THE ACID HOUSE
D: Paul McGuigan; with Ewen Bremner, Martin Clunes, Stephen McCole, Jenny McCrindle, Gary McCormack.
Scripted by Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting) from a collection of his short stories, the film is composed as a surreal triptych of black comedies featuring characters who sound as if they'll make the Trainspotting bunch seem as bland as a pack of Teletubbies. The film also features a lot of music by Oasis, the Verve, the Chemical Brothers, and Nick Cave. (Oct. 1)
THE ADVENTURES OF ELMO IN GROUCHLAND
D: Gary Halvorson; with Kevin Clash, Mandy Patinkin, Vanessa Williams.
If nothing else, this family comedy earns points for its rather unassuming storyline which follows Elmo on a quest to recover his most prized possession -- a blanket. Hardly an attention-grabbing premise of the Star Wars ilk, the film hasn't generated a great deal of early buzz. However, with Jim Henson Productions pulling the strings behind this Muppet adventure, the final cut could please even the grouchiest viewer. (Oct. 1)
D: Sam Mendes; with Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari, Peter Gallagher, Allison Janney, Scott Bakula.
Pre-release screenings of first-time director Sam Mendes' American Beauty are generating such positive exit poll reviews that Oscar nods for Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening have already begun to fill the smog-filled air of L.A. Filled with equal parts hysteria and self-analysis, the film engages in a detailed dissection of the modern American suburban existence. (Oct. 1)
ANYWHERE BUT HERE
D: Wayne Wang; with Susan Sarandon, Natalie Portman, Bonnie Bedelia, Shawn Hatosy, Hart Bochner, Heather McComb, Corbin Allred, and Caroline Aaron.
Ace director Wayne Wang (Blue in the Face) helms this dramedy about a daydreaming mother and an independently spirited daughter who flee a humdrum Wisconsin existence for the gold-laden, fantasy-filled streets of Beverly Hills. Based upon the novel by Mona Simpson, the film adaptation promises emotionally charged performances by Sarandon and Portman, both of whom tread well in the realm of family drama. (Oct. 22)
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 a story of both 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!" (Oct. 15)
D: Louis Morneau; with Lou Diamond Phillips, Dina Meyer, Bob Gunton, Leon.
Genetically altered bats take over a sleepy desert town in Texas. The scientists and the police must save the good citizens. Good thing these batshit creatures only come out at night. (Oct. 22)
BEING JOHN MALKOVICH
D: Spike Jonze; with John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, John Malkovich.
And the winner for best title goes to this oddity from accomplished video director Jonze (Beastie Boys' "Sabotage"), a film that answers once and for all what's going on in the famed thespian's head. Cusack plays a sad-sack puppeteer, yearning for fame and fortune while mired in a blah marriage with his pet-store employee wife (an uncharacteristically frumpy Diaz). But all that changes when he happens upon a secret passageway into John Malkovich's brain. (Oct. 1)
BEST LAID PLANS
D: Mike Barker; with Reese Witherspoon, Alessandro Nivola, Josh Brolin.
You can bet that in this thriller, the "best laid plans" go awry when the paths of old friends cross again years later and force them into some life-altering decisions.
THE BEST MAN
D: Malcolm D. Lee; with Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Harold Perrineau, Terrence Howard, Sanaa Lathan, Monica Calhoun, Melissa DeSousa.
An upcoming wedding reunites a successful group of college pals. But the best man, Harper (Diggs), threatens the nuptial bliss with the release of his new book, a provocative, thinly veiled account of his friends and lovers. (Oct. 22)
BLACK CAT, WHITE CAT
D: Emir Kusturica; with Srdan Todorovic, Florijan Ajdini, Jasar Destani.
Slapstick and folklore combine in Bosnian-born filmmaker Emir Kusturica's new comedy set among Gypsies along the Danube. The film is being hailed as a true crowd pleaser from the director of the controversial Cannes Grand Prix winner Underground and Time of the Gypsies. (Oct. 1)
D: Michael Cristofer; with Sean Patrick Flanery, Jerry O'Connell, Amanda Peet, Tara Reid, Ron Livingston, Emily Procter, Brad Rowe, Sybil Temchen.
Titled after the notorious drinking game, this ensemble picture piece follows eight twentysomething men and women through an uproarious, crazed night in the concrete jungle of the Los Angeles after-dark scene. Issues in the way of romance and sex in the Nineties take the forefront of the troupe's politics. A constantly changing story perspective twists the same events through the varying eyes of each participant. (Oct. 22)
BOYS DON'T CRY
D: Kimberly Pierce; with Hilary Swank, Chloë Sevigny, Peter Sarsgaard, Brendan Sexton III, Alison Folland.
Based on the real life of Teena Marie Brandon (about whom a documentary has also been made), Boys Don't Cry tells the story of a Nebraska man with a double life. He was a teenage girl who lived her life as a young man in the bigoted heartland of America and paid brutally for the deception. The film is produced by Christine Vachon's Killer Films (Happiness, Velvet Goldmine).
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.
BRINGING OUT THE DEAD
D: Martin Scorsese; with Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, John Goodman, Tom Sizemore, Ving Rhames.
The king of edgy American cinema takes on urban malaise, New Yawk-style, in this examination of a fried and fraying third-watch paramedic, played by Nicolas Cage. Patricia Arquette, John Goodman, Tom Sizemore, and Ving Rhames are also on hand to watch the madness unfold. Anticipated, yes, but advance word is still quiet on this one. (Oct. 22)
CRAZY IN ALABAMA
D: Antonio Banderas; with Melanie Griffith, David Morse, Cathy Moriarty, Lucas Black, Meat Loaf Aday, Sandra Seacat, Richard Schiff, Rod Steiger.
In what marks the directorial debut of screen heartthrob Antonio Banderas, Sling Blade's Lucas Black plays Peejoe, an Alabama boy who harbors high hopes of escaping his backwoods roots. As luck would have it, Peejoe's off-center Aunt Lucille (Griffith) just happens to set her sails for Los Angeles, and in quick order, the two encounter high adventure as Lucille flees an angry husband and chases after a career in television. (Oct. 22)
D: Bruce McColloch; with Natasha Henstridge, Luke Wilson, Janeane Garofalo, Mike McKinney, Bruce McCulloch.
Man's best friend takes top billing in this edgy romance about the trials and tribulations of relationships, sex, and dealing with emotionally unstable pets. With the comedic stylings of Janeane Garofalo (The Truth About Cats & Dogs), and director-writer Bruce McColloch (Kids in the Hall) on the loose, this thirty-something comedy looks to break the collar of Hollywood schlock.
DRIVE ME CRAZY
D: John Schultz; with Melissa Joan Hart, Adrian Grenier, Stephen Collins, Susan May Pratt, Mark Webber, Kris Park.
Nicole is a prissy fashion guru. Chase is a beatnik nerd. Mix them together, and you get a peanut-buttercup story for teens with a sweet tooth for Hollywood formula. In what looks like a distant cousin to the late Eighties' Patrick Dempsey starrer Can't Buy Me Love, this romantic comedy features music from Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys, in addition to a screenplay by Rob Thomas (Dawson's Creek). With these elements in play, the box office youth can't hardly wait for this one. (Oct. 1)
D: David Fincher; with Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Jared Leto.
Seven alums David Fincher and Brad Pitt reteam 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. (Oct. 15)
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. (Oct. 15)
D: José Luis Garci; with Fernando Fernán-Gómez, Rafael Alonso, Cayetana Guillén Cuervo, Agustín González, Cristina Cruz, Alicia Rozas.
In this Oscar-nominated foreign film set in turn-of-the-century Spain, an aged man learns the true meaning of family, fidelity, and betrayal as he seeks to discover the hidden truths about his blood ties.
D: Stewart Raffill; with Bryan Brown, Tom Jackson, Oliver Tobias, Daniel Clark, Richard Harris.
A kind of twist on the well-worn Tarzan myth, this family action piece centers around the experiences of a young boy taken in by a mother grizzly bear after being disconnected from his father. Amidst the majestic peaks of the Canadian Rockies, boy and bear form a natural bond as they struggle to defy the unforgiving natural environment and unrelenting, bloodthirsty trackers.
D: Audrey Wells; with Sarah Polley, Stephen Rea, Jean Smart, Gina Gershon, Paul Dooley, Carrie Preston, Jasmine Guy.
Guinevere tells the story of a May-September romance but -- for a change -- tells it from the point of view of the younger woman, a high-school graduate who falls in love with the photographer at her sister's wedding. Rising star Sarah Polley (Go, The Sweet Hereafter) headlines in this film that marks the directing debut of Audrey Wells, the sharp and acerbic scriptwriter of The Truth About Cats & Dogs. (Oct. 1)
D: Mark Illsley; with Jeremy Northam, Steve Zahn, William H. Macy, Ally Walker, Illeana Douglas, MC Gainey, Ron Perlman.
A record-breaking sales war made this comedy the buzz of Sundance. In it, two prison escapees masquerade as beauty-pageant directors and shake up the quiet status quo in Happy, Texas. It could prove to be the breakout performances of co-stars Jeremy Northam (An Ideal Husband) and Steve Zahn (Out of Sight). And, no, it wasn't shot in Happy, Texas. (Oct. 8)
HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL
D: William Malone; with Geoffrey Rush, Peter Gallagher, Taye Diggs, Elizabeth Hurley, Famke Janssen, Bridgette Wilson, Ali Larter, Chris Kattan.
Vincent Price may be gone, but this remake of shockmeister William Castle's 1958 ode to spousal exsanguination promises to carry on in fine, frightening form. Geoffrey Rush fills in for the mouldering master of horror as he throws a party for his scheming wife (Janssen) at the local asylum and offers $1 million to anyone brave enough to stay the night. Who's going to be filling in for the equally moribund Elisha Cook Jr., I hear you ask? My money's on the endearingly disturbing Chris "Monkey Boy" Kattan. (Oct. 29)
D: Steven Soderbergh; with Terence Stamp, Peter Fonda, Lesley Ann Warren.
After a British ex-con named Wilson (Stamp) learns of his daughter's murder in America, he crosses the Atlantic hellbent for revenge and opens up a can of whoop-ass unlike anything seen since Walter Hill's 1979 The Warriors. (Oct. 8)
D: Marion Vernoux; with Charlotte Gainsbourg, Yvan Attal, Charles Berling, Susan Moncur, Thibault de Montalembert.
This French take on the romantic triangle is based on a Julian Barnes novel in which a man who marries a woman he meets through a personal ad realizes that his best friend is trying to woo her away. (Oct. 8)
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. (Oct. 8)
MARCELLO MASTROIANNI: I REMEMBER, YES, I REMEMBER
D: Anna Maria Tató.
Filmed by the Italian actor's companion of 22 years while on the set of his last film, I Remember, Yes, I Remember, this documentary shows Mastroianni speaking, remembering, and musing in his own words. (Oct. 15)
THE MATING HABITS OF THE EARTHBOUND HUMAN
D: Jeff Abugov; with Mackenzie Astin, Carmen Electra, David Hyde Pierce, Marcus Redmond, Lucy Liu.
The Learning Channel goes to Hollywood in this mockumentary-style film which catalogs the entire courtship and marriage of a Los Angeles couple. From their first meeting in a wild L.A. nightclub, through nuptials, and thick and thin, we watch two humans of the species grow into parents and maturity -- all through the eyes of an objective extraterrestrial narrator. (Oct. 15)
THE MUSIC OF THE HEART
D: Wes Craven; with Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett, Aidan Quinn, Gloria Estefan, Cloris Leachman, Kieran Culkin.
Noted horror director Wes Craven takes a time-out from slashers to pluck the violin strings in this movie based on the true experiences (also portrayed in the 1995 documentary Small Wonders) of Roberta Guaspari, an East Harlem schoolteacher who motivates the kids and the community by fighting to make something of themselves with a 50-violin orchestra. Madonna originally went after the part that finally went to Meryl Streep in this variation on Stand and Deliver and Mr. Holland's Opus. (Oct. 29)
MY LIFE SO FAR
D: Hugh Hudson; with Colin Firth, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Irene Jacob, Malcolm McDowell.
A singular family, a precocious 10-year-old, an uncle's arousing French fiancée, and lessons for all on the vicissitudes of love, passion, and jazz add up to My Life So Far. (Oct. 1)
D: Jay Roach; with Russell Crowe, Hank Azaria, Mary McCormack, Lolita Davidovich, Ron Eldard, Colm Meany, Maury Chaykin, Burt Reynolds.
From pre-release trailers, this slap-happy hockey movie sports all the trimmings of a Rocky in the making. Screen favorite Russell Crowe (L.A. Confidential) plays the small-town sheriff of Mystery, Alaska, who leads his ragtag team against the world-renowned New York Rangers for a one-time-only publicity match. Expect hijinks galore from director Jay Roach of Austin Powers repute. (Oct. 1)
ON THE ROPES
D: Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen.
The Bed-Stuy Boxing Club is home to some rugged Brooklyn kids, who discover in this documentary that life is much harder outside the ring than inside it. The tough schools, the greedy managers, the criminal justice system, and a dedicated trainer whose own life parallels their own are but some of the issues the kids must navigate. The film has been a favorite on the festival circuit. (Oct. 8)
PLUNKETT & MACLEANE
D: Jake Scott; with Robert Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller, Liv Tyler, Ken Stott.
Carlyle and Miller (who scorched their way through Trainspotting, respectively, as the psychotic Begbie and the handsome, Bond-obsessed Sickboy) reteam for this British film in which they play two historic highwaymen who ply their trade on the roads of 18th-century England. (Oct. 1)
D: Hayao Miyazaki; with the voices of Claire Danes, Billy Crudup, Minnie Driver, Gillian Anderson, Jada Pinkett, Billy Bob Thornton.
The release of this Japanese animated movie has been eagerly anticipated in the U.S. ever since rave word of mouth started spreading on the heels of its phenomenal box-office success in Japan. Loosely based on Japanese folklore, the adult-minded movie tells the graphic story of the eternal war between nature and civilization. English-speaking actors give voice to the original animation by Japanese giant Hayao Miyazaki. (Oct. 29)
D: Sydney Pollack; with Harrison Ford, Kristin Scott Thomas, Charles S. Dutton, Paul Guilfoyle, Dennis Haysbert, Bonnie Hunt, Richard Jenkins.
Master helmer Sydney Pollack brings together an all-star cast which stretches the spectrum of acting styles. From the sometimes gruff Ford, to the always chipper Bonnie Hunt, this romance-action film promises to reach into the love story of a man and woman who should never have met. More than a simple twist of fate, or a Sliding Doors knockoff, the story unfolds hidden truths about governmental forces that guide and mislead the two lovers' every step. (Oct. 8)
D: Catherine Breillat; with Caroline Ducey, Sagamore Stevenin, Francois Berleand, Rocco Siffredi.
Due to its explicit sexuality, French director Catherine Breillat's Romance continues to build a reputation for its controversial subject matter. The story centers around a young French woman, Marie (Ducey), who longs for intimacy from her boyfriend, but is ultimately forced to look outside the relationship for happiness and carnal fulfillment.(Oct. 22)
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. (Oct. 22)
D: Dario Argento; with Asia Argento, Thomas Kretschmann, Marco Leonardi, Luigi Diberti.
Italian horror stylist Dario Argento directs his daughter Asia in this thriller about a woman who is overcome by a kind of temporary amnesia (Stendahl's syndrome) while looking at paintings in Florence's Uffizi Gallery. Back in her hotel she again "falls" into a reproduction of Rembrandt's Nightwatch, and she begins to understand her true identity: She is a policewoman working to solve a series of grisly sex murders. (Oct. 22)
THE STORY OF US
D: Rob Reiner; with Bruce Willis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Reiner, Rita Wilson, Paul Reiser.
Willis takes on another role thankfully bereft of explosions, though brimming with pain and torture of its own kind. With his own divorce not far in his wake, Willis plays Ben Jordan, whose 15-year marriage with wife Katie (Pfeiffer) is unraveling. Director Reiner returns to romantic comedy, where he has created some of his career's greatest triumphs (When Harry Met Sally ..., The Princess Bride). (Oct. 15)
THE STRAIGHT STORY
D: David Lynch; with Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, Harry Dean Stanton.
For a director with such an eclectic filmography as David Lynch, The Straight Story appears to be an odd departure from his usual surreal, fantasy-world fare. Based on the real-life story of World War II veteran Alvin Straight, who traversed 260 miles of America's heartland on his 1966 John Deere tractor, the story focuses not so much on the distance traveled as the characters Straight encounters along the way. (Oct. 22)
D: Bruce McCulloch; with Molly Shannon, Will Ferrell, Elaine Hendrix, Harland Williams, Mark McKinney, Glynis Johns.
The li'l Catholic school girl with the big neuroses, SNL's Mary Catherine Gallagher (Shannon), sets off in search of just one kiss when she wins a chance to strut her plaid-skirted stuff in a real-life Hollywood talent contest. Ex-Kids in the Hall McCulloch (Dog Park)and Mark McKinney direct and co-star alongside plenty of SNL regulars. Like Julia Sweeney's It's Pat, this is sure to be an acquired taste. (Oct. 8)
THE THIRD MAN
D: Carol Reed; with Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard.
This Graham Greene corker about the mysterious Harry Lime (Welles) loose in the shadows of post-WWII Vienna is being given the full re-release treatment. The theme music is unforgettable, as is the movie. (Oct. 22)
D: David O. Russell; with George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube.
George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and Ice Cube play a trio of gold-digging (literally) GIs who take it upon themselves to liberate a cache of stolen Kuwaiti loot from Saddam Hussein's goons during the tail end of the Gulf War. Yeah, it sounds a lot like Kelly's Heroes to me, too. So who takes up where Donald Sutherland's Oddball left off? Must be indie vid auteur Spike Jonze, who guest stars. (Oct. 1)
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, Piper Perabo.
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.