Show and Tell
Spring Previews 2000
By Marjorie Baumgarten, Sarah Hepola, and Marcel Meyer, Fri., Feb. 25, 2000
But the spring has always been a no man's land, neither fish nor fowl to the quick-to-categorize movie industry. Holiday leftovers clog the movie theatres during the early months of each year, much as they clog your refrigerator at home. Theatre bookings are somewhat more porous since the hits are not always predictable. It's also a good time to bring back that Oscar nominee from earlier in the year. And the early part of the year can also serve as a dumping ground for movies whose distributors prefer they slip from the visible horizon.
It used to be that Memorial Day marked the official beginning of the summer season. Last time I checked, Memorial Day always fell on the last Monday of May. (To tell the truth, though, the last time I checked the holiday might have still been called Decoration Day.) Now the studios keep pushing up the launch of their summer movies as they try to outposition each other and get a jump on the season. Things have finally gotten out of hand this year. Universal has pushed up the opening date of The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas from May 12 to May 5 and now April 28.
So, how to make sense of such a hodgepodge of a season in which just about anything goes? There are, without question, movies here to satisfy all tastes: dramas, comedies, teen pictures, animation, re-releases, documentaries, and foreign. The selections are broad, and we hope that these previews provide a few pointers.
Our survey covers approximately 100 films that are expected to open theatrically in Austin between the months of March and the end of May. Opening dates, when provided, are listed and reflect the specific dates movies are expected to first roll out locally. Movies that have no date by them are at least expected to open in the month they are listed. All dates and titles are subject to change. -- Marjorie Baumgarten
D: Jasmin Dizdar; with Charlotte Coleman, Charles Kay, Rosalind Ayres, Roger Sloman, Heather Tobias, Danny Nussbaum, Gilbert Martin.
Framed against the rich backdrop of modern-day London, this film by Bosnian filmmaker Jasmin Dizdar catalogs the random interactions between four inter-linked British families whose chance encounters with a troupe of refugees from the former Yugoslavia force them to deal with issues of heroism, prejudice, and death. (Mar. 10)
THE BIG TEASE
D: Kevin Allen; with Craig Ferguson, Frances Fisher, Chris Langham, Mary McCormack, Donal Logue, Larry Miller.
Press materials for this Scottish comedy describe the story as "Rocky in curlers." The action kicks off when a misunderstanding lands Glasgow's wackiest hairdresser (Ferguson) on the shores of Los Angeles to compete in the World Freestyle Hairdressing Championship. Celebs Drew Carey, Cathy Lee Crosby, and David Hasselhoff contribute cameos. (Mar. 10)
THE CLOSER YOU GET
D: Aileen Ritchie; with Ian Hart, Sean McGinley, Niamh Cusack, Ruth McCabe, Ewan Stewart, Pat Shortt.
Emotionally forlorn bachelors in a tiny windswept village along Ireland's Donegal coast hatch a plan to lure a batch of American woman into their clutches for matrimony in this bittersweet comedy from the producer of The Full Monty. (Mar. 31)
D: Rod Lurie; with Kevin Pollak, Timothy Hutton, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Sean Astin, Clotilde Courau, Badja Djola.
Set in the year 2008, this political thriller stars Pollak (The Usual Suspects) as the president of the United States and Hutton (Ordinary People) as his chief of staff. Through the course of election night, the president's entourage is trapped in a Colorado diner by a freak snowstorm as the possibility of nuclear war threatens the world. (Mar. 31)
D: Nick Gomez; with Danny DeVito, Bette Midler, Neve Campbell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Casey Affleck, Peter Dobson.
When queen bitch Mona Dearly (Midler) is killed after her beat-up Yugo takes a long plunge off the highway into a river, it's up to an aloof small-town police chief (DeVito) to investigate all the usual suspects in this irreverent comedy-whodunit directed by edgy Laws of Gravity' director Nick Gomez. (Mar. 3)
D: Steven Soderbergh; with Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, Aaron Eckhart, Conchata Ferrell, Jamie Harrold, Scarlett Pomers.
Everybody's favorite pretty woman descends from Notting Hill to play a down-on-her-luck legal secretary who uses her streetwise sense of injustice to uncover a grave wrongdoing in which a corporation dumps contaminants into the public water supply of a small desert community. Powerhouse producer Danny DeVito oversaw director Soderbergh's production through his Jersey Films. (Mar. 17)
D: James Wong; with Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Derr Smith, Kristen Cloke, Daniel Roebuck, Amanda Detmer.
Former X-Files writers penned and directed this supernatural thriller which kicks off with a big-bang explosion of an aircraft that had been predicted to crash by a young teenager (Idle Hands' Sawa), who was meant to be aboard when tragedy struck. (Mar. 17)
GHOST DOG: THE WAY OF THE SAMURAI
D: Jim Jarmusch; with Forest Whitaker, John Tormey, Cliff Gorman, Henry Silva, Isaach De Bankole, Tricia Vessey.
If making movies is about taking risks, then director Jarmusch must have been insured by Lloyds of London in order to get this gangster movie financed. The film centers on a mob hit man named "Ghost Dog" (Whitaker of The Crying Game), who is blamed for a murder he did not commit but must prove his innocence without breaking the codes of the samurai he holds so dearly. (Mar. 17)
HERE ON EARTH
D: Mark Piznarski; with Leelee Sobieski, Chris Klein, Tac Fitzgerald, Teena Flowers, Bruce Greenwood, Josh Hartnett.
During that pivotal period between high school graduation and the start of college, a wealthy prep student (American Pie's Klein) must choose between his terminally ill true love (Sobieski) and a path of wealth and promise laid out by his strict father. (Mar. 24)
D: Stephen Frears; with John Cusack, Iben Hjejle, Jack Black, Lisa Bonet, Marc Busey, Ben Carr, Joelle Carter, Joan Cusack.
Earnest romantic comedy stars everyman Cusack as a spinning-out-of-control thirtysomething record-store owner who suddenly finds himself suffering from a premature mid-life crisis. Based on the popular Nick Hornby novel, High Fidelity is slated to play at this year's SXSW Film Festival. (Mar. 31)
A MAP OF THE WORLD
D: Scott Elliott; with Sigourney Weaver, Julianne Moore, David Straithairn, Chloë Sevigny.
In a performance being hailed as one of her best, Sigourney Weaver plays the self-assured wife of a Midwestern farmer, whose world collapses due to an unexpected turn of events and her stubborn refusal to go with the flow. Based on the book by Jane Hamilton, A Map of the World boasts an impressive supporting cast and marks the feature film debut for stage director Elliott. (Mar. 24)
THE NINTH GATE
D: Roman Polanski; Johnny Depp, Frank Langella, Lena Olin, Emmanuelle Seigner.
Dean Corso (Depp), a kind of Indiana Jones who raids foreign lands for lost books, discovers that his mission to unearth the legendary manual of satanic invocation called the The Nine Gates of Hell, could lead to his own destruction. Who knows better about these things than roman Polanski? (Mar. 10)
NOT ONE LESS
D: Zhang Yimou; with Wei Minzhi, Zhang Huike, Tian Zhenda, Gao Enman, Zhimei Sun, Yuying Feng, Fanfan Li.
When a Chinese schoolteacher is absent for a month, his students are placed in the incapable hands of 13-year-old Minzhi (Wei) with the promise of a monetary bonus if none of the students quit the class while the teacher's gone. Writer-director Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern, Ju Dou) also takes a leave of absence from his typically opulent dramas for this more "neorealistic" modern tale about poverty, social systems, and peasant determination. (Mar. 31)
D: Eric Ross; with Adrien Brody, Elise Neal, Malcolm Jamal-Warner, Lauryn Hill.
Hollywood "It Boy" Brody plays a New Jersey waiter struggling to launch his playwrighting career and hold on to his relationship with African-American singer Jeanine (Neal). Ross' amiable comedy about relationships both interracial and intraracial has toured the festival circuit, and should get some added play since it marks R&B diva Lauryn Hill's feature film debut. (Mar. 24)
THE ROAD TO EL DORADO
D: Bibo Bergeron, Will Finn, and Don Paul; with the voices of Kenneth Branagh, Kevin Kline, Armand Assante, Rosie Perez.
This new DreamWorks animated production tosses two lowly stable hands (Branagh and Kline) into the legendary conquistador Cortes' search for the fabled city of gold. (Mar. 31)
ROMEO MUST DIE
D: Andrzej Bartkowiak; with Jet Li, Isaiah Washington, Russell Wong, Edoardo Ballerini, Delroy Lindo, DB Woodside.
Veteran action producer Joel Silver (The Matrix) promises equally impressive special effects in this Jet Li starrer which is billed as a synthesis of kung fu and American hip-hop. (Mar. 22)
D: Rob Cohen; with Joshua Jackson, Craig T. Nelson, Hill Harper, Steve Harris, Leslie Bibb, William L. Petersen.
In this dramatic thriller, Jackson (Pacey on Dawson's Creek) plays a student at Yale, who discovers a decades-old secret society which purportedly spawned the CIA. HBO's The Rat Pack director Cohen moves into the teen Scream market with this film. (Mar. 31)
THE THIRD MIRACLE
D: Agnieszka Holland; with Ed Harris, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Anne Heche, Michael Rispoli, Charles Haid, James Gallanders.
When a disillusioned Catholic priest (Harris of Apollo 13) is called upon by his bishop to investigate a marble statue that cries tears of blood, his faith is renewed and then immediately called into question as he begins to fall for a young woman (Heche). Polish filmmaker Holland (Europa Europa) directs from a script by novelist Richard Vetere and John Romano. (Mar. 3)
D: DJ Pooh; with Brian Hooks, N'Bushe Wright, Faizon Love, David Alan Grier, Phil Morris.
A young ex-con with two strikes against him is pitched this screwball comedy confronting the controversy around California's 1994 law locking up offenders for 25 years after committing three felonies. From the producer of Dumb and Dumber, and the co-writer of Friday, this tale of urban hijinks could hit home. (Mar. 1)
D: Gavin O'Connor; with Janet McTeer, Kimberly Brown, Gavin O'Connor.
A wild and spirited mother (McTeer) totes around her only loyal companion, daughter Ava (Brown), from city to city, leaving jilted lovers behind. McTeer has just been nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in this southern-fried journey of self-discovery. (Mar. 3)
WAKING THE DEAD
D: Keith Gordon; with Billy Crudup, Jennifer Connelly, Molly Parker, Janet McTeer, Hal Holbrook.
An up-and-coming politician in the Eighties becomes haunted by the death of the love of his life a decade before in a car-bombing. The idealism of the Seventies contrasts with the ambitiousness of the Eighties in this romantic drama about a man who's not sure if he's losing his mind or his values. Director Gordon has previously demonstrated his smooth ability to merge objective and subjective worlds in such films as Mother Night and A Midnight Clear. Jodie Foster's Egg Pictures executive-produced the picture. (Mar. 24)
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 when 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. (Mar. 24)
WHAT PLANET ARE YOU FROM?
D: Mike Nichols; with Garry Shandling, Annette Bening, John Goodman, Greg Kinnear, Ben Kingsley, Camryn Manheim.
Sent on a galaxy quest to the planet Earth, an alien named Harold (Shandling) must complete a mission that involves impregnating a native woman (Bening) and raising the child. With a screenplay co-written by Shandling, this seasoned comedic cast should have a field day exploring the human condition through a host of neurotic characters. (Mar. 3)
D: Peter M. Cohen; with Amanda Peet, Brian Van Holt, Judah Domke, Jonathan Abrahams, Zorie Barber, Callie Thorne.
This romantic comedy dissects the battle of the sexes in modern America through the eyes of two commingled groups of twentysomethings. Lead actress Peet currently steals the show in The Whole Nine Yards. (Mar. 31)
D: Eric Schaeffer; with Eric Mabius, Callie Thorne, Bill Weeden, Zane Adlum, Samantha Buck.
Nine days from his wedding day, a bisexual man named Wirey Spindell (Mabius) must decide if he's ready to go straight in this romantic comedy from the director of My Life's in Turnaround. (Mar. 17)
BLACK AND WHITE
D: James Toback; with Scott Caan, Robert Downey Jr., Gaby Hoffman, Jared Leto, Bijou Phillips, Ben Stiller, Elijah Wood.
Billed as an ensemble piece that focuses upon points of social convergence between white and black America, Black and White was initially slapped with a doom-and-gloom NC-17 rating by the MPAA, forcing director Toback (Two Girls and a Guy) to cut frames out of the opening sequence featuring an interracial three-way. (Apr. 5)
BLESS THE CHILD
D: Chuck Russell; with Kim Basinger, Jimmy Smits, Rufus Sewell, Ian Holm, Angela Bettis, Christina Ricci.
This modern-day thriller stars Basinger in the role of Maggie O'Connor, a woman whose agnostic tenants are forced into a religious experience promising to change her life forever. When Maggie's six-year-old niece is kidnapped by forces of evil, she must team up with an investigator (Smits) to recover the child and simultaneously battle all-powerful elements of darkness. (Apr. 14)
D: Mark Hanlon; with Aidan Gillen, Emmanuelle Seigner, Susan Tyrrell, Mark Boone Jr., Harry Groener.
In this dark comedy, an introvert relieves the stress of caring for his invalid mother by spying on his neighbor. This first-time filmmaker's movie makes its U.S. premiere at SXSW. (Apr. 7)
D: Nicholas Hytner; with Amanda Schull, Susan May Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Peter Gallagher, Donna Murphy, Debra Monk.
Director Hytner (The Madness of King George) takes on a Fame-esque dance drama centering upon the fragile hopes and dreams of a young student troupe on the rise. With a soundtrack that dips into selections ranging from Tchaikovsky to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the film offers a rarely exposed glimpse into the highly competitive world of stage performance. (Apr. 21)
D: Regis Wargnier; with Sandrine Bonnaire, Oleg Menchikov, Sergeui Bodrov Jr., Catherine Deneuve.
Post-WWII film encapsulates Stalin's immense propaganda campaign, which aimed to lure Russian emigrants living in the West to return home with the promise of amnesty, a Soviet passport, and an opportunity to aid in the reconstruction of war-torn Mother Russia. Acclaimed French star Denueve contributes a small role as a famous 1940s actress. (Apr. 21)
D: Gregory Hoblit; with Dennis Quaid, Jim Caviezel, Frank McAnulty, Elizabeth Mitchell, Andre Braugher, Jordan Bridges.
Supernatural thriller kicks off when a celestial phenomenon and a ham radio allows a young cop (The Thin Red Line's Caviezel) to communicate back to 1969 with his deceased firefighter father (Quaid). (Apr. 28)
D: Davis Guggenheim; with Eric Bogosian, Marisa Coughlan, Lena Headey, Marc Hickox, Kate Hudson, Joshua Jackson.
College-based dramedy focuses on a student experiment gone awry, and tracks how quickly false gossip can spread across campus. (Apr. 28)
JOE GOULD'S SECRET
D: Stanley Tucci; with Ian Holm, Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, Hope Davis, Steve Martin, Susan Sarandon, Patick Tovatt.
Period piece drama focusing on the life and secrets of New York writer Joe Gould (Holm), a Harvard-educated street scholar who leads a rather disheveled existence. Director Tucci (Big Night) plays New Yorker journalist Joseph Mitchell, who befriends Gould and transforms him into a minor celebrity. (Apr. 7)
KEEPING THE FAITH
D: Edward Norton; with Norton, Ben Stiller, Jenna Elfman, Kryss Anderson, Anne Bancroft, Milos Forman, Ron Rifkin.
Acting powerhouse Norton (Fight Club) marks his directorial debut with this romantic comedy in which two childhood friends, one an Orthodox rabbi (Stiller) and the other a Catholic priest (Norton), fall for the same girl they knew from their old neighborhood. (Apr. 14)
THE LAST SEPTEMBER
D: Deborah Warner; with Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Keeley Hawes, David Tennant, Richard Roxburgh.
A rich breadbasket of overseas talent assembles to bring to life Elizabeth Bowen's acclaimed novel of the same name, depicting the end of a momentous era -- the termination of British reign over Ireland. Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) executive produces, and composer Zbigniew Preisner (Krysztof Kieslowski's White, Red, Blue) contributes the score.
D: Soren Kragh-Jacobsen; with Anders W. Berthelsen, Iben Hjejle, Jesper Asholt, Sofie Grabol, Emil Tarding, Anders Hove.
When a successful Copenhagen businessman named Kresten (Berthelsen) receives a phone call informing him his father has died, he must abandon a plum job and a marriage to his boss' daughter to make peace with a life he left behind at his family's run-down farm. (Apr. 14)
ONCE IN THE LIFE
D: Laurence Fishburne; with Fishburne, Titus Welliver, Eamonn Walker, Gregory Hines, Dominic Chianese Jr.
Based on Fishburne's own play Riff Raff, Once in the Life is the actor's feature film directorial debut, a movie exploring issues of lost family, loyalty, and friendship between two brothers after a bank heist they collaborated on goes bad.
PRICE OF GLORY
D: Carlos Avila; with Jimmy Smits, Jon Seda, Maria Del Mar, Ernesto Hernandez, Paul Rodriguez, Ron Perlman.
Former Golden Gloves champ Seda stars opposite Smits in this emotionally charged boxing film about a father's love for the rigors of the sport and his three sons. A tale of redemption and the everlasting ties of family, the story is written by and based on the award-winning play by former New York Times sports columnist Phil Berger. (Apr. 7)
READY TO RUMBLE
D: Brian Robbins; with David Arquette, Oliver Platt, Scott Caan, Steve Borden, Page Falkinburg, John Goodman.
Varsity Blues director Robbins goes to the mat in this spoof on the world of beefcake wrestling. Champion fighter Jimmy King (Platt) is a fallen monarch of the wrestling world, and Arquette and Caan play the die-hard fans who help him restore his crown. (Apr. 14)
RETURN TO ME
D: Bonnie Hunt; with David Duchovny, Minnie Driver, Hunt, James Belushi, Carroll O'Connor, Robert Loggia.
Funny girl Hunt helms this romantic-drama (which she co-wrote as well) that promises real-life humor amidst the oftentimes tumultuous playground of the heart. With music pinched straight out of When Harry Met Sally..., this sharp-tongued offering looks to make a huge initial public offering with the hot-buzz chemistry between leads Duchovny and Driver. (Apr. 7)
SHOW ME LOVE
D: Lukas Moodysson; with Alexandra Dahlstrom, Rebeckah Liljeberg.
This teen lesbian coming-of-age drama was a huge hit in its native Sweden, where it rivaled Titanic for the top box-office spot. (Apr. 7)
D: Santosh Sivan; with Ayesha Dharkar, Bhanu Prakash, Sonu Sisupal.
This first film by noted Indian cinematographer Santosh Sivan is being compared to the work of Robert Bresson and Satyajit Ray in the way it finds and frames the beauty in the midst of the quotidian and the frightful. The story follows the journey of a young woman who has dedicated herself to "the cause," an unnamed outfit that uses violence to further its overthrow of repressive government. (Apr. 21)
THINGS YOU CAN TELL JUST BY LOOKING AT HER
D: Rodrigo García; with Glenn Close, Cameron Diaz, Calista Flockhart, Holly Hunter, Amy Brenneman, Kathy Baker.
Director Garcia, son of 100 Years of Solitude author Gabriel García Márquez, cultivates an ensemble piece that probes the troubled experiences of five women. As discoveries take place, and unlikely relationships form over a period of a few days, this group of struggling females find themselves coming of age all over again. (Apr. 28)
D: Mike Figgis; with Saffron Burrows, Salma Hayek, Stellan Skarsgard, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Xander Berkeley.
At its heart, Time Code is a grand experiment in filmmaking, in which director Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas) shot this entire film in 15 continuous 93-minute takes using four hand-held digital video cameras. Figgis describes the story, all filmed in sequence and in real time, as a black comedy centering around a group of Los Angelenos involved in an affair, a murder, and a Hollywood mystery. (Apr. 28)
D: Betty Thomas; with Sandra Bullock, Dominic West, Viggo Mortensen, Azura Skye, Steve Buscemi, Elizabeth Perkins.
A drunk-driving accident lands a partying New York writer (Bullock) in rehab where a whole cast of eclectic characters prey upon her to examine her life. To be certain, this is edgier material than America's girl next door normally frequents, but with director Thomas (Private Parts) behind the camera, we can expect a fair share of comedy and romance as well. (Apr. 7)
D: Jonathan Mostow; with Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, Jon Bon Jovi.
Austin's own McConaughey stars in this action-thriller from the producer and director of Breakdown. This controversial story about a U.S. submarine crew who stole a top-secret Nazi encryption device on the high seas in 1942 continues to be hotly debated historical event. (Apr. 21)
WELCOME BACK MR. MCDONALD
D: Koki Mitani; with Toshiaki Karasawa, Kyoka Suzuki, Masahiko Nishimura, Keiko Toda.
The American title of this Japanese film makes this comedy sound like the cheery bottom half of a double bill with Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. The movie sets the stage for farce when a live radio drama goes haywire and begins a whole chain of events. (Apr. 7)
WHERE THE HEART IS
D: Matt Williams; with Natalie Portman, Stockard Channing, Simon Bennett, Joan Cusack, Ashley Judd.
Based on Billie Letts' acclaimed novel of the same name, this edgy teen drama centers around a young pregnant girl (Portman), who is abandoned on her way to California at an Oklahoma Wal-Mart store where she bonds with local workers and residents. Filmed in Austin. (Apr. 28)
WHERE THE MONEY IS
D: Mark Kanievska; with Paul Newman, Linda Fiorentino, Dermot Mulroney, Susan Barnes, Frankie Faison.
Infrequent director Kanievska (Less Than Zero) teams up with screen legend Newman for a bank robbery caper film hinging on a nurse's (Fiorentino) discovery that an aged crook is only faking a coma in order to avoid being sent back to prison. After starring in the disappointing Message in a Bottle and Twilight, Newman should be due for a hit. (Apr. 14)
Japanimation by the director of Astro Boy is based on the manga of the same name. This 1996 animation features a millennial theme about about the future of the universe, and a popular musical score. (Apr. 14)
D: James Gray; with Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Charlize Theron, Faye Dunaway, Ellen Burstyn, James Caan.
Director Gray (Little Odessa) returns to his beloved New York to lens a portrait of a family living at the edge of civilization and a place where the rules of a law-abiding society part company. Filmed with a purposefully gritty and dark cinematic quality, this modest story, told in the city's subway yards, promises yet another notable turn from Wahlberg.
D: Roger Christian; with John Travolta, Barry Pepper, Forest Whitaker, Kim Coates, Sabine Karsenti, Kelly Preston.
Based on Scientology guru L. Ron Hubbard's bestselling tome of the same name, this sci-fi movie, championed by Travolta, centers around the invasion of Earth by an advanced alien species. Director Christian won an Academy Award for his work as art director on the original Star Wars film. (May 12)
THE BIG KAHUNA
D: John Swanbeck; with Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito, Peter Facinella.
Writer Roger Rueff translated his own play Hospitality Suite for this big-screen adaptation in which three men offer diatribes on a range of "life issues"over the course of one evening in a Wichita, Kansas, hotel room. Test audiences have reported solid performances by Spacey and DeVito, but were especially enamored with fresh fish Facinella (Dancer, TX Pop. 81). (May 5)
D: Ralph Zondag and Eric Leighton.; with the voices of D.B. Sweeney, Alfre Woodard, Ossie Davis, Max Casella, Hayden Panettiere, Samuel E. Wright, Julianna Margulies, Pater Siragusa, Joan Plowright, Della Reese.
Disney takes the plunge into computer animation with this new work that capitalizes on kids' timeless fascination with those prehistoric creatures who ruled the earth in a "land before time." The plot is timeless too. An Iguanodon raised by lemurs longs to be reunited with his birth family. (May 19)
THE FLINTSTONES IN VIVA ROCK VEGAS
D: Brian Levant; with Mark Addy, Stephen Baldwin, Jane Krakowski, Kristen Johnston, Joan Collins, Harvey Korman.
Taking a step back in time, director Levant (The Flintstones) returns for another live-action incarnation of the ever-popular cartoon series. Sans John Goodman and the rest of the original cast, The Fully Monty's Addy fills in as the rotund Fred, and Baldwin (The Usual Suspects) goes against type as his amiable best friend Barney in this road-trip movie to Rock Vegas. (May 5)
GOAT ON FIRE AND SMILING FISH
D: Kevin Jordan; with Christa Miller, Bill Henderson, Derick Martini, Rosemarie Addeo, Steven Martini.
Dubbed "Smiling Fish" and "Goat on Fire" as reflections upon their personalities by their Native American grandmother, Tony (Steve Martini) and Chris (Derick Martini), now grown men, ruminate upon their respective traits and how they have affected their history of rocky relationships with women and one another. (May 12)
I DREAMED OF AFRICA
D: Hugh Hudson; with Kim Basinger, Vincent Perez, Eva Marie Saint, Liam Aiken.
Screen veteran Saint (North by Northwest) joins Academy Award-winner Basinger in a film that effortlessly conjures up images of the Meryl Streep film, Out of Africa. Inspired by the true experiences of Kuki Gallmann, the story celebrates the courage of a widowed woman who raises a family while running a 90,000-acre farm in the wilds of Kenya. (May 5)
ME MYSELF I
D: Pip Karmel; with Rachel Griffiths, David Roberts, Sandy Winton, Yael Stone, Shaun Loseby, Trent Sullivan.
Somewhere between Sliding Doors and There's Something About Mary sits this romantic comedy that focuses on the chance meeting between a fast-talking journalist (Griffiths, of Hilary and Jackie) and ... herself. Director Karmel (editor of Shine) makes her directorial debut. (May 5)
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2
D: John Woo; with Tom Cruise, Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton, Ving Rhames, Richard Roxburgh, John Polson.
Action fans will no doubt rally behind the teaming of Cruise and Hong Kong action director Woo for this sequel to the outlandishly popular original movie from Brian De Palma. It's Hollywood buttered-popcorn fare to be sure, but the average fan will agree that a second round of special-effects-laden action and global crusading with spy Ethan Hunt is at its base level a guilty delight. (May 24)
PASSION OF THE MIND
D: Alain Berliner; with Demi Moore, William Fichtner, Stellan Skarsgård, Matthew Beisner, Sinead Cusack, Peter Riegert.
A woman envisions an imaginary life for herself as a successful career woman in New York to escape her humdrum existence as a mother of two in France -- or is it the other way around? French filmmaker Berliner directs from a script by Ron Bass (Stepmom). (May 26)
D: Todd Phillips; with Breckin Meyer, Seann William Scott, Amy Smart, Rachel Blanchard, DJ Qualls, Paulo Costanzo, Andy DIck, Fred Ward, Tom Green.
A college student drags three of his best friends along on an 1800-mile road trip from New York to Texas to save his lifelong romance. A cast of young stars is rounded out by the "adult" talents of Andy Dick, MTV's Tom Green, and film veteran Fred Ward. If anyone has insight into the dumb things that college students are capable of, it would be director Todd Phillips, who previously directed the underground hit Frat House. (May 19)
D: Keenan Ivory Wayans; with Jonathan Abrahams, Carmen Electra, Shannon Elizabeth, Regina Hall, Marlon Wayans.
I'm Gonna Get You Sucka spoofmesiter Wayans helms this parody of horror movies. Miramax, the company that commissioned this horror laugh fest through its Dimension specialty house, seems to be playing both ends against the middle since it also "owns the patent" on the Scream franchise. We don't know whether to laugh or scream. (May 19)
STEAL THIS MOVIE!
D: Robert Greenwald; with Vincent D'Onofrio, Janeane Garofalo, Kevin Corrigan, Donal Logue, Kevin Pollak, Jeanne Tripplehorn.
Although it sounds as though the title is spoofing Abbie Hoffman's notorious paperback Steal This Book!, this account of the life and times of the Sixties Yippie, Seventies fugitive, Eighties activist and suicide is based primarily on two books: To America with Love: Letters From the Underground, by Abbie and Anita Hoffman, and Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel, by Marty Jezer. (May 12)
D: Paul Morrissey; with Joe Dallesandro, Holly Woodlawn, Jane Forth, Bruce Pecheur, Geri Miller, Andrea Feldman, Michael Sklar.
Andy Warhol produced this perverse comedy in 1970. It features Factory regulars Joe Dallesandro and female impersonator Holly Woodlawn as a nightmare rendition of a married couple. He's an impotent junkie hustler and she feigns pregnancy in order to fulfill her fondest ambition of going on welfare. Nudity and needles abound in this 30th anniversary re-release. (May 26)
UP AT THE VILLA
D: Philip Haas; with Anne Bancroft, Jeremy Davies, James Fox, Derek Jacobi, Sean Penn, Kristin Scott Thomas.
Based on the novella by noted British writer W. Somerset Maugham, this love story folds together elements of violence, danger, and sensuality, and is set against a beautiful 1938 Italian landscape. Acclaimed director Sydney Pollack sits in as an executive producer on this film which luxuriously re-creates Florence before the coming of WWII. (May 5)
WOMAN ON TOP
D: Fina Torres; with Murilo Benicio, Jonas Bloch, Penelope Cruz.
With an unearthly gift for charming people with her miraculous gifts in the culinary arts, a lovesick young woman struggles to find social equilibrium. Venezuelan-born director Torres (Celestial Clock) concocts a simmering tale of romance, magic, and music in the realm of Like Water for Chocolate with this San Francisco-shot story of bizarre love triangles.
D: Anjelica Huston; with Huston, Marion O'Dwyer, Ray Winstone, Arno Chevrier.
Adapted from Irishman Brendan O'Carroll's bestselling novel, The Mammy, this Sixties-era drama kicks off to a foreboding start as the death of a family patriarch leaves a penniless mother, and her seven children, emotionally ravaged. Oscar-winner Huston plays the title character and also adds a second notch to her director's belt (Bastard Out of Carolina) with this bittersweet story of second chances.
THE BIG BLUE
D: Luc Besson; with Jean Reno, Jean-Marc Barr, Rosanna Arquette, Griffin Dunne, Paul Shenar, Sergio Castellitto.
The re-release of this 1988 sci-fi/drama film from French director Besson (The Fifth Element) adds 13 minutes to the story of two boyhood friends (Reno and Barr) who challenge each other at a world diving championship in Taormina, Italy.
D: Bruno Barreto; with Amy Irving, Alexandre Borges, Antonio Fagundes, Pedro Cardoso, Stephen Tobolowsky.
With Rio de Janeiro as the backdrop, this story of love lost follows the paths of two tortured souls, one a Brazilian lawyer and the other an American English teacher, who both have resigned themselves to unhappiness until a chance meeting floods hope into their tortured hearts.
D: Lisa Krueger; with Heather Graham, Luke Wilson, Goran Visnjic, Casey Affleck, Patricia Velasquez.
International Woman of Mystery Graham trades in her go-go boots for a turn as an overly committed housewife who refuses to let go of her on-the-lamb husband (Wilson). Director Krueger (Manny and Lo) holds the reigns on this 2,000-mile road trip movie that traverses the lonely, flat plains of West Texas.
D: John McNaughton; with George Condo, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg.
The life and art of New York artist George Condo, and the creative process in general, are the subjects of this documentary by McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer). Also featured are the last recorded interviews of late Beat icons Burroughs and Ginsberg.
D: Ismail Merchant; with Greta Scacchi, Madhur Jaffrey, James Wilby.
In this film from Ismail Merchant (of refined Merchant-Ivory fame), the luminous Scacchi plays Lily, an Englishwoman living in South India after the fall of the British empire. Alone and with child, she must rely on Cotton Mary, a scheming midwife who attempts to manipulate her way into Lily's good graces.
THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE
D: Luis Buñuel; with Fernando Rey, Delphine Seyrig, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Bulle Ogier, Stephane Audran, Julien Bertheau.
Academy Award winner for best foreign film, this 1972 Buñuel surrealistic classic follows the comic ruminations of a group of socialites trying to pull off a simple dinner engagement. The re-release marks the centennial of the director's birth.
EAST IS EAST
D: Damien O'Donnell; with Om Puri, Linda Bassett, Jordan Routledge, Archie Punjabi, Emil Marwa, Chris Bisson.
When a hard-nosed, traditional Pakistani father begins to secretly arrange marriages for his London-raised sons, all hell breaks loose in this decidedly quirky film which examines the cultural battle between east and west philosophies. Draped against the backdrop of the 1970s psychedelic hippie movement, the film incarnates the French axiom, vive la difference. O'Donnell's sophomore directorial effort has already met with great success in its native England.
D: Steve Rash; with Jamie Foxx, Nia Long, Barry Corbin, Jake Busey.
Fresh from a well-received role in Oliver Stone's Dallas-shot film Any Given Sunday, Foxx turns his dramatic heels and makes forward progress into this promising goofball comedy by thrusting his character into the world's unluckiest day ever.
D: Mary Lambert; with Susan Ward, Lori Heuring, Matthew Settle, Nathan Bexton, Ethan Erickson, Tess Harper.
A girl who begins working at a posh country club is embraced by the inner social circle until she catches the eye of the handsome tennis instructor. Then the wealthy college gang turn on the interloper in order to protect their secret society. Directed by Mary Lambert of Pet Sematary and Siesta fame.
D: Takeshi "Beat" Kitano; with Kitano, Yusuke Sekiguchi, Kayoko Kishimoto, Yuko Daike, Kazuko Yoshiyuiki.
To disprove the critics who claimed he was only capable of dark, violent shoot-'em-up movies, noted Japanese gangster film director and TV personality Kitano (Fireworks) takes on and stars in this simple story of a boy in search of a long-lost mother.
D: Bryan Cranston; with Cranston, Tim Thomerson, Robin Dearden, Amy Hathaway, Annie Corley, Jay Thomas.
Sam, a would-be writer who has lost everything -- his wife, career, and self-worth -- is now a truck driver who becomes stranded at Last Chance, a remote desert cafe and motel, till his rig is fixed. During the course of his stay, personal discoveries are made in this low-budget independent film.
THE LIFESTYLE: GROUP SEX IN THE SUBURBS
D: David Schisgall.
Erotic group sex documentary that delves into the wonderful world of fiftysomething swingers who wife swap.
D: Gregory Nava; with David Villalpando, Zaide Sivia Gutierrez, Ernesto Gomez Cruz.
A milestone in American independent filmmaking, this popular 1984 film has been readied for a 15th anniversary re-release. The story concerns a couple of teenagers who flee the political hostilies in Guatemala after their father is murdered for organizing peasants. Their journey takes them to Los Angeles where they are absorbed into the world of undocumented laborers and American culture.
D: John S. Curran; with Peter Fenton, Sacha Horler, Marta Dusseldorp, Joel Edgerton, Yvette Duncan, Winston Bull.
Grungier version of Less Than Zero based on Australian writer Andrew McGahan's bestselling novel of the same name.
SET ME FREE
D: Léa Pool; with Karine Vanasse, Pascale Bussières, Miki Manojlovic.
Set in 1960s Montreal, Set Me Free tells the story of 13-year-old Hanna (Vanasse), a quirky adolescent coming to grips with one of life's toughest stages.
SMALL TIME CROOKS
D: Woody Allen; with Allen, Tracy Ullman, Hugh Grant, Jon Lovitz, Michael Rapaport, Elaine May.
Woody Allen seems poised once again take the money and run with this romantic comedy about an ex-con dishwasher (Allen) and his manicurist wife (Ullman), who dreams of becoming rich by way of a bank robbery. Allen wrote, directed, and stars in this larcenous romp, which also features a stellar cast of players.
D: Cameron Crowe; with Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee, Anna Paquin.
Set in 1973 during the period when rock music was not yet the global commercial enterprise it is today, a 15-year-old boy (Fugit) wins the opportunity to travel on the road with an up-and-coming band for the purpose of writing a story on his experiences for Rolling Stone magazine. Cameron, who began his career as a young scribe for the music mag, directs his first film since the popular Jerry Maguire.
D: Steve Miner; with James Van Der Beek, Dylan McDermott, Robert Patrick, Randy Travis, Tom Skerritt.
Teen heartthrob Van Der Beek (Varsity Blues) trades in his fresh face for a hard scowl in this gun-toting tale of the infamous Texas Rangers who, as legend would have it, battled for justice and redemption. The script by John Milius (Red Dawn, Dillinger) was once to have been made into a film by Sam Peckinpah. Filmed entirely in Canada.
D: Ken Liotti; with Will Arnett, Debbon Ayer, Dwight Ewell, Eddie Malavarca, Terumi Matthews, Daniel Riordan.
A group of struggling New York actors commiserate at the restaurant where they work as they wait for their big break.
THE WISDOM OF CROCODILES
D: Po Chih Leong; with Jude Law, Elina Lowensohn, Timothy Spall, Kerry Fox, Jack Davenport, Colin Salmon.
An oddly titled film, with a decidedly odd premise, the bulk of which hinges upon the idea that a handsome, witty, and successful man -- who also happens to be a psychopath -- can't find happiness unless he murders the very women he loves. Capable acting by Law and Lowensohn is no doubt in order, as is first-class buzz on the intricately woven screenplay.