please note: Except for a few of the titles, the following films have not been viewed by our staff; we are only giving our non-humble

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Fall arts preview

Film picks

please note: Except for a few of the titles, the following films have not been viewed by our staff; we are only giving our non-humble projections, based on the directors' and actors' past works, the plot, and the thrilling preview photos. * means we recommend it.

SEPTEMBER

3 Years of Fly Filmmaking—A wonder of indie filmmaking, this showcase, co-presented by Cinema Seattle and WigglyWorld Studios, is the result of a unique program occurring smack dab at the end of the annual Seattle International Film Festival. "Fly Filmmaking" brings to town independent directors who accept the fly-filmmaking challenge, and provides them with ready-made film crews, 22 minutes of film stock, and 7 days to script, shoot, edit, and present their films. This show is accompanied by a special documentary, 800 Feet Can Make A Movie, an inspiring video on the fly filmmaking process made last spring with plenty of cameos of local film crews and technicians. Plays 9/16-19 at Little Theater. (SI)

The Acid House—Even those who loved Trainspotting might find this a bit challenging. Add themes of revenge and murder to drug-addled youth, and this is basically Irvine Welsh—Bigger, Longer, & Uncut. Starring Nick Cave (the constipated pin-headed junkie who unfortunately "let go" in his girlfriend's bed). Plays 9/17-24 at Varsity. (SI)

American Beauty—Geez, isn't anybody happy in the suburbs? Middle-aged white guy Kevin Spacey catches hell from all sides in this darkly comic look at life amid the subdivisions. First-time director Sam Mendes was responsible for the Nicole Kidman nudie play The Blue Room, which gave Broadway a hard-on last year, and the strong cast here, including Annette Benning as Spacey's cheatin' wife, promises to make this one of the season's best. Opens 9/24. (MF)

B. Monkey—Il Postino director Michael Radford's new film is about a beautiful and mysterious woman known only as "B." She leads a criminal life with Jonathan Rhys Meyers and the devilishly handsome Rupert Everett—until she falls in love with a straight-laced guy who offers security and love. Now why did they have to ruin a perfectly good story? Opens late September. (SI)

Best Laid Plans—Cuteness is a weapon. Blonde and perky Reese Witherspoon, whose character so thoroughly shrunk the stature of two high school teachers in Election, comes back in this thriller to accuse a preppy teacher of rape. If Witherspoon, a rare young talent who can turn from frenzied slapstick to steely-eyed determination on a dime, is as assured here as she was in Election, this movie may win her a deservedly bigger audience. Opens 9/24. (SI)

Blue Streak—Martin Lawrence stars as an ex-con who attempts to retrieve $20 million in stolen jewelry hidden in, of all places, an L.A. police precinct. The thief impersonates a policeman, but then finds himself so good at the act that he becomes head of the department. Yup, it's about as dopey as director Les Mayfield's previous film, the Pauly Shore vehicle Encino Man. Opens 9/17. (SI)

*The Book of Life—First shown in Seattle this past June, The Book of Life is back at the Grand Illusion by popular demand. This apocalypse-themed work from Hal Hartley, godfather of American affectless cool, finds Jesus (Martin Donovan) arriving in New York on Judgment Day, with the Book of Life installed on a notebook computer and Mary Magdelene (P.J. Harvey) by his side. But there's a flaw in God's plan: Jesus is now a guilt-ridden, relativist liberal and he's not down with judgmentalism. Who, he asks, do these Christians think they are, anyway? The film pulls together the best elements of Hartley's earlier work: the grand themes of Henry Fool; the willful experimentalism of Flirt; the deadpan, dead-on wit that made Trust and Simple Men so appealing. But there's a new, furious, can't-pass-up-a-joke energy here that appears to be just what Hartley has been missing all along. Plays 9/10-23 at Grand Illusion. (Claire Dederer)

Double Jeopardy—Ashley Judd is really ticked off after serving time for killing her husband. After all, she's innocent and he's not even dead: In fact, he's off having a high old time with another woman. So, given the law against double jeopardy, why not go ahead and kill him for real? Of course you were already thinking the same thing. Tommy Lee Jones is the man in the line of fire in this two-weeks-til-it's-out-on-video turkey. Opens 9/24. (MF)

*Earth—Deepa Mehta, who previously directed the critically acclaimed Fire, about two Indian women who turn to each other for love, directs this romantic epic about the tumultuous partition of India in 1947, as seen through the eyes of a young girl. This is the second film in Mehta's trilogy—which means we should be getting Water soon. Plays 9/24-30 at the Egyptian. (SI)

For Love of the Game—Kevin Costner stars in yet another baseball movie—this time as a pitcher in the twilight of his career. The only fresh thing about this is the director—Sam Raimi (A Simple Plan)—but it's doubtful even he can inject life into a plot that sounds about as exciting as removing grass stains off a uniform: Costner pitches for a losing team (The Detroit Tigers), he's about to get traded by both his manager and his woman (Kelly Preston). Then he plays a perfect game and flashes back on his life, replaying its pivotal moments. Bottom line: a story to remind jocks that it's OK to cry. Opens 9/17. (SI)

Get Bruce!—A behind-the-scenes documentary about Bruce Vilanch, one of the most sought-after comedy writers in Hollywood. Head writer of Hollywood Squares, he also co-wrote the last nine Academy Award telecasts, winning Emmys for the Billy Crystal-hosted shows. With appearances by Crystal, Bette Midler, Whoopi Goldberg, Roseanne, Carol Burnett, Lily Tomlin, and more. Opens September. (SI)

*Grand Illusion—Jean Renoir's 1937 classic, newly subtitled and restored from its original camera negative. Plays 9/17-23 at Egyptian.

*Guinevere—Sarah Polley (The Sweet Hereafter, Go) plays an overachieving but shy young woman from a wealthy family. She meets a bohemian photographer twice her age (Stephen Rea), who charms the pants off her. I actually saw this film, and it's a good, meaty story that examines the mutual needs of an older artist and an ingenue, all told from the young woman's point of view. Plus, Jean Smart is wonderfully bitchy in her role as the girl's venom-tongued mother. Directed by Audrey Wells, who won a top award for the script at Sundance. Opens 9/24. (SI)

Jakob the Liar—Robin Williams plays a Jewish caf頯wner who invents fictitious news bulletins to boost the spirits of ghetto inhabitants in Nazi-occupied Poland. Let's hope it won't be Patch Adams impersonating Roberto Benigni. Opens 9/24. (SI)

Leila—You may not have noticed, but Iran is a hot place for serious film these days. This Iranian film by Dairush Mehrjui is about a woman whose husband is encouraged to take a second wife because she cannot have children. Plays 9/24-30 at Varsity. (SI)

Mumford—Lawrence Kasdan directs this movie that glorifies therapy. Loren Dean (who's previously had minor roles in Gattaca and Enemy of the State) stars as a psychologist who goes to a small town and proceeds to cure everyone of their neuroses. Sounds like he's a hero for the '90s: Super Shrink. Opens 9/24. (SI)

OCTOBER

Anywhere But Here—Director Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club) adapts Mona Simpson's novel about an overbearing mother (Susan Sarandon) and her teenage daughter, played by Natalie Portman (Queen Amidala of The Phantom Menace). Sounds rather ho-hum, but this should be a test for Portman, who won't have the benefit of the Star Wars hype or its elaborate costumes to hide behind. (SI)

Being John Malkovich—A sort of a modern-day Freaky Friday: John Cusack is Craig, who somehow ends up inhabiting actor John Malkovich's body. Craig's coworker (Catherine Keener of Your Friends and Neighbors) sees this as a rare business opportunity. If that's not weird enough, Cameron Diaz is cast as Craig's "homely" wife. Directed by music video director Spike Jonze. (SI)

The Best Man—Said to be The Big Chill with an African American ensemble cast, this movie directed by Malcolm Lee (cousin of Spike) looks at seven college friends who reunite for a wedding. At the center is Harper (Taye Diggs), a writer whose steamy new novel is about to hit stores. The plot thickens as the friends discover that the book's characters bear resemblance to them. Bottom line: It's great to see black actors in good roles, but did we really like The Big Chill? (SI)

Bringing Out the Dead—The writer-director team of Paul Schrader and Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, among others) reunites to give us another portrait of a desperate New Yorker, tormented by his grisly view of the city. Nicolas Cage plays a paramedic haunted by the trauma of his job and beginning to wonder about his own sanity. Opens 10/22. (MF)

Caligula—Toga! Toga! Toga! Co-directed by Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione, Caligula (1980) is said to be a lurid, violent fantasia about the descent of the mad emperor. Malcolm McDowell, Peter O'Toole, Helen Mirren, and John Gielgud star. Plays at the Egyptian, 10/29-11/4. (SI)

Crazy in Alabama—A rural boy (Sling Blade's Lucas Black) gets a few lessons in life from his eccentric aunt (Melanie Griffith), who's headed for Hollywood to pursue her dreams of TV stardom. This film marks the directorial debut of Latin hottie Antonio Banderas (We love you in front of the cameras, Antonio!), who got Sony to finance this movie partly in exchange for starring in the upcoming Zorro II. Opens 10/22. (SI)

Daddy and Them—Come on, Billy Bob, why won't you cast Molly Ringwald again? The press materials say this movie is set in America's Heartland, "home of hurricanes, tornadoes, heat waves . . . ." Well, there's no such thing as a hurricane in the Midwest, so who knows what the hell Daddy is about. Ol' Billy Bob Thornton and Laura Dern play two crazy mid-Westerners who go to Little Rock when one of their relatives dies. There, they meet up with the rest of their crazy family. It's just like Axl says: "anything go-wo-woes" with these crazy folk. Written and directed by BBT, with Andy Griffith, Kelly Preston, Diane Ladd, Jamie Lee Curtis, and boy-am-I-sick-of Ben Affleck. (SH)

Fight Club—Somewhere in this movie Brad Pitt's character says something to the effect of: "We grow up believing we're all gonna become movie stars. Well, it ain't gonna happen." If your disbelief is suspendable enough, then this could be worth the hype. Based on the cult novel by Chuck Palahniuk, about guys who get it on with a bit of the ultraviolence, because, dammit, it's the only way to break out of our sloganized, commodified excuses for lives. I wonder what the folks at The Baffler think about that. With Edward Norton (American History X) and the fabulous Helena Bonham Carter as a foul-mouthed American. Directed by David Fincher (Seven). (SH)

*Francois Truffaut: A celebration—For two weeks, the Varsity presents all-new 35 mm prints of films by the new wave great, including The 400 Blows, Jules and Jim, Shoot the Piano Player, Day for Night, as well as such lesser known works as shorts Les Mistons and Antoine and Colette. 10/22-11/4 at Varsity. (SI)

The Grandfather—This Lear-esque period drama, set in turn-of-the-last-century Spain, follows the Count of Albrit (Fernando Fernan-Gomez), who returns from Peru poor and nearly blind and is greeted by three lovely granddaughters. He knows that one of them is the product of an extramarital affair, and in the process of determining his true heir, he must confront the adulteress, Lucrecia (Cayetana Guillen). Nominated for Best Foreign Film by the Academy, directed and co-written by Jose Luis Garci. (SH)

Happy, Texas—Jeremy Northam (An Ideal Husband) and Steve Zahn (Out of Sight) star as two redneck criminals who escape prison by pretending to be a gay couple who put on children's beauty pageants. This sounds like it could be promising; Zahn won a prize for comic performance at Sundance—let's hope the humor goes beyond cheap gay stereotypes. (SI)

The Legend of 1900—Named for the year in which he was born, a young boy called "Nineteen Hundred" grows up to be a virtuoso pianist. Tim Roth plays the adult N.H., who goes on to entertain thousands while never setting foot on dry land. Eventually, Jelly Roll Morton (Clarence Williams, III) challenges him to a duel. This is the first English-language film for director Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso), based on a monologue by Italian novelist Alessandro Baricco, and featuring a score by Ennio Morricone. (SH)

Lesbian & Gay Film Festival—The fourth annual fest brings a full week of boy-meets-boy and girl-meets-girl stories. Highlights include French comedy Those Who Can Love Me Can Take the Train, Why Not Me? and British hit TV series Queer as Folk. 10/22-28 at the Egyptian Theater. Visit www.seattlequeerfilm.com for more information. (SI)

Man of the Century—Johnny Twennies is a young reporter in modern-day Manhattan whose attitudes are straight outta—you guessed it—the nineteen-twennies, which "contrast sharply with the modern multicultural world." Needing a big scoop to keep his job, he discovers two dead thieves along whose trail mayhem ensues. All we have to go on for now is this strange premise and the promise of hilarity. Directed by Adam Abraham, with Gibson Frazier, Cara Buono, Susan Egan. (SH)

Mystery, Alaska—Hey now, you're an all-star: Hank Azaria (Mystery Men) brings the New York Rangers to play an exhibition game against the motley, hocky-from-the-heart home team in Mystery, population 633. Also starring Russell Crowe (L.A. Confidential), Lolita Davidovich and Burt Reynolds. Directed by Jay Roach, who also directed both Austin Powers movies. Co-produced by David E. "lawyers in short skirts" Kelley. Opens 10/1. (SH)

*Princess Mononoke—Second only to Titanic at the Japanese box office, this will perhaps be the film that anime enthusiasts and "file under: big in Japan" naysayers will be able to agree on. Or not. Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, this animated feature tells the story, based loosely on Japanese folklore, of the war between civilization and the beast-gods of the forest. Audible in the U.S version will be Claire Danes, Billy Crudup, Minnie Driver, Gillian Anderson, Jada Pinkett, and Billy Bob Thornton. Japanimation fans know this will make Tarzan look like yesterday's sashimi. No hentai for kitty, though. (SH)

Random Hearts—Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient) star in this romance-drama directed by Sydney Pollack. Both characters lose their spouses in the crash, and in the course of the investigation, discover the deceased were having an affair, sending them reeling towards one another to begin a tryst of their own. The movie is said to have a surprisingly rough sex scene in a car. Hmm... (SI)

*Romance—Finally, a real chick flick. Romance is the controversial hit film from French director Catherine Breillat that's said to be a "daring" exploration of female sexuality from a female point of view. A young woman (Caroline Ducey) begins to take control of her life—starting from her orgasm. Considering that the nudity- and violence-free film Coming Soon by American director Colette Burson received a tough NC-17 rating because of its touchy subject matter (it's about three teenage girls in search of the big O), the success of Romance should teach Hollywood a lesson about its double standards. Plays 10/1-10/7 at Egyptian. (SI)

Sitcom—Fresh from the Lincoln Center's "New Directors, New Films" series, this comic film by French director Francois Ozon (See the Sea) toys with the extremes of domestic dysfunction. An emotionally challenged father brings home a laboratory rat, much to his wife's horror. The rat has a strange effect on the whole family: warm and almost erotic encounters with the rodent inspire subversion and revolt. 10/1-10/14 at Grand Illusion. (SI)

*Spike & Mike's Classic Festival of Animation—Unlike their Sick & Twisted series, Spike & Mike's Classic Festival showcases some of the finest animation from around the world. Judging from some of the works that were screened at Bumbershoot, it's obvious that many of these filmmakers are visual artists first and foremost. Their works are rich in color, design, and movement, and are able to convey stories with minimal dialogue. Painters will appreciate The Queen's Monastery by Emma Calder, whose Modigliani-like watercolor figures move with the fluidity and grace of ballerinas. A classic odd-couple story becomes irresistible in Britain's Humdrum, in which the two opposing personalities are merely two goofy shadow puppets. The film provides what is perhaps the funniest line in the showcase, as the grumpy shadow yells at his cheery but dopey companion, "There are blind people with no fingers who are better at shadow puppets than you!" Varsity Theater, 10/8-21. (SI)

*The Straight Story—David Lynch's new film is based on the true story of Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth), who rode his John Deere from Iowa to Wisconsin in 1994. Sissy Spacek plays his daughter, and Harry Dean Stanton is his sick brother (that is, physically ill, not sick in the usual Lynch way) who inspires the 5 mph journey. Alvin meets a cast of characters along the way. Walt Disney and David Lynch seem strange bedfellows at best, but as Lynch says, "this was the right thing for me to do." The viewers at Cannes agreed; the movie was a hit. (SH)

The Story of Us—The awkwardly worded press materials say that this film asks the question: "Can marriage survive 15 years of marriage?" Directed by Rob Reiner and starring Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer, this will supposedly be akin to what happened after Harry and Sally met and actually had to live with each other. Sounds like a great date-movie, no? (SH)

Superstar—Come on...has there ever been a Saturday Night Live skit that wasn't even funnier when stretched into an hour-and-a-half feature film? Of course not. This time Molly Shannon's nervous Catholic schoolgirl creation, Mary Katherine Gallagher, enters a talent contest in the hopes of getting a big Hollywood-style kiss. (MF)

*Whiteboys—If the title hasn't tipped you off, this is about a group of white guys who just wanna be gangsta rappers. But before you say Vanilla Ice, Whiteboys has a few things going for it: Director Marc Levin, whose previous feature Slam won prizes at Sundance and Cannes '98, Obie-award winning star Danny Hoch, and special appearances by Doug E. Fresh, Snoop Dogg, and Slick Rick who also provide the soundtrack. (SI)

NOVEMBER

Angela's Ashes—Frank McCourt's heartbreaking memoir is brought to the screen by hit-and-miss director Alan Rudolph (Mississippi Burning, The Road to Wellville). The tale of McCourt's poverty-stricken Irish childhood is heavy on pathos but also rich with humor. If Rudolph resists the urge to make McCourt's mother a saint and his alcoholic father a devil, this could be a great, morally complex film. Opens 11/26. (MF)

Beyond the Clouds—Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni's 1995 "portrait of desire, illusion, passion, and carnal madness" is just now getting an American release. This sounds promising: Antonioni collaborated with director Wim Wenders and cinematographer Robby Muller (Paris, Texas, Down By Law) and the cast is led by John Malkovich and Sophie Marceau. 11/19-24 at Grand Illusion. (SI)

*Dogma—I can just see the picket lines now in front of the theaters. The latest from director Kevin Smith casts Ben Affleck and Matt Damon as renegade angels trying to scam their way into heaven, Linda Fiorentino is a descendant of Christ who works in an abortion clinic, and Alanis Morissette as God. This could be as witty as Smith's earlier works (Clerks, Mall Rats), but it also sounds like a rip-off of Hal Hartley's The Book of Life (see September listings). (SI)

The Insider—Based on the Vanity Fair article "The Man Who Knew Too Much," this film follows Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe), the central witness against the tobacco companies not so long ago. Al Pacino is the 60 Minutes producer who gets Wigand to fess up for Mike Wallace. CBS bows to market pressures, so to speak, and decides to kill the story. Enter a smear campaign against Wigand as he and Bergman (Pacino) fight to get the testimony aired. Mike Wallace is reportedly quite displeased with Christopher Plummer's portrayal of him. (SH)

Man on the Moon—Jim Carrey plays the late comedian Andy Kaufman (Latka of Taxi). This is about all you need to know; you either love Andy Kaufman enough to see anything about him, or you hate Jim Carrey enough to be much, much happier watching old Taxi reruns or, better yet, 1992's I'm From Hollywood, the chronicle of Andy's career wrestling women. With Danny DeVito and Courtney Love. (SH)

Mansfield Park—Ms. Austen seems second only to Ms. Pratt on everyone's Favorite Jane list, and yet another of her novels has been adapted for the screen. Fanny Price (Frances O'Connor) is sent away by her impoverished family to live with wealthy—and, not surprisingly, snooty—relatives. She grows up an inferior to her preening cousins. Then one day, a dashing brother and sister arrive at Mansfield, throwing everything into upheaval. Shall our heroine at last know true love? Or shall she, perforce, lose yet again to the spoils of privilege? (SH)

*The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc—Director Luc Besson (The Professional, The Fifth Element) matched with a star-studded cast—John Malkovich, Faye Dunaway, Dustin Hoffman, and last but not least, Milla Jovovich, who as the 15th-century heroine will hopefully be wearing more than a white band-aid across her privates. (SI)

Mira! Festival—911 Media Arts' third annual festival of Spanish-language works kicks off with a special screening of Baja California: El Limite del Tiempo by Carlos Bolado, director of the 1992 hit Like Water for Chocolate. Bolado will attend the screening. 11/5-11 at Grand Illusion. (SI)

Play It To The Bone (tentative title)—Vegas, baby, Vegas! Antonio Banderas and Woody Harrelson play rival boxers, both out of work for years, who get a chance to duke it out for big Benjis in Vegas. The only problem is they have to be there, like, yesterday. So they hit the road with Lolita Davidovich and drive through the desert getting on each other's nerves. And then they pick up Lia (Ally McBeal's Lucy Liu). Could it get any crazier? Directed by Ron Shelton (Bull Durham), who will hopefully think of a better name. (SH)

Sleepy Hollow—This year's can't-miss Gothic romance-adventure has Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane, chasing a murderous horseman across a spectral and, judging from the previews, unusually foggy landscape. Tim Burton has adapted Washington Irving's classic 18th-century tale in high style, with Christina Ricci packed inside the soon-to-be-ripped bodice. (MF)

Three To Tango—Look who's chasing Amy, and how. Dylan McDermott (The Practice) hires Matthew Perry (Chandler on Friends) to spy on his mistress Neve Campbell (Party of Five). The reason Oscar (Perry) gets the job is because Charles (McDermott) thinks Oscar is gay. And soon, so does all of Chicago. But Oscar is, alas, in love with Amy (Campbell). Isn't it funny when straight people have to live a lie in public? (SH)

*Toy Story 2—Barbie's legs are currently being used as prosthetic fingers due to their excellent flexibility. Barbie's legs will also make an appearance in the Toy Story sequel (Mattel thought better of it this time around), wherein Woody (Tom Hanks) is stolen by a vintage toy collector and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) comes to the rescue. With Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Kelsey Grammer, and whoa-boy, a score by Randy "Heavy Metal" Newman. No sign of a Cohen brother in the writing credits. Pixar will probably amaze us some more. Opens 11/24. (SH)

*Women in Cinema Film Festival—Did you know that fewer than eight percent of movies released by Hollywood are directed by women? No wonder the male gaze is so prevalent in cinema. See what the other half of us have to say. An abundance of high-quality features, documentaries, and shorts by women make this the second best film festival in town (next to the Seattle International Film Festival). The Egyptian Theater, 11/12-18. (SI)

DECEMBER

Any Given Sunday—Directed and co-written by Oliver "Natural Born Lawsuit" Stone. Al Pacino plays Tony D'Amato, head coach of football's struggling "Miami Sharks," who is himself struggling with team co-owner Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz). Star quarterback Rooney (Dennis Quaid) gets injured, the young upstart Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx) steps in and lights it up. Lessons about life ensue. Cameos by Charlton Heston, Ann-Margret, James Woods, Lawrence Taylor, Bill Bellamy, LL Cool J, Dick Butkus and everybody else. (SH)

The Cider House Rules—Another all-star cast, another best-selling novel. This time, it's John Irving making the transition to celluloid (he also penned the screenplay), and the all-stars include Michael Caine, Charlize Theron, Delroy Lindo, Erykah "You'd Better Call Tyrone" Badu, Heavy D, Paul Rudd and Kathy Baker. Homer grows up in an orphanage, mentored by Larch, the resident M.D. Eventually Homer runs away, feeling Larch has failed to give him a set of rules to live by. He's excited at first by a whole new world, but then has to look back on his past. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom (What's Eating Gilbert Grape). (SH)

Cradle Will Rock—A Commie Player? Set in 1930s New York, this film follows several stories, revolving more or less around political tumult and a play directed by Orson Welles (Angus MacFayden), which is shut down by U.S. troops because of its leftist content. Nelson Rockefeller (John Cusack) commissions Diego Rivera (Ruben Blades), Susan Sarandon sells DaVincis for Mussolini, Bill Murray is a weird ventriloquist, Carey Elwes is John Houseman . . . and so forth. Also featuring Joan Cusack, Vanessa Redgrave, John Turturro, Emily Watson. Written and directed by Tim Robbins (Dead Man Walking). (SH)

Galaxy Quest—Oh dear, this really sounds like a mess. You've got Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver. (Just imagine the chemistry.) You've got a plot—about the stars of a 1970s sci-fi TV series who are abducted by a group of real space aliens—that is not parody but "a combination of terror, drama and light comedy," according to Allen. Then we have this synopsis from the film's publicist: "With no script, no director, and no clue about real space travel, the actors have to turn in the performance of their lives to become the heroes the aliens believe them to be." I'm laughing already. I mean I'm feeling terrified. Or something. (MF)

The Talented Mr. Ripley—Director Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) is back with a rich adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's disturbing pulp novel from the '50s. Matt Damon is the strangely amoral Ripley, a classy young man who goes to Italy to find a friend and gets unhinged. Gwyneth and Cate are along for the fun as well. Opens 12/24. (MF)

Simpatico—Get out your floppy Chanel hats, it's thoroughbred racing time. Lyle (Jeff Bridges), Vinnie (Nick Nolte) and Vinnie's girl Rosie (Sharon Stone) hatch some scheme or other (which presumably involves horses), the result of which is them all having a lot of money. But Lyle and Rosie take their money and run, breaking poor Vinnie's heart in the process. Flash forward 20 years and Vinnie is still unhappy, and ready for the big payback. Adapted from the play by Sam Shepard. (SH)

Snow Falling on Cedars—Based on the commercially successful novel by local island-dweller David Guterson and directed by Scott Hicks (Shine). Set in the Puget Sound area, starring Ethan Hawke as the poor chap whose love is "undone by societal pressures and familial customs" in an "elegiac, multi-layered exploration of truth, justice and vagaries of the human heart." And here I was hoping it was "truth, justice and the American Way." (SH)

 
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