Film Previews

A rundown of the season's movies— handpicked for their potential wondrousness or probable woefulness.

Delicious and Good For You

American Beauty An Ice Storm minus the puritanism and nostalgia. Director Sam Mendes and writer Alan Ball lay bare the horrors of upper-middle-class normalcy in this unexpectedly profound tragicomedy. With Kevin Spacey (never better), Annette Bening (in full control of a caricature), and a bunch of youngsters in career-launching roles. (Dennis Lim) September 15

The Surreal Deal: Diaz and Cusack In 'Being John Malkovich'
The Surreal Deal: Diaz and Cusack In 'Being John Malkovich'

Breakfast Of Champions The record for Vonnegut adaptations is spotty, but the author might be the support rigging Alan Rudolph has always needed. Is Bruce Willis capable of the necessary loopiness? With Nick Nolte, who's becoming to Vonnegut what Harrison Ford is to Tom Clancy. (Michael Atkinson) September 17

Three Kings Sounds like Kelly's Heroes for the Clinton era, but better: David O. Russell drops George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, and Spike Jonze into the Gulf War and gives them a Kuwaiti treasure to search for. (MA) October 1

The Limey Steven Soderbergh— clearly on a roll— uses inserts from Ken Loach's Poor Cow as ready-made back story for this seductive reverie, a nostalgia piece that eschews sentimentality throughout. Featuring Terence Stamp in a rich central performance and a very funny Peter Fonda. (DL) October 8

Bringing Out the Dead If Nicolas Cage is to his EMS vehicle what De Niro was to his taxi, then Martin Scorsese will have his first box office smash since Cape Fear. And with Taxi Driver scribe Paul Schrader again providing the structure, history might repeat itself. (Amy Taubin) October 22

Holy Smoke Harvey Keitel plays a cult deprogrammer who has his hands full when he takes on Kate Winslet. Director Jane Campion returns to the problem of spirituality— how to distinguish the true from the half-cocked— that made her debut feature Sweetie so unique. (AT) October 22

Ride with the Devil Ang Lee adapts Donald Woodrell's novel about bushwhackers on the Missouri frontier of the Civil War and makes up for longueurs with throat-catching combat scenes. Tobey Maguire, that Derek Jeter of movie actors, is a wonder, and Jeffrey Wright's performance as a semifree slave might be the year's best. Oh, yeah, Jewel plays a war widow. (MA) November 5

Rosetta Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne follow La Promesse with an even tougher and more unsparing film about a young woman who desperately wants a job so that she can live a normal life. By syncing their hand-held camera to Rosetta's clumsy but fiercely determined gait, the Dardenne brothers push cinematic language where it's never gone before. (AT) Mid November

All About My Mother Pedro Almodovar combines Law of Desire's anarchic genderfuck and the sleeker pop-surrealist production values of his recent films in a madly funny, through-the-looking-glass vision of Streetcar Named Desire. Women, transvestites, and transsexuals mix it up in a tribute to the maternal impulse and the glamour of the theater. The ensemble cast, headed by Cecilia Roth, is a joy to watch. (AT) November 19

Sleepy Hollow Who better than Tim Burton to turn the Headless Horseman into a cinematic experience? With Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane and Christina Ricci as his love, Burton directs a flesh-and-blood version of Washington Irving's gothic classic. Trailers can be deceiving, but this one practically leaps off the screen, wraps its skeletal arms around you, and sucks face. (AT) November 19

Magnolia Paul Thomas Anderson follows up Boogie Nights with this multithreaded Road Runner­meets­Short Cuts absurdist melodrama, starring William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, Philip Baker Hall, Jason Robards (all in one movie?), Julianne Moore, and a walk-through by Tom Cruise. (MA) December 10

The Cider House Rules Having a Simon Birch­peeved John Irving write and control the casting of this rotund bildungsroman's filmization might be a good thing; it won't be a Hotel New Hampshire, but who said Irving knew anything about movies? Lasse Hallstrom directs, with ingredients he could work with. (MA) December 10

Cradle Will Rock Tim Robbins's homage to the Federal Theater of the 1930s and its production of Marc Blitzstein's rousing musical about labor organizing. Robbins is on the money when he shows the allure that radical art has for the filthy rich. The all-star cast includes Bill Murray and Joan Cusack as right-wing snitches, and Emily Watson and John Turturro as aspiring actors who give the performances of their lives when the cops take over the theater. (AT) December 10

Topsy Turvy Mike Leigh's Gilbert and Sullivan biopic is a celebration of theater, the creative process, and the coming of electricity to Victorian London. Extraordinarily written, directed, and acted, it's hilarious until the last moments when the women take over and break your heart. (AT) December 24

Man On The Moon Jim Carrey makes a rather Deppian career move: incarnating the late and maybe great Andy Kaufman. Written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, directed by Milos Forman, and costarring Courtney Love, Christopher Lloyd (as himself?), and Paul Giamatti as Bob Zmuda, i.e., the Other Tony Clifton. (MA) December 25

Freak-Load Bullets

Plunkett and Macleane Whiz-kid music video director Jake Scott (son of Ridley) overlights the 18th century, with Robert Carlyle and Jonny Lee Miller as highwaymen. There have never been enough movies about highwaymen. (MA) October 1

Boys Don't Cry For more than a year Brandon Teena charmed the young women of a small Nebraska town; even those closest to him claimed they didn't know Brandon was a woman passing as a man. Kimberly Pierce directs newcomer Hilary Swank and a fabulous supporting cast that includes Chloe Sevigny, Alison Folland, and Brendan Sexton III in a fictional version of this fascinating piece of Americana. (AT) October 8

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