Chilly Scenes

A Winter Movie Preview
[Some Dates Guaranteed To Change]

Ten To Cheer

Affliction Paul Schrader's tough-skinned, queasy version of the Russell Banks novel opens the wound of the American family once more, and with an unsharpened blade. Nick Nolte is the classic upcountry American doomed to fail everyone around him, including himself; in a fit of brilliant casting, James Coburn is his tyrannical dad. December 30

Babe: Pig In The City Not to be confused with Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, or Friday the 13th, Part VIII— Jason Takes Manhattan. Why do sequels so often migrate to New York? Talking animals beside your favorite landmarks: run, don't walk. November 25

Brothers, keepers: Paxton and Thornton in A Simple Plan
Melissa Moseley
Brothers, keepers: Paxton and Thornton in A Simple Plan

A Civil Action Steven Zaillian directs this potentially rousing social-issue drama, based on fact, about a lawsuit brought against a company accused of toxic-waste dumping and inadvertent deaths. Robert Redford exec-produced, and John Travolta, Robert Duvall, Tony Shalhoub, William H. Macy, and John Lithgow star. December 25

Hilary And Jackie High-strung psychological shouter in which Emily Watson plays famous cellist Jacqueline du Pré, and Rachel Griffiths plays her estranged, less talented sister with whom she reconciles after going terminal. December 25

In Dreams Looks like it might be terrifying: A Bruce Robinson­Neil Jordan script directed by Jordan about portentous nightmares and a real killer. Starring Annette Bening, Aidan Quinn, Robert Downey Jr., and Stephen Rea. January 22

Little Voice Jane Horrocks reinvents her theatrical triumph as a cloistered Brit girl who communicates only via her dead-on imitations of Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, etc., and who is beset upon by her blowsy mother's new talent- agent boyfriend (Michael Caine). Ewan McGregor costars as a shy pigeon-keeper. December 4

My Name Is Joe Ken Loach clocks in with another scabby, breathtakingly naturalistic working-class tale, involving a Scottish alcoholic trying to keep his threadbare life from unraveling altogether. Star Peter Mullan won at Cannes. January 23

Psycho The rumor mill has been just busy enough to suggest that this might not be the stupidest studio undertaking in memory after all; director Gus Van Sant may well have a few distinguishing twists up his sleeve. And even if this turns out to be a scene-for-scene copy, at least it's certifiably loony D.P. Chris Doyle who's doing the copying. December 4

A Simple Plan Scott Smith's riveting, believable novel about small-town brothers discovering a crashed plane full of stolen loot could easily be ruined by Sam Raimi's vertiginous approach and the out-there styles of Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton, but then again, we might all get lucky. The advance word is good. December 4

The Thin Red Line Could Terence Malick ever live up to his hype, his first two films, his mysterious 20-year silence? We all want to find out, and so the lines will be long, at least initially, for this big-balls version of James Jones's Guadalcanal opus, and the all-star cast doesn't hurt: Woody Harrelson, John Travolta, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, George Clooney, John Cusack, Bill Pullman, John Savage, Lukas Haas, Ben Chaplin, and newcomer Adrien Brody in the lead. December 25

Ten To Fear

Celebrity More rancid than Deconstructing Harry and even less funny, the Woodman's latest has some pretty facile things to say about The Ironies of Fame. Kenneth Branagh's Woody impersonation is frighteningly spot-on, not to mention acutely embarrassing. Along for the all-too-familiar ride are Judy Davis, Winona Ryder, Joe Mantegna, and Famke Janssen— all of whom have more screen time than either by-default star attraction Leonardo DiCaprio or Vanity Fair nipple-flasher Gretchen Mol. November 20

Enemy Of The State Source of one of the year's most confusing trailers, this wrong-man technothriller has Will Smith framed for murder and running for his life from a vast conspiracy. Gene Hackman provides the exposition and Tony Scott the supervision. November 20

Jack Frost A devoted daddy dies and comes back to life as a snowman to watch over his son. (We hope his son lives in northern Canada.) Hollywood's paternal anxiety and son-love may have finally edged into the realm of madness. Michael Keaton is the unlucky star. December 18

Patch Adams Another messiah-doctor story, about some factual med-school misfit whose "unconventional" approach frustrates the authorities and endears him to patients, and you know without being told any more that Robin Williams is the star. Heartfelt grimaces, booming cue music, tearful healing— enough to make you want to become a Christian Scientist. Williams's sidekicks include Monica Potter, Irma P. Hall, and Harve Presnell. December 25

Psycho On the other hand, why bother? Vince Vaughn should make for a rather threatening Norman Bates (especially in a dress), but Julianne Moore will certainly be wasted, as was Vera Miles, on the investigating sister role. Killing off the original star, Janet Leigh, 40 minutes in was radical; what's killing off Anne Heche gonna get you? December 4

Shakespeare In Love Joseph Fiennes plays Bill S. amid romances of his own, the writing of Romeo and Juliet, and intrigues in the court of Elizabeth I, played by who-else Judi Dench. Gwyneth Paltrow dallies once again in the land of bustles and pince-nez. Dench reunites with her Mrs. Brown director John Madden. Watch out (in trepidation) for Ben Affleck's cameo. December 11

Stepmom Dig this: Susan Sarandon is dying of cancer (is Christmastime the cancer season?), so she must teach Julia Roberts, as the nitwitted girlfriend of her ex-husband, to be a good mom to her mouthy daughter. Of course, everyone ends up hugging. Chris Columbus is responsible. December 25

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