Tried and True: Auteurs Make a Return to Form


BEYOND THE CLOUDS

D: Michelangelo Antonioni; with Fanny Ardant, Chiara Casselli Irene Jacob, John Malkovich, Sophie Marceau, Vincent Perez, Jean Reno, Peter Weller, Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau.

Desire, love, and deception are the themes the legendary Italian filmmaker Antonioni (L'avventura) in this 1995 film. It was the director's first film in seven years, and is structured as a series of vignettes united by the story of a film director (Malkovich) trying to work through ideas for his next movie. (Mar. 3)


GLADIATOR

D: Ridley Scott; with Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Richard Harris, Djimon Hounsou, Tomas Arana, Spencer Treat Clark.

With a dark trailer that titillates fans of sword and sandal movies, this suitably gritty production follows the epic story of Maximus (Crowe), a once-honored general and heir to the throne of Rome, through his banishment and return to power. With the usual weight director Scott (Blade Runner) shoulders, this release could turn out to be real coliseum entertainment. (May 5)


MISSION TO MARS

D: Brian De Palma; Tim Robbins, Gary Sinise, Don Cheadle, Kim Delaney, Elise Neal, Jill Teed, Jody Thompson.

This special-effects-enhanced sci-fi film posits the theory that humanity will discover its true origins buried somewhere below the red, barren plains of Mars. Story comparisons turn up similarities to the James Cameron deep-sea action flick, The Abyss. Robbins and Sinise, irregular denizens of high-concept fantasy films, help add respectability to a normally ill-respected genre. (Mar. 10)


THE NEXT BEST THING

D: John Schlesinger; with Madonna, Rupert Everett, Benjamin Bratt, Kimberley Davies, Illeana Douglas, Lynn Redgrave.

It's high-concept Hollywood formula, but this romantic comedy which throws a straight woman (Madonna) and a gay man (Everett) into the sack together sits poised to surprise even the most jaded movie audiences. Acclaimed director Schlesinger (Sunday Bloody Sunday) helmed this Madonna romp at the tender age of 73. (Mar. 3)


RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

D: William Friedkin; Tommy Lee Jones, Samuel L. Jackson, Guy Pearce, Philip Baker Hall, Anne Archer.

Faint echoes of A Few Good Men resonate through this military drama pitting a highly decorated, 30-year Marine veteran (Jackson) against the very institution he serves in a delicate court battle that may very well cost him his career. Friedkin (The French Connection, The Exorcist) directs from a screenplay by Stephen Gaghan, a former story editor for TV's The Practice. (Apr. 7)


See also Black & White, Erin Brockovich, Ghost Dog, High Fidelity, Mission: Impossible 2, The Ninth Gate, Stillwater, The Third Miracle, Time Code, What Planet Are You From?

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