Tommy Lee Jones, Samuel L. Jackson and the guy who did "The French Connection" (that's William Friedkin, by the way). With that lineup, what could possibly go wrong with "Rules of Engagement" (opening Friday, wide)? Besides having all the trappings of a trite military courtroom drama, probably not much. Based on a short story by James Webb (a former U.S. secretary of the Navy), the film follows the lives of two Vietnam vets (Jackson and Jones) whose paths cross many years later when one asks the other to defend him in court. Expect a lot of high-decibel screaming back and forth.
In other new movie releases this week:
Is there life after "The X-Files"? David Duchovny finds out this week by venturing into romantic-comedy territory with "Return to Me" (opening Friday, wide). The flick pairs Duchovny with a seemingly incongruous Minnie Driver in a improbably sappy plotline wherein a man falls in love with a woman whose life is saved by a heart transplant from his late wife. (Got that?) Expect to see Duchovny smile, wear a T-shirt and do lots of other things that Agent Mulder would never do -- albeit with a level of lingering austerity.
For those looking for something less dramatic and mushy, might we suggest the wrestling-themed flick "Ready to Rumble" (opening Friday, wide) with David Arquette, Scott Caan and Oliver Platt. Expect nothing.
In what seems another searching and ambitious but ultimately doomed attempt to make sense of the zeitgeist of our time comes "Black and White" (opening Wednesday, limited). Written and directed by James Toback ("Two Girls and a Guy"), the film seeks to explore the relationship between race and identity in today's youth culture. The ensemble cast includes Brooke Shields, Robert Downey Jr. and rappers Power, Raekwon and Method Man. Expect a befitting appearance by a verbose and articulate Mike Tyson. (Really.)
On the documentary front this week are: "This is Not an Exit" (opening Friday, New York only). The self-absorbed portrait of bad-boy author Bret Easton Ellis, who has made a career by upsetting the delicate sensibility of hidebound critics with novels of modern debauchery such as "Less Than Zero" and "American Psycho"; and, "Southpaw" (opening Friday, limited), about the against-all-odds life of Irish boxer Francis Barrett.
Other films opening in limited release Friday include: "East-West," (New York only)" Joe Gould's Secret," (New York only) "Me Myself I," (New York and Los Angeles only) and "Winter Sleepers" (Los Angeles only), the first feature of "Run Lola Run" stylemeister Tom Tykwer.
A salty skipper sets sail with his motley crew on a three-hour tour ... oops actually on a commercial fishing expedition as storms collide to give the Andrea Gail and crew the cruise of their lives. Ten-story waves and a crumbling ocean cruiser threaten to cut those lives tragically short in this Weather-Channel-on-steroids disaster flick. Unfortunately "The Perfect Storm" starts with a drizzle dampened by cheesy subplots but strap yourself in because this film rocks when the waves get rolling.
Can we end the debate about George Clooney having what it takes to be a movie star right here? After kicking butt in "Out of Sight" and "Three Kings " the former "E.R." stud has amply proven himself. He's every bit the leading man here as a fisherman who's in over his head (literally). To say that Mark Wahlberg plays Gilligan to Clooney's skipper wouldn't be quite fair; he completely sheds his Calvin Klein-clad image as a seaman who's love of swordfishing could cost him his girl and his life. But beware: "Storm" is no "Titanic" disaster-glam here. Clooney and Wahlberg are seriously shaggy and grungy for the entire 2+ hours.
Wolfgang Petersen mercifully avoids the silliness of recent disaster spectacles such as "Twister" and "Volcano " instead attempting to tell this true story with dignity. He flounders with the maudlin "Men Who Fish Too Much and the Women Who Love Them" backstory but redeems himself with ocean storms so sensational you won't be able to cancel your Carnival Cruise quickly enough.
Peterson gives us glimpses of the boats deeper into the storm than the Andrea Gail showing us what's in store for our heroes and building a near-unbearable level of tension.
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Feb. 11, 2000 -- Seen any good Satanic-possession movies lately?
The granddaddy of all devil-in-me flicks, "The Exorcist," is set to return to a handful of U.S. theaters next month in an all-new expanded and restored version that contains "more than one full reel of long-rumored, legendary footage, excised before the film's original release," according to Warner Bros.
The new version isn't being billed as a "director's cut," but rather as an "author's cut." Director William Friedkin, who supervised the restoration, says this is the version that author William Peter Blatty (who wrote the screenplay, based on his novel) wanted to see back in 1973. Twenty-six years ago, Friedkin and the studio had other ideas. Now Friedkin's a convert.
"After viewing it a quarter of a century later I've come to agree with him," Friedkin says in a statement. "The restored footage -- plus one or two little surprises -- makes the film more suspenseful, as well as spiritually deeper."
"The Exorcist" starred Linda Blair as the possessed, vomit-spewing, head-rotating little girl and Jason Miller as the demon-evicting priest. All were nominated for Academy Awards. Blatty won an Oscar for best screenplay adaptation. The film grossed $150 million domestically, en route to becoming the second-highest-earning film in history at that time, trailing only "The Godfather." It also won a Golden Globe for best dramatic film.
The expanded version of "The Exorcist" initially will get a very limited release, beginning March 17 in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Austin, Texas; and Athens, Georgia. For more info, check out Warners' all-new "Exorcist" Website at: www.theexorcist.net.
GOING 'PSYCHO'?: Nobody (outside of some Sundancers) has seen it yet, but everybody already hates it. That's how it seems for "American Psycho," the new film version of Bret Easton Ellis' infamous novel, starring Christian Bale. A Florida lawyer who represents the parents of three kids killed in a Kentucky school shooting is demanding that "Psycho" get an NC-17 rating. Lions Gate Entertainment already has vowed to trim the flick to qualify for an R, but that's not good enough for the legal eagle. If it's not branded NC-17, and an under-17 viewer is inspired to commit a copycat killing, the lawyer says he'll sue both Lions Gate and the movie ratings board. The families represented by the attorney say their kids' killers were inspired by an earlier Hollywood product -- 1995's "The Basketball Diaries."
FIGHT FOR YOUR WRITE: A federal appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit brought against Spike Lee by a man claiming he should have been given a co-author credit on the writer/director's "Malcolm X" (1992). Jefri Aalmuhammed, the film's Islamic technical consultant, sued Lee and Warner in 1995, alleging that his contributions were so important to the film that he should get a co-author credit. A federal court initially dismissed Aalmuhammed's case in 1998.
KIDDIE KA-CHING! There's a celebration going on in toyland, specifically at Mattel, which was awarded the coveted merchandising contract for the upcoming Harry Potter movies. The best-selling children's books by J.K. Rowlings, about a magical orphan, are currently being developed into feature flicks by Warner Bros. The first film in the sure-thing franchise is "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," slated for a summer 2001 release and which Steven Spielberg is reportedly considering as his next project.