Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Fall Film Preview

By Devin D. O'Leary

OCTOBER 12, 1998:  Summer is over and Johnny can't read. Why? Because Johnny and his little slacker pals were busy pumping $2.5 billion into the deep pockets of Hollywood. Yes, it was another record-breaking summer at our nation's movie theaters thanks to undiscerning folks like Johnny.

But fall is upon us--a mere six months before Oscar time--and Hollywood is rolling out the good stuff. Having sloughed off most (but not all) of its mindless entertainment between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Hollywood is stocked again with a diverse selection of films--from art house to fun house. To help you through the tangled maze of fall films, we've provided a handy week-by-week guide for the rest of the year. We've also included a handy symbolic guide to show what you need to bring to these movies for maximum enjoyment. For the tearjerking Oscar contenders (in which someone either falls in love or dies of cancer), you need to bring a big hankie--. For the more entertainment-oriented films (like the upcoming spate of Halloween horror films), you'll need some popcorn--. For the family-oriented films, you should drag along the kids , and for the more adult, art-house-oriented films, we suggest you pack your brain .

Remember that all opening dates are subject to change.


October 16

Beloved

Watch as Oprah Winfrey's book club comes to life before your eyes. Not only is the daytime diva producing and starring in the adaptation of Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, but she's recruited director Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia) to direct it. In this historical weeper, Oprah plays an escaped slave who's haunted by a child she murdered.

Bride of Chucky

America's favorite homicidal doll, Chucky (voxed by Brad Dourif), offs the titillating Jennifer Tilly, then reanimates her as his plastic partner-in-crime.

Happiness

Todd (Welcome to the Dollhouse) Solontz's notorious film fest winner may finally see the light of day. Whether or not audiences take to his pitch-black portrait of a suicide, murder and pedophilia-filled New Jersey suburb remains to be seen.

Practical Magic

Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as modern-day witches? That's even better than Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Slam

Watching poetry slams just not enough for you, beret boy? Well, check out this drama about a Washington rapper sent to prison who's schooled in the ways of poetry by an inspirational writing teacher.

American History X

In this raw drama, Edward Norton (Rounders) is a former skinhead trying to turn his little bro (Edward Furlong) away from a life of violence and hatred.


October 23

Apt Pupil

Director Bryan Singer finally follows up The Usual Suspects with this suspenseful adaptation of a Stephen King short about a small-town teen obsessed with his aged neighbor, an escaped Nazi criminal.

Life is Beautiful

Italian comic Roberto Benigni writes, directs and stars in this serio-comic tale of a Jewish family deported to a Nazi work camp during World War II. To shield his young son from the realities of their surroundings, the imaginative pop convinces the boy that their situation is all part of an elaborate game.

The Mighty

Two kids--a sickly genius and a slow-witted hulk--form an unlikely alliance to perform heroic deeds in the manner of their heroes, the knights of Camelot. Sharon Stone and Gillian Anderson play the moms. Hey, Timmy. Let's go hang out with your mom.

Orgazmo

Trey Parker (creator of "South Park") wrote, directed and stars in this rude tale of a pious Mormon kid talked into becoming a porn star superhero! ... No, I'm not kidding.

Pleasantville

In one of this season's higher-concept films, two modern teenagers find themselves zapped into the squeaky clean, black and white world of a 1950s sitcom.

Soldier

Kurt Russell stars as a genetically engineered G.I. in this outer space-set version of Shane. It's written by David Web Peoples (Blade Runner), but it's directed by Paul Anderson (Mortal Kombat).


October 30

Election

Matthew Broderick is a high school history teacher caught up in the madness surrounding a student council election. From director Alexander Payne, who gave us the underrated abortion-rights comedy Citizen Ruth.

John Carpenter's Vampires

A team of high-tech vampire exterminators (including James Woods) are sent by the Vatican to wipe out a nest of nasty vampires in rural New Mexico.


November 6

A Simple Plan

Sam Raimi, the brains behind "Hercules" and "Xena," directs this much-anticipated thriller about three small-town pals (including Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton) who discover a lost plane with $4 million inside.

The Siege

When terrorists strike, the government declares martial law in New York City. Arab groups are already protesting the fact that they are portrayed as terrorists in this movie. Hollywood should have heeded my advice and started casting Amish villains in every movie. The Amish are a similarly misunderstood cultural group and, as a bonus, they're not allowed to watch movies--hence, no protests!

Waking Ned Devine

A guy in small-town Ireland wins the national lottery, but when he suffers a heart attack upon hearing the news, the locals conspire to cover up his deadness in order to collect the money.

The Waterboy

Adam Sandler plays some kind of mentally deficient waterboy for a college football team. When riled, though, he can tackle the hell out of anyone. Naturally, the coach exploits this ability.

The Wizard of Oz

The one guaranteed Oscar-winner in this year's schedule is this 50th anniversary re-release of the Judy Garland classic. It's a shoo-in for the 1939 Academy Award for Best Original Song.


November 13

Dancing at Lughnasa

Meryl Streep doing an Irish accent? You might as well give her the Oscar right now. Streep stars as the head of a rural Irish family of sisters whose hard knock life is upended by the return of their missionary brother.

I'll Be Home For Christmas

Jonathan Taylor Thomas is a prep school brat who makes a cross-country trek with a cute girl attached to his side and a Santa Claus beard glued to his chin. Me, I'd rather see him with a pit bull glued to his ass.

Meet Joe Black

Brad Pitt stars as work-shirking Death himself in this remake of the 1934 classic Death Takes a Holiday.

Velvet Goldmine

Todd Haynes (Safe) directs and Ewan McGregor stars in this '70s-era flashback about the British glam-rock industry.


November 20

At First Sight

Val Kilmer is a blind-since-birth man who falls in love with Mira Sorvino and undergoes an experimental operation to restore his sight.

Celebrity

Woody Allen exploring the cult of celebrity fame? Hell, what does he know about that?

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer

Everyone who survived the first round of slashing (including Jennifer Love Hewitt) is back for more in this horror sequel. To be followed by I Haven't Yet Forgotten What You Did Two Summers Ago.

Very Bad Things

"Chicago Hope's" Peter Berg makes his writing/directing debut with this dark (and we mean dark) comedy about a bunch of rowdy bachelor party celebrants (including Jon Favreau and Christian Slater) who accidentally kill a stripper.


November 25

Babe: Pig in the City

Everybody's favorite talking pig is back, and this time he's lost in the big city.

A Bug's Life

Limping in behind DreamWorks Studios' Antz comes Disney's computer-animated bug movie. An ant (voiced by David Foley) hires an eclectic collection of bugs (including Dennis Leary as a male ladybug and Helen Hunt as a sexy black widow) to battle a marauding grasshopper (Kevin Spacey). I doubt many kids will get the Seven Samurai references.

Enemy of the State

In this high-tech thriller, Will Smith is a yuppie lawyer who suddenly finds himself pursued by every governmental agency in America--he just can't figure out why.

Home Fries

In this dark romantic comedy, Drew Barrymore is a pregnant small-town gal. Trouble rears its ugly head when it turns out that the baby's father is a) married, and b) found murdered. It probably doesn't help things when she falls in love with the son of the dead married guy who impregnated her. Luke Wilson (Drew's real-life squeeze) plays the son.

Rugrats

Nickelodeon's smash cartoon about babies crawls onto the big screen.


December 4

Psycho

Please don't ask me why, because I don't know. Gus Van Sant directs and Vince Vaughn stars in this virtually shot-for-shot remake of Hitchcock's masterpiece.


December 11

Star Trek: Insurrection

The studio's keeping a tight lid on this one, but it looks like Picard and crew go rebel to fight against the Federation in this latest entry. Some fans are said to be angry at the film's rumored "romantic" subplot.


December 18

Dancing About Architecture

An impressive ensemble cast (Sean Connery, Gena Rowlands, Angelina Jolie, Ellen Burstyn, Gillian Anderson, Dennis Quaid) tackles this drama about modern relationships.

The Hi-Lo Country

Max Evans' novel about post-World War II cowboys (Woody Harrelson, Billy Crudup) in rural New Mexico was shot in state last year by Brit filmmaker Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons).

Jack Frost

Michael Keaton is a father who dies on Christmas and gets reincarnated as a snowman. ... No, I'm not kidding.

The Prince of Egypt

DreamWorks delivers its second animated film (after Antz). Like the first film, this animated version of the life of Moses (voiced by Val Kilmer) is said to appeal mostly to adults. The kids will still go, though, 'cause it's a cartoon.

You've Got Mail

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in a romantic comedy? Sounds like a hard sell to me. Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle) does a modern spit shine on 1940s The Shop Around the Corner about two feuding bookshop owners who fall in love. The '90s twist is that they meet on the Internet.


December 25

Blast From the Past

In this fish-out-of-water romantic comedy, Brendan Frasier (George of the Jungle) plays a man who's been raised in a Cold War-era bomb shelter for his entire life. After 30 years, our hero emerges to a very different world (and falls in love with Alicia Silverstone).

A Civil Action

John Travolta does the lawyer thing in this true story of a barrister who fought industrial pollution in suburban Boston.

Down in the Delta

Poet Maya Angelou's already got a Pulitzer, so why not try her hand at directing? Alfre Woodard stars as an alcoholic mother who takes her autistic daughter out of the city and back to the deep South.

The Faculty

Kevin Williams (the dude who wrote Scream) teams up with Robert Rodriguez (the dude who directed Desperado) for this horror yarn about wiggly monsters who invade a tony prep school.

Mighty Joe Young

A 15-foot-tall gorilla goes ape (sorry) in Los Angeles. Why anyone would want to remake this rather silly 1949 King Kong knock-off, I can't really say. But it does have a 15-foot-tall gorilla in it.

Patch Adams

Robin Williams stars in this touching true-life story about a wacky doctor. ... Wait a minute. Hasn't he done this like a dozen times before? Actually, Williams has only played a doctor six times before. This time he plays a former mental patient who discovers the healing power of laughter and goes to med school. ... I still swear I've seen this one before.

Shakespeare in Love

The ubiquitous Gwyneth Paltrow (who, despite the hype, isn't going out with Brad Pitt anymore and has never actually had a hit movie) stars in this story of a winsome young lass who cures Willy the Shake (Ralph's younger bro Joseph Fiennes) of his crippling writer's block.

Stepmom

Susan Sarandon is a divorced mom who hates her kid's new stepmom (Julia Roberts). When mom finds out she's--sob!--dying of cancer, she decides it's time to make peace with stepmom and they become the bestest of friends. Tearjerking at its most jerky.

The Thin Red Line

Director Terrence Malik takes his time, but you sure can't fault the results (1973's Badlands and 1978's Days of Heaven). For this adaptation of James Jones' dramatic World War II novel the venerated filmmaker has recruited (recruited, hell, he had to beat 'em off with a stick) some of Hollywood's hottest actors (Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson, Nick Nolte, George Clooney, John Travolta--just to name a few).


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