'Bugsy' among end-of-season film flurry

TINSELTOWN'S HOLIDAY TREATS 'JFK,'

November 24, 1991|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

The image orgy has begun. Martin Scorsese's "Cape Fear" is hardly a cup of sparkling punch for the holidays but its appearance does note that the last two weeks in November and the first 25 days of December are prime movie-going time. This weekend saw the first full deposit of Christmas films -- "Beauty and the Beast," "The Addams Family" and "An American Tail: Fievel Goes West."

Here's a look at what's to come, with the proviso that these are the films slated for Baltimore, not America. You'll read gushing national reviews of "At Play in the Fields of the Lord" in early December, as that movie opens in New York and L.A. But I won't start gushing till the movie hits our little town.

The fun starts on Wednesday, when "For the Boys" gives Bette Midler a renewed shot at the stardom she squandered in "Stella." It's an old genre -- the "cavalcade" movie -- that follows a gritty U.S.O. troupe from the Normandy beachhead to the firebases of the 'Nam. Martha Raye, call your lawyer. James Caan, with a wispy little matinee-idol mustache, is Midler's No. 1 guy. Mark Rydell, who invented Midler's movie stardom in "The Rose," directs. Big Question: Who is the boogie-woogie bugle boy of Company B?

Next weekend, America's most popular child returns. Then he drops dead. Merry Christmas! Actually, he doesn't drop dead till the end, and I'm only reporting what's already been reported. The kid is Macaulay Culkin, of the amazingly successful "Home Alone," and the movie is "My Girl." Culkin plays the best friend of Anna Chlumsky, and word has it that the two actually kiss. Howard Zieff directed. Big question: Will the widely publicized news of the death scare off the family trade?

"Prospero's Books" is arty controversialist Peter Greenaway's high- tech version of Shakespeare's "The Tempest," with John Gielgud as the presiding spirit. It's a gorgeous tapestry of images, but one had best not enter these waters without a good map at hand, else you'll get swallowed. Big Question: Forsooth, who cares?

On Dec. 4, "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" beams down from on high. News flash: Spock's in love! Film on Dec. 4! Evidently set against the backdrop of an imperial collapse much like the one recently occurring on the far side of what used to be called the Iron Curtain, the movie was written and directed by Nicholas Meyer, who did the best of the other "Star Trek" movies, "Star Trek II, the Wrath of Khan." The Big Question: What is Vulcan sex? Please, Paramount Pictures, don't let it involve ears.

On Dec. 11, the $70 million "Hook" checks in, courtesy of Steven Spielberg, again working in the discovered country of childhood imagination where he is at his best. The movie stars Robin Williams as a grown-up P. Pan who must fly into action when the nefarious Hook swipes his own kids and takes them off to Never-Never Land. Dustin Hoffman is the big bad Hook and Bob Hoskins his sidekick Smee; Julia Roberts checks in as Tinker Bell.

The movie is said to be unbelievably spectacular, and recently published stills in Premiere suggest as much. The Big Question: How many hundreds of millions of dollars will it earn before New Year's Eve?

Bruce is back

Dec. 13 brings us Bruce Willis in his first leading role since his triumph in the legendary 3 1/2 -star "Hudson Hawk"; the movie is "The Last Boy Scout," and the problem may not be Willis' smirk but screenwriter Shane Black's. Black sold the script to this film for over a million bucks and easily a million bucks' worth of publicity. But if you get the big bucks, you pay for them in the excess baggage of raised expectations and perhaps, in certain quarters, you run up against a smattering of envy.

The story is of a genre rarely seen these days, the old private-eye yarn. Willis is your basic beat-up shamus, hired by ex-pro quarterback Daymon Wayans to prove his innocence in a point-shaving scam. Black also wrote the original "Lethal Weapon" and was the producer, so he has his white guy/black guy patter down pat, but the true auteur is Joel Silver, known for his steamroller style (he also produced "Hudson") and his penchant for pyrotechnics. This one turns on a threat far worse than global destruction via eco-catastrophe or nuclear madness: bTC the destruction of the National Football League! And it would happen when the Redskins are 11-0! Big Question: Is Bruce Willis a movie star?

On Dec. 20, Warner Brothers releases what is certain to be the most controversial movie of the year: this is Oliver Stone's "JFK," in which Kevin Costner plays New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison and the thrust of the movie is evidently to give credence to Garrison's conspiracy theories, which have been disproved in court.

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