Movies Preview


All About My Mother
In Pedro Almodóvar’s homage to women, which opens the New York Film Festival on September 24, the Spanish filmmaker offers an unusually moving yet ironic diagram of the contemporary family. Cecilia Roth is an organ-transplant coordinator who returns to Barcelona and her complicated past after the death of her teenage son. (In theaters November 19.)

Anywhere but Here
In one of the many best-selling volumes turned Oscar hopefuls this season, Susan Sarandon plays a restless woman who relocates her more levelheaded teenage daughter (the exquisite Natalie Portman, who thankfully left both her hairdresser and that tight-lipped monotone drone on Naboo) from the Wisconsin sticks to the flats of Beverly Hills. Adapted from Mona Simpson’s novel and directed by Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club). (October 22.)

Based loosely on Angela Shelton’s memoir, the winner of this year’s Filmmaker’s Trophy at Sundance stars Tony winner Janet McTeer as a rural southern woman who also packs up her daughter and travels cross-country in search of a better life. (November 19.)

Music of the Heart
In addition to having rounded up the usual suspects (Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette) for Scream 3 – supposedly the last one (December 10) – the long-pigeonholed Wes Craven breaks out this fall. Inspired by the documentary Small Wonders, the film stars Meryl Streep as a music teacher (and single mom) in East Harlem who fights budget cuts with the help of Angela Bassett, Aidan Quinn, and diva Gloria Estefan (in her motion-picture debut). (October 29.)

Anna and the King
Up against a very different Board of Education is Jodie Foster in the epic period romance based on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I and co-starring Asian action hero Chow Yun-Fat as the King of Siam, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. (November 24.)

Agnes Browne
Anjelica Huston follows her directorial debut, Bastard out of Carolina, and also stars as a widow who struggles to make ends meet and keep her seven children from starving in late-sixties Dublin. Based on the best-selling Irish novel The Mammy, by Brendan O’Carroll. (December 3.)


Angela’s Ashes
It isn’t all single moms and long odds. It’s married couples and long odds, and deadbeat dads too. In Alan Parker’s retelling of Frank McCourt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning, megaselling memoir, Robert Carlyle plays the McCourts’ inebriated patriarch, who eventually leaves his wife (portrayed by emotive lass Emily Watson) and children in Limerick to contend with abject poverty, the Irish way. (December.)

American Beauty
Sam Mendes’s equally compelling suburban tragedy opens with the inner monologue of Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), a walking mid-life meltdown whose wife (Annette Bening) loathes him and whose daughter (Thora Birch) may love him but is understandably angered, not to mention hurt and embarrassed, by his crush on her best friend. (September 17.)

The Story of Us
Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer likewise ride the brink of separation after fifteen tough years of marriage, but with less catastrophic results, in Rob Reiner’s romantic comedy. (October 15.)

The End of the Affair
Neil Jordan called upon set designer Anthony Pratt (Hope and Glory) to re-create London during the Blitz for this film. Based on the highly autobiographical Graham Greene novel, it tells of a novelist (Ralph Fiennes) who hires a private investigator (Ian Hart) when his lover (Julianne Moore), the wife of an ineffectual civil servant (Stephen Rea), suddenly breaks off their affair. (December 3.)

Random Hearts
Speaking of abandonment, Harrison Ford is a hard-nosed D.C. cop whose life becomes dangerously interlaced with that of a snooty congresswoman (Kristin Scott Thomas) when he realizes that their respective spouses were sitting together – and not just coincidentally – when they plummeted to their deaths in a plane crash. (October 8.)

Daddy and Them
On to more down-home, down-to-earth family insanity: Academy Award winner Billy Bob Thornton writes, directs, and stars with girlfriend Laura Dern as his fiery bride. Ben Affleck, Kelly Preston, Jamie Lee Curtis, Brenda Blethyn, Diane Ladd, Jim Varney, and Andy Griffith round out the cast of kooky Arkansans who reunite when one of their clan is arrested. (December 23.)

Hanging Up
Following up her quiet, impressive feature debut, Unstrung Heroes, Diane Keaton directs Meg Ryan in a film adapted by Delia Ephron and her sister Nora from Delia’s novel of the same name. This time, Ryan is the loyal daughter to and caretaker of her dying alcoholic father, Walter Matthau. Keaton and Lisa Kudrow also star in the film as Ryan’s quasi-famous and less responsive sisters. (December 25.)


For Love of the Game
Kevin Costner returns to his strong suit (that being a baseball uniform). Here, Costner is a major-leaguer pitching a no-hitter while consumed by memories of his botched career and dwindling romance with a New York journalist (Kelly Preston). (September 17.)

Any Given Sunday
Oliver Stone takes on pro football with the help of Al Pacino, a coach whose livelihood is threatened by a young female owner (Cameron Diaz) who wants to replace everybody’s all-American quarterback (Dennis Quaid) with a crowd-pleasing hotshot (Jamie Foxx). (December 25.)

Mystery, Alaska
Hockey is the name of the game when a Manhattan publicity agent (Hank Azaria) challenges a small-town farm team led by a mechanic (Russell Crowe) and a local judge (Burt Reynolds), who must rally the eccentric yokels against the Rangers. (October 1.)

Robert De Niro is a retired cop who suffers a stroke in Joel Schumacher’s sentimental comedy-and-action mix, wherein De Niro’s bitter homophobe takes singing lessons from a female impersonator (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in his Lower East Side building. (November 24.)

Jakob the Liar
But you can bet the triumph-of-the-human-spirit scenarios don’t end until Robin Williams has put his 2 cents in. This year, in what seems to be a blatant morph of Life Is Beautiful, Schindler’s List, and Good Morning, Vietnam, he pretends to have a transmitter during World War II in the Warsaw ghetto, thus bringing hope to his persecuted neighbors with his phony broadcasts. (September 24.)

Bicentennial Man
Williams also appears as a brushed-steel-and-plastic android housekeeper who grows more and more human while caring for a family and its many generations over the course of 200 years. Based on the Isaac Asimov short story. (December.)


Sweet and Lowdown
Woody Allen’s new period farce stars Sean Penn as a thirties jazz-guitar virtuoso and common cuckoo who runs around making life difficult for Samantha Morton, Anthony LaPaglia, Gretchen Mol, Uma Thurman, and John Waters. (December 3.)

Lawrence Kasdan writes and directs Loren Dean as a small-town shrink whose direct approach to therapy gets risible results with patients Hope Davis and Martin Short. (September 24.)

The Best Man
A thoroughly entertaining directorial debut by Malcolm D. Lee (Spike’s cousin). Taye Diggs is a writer whose life gets complicated when his college buddies (Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Monica Calhoun, Harold Perrineau Jr.) receive an advance copy of his novel – a flimsily disguised autobiography – and recognize themselves in the characters. (October 22.)

Play It to the Bone
Antonio Banderas and Woody Harrelson are out-of-work boxers who drive cross-country together to spar with one another in a Las Vegas pre-fight bout. (November 12.)

Blue Streak
Martin Lawrence is a jewel thief impersonating a detective in order to retrieve a $17 million diamond he’s hidden in the air duct of the LAPD’s 37th Precinct. The ever-brow-furrowing Luke Wilson and Dave Chappelle join in the shenanigans. (September 17.)

Galaxy Quest
Taking the postmodern approach, Sigourney Weaver, Tim Allen, Tony Shalhoub, and Alan Rickman are seventies TV has-beens mistaken for bona fide galactic warriors by aliens while attending a sci-fi convention. (December 10.)


Mansfield Park
A sexy adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, starring Frances O’Connor as a young girl sent to live with relatives who falls in love with their good-looking son, played by Jonny Lee Miller. (November 5.)

The Messenger
Luc Besson retells a different passion with Milla Jovovich as Joan of Arc. With Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, and John Malkovich. (November 5.)

Cradle Will Rock
Tim Robbins’s weighty ensemble (including John and Joan Cusack, Emily Watson, John Turturro, Susan Sarandon, and Bill Murray) weaves Orson Welles’s infamous production of the electrifying Marc Blitzstein play with the lives of artists and their patrons in thirties New York. (December 10.)


The Insider
A different brand of newsworthy scandal erupts when Al Pacino and Russell Crowe are 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman and top tobacco scientist Jeffrey Wigand, whose lives were shattered when they tried to blow the lid off the tobacco industry in a controversial interview. (November 5.)

The Hurricane
Norman Jewison directs Denzel Washington and Liev Schreiber in the tragic but ultimately uplifting story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the middleweight boxing contender falsely accused of murder in 1966. (December 29.)

Man on the Moon
Jim Carrey gets into character in the much-ballyhooed life of Andy Kaufman according to Milos Forman, with Courtney Love playing the longtime friend and lover of the peculiar comic. Danny DeVito – a longtime friend of Kaufman’s but never his lover – stars as his agent. (December 25.)

American Movie
Chris Smith’s documentary covers two years in the life of a small-town filmmaker as he dreams the impossible dream – to make it in Hollywood without leaving Wisconsin. (November 5.)


The Green Mile
Tom Hanks will be in theaters this Christmas without any Meg Ryan or Nora Ephron affiliation whatsoever. Based on the Stephen King serial novel and directed by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption), it’s the story of a southern prison guard faced with an unusual moral dilemma when a man with mysterious powers is put on death row for the murder of two young girls. (December 17.)

Being John Malkovich
John Cusack is an unstrung puppeteer who enters a wet, dark portal into the brain of John Malkovich, who also stars – as himself – with a surprisingly dowdy Cameron Diaz in an uncommon comedy helmed by freshman director Spike Jonze. (October 29.)

Holy Smoke
Jane Campion (The Piano) reteams with Harvey Keitel as an American cult deprogrammer who goes all the way to Australia to save a young girl (Kate Winslet). (October 22.)

Girl, Interrupted
Winona Ryder is a teenager committed to a psychiatric ward after a feeble suicide attempt. With Angelina Jolie as an uninhibited loon, Whoopi Goldberg as her straight-talkin’ nurse, and Vanessa Redgrave as her helpful therapist. (December 21.)

Boogie Nights director Paul Thomas Anderson reunites Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman, among others, for a sordid day in the Valley. (December 25.)

Breakfast of Champions
Found cross-dressing this season: Nick Nolte, who joins Bruce Willis and Albert Finney in the film adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s totally loopy novel directed by Alan Rudolph. (September 17.)

The Straight Story
David Lynch, aficionado of the bizarro, resurfaces with the story of Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth), a 73-year-old Iowa man who set out on a six-week journey aboard his John Deere to see his ailing elderly brother (Harry Dean Stanton) in Wisconsin. (October 15.)


Sleepy Hollow
Now that The Blair Witch Project has had its day, we can forgo bleached-out, hand-held, video-tech ingenuity and re-engage the extravagantly dark effects of Tim Burton, who has created an equally haunting wood for the legend of the headless horseman. Starring Johnny Depp (proving, despite his pallor, a far more dashing Ichabod Crane than Washington Irving ever intended) and Christina Ricci (in shockingly golden tresses as his childlike bride-to-be). (November 19.)

The Ninth Gate
Depp can also be seen as a tracker of rare books commissioned by a demonologist to determine the authenticity of a hell-raising first edition, in Roman Polanski’s latest entry, also starring Lena Olin. (December 22.)

End of Days
Arnold Schwarzenegger finds himself in hellish circumstances, too, as a washed-up ex-cop who must keep a young woman (Robin Tunney) safe from the libidinous clutches of Lucifer (Gabriel Byrne). (November 24.)

Bringing Out the Dead
Martin Scorsese wrestles with the underworld when he directs Nicolas Cage as a paramedic enduring a rough 48-hour graveyard shift with Patricia Arquette, John Goodman, Ving Rhames, Marc Anthony, and Tom Sizemore. (October 22.)

The Bone Collector
Denzel Washington is a quadriplegic forensics inspector who accesses the eyes and ears (not to mention heart) of a savvy flatfoot (Angelina Jolie) in order to track down a serial killer. (November 5.)


Three Kings
The Gulf War inspired writer-director David O. Russell (Flirting With Disaster) this time around. George Clooney is a Special Forces major who recruits three soldiers (Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, and Spike Jonze) to help him “liberate” some gold bullion in the desert at the end of Operation Desert Storm. (October 1.)

The World Is Not Enough
Pierce Brosnan is back in arms, shedding the bowler, the Monet, and the rest of his Thomas Crown-foolery when he returns to screens as Agent 007 to protect the world’s oil reserves and a new pair of Bond girls (Sophie Marceau and Denise Richards) from an unfeeling Robert Carlyle. (November 19.)

Plunkett & Macleane
Carlyle can also be seen with Trainspotting co-star Jonny Lee Miller as a rough-hewn coach-robbing apothecary in this unlikely buddy film set in eighteenth-century England. (October 1.)

Reindeer Games
Ben Affleck is an ex-con who wants to start fresh with his girlfriend (Charlize Theron) but is forced by a gang of thieves (led by Gary Sinise and Clarence Williams) to turn over a casino on Christmas Eve à la John Frankenheimer (Ronin). (December 25.)


The Cider House Rules
Theron is the object of affection again when an orphaned boy named Homer (Tobey Maguire) leaves the doctor (Michael Caine) who raised him and sets off to discover the world. Lasse Hallström (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape) directs the screen version of John Irving’s novel, adapted by the author. (December 10.)

Liberty Heights
Barry Levinson returns to Baltimore and to the fifties (with Adrien Brody, Bebe Neuwirth, Joe Montegna, and Vincent Guastaferro) to sort through class, race, religion, and other unreliable constructs and determinants. (November 19.)

Crazy in Alabama
Antonio Banderas makes his directing debut with a coming-of-ager starring wife Melanie Griffith as the outlandish auntie who goes to Hollywood while meanwhile, back home, her nephew witnesses a racial crime and must stand up to the bigoted sheriff (Meat Loaf Aday). (October 22.)

Stephen Rea is an aging drunk photographer who takes in shy young girls with potential (like Sarah Polley) and teaches them about art, philosophy, and co-dependency. (September 24.)

Felicia’s Journey
Somber, brilliant Canadian Atom Egoyan directs his adaptation of William Trevor’s novel about a young girl (Elaine Cassidy) who leaves Ireland to search for her boyfriend and falls in with the likes of a sweet yet smarmy Bob Hoskins. (November 12.)

Joe the King
It’s upstate New York in the seventies. Noah Fleiss plays a troubled, impoverished young boy whose drunk father (Val Kilmer) and despondent mother (Karen Young) don’t help any. With Ethan Hawke and John Leguizamo. (October 15.)

Princess Mononoke
Japanese animation goes mainstream with Hayao Miyazaki’s dark anime legend of a warrior princess, featuring the voices of Minnie Driver, Claire Danes, and Billy Bob Thornton. (October 29.)


Fight Club
David Fincher (Seven) directs Brad Pitt again. This time, Pitt plays the self-destructive, sweaty Tyler Durden of Chuck Palahniuk’s slick novel, with Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter backing him up. (October 15.)

The Bachelor
Chris O’Donnell is in the doghouse with girlfriend Renee Zellweger, but if he can’t commit and get married in 24 hours, he’ll lose out on his $100 million inheritance. Rich people really know how to put on the pressure. (November 15.)

Snow Falling on Cedars
The screen version of David Guterson’s best-seller stars Ethan Hawke as a young man in the Pacific Northwest wrestling with fifties social pressures and disappointment in love alongside James Cromwell, Max Von Sydow, and Sam Shepard. (December 22.)

The Talented Mr. Ripley
Hawke impersonated Jude Law in Gattaca, and now golden boy Matt Damon takes a shot (less affectionately, but let’s hope more effectively) as the menacing chameleon of Patricia Highsmith’s short novel who covets not just his name and fortune but also his tan and glowing lady prize, Gwyneth Paltrow. Cate Blanchett gets mixed up in it all, too. (December.)


Toy Story 2
When Andy goes to summer camp, the toys are left to defend themselves against a greedy collector who wants to put Woody (the voice of Tom Hanks) in a museum. Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) has to kick it into gear with the rest of the toy chest and free their collectible cowboy friend before Andy gets home. (November.)

Stuart Little
Based on the classic E. B. White children’s story about a family that adopts a mouse for a son, the live-action and computer-animated movie stars Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie, Jonathan Lipnicki (that adorable little peanut from Jerry Maguire), and the voice of Michael J. Fox. (December 10.)

The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland
Sesame Street friends join Elmo and non-muppets Mandy Patinkin and Vanessa Williams when everyone’s favorite tickle-me toy loses his blankie and embarks on a journey through Grouchland to reclaim his precious friend-blanket and also learn about courage. (October 1.)

The First Movie
Pokémon are collectible creatures with special powers (151 in all). If you thought sushi was a raw conspiracy, this Nintendo-inspired anime TV show turned movie is a multimedia imperialist-consumerist racket aimed at your children. The object is to capture and “train” as many as you can so they can help you betray and catch their own kind and you can become a “Pokémon Master” like Ash, who, accompanied by the electrically charged Pikachu, continues his quest to be the world’s greatest trainer. The kids do seem to love it. Consider yourself forewarned.

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