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REVIEWS OF 1997 SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY/HORROR FILMS

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REVIEWS OF 1999 SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY/HORROR FILMS

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See also TIME TRAVEL: MOVIES AND TV-MOVIES ABOUT TIME TRAVEL OR TIME-LOOPS, below
Site of the week: Movieprop.com "Movieprop.com features the world's best information about the hobby of collecting production used Hollywood memorabilia from sci-fi, fantasy, horror and all other genres. Movieprop.com also features information about custom fabricators.which can make just about anything from replica batmobiles to costumes based on anime and manga characters. Movieprop.com features an index to a variety of other collecting fields as well. If time allows perhaps consider taking a look at www.movieprop.com Also covers Sci-fi/Horror Costume Collecting, Anime Site link.
TIME TRAVEL: List of 65 movies about time travel, last updated 19 July 1996
See also ALIENS: MOVIES AND TV-MOVIES ABOUT ALIENS (below)
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NEW: ALIENS on-line book of the year: Me Human, You Alien: How to Talk to an Extraterrestrial
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REVIEWS: 1997 SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY/HORROR FILMS

The Absent-Minded Professor/Flubber Alien Resurrection An American Werewolf in Paris Anaconda Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery Batman & Robin James Bond 18: Tomorrow Never Dies Contact Crash Dante's Peak Devil's Advocate Event Horizon Fairy Tale: A True Story (Illumination) The Fifth Element Gattaca George of the Jungle Godzilla Hercules Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves Illumination (Fairy Tale: A True Story) Kull the Conquerer L5: First City in Space A Life Less Ordinary The Lost World: Jurassic Park Men In Black Mimic Mortal Kombat II: Annihilation The Postman Rocket Man The Saint Scream and Scream 2 The Sixth Man Smila's Sense of Snow Space Truckers (Star Truckers) Spawn Starship Troopers Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition Turbo: A New Power Rangers Adventure Volcano Warriors of Virtue Wishmaster Return to MOVIES Table of Contents Return to 1997 SNEAK PREVIEWS Table of Contents

NEWS: SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY/HORROR FILM News of the Week

17 June 1997: ZEMECKIS BACK TO THE FUTURE IN CONTACT WITH DREAMWORKS DreamWorks SKG rebounded from its foolish refusal to interview Your Humble Webmaster for a job, last week, by announcing a dramatic production deal today with Robert Zemeckis' new company ImageMovers. Robert Zemeckis has made films grossing over ,000,000,000 worldwide, including upcoming Contact, the "Back to the Future" trilogy, and Oscar-winning "Forrest Gump." ImageMovers is run by Zemeckis, his long-term partner Steve Starkey, and talent-agent-turned player Jack Rapke. This was widely seen as enhancing the prospects for 3-year-old DreamWorks SKG, founded by director Steven Spielberg, studio survivor Jeffrey Katzenberg, and music/entertainment kingpin David Geffen. Spielberg is seen as the mentor of Zemeckis, since Zemeckis' award-winning USC student film. DreamWorks SKG will release its first features this fall: non-genre films "The Peacemakers (George Clooney of Batman & Robin and Nicole Kidman), "Amistad" (directed by Spielberg, about an 1839 slave mutiny), and "Mousehunt" (Nathan Lane). ImageMovers films will be financed by and distributed by DreamWorks SKG domestically, with Universal handling video and international distribution. However, the deal is not exclusive, so Robert Zemeckis can still direct for other studios. Since he often takes a year off between films, and is not attached to any movie packages at present, it might not be until 1999 that a Zemeckis/Dreamworks film is in production. Starkey has been associated with Zemeckis since he was Associate Producer on "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (directed by Zemeckis). Jack Rapke was a top agent who bolted from CAA (Creative Artists Agency) a few weeks ago, where his blue-chip clients included Zemeckis and Ron Howard ("Apollo 13"). Also hired into ImageMovers leadership is Jennifer Perini, VP of Production for Warner Bros. What Your Humble Webmaster, and you (my reader-with-flawless-taste) hope for is that the Robert Zemeckis/Steven Spielberg team will create some of the greatest Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror films ever made, in the very early 21st Century. Return to MOVIES Table of Contents 14 June 1997: JAPANESE OPENING OF "SCREAM" DELAYED BY REAL-LIFE BEHEADING The Japanese 50-screen opening of "Scream" was set for 14 June 1997, but was delayed because an 11-year-old boy in Kobe had his head cut off by a murderer, and it was felt that "Scream", with its depiction of a serial murder of California high school students, might be in bad taste. Business is business, however, and the nation-wide Japanese opening is being rescheduled. Scream 2 set to open 19 December 1997. Return to MOVIES Table of Contents

The Absent-Minded Professor [Flubber]

Title: might also be released as "Flubber" Story: Bouncy comedy about a scientist who doesn't know that he's funny, does know that he has a great invention, and is more worried about getting funding than he is about winning tenure Studio: Walt Disney Pictures presents a Great Oaks production Based on: this is a remake of the 1961 Fred MacMurray film about the wacky genius who invented Flubber, but did you know that the original film was based on a genuine person? THE REAL "ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR" DIES Director: Les Mayfield (1994 remake of "Miracle on 34th Street"; "Encino Man") Writers: Samuel W. Taylor & Bill Walsh (the pair who wrote the 1961 screenplay) Screenplay: John Hughes, Bill Walsh Producers: John Hughes, Ricardo Mestres Executive Producer: David Nicksay Cinematography: Dean Cundey Editors: Harvey Rosenstock, Michael A. Stevenson Starring: Professor Phillip "Ned" Brainard -- Robin Williams see my essay on "Mork & Mindy" in my Ultimate SF TV site TELEVISION: list of 250+ links, last updated 31 Dec 1996 Sara Jean Reynolds -- Marcia Gay Harden Chester Hoenicker/Alonzo Hawk -- Raymond J. Barry Smith -- Clancy Brown Betsy -- Marcia Gay Harden Wesson -- Ted Levine ("Silence of the Lambs", "Mad City") Werner (Medfield Player #12) -- Kevin Lowe ??? -- Edie McClurg Wilson Croft -- Christopher McDonald Upset Rutland fan -- Scott Trimble Biff Hawk -- Wil Wheaton Weebo (voice) -- Jodi Benson Production Design: Andrew McAlpine Art Director: James E. Tocci Special Effects: Don Bies (puppeteer), Phil Bray (still photographer), Jessi Chan (visual effects supervisor), David Wainstain (special visual effects) The miniature set of the town was 50 feet by 50 feet, with most model houses 2 feet high and equipped with picket fence, barbecue, and basketball hoop Costumes: April Ferry Music: Danny Elfman Budget: ,000,000 [according to June 1997 press release] Anti-Gravity Opening: 26 November 1997 official "Flubber" web site Running Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes Box Office: "Flubber" flew to #1 as a big hit for Disney during the long (5-day) Thanksgiving holiday weekend. It grossed a remarkable ,800,000 in the debut weekend, the 4th best Thanksgiving opening in U.S. history, for a ,900,000 cumulative gross on 2,641 screens (a bouncy ,590 average). This put it well ahead of the strongly opening Alien Resurrection. Robin William's star status was renewed, after the inconsistent results of his previous three films: MGM/UA's "The Birdcage" which grossed 4,100,000 domestically, his previous Disney comedy "Jack" (vaguely science-fictional at times) which pulled in ,600,000 domestically, and the definite flop of Warner Bros.' "Father's Day" at ,500,000. What will he do next? In Week #2, "Flubber" stuck at #1, with a 58% diminished but still respectable 3-day weekend gross of ,300,000 on 2,653 screens (,257 average) for a cumulative gross of an even ,000,000. It was still grossing twice as much as #2 Alien Resurrection. In Week #3, "Flubber" was squeezed out of #1 ratings by the astonishing superhit debut of Scream 2. At #2, it was still ahead of #3 Universal's family comedy "For Richer, For Poorer" debut, #4 Fox's family comedy debut "Home Alone 3", and DreamWork's first live-action feature debut #5 "Amistad." So "Flubber" was still America's first choice among a strong crop of family comedies. With a 40% drop to ,800,000 weekend gross, on 2,679 screens (,530 average), "Flubber" had a cumulative gross of ,700,000. In Week #4, "Flubber" dropped another 37% to ,300,000 3-day weekend gross, on 2,612 screens (,638 average) for a cumulative gross of ,300,000. It ranked just below the DreamWorks' comedy "Mouse Hunt" and just above Fox's family comedy in its 2nd week "Home Alone 3." In Week #5, "Flubber" bounced 26% upwards to ,400,000 weekend gross, on 2,008 screens (levitating up to a ,643 average) for a cumulative gross of ,100,000. It ranked just below the Hollywood debut of "American Werewolf in Paris" and just above the sad flop debut of Warner Bros. The Postman which the studio had hoped would save the year for them and instead cut deeply into profits. Reviews: Paul Wunder, WBAI Radio, New York City: "Outrageously funny!" Brian Sebastian, Movie Reviews and More: "It's the best Robin Williams film since 'Mrs. Doubtfire.'" Louis B. Hobson, Calgary Sun: "'Flubber' is a knee-slapping, rib-tickling, side-splitting, gut-busting laugh-a-thon!" John Anderson, Los Angeles Times, 26 Nov 97: "With all the resilience, elasticity and recoil of Robin Williams' career, 'Flubber' bounces into theatres today to begin the holiday marketing march." "In remaking 1961's 'The Absent-Minded Professor,' which starred Fred MacMurray as the creator of flying rubber, producer-screenwriter John Hughes and Co. have chosen to change the title to something more commercially viable than 'Disorganized, Middle-Aged Science Teacher.' And they've made a few other changes, too. Professor Phillip Brainard (Williams), a kind of Wallace sans Gromit, has been given an airborne computer pal named Weebo.... Flubber itself has been given an actual personality, somewhere between primordial ooze and Chris Farley. And MacMurray's old jalopy has been replaced by a 1963 T-Bird, which is very nice and able to fly." "Otherwise, this is your basic audience-friendly comedy with a crisis--the immanent closing of Medfield College. And a couple of thugs, Smith and Wesson.... And their boss, the college-foreclosing Chester Hoenicker.... There are two love triangles. One among Phillip, Sara and Wilson Croft... who wants to steal Phillip's invention and his fiancee and who gets her to wager herself on the results of the big basketball game." "[Marcia Gay] Harden and [Christopher] McDonald are good, Ted Levine is very good (he was the killer in 'Silence of the Lambs' and the police chief in 'Mad City'). But amid all the Professor Irwin Corey-inspired double-talk about what makes Flubber Flubber, the bigger mystery is what Robin Williams contributes to all of this.... there's a bit too much emotional distress in 'Flubber' and not quite enough of the energetic slapstick that takes place at the big basketball game, which Phillip fixes with Flubber (yes, kids, he's cheating!) or the abuse that Smith and Wesson take via the bowling ball and the golf ball that begin bouncing at the beginning of the film and return to Earth periodically with hilarious timing and accuracy. Director Les Mayfield... has his moments, of course, but what ultimately was needed in the case of 'Flubber' was a movie with more bounce and less talk." Terry Morgan, Pasadena Weekly, 28 Nov 1997: "Professor Phillip Brainard (Robin Williams) is brilliant, but so absent-minded he's forgotten to attend his own wedding to Sara Jean Reynolds twice. He's intending not to do so a third time when he accidently creates flubber, a sort of flying rubber that also appears to have a mind of its own. Having blown his last chance with his fiancee, Brainard wants to show her the wondrous qualities of his invention, but others... want to steal it for themselves." "Williams is fine as the forgetful professor, but truly secondary to special effects, which are essentially the raison d'etre of this film. In fact, he is upstaged by one particular effect, and flying robot called Weebo... that surprisingly ends up as the movie's most memorable character. Harden also does good work providing an emotional reality to ground the story's flights of fancy. The film moves pleasantly along at a brisk clip, but the script... is fairly standard of its genre. The effects, however, from Weebo to some marvelous sequences with the flying car, from flubber to a recurring sight gag involving the continual trajectory of two bouncing balls, are terrific. I enjoyed this film more than I expected to, and the kids in the audience I saw it with were literally screaming with laughter." "'Flubber' is that rarity, a fun film for the whole family." Return to MOVIES Table of Contents Return to 1997 SNEAK PREVIEWS Table of Contents

Alien Resurrection

Story: Winona Ryder joins Sigourney Weaver against a pack of interstellar smugglers; a Ripley clone is targeted by an assassin (Winona Ryder) before they become allies; the real enemy is a Queen Alien -- a breeder, on a spaceship due to automatically return to Earth... Studio: 20th Century Fox presents a Brandywine Production Based on: the first 3 Alien films, and characters created by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shosett Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet ("City of Lost Children") and Mark Caro Writer: Joss Whedon Producers: Bill Badalato, Gordon Carroll, David Giler, Walter Hill Cinematography: Darius Khondji Editor: Herve Schneid Starring: Ellen Ripley (clone of) -- Sigourney Weaver ("Alien", "Aliens", "Alien 3", "The Year of Living Dangerously", "Ghostbuster", "Ghostbuster 2", "Working Girl", "Dave", "Gorillas in the Mist") Annalee Call -- Winona Ryder ("Beetlejuice", "Little Women", "Reality Bites", "Bram Stoker's Dracula", "The Age of Innocence", "The Crucible", "Heathers") (she was a great fan of "Invaders from Mars", "Farenheit 451", and "Alien") (her real name is Winona Laura Horowitz) (she was born 29 October 1971 in Winona, Minnesota; her godfather was LSD guru Timothy Leary) Dr. Gediman -- Brad Dourif Johner -- Ron Perlman Elgyn -- Michael Wincott General Perez -- Dan Hedaya Vriess -- Dominique Pinon Dr. Wren -- J. E. Freeman Distephano -- Raymond Cruz Hilliard -- Kim Flowers Christie -- Gary Dourdan Purvis -- Leland Orser Special Effects: Duboi/Blue Sky Studios Special Effects Coordinator: Eric Allard Special Effects Producer: Bruce Devan Visual Effects Supervisors: Erik Henry, Pitof Alien Effects Designed and Created By: Alex Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. Production Design: Nigel Phelps Costume Design: Bob Ringwood Music: John C. Frizzell Web: Aliens: The Web Site info and music from all three (so far) Aliens films, from biology to bureaucracy. Some good stuff on this 4th film (Alien Resurrection). This site endorsed by Sigourney Weaver. Opening: 26 November 1997 (originally scheduled for 25 July) Running Time: 1 hour, 49 minutes Box Office: ,500,000 domestic + ,400,000 overseas = ,900,000 worldwide in Calendar Year 1997 only, according to "Variety." Here's how: "Alien Resurrection" opened with a strong #2 rating, by grossing ,800,000 during the long 5-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend, on 2,415 screens (,679 average). By way of comparison, the 2nd film in the series ("Aliens") opened with ,100,000 on the regular weekend of 18 July 1986, and "Alien 3" debuted with ,100,000 over the 4-day Memorial Day weekend of 1992. "Alien Resurrection" was outranked only by the surprise #1 debut of The Absent-Minded Professor/Flubber and ranked comfortably above the #3 film: Fox's animated "Anastasia" in its 3rd week (and from some bizarro alternate universe in which all the problems of Russia were caused by Rasputin, with no mention whatever of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Bolsheviks, or communism). Is Fox ashamed of Capitalism, or what? In week #2, "Alien Resurrection" stayed at #2, just below "Flubber", and just ahead of the 3rd week of Paramount's "John Grisham's The Rainmaker." This week, "Alien Resurrection" had a 3-day gross down 60% to ,700,000 on 2,449 screens (,720 average) for a cumulative gross of ,200,000. "Alien Resurrection" plummeted 51% to a #3 week 3-day gross of ,300,000 on 2,326 screens (,401 average) for a #7 ranking and a cumulative gross of ,500,000. It now ranked just below the 4th week of Paramount's "John Grisham's The Rainmaker" and just above Fox's "Anastasia" in that animation's 5th week. By week #4, "Alien Resurrection" had slipped off the top 10 domestic box office list, and I'll add weekly and cumulative rankings and grosses at some future time. Reviews: Leah Rozen, People Magazine: "'Alien Resurrection' rocks! An operatic, juiced-up marvel that pulses with energy." Dennis Cunningham, WCBS-TV: "A startling blast of thrills, action, and sheer stimulating imagination." Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: "A visual marvel!" Terry Morgan, Pasadena Weekly, 28 Nov 1997: "There's little more frustrating to a film critic or even a film lover than see a project with all of the elements for success proceed to fail miserably. It's one thing to see a movie where obviously nobody involved had a clue, much less any ambition towards excellence.... If, however, high expectations are exceeded, it's likely you have a classic on your hands. This was the case with the first two films of the Alien series: one a masterpiece of sci-fi horror, the other one a primer on topnotch action and suspense. 'Alien 3' was a fatal misstep, literally killing off its protagonist, and likely the series as well. Now we have 'Alien Resurrection' here to revive the franchise. Depending on how you look at the glass half full/half empty equation, this movie is either the third best or second worst of the series." "Some time after her suicide, Ripley... has been brought back to life via cloning. This was done specifically to harvest the embryonic alien queen embedded within her, so military scientist [Dr.] Wren can utilize the knowledge. Also on board the research ship are a crew of smugglers including the mysterious Call... When all hell breaks loose, as it inevitably does in dealing with the clever aliens, Call and her shipmates must fight for their lives alongside Ripley. Ripley, however, is not the same woman she once was. now possessing a mental and a genetic kinship with the alien queen. When Call needs to trust her the most, it is not at all certain that she can." "One of the most frustrating things in this movie is that Weaver's new Ripley is actually set up as a pretty intriguing character, but then the fact of her alien kinship is left unaccountably by the wayside halfway through the picture. Why even bring it up if you're not going to do anything with it? Weaver has sly fun with the initial mystery, but she is betrayed by the script. Ryder is seriously underutilized as Call, whose one dramatic plot point is rather silly. The one person who comes out of this well is Ron Perlman, whose energetically abusive performance as one of the smugglers recalls the similarly great Bill Paxton in Aliens, a high compliment. "Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet brings little of the visual creativity he has displayed in earlier films, surely the one thing he was brought onboard to provide. The script by Joss Whedon starts out promising enough but slowly goes nowhere, descending to a conclusion that drew laughs from the audience I saw the film with. Most damning is the utter lack of suspense; the film is largely devoid of scare value. This Resurrection, sadly, doesn't take. Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times, 26 Nov 1997: "If you need to read a review to decide if you want to see 'Alien Resurrection,' you absolutely shouldn't be going.... [the series has] devolved into something that's strictly for hard-core horror junkies who can't get enough of slime, gore and repulsion.... state-of-the-art repulsion... new levels of disgust are reached and surpassed.... French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, whose fascination with highly stylized grotesquerie and pretentious dead-end weirdness was last on display in the unfortunate 'City of Lost Children'".... Cinematographer Darius Khondji's visual style, grandly described in the press kit as 'signature chiaroscuro lighting and muted colors' looks as if it were shot under the sickly fluorescent lighting of a decrepit hospital emergency ward." "One reason 'Alien Resurrection' places so much emphasis on the stomach-turning is that only so much can be done with these films in terms of plot. In fact Ellen Ripley... neatly summarizes what's to come, when she says of the monster, 'She'll breed, you'll die, everyone will die.'" "Yes, Ripley is back, more or less. Dead herself for 200 years, she's been cloned from a drop of her blood (ain't technology grand?)... with one of those unspeakable aliens growing inside her." "All this takes place on the Auriga, a renegade space laboratory under the command of Gen Perez (Dan Hedaya at his most Nixonian). Having missed the previous films, the general's obnoxious minions are under the illusion that the aliens can be made practical use of. 'The potential for this species,' one of them smugly says, 'goes way beyond urban pacification.' You don't say." "Though she's done this three times before, Weaver is actually the best thing in the new 'Alien.' Playing someone dead seems to have liberated the actress in unexpected ways, and her Ripley, fortified with superhuman strength and skills this time around, has enough confidence and panache to amuse and entertain." "Winona Ryder,... attracted to this role apparently because she's a serious sci-fi fan..., mostly looks lost in the film's overstylized environment...." "Simple as all this is in outline, the film's plot still contains a number of too-tricky twists that are explained so fast (it is an emergency, after all) that no one but buffs will be able to figure out what is happening. As an example of the mindless pursuit of misguided self-interest, 'Alien Resurrection' is not much different from the deluded scientists it so archly mocks." Return to MOVIES Table of Contents Return to 1997 SNEAK PREVIEWS Table of Contents

An American Werewolf in Paris

Story: "Things are about to get a little hairy..." Studio: Hollywood Pictures / Cornerstone Pictures / J&M Entertainment Based On: a character created by John Landis in "An American Werewolf in London" Executive Producer: Anthony Waller Producer: Richard Claus Co-Producer: Alexander Buchman Screenplay: Tim Burns & Tom Stern, Anthony Waller Director: Anthony Waller Cinematographer: Egon Werdin Editor: Peter R. Adam Starring: Werewolf Gal -- Julie Delpy American -- Tom Everett Scott ??? -- Vince Vieluf ??? -- Paul Buckman ??? -- Julie Bowen ??? -- Pierre Cosso ??? -- Tom Novembre ??? -- Terry L'Hermitte Music: Wilbert Hirsch Visual Effects: Santa Barbara Studios Production Designer: Mattgias Kammermeier Opening: 25 December 1997 Return to MOVIES Table of Contents Return to 1997 SNEAK PREVIEWS Table of Contents

Anaconda

Story: Amazon expedition by film-crew turns weird as obsessive loner seeks a mythical giant snake creature Studio: Columbia Pictures presents a CL Cinema Line Films Corporation production (Hollywood "power lawyer" Jake Bloom negotiated the 3-year 1st-look contract between Columbia and Cinema Line, which resulted in "Anaconda" and has now expired) Based on: very loosely on "The Feathered Serpent" by D.H. Lawrence, rumor goes Executive Producer: Susan Ruskin (veteran producer, worked closely with Gene Wilder, found script and bought it for Cinema Line in late 1993). Producers: Verna Harrah, Leonard Rabinowitz, Carole Little (Carol Little runs a 0 million Los Angeles-based fashion empire, and it's now chic for fashion moguls to dabble in movies, as with Isaac Mizrahi in "Unzipped." Leonard Rabinowitz is the ex-husband of Carol Little, and Verna Harrah was Leonard's girlfriend. Sounds like a movie right there!) (Verna Harrah says "I'm a big fan of 'Alien' and science fiction movies" so watch for more sci-fi from CL Cinema Line Films Corporation, of which Little & Rabinowitz now own only 5%. Little prefers small arty films such as "Lone Star" and "Sling Blade.") Director: Luis Llosa ("Fire in the Amazon", "The Specialist") Editor: Michael R. Miller, A.C.E. Production Designer: Kirk M. Petruccelli Art Director: Barry Chusid Director of Photography: Bill Butler, ASC Co-producer: Beau Marks Writers: Hans Bauer and Jim Cash & Jack Epps, Jr. Starring: Paul Sarone, the snake hunter -- John Voight John Voight gets mixed reviews. Some say that he's absurdly over the top, hamming it up mercilously, but others say that his intensity makes the movie memorable, and is one of his best performances ever. Danny Rich, the side-kick -- Ice Cube Some reviewers are glad that Ice Cube survives, because "he carries the movie... if Ice Cube wan't in it, you'd be cheering the snake" and others say that he was well cast, with his tough-guy sneer and heart of gold make him someone to root for. Terri Flores, documentary director -- Jennifer Lopez Jennifer Lopez is hot, hot, hot right now. The bubbly New Yorker was the heart and soul of "Selena", winning rave reviews, and worth every penny of her ,000,000. In 1996 she was radiant in "Jack" and in "Blood and Wine." Look for Jennifer Lopez as an Apache Indian in Oliver Stone's forthcoming "U-Turn", starring with Sean Penn and Nick Nolte. Jennifer Lopez plays a brave, physical woman in "Anaconda", about which role she says "that's one of the reasons I took [the part]. I was offered another movie at the same time. It was like 'Am I going to be the woman between two men again, or am I going to be a strong woman character who's a hero of an action movie... I wanted to have control." She admits that "Anaconda" is unintentionally funny, but says "I laughed at it. I think it's hysterical. I mean, what else do you want when you go into a movie? You want to moved emotionally... whether you laugh or you cry... I'm lucky, my movies this year do that." Dr. Stephen Cale, anthropologist -- Eric Stolz Critics complain that the talented Eric Stolz is almost wasted in "Anaconda", being disabled and literally sleeping through most of the film, waking up just in time for heroics. Co-star Jennifer Lopez says "after Eric Stolz is taken out of the loop, there [Terri Flores] is, left with the ball in her hand." Warren Westridge, the narrator -- Jonathan Hyde Gary Dixon, the sound mixer -- Owen Wilson ("Bottle Rocket") Kari Kuhrer, the production manager -- Denise Kaberg Vincent Castellanos -- ??? Special Effects: Walter Conti did 40-foot Animatronic snake; Sony Pictures' Imagworks' John Nelson did digital graphics; waterfall scene where snake captures prey in mid-air is amazing FX magic. No question: this film LOOKS great due to special effects far superior to the script. Music: Randy Edelman Soundtrack: Edel America Records Costume Supervisor: Kathy Monderine Rated PG-13 Opening: 18 April 1997 Review: This film shot to #1 in box office grosses, with ,500,000 in ticket sales on the opening weekend, thereby displacing Jim Carey's "Liar, Liar", which makes my nasty review, below, look pretty foolish. Based on this success, Carole Little and Leonard Rabinowitz are developing new projects through "St. Tropez Films" and sold most of CL Cinema Line Films Corporation to Verna Harrah (widow of gambling casino mogul William F. Harrah). Leonard Rabinowitz and Verna Harrah lived together for 5 years, until December 1996, during which time they bought the original "Anaconda" script from Hans Bauer, went through several rewrites with Jim Cash & Jack Epps, Jr., shot on location in Brazil for 16 weeks (and in the L.A. Arboretum in Arcadia, California). Meanwhile, Carole Little and Leonard Rabinowitz were still married, but their divorce should be final in July 1997, which took off some pressure and made them even better business partners. Isn't Hollywood weird? In the second weekend, box office was ,000,000 for a 2-week total of ,700,000, still at #1 above "Liar Liar" and proving that "The snake has legs" (sorry). "Anaconda" was blasted out of #1 in the third week by Volcano, slipping to #3 with ,300,000 right behind the debut of "Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion." In its fourth week, "Anaconda" was #6, grossing ,000,000 for a four-week total of ,800,000. In Anaconda's week 5 The Fifth Element opened at #1 with ,000,000 on opening weekend, at 2,500 screens for an average of ,813, ranking above the opening of "Father's Day" with Billy Crystal and Robin Williams and above the 2nd week of "Breakdown." Next in line was Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery at #4, Volcano at #5, and Anaconda squeezed in at #8. Anaconda had now cumulatively grossed ,100,000 with ,700,000 on this 5th weekend at 2,302 screens for an average of ,158. Anaconda was right above The Saintat #9 in its 6th week at 1,730 screens for an average of 3, and with a ,800,000 gross. As of 20 May 1997, according to Exhibitor Relations Co., Anaconda ranked 10th, with a 3-day weekend gross of ,200,000 for a total so far of ,000,000 and was on 2,032 screens for ,093 average -- not bad for the 6th week in release. By the weekend of 27-29 June 1997, "Anaconda" had slithered to #20 in the box office list, with a slender 0,000 gross on 200 screens (,028 average) for a cumulative gross of ,600,000 in its 12th week. That put it just below "Gross Pointe Blank" in the ratings. For week #14, including the weekend of 11-13 July 1997, "Anaconda" bit back, rising to #17 with 0,000 weekend gross on 551 screens (4 average) and a cumulative gross of ,300,000. It ranked just below Paramount's "Breakdown" and just above Touchstone's "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion." REVIEWS: Roger Ebert: "Two Thumbs Up! This movie is fun." Thelma Adams, New York Post: "A creepy, crawly guilty pleasure!" Ron Brewington, American Urban Radio Network: "Utterly breathtaking! Great special effects!" R.A., New Times, Los Angeles, 1-7 May 97: "Paraguayans and documentary filmmakers should rise up in protest.... the movie is so unrelentingly idiotic and suspenseless, from the cheesy composite snake to Voight's triple-decker-ham-sandwich performance, that the hissing is likely to come from the audience, not the screen." Susan Granger, SSG Syndicate: "The best creepy, crawly creature film in years!" Anne Brodie, CFTO-TV: "Thrills, chills, squirms and screams... what fun!" But Your Humble Webmaster Says: Excessive, unintentionally funny, scenes intended to be frightening are merely gross (i.e. regurgitated human). Cinematography self aware (camera shot from inside snake's mouth). John Voigt is over the top as Paraguayan snake hunter Paul Sarone, who is caught up in Dr. Steven Cales's (Eric Stoltz) quest for "the Shirishama" -- "the elusive people of the mist." Terri Flores, a documentary director (Jennifer Lopez) wants to capture the Shirishama on film. Kari Kuhrer, production manager (Denise Kaberg) wants to capture a man with her low-cut blouses and miniskirts. And speaking of capturing, snake-obsessed Paul Sarone (John Voight) explains that the Anaconda wants to capture prey: "It holds you tighter than your true love, and you get the privilege of hearing your bones break before the power of their embrace causes your veins to explode." Dr. Stephen Cale passively hides in his tent, John Voigt sneers, leers, snarls, and chews the scenery, muttering classic lines in a pseudo-Paraguayan accent: "Don't make me out a monster, I didn't eat the captain." Director Luis Lopez said in a preview screening, according to Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan, "This film was supposed to be my big break and it turned out to be a big disaster." "L.A. Entertainment's" Eric Layton says "bogged down by a sophomoric script and situations so absurd, you've got to laugh... this film slithers perilously close to ... parody." The snake is 40 feet long. The film seems much longer. Anaconda @ movieweb Return to MOVIES Table of Contents Return to 1997 SNEAK PREVIEWS Table of Contents

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Story: Spoof about swinging 1960's undercover agent who tracks his nemesis Dr.Evil into the late 1990's. The science fiction part of the plot is that Dr.Evil has been both cryogenically frozen and shot into space, and Austin Powers is also cryopreserved to follow his nemesis. Austin Powers official web site very clever web site spoofs the 1960's -- "The Groovy Years" -- with Op Art, Andy Warhol styling, psychedelia, and animation of those silly dance crazes Studio: New Line Cinema presents in association with Capella International/ KC Medien a Moving Pictures/Eric's Boy production Based on: sort of "I Spy" and "The Man From Uncle" meets "The Time Machine" during "30 Something", with a parody-of-a-parody of the Matt Helm and Our Man Flint flicks. Executive Producers: Eric McLeod, Claire Rudnick Polstein Producers: Suzanne Todd, Demi Moore, Jennifer Todd, Mike Meyers Director: Jay Roach Writer: Mike Meyers Editor: Debra Neil-Fisher Starring: Austin Powers -- Mike Meyers Dr.Evil -- also Mike Meyers Vanessa Kensington -- Elizabeth Hurley Basil Exposition -- Michael York Number Two -- Robert Wagner ??? -- Ron Lowe ??? -- Carrie Fisher Mrs. Kensington -- Mimi Rogers Scott Evil -- Set Green Alotta Fagina -- ?? Special Effects: ??? Production Design: Cynthia Charette Director of Photography: Peter Deming Casting: John Papsidera Costumes: Deena Appel Music: George S. Clinton Running Time: 1 hour, 27 minutes Opening: 1 May 1997 Box Office: "Austin Powers" opened at #2, with ,000,000 on its opening weekend. In its 2nd week The Fifth Element opened at #1 with ,000,000 on opening weekend, at 2,500 screens for an average of ,813, ranking above the opening of "Father's Day" with Billy Crystal and Robin Williams and above the 2nd week of "Breakdown." Next in line was Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery at #4, with ,100,000 for the weekend, at 2,1877 screens for an average of ,230 and a cumulative gross of ,500,000. Volcano kept smoking at #5, and Anaconda squeezed in at #8. Anaconda had now cumulatively grossed ,100,000 with ,700,000 on this 5th weekend at 2,302 screens for an average of ,158. Anaconda was right above The Saintat #9 in its 6th week at 1,730 screens for an average of 3, and with a ,800,000 gross. As of 20 May 1997, according to Exhibitor Relations Co., "Austin Powers" ranked 4th (just above Volcano), with a 3-day weekend gross of ,800,000 for a total so far of ,500,000 and was on 2,187 screens for ,672 average -- very good for the 3rd week in release. As of 28 May 1997, according to Exhibitor Relations Co., "Austin Powers" hung on at #4, (well below the megablockbuster The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and the opening week of #2's "Addicted to Love", and just below the 3rd week of The Fifth Element), with a 3-day weekend gross of ,600,000 for a total so far of ,100,000 and was on 2,187 screens for ,578 average -- good for the 4th week in release, especially against the super dinosaurs. In week #5 of release, "Austin Powers" ranked 7th (just below Paramount's "Breakdown" and just above Universal's "Liar Liar") with weekend gross of ,200,000 on 2,118 screens (,499 average) for a cumulative gross of ,300,000. Week #6 missing from database; will attempt to reconstruct. In week #7 of release, "Austin Powers" rebounded to 5th (just below Warner Bros.'s "Addicted to Love" and just above Disney's "Gone Fishin'") with weekend gross of ,100,000 on 1,540 screens (,359 average) for a cumulative gross of ,000,000. The rebound might be due to the tepid #1 opening of Fox's "Speed 2." As it entered week #8 of release, "Austin Powers" retreated to 6th (just below Fox's "Speed 2" in a pallid 2nd week, but pulled ahead of Warner Bros.'s "Addicted to Love" and stayed above Disney's "Gone Fishin'") with weekend gross of ,300,000 on 1,329 screens (0 average) for a cumulative gross of ,500,000. The slip from 5th to 6th was due to the simultaneous openings of Batman & Robin and TriStar's "My Best Friend's Wedding" at #1 and #2. In week 9, "Austin Powers" hung out at #10, with 3-day weekend gross of 1,100 on 993 screens for an average of 6 and cumulative gross of an even ,000,000. It ranked just below the 15th week of Universal's "Liar Liar" and just above the 3rd week of "Ulee's Gold" and the 5th week of "Gone Fishin'." By week #11, "Austin Powers" was off the top-10 list, and ranked at #15, with weekend gross of 0,000 on 772 screens (3 average) and cumulative gross of ,900,000. It ranked just below Orion's "Ulee's Gold" and just above Paramount's "Breakdown." Reviews: John Anderson, Los Angeles Times, 2 May 97 says: "Poor Mike Meyers. Didn't anyone ever tell him that you can't spoof camp?... the satire's long been exhausted... The gag? Upon thawing, both characters [played by Myers] are so out of touch with '90s mores and crime that the result is a comedy of errors. Errors, yes. Comedy, we're not so sure.... the material satirized [James Bond, "The Avenger", "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.] was a good deal more self-aware and therefore hipper than anything Meyers has cooked up.... Along the way, male-anatomy jokes are beaten into the ground with an insistence that's mortifying.... pointless... a movie whose sense of humor is aimed at those far too young to get the big joke, and all but guaranteed to turn off those who do." Leah Rozen, People Magazine: "Effervescent and dead-on funny!" Joanna Langfield, The Movie Minute: "Mike Meyers is a comic genius!" Dianne Kaminsky, CBS-TV, Houston: "Brilliantly funny! The funniest movie since 'Airplane'!" Paul Wunder, WBAI Radio: An hour and a half of non-stop laughter!" Leo Quinones, KIIS-FM, Los Angeles: "Austin Powers is devastatingly hip! Peace, love. 'Austin Powers,' baby!" Joel Siegel, Good Morning America: "'Austin Powers' is a very, very funny movie!" Janet Maslin, The New York Times: "'Hip! Funny! 'Austin's' hard to resist!" Jeffrey Lyons, WNBC-TV News: "Mike Meyers is hilarious!" Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: "'Austin Powers' is as witty a creation as the blissed-out Wayne Campbell!" Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: "A funny movie that only gets funnier!" Siskel & Ebert: "Two thumbs up!" Peter Rainer, New Times, Los Angeles, 1-7 May 97: "It's no secret--Austin Powers is one swingin' mess. If you're hankering to see a movie that sends up swinging '60s London and Carnaby Street and vintage James Bond movies, don't bother to check out Austin Powers.... [which], God forbid, may be a 'personal' film. Or it may be just another stop on Myers's weird-foreigner hit parade--an accented goof to place beside such "Saturday Night Live' creations as Dieter, the host of the German avant-garde show 'Sprockets', and Stewart, the kilted proprietor of the All Things Scottish boutique.... Rip Van Winkle scenario doesn't really hold up because Myers [and]... Roach don't seem to have much sense of the present.... Elizabeth Hurley and Robert Wagner and Michael York stand around looking waxen and clueless...." Jane Horowitz, Los Angeles Times: "Spiffy spoof." Return to MOVIES Table of Contents Return to 1997 SNEAK PREVIEWS Table of Contents

Batman & Robin

Story: The Dynamic Duo, joined by Batgirl, battle Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy Studio: Warner Bros. Based on: Batman characters created by Bob Kane and published by DC Comics see my essay on "Batman" in my Ultimate SF TV site TELEVISION: list of 350+ links, last updated 31 Dec 1996 and see: The Batman - Batfan Page a site dedicated to the 1960's Batman series with history, trivia, villains and heroes (by David W Sutton, Affordable Locksmith). Also, there was a 1949 movie called "Batman and Robin" (reissued in 1986 as "An Evening with Batman and Robin"). The 1949 Columbia film was directed by Spencer Gordon Bennett, and starred Robert Lowrey as Bruce Wayne/Batman, John Duncan as Dick Grayson/Robin, Jane Adams as Vicki Vale, Lyle Talbot as Commissioner Gordon, and an uncredited Eric Wilston as the butler Alfred. The 1949 film was written by Bob Kane (creator of comic books Batman character), George H. Plympton, Joseph F. Poland, and Royal K. Cole. Executive Producers: Benjamin Melinker and Michael E. Uslan Producer: Peter MacGregor-Scott Director: Joel Schumacher Editor: Dennis Virkler, A.C.E. Director of Photography: Stephen Goldblatt, A.S.C. Screenplay: Akiva Goldsman (and uncredited Christopher McQuarrie) Novelizations: Warner Books and Little Brown Starring: Bruce Wayne/Batman -- George Cloony ("E.R.") Dick Grayson/Robin -- Chris O'Donnell Barbara Wilson/Batgirl -- Alicia Silverstone ("Clueless") Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze -- Arnold Schwarzenegger (recovered from elective heart surgery) Poison Ivy -- Uma Thurman ("Pulp Fiction") Alfred Pennyworth -- Michael Gough Commissioner Gordon -- Pat Hingle Julie Madison -- Elle Macpherson Dr. Jason Woodrue -- John Glover Bane -- Jeep Swenson Mrs. B. Haven -- Vivica A. Fox Nora Fries -- Vendela Kirsebom Banker -- Coolio Gossip Gerty -- Elizabeth Sanders Special Effects: John Dykstra, A.S.C., Matt Sweeny Stunts: skating, hockey, skyboarding Production Designer: Barbara Ling ("Batman Forever") created new Bat-vehicles, redesigned Wayne Manor, Gotham City's museum and observatory, headquarters for Mr.Freeze and Poison Ivy Music: Elliott Goldenthal Soundtrack Album: Warner Sunset Records, featuring music by The Smashing Pumpkins, Jewel, R. Kelly, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, R.E.M. Costumes: Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze incorporated 2,500 "grain of wheat" lightbulbs strung together with wires, making to the total costume weight over 50 pounds. His "leisure wear" of furry slippers and robe (decorated with rhinestone-eyed polar bears) weighed over 45 pounds. Uma Thurman's Poison Ivy costume is a magenta gorilla suit stitched together from 448 Santa Claus wigs and beards with black tips and roots. Budget: 5,000,000 Running Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes Web: Batman and Robin posters this web site has graphical "teasers" from storyboard, trailer, set photos, and posters. It leads you through four different web pages, one each for Batman, Robin, Mr.Freeze, and Poison Ivy. Opening: 20 June 1997 Box Office: 7,300,000 domestic + 6,400,000 overseas = 3,700,000 worldwide in Calendar Year 1997 only, according to "Variety." Here's how: "Batman and Robin" enjoyed the 7th highest non-holiday 3-day opening ever, with a powerful ,900,00 weekend gross on 2,934 screens, for a per-screen average of ,612. This put it at roughly double the gross of TriStar's "My Best Friend's Wedding", which had the hottest opening gross of any romantic comedy at ,700,000. Disney/Touchstone's "ConAir" slipped to #3. Warner Bros. executives were shocked when "Batman and Robin" plummeted to #3 in the 2nd weekend, grossing ,700,000 on 2,942 screens for a diminished ,349 average. The cumulative gross was ,200,000 as the Dynamic Duo was beaten by the opening of Paramount's "Face/Off" and by the resurgent Hercules. "Batman and Robin" barely edged out Sony/TriStar's surprisingly successful "My Best Friend's Wedding" which grossed ,000,000 in its 2nd weekend for a cumulative gross of ,200,000. "Batman and Robin" was not helped much by Disney/Touchstone's "Con Air" dropping dramatically to #5 in its 4th week week ,900,000 gross and cumulative ,500,000. The 3rd week provided a further 29% drop in "Batman and Robin" gross, with ,200,000 for the weekend (,816 per screen) and a cumulative gross of ,700,000. At #5, it was ranked just below "My Best Friend's Wedding" (down only 3% in its 3rd week) and just above the debut of the Fox comedy "Out to Sea." In Week #4, "Batman and Robin" dropped another 49% to 7th place, with weekend gross of ,100,000 on 2,701 screens (,513 average), cumulatively raking in ,800,000. It ranked just below the 2nd week of Fox's "Out to Sea", and just above the 6th week of "Con Air." Much of this slippage can be ascribed to the powerhouse pair on top of the market: Men In Black in its second week at #1, and Contact opening at #2. The science fiction audience is spread thin this summer! "Batman and Robin" slid further to #10 in week #5. The weekend gross was ,800,000 on 1,916 screens (a diminished 9 average) for cumulative gross of 2,800,000. Warner Bros. execs boasted about breaking the 0,000,000 barrier in just 5 weeks, but their boasts sounded hollow -- some experts said that this would kill the Btamna franchise. To the contrary, rumors flew hot and heavy about who would star in the next Batman film, with Madonna's name being frequently mentioned. Reviews: Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times, 20 June 1997: "The strutting bully that was the Batman franchise is no more. 'Batman and Robin' ... preens and blusters, but there's no knockout punch... so overloaded with hardware and stunts, it's a relief to have it over... lives and dies by the aesthetic of excess, the familiar idea that anything worth doing is worth overdoing. You may admire its surface, but it's far too slick for even a toehold's worth of connection.... has the eerie feeling of having no beginning, no middle, and no end. Watching it is like stumbling into the world's longest coming attractions trailer, or a product reel for a special effects house... the family values 'Batman'... While 'Batman and Robin' is not lacking in events, its crises are invariably bogus... indifferently acted.... If all else fails, and it invariably does, it is possible to admire the scenery in 'Batman and Robin.' Really.... a massive Gotham City that never fails to intrigue the eye... all that money can buy... it's a shame that money can't buy even more." Bill Klein, NBC-TV: "The Best 'Batman' ever! More action! More special effects! More humor! More everything!" Liz Smith, L.A. Times Syndicate: "The Best of the 'Batman' movies. The summer's super treat. An enviable supercast of charismatic actors. A heck of a good time." Bonnie Churchill, National News Syndicate: "The Best 'Batman' ever! Joel Shumacher has pulled out all the stops. Action films don't get better than this." Ron Brewington, American Urban Radio Networks: "The summer hit! Sensational entertainment! Non-stop, kick-butt action." Bobby Wygant, NBC-TV: "The most spectacular 'Batman' ever!" Jules Peimer, WKDM Radio: "Hop in the Batmobile for the thrill of your life. A sure-fire hit. A sizzling blockbuster." Don Stotter, Entertainment Time-Out and Network One: "Spectacular. Tops any 'Batman' ever!" Patty Spitler, CBS-TV: "This Batman' is the best bang for your buck! Non-stop, over-the-top action." Jeffrey Lyons, WNBC-TV: "The special effects are astonishing! A blockbuster. Astonishing. Oscar-calibre special effects."" Joy Browne, WOR Radio (New York): "My favorite 'Batman' so far! It's funny, sexy and delightful!" Peter Rainer, New Times (Los Angeles), 19-25 June 1997: "Bring earplugs to 'Batman and Robin.' A pair of noseplugs wouldn't hurt either.... one long head-splitting exercise in clueless cacophony... the real bad guy is Mr.Sound.... 'Batman and Robin' features George Clooney as Batman, who's a staunch and square-jawed as the Jerry Robinson/Bill Finger Batman of the 1950s comics -- or Adam West. Clooney doesn't go in for a lot of heavy brooding like his predecessors, particularly Michael Keaton; Clooney's Bruce Wayne isn't tortured any longer, just a little annoyed.... Any display of bona fide human emotion in this enterprise is quickly quashed by the din.... The opening credits give us full frontal body armor and codpieces, and, in a touching display of gallantry on the part of the filmmakers, Batman's and Robin's bodysuit nipples are far more pronounced than Batgirl's. [Mr.] Freeze's get-up is the one original touch in the movie; he's like a cross between a steroid-pumped Tin Man and Brigitte Helm from Fritz lang's Metropolis.... [no] penchant for satire, or humor above the level of an Afterschool Special. But [Poison Ivy by Uma] Thurman has her moments, especially when she's blowing pink love dust at her victims; she's like a rain-forest Mae West. She's the only actor in this film who seems to know what to do with a laugh line....The people who made this movie -- which, as always, is set up for a sequel -- will be laughing all the way to the bank. Tom Shales: "The goal of 'Batman and Robin' is to beat you as senseless as it is... numbing... no glee or excitement... dark... so dark, you wonder if billionaire Bruce Wayne didn't pay his electric bill... everything and nothing is happening up there on the screen... a lover's quarrel... codpieces big enough for a whole school of cod... [Batgirl] serves no function, and isn't believable anyway... Mr.Freeze ... seems to have a good time ... carefully monosyllabic ... this movie isn't worth stealing, but two women steal it anyway... [Alicia Silverstone is] saucy and spunky... Alfred contributes to a subplot... the very disease that took Mr.Freeze's wife's life... an attempt to control death itself, duhhh, right ... Clockwork Orange crowd... many parts of Gotham City look like Dresden after the war... an 800 ton gorilla... proposed titles for the next film in the series, 'Batman Gets Killed' or 'Batman Comes Out' or 'Batman meets Godzilla, and Godzilla wins." Joel Siegel, Good Morning America: "A lot of fun." Michael Medved, New York Post: "Dazzling. Breathtaking." Jack Matthews, Newsday: "The most stunning picture out there." Janet Maslin, The New York Times: "Big. Bold. Lavish." Gene Siskel: "Dazzling. Action-filled. High-powered." Jim Ferguson, Prevue: "Wonderful fun. An exciting adventure." Return to MOVIES Table of Contents Return to 1997 SNEAK PREVIEWS Table of Contents

James Bond 18: Tomorrow Never Dies

Story: 007 keeps having adventures and romances, this time with the star of Lois & Clark, who plays the wife of a powerful and deadly media mogul with ties to the secret past of James Bond Studio: United Artists / Danjaq Productions / Eon Based on: the immortal creation of Ian Fleming's novels, James Bond, 007 Director: Roger Spottiswoode Producer: Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli Line Producer: Anthony Wayne Screenplay: Bruce Feirstein Editors: Michel Arcand, Dominique Fortin Starring: James Bond, 007 -- Pierce Brosnan (007 in "GoldenEye"; TV's "Remington Steele", "The Mirror Has Two Faces", "Mars Attacks!", "Dante's Peak", "The Deceivers", The Fourth Protocol", "Mr.Johnson", "Death Train", "The Lawnmower Man", "Mrs.Doubtfire, "Love Affair") [Bond Girl, Villain's Wife] -- Teri Hatcher ("Lois & Clark") Jack Wade -- Joe Don Baker Miss Moneypenny -- Samantha Bond "M" -- Judi Dench "Q" -- Desmond Llewelyn Stamper (Henchman) -- Gotz Otto Elliott Carver (The Villain) -- Jonathan Pryce Wai Lin -- Michelle Yeoh Henry Gupta -- Ricky Jay Robinson -- Colin Salmon Admiral Roebuck -- Geoffrey Palmer Minister of Defense -- Julian Fellowes General Bukharin -- Terence Rigby PR Lady -- Daphne Deckers Dr. Kaufman -- Vincent Schiavelli Dr. Dave Greenwalt -- Colin Stinton Master Sergeant 3 -- Al Matthews Stealth Boat Captain -- Mark Spalding HMS Chester: Captain -- Bruce Alexander HMS Chester: Firing Officer -- Anthony Green HMS Devonshire: Commander Richard Dey -- Christopher Bowen HMS Devonshire: Lieutenant Commander Peter Hume -- Andrew Hawkins HMS Devonshire: Lieutenant Commander -- Dominic Shaun HMS Devonshire: Yeoman -- Julian Rhind-Tutt HMS Devonshire: Leading Seaman -- Gerard Butler HMS Devonshire: Sonar -- Adam Barker HMS Bedford: Admiral Kelly -- Michael Byrne HMS Bedford: Captain -- Pip Torens HMS Bedford: Air Warfare Officer -- Hugh Bonneville HMS Bedford: Principal Warfare Officer -- Jason Watkins HMS Bedford: Yeoman -- Eoin McCarthy First Sea Lord -- David Ashton Staff Officer 1 -- William Scott-Masson Staff Officer 2 -- Laura Brattan Nadia Cameron -- Beth Davidson Liza Ross -- Mary Golson Jeff Hobbs -- Hugo Napier Philip Jones -- Rolf Saxon MIG Pilot -- Vincent Wang General Chang -- Philip Kwok ??? -- Cecile Thomsen Special Effects: Cinesite (Europe) Ltd., The Computer Film Company, Rushes, The Frame Store Special Effects: John Richardson (supervisor), Chris Corbould Production Design: Allan Cameron Music: David Arnold, Frank Denson Costume Design: Lindy Hemming Title Song: Sheryl Crow Gossip: 5 years ago Pierce Brosnan's wife Cassie died of ovarian cancer, now he is married to Keely Shaye-Smith (reporter on TV's "Unsolved Mysteries") and have just had their first child together (Dylan Thomas Brosnan), Pierce's 4th (including the 2 of Cassie's whom he adopted). Pierce is busy producing "The Nephew", a low-budget drama set in Ireland (with his partner Bill St.Clar), using his own ,200,000. He'll star in James Bond 19 (still untitled) with Hong Kong actress Michelle Khan as female lead. Lawsuits: there's a big legal tangle over exactly who has the right to make new James Bond films. There are two contenders, and the messy story will be explained here Real Soon Now... Opening: 19 December 1997 Box Office: "Tomorrow Never Dies" had a thrilling debut week, opening at #2, with a 3-day weekend gross of ,100,000 on 2,807 screens (,957 average). It had opened about a week earlier in Great Britain and other overseas countries, and had grossed a hefty ,000,000 worldwide by Tuesday 23 December 1997. It karate chopped the amazing Scream 2 down to #3, and was barely edged out of place by the #1 debut of Paramount/Fox's "Titanic" (which grossed ,600,000 on 2,674 screens during the same 3-day weekend). In Week #2, "Tomorrow Never Dies" held on to #2 ranking, down 19% to a 3-day weekend gross of ,500,000 on 2,807 screens (,296 average). Again, it was below "Titanic" (which grossed ,500,000 in its 2nd week), and this time was about ,000,000 above the #3 debut of the Sony/TriStar comedy starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt: "As Good As It Gets" Week #3: to be done In Week #4, "Tomorrow Never Dies" to #5 ranking, down 45% to a 3-day weekend gross of ,500,000 on 2,807 screens (,683 average). It ranked below the #3 week of New Line's political comedy "Wag the Dog", and well above the #6 DreamWorks live-action "Mouse Hunt" in that film's 4th week. The domestic cumulative gross now stood at 3,400,000 and the worldwide gross at 1,000,000. Reviews: {to be done} Return to MOVIES Table of Contents Return to 1997 SNEAK PREVIEWS Table of Contents

Contact

Story: Astronomer picks up radio signal from extraterrestrial civilization, and experts use it to build a warp-drive spaceship to the core of the galaxy Studio: Warner Bros. presents a Southside Amusement Company production Based on: novel "Contact" by CARL SAGAN (with Ann Druyan now co-credited for the Story) Executive Producers: Joan Bradshaw and Lynda Obst Producer: Steve Starkey (teamed with Robert Zemeckis on "Forrest Gump) Co-Producers: Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Screenplay: James V. Hart, Michael Goldenberg Director: Robert Zemeckis ("Back to the Future", "Forrest Gump", "Romancing the Stone", Who Framed Roger Rabbit", "Death Becomes Her") Cinematography: Don Burgess, A.S.C. Editor: Arthur Schmidt Producer: Lynda Obst [In 1980 Lynda Obst was the development executive who bought the story from Carl Sagan, on a contract to PolyGram Pictures under Peter Guber. She, Sagan, and his wife Ann Druyan developed the story into a 113-page treatment. Guber turned into a producer and took the project to Warner Bros. where he was busy developing several scripts that remained in "development hell." The Guber took over Sony Pictures Entertainment and naturally attempted to carry "Contact" with him, but Warner Bros. would not let go of it, and handed it to Lynda as producer. In 1991 Warner Bros. "greenlighted" the movie, and invested in five rewrites of the screenplay. Now, at last, we'll see the results of this 17 years of development.] Starring: Ellie Arroway (discoverer of ET) -- Jodie Foster White House Assistant Chief of Staff -- Angela Bassett ("Waiting to Exhale", "Strange Days") Palmer Joss (spiritual advisor to the President, in love with Jodie Foster's character) -- Matthew McConaughey National Security Advisor Michael Kitz -- James Woods Dr. David Drumlin -- Tom Skerrit S. R. Hadden -- John Hurt Richard Rank -- Rob Lowe Ted Arroway -- David Morse Kent Cullers (Kent Clark?) -- William Fichtner Rachel Constantine -- Angela Bassett U.S. President -- Sidney Poitier Ellie Arroway's Lawyer -- William Aylward Young Ellie Arroway -- Jena Malone Fisher -- Geoffrey Blake Vernon -- Sami Chester Davio -- Timothy McNeil Cantina Woman -- Laura Elena Surillo Minister -- Henry Strozier Hadden Suit -- Michael Chaban Willie - Max Martini Larry King -- Larry King Ian Broderick -- Thomas Garner KOB-TV Reporter -- Conroy Chino Jeremy Roth -- Dan Gifford Senator Valencia -- Vance Valencia Donna J. Kelley -- Donna J. Kelley Leon Harris -- Leon Harris Claire Shipman -- Claire Shipman Middle Eastern Anchor -- Behrooz Afrakhan Japanese Anchor -- Saemi Nakamura Latina Anchor -- Maria Celeste Arraras Tabitha Soren -- Tabitha Soren Geraldo Rivera -- Geraldo Rivera British Anchor -- Ian Whitcomb Jay Leno -- Jay Leno Natalie Allen -- Natalie Allen Robert D. Novak -- Robert D. Novak Geraldine Ferraro -- Geraldine Ferraro Ann Druyan -- Ann Druyan Richard Rank -- Rob Lowe Tech -- Mak Takano Joseph -- Jake Busey Kathleen Kennedy -- Kathleen Kennedy Decryption Hacker -- Michael Albala Major Demo -- Leo Lee Chairman of Joint Chiefs -- William Jordan Joint Chief -- David St.James Jill Dougherty -- Jill Dougherty Drumlin Aide -- Haynes Brooke John Holliman -- John Holliman Bobbie Battista -- Bobbie Battista Dee Dee Myers -- Dee Dee Myers Bryant Gumbel -- Bryant Gumbel Linden Soles -- Linden Soles Major Russell -- Steven Ford Major Russell's Son -- Alexander Zemeckis Major Russell's Daughter -- Janie Peterson French Committee Member -- Philippe Bergeron Doctor Patel -- Jennifer Balgobin British Committee Member -- Anthony Fife Hamilton NASA Public Relations -- Rebecca T. Beucler NASA Technician -- Marc Macaulay Voice of NASA -- Pamela Wilsey ??? -- Eamonn Hunt Special Effects: ??? Steve Starkey told the L.A. Times "I don't think we're going to be classified as science fiction as such. This story feels like real drama--it's set in 1997-- so when it starts drifting into uncharted territory, you don't know when that happens. We don't start the movie with a gigantic spaceship going overhead and a man in a black suit." Music: Alan Silvestri Soundtrack: Warner Bros. Records, CDs, and Tapes Production Design: Ed Verreaux Location: The Very Large Array network of radio telescopes operated in Socorro, New Mexico, by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory Budget: ,000,000 Opening: 11 July 1997 Web: Contact: the Movie official site Box Office: "Contact" opened at a remarkably strong #2, beaten only by the super-smash Men In Black in that other alien flick's 2nd week. The serious science fiction drama of "Contact", as opposed to the sophisticated spoof of "Men in Black", grossed ,600,000 for the weekend on 1,923 screens for a solid ,705 average (the best per-screen gross of any film this week). It has almost twice the gross of the #3 film, Paramount's "Face/Off" in its 3rd week. The high public interest in the Pathfinder/Sojourner unmanned Mars mission may have helped. Co-author Ann Druyan made numerous TV appearances, ably speaking for her late husband Carl Sagan. Ann Druyan spoke at the Planetary Society's "PlanetFest '97" in Pasadena, where thousands of people joined scientists, astronauts, and science fiction authors for a look at the incoming Mars pictures. Your Humble Webmaster actually declined a chance for a free screening of "Contact" before its official opening, due to schedule pressure. And I hate to miss a screening. My review will have to appear here later this month. In Week #2, "Contact" was edged out of 2nd place by the debut of George of the Jungle. "Contact" grossed ,100,000 for the weekend (0,000 less than the Walt Disney apeman spoof) on 2,194 screens (a strong ,345 average) for a cumulative 2-week gross of ,400,000. In Week #3, "Contact" descended to 4th place, still below week #2 of George of the Jungle. "Contact" grossed ,700,000 for the weekend on 2,314 screens (,194 average) for a cumulative 3-week gross of ,000,000. The slip from #3 to #4 can surely be ascribed to the Sony/Columbia powerhouse "Air Force One", which opened at #1 with ,100,000 to become the top non-holiday opening this year and the all-time hottest opening between 4th of July and Labor Day. "Contact" ranked just above the inane Paramount debut of "Good Burger." In its 4th week, "Contact" slid to #6, just below the ,800,000 debut of Fox's "Picture Perfect" (which was fine with Fox, who'd only spent ,000,000 on the picture). "Contact" ranked just above the Walt Disney kid-and-dog flick "Air Bud" which opened with a disappointing ,700,000 in 7th place. I think it good news that people would rather see extraterrestrial contact than a dog playing basketball. {week 5 missing from database, will reconstruct later} The 5th science fiction film in the top-10, Warner Bros.' Contact, slipped to 9th in its 6th week. More precisely, "Contact" slipped 36% from week #5 to week #6, with 3-day weekend gross of ,900,000 on 1,451 screens (,980 average) and a respectable 6-week cumulative gross of ,600,000. This put it well below the 1-2-3 triple blockbusters of Miramax's "Cop Land" debut with a stellar cast headed by Sly Stallone, the 4th week of Sony/Columbia's "Air Force One", and the 2nd week of Warner Bros.' Mel Gibson vehicle "Conspiracy Theory." Thus, Event Horizon was the leader of the 4-5-6-7 sci-fi quad with #5 New Line's Spawnin its 3rd week, #6 Disney's George of the Jungle in its 5th week, and #7 Sony/Columbia's Men In Black in its 7th week. "Contact" ranked just below Fox's "Picture Perfect" and just above Gramercy's "How to Be a Player." Once "Contact" slipped off the top 10, its run was by no means over. For example, after 13 weeks in release (the weekend of 3-5 October 1997) "Contact" grossed 0,000 in a 3-day weekend on 896 screens (8 average) for a cumulative gross of ,000,000. Although the ranking had dwindled to #12, the film was ready to crack the 0,000,000 blockbuster level by mid-October -- good news for the future of genuine Science Fiction in the movies. Web: CARL SAGAN Eulogy by his foremost protege Contact--the Movie official web site Lawsuits: This film is now tied up in a lawsuit between producer/director Francis Ford Coppola and the estate of Carl Sagan. Coppola claims that Sagan contracted with him to do a TV miniseries of "Contact" and that the movie infringes this deal. Mrs.Sagan counterclaims that Coppola waited until after Carl Sagan died to launch this lawsuit, because Carl would have denied the deal. Feelings run hot on both sides of this argument. Fans just want to see the movie, which promises a new level of special effects, astronomical concepts, and space-time travel based on equations from Caltech's Black Holes and Spacewarp expert professor Kip Thorne and his graduate students. Reviews: Arch Campbell, WRC-TV, Washington, DC: "One of the best movies of the decade." Gene Shalit, Today: "The season's first superb major motion picture. Jodie Foster gives it everything she's got--which is plenty. 'Contact' is gripping and stunning." Siskel & Ebert: "Two thumbs up!" Pat Collins, WWOR-TV: "Remarkable. Thoughtful. Wonderful. Another Oscar for Jodie Foster." Susan Granger, SSG Syndicate: "'Contact' is dazzling and utterly amazing! Zemeckis' visionary film combines the science-fiction of 'Close Encounters' with the humanity of 'Forrest Gump.' You must see 'Contact'!" Terry Morgan, Pasadena Weekly , 18 July 1997: "Science fiction is an odd genre. This is not to talk about the bug-eyed monsters or zap guns or alien landscapes; science fiction is a weird genre because while masquerading as the future it is always a story about now. On some level the sci-fi story will always be the projection of the author's fears or desires, the future as utopia or dystopia It's a genre entirely dependent on time. The wild futuristic concerns of Jules Verne are today anachronisms, today's 'Apollo 13' would have seemed thoroughly unbelievable 40 years ago. What is interesting about the new film 'Contact' is that it delves behind the core of all science fiction, from the existential question of 'is anything out there?' to the spiritual question of 'why are we alone?'" "Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) is listening for answers. Alone most of her adult life, through her work as a radio astronomer she is searching for meaning that has otherwise eluded her. This changes one day when she does indeed find something, a coded message from deep space, the first contact from an alien intelligence. Decoded, the message turns out to be schematics to build a ship, a vehicle that will apparently take one person to meet the aliens. Ellie would seem to be the obvious choice but she has plenty of governmental opposition. Even if she does go, the retrieving of the answers she's always been searching for may cost her her life." "Foster is well cast as the determined but only human Arroway, her performance detailing the cost of pursuing any big dream. Matthew McConaughey fares less favorably as her ex-lover/media guru, his character essentially there only to move the plot forward at one or two points, more of a thematic idea than a role. Tom Skerritt is hissably fine as Arroway's egotistical boss, and John Hurt is wonderfully deranged as her megarich business sponsor." "Director Robert Zemeckis is to be commended for attempting such an original piece of work, a story about the first contact that is more about the desire for there to be extraterrestrial life (or God) than about the consequences of meeting it. Similarly, Carl Sagan whose book this is based on, and the screenwriters James V. Hart and Michael Goldenberg, deserve kudos. Therein lies the problem with 'Contact', however. As happy as I was to watch the political machinations surrounding such an event, and as excited as I was to listen to the theological discourse (intelligent fare in a Hollywood movie), I was genuinely let down when the contact is finally made. The way it occurs makes a certain amount of sense and plays into the film's finale, but after a long debate on faith vs. science, I wanted a payoff, and in this movie the conclusion is deliberately weak. On some level this is admirable, rigorously maintaining the sense of reality, but on a movie-going level I was disappointed. 'Contact' works as smart drama, but as sci-fi it ultimately fails to deliver." Peter Rainer, New Times (Los Angeles), 10-16 July 1997, p.26: "A lot of ink has been shed in the press lately about the 'seriousness' of ['Contact'].... 'Forrest Gump made Zemeckis a guru; now he's being primed as a philosopher king. Is it rude to suggest that the high-mindedness of 'Contact'--the deepthink about science and religion and the soullessness of modern society--isn't on a much more elevated plane than most science-fantasy books and movies?" "Just about every piece of sci-fi has its mite of 'meaning.' In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find a sci-fi movie--even 'Attack of thre Crab Monsters'--that doesn't work in the Is God Out There? angle. 'Contact' is being applauded because is presumes to rise above its origins, when its origins are all-of-a-piece with its pretension." "And 'Contact' sure is pretentious. It doesn't deliver on the deepthink, and it lacks the charge of good, honest pulp. It's schlock without the schlock.... It's too chunky with data, and it barely registers a romance...." "With his principled scepticism and his genius for popularizing science, [Carl] Sagan certainly was a force for good in the world, but--bless his heart--he wasn't much of a pulpster or sentimentalist... his characters were mouthpieces in the maelstrom... what still comes through in the book is the spiritedness of the scientist's quest... we can still respond to Sagan's ecstatic commingling with the universe." "But [the filmmakers] are gassy with uplift. They provide the sob-sister sentimentalities and sermonettes that Sagan was too smart, or too clueless, to include.... [they] don't build on the intelligence in the book; they tenderize it. 'Contact' is a movie about intelligence that doesn't credit the audience with having much of it...creaky prologue... soggy psychologizing..." "Ellie's counterpart, in one of the weirdest roles in recent movies, is ... Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey) [who] shows up looking shaggy and hip--less Billy Graham than Bruce Springsteen.... If the filmmakers had any sense of fun, they would have had Ellie the Unbeliever cry out 'Oh. God!' in the throes of passion [when Joss gets lucky on his first date with Ellie]." "What would any of us really do if we were contacted by extraterrestrials? It's a large question. 'Contact' brings it back down to Earth with a thud by undercutting the awe with blather from government agency types {to be done}" Bernard Weinraub, New York Times, 6 July 1997, p. H9: "Robert Zemeckis is scared. Not scared simply because his new film, 'Contact,' is appearing in the most crowded summer season in movie history. he's especially scared because it's a million studio film that was made for -- pardon the expression -- grown-ups, a film that confronts the tensions between science and religion, intellect and faith." "There's not a dinosaur in sight." "'There are no villains in black hats, no car crashes and explosions, no gunfire,' Mr.Zemeckis said... 'It's got some big special effects, but... the pressure is on me because I feel responsible for the possibility that if this film doesn't work, it'll be harder for the next guy to make a film about SOMETHING...' His most notable successes... are stamped by an unusual blend of comedy, special effects and fantasy, but all have an underlying seriousness. And even his mishaps, like 'Death Becomes Her,' a surprisingly sour comedy, have displayed a sense of invention rare in mainstream Hollywood movies." "If any director could be expected to make a hit fantasy-drama that revolves around difficult ideas--at the same time saving a project that had been on the drawing boards for almost 20 years-- it's Mr.Zemeckis. Still, he and his producers are anxious." "'This film does not underestimate the American public,' said Lynda Obst... 'If we're right, it's fantastic. And if we're not, well, it'll make moviegoing just a bit more dreary.'" The movie centers on the astronomer Ellie Arroway [Jodie Foster] whose life has been dedicated to proving the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life." "One morning, amid the huge listening dishes... Arroway has her belief vindicated when she receives a message from a distant star.... In the international frenzy that follows, Arroway fights the whims of bureaucracy to maintain control of her communications with the alien civilization. But beyond this, she seeks to square her commitment to science, which has been all-consuming, with her dawning awareness of theological concerns...." "'Hopefully, the movie provokes us to ask the questions that Carl [Sagan] asked all his life about our place in the universe,' said Ms.Obst. 'Is there intelligent design to the universe? Are we alone? If we are alone, what does that mean, and if we're not what does it mean.'" "Such questions are generally not the sort raised by Hollywood movies these days, and underlying that fact is a large practical question: can a lavish film be about intellectual issues but also have enough drama to lure big audiences?" "'The hope is, there's enough spectacle that people will feel entertained and be able to enjoy the intellectual side of the film,' said [producer] Steve Starkey... 'Bob [Zemeckis] always likes quoting [Francois] Truffaut that good cinema is a blend of truth and spectacle. That's what, we hope, embodies 'Contact.'" On-Line Audience Raves (these and more on the website listed above): Daniel Alonso, Miami FL: "I was totally amazed and overjoyed after seeing this movie. Thank you for making a movie that I could recommend to anyone to see." Mimi, Lansing MI: "A few hours ago I saw 'Contact.' I saw the movie with my kids, 10 and 12 years old. We all loved it. This was a magnificent film." Gary Greene, Woodinville WA: "Not since '2001: A Space Odyssey' have I been impressed and moved by a motion picture! Congratulations on a masterpiece of filmmaking." Return to MOVIES Table of Contents Return to 1997 SNEAK PREVIEWS Table of Contents

Crash

Story: Death and Sex are surrealistically connected by automobile accidents Studio: Fine Line Based on: J. G. Ballard's novelette, considered unfilmable by many experts Executive Producers: Robert Lantos, Jeremy Thomas Co-Executive Producers: Chris Auty, Andras Hamori, Producer: David Cronenberg Co-Producers: Stephane Reichel, Marilyn Stonehouse Director: David Cronenberg Assistant Director: David Webb Writer: David Cronenberg Cinematographer: Peter Suschitzky Editor: Ronald Sanders Starring: James Ballard -- James Spader, in black leather (car interior in "warm leatherette") Catherine (Mrs. James Ballard) -- Deborah Kara Unger Dr. Helen Remington -- Holly Hunter Gabrielle -- Rosanna Arquette Vaughan -- Elias Koteas Jackie Kennedy -- Christine Carmichael Colin Seagrave -- Peter MacNeill Vera Seagrave -- Cheryl Swarts Airport Hooker -- Yolande Julian Salesman -- Judah Katz Tatooist -- Nicky Guadagni A. D. -- Ronn Sarosiak Grip -- Boyd Banks Man in Hanger -- Markus Parilo Camera Girl -- Alice Poon Trask -- John Stoneham, Jr. Auto Wreck Salesman (voice) -- David Cronenberg (uncredited) Production Design: Carol Spier Costume Design: Denise Cronenberg Special Effects Coordinator: Michael Kavanaugh Music: Howard Shore (orchestration, conductor) Location: Toronto (although the setting was London in the book) Opening: Spring 1997 REVIEWS: Highly mixed reviews, due to sexually explicit, techno-sadomasochistic nature. Details: Manhola Dargis, L.A. Weekly, 21-27 March 1997: "Perhaps the most sexless movie ever made about sex, death and cars. Set in an antiseptic metropolis in the near future, it's a dreamy, droning story about a handful of car crash survivors who come together again and again--automotively, habitually, orgasmically--in order to retrieve the erotic charge of their crackups, ecstatic fusions of steel and skin, fuel and blood.... meant to explore the death of feeling in the modern world with clinical, stomach-churning accounts of abraded, layed, and violated flesh.... Cronenberg's version of "Crash" by contrast [with Ballard's text] is a model of aesthetic humility... an aggressively unerotic choreography of deviant sex and bad driving... a fugue of mood and meaning... disaffected in a late 20th century kind of way... a flatline of a movie... chock- full of bravura set-pieces--Cronenberg has invented a memorable prosthesis for James' gnarled leg, along with a wonderful scene that re-creates James Dean's fatal smash-up as the ultimate in performance art--but he's taken a gravely literal, at times absurd approach to Ballard's concept of the loss of affect. All the actors... deliver their lines in groggy monotones and move as if swimming through aspic.... For all the director's visual flair, his trademark flashes of gallows humor and his few good moments (Rosanna Arquette's Gabrielle, a minor character in the book, is one of the movie's perverse triumphs), there's never a sense that he's made 'Crash' fully his own.... That doesn't take away the real shock of the movie.... The problem is, there's nothing BUT shock... no anguish, revulsion, heat or transcendence... No wonder his characters look so bummed--like us, they're suffering from post-ironic burnout." M.S., New Times, Los Angeles, 1-7 May 97: "Cult auteur David Cronenberg crashes and burns--his talent, that is--in this vain attempt at a techno-age 'Persona'.... It follows a demented explorer named Vaughan... into an insane new world where twisted metal, curvy skin, automotive oil, and bodily fluids merge into a carnal cocktail.... Cronenberg settles for putting this vision on-screen... with an analytic coolness and simplicity. It's a rank miscalculation." Return to MOVIES Table of Contents Return to 1997 SNEAK PREVIEWS Table of Contents

Dante's Peak

Story: Small-town mayor and volcanologist warn about pending volcano eruption in Los Angeles Studio: Universal Pictures presents a Pacific Western production Executive Producer: Ilona Hertzberg Producers: Gale Anne Hurd & Joseph M. Singer Director: Roger Donaldson Writer: Leslie Bohem (and uncredited Allan Scott) Cinematography: Andrzej Bartkowiak Starring: Volcanologist Harry Dalton -- Pierce Brosnan Mayor Rachel Wando -- Linda Hamilton Paul Dreyfus -- Charles Hallahan Lauren Wando -- Jamie Renee Smith Graham Wando -- Jeremy Foley Ruth -- Elizabeth Hoffman Greg -- Grant Heslov Terry Furlong -- Kurt Trutner Nancy -- Arabella Field Stan -- Tzi Ma Les Worrell -- Brian Reddy Dr. Jane Fox -- Lee Garlington Sheriff Turner -- Bill Bolender Mary Kelly -- Carole Androsky Norman Gates -- Peter Jason Jack Collins -- Jeffrey L. Ward Elliott Blair -- Tim Haldeman Marianne -- Walker Brandt Warren Cluster -- Hansford Rowe Karen Narlington -- Susie Spear others {to be done} Special Digital Effects and Animation: Digital Domain ("Apollo 13") really cool 3-D by Dr. Ken Jones ("Terminator 3-D") Special Effects Coordinator: Roy Arbogast Music: John Frizzell Theme: James Newton Howard Soundtrack: Varese Sarabande CD & cassette Edited by: Conrad Buff A.C.E., Howard Smith A.C.E., Tina Hirsch A.C.E. Production Designer: Dennis Washington Costume Design: Isis Mussenden Director of Photography: Andrej Bartowiak A.S.C. Novelization: Berkley Books Opening: 7 February 1997 (maybe sliding to 7 March 1997) Dante's Peak website [watch out: the web site is very cool, but takes forever to download] Box Office: ,200,000 domestic + 0,200,000 overseas = 7,400,000 worldwide in Calendar Year 1997 only, according to "Variety." Here's how: "Dante's Peak" was released two months before the other volcano flick of the season, Volcano. But Dante's Peak opened more strongly than the later rival, and captured ,600,000 for the best February opening of any movie ever, beating "Volcano's" opening week of ,700,000. "Dante's Peak" was also widely felt to have a better script and more scientific plausibility (often a plus for the hard-core science fiction audience). Return to MOVIES Table of Contents Return to 1997 SNEAK PREVIEWS Table of Contents

Deep Rising

Story: Not a good idea to hijack an abandoned pleasure boat in the South Seas unless your gang of jewell thieves enjoys being attacked by sea monsters working title (1996) was "Tentacles" Studio: Walt Disney Productions/Calamari Pictures/Hollywood Pictures Distributor: Buena Vista Pictures (USA), Tobis Filmkunst (Germany), Ascot Elite (Switzerland) Based on: ??? Screenplay: Stephen Sommers Director: Stephen Sommers Director of Photography: Howard Atherton Editors: Bob Ducsay, John Wright Executive Producer: Barry Bernardi Producers: John Baldecchi, Laurence Mark Associate Producer: Howard Ellis Starring: John Finnegan -- Treat Williams Trillian St.James -- Famke Janssen Simon Canton -- Anthony Heald Joey Pantuci -- Kevin J. O'Connor Hanover -- Wes Studi The Captain -- Derrick O'Connor Mulligan -- Jason Flemyng Vivo -- Djimon Hounsou Mason -- Clifton Powell Mamooli -- Cliff Curtis T-Ray Jones -- Trevor Goddard Leila -- Una Damon Billy -- Clint Curtis Production Design: Holger Gross Special Effects: Dream Quest Images, Industrial Light & Magic Creature Designer: Rob Bottin Visual Effects Coordinator: Costume Design: Joseph A. Porro Music: Jerry Goldsmith Runtime: 106 minutes Release: 30 January 1998 (Australia: 7 May 1998, Great Britain: 15 May 1998, Germany: 28 May 1998, France: 24 June 1998) Box Office: {To Be Done} Reviews: Robert Ebert, (c) Chicago Sun-Times -- "'Deep Rising' could also have been titled 'Eat the Titanic!' It's about a giant squid that attacks a luxurious cruise ship in the South China Sea. Like all movie monsters, it has perfect timing and always bursts into the frame just when the characters are least expecting it. And it has an unsavory way of dining. 'They eat you?' asks one of the survivors. 'No--they drink you.'" "The mechanics for a movie like this were well established in the 'Alien' pictures, and 'Deep Rising' clones the formula. Survivors are trapped inside giant vessel. Creature finds its way around air ducts and sewer pipes, popping out of shaft openings to gobble up minor characters (the first victim is sucked down the toilet). "D'ya think they have meetings in Hollywood to share the latest twists? I've been seeing the same gimmicks in a lot of different pictures. Evidence: No sooner does the snake in 'Anaconda' release a slimy survivor from its innards than the squid in 'Deep Rising' does the same thing. No sooner is there an indoor jetski chase in 'Hard Rain' than there's one in 'Deep Rising.' No sooner does a horrible monster crawl out of the air ducts in 'Alien Resurrection' than it does so in 'Deep Rising.' And last week I saw 'Phantoms,' which was sort of 'Deep Rising Meets Alien and Goes West.' In that one, the creature emerged from the depths of the Earth rather than the sea, but had the same nasty practice of living behind piles of undigested remains. "An effort has been made by Stephen Sommers, writer-director of 'Deep Rising,' to add humor to his story, although not even the presence of Leslie Nielsen could help this picture. The hero, Treat Williams, is a free-lance skipper of a power-cruiser who hires his craft out to a gang of vile and reprehensible bad guys, led by Wes Studi. They want to hijack a new casino ship on its maiden voyage. The owner of the ship (Anthony Heald) makes several speeches boasting about how stable it is; it can stay level even during a raging tempest. I wonder if those speeches were inserted after the filmmakers realized how phony their special effects look. Every time we see the ship, it's absolutely immobile in the midst of churning waves. "No matter; the creature attacks the ship, and by the time Williams delivers the pirates, it seems to be deserted. Except for the evil owner, of course, and a jewel thief (Famke Janssen) who was locked in the brig and survived the carnage. "This type of movie depends much upon the appearance of the monster, which has been designed by f/x wizard Rob Bottin ('John Carpenter's The Thing'). There is a vast evil squid head and lots of tentacles (which seem to have minds of their own, and lots of mouths with many teeth). So vicious is the squid, indeed, that only the cynical will ask how it can survive for long periods out of water, or how and why it emits its piercing howl, which goes reverberating through the air shafts. "There's comic relief from Williams' engine room man, Pantucci (Kevin J. O'Connor), who plays the Donald O'Connor role and is always wisecracking in the face of adversity. And Djimon Hounsou turns in an effective supporting performance as one of the more fanatical members of the pirate gang (he played Cinque in 'Amistad' and shows a powerful screen presence once again, although on the whole I'll bet he wishes the giant squid movie had come out before the Spielberg film). "Bemusing, how much money and effort go into the making of such a movie, and how little thought. It's months of hard work--for what? The movie is essentially an 'Alien' clone with a fresh paint job. You know something's wrong when a fearsome tentacle rears up out of the water and opens its mouth, and there are lots of little tentacles inside with their own ugly mouths, all filled with nasty teeth, and all you can think is, 'Been there, seen that.' Return to MOVIES Table of Contents Return to 1997 SNEAK PREVIEWS Table of Contents

Devil's Advocate

Story: Join "The Firm" and and fight for your Soul, in court if necessary Studio: New Regency/Warner Bros./Koppelson Entertainment Based on: novel by Andrew Neiderman, and also loosely on "The Devil and Samuel Webster", lots of nasty lawyer jokes Screenplay: Lawrence D. Cohen, Tony Gilroy, Robert Mark Kamen, Jonathan Lemkin Director: Taylor Hackford Director of Photography: Andrej Bartowiak A.S.C. Editor: William Henry Executive Producers: Erwin Stoff, Michael Tadross Producers: Anne Kopelson, Arnold Kopelson Co-Producer: Stephen Brown Starring: young lawyer Kevin Lomax -- Keanu Reeves Senior Partner John Milton/Lucifer -- Al Pacino Mary Ann Lomax -- Charlize Theron Phillipe Moyez -- Delroy Lindo (uncredited) Alexander Cullen -- Craig T. Nelson Allessandra Cullen -- Monica Keena (uncredited) Eddie Barzoon -- Jeffrey Jones Mrs.Lomax -- Judith Ivey Leamon Heath -- Ruben Santiago-Hudson Christabella -- Connie Nielson Barbara -- Heather Matarazzo Pam Garrety -- Debra Monk Weaver -- Vyto Ruginis Melissa Black -- Laura Harrington Diana Barzoon -- Pamela Gray Gettys -- Christopher Bauer Don King -- Don King Alphonse D'Amato -- Alphonse D'Amato ??? -- George Wyner ??? -- Neal Jones Production Design: Bruno Rubeo Special Effects: Out of the Blue Visual Effects Visual Effects Coordinator: Carla Attanasio Costume Design: Judianna Makovsky Music: James Newton Howard Rumors: lots of problems with the film, including Keanu Reeves's southern accent Running Time: 144 minutes Box Office: "Devil's Advocate" opened very strongly at #2, just below the opening of Sony/Columbia's "I Know What You Did Last Summer" (a teen thriller with the second highest October opening ever, just behind the sci-fi "Stargate" which grossed ,700,000 in its 1994 debut) and just above Paramount's "Kiss the Girls" (which had opened at #1 the week before). With ,300,000 in the weekend, on 2,161 screens (a powerful ,632 average) "Devil's Advocate" was expected to "have legs" and stay at #2 for a while. As predicted, "Devil's Advocate" held onto #2 in week #2, still sandwiched between "I Know What You Did Last Summer" and "Kiss the Girls." The ,200,000 4-day gross on 2,351 screens (,347 average) for ,600,000 cumulative gross meant only a 16% drop from opening week. By Week #3, "Devil's Advocate" was one step down from heaven, rated #3, having had ,370,000 weekend gross on 2,404 screens (,065 average) for cumulative gross of ,300,000. It was virtually tied with the #2 debut of the MGM anti-Chinese Richard Gere hit "Red Corner", and just below the wider-release porn-industry drama "Boogie Nights." Week #4 saw "Devil's Advocate" ranked #4, with ,100,000 4-day weekend gross on 2,207 screens (,301 average) for ,000,000 cumulative gross. After a 31% decline from the previous week's gross, "Devil's Advocate" ranked just below Sony/Columbia's savvy surprise teen hit "I Know What You Did Last Summer" (which has almost exactly kept pace with 'Devil's 'Advocate' after opening the same week), and just above MGM/UA's "Red Corner." "Devil's Advocate" was down to #7 in week #5, with 3-day gross of ,500,000 on 2,016 screens (,737 average) and a devilishly big cumulative gross of ,500,000. This ranked it just below Sony/Columbia's teen-smash "I Know What You Did Last Summer" in its 5th week and just above MGM/UA's "Red Corner" in week #3. Opening: 16 October (originally scheduled 17 August 1997) Reviews: Paul Tatara, CNN Online (c) CNN -- "Poor Satan. He just doesn't hold the emotional sway that he used to, now that he's mired in the ironic 90s. There was a time when filmmakers could spread goose bumps across an audience simply by having a man with a pointy beard chuckle and rub his chin, but those days are long gone. And it's only getting worse." "In the 70s it took something as elaborate as Linda Blair's neck doing aerobics to convince us that we weren't just looking at a bunch of actors pretending. By now, though, turning on the 6 o'clock news is scarier than anything you're bound to see at the theater. Our spirituality has actually become jaded." "Jaded or not, it seems like a studio could come up with something creepier than 'The Devil's Advocate,' which stars Al Pacino and actor-like performer Keanu Reeves as lawyers who are ... evil! This would be frightening as hell if it weren't already common knowledge, but the scattershot script doesn't even manage to make it much fun. You don't care about any of the characters, so there's no fear of something nasty happening to them, and, with the exception of Pacino (who plays the devil himself), it's terribly miscast." "Let's face it, if Keanu Reeves walks in and announces that he'll be defending you in your triple murder case (as he does for Craig T. Nelson in the movie), you would be wise to run out and buy 30 or 40 cartons of Marlboros. You'll be needing them in jail. To top it all off, director Taylor Hackford expects us to feel like we're staring into the Heart of Darkness because a bunch of rich guys get a kick out of slinky women and really expensive furniture. I'm not exactly running around with a pitchfork, but, hey, with the exception of the furniture, I'm right with 'em. "Like 'Rosemary's Baby' (It pains me to mention Polanski's classic in the same article as this turkey), 'The Devil's Advocate' is set in New York City, and attempts to wring hellishness out of the escapades of a ladder-climbing careerist. Reeves plays a hot-shot lawyer from Gainesville, Florida, a man so brilliant he's never lost a case. "Snicker. "His wife (Charlize Theron) is a curly-haired cutie who seems even more greedy and ambitious than her husband. In fact, Theron and Reeves are so self-centered it's a little difficult to feel sorry for them when Keanu's tainted soul commences to ruining the happy household. In the opening scene, Reeves even grills a junior high school girl on the stand, forcing her to look like a liar when she says that her (quite guilty) teacher molested her. The girl starts crying, but it could just be her embarrassment from watching Reeves." Return to MOVIES Table of Contents Return to 1997 SNEAK PREVIEWS Table of Contents

Event Horizon

Story: in 2047, the jerry-rigged pre-production spaceship "Event Horizon" has been missing for 7 years, and turns up at the edge of the Solar System, in orbit around the planet Neptune, so 7-person search and rescue ship Lewis & Clark goes to find out where the spaceship has been and what happened to its crew; but something is very very wrong... could it be ghosts of dead astronauts, or aliens, or some side-effect of the experimental warp drive? "Infinite Space, Infinite Terror." Studio: Paramount Pictures and Lawrence Gordon present a Golar Production in association with Impact Pictures Based on: "The Shining" meets "Alien" with the philosophy of "Solaris" Executive Producer: Nick Gillott Producers: Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin, Jeremy Bolt Screenplay: Philip Eisner Novelization: Tor Books Director: Paul Anderson ("Mortal Kombat") Cinematography: Adrian Biddle, B.S.C. ("Aliens") Editor: Martin Hunter Starring: Capt. Miller (head of investigation team) -- Laurence Fishburne Dr. William Weir (spaceship designer) -- Sam Neill Peters (emergency technician) -- Kathleen Quinlan ("Apollo 13", "Twilight Zone: The Movie") Starck (navigator) -- Joey Richardson Cooper (emergency technician) -- Richard T. Jones Justin (engineer) -- Jack Noseworthy D.J. (trauma surgeon) -- Jason Isaacs Pilot Smith -- Sean Pertwee Special Effects: supervised by Richard Yuricich, A.S.C., shot almost completely indoors on 8 London soundstages (mostly for the interior of the "mile-and-a-half long spaceship", including the rotating 100-foot "meat grinder"), plus a day-and-a-half of outdoors shooting in the gardens of Pinewood Studios, as a flashback to a children's birthday party. 700 computer-generated images, including those to create the illusion of weightlessness Production Design: Joseph Bennett Supervising Art Director: Michael Stevenson Set Decorator: Crispian Sallis Costumes: John Mollo's spacesuit costumes weighed 65 pounds each, yet Laurence Fishburne was reportedly affectionate towards his, which he dubbed "Doris." Actors repeated the old joke from Project Mercury that space capsules used to be so small that you didn't get into them, you put them on. The spacesuits have their own air, lights, and sound. Music: Michael Kamen Soundtrack: London Records Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes Opening: 15 August 1997 Web: Event Horizon official site Box Office: "Event Horizon" opened strongly at #4, with 3-day weekend gross of ,500,000 on 2,311 screens (,116 average). This put it below the 1-2-3 triple blockbusters of Miramax's "Cop Land" debut with a stellar cast headed by Sly Stallone, the 4th week of Sony/Columbia's "Air Force One", and the 2nd week of Warner Bros.' Mel Gibson vehicle "Conspiracy Theory." On the other hand, "Event Horizon" was the leader of the 4-5-6-7 sci-fi quad with #5 New Line's Spawnin its 3rd week, #6 Disney's George of the Jungle in its 5th week, and #7 Sony/Columbia's Men In Black in its 7th week. The 5th science fiction film in the top-10, Warner Bros.' Contact, slipped to 9th in its 6th week. "Event Horizon" dropped 54% to a #7 ranking in week #2, with 4-day weekend gross of ,400,000 on 2,328 screens (,872 average), and a cumulative gross of ,700,000. The drop can be partly ascribed to the double debut of #1 "G.I. Jane" and #2 "Money Talks." Still, "Event Horizon" topped the #8 debut of Universal's "Leave it to Beaver." Reviews: Colin MacLean, CBS Newsworld: "'Event Horizon' will scare the living daylights out of you. Intelligent, visually awesome and dramatically satisfying." Mark Montgomery, Sci-Fi Channel: "An electrifying marriage of science fiction, suspense and classic horror. Leads us to a realm we've never seen before." John Platt, Sci-Fi Buzz: "Be prepared to be scared! As intense as 'Aliens' and as truly frightening as 'The Exorcist." Dave Kehr, Los Angeles Daily News: "A gripping late summer surprise." Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times, 15 Aug 1997, p.F16: "In the area of science-fiction horror, state-of-the-art technology gives and takes away. It makes possible wonders no one could have imagined and creates terrors so excessive it's dreadful to look at the screen. 'Event Horizon' has a knack for both, and that's something of a shame." "For watching the dark doings that results when spaceship Event Horizon returns from a mysterious trip 'beyond the boundaries of known scientific reality' leads to the odd wish it had been made in a different time. Yes, you'd sacrifice the special effects and the excellent model work, one of the film's prime assets, but you'd also sidestep the current hip fascination with creating repulsion, sickening and revolting an audience. Maybe that's not strictly a trendy desire, but it's not previously been joined with the kind of killer technology that makes it so graphically possible." "There are, as it turns out, several things to appeal to an adult audience about 'Event Horizon.' .... It's especially well-cast for what is basically a piece of pulp fiction. And Philip Eisner's script holds our interest, partly via a plot twist that fans of 'Forbidden Planet' will find familiar." "Director Paul Anderson... well knows how to build suspense and increase tension. But counter-balancing all that is 'Event Horizon's' position as a sci-fi splatter film, intent on drenching the screen in blood and gore whenever possible. Though the script provides an excuse for the charnel house ambience, that doesn't make it any more pleasant to watch." "Laconic no-nonsense Captain Miller (Lawrence Fishburne) whose idea of a big speech is 'You know the rules, people: someone drops the ball, we get the call.'..." "Dr. William Weir (Sam Neill), the troubled scientist who designed the Event Horizon. He explains that the lost ship was able to in effect fold space, creating what he calls 'a dimensional gateway' that enabled it to evade the laws of physics and fly faster than the speed of light." "The Event Horizon, it's soon determined, is a ghost ship with its crew--who have left behind a strange and terrifying captain's log--all dead and gone. It's also an extremely spooky place that causes all kinds of aberrant instrument readings. So no one is too happy when disastrous circumstances force ... the Lewis & Clark crew to temporarily abandon their ship and set up on the derelict vessel." "Though explaining exactly what's happening and why is not always this film's strength, it becomes clear that the Event Horizon is playing frightening mind games with everyone on board. Dr.Weir seems to understand more than he's willing to let on, and those who remember the strange powers of 'the monsters from the id' in 'Forbidden Planet' will know some of the places this film is headed...." "To sell this kind of B-movie material, an A-cast is always helpful, and starting with the always-convincing Fishburne, 'Event Horizon' has one. Why fine performers want to be reduced to saying lines like 'optimum approach angle is 14 degrees' is unclear (unless it's a desire to have a 'Star Trek' knockoff experience) but the film is better off for their presence." "It's also helpful that several of the actors, the director and key production personnel are British. It gives 'Event Horizon' a bit of a different feel, as does the arresting production design by newcomer Joseph Bennett. Expertly photographed by Adrian Biddle... Bennet's brooding, at times medieval sets are as convincing as they are different." "Director [Paul] Anderson gets points for skillfully choreographing all of this, but he loses them for a consistent desire to brutalize the audience. Even before scenes with gouged-out eyes, 'Event Horizon' uses over-amplified sound and a shock style of editing to unmercifully pulverize viewers." "This technique can't help but be effective up to a point, but the number of people who equate being efficiently tortured with being well entertained is, one hopes, a finite one. Otherwise the prognosis for film and society is about as grim as the doing's on that sinister ghost ship." Return to MOVIES Table of Contents Return to 1997 SNEAK PREVIEWS Table of Contents

The Fifth Element

Story: 24th Century New York is the setting for a wild adventure. Every 5,000 years a window between dimensions opens, allowing the evil force of negative life to threaten all positive life in our universe. A fiery dark planet appears, and the priest Cornelius who knows the parallel dimension legend warns the Federation President, who ignores him and bombs the planet, with each bomb increasing its size. Korben Dallas, a secret agent turned cab driver, joins with Cornelius and punkish Leeloo (an angel or God or something) in fighting the mercenary Mangalores and their boss Zorg "agent for all that is evil." Studio: Columbia/Gaumont Distributor: Sony is U.S. distributor Based on: New York wants to take "Bladerunner" away from L.A. and crossbreed it with the French comic book "Metal Hurlant" ["Heavy Metal"] Meaning of Title: The Greeks believed that the four elements of Earth, Air, Water, and Fire combined to create the fifth element, the quintessence, of life Co-Producer: Patrice Ledoux, Iain Smith Director: Luc Besson ("La Femme Nikita", "The Professional") Writers: Luc Besson ("La Femme Nikita", "The Professional") & Robert Mark Kamen. Besson, at 16 "wrote 200 pages as a novel, read it, threw it in the trash, and began all over again... then [20 years later] I started to think again about making it. The first script was 400 pages.... As soon as I had the first draft I started to pre-produce the movie.... I saw 500 or 600 designers and ended up choosing seven, then we had this team together for 12 months, working on ideas for the main characters.... You do that for one monster and then you have to do that for everything--each car, costume, weapon.... The movie was too expensive. Because we started with [later screenplay draft] 250 pages, so the budget was 5,000,000 [so he took a year off to direct 'The Professional']... After 5 months of preparation we shot for 22 weeks, by the end of the production I was sleeping at Pinewood--because there were a few weeks where we had three crews working at the same time." Story: Luc Besson Editor: Sylvie Landra Starring: Korben Dallas -- Bruce Willis (23rd century secret agent turned cab driver) Leeloo -- Milla Jovovich (goddess/pawn in the ultimate good-evil battle) Zorg -- Gary Oldman (amoral weapons dealer) Cornelius -- Ian Holm (priest with heart of gold) Ruby Rhod -- Chris Tucker ("House Party 3", "Friday", "Panther", "Dead Presidents"; 24-year-old Atlanta-based stand-up comic plays androgynous druggy entertainer) Federation President Lindberg -- Tommy "Tiny" Lister, Jr. Billy -- Luke Perry General Munro -- Brion James Fog -- Lee Evans Diva [alien singer] -- Maiwenn Le Besco Extras -- 900 Special Effects: Mark Stetson and 300 workers at Digital Domain Besson said to Iain Blair ["Film & Video" April 1997] "Mark Stetson was in charge of the effects and has his own unit, so we'd work in tandem." Stetson started work in July 1995 "starting breakdowns and meeting with Luc [Besson] and Dan [Weil]. At Pinewood, effects cinematographer Bill Neil and I shot over 100 plates, after an initial location shoot in Mauritania. Karen Goulekas, the digital effects supervisor, also came over to London and together we set up a previsualization unit and started developing shots from the storyboards. [meanwhile, cityscape miniatures were built at Digital Domain] at the same time, we started all the CG work, using [software such as Side Effects'] Prisms, Alias/Wavefront and Softimage for development and modeling, and [Discreet Logic's] FLAME for rendering. We ended up with 220 shots, ranging from alien planets to the desert, so it was a very interesting job." Then edited on 3 Avids at Besson's rented Malibu home. Digital Domain (based in Venice, California) was responsible for 224 shots. Mark Stetson, who used to run a profitable high-quality miniature effects shop with partner Bob Spurlock, told Christine Bunish [Post, 16 May 1997, pp.124-5] "It was the first large production to go entirely in-house at Digital Domain." The 15 minutes of onscreen effects were "a big achievement for us and did a lot to expand the pipeline at Digital Domain since we were also doing shots for Dante's Peakand Titanic concurrently." Animators mostly used Prisms 3D software plus Softimage for the laboratory DNA-to-body reconstruction scene, Alias for the cityscape, compositing with Digital Domain's proprietary Nuke software, so in-house Flame compositing, and output to film on Celco Extreme MPX film recorder. Production Design: Dan Weil ("the Big Blue", "La Femme Nikita", "The Professional") responsible for 9 stages and 24 major sets which he calls "a great deal of quite fantastical" effects constituting "a full spectrum of visual effects work" from digital mattes to total digital scene creation, in which he "created a future and traveled extensively in it An extensive chase cityscape of New York was 1/4 to 1/3 of the work, which used matte paintings, digital traffic, miniature flying cars, composited actors, and digital pigeons. Mark Stetson had directed New York City effects six times before ("The Hudsucker Proxy"). Art Directors: Jim Morahan, Kevin Phipps, Michael Lamont Set Decorators: Maggie Gray, Anna Pinnock, Paul Weathered Director of Photography: Thierry Arbogast Costumes: Jean-Paul Gaultier Monsters: Nick Dudman ("Interview with the Vampire", "Alien 3", "Batman") Music: Eric Serra Soundtrack: Virgin Records Novelization: HarperPrism Locations: Royal Opera House at Covent Gardens, Mauritania Budget: -90,000,000, the most expensive French film ever made Running Time: 2 hours, 7 minutes Promotion: opens the 50th Cannes Film Festival, after screening Gaumont threw a party for several hundred guests that cost between ,000,000 and ,000,000 with 1-acre tent, huge lighted balloon looking like planet, mock-up of flying cruise ship, huge pyramid, fashion show on mechanically-raised platforms, concert by Nenah Cherry, three-course dinner, and entrance only to those wearing a specially-designed Swatch watch. Opening: 9 May 1997 The Fifth Element @ movieweb Box Office: ,800,000 domestic + 0,100,000 overseas = 3,900,000 worldwide in Calendar Year 1997 only, according to "Variety." Here's how: "The Fifth Element" opened at #1 with ,000,000 on opening weekend, at 2,500 screens for an average of ,813. It ranked above the opening of "Father's Day" with Billy Crystal and Robin Williams and above the 2nd week of "Breakdown." Next in line was Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery at #4, Volcano at #5, and Anaconda at #8. After the second weekend, which grossed ,600,000 in ticket sales, "The Fifth Element" stayed at #1 in the box office, although sales were down 32% from the opening week. As of 20 May 1997, according to Exhibitor Relations Co., "The Fifth Element" was still #1, on top of a booming box office in America (just above Warner Bros.' "Father's Day", also in its 2nd week), with a 3-day weekend gross of ,400,000 for a total so far of ,200,000 and was on 2,500 screens for ,564 average -- extremely good for the 2nd week in release. As of 28 May 1997, according to Exhibitor Relations Co., "The Fifth Element" slipped to #3, on top of a booming box office in America (below the megablockbuster The Lost World: Jurassic Park and the opening week of "Addicted to Love"), with a 3-day weekend gross of ,000,000 for a total so far of ,000,000 and was on 2,500 screens for ,209 average -- good for the 3rd week in release, especially consider the killer dino flick as competition. In the 4th week of release, "The Fifth Element" slipped to #5 (Just below the New Line comedy "Trial and Error") with ,000,000 weekend gross at 2,500 screens (,613 average) for cumulative gross of ,500,000. 5th week missing from database; will attempt to reconstruct. In the 6th week of release, "The Fifth Element" slipped to #8 (just below the Columbia animal comedy "Buddy") with ,500,000 weekend gross at 1,560 screens (1 average) for cumulative gross of ,000,000. In week 7 of release, "The Fifth Element" slipped to #9 (Just below the Warner Bros. comedy "Addicted to Love", but pulling ahead of the Columbia animal comedy "Buddy") with 5,000 weekend gross at 1,066 screens (1 average) for cumulative gross of ,800,000. The reduced gross is due to the smaller number of screens, and to to the simultaneous openings of Batman & Robin and TriStar's "My Best Friend's Wedding" at #1 and #2. In week #8, "The Fifth Element" dropped off the top-10 list, ranking at #12 with 0,000 weekend gross on 662 screens ((2 average) for cumulative gross of ,700,000. It ranked just below Orion's "Ulee's Gold" in that film's 3rd week, and just above Buena Vista's "Jungle2Jungle" in its 17th week. Webmaster's Review: by Jonathan Vos Post

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Wow! Your Humble Webmaster took his wife and 8-year-old son to see "The Fifth Element" as a Mothers' Day treat, 11 May 1997, and went prepared to scoff, but instead enjoyed the film immensely. This is perhaps the most perfect movie ever made in the "Space Opera"genre, but raised to a higher level by an impeccable sense of comic timing. Again and again, we cut back and forth between subplots with stop-watch accuracy of pace. 2 hours and 7 minutes makes for a long film, but the accelerating tension/release rhythm makes the time fly. My son's favorite part was the swift intercutting of the Diva's stage performance and Leeloo's kick-butt martial arts mastery over the hulking Jean "Moebius" Giraud/Jean-Claude Mezieres Mangalores, in a cross between Bruce Lee and the Three Stooges, with Feydeau farce precision. The "Space Opera" genre is not necessarily a branch of anti-literate Hollywood "sci fi", but can be an entertaining mix of highbrow conceptualization and low-brow melodrama, as expertly penned by the likes of Isaac Asimov, Iain Banks, Leigh Brackett, Ray Bradbury, Edgar Rice Burroughs, John W. Campbell, Arthur C. Clarke, Edmond Hamilton, Robert A. Heinlein, Robert Sheckley, E. E. "Doc" Smith, Olaf Stapledon, Jack Vance, and even H. G. Wells himself, to mention 14 of the many fine writers who have penned timeless Space Opera. Brian W. Aldiss, in his anthology "Space Opera" [Garden City NY: Doubleday, 1974] identifies various key indicators of "Space Opera." If I may take the liberty of interpolating from his delightful introduction, and explaining how "The Fifth Element" scores 100% according to the Aldiss Criteria: (1) Style and Mood staunchly traditional: both the weakness and strength of the film are that everything has been seen before, the fingerprints of generations of filmmakers from the past are visible in each scene, and yet -- as with music -- each note is both predictable and yet slightly surprising in execution. Luc Besson is not a scholar, he didn't know what Plato had to say about quintessence, but he has a very sure grasp of the tradition in which he confidently, exuberantly works his silver screen magic. (2) Hitherto unknown places to explore: we first see a mysterious temple in Mauritania, Earth upside-down from space, and then the unknown gigalopolis of future New York, before taking us to still-undiscovered alien star systems. Visually, we are always breaking through horizontal barriers to drop down through a floor, leap up through a hole in the ceiling, or dive vertically through 3-D traffic. My son mentioned this to me in the car: nothing important happens on the ground. Except for the camel-stepping desert at the opening, everything is suspended in mid-air, on the edge of a cliff, or bursting from one level to another -- giving the same sense of new places to explore as in a contemporary computer game. (3) Continuity between Past and Future: like the animated cartoon of "The Jetsons", the future here is a strict point-by-point satire of the exact present. Cars can fly, but are still recognizably cabs. Scientists can assemble alien bodies chemically from DNA, and yet people still eat McDonalds' hamburgers, drink coffee, and smoke cigarettes. Cops are cops, stewardesses are stewardesses, media stars are irritating, and mothers still nag. (4) Tremendous sphere of space/time: we have galactic transportation at faster-than-light speed, although the implications of this are never worked through, and we have danger recurring every five thousand years, tick by tick in an implied clock of eons. Many planets are presumed to be colonized, so that it is taken for granted that some are there purely for posh vacations. (5) A pinch of reality inflated with melodrama: for the implausible to work on us, there must be a context of gritty plausibility, which this film provides through ingeniously detailed art, set, costume, makeup, and production design. When LeeLoo walks, Harold Lloyd-like, inches from falling a mile into the canyons of Newer New York, she gets dirt on her palms from touching the unscrubbed walls. Cleanliness may be next to godliness, but Leeloo gets dirty, wet, cold, and bloody enough to make us feel for her. (6) A seasoning of screwy ideas: the nuttiest notions are thrown in our lap with no attempt at reasonableness. For example, the Manichaen conflict between Good and Evil is a given, not given any depth, and presuming that a "supreme being" incarnated in a young woman can be vulnerable to mere bullets. The borders between Terrestrial and alien space can be cordoned off with a line of beacons. Hint: one-dimensional lines cannot contain three-dimensional volumes. (7) Heady escapist stuff: this film is not trying to preach a pseudo-religious metaphysical dogma about the Light and Dark Sides of the Force, or make any other didactic points. It is supposed to be fun, and achieves this with no apologies about the need to escape. Luc Besson, fortunately, has little more than a hint of Existentialism, and a thankful freedom from Deconstructionism or other Franco-philosophical baggage. (8) Charging on with little regard for logic or literacy: There are more holes in this plot than in all the cheese in Switzerland. To pick a few at random: there is no room to squeeze more more base pairs, sugars, or phosphates into DNA, let alone for a gadget to reconstruct Leeloo from a form of DNA never before examined by human or computer. There are robots for cleaning up a broken waterglass, and for pouring booze into a glass at an airport bar, but no robot police, robot soldiers, or robot baggage handlers at that same airport. There are at least two species of aliens shown -- the good ones and the nasty Mangalores, and yet no diplomats or multi-species protocols seem to exist other than territoriality, and negotiation down the barrel of a gun. Corben Dallas' mom can get through to the President by phone the moment she wants to. And maybe the Supreme Being can learn all of Earth history on the updated World Wide Web by just clicking on menus, but how come the modem and line are never slow and the system never crashes once? (9) Often throwing off great images, excitements, aspirations: the various styles of hieroglyphics, weapons, vehicles, and alien body forms, combined with the tackiness of the airport and the exaggerated grandeur of the opera stage, and the facts that vast populations seem to exist on Earth without ecological breakdown, and that humans can fly from one solar system to another, are routine to science fiction, and yet are presented here with enough passion to create the so-called "sense of wonder." (10) The Earth should be in peril: this is quite explicit here. Both Cornelius and Corben have the stated assignment to "save the world." The President is told of the threat. The Generals mis-react to it, but acknowledge it. The flaming anti-planet comes within seconds of crashing into the Earth in what would be a bigger explosion than the one that wiped out the dinosaurs 65,000,000 years ago. (11) There must be a quest: the quest is to find the four stones that represent the four elements and which are vital parts to the super-weapon that will save the Earth. All the factions of good guys and bad guys scramble, and step on each other's toes, to get that quadruple maguffin. (12) There must be a man to match the mighty hour: Bruce Willis is that man, a perfect fighter, although evidently an imperfect cabbie, Major, husband, son, and legal client. He is just resentful enough of Authority to have the anti-hero flavor, while otherwise being an ideal Eagle Scout, killer, and gentleman. He nevers hurts as much as in "Pulp Fiction" or "Twelve Monkeys", but he is not just walking through the part. He's having fun, yet we know that he sincerely appreciates the film on its own terms. (13) That man must confront aliens and exotic creatures: the alien Leeloo literally drops in on him, and Corben/Bruce is never at a loss on how best to tactically confront anybody, whether it be mugger, superior officer, or monster. On the other hand, he never does resolve things with his mom, and fails to stop the stewardess from putting him to sleep in his Japanese-style bunk-cubicle. (14) Space must flow past the ports like wine from a pitcher: spaceships of various sizes and designs whiz, blast, whirr, and swoop quite three-dimensionally through the cis-lunar and interstellar vacuum. Yes, yes, we all know that sound doesn't travel in a vacuum. But soundtracks do. (15) Blood must run down the palace steps: the violence is usually disconnected from genuine suffering, as is appropriate for a cartoon. And yet we have an occasional emphasis in extreme close-ups of dark blood from the forehead of mighty Zorg, ignored flesh wounds on "Die Hard" Willis, blue blood and blue tears from Diva (the literal Lucia de Lamermoor opera-singer of the Space Opera), and bleeding stigmata on Leeloo. (16) Ships must launch out into the louring dark: launch they do, blasting the walls away in front of them if necessary, or stomping little alien parasites in the loading docks. The political reality is troublingly police-statish, but by gosh the trains run on time. (17) There must be a woman fairer than the skies: Leeloo, played by Milla Jovovich as brilliant/naive goddess/pawn in the ultimate good-evil battle, is gorgeous, and that is drummed into us at every opportunity by the reaction shots on the faces of scientists, priests, and hero alike. I never heard of her before the buzz about this film, but she is instantly a star. Milla can actually act, and gives an emotional depth to what could have been mawkish and silly if misplayed. (18) There must be a villain darker than a Black Hole: Zorg, as played by Gary Oldman, openly admits that he's a "monster" after he unsuccessfully tries to persuade the contradictory but magnetic Father Cornelius (half Obi Wan Kenobi, half the stammering minister of "Four Wedding and a Funeral") that chaos and destruction are good for life. He fears nobody, except the ultimate force of evil whose emissary on Earth he has been chosen, by some plot-thread never glimpsed. His merest sense of "disappointment" means instant death to minions or innocent bystanders alike. He also encapsulates management's corporate arrogance of our bottom-line down-sizing age. (19) All must come right in the end: there is, of course, a happy albeit hazy ending. Comedy and space opera both require this. Boy meets girl, boy nearly loses girl, boy gets erotically entwined with girl at the end, as James Bond always does. Of course, the champagne is poured prematurely, so that a final twist of fear can be created, with a final cliff-hanger. But we know that everyone lives happily ever after, although it's not clear whether Corben Dallas can get divorced quickly enough to avoid bigamy, and with an illegal ("no files") alien at that. (20) The future in space, seen mistily through the eyes of yesterday: again, this is not a "hard science fiction" prognostication of a scientifically valid future, but it does meet our media-hypnotized expectations about a future in which problems of racism and sexism have been solved (as in "Star Trek"), and, through unexplained technology and socio-economics, the stars are ours. Although not all these indicators are valid even for each of the stories that Aldiss assembled in his theme anthology, his list is indicative, and shows how deeply correct Luc Besson's intuition and obsession are in this particular genre. Stephen Schaeffer of the Boston Herald called this: "A 'Star Wars' for the 90's!" "Star Wars" is also inarguably Space Opera, and this hits the nail on the head. "The Fifth Element" is a tighter, faster, hipper "Star Wars" for a more frenetic and self-aware decade. It may make me enemies in the involuted and incestuous science fiction film community, to say so, but I believe that "The Fifth Element" is, for all its manifest flaws, a better-styled work of pure Space Opera entertainment. Wow!

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Other Reviews: heard from screening viewers: "Loved the first half, hated the second", "It was violent, but the violence was funny", "Really cool graphics", "plot and dialogue right on target", "Milla Jovovich is the real star, makes alien lingo heart-felt", "Luc Besson shoots for the Moon, and hits the asteroid belt", "Gary Oldman really over-the-top, but hair and southern accent absurd" Joe Leydon, NBC-TV: "A jaw-dropping, mind-blowing epic that gives you everything!" David Sheehan, CBS-TV: "Bruce Willis takes 'Die Hard' into the 23rd Century." Stephen Schaeffer, Boston Herald: "A 'Star Wars' for the 90's!" Jane Horowitz, Los Angeles Times: "Great-looking, totally confusing." Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times, 9 May 97: "When it comes to saving the world, Bruce Willis is your man.... Willis holds together French filmmaker Luc Besson's elaborate, even campy sci-fi extravaganza, which is nearly as hard to follow as last year's 'Mission Impossible.' But it's also a lot warmer, more fun and boasts some of the most sophisticated, witty production and costume design you could ever hope to see.... [regarding the plot] all becomes clear enough at the finish.... What an amazing world Besson and his legions of craftsmen have created for us to behold.... Production Designer Dan Weil has envisioned New York as a kind of city-state that seems to pay homage to Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis'.... One tricky plot development after another... a vast cruise ship with interiors that would make Donald Trump's Taj Mahal casino seem understated.... Chris Tucker makes RuPaul--or for that matter Dennis Rodman--seem as calm and sedate as Whsitler's mother.... The look and feel of 'The Fifth Element' is clearly more important to Besson than the narrative--oh, for a soupcon of old-fashioned clarity--and it recalls 'Blade Runner' with a touch of Gallic 'Barbarella' insouciance thrown in for good measure (pastiche is clearly Besson's passion here). In some sequences there is that grunge look that harks back beyond 'Star Wars' to John Carpenter's 'Dark Star' (1974), which may be the most influential least-known movie of the past couple of decades.... the special effects, indeed all technical and creative aspects of the film, are stupendous. The cast is a delight but it's Willis who is the film's true 'fifth element', giving it life, depth and humanity." Tom Shales, Washington Post (as heard on National Public Radio": A flat-out disaster.. mess... facetious... a combination of two of the worst films of all time, 'Hudson Hawk" and 'Joon'... special effects are elaborate and virtually nonstop... quite a fabulous vision, but wasted... like piles of money burning up onscreen... some of the smaller touches are cute... has some appeal for young people who like 'Dungeons and Dragons'... time is too precious to waste on a piece of junk like this... worst of all is Chris Tucker in a potentially career-ending performance... it's horrible, it's torture... not just a movie to avoid, but to run from and hide." Joe Leydon, NBC-TV: "4 stars! A mind-blowing, jaw-dropping epic! The first big blast of the summer!" Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: "This film is primed to explode! A kick-ass sci-fi jamboree!" Stephen Schaefer, Boston Herald: "A 'Star Wars' for the 90s!" Larry Ratliff, Fox-TV: "A sky-high sci-fi entertainment thrill ride! The 'E' in 'the Fifth Element' stands for 'extraordinary!'" Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: "Willis is the life of the part! A visual knock-out! Eye-popping effects." Alan Silverman, Voice of America: "A dazzling sci-fi adventure spiced with unexpected humor." Leonard Maltin, Entertainment Tonight: "Wildly imaginative, but even better, it's funny." Manohla Dargis, L.A. Weekly: "By all rights this SF cartoon, chock-a-block with discount effect, soft-boiled attitude and genre cliche, should be a disaster from start to finish--and in many ways it is. Too long by half, burdened with the shabbiest F/X this side of 'Invaders from Mars', and offering up some seriously weird performances [Lister and Tucker, this] pricey foray into science fiction is a muddle of miscues and narrative bloat--along with a whole lot of serious fun. Bruce Willis plays the straight man with raised eyebrows, Ian Holm nicely plays comic relief, and Milla Jovovich, a flawless beauty, plays savior in what is essentially a hash of Hugo Gernsback [the pioneering editor of "Amazing Stories" magazine in 1926]... The drop-dead costume design is by Jean-Paul Gaultier, the wonderful aliens are by Jean "Moebius" Giraud and Jean-Claude Mezieres, among others... disposable script... As the archvillain who looks like Hitler and sounds like Billy Bob Thornton, Gary Oldman is flat-out wonderful--he not only seems to know the movie's ridiculous, but that its very absurdity is its reason for being." Return to MOVIES Table of Contents Return to 1997 SNEAK PREVIEWS Table of Contents

Gattaca

Story: Genetically-ordinary human "in-valid" tries to pass himself off as one of the enhanced-DNA elite, because he wants to fly in space with Gattaca Aerospace Corporation (the name "Gattaca" is short for a sequence of 7 DNA nucleotides). Using another's DNA identity and name is a crime variously called "borrowed ladder" or "de-gene-erate", and our hero's predicament becomes even riskier when a Gattaca project director is murdered, and the murder investigation threatens to uncover our protagonist. Will he overcome all odds and be the navigator on the manned mission to Saturn's giant moon Titan? Read my sneak preview, below. Studio: Jersey Films (Danny DeVito) / Columbia / TriStar Title: the working title was "The Eighth Day" Based on: very loosely on Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" Producers: Danny DeVito, Gail Lyon, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher Screenplay: Andrew W. Niccol (NEW ZEALAND) Director: Andrew W. Niccol replaced a busy Luc Besson ("Fifth Element", "The Professional") Cinematography: Slawomir Idziak Editor: Lisa Zeno Churgin Starring: Vincent Freeman/Jerome -- Ethan Hawke Irene Cassini -- Uma Thurman ("Pulp Fiction") Hugo Coldspring (cop) -- Alan Arkin Caesar (janitorial supervisor) -- Ernest Borgnine Investigator/Anton Freeman -- Loren Dean Eugene Morrow/Jerome -- Jude Law Director Josef -- Gore Vidal Lamar -- Xander Berkeley Marie -- Jayne Brook Antonio -- Elia Koteas Delivery Nurse -- Maya Rudolph Head Nurse -- Una Damon Pre-School Teacher -- Elizabeth Dennehy Geneticist -- Blair Underwood Younger Vincent -- Mason Gamble Younger Anton -- Vincent Nielson Young Vincent -- Chad Christ Young Anton -- William Lee Scott Personnel Officer -- Clarance Graham German -- Tony Shaloub Gattaca Hoover -- Carlton Benbry Sequencing Customer -- Grace Sullivan Sequencing Technician -- Ken Marino Cavendish -- Cynthia Martells Gatacca Trainer -- Gabrielle Reece 12-Fingered Pianist -- Ryan Dorin Cop on the Beat -- Dean Norris Gatacca Detective -- Russell Milton Beaten Detective -- George Marshall Ruge Blood Test Detective -- Steve Bessen Mission Commander -- Lindsay Ginter Production Design: Jan Roelfs Special Effects: ??? Music: Michael Nyman composed and conducted Costume Design: Colleen Atwood Clones, genetic engineering and biotechnology in science fiction Opening: 24 October 1997 (slipped from 9 May), in Australia 30 October 1997 Box Office: "Gattaca" opened a surprisingly high #5, with a 4-day gross of ,300,000 on 1,279 screens (,378 average), which put it just below the 3rd week of Sony'TriStar's "Seven Weeks in Tibet" and just above Paramount's fantasy "Fairy Tale--A True Story." After 2 weeks in release, "Gattaca" ranked #9, with ,600,000 weekend gross on 1,279 screens (,022 average) and ,200,000 cumulative gross. Columbia just wasn't promoting this intelligent and humane film hard enough. It ranked juyst below the debut of Paramount's "Switchback" and just below Paramount's gender-farce "In & Out." --------------------------------------------------------------------- Your Humble Webmaster's Sneak Preview: Copyright 1997, by Magic Dragon Multimedia.
--------------------------------------------------------------------- I loved it! This is a remarkably good, intelligent, well-acted surprise work of genuine science fiction -- and the secret missed by reviewers is that it serves seamlessly as a prequel to the masterpiece "Bladerunner." Consider: (1) In "Gattaca", genetic engineering has changed society in two ways. Individuals are immediately identifiable by analysis of their DNA from a drop of blood, strand of hair, or flake of skin; and this is used to enforce a genetic caste system with optimized children discriminating against natural "god-children." In "Bladerunner" the genetic engineering as advanced to the point that genetically perfect "replicant" androids are created, superior in every way to ordinary humans, so much so that they are kept in check only by an unbreakable programmed-in death within 5 years. (2) In "Gattica", human spaceflight has advanced to manned exploration of the outer solar system. By the time of "Bladerunner" humanity has expanded to flights to other solar systems, and there's an interstellar war in the background. (3) In "Gattica", cops use a combination of traditional flat-foot tactics and high-tech detection, but covert family ties between detective and suspect complicate the chase (I don't want to give away the plot-twist). In "Bladerunner", we are supposed to wonder whether or not the cop-protagonist is himself a replicant, with false memories so that he doesn't know, and supposed to empathize with the pursuer-pursued love affair. (4) In "Gattica", we have a dystopia have had to wait a most of whose citizens are fooled into thinking it's a utopia. By the time of "Bladerunner", it's obvious that things have taken a perhaps-irreversible turn to the dark side. (5) Both films deal with morally ambiguous aspects to the eternal conflict between the rights of the individual and the needs of the collective society, thrown into stark relief by literally life-or-death struggles within a film-noir detective format with hidden-agenda players. (6) Both films share Philip K. Dick's ontological anxiety about one's own identity, and what it means to be human. If you saw "Gattaca" immediately followed by "Bladerunner" at a film festival, you'd exult at the long-arc vision of the coherent pair. By the way, my 8-year-old son perceptively commented that this film shares a number of aspects with "Apollo 13": (1) both are long, slow, and lacking in kid-friendly action adventure, yet (2) both are not o much about space travel as about the kind of men and women who want to be involved in space travel, and (3) both have very close calls but result in happy endings, and so the bottom line is that "gattaca" is "pretty good." I say it's flat-out extraordinary for a film to be successful at the most erudite level, and for a smart 4th grader. This film is better than its critics know, far better than its weak advertising campaign, far deeper than its trailer promises. The world it warns us about is all-too possible. See this movie now, and then think about its message long and hard! --------------------------------------------------------------------- Reviews: Neil Rosen, NY1 News: "Easily one of the best films of the year!" Veronica Mixon, The Philadelphia Tribune: "Sci-Fi at its best! Ethan Hawke gives a riveting performance." Ron Brewington, American Urban Radio Networks: "Gripping, fascinating and suspenseful! A real thriller!" Bruce C. Steele, Out Magazine: "Visually stunning and smartly conceived, Uma Thurman is radiant." Michael Tunison, Entertainment Today: "Hollywood is great at aliens. It long ago cornered the market on spaceships, rayguns and giant insects. But the science fiction traditionalists didn't begin with Buck Rogers. You wouldn't know it by watching the movies, but before square-jawed pulp heroes blasted their first bug-eyed monsters, the genre was the realm of H. G. Welles' serious speculation -- the literature of "What If?" that brought us George Orwell's 1984, Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451, and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. "Anyone interested in sci-fi's special facility for probing humankind's noblest strengths and deepest flaws should rejoice at the fact that, smack in the middle of the Independence Day/Men In Black revitalization of the genre's lowbrow end, at least a couple of attempts have also been made to treat it seriously. Earlier this summer the excellent Contact put Earth in touch with technologically advanced aliens in a relatively plausible manner. Now 'Gattica' revisits another sci-fi staple -- an independent thinker's clash with the conformity of a dystopian near-future society. "Like Huxley's and Orwell's genre milestones, writer-director Andrew Niccol's film pits an outsider against a frighteningly efficient Brave New World Order. In this case, an obsession with using technology to reach genetic perfection with new generations of test-tube babies has led to a new caste system based on how promising a individual's DNA profile is -- their potential for intelligence, physical prowess and other traits. "The not-so-subtly named Vincent Freeman is considered a freak of nature because he was born live from his other's womb, with a completely random set of genes -- an 'invalid' in the era's parlance. With such a limited genetic future (he's myopic, at-risk for various diseases at an early age, etc.), Vincent is considered unfit for any but the most menial of occupations. So it's only with the greatest amount of trouble and personal sacrifice that he's able to work towards his life's dream -- leaving the planet for a tour with the space corps. He's only able to enter the elite training program at 'Gattica' (OK name for a training center -- lousy name for a film) by engaging in an elaborate identity-switching ruse with the genetically superior Eugene (Jude Law), who, unknown to the authorities, has been paralyzed in an accident abroad. Since Eugene can no longer use his top-notch DNA profile in the workplace, he rents it to Vincent -- an illegal scheme that puts both young men in serious danger. "Niccol uses this device to give his film a suspense-thriller spine, complete with a pair of cops (Alan Arkin, Loren Dean) closing in as Vincent's long-awaited launch day approaches. There's also a lukewarm love interest (Uma Thurman) who doesn't know the awful truth about Vincent's genes. Vincent's deception would have given the piece more than enough tension-producing genre punch, but Niccol proceeds to go overboard by turning it into an unnecessary and uninteresting murder mystery -- the death of a flight instructor at Gattaca. If viewers are able to suspend their disbelief through the various farfetched measures Vincent takes to fool the Establishment's identity-checking security system (packs of Eugene's blood underneath fake finger tips; a hidden dispenser of Eugene's urine under Vincent's clothing), they'll have more trouble doing so with convenient facts as no one at Gattaca recognizing Vincent even when his photo is displayed on every computer screen. "However plausible the backdrop, a gaunt-looking Hawke (he's even given that Gen-X goatee), brings just the right underdog Everyman quality to the hero, investing the film with a disarming humanity. It's especially important that he does so since Thurman, who alternates between surprisingly strong character turns in films and surprisingly flat ones, is in the latter mode this time around. Her attempt at a chilly genetic superwoman is cringe-inducing, especially when contrasted by Hawke's relaxed naturalness. "Lovers of a good, grim dystopia have had to wait a long time since the last important addition the the genre, 1985's Brazil. 'Gattaca' doesn't revolutionize the tradition, but its nice to see somebody give the giant bugs a momentary rest and take a shot." Return to MOVIES Table of Contents Return to 1997 SNEAK PREVIEWS Table of Contents

George of the Jungle

Story: Live Action remake of cartoon; "Watch Out For That Tree!" Y.A.R.O.T.O.T.A. (Yet Another Ripoff Of Tarzan Of The Apes) Studio: Walt Disney Pictures presents a Mandeville Films Avnet/Kerner production Based on: the low-budget 17-episode animated spoof series by Jay Ward Productions, Inc. ("Rocky and Bullwinkle"). The original 1967 animation was directed by Gerard Baldwin, Frank Braxton, Pete Burness, Jim Hiltz, William T. Hurtz, Lew Kieller, John Walker. It starred (voices only): June Foray as Ursula and Nell; Paul Frees as Narrator, Baron Otto Matic, others; Bill Scott as George, Super Chicken, and Tom Slick. The executive producer was Ponsonby Britt; Skipp Craig and Roger Donley edited; and the music was by Sheldon Allman and Stan Worth (see "Song", below). The original cartoon now airs on the Cartoon Network. Screenplay: Dana Olsen, Audrey Wells Story: Dana Olsen Director: Sam Weisman Cinematography: Thomas Ackerman, A.S.C. Editors: Stuart Pappe, Roger Bondelli A.C.E. Executive Producer: C. Tad Devlin Producers: John Avnet, David Hoberman, Jordan Kerner Co-Producer: Lou Arkoff Starring: George of the Jungle -- Brendan Fraser ("Encino Man", Showtime's "Twilight of the Golds", soon to be in independent film "Still Breathing") (and who worked out beforehand until his body fat was reduced to 4%) Ursula Stanhope -- Leslie Mann ("The Cable Guy", "Last Man Standing", "She's The One", "Birdland" [TV], "Virgin High") Wise Ape (voice) -- John Cleese Puppeteer -- Pons Maar Lyle Van de Groot (Ursula's fiance') -- Thomas Haden Church (TV's "Ned & Stacey") Thor -- Abraham Benrubi Beatrice Stanhope -- Holland Taylor Kwame -- Richard Roundtree Max -- Greg Cruttwell Narrator (voice) -- Keith Scott Betsy -- Kelly Miller Arthur Stanhope -- John Bennett Perry Ursula's Friends -- Afton Smith George Jr. -- Moah John Cardoza George Jr. -- Benjamin John Cardoza ??? -- Michael Chinyamurindi ??? -- Abdoulaye NGom ??? -- Lydell M. Chesier ??? -- Spencer Garrett ??? -- Jon Pennell ??? -- Lauren Bowles ??? -- Samantha Harris Production Design: Stephen Marsh Art Directors: David Haber, Mark Zuelzke Set Decorator: Kathryn Peters Visual Effects: Dream Quest Images (CGI makes the elephant, Shep, frolic like a dog) Special Creature Effects: Jim Henson's Creature Shop Stunts: the swing-from-the-San Francisco-Bay-Bridge stunt is performed by Joey Preston Costumes: Lisa Jensen Product Placement: clothes by Armani, shoes by Nike, and this is done so obviously that we're supposed to find it funny Music: Mark Shaiman (twice-nominated for Oscars: "The American President", "The First Wives Club") and also scored both "Addams Family" films. Here, he lushly orchestrates the original melody, slyly inserts it into big-band and Afro-World-Music stylizations, and provides lavish sweetening and animal-noise sampling. "On this movie, I got to use every burlequey, vaudeville-shticky musical idea I've ever wanted to do," he told Jon Burlingame ("The Jungle Ditty Everybody Knows", Los Angeles Times Weekend, 17 July 1997, pp.10-11). Jon Burlingame authored "TV's Biggest Hits" [Schirmer Books]. Song: Stan Worth and Sheldon Allman's 1967 signature song "George, George, George of the Jungle, Friend to you and me (scream: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!) Watch out for that tree!" Stan Worth was a semi-successful singer/musician, and Sheldon Allman was a game-show theme composer ("Let's Make a Deal") as well as a nightclub performer and character actor (the mean veterinarian in "Hud" and prison chaplain in "In Cold Blood). Between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m., at Allman's house, as supervised by Jay Ward, Stan & Sheldon had written not only this immortal ditty but also the theme songs for two other Jay Ward cartoons: "Super Chicken" and "Tom Slick." The tune was basically Stan's, and the words were mostly Sheldon's. Sheldon Allman's line "away he'll schlep on his elephant Shep" is surely the first Yiddish in TV themesongs. Stan Worth arranged, sang, played keyboards, and conducted a 7-man band for the original TV recording; he died in a 1980 plane crash. Allman quit while he was ahead, and never recorded another cartoon song, although he did write two "Mr. Ed" songs ("The Empty Feedbag Blues" and "Pretty Little Filly With The Pony Tail." Sheldon Allman also wrote a musical starring Frankenstien, Dracula, and Wolfman entitled "I'm Sorry, the Bridge is Out, You'll Have to Spend the Night" with co-author Bobby Pickett (the singer of "Monster Mash"). For this movie, the Seattle-based band 'The Presidents of the United States' rewrote the verses (keeping the original chorus) under music producer Don Was. Their version is the end-title theme, and the Mark Shaiman-sweetened version is used for the MTV video and the movie's animated (Jay Ward-style) opening credits. Budget: ,000,000 [according to June 1997 press release] Running Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes Preview statements by the Star: Brenden Fraser told Los Angeles Times calendar reporter (Sunday 13 July 1997): "Playing George presented me with some really bizarre acting choices I've rarely been asked to make. Like being in a loin cloth and grasping by my fingernails from a vine as I swing towards a stationary object, screaming, while monkeys hold up numbers. To prepare, I went to Rockreation, the closest postmodern thing I could get to vine swinging. It's in Santa Monica, an indoor rock climbing facility with textured wallsand footholds and handholds. Learned to climb things, cut my fear of that. Opening: 18 July 1997 Web: George of the Jungle official site Brenden Fraser says "I'm a cyberjunkie. I use the Internet as a very helpful tool as an actor. Right now I'm researching a project I'm in with [Sir] Ian Mckellen called 'Gods and Monsters,' from the Christopher Bram book 'Father of Frankenstein.' It's based on James Whale, who directed more than 20 films, most notably 'Frankenstein' and 'Bride of Frankenstein.'" Box Office: "George of the Jungle" had a surprisingly strong opening at #2, with weekend gross of ,500,000 on 2,506 screens (,600 average) and a cumulative 1-week gross of ,900,000. It ranked below only the powerhouse Men In Black in that Columbia film's 3rd week, and displaced Contact for the #2 spot. Keeping its #2 rank in week #2, "George of the Jungle" kept swinging with weekend gross of ,200,000 on 2,554 screens (,167 average) and a cumulative 2-week gross of ,100,000. It ranked below only the Sony/Columbia powerhouse "Air Force One", which opened at #1 with ,100,000 to become the top non-holiday opening this year and the all-time hottest opening between 4th of July and Labor Day. "George of the Jungle" moved just ahead of Men In Blackin that Columbia film's 4th week. In Week #3, "George of the Jungle" hung on the vine with 3-day weekend gross of ,900,000 on 2,605 screens (,408 average) and a cumulative 3-week gross of ,300,000. It ranked below only the Sony/Columbia powerhouse "Air Force One", which stayed at #1 with ,700,000 for the weekend and ,700,000 cumulatively; and the surprise hit, opening at #2, Spawn. "George of the Jungle" stayed just ahead of Men In Blackin that Columbia film's 5th week. {week 4 missing from database, will reconstruct later} "George of the Jungle" slipped 24% from week #4 to week #5, with 3-day weekend gross of ,800,000 on 2,431 screens (,980 average) and a 5-week cumulative gross of ,600,000. This put it well below the 1-2-3 triple blockbusters of Miramax's "Cop Land" debut with a stellar cast headed by Sly Stallone, the 4th week of Sony/Columbia's "Air Force One", and the 2nd week of Warner Bros.' Mel Gibson vehicle "Conspiracy Theory." Thus, Event Horizon was the leader of the 4-5-6-7 sci-fi quad with #5 New Line's Spawnin its 3rd week, #6 Disney's George of the Jungle in its 5th week, and #7 Sony/Columbia's Men In Black in its 7th week. The 5th science fiction film in the top-10, Warner Bros.' Contact, slipped to 9th in its 6th week. "George of the Jungle" slipped another 35% down the vine to week #6, where it ranked #9 with ,100,000 4-day weekend gross on 1,909 screens (,647 average) and a cumulative gross of ,500,000. "George" ranked just below the debut of Universal's "Leave it to Beaver" and just above the 8th week of Men In Black. Even after 12 weeks from release, "George" was still swinging at #20. After the weekend of 3-5 October 1997, "George" had a gross of 0,000 on 757 screens (4 average), placing it just below Tri-Star's "My Best Friend's Wedding" and giving it a solid cumulative gross of 1,400,000 -- breaking the hundred megabuck barrier. Reviews: Siskel & Ebert: "Two thumbs up!" Jim Svejda, KNX Radio: "The Best Disney Comedy in years." Jimmy Carter, Nashville Network: "One of the funniest films that I have seen in a long time." Ron Brewington, American Urban Radio Networks: "The funniest film of the summer." Bill Zwecker, WMAQ-TV (NBC), Chicago: "A comedy smash." Roger Moore, Winston Salem Journal: "Howlingly funny." Mike Cidoni, WOKR-TV (ABC), Rochester NY: "Watch out! Here comes the surprise smash of the summer." Bill Bregoli, Westwood One Radio: "The most fun you will have in the movies this summer." Don Stotter, WDZL-TV (Independent): "Everyone will love this wild and funny ride." Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times, Wednesday 16 July 1997, p.F5: "...Plucky but maladroit, this Tarzan knockoff is liable to bang into almost anything but, like those Timex watches, he takes a licking and keeps on ticking.... If you're looking for something silly, you've got nothing to worry about.... This version ... tries to recapture the wised-up cleverness of the original but only partly succeeds. Sporadically playful, it ends up wearing as thin as any film geared to a preteen sense of humor is bound to do. What that means is that any audiences that might be charmed by the film's self-mocking attitude will have to endure a long string of jokes about flatulence and people getting hammered in the crotch... that's an awful lot of slapstick to put up with from anyone who is not Jim Carrey." "Unseen but all-important is the narrator (Keith Scott) whose mellifluous voice delivers knowing asides referring to things like 'the big and expensive waterfall set.' It also moves us '46 vines away' from George's territory to introduce the 'terrifying intruder' who turns out to be madcap heiress Ursula Stanhope (Leslie Mann) on an adventure-seeking safari in Africa." "Soon enough Ursulais joined by her arrogant snob of a fiance', Lyle Van de Groot (Thomas Haden Church)... He's accompanied by a pair of poachers thinly-disguised as guides... [who] are ever so interested in jungle legends of a gigantic White Ape ["sounds like a drink"], 7 feet tall... but soon enough Ursula is gone, and it just might be that big galoot has made off with her. That galoot, of course, would be George, who, not surprisingly, given all the knocks on the head he's taken, is not the sharpest coconut in the jungle. Though the character is meant to be an innocent, Frasier's playing is closer to feeble-mided and befuddled, which puts a crimp in his audience appeal...." "[The animatronic] Ape [voice by John Cleese] is the most successful of the film's nonhuman characters... [who] sniff's 'George's Secrets: there's the shortest book ever written.' This kind of off-handed humor appears often enough to keep 'George of the Jungle' genial, but even by the standards of the genre, there's not a banana's worth of plot... to offer narrative nourishment...." "The film remains mildly amusing, but [self-conscious product placement] ends up canceling out the humor and the innocence. Given that 'King of Jungle only here to help' is George's constant refrain, he could have started by bailing out his own film." Return to MOVIES Table of Contents Return to 1997 SNEAK PREVIEWS Table of Contents Godzilla Story: big lizard stomps town Studio: Columbia/TriStar Based on: original low-budget Japanese films Screenplay: ??? Producer: Dean Devlin? ("Independence Day") Director: Roland Emmerich ("Independence Day") Starring: love interest -- Leslie Mann ("George of the Jungle", "The Cable Guy", "Last Man Standing", "She's The One", "Birdland" [TV], "Virgin High") Special Effects: ??? Opening: Winter 1997, slipped to Summer 1998. Was grounded for budget revision. See SNEAK PRE-PREVIEWS: 1998 SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY/HORROR FILMS Return to MOVIES Table of Contents Return to 1997 SNEAK PREVIEWS Table of Contents

Hercules

Story: Feature Animation by the team that brought you "Aladdin" and "The Little Mermaid", trying to cash in on the Hercules/Xena craze in the studio's 35th animated feature. Herc, the awesomely strong but (in the myths) anger-prone, selfish, and very stupid son of God-King Zeus is taken from his home on Mount Olympus via a plot by Hades, God of the Underworld (in the myth, of course, it's Pluto, God of the Underworld, but that might be confusing to Disney fans). As Hades tries to conquer the universe, Hercules and his sidekick Phil have to stop him. They do. Studio: Walt Disney / Distributed by Buena Vista Based on: Greek legend. See my essay on Greece as the origin of science fiction Countries D-to-J Screenplay: Ron Clements & John Musker, Bob Shaw & Donald McEnery (stand-up comics) and Irene Mecchi Producer: Alice Dewey and John Musker & Ron Clements Director: John Musker & Ron Clements Editor: Tom Finnan Assistant Editor: Julie Rogers Songs: Alan Menken (melody) & David Zippel (lyrics) Musical Conductor/Vocal Arranger: Michael Kosarin Starring: Hercules -- Tate Donovan Young Hercules -- Joshua Keaton Young Hercules (singing) -- Roger Bart Philoctetes (Phil) -- Danny DeVito Hades -- James Woods Pain -- Bobcat Goldthwaite Zeus -- Rip Torn Narrator -- Charlton Heston Panic -- Mat Frewer Hermes -- Paul Shaffer Hera -- Samantha Eggar Amphitryon -- Hal Holbrook Megara (Meg) -- Susan Egan Cyclops -- Patrick Pinney Alcmene -- Barbara Barrie Atropos -- Paddi Edwards Burnt Man -- Corey Burton Nessus -- Jim Cummings Apollo -- Keith David The 3 Fates: Clotho -- Amanda Plummer Lachesis -- Carole Shelley The 7 Muses: Calliope -- Lillias White Clio -- Vaneese Thomas Melpomene -- Cheryl Freeman Terpsichore -- LaChanze Thalia -- Roz Ryan Production Design: Gerald Scarfe (artist/cartoonist "Pink Floyd--The Wall") Special Effects: over 1,000,000 drawings were made, wearing out 72,000 pencils in the process. Supervising Animator: Andreas Deja (Hercules) Web: Hercules official web site Game: there will be a PlayStation CD game released the same day, fo more on this see Disney's Hercules Game Opening: 25 June 1997 slipped to 27 June 1997? see my essay on "Rocky and Bullwinkle" in my Ultimate SF TV site TELEVISION: list of 350+ links, last updated 31 Dec 1996 Box Office: {opening week figures to be done} In the 2nd week of release, "Hercules" slipped to #10, with 2,000 gross on 2 screens for a cumulative gross of ,500,000 and an Olympian 2,052 per screen. This is due to the seats for the Manhattan movie and stage showing at a pricey to . When "Herc" goes to wider release, the per-screen average will drop enormously, but the weekly gross will shoot up, and so the ranking will rise beyond this week's #10 on the list. In week 3, as predicted, Hercules shot to #2, with 3-day weekend gross of ,500,000 on 2,872 screens for an average of ,470 and a cumulative gross of ,700,000. "Hercules" was close behind the debut of Paramount's "Face/Off", directed by John Woo and starring John Travolta and Nicholas Cage, which opened at #1 with ,400,000. The surprise was that "Hercules" rose above Batman & Robin. These numbers strongly suggest that "Hercules" will gross over 0,000,000 in North America which is good news for Disney, but not great news. After all, "The Lion King" grossed 2,000,000 in the same U.S./Canadian market. The 4th week gave "Hercules" an 11% shove down towards the underworld, with a still-strong ,100,000 weekend gross. In 3rd place, Herc was still below "Face/Off" and the tremendous ,100,000 debut of Columbia's Men In Black. Classical romance edged above modern romance, with the Hercules-Meg love-in just above the 3rd week of "My Best Friend's Wedding." In Week #5, "Hercules" dropped 32% from 3rd to 4th place, with weekend gross of ,340,000 on 2,930 screens (,846 average), cumulatively raking in ,500,000. It ranked just below the 3rd week of Paramount's "Face/Off", and just above the 4th week of TriStar's "My Best Friend's Wedding." Much of this slippage can be ascribed to the powerhouse pair on top of the market: Men In Black in its second week at #1, and Contact opening at #2. The science fiction/fantasy audience has a tough time choosing between winners in this record-breaking summer. "Hercules" slipped further in week #7, with weekend gross of ,200,000 on 2,541 screens (,043 average) for a cumulative 7-week gross of ,800,000. It ranked (once again) just below "My Best Friend's Wedding", and just above the slightly lower than expected debut of Miramax's "Operation Condor" (starring Jackie Chan). In Week #8, "Hercules" descended to 9th place, still below "My Best Friend's Wedding", and just above the slightly lower than expected 2nd week of Miramax's "Operation Condor" (starring Jackie Chan). "Hercules" grossed ,200,000 for the weekend on 1,957 screens (,610 average) for a cumulative 7-week gross of ,400,000. The slip to #9 can surely be ascribed to the Sony/Columbia powerhouse "Air Force One", which opened at #1 with ,100,000 to become the top non-holiday opening this year and the all-time hottest opening between 4th of July and Labor Day. Reviews: Mason Woods, WAFB-TV (CBS): "Disney does it again!" Peter Plagens, Newsweek: "'Herc' is the ultimate action hero." Time Magazine: "A hit!" Susan Granger, SSG Syndicate & American Movie Classics: "'Hercules' is a mighty, titanic 10!" Pat Collins, WOR-TV, New York: "Absolutely wonderful!"