Unreeling in the next few months Previews: Coming soon are "Marvin's Room," "Return of the Jedi" and a rerelease of John Waters' "Pink Flamingos." Save room for popcorn.

February 23, 1997|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,SUN FILM CRITIC

It begins with "Booty Call" and ends with "McHale's Navy," and if that doesn't sum up a couple of months in the life of the American movie industry, nothing can.

Here's our occasional advance scouting mission on the movies of the next few months, offered with the usual proviso that films come and go in odd ways and what you're getting is essentially an upfront postcard of a very fluid situation.

February

On Wednesday, "Booty Call" features "In Living Color" bad boys Jamie Foxx and Tommy Davidson hot to rock with a couple of hot dates. The gals, of course, have other ideas, as gals always do.

Then on Friday, "Donnie Brasco" returns Al Pacino to the mob world, this time as Johnny Depp's mentor. Al just doesn't know Johnny's an FBI agent. Based on a true story, this film was directed by Mike Newell. "Marvin's Room" boasts a brilliant cast: Diane Keaton (who received an Oscar nomination for this role), Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert DeNiro and Hume Cronyn, in a drama about the good sister who's cared for a declining father until she gets sick, and then her bad sister has to come down and resentfully take over. Keaton: good. Streep: bad. That same day will be the "abortion comedy" "Citizen Ruth," with Laura Dern as a completely amoral, dimwit hustler who plays pro-choicers and anti-abortioners against each other in her endless quest for getting high on patio sealant.

March

On March 5, a music documentary, "Rhyme & Reason," opens with such groups as Salt'N'Pepa, the Fugees, Notorious B.I.G. ,, and many more.

On March 7, the big news is -- Are you ready for this, America? If not, too bad, because Howard Stern doesn't care -- "Private Parts," with the shock jock as himself in his life story, as produced by high-ender Ivan Reitman and directed by Betty Thomas. Will "Return of the Jedi," which opens the same day, stand a chance?

Also March 7, "Kama Sutra," from the Mira Nair who did "Mississippi Masala," looks at the origin of the famous lovemaking manual in 15th-century India, with Naveen Andrews from "The English Patient." "Hard Eight" is a gambling story set in sleazy Reno, with the definitely unsleazy Gwyneth Paltrow and Samuel L. Jackson. David Lynch returns in "Lost Highway," a double helping of noir in which, in one universe, Bill Pullman ends up on death row for killing his wife and in another, Balthazar Getty is wooed into committing murder by a seductress. One problem: Both the wife and the seductress are the same woman, Patricia Arquette. Go figure.

On March 14, Disney unleashes the fastest remake in the history of the biz. It's "Jungle 2 Jungle," which was in theaters just last year as "Little Indian, Big City," except that the city was Paris. Now it's New York and the star is Tim Allen; he plays a businessman who learns he has a 14-year-old son by his first wife, who remains in the Amazon. He takes the boy back to the U.S. of A. and lots of wackiness happens.

Less wacky is film noir pastiche "Blood & Wine" that reunites director Bob Rafelson and actor Jack Nicholson for the first time since "The King of Marvin Gardens." Nicholson is a wine merchant, plotting against his wife. "City of Industry" is another crime movie, this time with Tim Hutton as a gangster, and Stephen Dorff and Harvey Keitel. Unknown director is Ken Solarz. "love jones" follows love among the hipster population of Chitown, with Larenz Tait and Nia Long.

Peter Hoeg's high-toned thriller, "Smilla's Sense of Snow," makes its film debut March 21 with Julia Ormond as the detective searching for the killer of a small boy in Denmark. Richard Harris and Gabriel Byrne also star. Much less high-toned is "Liar Liar" with Jim Carrey as a lawyer who is cursed for a day by having to tell the absolute truth; career collapse soon follows. Even lower-toned: "Selena," the bio of the Mexican-American Tejana singer whose murder at the hands of her demented fan-club president shocked the nation. Jennifer Lopez stars. Even lower-toned: "Turbo: A Power Rangers Adventure." And finally, the gutter: David Cronenberg's disturbing "Crash," based on the J. G. Ballard novel, deemed unreleasable by Ted Turner. Everyone who sees it says it's brilliant and sickening.

The next Wednesday, March 26, the troubled "The Devil's Own," with Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford, opens. A tale of Irish cops and terrorists set in the United States, it's said to be a mess by its own co-star, Pitt, who alas, later relented. That same day an animated film from Warner Bros., "Cats Don't Dance," also heaves into theaters; it's about a kitty trying to get dancing gigs in Hollywood, with the vocal talents of Scott Bakula, Natalie Cole and Hal Holbrook, among others.

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