Widowed when his FBI agent wife is killed during a botched raid on a family of gun sellers, a college history professor (Jeff Bridges) becomes obsessed with the culture of extremists, especially when his new, All-American neighbors (Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack) begin to act suspiciously. Is there a conspiracy afoot -- or is the professor just paranoid? Disappointing thriller takes too long to get going: By the time the excitement begins to mount we've already lost interest in the possibility of intrigue, giving the apocalyptic ending a hollow resonance.
Director: Mark Pellington. Stars: Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Hope Davis. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 117 min.), Thriller, 1999, Box office gross: $23.800 million, (Columbia TriStar), No SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 10/26, DVD: Day & Date.
BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, The
Very scary mock documentary about three students who travel to the remote hills of Maryland to investigate the legend of a witch who has plagued the community for two centuries. Ostensibly the filmmakers disappeared in the woods and this film, "discovered" a year later, is a document of their final days. Made on a shoestring budget -- shot on 16mm and High-8 video, with herky-jerky camera movements and offscreen terror -- "Blair Witch" has become the darling of the Web set and has set boxoffice records for a film of this type.
Director: Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez. Stars: Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael Williams. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 88 min.), Horror, 1999, Box office gross: $102.000 million, (Artisan), $22.98 SRP, Available: 10/26, DVD: Day & Date.
Very funny high school satire about overachieving co-ed (Reese Witherspoon) who has her sights set on the student government presidency and the teacher (Matthew Broderick) who opposes her run for the office. At the center of the film is the school election -- but the peripheral events (including illicit sexual affairs) are what mold the black comedy into a cohesive whole. More important than the action are the characters' interior choices, intents and desires, making this stand out from run-of-the-mill teen romps.
Director: Alexander Payne. Stars: Reese Witherspoon, Matthew Broderick, Chris Klein, Jessica Campbell, Delaney Driscoll, Colleen Camp. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 104 min.), Comedy, 1999, Box office gross: $14.813 million, (Paramount), No SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 10/19, DVD: Day & Date.
A computer game creator (Jennifer Jason Leigh) develops a virtual reality game that gets her in big trouble with unknown assassins. Barely escaping with her life, she convinces a corporate friend to escape with her in the alternate world, entering another universe of espionage, duplicity and double agents as the film shifts between different realities and fictions. A return to sci-fi roots for David Cronenberg, who here embellishes on one of his recurrent -- and powerful -- themes: the transcendence of the flesh and the desire to be made into machine. Co-stars Jude Law and Ian Holm.
Director: David Cronenberg. Stars: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law, Ian Holm. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 110 min.), Science Fiction, 1999, Box office gross: $2.840 million, (Miramax), No SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 10/19, DVD: Day & Date.
Talented cast and director couldn't save this muddled affair about pair of ad-agency brothers (Don Johnson and Dermot Mulroney), the younger brother's wife (Patricia Arquette), murder, sex, double and triple crosses and a serial killer named The Doctor. Ellen DeGeneres is terrific as a cop investigating the murders. Directed by Roland Joffe and co-starring Mary-Louise Parker.
Director: Roland Joffe. Stars: Patricia Arquette, Dermot Mulroney, Don Johnson, Mary-Louise Parker, Ellen DeGeneres. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 102 min.), Thriller, 1999, Box office gross: $1.923 million, (Warner), No SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 10/12, DVD: Day & Date.
Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence play a pair of losers -- Murphy a small time hustler, Lawrence an aspiring bank teller -- who get involved in bootlegging in 1932 Mississippi and are wrongly convicted of murder. The film follows their 60-year jail term as they witness hardship and kindness, cruelty and forgiveness, life and death, through it all deepening their friendship and never losing hope that someday freedom will be their's.
Director: Ted Demme. Stars: Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 108 min.), Comedy, 1999, Box office gross: $63.844 million, (Universal), No SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 10/19, DVD: Day & Date.
LOST AND FOUND
This low-key version of "Something About Mary" -- an off-kilter young man (David Spade) chases a beautiful woman (Sophie Marceau) but another suitor gets in the way -- has only a few moments of genuine humor. The plot is so contrived -- restaurateur Spade tries everything in his power to meet sexy French neighbor Marceau, even going so far as to hide her wayward dog to set their romance in motion -- and the story line is so full of Screenwriting 101-created misunderstood intentions that the film telegraphs its ending before it's half over.
Director: Jeff Pollack. Stars: David Spade, Sophie Marceau, Patrick Bruel, Artie Lange. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 99 min.), Comedy, 1999, Box office gross: $6.545 million, (Warner), No SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 10/5, DVD: Day & Date.
MUPPETS FROM SPACE
This latest installment in the Muppet adventures (can it be 20 years since "The Muppet Movie"?) has Gonzo believing aliens -- who seem to be like him -- are bent on invading Earth. With a little help from his friends -- Rizzo the Rat, Kermit and Miss Piggy -- Gonzo goes up against an unfriendly government agent (Jeffrey Tambor) and a flock of UFO kooks. There's also live appearances by Andie MacDowell (as a Miss Piggy-hating newscaster), F. Murray Abraham, David Arquette and Ray Liotta.
Director: Tim Hill. Stars: Voices of Dave Goelz, Steve Witmire, Bill Barretta, Frank Oz. CC, (MPAA rating: G, 88 min.), Children, 1999, Box office gross: $16.000 million, (Columbia TriStar), $21.95 SRP, Available: 10/26, DVD: Day & Date.
NEVER BEEN KISSED
Drew Barrymore plays a cub newspaper reporter who goes back to high school eight years after she graduated to do an undercover story on today's teens, reliving her own high school geekhood in the process. This very pleasing comedy is basically another Cinderella story for the adorable Barrymore: With the help of her older brother she's transformed into a chic chick, joining a "Heathers"-like clique of "hot" girls. There's plenty of high school humor -- mostly revolving around kids making fun of geeks -- but there's also plenty of heart, too, as Barrymore learns to accept herself, not her label.
Director: Raja Gosnell. Stars: Drew Barrymore, David Arquette, Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, Garry Marshall, Leelee Sobieski. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 107 min.), Comedy, 1999, Box office gross: $55.094 million, (Fox), No SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 10/26, DVD: Day & Date.
Talky drama about the stressful lives of air traffic controllers with John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton as rival controllers in the busy New York Terminal Radar Approach Control Tower. It's a case of intense one-upmanship as the two men try to best each other in everything they do -- from sports to womanizing. The film never comes in for a landing, though: Its never clear what motivates the pair, and the unsatisfying ending doesn't leave its mark on the characters. More interesting by far are Cate Blanchett and Angelina Jolie as the boys' dutiful wives.
Director: Mike Newall. Stars: John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett, Angelina Jolie. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 123 min.), Drama, 1999, Box office gross: $8.406 million, (Fox), No SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 10/5, DVD: Day & Date.
RAGE: CARRIE 2, THE
Weak sequel to Brian De Palma's classic 1976 horrorfest, here with newcomer Emily Bergl playing Carrie's sister (same father, different mother), with telekinetic powers that allow her to get even with nasty high school kids pulling an elaborate hoax on her. This Carrie follows the plot progression of the original -- with only a few differences between the two -- so much so that even the modern trappings and slightly more sophisticated apocalyptic ending can't save it from its plodding path (helped by inane dialogue and improbable characters) to self-destruction.
Director: Katt Shea. Stars: Emily Bergl, Jason London, Amy Irving, Dylan Bruno. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 104 min.), Horror, 1999, Box office gross: $17.759 million, (MGM), No SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 10/12, DVD: Day & Date.
10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU
High school comedy about a high school newcomer who can't date the girl of his dreams until her older, ill-tempered sister, a social outcast, has a date of her own. He hatches a complicated plot that ends up in total mating confusion. Kind of a teen version of "The Taming of the Shrew," down to the possessive father (Larry Miller in a typically understated role) who sets the plot in motion with his dating edict. This film is just right for its demographic -- 18 to 24- year-old males. Anyone else will fall asleep.
Director: Gil Junger. Stars: Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Larisa Oleynik, David Krumholtz, Larry Miller. CC, (MPAA rating: PG-13, 97 min.), Comedy, 1999, Box office gross: $37.741 million, (Buena Vista), No SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 10/12, DVD: Day & Date.
THIRTEENTH FLOOR, THE
Sci-fi mystery thriller about computer visionaries who create a living simulation of 1937 Los Angeles on a computer located on the 13th floor of a downtown office building. When one of the men turns up dead, the other is accused of the murder, and must" enter" the computer and travel to the virtual world to solve the crime. It's a kind of Raymond Chandler meets Bill Gates scenario, with enough twists and turns and plot convolutions to keep most sci-fi fans busily trying to figure out the story -- an effort amply rewarded with a true sci-fi ending.
Director: Josef Rusnak. Stars: Armin Mueller-Stahl, Craig Bierko, Gretchen Mol, Vincent D'Onofrio, Dennis Haysbert. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 100 min.), Science Fiction, 1999, Box office gross: $11.722 million, (Columbia TriStar), No SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 10/5, DVD: Day & Date.
WALK ON THE MOON, A
A 31-year-old housewife (Diane Lane) travels to the Catskills during the summer of 1969 for a vacation with her mother and daughter, leaving behind her TV repairman husband. There she meets a free-living traveling salesman (Viggo Mortensen), who strikes a chord long-buried in her dutiful housewife's heart. Soon she's having an all-out affair with him -- which brings out her existential freedom -- as well as tie-dyed clothing, drugs and a trip to Woodstock. When her daughter (Anna Paquin) -- also off on her own -- spies her there -- the betrayal comes to the surface. A deep, probing, sensitive look at yearnings and longings, with fine acting turns throughout.
Director: Tony Goldwyn. Stars: Diane Lane, Viggo Mortensen, Liev Schreiber, Anna Paquin, Tovah Feldshuh. CC, (MPAA rating: R, 105 min.), Drama, 1999, Box office gross: $4.741 million, (Miramax), No SRP, Priced for rental, Available: 10/19, DVD: Day & Date.
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