'Tis that time of year: Time for more movies than you can shake your laser at.
Wednesday, November 22, 2000
What''s the holiday season without the fat-dripping smell of roasting turkey, the boozy nutmeg aroma of spiked egg-nog...or the comforting smell of buttered popcorn?
Yep. Along with the usual family and travel stresses comes the glut of new movie releases, timed to capitalize on your already-open wallet$ and pur$e$. Although How the Grinch Stole Christmas jumped the gun and opened a week early--presumably so it could rake in the cash without competing with 102 Dalmatians (and successfully, too: Grinch raked in more than $55 million dollars on opening weekend making it the second biggest opening this year)--the vast majority of the season''s cinematic jollity comes between Thanksgiving and New Year''s Day.
To help enhance your viewing pleasure, here''s a guide to the 29 major releases scheduled between now and the real beginning of the new millennium. Read these with a grain of salt. Some of the movies will definitely be released on the dates listed, some will be released on those dates in other cities, some will open here and play for a couple days before being recalled and re-released after the beginning of 2001. It''s all part of the dance of maximizing profits while qualifying movies for the next round of Academy Awards. At the same time, there are bound to be a few indie movies that were previously released in other markets and will trickle into our neck of the woods in the next few weeks.
102 Dalmatians. Directed by: Kevin Lima. Starring: Glenn Close, Joan Gruffud, Alice Evans, Tim McInnerny, Gerard Depardieu. Close returns as the villainous, hard-hearted Cruella De Vil who will stop at nothing to achieve her dream of a spotted-puppy fur coat. If you haven''t seen the trailer or promo for this sequel to the live-action remake of the 1961 animated Disney classic, you''ve been living under a rock. After the 199X version came out, there was a huge upswing in the demand for Dalmatian puppies--which, according to some animal activists, was not a good thing: It seems that Dalmatians and kids are not necessarily a happy mix.
Quills. Directed by: Philip Kaufman. Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet, Joaquin Phoenix, Michael Caine. Just in time for the holidays comes this charming tale about the world''s only eponymous sadist, the Marquis de Sade. Here, the loony old pornographer (Rush) is confined to an insane asylum where he becomes one side of a strange love triangle with his nurse (Winslet) and priest (Phoenix). As director of the Henry Miller/Anaïs Nin flick Henry and June, Kaufman''s credits already include some experience with kinky love triangles. Should be interesting.
Requiem for a Dream. Directed by: Darren Aranofsky. Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans. Writer/director Aranofsky follows up on the success of Pi, his last movie, with this story about a widowed mother (Burstyn), her son (Leto) and his two friends (Connelly and Wayans). Everyone''s got their own dream. For Burstyn''s character, it''s the opportunity to be on TV; for her son and friends it''s the chance to run their own business. But everything goes terribly wrong--and then wronger--in this tale adapted from the 1978 novel of the same name by Hubert Selby, Jr.
Unbreakable. Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan. Starring: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson. Willis teams up with his director from The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan, in this thriller about a man who discovers that he''s indestructible. But that''s only half of the revelations that are yet to come. It seems that there''s a metaphysical reason (involving Samuel L. Jackson) for Willis'' unbreakability. Publicists say this flick plays with the all the human aspects of this particular situation in the same way that Sixth Sense handled the humanity in that circumstance. Could be good. On the other hand...this does sound uncomfortably close to being a blend of movies that have already been made--kind of a blend between SS and Jeff Bridges'' Fearless.
The Weekend. Directed by: Brian Skeet. Starring: Gena Rowlands, James Duval, Jared Harris, D.B. Sweeney, Brooke Shields. Ensemble drama about a group of people who gather on the one-year anniversary of the death of a man who was related to each of them by blood or love.
A Hard Day''s Night. Directed by: Richard Lester. Starring: John, Paul, George, Ringo. Digitally remastered reissue of the 1964 flick chronicling a day in the life of The Beatles. It''s a classic: On the one hand it''s a satirical documentary (more or less); on the other, it was a groundbreaking film that foreshadowed the age of music videos.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Directed by: Ang Lee. Starring: Chow Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh. With fight choreography supplied by Yuen Wo-Ping (who choreographed The Matrix), Tiger/Dragon probably won''t be plagued with the same stultified action as Lee''s most recent effort, Ride With the Devil. Yun Fat and Yeoh star in a romantic, period martial arts fest about a retiring martial arts master (Yun Fat), his longtime friend (Yeoh) and a stolen sword named Green Destiny. This movie received high marks at Cannes for having a bit more emotional and dramatic depth than most martial arts movies.
Dungeons and Dragons. Directed by: Courtney Solomon. Starring: Thora Birch, Justin Whalin, Marlon Wayons, Kristen Wilson, Tom Baker. Based on the (in)famous role-playing game, D&D chronicles the quest by a band of adventurers who are looking for a magic wand (or rod, or stick or some damn thing) that controls dragons and which will allow them to defeat the evil empress Savina (Birch).
Proof of Life. Directed by: Taylor Hackford. Starring: Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe, David Caruso, David Morse. Even without a script, this is a movie that boils with melodrama. Ryan plays a woman who hires a hostage negotiator (Crowe) to help find and ransom her kidnapped husband (Morse); along the way, she falls in love with the negotiator. But not all the smoochee-kissee was onscreen. Ryan, Dennis Quaid''s real-life wife, and Crowe got so carried away by their scenes that they continued the hot ''n'' heavy action after the cameras quit rolling. (And speaking of bad off-screen moves...there''s co-star David Caruso, who threw away a perfectly good TV career when he left "NYPD Blue"...)
Songcatcher. Directed by: Maggie Greenwald. Starring: Janet McTeer, Aidan Quinn, Pat Carroll, Jane Adams. Look for a quiet, touching drama in this tale about a woman (McTeer) who goes searching in the Appalachian Mountains for traditional Irish and Scottish songs that have been handed down through the centuries. Songcatcher received a special jury award at Sundance this year for its ensemble acting.
The Gift. Directed by: Sam Raimi. Starring: Cate Blanchett, Katie Holmes, Greg Kinnear, Keanu Reeves, Hilary Swank, Giovanni Ribisi. This is an almost bizarre blending of talents: The script, by thoughtful Billy Bob Thornton, is directed by horror-meister Sam Raimi and stars Cate Blanchett. It''s either going to be brilliant or it''s going to be a nightmarish hodge-podge. Blanchett portrays a small-town psychic who''s been hired to help find a missing (maybe murdered) woman (Holmes). Kinnear plays the psychic''s main squeeze, Reeves is the town bully, and Ribisi is a quirky auto mechanic. (You don''t think Thornton lifted the idea for a weird mechanic from Ollie Stone, do you? Remember Thornton''s oddball mechanic character in U-Turn?).
Vertical Limit. Directed by: Martin Campbell. Starring: Chris O''Donnell, Bill Paxton, Robin Tunney. Director Campbell >(Mask of Zorro) delivers this action/adventure movie starring O''Donnell as a mountain climber who quits the sport after his father dies. But he''s forced back into action when his (estranged) sister gets trapped on the second tallest mountain in the world. (Sounds like K2 meets "Days of Our Lives.")
Chocolat.Directed by: Lasse Hallström. Starring: Juliette Binoche, Victoire Thivisol, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench. Binoche stars as a chocolatier who opens a very special candy shop with treats that have a...ah...liberating effect on all who eat them. The ensuing chaos and controversy provide the dramatic tension for this ensemble romantic comedy with co-stars Thivisol, Depp and Dench.
Emperor''s New Groove. Directed by: Mark Dindal. Starring: Voices of David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt. Animated tale of a self-centered South American emperor who''s turned into a llama and must rely on the help of a peasant to regain his throne. It''s a Disney release, which probably tells you as much as you need to know. (Except, maybe, that the songs are written by Sting.)
Family Man. Directed by: Brett Ratner. Starring: Nicolas Cage, Tea Leoni, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Piven. Cage stars as a guy who''s always put his career as a hot-shot investment broker at the top of his priorities. Then one morning he wakes up, finds out that he''s married, has a family and is living in a New Jersey ''burb. (Sounds like the definition of mid-life crisis, doesn''t it?) Think of it as a contemporary sort of It''s a Wonderful Life, but with Cage instead of Stewart.
What Women Want. Directed by: Nancy Meyers. Starring: Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt, Marisa Tomei, Lauren Holly. Step aside Sigmund, and let Mel tell you what women really want. (Yeah, like Gibson''s ever had to think twice about it...) Gibson stars as a male chauvinist advertising executive who somehow can suddenly hear what women are really thinking. At first he uses his new talent for selfish purposes but, eventually, he gets in touch with his softer, more feminine side. (Do we really need a movie that tells us that what women want is a sensitive guy with Gibson''s masculine good looks?)
13 Days. Directed by: Roger Donaldson. Starring: Kevin Costner, Bruce Greenwood, Steven Culp. Costner stars as JFK''s chief of staff during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Part history, part drama, the film has a troubled history, being bandied about between various studios and directors. Usually when a movie has so much trouble making it to the screen, it means the finished product is equally troubled...Greenwood portrays JFK; Culp plays Robert Kennedy.
Cast Away. Directed by: Robert Zemeckis. Starring: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt. Hanks stars as a systems engineer who is marooned on a desert island during what should have been a routine overseas trip and gets four years to sort out what''s really important in life. (He''s lucky. Most people get a few hours--at best--on a shrink''s couch.) Reportedly, this is a project that Hanks fought for, so he has a lot of pride (not to mention money--he''s co-producer of the movie) at stake in the outcome.
Enemy at the Gate. Directed by: Jean-Jacques Annaud. Starring: Jude Law, Ed Harris, Joseph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz. Law and Harris star (respectively) as WWII Russian and Nazi snipers who play a deadly game of cat and mouse in the streets of bombed, burned and battled-out Stalingrad. The characters in the movie are based on the real-life snipers Vassili Zaitsev (credited with 140 kills at Stalingrad) and Heinz Thorwald, the Nazi sniper hunter who was sent to kill him.
Miss Congeniality. Directed by: Donald Petrie. Starring: Sandra Bullock, Benjamin Bratt, Michael Caine. Bullock stars as an FBI rookie who must infiltrate a bomb-threatened Miss USA pageant. Bratt is her partner; Caine plays an image consultant in this action comedy.
O Brother, Where Art Thou? Directed by: Joel Coen. Starring: George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson. The producer/director Coen brothers (Joel and Ethan) return with this black comedy about a trio of prison escapees searching for treasure in the deep South of the 1930s. Too bad they couldn''t land Ice Cube and Marky Mark for this flick--then they could have subtitled it "The Previous Adventures of the Three Kings."
Traffic. Directed by: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, Dennis Quaid, Catherine Zeta-Jones. This ensemble drama/thriller sounds like a long "Law and Order" episode. Douglas plays a high mucky muck in the war on drugs who discovers his daughter''s a junkie. Other story lines include DEA agents in San Diego, the ambitious wife of an imprisoned drug lord, and a border patrol guard who sees an opportunity to displace his boss.
Wes Craven''s Dracula 2000. Directed by: Patrick Lussier. Starring: Christopher Plummer, Justine Waddell, Gerard Butler, Jonny Lee, Omar Epps, Jennifer Esposito. Antique dealer travels from London to New Orleans to rescue his daughter from the clutches of the evil bloodsucker. New Orleans? Sounds like somebody''s blending Bram Stoker with Anne Rice. Director Lussier, making his feature film debut, was editor on Craven''s Scream trilogy.
All the Pretty Horses. Directed by: Billy Bob Thornton. Starring: Matt Damon, Thomas Henry, Lucas Black, Ruben Blades, Penelope Cruz. When Damon''s momma sells the family ranch in the 1940s, he makes a run for the border. After landing a job breaking horses at a Mexican hacienda, he makes the mistake of falling in love with the owner''s daughter, gets thrown in the hoosegow and things just keep getting worse in this adaptation of Cormac McCarthy''s 1992 novel of the same name. Talk about getting worse...director Billy Bob Thornton reportedly refused to cut the movie down from his original four-hour edit. Columbia, which was the big partner in developing and co-financing the movie with Miramax, decided to cut their own losses and gave the whole shooting match to Miramax--which is a little artsier and more tolerant. Even so, don''t look for Thornton to get his way.
An Everlasting Piece. Directed by: Barry Levinson. Starring: Barry McEvoy, Brian O''Byrne. Director Barry Levinson turns his attention from Baltimore >(Liberty Heights) to war-torn 1980s Belfast in this comedic tale about two barbers who go into business selling rugs to follicly challenged gents. The conflict? One barber''s Protestant and the other''s Catholic. Stars McEvoy (who wrote the script) and O''Byrne are Broadway vets--expect a fairly intimate, theatrical presentation.
Finding Forrester.Directed by: Gus Van Sant. Starring: Sean Connery, F. Murray Abraham, Anna Paquin, Robert Brown. Connery stars as a reclusive, anti-social novelist who plays mentor to a black student basketball star (newcomer Brown) who''s having trouble with school. It''s a topic with which Connery should have no trouble empathizing: After years of rather sporadic schooling, he quit academics for good at the age of 15. It''ll be interesting to see the spin the now-70-year-old actor puts on the topic. (Don''t hold your breath hoping this one will open in Monterey in Christmas--it looks like it''s getting a late-season limited release just to qualify it for the Oscars. You can probably count on seeing this one in January...but you never know.)
Moulin Rouge. Directed by: Baz Luhrman. Starring: Ewan McGregor, Nicole Kidman, John Leguizamo. It''s Paris, 1899, and McGregor plays a Bohemian poet intent on creating a new style of music at the same time he''s courting courtesan Kidman.
Vatel. Directed by: Roland Joffe. Starring: Gerard Depardieu, Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, Julian Glover, Julian Sands. Depardieu stars as a 17th century chef/entertainer who''s hired by a sick prince to create a memorable shindig for a visiting monarch. Wordsmith Tom Stoppard >(Shakespeare in Love) adapted the script from a French screenplay--look for lots of fast-paced word games.
Shadow of the Vampire.Directed by: E. Elias Merhige. Starring: John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Cary Elwes, Eddie Izzard. Nosferatu, the 1922 silent, black-and-white classic vampire pic (unofficially based on Bram Stoker''s novel Dracula) still has enough powerful images to be a haunting power even in this day of high-tech special effects. This is a fictionalized account of Nosferatu creation, starring Malkovich as the obsessed filmmaker F.W. Murnau. (How obsessed was he? Supposedly he tried to hire an actual vampire to enhance the film''s realism.) Dafoe co-stars as the actor playing the film''s vampire.