SPRING Movies In Bloom Season's offerings range from action flicks to art picks, and include 'the hot one'

March 01, 1992|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

It must be spring; the movies are blooming everywhere!

Here's a list of the films due into Baltimore through Memorial Day, with the usual caveat to let the reader beware: Sometimes the studios or the distributors change dates suddenly. So what follows isn't reality, it's Virtual Reality. And remember this one important thing: If the dates are changed, it's not my fault. Thank you very much.

On Friday, "Gladiator" punches its way into town. An operatic boxing picture about teen-agers recruited by an evil ex-champion to fight on an underground circuit in Chicago, it stars Cuba Gooding Jr. of "Boyz N the Hood" and James Marshall of "Twin Peaks." The Bad Guy is Brian Dennehy. Rowdy Herrington directed. The same day "The Lawnmower Man" opens, from a novel by Steven King and starring Jeff Fahey. The movie takes off from the technology of Virtual Reality and is full of computer-generated imagery.

"The Double Life of Veronique," about the bond between two women (both played by Irene Jacobs), opens March 12 at the Charles; it's the most heralded foreign film of last year.

The next day is busy, busy, busy. "Article 99" is a comedy-drama set in a veteran's hospital about a group of young doctors -- Ray Liotta, Kiefer Sutherland, Lea Thompson, Forest Whitaker -- who take on not only their patients but also the cumbersome Veterans Affairs bureaucracy. Then there's the ironically titled "American Me," with Edward James Olmos as star, writer and director. Olmos plays a Mexican drug lord in East L.A. who, even after arrest and sentencing, continues to rule the streets from behind bars. "My Cousin Vinnie" rounds out the trio with Joe Pesci as a loudmouthed but inexperienced Jersey lawyer who is called down south to represent his innocent cousins in a murder case in a small, rude town. (Of course all towns in the South are small and rude, but that's another story.)

On March 20 comes "the hot one." I should explain: Immediately after "Shining Through," with Michael Douglas and a blond opened up, a guy calls. He says, "Is this the hot one?" I said no, the hot one comes in March. "Great," he says. "Can't wait till the hot one."

"The hot one" is "Basic Instinct," with Douglas and blond Sharon Stone, directed by the sick genius Paul "RoboCop" Verhoeven. Douglas plays a kinky cop on the search for a lesbian serial killer. NC-17, anybody?

Also on March 20, "The Mambo Kings" opens, a big-budget number about two Cuban brothers (Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas) who land in the New York of 1953.

How smart is it to release "The Cutting Edge" on March 27, a month after the Winter Olympics shut down? We'll find out. Anyway, it's about a figure skater whose partner is injured just before the Olympics, so a hockey player is recruited. Is that a gag, or what? The stars are D. B. Sweeny and Moira Kelly. Also on March 27 is "The Power of One," about South Africa, with a powerful cast including Morgan Freeman, Armin Mueller-Stahl and John Gielgud. It's about a young man coming of age during the imposition of apartheid. And finally on March 27, yet another entrant in the Who-Dusted-JFK? sweepstakes: "Ruby," with Danny Aiello in the title role. According to these guys, the mob did it.

April 3 is busy, busy, busy, busy, with seven films coming out on the same day. "Straight Talk" offers an unusual romantic pairing, with country-calm Dolly Parton linked with thousand-word-a-minute city boy James Woods. She's a radio talk show shrink, he's a newspaper reporter. "Newsies" is from Disney. A musical. About newspapers back in the gay Nineties. No. Those gay Nineties.

Then there's "Rock-a-Doodle," the new animated feature from Don ("An American Tail") Bluth, which watches as a rooster learns how to control the rising of the sun. "Thunderheart" offers Val Kilmer as an FBI agent who searches for the murderer of two Indian women on the Sioux reservation and discovers his own Indian heritage. Michael Apted directed. "Beethoven" is the spring dog movie, about a gigantic St. Bernard who bedevils prissy owner Charles Grodin. And, speaking of dogs, here's Rodney Dangerfield in "Ladybugs," as a salesman in a corporation who agrees to coach a girls' soccer team as a way to a promotion. Finally, "Ferngully: The Last Rainforest," another animated film (why do I suspect most of America's spring vacations begin April 3?). It's about mythical creatures trying to protect the rain forests.

On April 10, the class project of the spring heaves into view. This is "City of Joy," with Patrick Swayze as an American doctor working among the poor in Calcutta, the world's most devastated city, where he discovers love and joy as well as pain. Roland Jaffe, who shot "The Killing Fields," directed. "A Class Act" restores the clown princes of movieland, Kid 'N Play, to the screen. Then there's "A Midnight Clear," derived from the William Wharton novel about a platoon of misfit genius kids who find themselves in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge. Ethan Hawke stars.

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