brutally murdered. Con Air helmer Simon West takes on this dark dramatic material from a script co-written by William Goldman (All the President's Men). (June 18)
D: Simon Shore; with Ben Silverstone, Brad Gorton, Charlotte Brittain.
Likened to a gay, British John Hughes film, Shore's directorial debut is adapted from Patrick Wilde's play, What's Wrong With Angry? and tells the story of Steven Carter, a 16-year-old schoolboy with a crush on popular jock John. Steven is comfortable with his sexuality, but not enough to reveal it to his parents or schoolmates; John is far more conflicted, which becomes painfully evident as they begin to fall in love. The movie first played Austin during SXSW '99. (June 11)
D: Jon Turtletaub; with Anthony Hopkins, Cuba Gooding Jr., Donald Sutherland, Maura Tierney.
Screen legend Hopkins plays a mixture of Hannibal Lecter and Diane Fossey in this tale of a half-mad primatologist who lives amongst gorillas in the mountains of Rwanda. Blamed for murders enacted in the jungles, the scientist finds himself in a prison for the criminally insane where a psychiatrist, played by Gooding Jr., unravels the case. The story is suggested by Daniel Quinn's novel Ishmael. (June 4)
THE KING OF MASKS (BIAN LIAN)
D: Wu Tian-Ming; with Zhu Xu, Zhou Ren-ying.
Instead of the usual action fare we associate with Hong Kong filmmaking, The King of Masks is a compassionate drama about a Chinese street performer who comes up against the authorities when he tries to create an heir to his trade. It is the first film the director made after six years of political exile in the U.S. (June 11)
D: John Sayles; with Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, David Straithairn, Vanessa Martinez, Casey Siemaszko.
John Sayles wrote and directs this story about a fisherman and a singer, who are trying to reinvent their lives on the rugged frontier of the islands off southwestern Alaska. (June 11)
LOVERS OF THE ARCTIC CIRCLE
D: Julio Medem; with Najwa Nimri, Fele Martinez.
Otto and Ana's lives circle and interconnect in inextricable patterns; from childhood to adulthood, they are linked by love and fate. Spanish director Medem tells this multilayered romance with great attention to symbol, allegory, and visual detail. (June 18)
THE RED VIOLIN
D: François Girard; with Samuel L. Jackson, Greta Scacchi, Colm Feore, Don McKellar, Sylvia Chang.
The team behind the making of 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould this time film the biography of a musical instrument: a violin that travels through a variety of hands over several centuries. Girard filmed in Cremona, Montreal, Shanghai, Vienna, and Oxford. (June 25)
RELAX ... IT'S JUST SEX
D: P.J. Castellaneta; with Mitchell Anderson, T.C. Carson, Lori Petty, Serena Scott Thomas, Jennifer Tilly, Cynda Williams.
An ensemble comedy, this film explores the sexual and romantic relationships within a group of gay and straight friends. (June 25)
RETURN WITH HONOR
D: Freida Lee Mock and Terry Sanders.
This award-winning documentary presents the story of the American flyers who were captured and imprisoned at the Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War. Using interviews with the former POWs and some previously unseen Vietnamese footage, the filmmakers place the emphasis on the experience of the military men and their techniques for survival. (June 4)
SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT
D: Trey Parker; voices of Parker, Matt Stone, Isaac Hayes.
This marks the long-anticipated big-screen debut of Matt Stone and Trey Parker's animated citizens from the hit TV show. The plot revolves around the escapades of Kenny and gang, who sneak into an R-rated movie and then show off their newly learned profanity for the adults of South Park, which ultimately sparks a war on censorship. Sounds like as good an excuse as any to utter all the things that can't be said on TV. (June 30)
D: Kevin Lima and Chris Buck; voices of Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver, Glenn Close, Alex D. Linz, Rosie O'Donnell, Brian Blessed, Nigel Hawthorne, Lance Henriksen, Wayne Knight.
Disney touts this update of the Edgar Rice Burroughs tale as a fresh account of the classic story, one that truly outstrips its predecessors. Indeed, the filmmakers break all the rules in this animated version in which Tarzan develops grand athletic ability, struggles against modern man, and falls for a woman named Jane. (June 18)
THIS IS MY FATHER
D: Paul Quinn; with Aidan Quinn, James Caan, Stephen Rea, John Cusack, Moya Farrelly, Colm Meaney.
In this Quinn brothers endeavor (director Paul Quinn, actor Aidan Quinn, and cinematographer Declan Quinn), Caan plays lonely, disaffected schoolteacher Kieran Johnson, who leaves Chicago to search out the truth of his father's identity. With his nephew along, Kieran travels to Ireland and into the past, into the sorrowful love story of poorhouse bastard Kieran O'Day (Quinn) and Fiona Flynn, Johnson's mother. (June 18)
TWICE UPON A YESTERDAY
D: Rafa Russo; with Douglas Henshall, Lena Headey, Mark Strong, Charlotte Coleman, Penélope Cruz, Elizabeth McGovern.
With some magical assistance, some lovers get the unique opportunity for "do-overs" in relationships that have gone wrong. (June 25)
THE WINSLOW BOY
D: David Mamet; with Nigel Hawthorne, Jeremy Northam, Rebecca Pidgeon, Gemma Jones.
David Mamet confounds expectations with this film adaptation of the play by Terence Rattigan, a chestnut of the British stage. The story is based on a real-life 1908 case, and recounts the story of an ordinary man and his family going up against the intransigent British legal and social establishment of the early 1900s. Such button-down Brits seem a far cry from Mamet's usual profanity-spewing male strugglers, but the result should be jolly interesting. (June 4)
D: Paul Weitz; with Jason Biggs, Jennifer Coolidge, Shannon Elizabeth, Alyson Hannigan, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Chris Klein, Eugene Levy, Natasha Lyonne, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Chris Owen, Tara Reid, Seann W. Scott, Mena Suvari.
A group of high-school seniors makes a pact to lose their virginity by prom night. This comedy, of course, harbors no cruel intentions. (July 9)
D: Mark Pellington; with Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Hope Davis.
A recently widowed college professor and his son living in suburban Washington, D.C., are at first pleased with the easy friendship that develops with their new neighbors but soon begin to suspect that the newcomers harbor nefarious motives. Should the welcome wagon ostracize suspected terrorists? Director Mark Pellington (Going All the Way) filmed mostly in the Houston area. (July 9)
D: Eric Rohmer; with Marie Rivière, Béatrice Romand, Alain Libolt, Didier Sandre.
Rohmer's award-winning screenplay for this final segment of his Tales of the Four Seasons is set in a vineyard in the south of France and lays out the tale of a lonely widow whose friends are set on finding her a new love. A romantic comedy, inimitably Rohmer -- graceful filmmaking with astute dialogue and thoroughly realized characters -- the autumn portion may be the sunniest installment in his quartet.
D: Bernardo Bertolucci; with Thandie Newton, David Thewlis, Claudio Santamaria.
Bertolucci returns to a more intimate kind of filmmaking in this story about emotional power and mood. When her husband is abducted by the government in her politically oppressive homeland, a young African woman (Beloved's Newton) flees and ends up in Rome, keeping house for an Englishman while she attends medical school nearby. Her employer, a self-absorbed classical composer, is enchanted by her, a woman very much outside his realm of experience. (July 9)
THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT
D: Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick; with Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, Joshua Leonard.
One of the summer's most anticipated movies, The Blair Witch Project is a low-budget fright fest filmed in documentary style. Three student filmmakers vanish in the woods while researching an old regional legend ... then things really start to go bump in the night. (July 16)
D: Frank Oz; with Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Christine Baranski, Heather Graham, Terence Stamp, Jamie Kennedy, Robert Downey Jr.
Rompsters Martin and Murphy gather an impressive ensemble cast for their first onscreen collaboration. Martin, who also co-wrote the script, plays ineffectual movie producer Bobby Bowfinger, who collects a posse of misfits for his final, full-out run at the brass ring. In & Out's Frank Oz directs. (July 30)
D: Rowan Woods; with David Wenham, Toni Collette, Lynette Curran, John Polson.
A dark, disturbing drama from Australia, The Boys depicts the return of Brett Sprague to his family after being released from prison. Contact with his mother and younger brothers is the catalyst for increasing violence and insanity in their closed-off world from which there seems to be no escape.
D: Francis Veber; with Thierry Lhermitte, Jacques Villeret, Francis Huster, Daniel Prevost, Alexandra Vandernoot, Catherine Frot.
Friends compete in this French comedy to see who can bring the most boring guest to dinner. One man brings an accountant who then takes over his life.
DROP DEAD GORGEOUS
D: Michael Patrick Jann; with Kirstie Alley, Ellen Barkin, Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards.
Told in a mockumentary style, this ensemble comedy spoofs a small town's obsession with its teenage beauty pageant. The film's original title was Dairy Queens. (July 16)
EYES WIDE SHUT
D: Stanley Kubrick; with Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack, Marie Richardson, Alan Cumming, Leelee Sobieski.
Certainly the summer's second most talked-about movie, the only thing that remains to be seen is whether this steamy movie about cheating marital therapists, starring Kidman and Cruise in their riskiest business yet, is really a legacy worthy of the legendary auteur, who died five days after he showed the final cut. (July 16)
D: Jan De Bont; with Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson, Lili Taylor, Bruce Dern, Marian Seldes.
This is the second film version of Shirley Jackson's spooky 1959 chiller The Haunting of Hill House (not to be confused with The House on Haunted Hill, a remake of the 1958 Vincent Price camp classic, coming out this fall). Helmed by Speed's Jan De Bont, The Haunting recounts the unfolding terror that ensues when a doctor, played by Neeson, beckons three insomniac test studies to spend a night in a fabled haunted mansion. Oooh, scaaaary. (July 23)
AN IDEAL HUSBAND
D: Oliver Parker; with Cate Blanchett, Minnie Driver, Rupert Everett, Julianne Moore, Jeremy Northam.
In this romantic comedy inspired by the 104-year-old play by Oscar Wilde, a London gentleman who has everything a man could want is about to be undone by an old dark secret. Moving around these bits of chicanery, deception, and friendship is an exceptional cast led by Elizabeth's Cate Blanchett.
D: David Kellogg; with Matthew Broderick, Rupert Everett, Joely Fisher, Michelle Trachtenberg, Michael G. Hagerty, Dandy Dick, Cheri Oteri, Dabney Coleman.
Hollywood draws yet another cup from the golden tap of TV past in this live-action rendition of the popular cartoon series. Matthew Broderick sleuths about as the clueless Gadget, who searches Riverton City's underworld for the man who exploded his innards and killed the father of his scientist girlfriend. (July 23)
D: Steve Miner; with Bridget Fonda, Bill Pullman, Oliver Platt, Betty White.
Written by Ally McBeal scribe David E. Kelley and starring Bridget Fonda as a nature-phobic scientist, trailers for this Anaconda knockoff feature a man-eating alligator of Jurassic-era proportions. Laced with equal parts terror and humor, this summer scare feast sits poised to bite into the teen Scream crowd. (July 16)
THE LOSS OF SEXUAL INNOCENCE
D: Mike Figgis; with Julian Sands, Saffron Burrows, Stefano Dionisi, Kelly MacDonald, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers.
Leaving Las Vegas' Mike Figgis continues his reflection on the state of love and humanity. This narrative follows a man who is depicted at various stages of his life -- as a boy, an adolescent, and a grown man -- and chronicles his formative events and sexual awakenings. The story is intercut with scenes from the tale of Adam and Eve and the sounds of Chopin études. (July 9)
MUPPETS FROM SPACE
D: Timothy Hill; with Gonzo, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Rizzo, Jeffrey Tambor, F. Murray Abraham, David Arquette, Hollywood Hogan, Andie MacDowell.
Gonzo's an alien, the government's after him, and, well, the Muppets head into space. This sixth entry into the Muppets oeuvre finds our favorite hook-nosed blue beast in a pickle: Board the mother ship for his distant home or stay around for the sequel. (July 14)
MY SON THE FANATIC
D: Udayan Prasad; with Om Puri, Rachel Griffiths, Stellan Skarsgård, Gopidesai, Akbar Kurtha.
Set in industrial northern England, this movie's script is by Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette). Parvez, an emigrant resident for 25 years, has built a life for wife Minoo and son Farid. Troubled by Farid's turn to Islamic fundamentalism, Parvez grows closer to his one confidante, Bettina, a prostitute whom he chauffeurs. When Parvez and Bettina's closeness becomes an affair, Farid stirs things into a fundamentalist lather.
D: Robert Lepage; with Anne-Marie Cadieux, Marie Brassard, Marie Gignac, Richard Fréchette, Alexis Martin.
Inspired by Lepage's acclaimed Canadian play The Seven Streams of the River Ota, Nô examines the possible meanings of the title word: the Noh of Japanese theatre and the "no" of Quebec separatist politics.
D: Michael Corrente; with Shawn Hatosy, Alec Baldwin, Amy Smart, George Wendt, Gabriel Mann, Jonathan Brandis, Tommy Bone.
The Farrelly Brothers (There's Something About Mary) wrote this Pawtucket comic tale of Timothy Dunphy (Hatosy, of The Faculty) and his broken family, disordered life, run-in with a police vehicle, and subsequent dispatch to prep school, an encounter which neither he nor the prep school are equipped to weather gracefully. (July 30)
RUN LOLA RUN
D: Tom Tykwer; with Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu, Herbert Knaup, Armin Rohde.
This 1998 German comedy-thriller has been lauded for technical virtuosity and breathless smarts. Manni is a small-time courier for a serious gangster; when his latest delivery of money goes haywire, he calls his girlfriend Lola. With 20 minutes to get to Manni with 100,000 Deutschmarks she doesn't have, Lola is off and running. (July 16)
D: Garry Marshall; with Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Joan Cusack, Hector Elizondo, Rita Wilson, Paul Dooley.
After leaving three grooms cursing her name at the alter, a commitment-phobic bride yields to a misanthropic reporter's desire to write an article about her marital blunders. Expectations run high for this romantic comedy which reunites director Marshall and romantic leads Roberts and Gere of Pretty Woman fame. (July 30)
STIFF UPPER LIPS
D: Gary Sinyor; with Peter Ustinov, Prunella Scales, Georgina Cates, Samuel West, Robert Portall.
This spoof of Merchant-Ivory costume dramas stars some of Britain's best-loved actors. Matchmaking in the countryside goes awry.
D: Rupert Wainwright; with Patricia Arquette, Gabriel Byrne, Portia de Rossi, Nia Long, Patrick Muldoon.
Arquette plays a typical young gen x-er who becomes increasingly haunted by inexplicable and disturbing spells. When a chance videotape captures one of her encounters with a neighborhood priest during one of these spells, the Vatican dispatches its own investigator (Byrne) to look into the problem. (July 9)
SUMMER OF SAM
D: Spike Lee; with John Leguizamo, Adrien Brody, Mira Sorvino, Jennifer Esposito, Anthony LaPaglia, Bebe Neuwirth, Patti LuPone, Ben Gazzara, John Savage, Michael Badalucco.
Acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee turns the clock back two decades to profile the consequences of the terror inflicted on the city by the actions of serial killer "Son of Sam." During the infamous summer of 1977, Sam's attacks and record-breaking dog days drove the citizenry of New York City to paranoia, and even compelled a Mafia boss to offer a bounty on the murderer. This gave the neighborhood vigilantes license to mess with anyone they considered odd -- especially a mohawked young punk rocker played by Adrien Brody. (July 2)
WILD WILD WEST
D: Barry Sonnenfeld; with Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Salma Hayek.
Two years to the day after Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones exploded on the screen, their Men in Black director Barry Sonnenfeld returns with this action comedy, another in a line of films inspired by popular Sixties television series. This time out, Mr. Smith is joined by the eminently charming Mr. Kline, as the two play government agents sniffing the trail of the nefarious Dr. Loveless (Branagh). (July 2)
D: Rick Famuyiwa; with Taye Diggs, Omar Epps, Richard T. Jones, Sean Nelson, Malinda Williams.
This ensemble comedy stars Omar Epps (The Mod Squad) and Taye Diggs (Go) as childhood friends who, on the verge of an impending wedding, fondly reminisce about their grade-school days growing up in Inglewood, California. (July 16)
THE ADVENTURES OF SEBASTIAN COLE
D: Tod Williams; with Adrian Grenier, Clark Gregg, Aleksa Palldino, Margaret Colin.
When Sebastian's stepfather Hank announces that he's going to become a woman, Sebastian's distraught mother drags him away from his junior year in high school to England; unhappy, Sebastian returns to live with Hank, now pre-op Henrietta. From this home base, Sebastian, set on becoming a writer, seeks out as much experience and inspiration in absurdity as he can find. The movie first played Austin during SXSW '99. (Aug. 13)
ALICE AND MARTIN
D: André Téchiné; with Juliette Binoche, Alexis Loret, Carmen Maura.
A young man named Martin moves to Paris, becomes a model, meets a woman named Alice, and falls in love. Though they are passionately committed to one another, Martin never speaks of his past, until Alice tells him she is pregnant and the past rises up to haunt him nearly to madness.
THE ASTRONAUT'S WIFE
D: Rand Ravich; with Johnny Depp, Charlize Theron, Donna Murphy.
After a space mission goes terribly awry, a troubled astronaut (Depp) struggles to raise a family back on Earth. Screen sizzler Theron plays the title character, who uncovers the real truth behind her husband's otherworldly experience. Billed as a psychological thriller, the film plots a flight path whose sparks careen decidedly earthward. (Aug. 27)
D: Katja von Garnier; with Katja Riemann, Jasmin Tabatabai, Nicolette Krebitz, Jutta Hoffman, Werner Schreyer.
Four women in prison form a rock band, break out, and become rock stars while on the run. A comedy drama, this German film is both a story of media-spun outlaw celebrity and of the four women themselves. This is the first feature film by director von Garnier, who is best known for her popular short "Making Up!"
BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE
D: Anne Wheeler; with Wendy Crewson, Karyn Dwyer, Christina Cox, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Peter Outerbridge, Marya Delver, Kevin Mundy, Tony Nappo, Jay Brazeau.
One woman meets the woman of her dreams just hours before her mother and brother are to move in with her. The soundtrack includes songs by Sarah McLachlan, Ani DiFranco, Bif Naked, and Ferron.
D: Les Mayfield; with Martin Lawrence, Luke Wilson, Dave Chappelle, William Forsythe, Peter Greene, Nicole Parker.
Martin Lawrence brings his manic energy to the fore as a jewel thief who must impersonate a detective to retrieve the $20 million he stashed underneath a construction site three years ago. While in prison, the site developed into an L.A. police precinct and the talents he brought to his career as a thief also earn him extra points as a crime fighter. His rookie police partner is Luke Wilson, who headlines a top-notch supporting cast. (Aug. 20)
D: Jonathan Kaplan; with Claire Danes, Kate Beckinsale, Bill Pullman, Daniel Lapaine.
Fresh from high school graduation, two teens meet a seductive stranger on the streets of Bangkok and find themselves thrown into a Midnight Express-style nightmare. Faced with a sentence of 33 years in a hideous Thai prison, the duo's only hope lies in the courage of an expatriate American lawyer. (Aug. 13)
DEEP BLUE SEA
D: Renny Harlin; with Saffron Burrows, Thomas Jane, LL Cool J, Jacqueline McKenzie, Michael Rapaport, Stellan Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson.
A group of meddling marine researchers experiment on aquatic animals and learn that when you mess with the shark, you'll get the teeth. Director Renny Harlin is still fishing for a hit, after Cutthroat Island and The Long Kiss Goodnight sank to the bottom of the deep blue sea. (Aug. 6)
DETROIT ROCK CITY
D: Adam Rifkin; with Edward Furlong, Natasha Lyonne, Sam Huntington, James De Bello, Giuseppe Andrews, Melanie Lynskey, Lin Shaye.
Co-produced by head KISSer Gene Simmons, and featuring cameos by original band members Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss, this urban comedy focuses upon the journey of four teenagers who set off on a wild quest in 1978 to swindle, beg, or steal their way into a sold-out KISS concert. (Aug. 13)
D: Andrew Fleming; with Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, Dave Foley, Dan Hedaya, Harry Shearer, Saul Rubinek, Jim Breuer, Will Ferrell.
Set during the Nixon administration, Dawson's Creek's Williams and Interview With a Vampire's Dunst play two clueless teenyboppers who take a wrong turn during their White House tour and stumble into the Watergate conspiracy. But with a cast of career comics on hand, including Jim Breuer as John Dean, Oliver Stone this is not. (Aug. 4)
EDGE OF SEVENTEEN
D: David Moreton; with Chris Stafford, Tina Holmes, Andersen Gabrych, Stephanie McVay, Lea DeLaria.
In 1984 some kids in Sandusky, Ohio are on the verge of 17. Maggie digs Eric but Eric digs Rod, yet that comes as a surprise to Eric since no one -- including himself -- knows he's gay. Tom Bailey, of the quintessential Eighties group the Thompson Twins, provides the musical score. (Aug. 13)
D: David Fincher; with Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Jared Leto.
Seven alums David Fincher and Brad Pitt re-team to punch up the action and despair in this adaptation of the gritty Chuck Palahniuk novel about secret basement-level fight clubs which promote anarchistic blood sport. (Aug. 6)
THE IRON GIANT
D: Brad Bird; with the voices of Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., Eli Marienthal, Vin Diesel, Christopher McDonald, John Mahoney, M. Emmet Walsh, Cloris Leachman, James Gammon.
This Warner Bros. animated feature about overcoming prejudice hails from an unlikely source, a novel by England's poet laureate (and husband to Sylvia Plath), Ted Hughes. When a 50-foot metal robot with a heart of gold falls to earth, he teaches an insulated Maine town a lesson in humanity. (Aug. 6)
D: Claude Berri; with Carole Bouquet, Daniel Auteuil, Patrice Chereau.
Berri also wrote the screenplay for this fact-based love story set against the background of the French Resistance during World War II. Raymond is a resistance fighter; he blows up trains and goes to secret meetings. Lucie fights for France, too, but she fights hardest for Raymond's life, using every resource and wile she has, and finally risking all to save him.
MAD ABOUT MAMBO
D: John Forte; with William Ashe, Keri Russell.
A Catholic schoolboy in Belfast tries to improve his soccer footwork by studying Latin dance and falls in love with his partner, an upper-class girl. (Aug. 27)
MICKEY BLUE EYES
D: Kelly Makin; with Hugh Grant, Jeanne Tripplehorn, James Caan, James Fox, Burt Young, Scott Thompson.
Dashing but flustered British fop Hugh Grant stars in this romantic comedy as a dashing but flustered British fop who is bamboozled into the Mob by his girlfriend's disarming father (Caan). Grant's best gal Liz Hurley co-produces. (Aug. 13)
D: Yahoo Serious; with Yahoo Serious, Helen Dallimore, David Field.
An accident-prone maintenance man in an egg-processing factory falls in love and saves the egg-eating world from nefarious plots in this comedy, which also features extraterrestrial intelligence, an ancient hubcap, and a heroine named Sunday Valentine. It's written and directed by Young Einstein's Yahoo Serious. (Aug. 13)
D: Albert Brooks; with Brooks, Sharon Stone, Andie MacDowell, Jeff Bridges.
Thoughtful funnyman Brooks (Mother) portrays an unemployed Hollywood screenwriter who, taking the advice of a pal (Bridges), hooks up with a modern-day muse, the daughter of Zeus (Sharon Stone, developing her funny bone here), although her presence turns out to be less than divine. A number of high-powered lights, including Martin Scorcese and James Cameron, render cameos in this comedy about Hollywood and the inspiration that illuminates it. (Aug. 27)
D: Kinka Usher; with Hank Azaria, Claire Forlani, Janeane Garafalo, Eddie Izzard, Greg Kinnear, William H. Macy, Kel Mitchell, Lena Olin, Paul Reubens, Geoffrey Rush, Ben Stiller, Wes Studi, Tom Waits.
Seems to be the summer of the comedy; even the comic book-based crime-fighting actioners are comedies. This one, based on a Dark Horse cult classic, sports seven radly attired persons in tights (mostly big boots, actually) who take up defender duty when their city's real protector is superhero-napped. (Aug. 6)
PLUNKETT AND MACLEANE
D: Jake Scott; with Robert Carlyle, Johnny Lee Miller, Liv Tyler, Ken Stott.
Carlyle (The Full Monty, Trainspotting) and Miller (Trainspotting) play two historic highwaymen who ply their trade on the roads of 18th-century England. Jake Scott has hopefully inherited father Ridley's stylistic energy, which can be a good thing in a costume drama with danger, daring, and loyalty as its themes. (Aug. 6)
THE POWDER KEG
D: Goran Paskaljevic; with Mira Banjac, Ivan Bekjarev, Aleksandar Bercek, Voja Brajovic.
Twenty-four hours in the underbelly of urban post-war Belgrade are depicted by veteran Yugoslavian director Paskaljevic (Someone Else's America) as a set of interlocked tales that begin with a fender bender and escalate, through violent misunderstanding, hijacking, and drug deals, to murder. A dark comedy of ordinary people in an angry, painful time and place. (Aug. 20)
D: Bob Ray; with Jerry Don Clark, Ted Jarrell, Russel Porter, Chad Holt, Paul Wright, Louis Olmeda, Rob Gasper, Steve Gervitch, Kurtis Machler.
The underground Austin music scene is brought to life in this low-budget film by first-time feature director (and Austin resident) Bob Ray. Drawing on real-life stories and the absurd, the story revolves around the experiences of Toe and the two things in life most important to him: his band and his drugs.
D: Patrice Toye; with Aranka Coppens, Joost Wijnant.
In this Belgian comedy, a 13-year-old girl cultivates an imaginary friend when she doesn't receive the attention she needs from her mother.
TEACHING MRS. TINGLE
D: Kevin Williamson; with Helen Mirren, Katie Holmes, Marisa Coughlan, Jeffrey Tambor, Barry Watson, Michael McKean, Lesley Ann Warren, Molly Ringwald, Vivica A. Fox.
Scream scribe Kevin Williamson takes a break from the teen angst on Dawson's Creek to direct this teen-angst horror comedy. Originally titled Killing Mrs. Tingle until current events got in the way, the film finds good girl Holmes done out of her chance at a scholarship by the baneful history teacher, Mrs. Tingle, and a teacher's pet. She and her friends have 48 hours to prove they were framed for a crime they didn't commit ... or they'll have to teach Mrs. Tingle a lesson. (Aug. 20)
THE 13TH WARRIOR
D: John McTiernan; with Antonio Banderas, Diane Venora, Omar Sharif.
Based on Michael Crichton's bestselling novel, Eaters of the Dead, the film centers around the exploits of a traveling emissary recruited to wage war against mythical creatures of doom. After a successful turn as Zorro, Antonio Banderas wields a slightly heavier sword in this dark adventure tale of good vs. evil. It's directed by action specialist John McTiernan (Die Hard), who also directed this summer's The Thomas Crown Affair. (Aug. 13)
THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR
D: John McTiernan; with Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo, Denis Leary, Esther Cañadas, Faye Dunaway, Ben Gazzara.
This update of the 1968 film of the same name has Pierce Brosnan, akaRemington Steele and James Bond, turning an only slightly new leaf as bored billionaire art thief Thomas Crown. When an audacious theft pits him against investigator Rene Russo, she's equally stimulated by the thrill of the chase. (Aug. 11)
D: Jim Fall; with Christian Campbell, John Paul Pitoc, Tori Spelling.
When Gabriel, a would-be musical theatre composer, tries to spice up his life by having a one-night stand with handsome go-go boy Mark, his efforts are tested by a series of obstacles. Unable to find a location for their hot and heavy, the two men end up getting more acquainted with each other than they'd intended. Tori Spelling plays Gabriel's kooky best friend. (Sept. 10)
UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURND: Mic Rodgers; with Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michael Jai White, Heidi Schanz, Kiana Tom.
In this follow-up to Van Damme's 1992 modest hit actioner, Spawn's Michael Jai White plays S.E.T.H., a military supercomputer gone haywire, and Van Damme is the only man who can stop him (go figure). First-time director Rodgers shot the military compound scenes at the Supercollider in Waxahachie, Texas. (Sept. 3)
D: Ziad Doueiri; with Rami Doueiri, Mohaamad Chamass, Rola Al Amin.
Set in war-torn 1975 Beirut, this drama follows the lives of three teen friends; the schools are shut down and the kids roam the streets making Super-8 films and listening to American pop music. Despite this unusual freedom, the war impinges on their emotional lives.
D: Marc Levin; with Danny Hoch, Dash Mihok, Mark Webber.
These white boys wanna be black. Midwestern farm boys with the souls of hip-hop poets "keep it real" in the streets of Chicago. Sundance award winner Marc Levin (Slam) directs.
XIU XIU: THE SENT DOWN GIRL
D: Joan Chen; with Lu Lu, Lopsang.
Actress Joan Chen (The Last Emperor) co-wrote and directed (often clandestinely) this story set in the 1970s during the last gasp of China's Cultural Revolution. One of many Chinese youth "sent down" to remote areas to work the land, Xiu Xiu ends up with solitary Tibetan horse herder Lao Jin, who develops an unspoken love for her while Xiu Xiu's desperation to return home from exile grows.