Oscar buzz continues at the box office this weekend as a few of the year's most highly touted films open in both wide and limited release.
Tom Hanks and company lead the way in the prison drama "The Green Mile," based on the popular series by Stephen King and directed by Frank Darabont. Five years ago, Darabont came to prominence with another prison-bound tale by King called "The Shawshank Redemption." That movie, which frequently tops lists of the most popular films of all time, garnered seven Academy Award nominations.
Other Oscar hopefuls include the limited releases "Cradle Will Rock" and "The Cider House Rules." "Cradle," directed by Tim Robbins and featuring an all-star cast, details the events of New York City's art scene in the 1930s. "Cider," directed by "What's Eating Gilbert Grape's" Lasse Hallstrom, is a quirky, coming-of-age love story adapted from John Irving's book. It stars up-and-comers Tobey Maguire and Charlize Theron.
Those in the mood for lighter fare (especially fans of the Adam Sandler/Chris Farley set) should be delighted by the release of "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo." Rob Schneider, another "Saturday Night Live" alum and frequent co-star in the Sandler films, gets his chance to play dumb as a pool cleaner turned first-class male hustler.
Smaller films vying for attention in limited engagements are "Diamonds," a road movie about family relationships co-starring Kirk Douglas and Dan Aykroyd; "Miss Julie," a sexy affair starring "Deep Blue Sea's" Saffron Burrows and directed by "Leaving Las Vegas'" Mike Figgis; and "Wallowitch & Ross," a documentary covering the careers of entertainers John Wallowitch and Bertram Ross.
The following is a complete list of all the week's releases.
Friday, Dec. 10, 1999
"Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" (Buena Vista) -- Rob Schneider stars as Deuce Bigalow, a down-on-his-luck guy who cleans fish tanks for a living. While fish-sitting for a debonair, world-class male escort, he mistakenly answers the business phone and becomes "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo."
"The Green Mile" (Warner Bros.) -- Set during the Great Depression, Michael Clarke Duncan plays a Death Row inmate in a Southern prison who possesses the unusual gift of healing. Tom Hanks co-stars as the penitentiary guard who, upon discovering the inmate's miraculous power and gentle nature, begins to question the man's guilt.
"Cradle Will Rock" (Buena Vista) -- Based on true events in the cultural and art scenes of 1930s New York City, this film follows various cultural workers -- including Mexican artist Diego Rivera, theater director Orson Welles and propagandist Margherita Sarfatti -- as they defend their artistic expressions in the face of political paranoia and government censorship. John Cusack, Bill Murray and Susan Sarandon co-star.
"The Cider House Rules" (Miramax) -- Directed by Lasse Hallstrom and adapted from John Irving's best-selling novel, this coming-of-age story casts Tobey Maguire as a young man who has spent his entire youth in an orphanage. Hungry for experience, he sets out to explore the world outside. Charlize Theron and Michael Caine co-star.
"Diamonds" (Miramax) -- In an effort to bond with estranged son Dan Aykroyd, former prizefighter Kirk Douglas takes his son and grandson on a road trip to Reno in search of 13 stolen diamonds, stashed away years ago. The quest for the hidden gems affords the men a lesson in fatherhood, reconciliation and the price of growing older. Lauren Bacall co-stars.
"Miss Julie" (MGM) -- Director Mike Figgis returns with a tale of sexual seduction and class conflict set at a wealthy estate. Saffron Burrows stars as an affluent count's sexually wanton daughter who begins an ambivalent and destructive affair with an opportunistic servant, played by Peter Mullan. By the end of the night, the illicit liaison pushes the emotionally unbalanced heroine toward a certain self-destructive act.
"Jerome" (Phaedra) -- Drew Pillsbury plays a man who abandons everything he knows -- his wife, his son, his job -- and heads across the desert to Jerome, Ariz., to pursue his dream of becoming an artist. Despite his determination, the hapless dreamer gets sidetracked when an iconoclastic female drifter, played by Wendie Malick, crosses his path.
"Wallowitch & Ross: This Moment" (First Run) -- Written and directed by Richard Morris, this moving portrait details the career and partnership of entertainers John Wallowitch and Bertram Ross. The documentary recounts from the beginning when Ross was a principal dancer for Martha Graham and Wallowitch was a gifted Juilliard student. Their initial meeting in New York paved the way for an enduring collaboration and a lasting romance.
"Sweet and Lowdown" (Sony Pictures Classics) -- In Woody Allen's latest, Sean Penn plays musician Emmet Ray, a self-proclaimed jazz guitar genius of the 1920s and 1930s. The bigger-than-life portrait follows the eccentric personality through his notorious career as he clashes with lovers, friends, enemies and gangsters in New York City. John Waters and Uma Thurman co-star.
"42 Up" (First Run) -- In 1964, filmmaker Michael Apted began his marathon documentary series about the lives of a group of 7-year-old kids in England, each from radically different socioeconomic backgrounds. Since then, the director has continued to chronicle the ups and downs of his subjects at 7-year intervals. The sixth installment is the latest update on these people at the crossroad of the big 42.
"Tumbleweeds" (Fine Line) -- Leaving an abusive boyfriend behind, single mother Janet McTeer and daughter Kimberly J. Brown head for the sunny suburbs of San Diego to start anew. Once again, McTeer swiftly enters into a destructive relationship and is tempted to look for an easy way out. However, her headstrong daughter, tired of her rootless existence, refuses to abandon her newly established life.
Director John Woo has left Sony and signed a three-year movie and TV deal with MGM, according to Entertainment Weekly Online.
Woo didn't end up making any films with his resident studio, planning two other projects instead with MGM. The projects include "Wind Talkers," starring Nicolas Cage. For now, Woo's got another action flick on his plate: "Mission: Impossible 2," starring Tom Cruise, opens this summer.
SECRET AGENT MAN: John Dahl, who directed the noirish Matt Damon poker pic "Rounders," is in talks with Mandalay Pictures to direct "End Game," a spy flick starring Sean Connery, reports Daily Variety. Written by Adi Hassock and Stuart Kelban, Connery will play an old-fashioned CIA agent who goes on a special undercover assignment to expose illegal arms dealing. In the process, he discovers that he's been set up to take the fall in a conspiracy. Connery then teams up with a young counterpart to prove his innocence.
LET'S HOPE IT'S TEMPORARY: "Cruel Intentions" director Roger Kumble is in final talks to helm Columbia Pictures' romantic comedy "Screenplay Without a Title Yet." The story follows a club-hopping hipster who believes she's finally met her soulmate. The next morning at a wedding party, she is horrified to find that he's the groom. According to Variety, "Screenplay" was purchased for $1.5 million from "South Park" staff writer Nancy Pimental.
WHAT, NO FOUL-MOUTHED ANGELS?: As if he's just asking for "Dogma"-like religious controversy, "King of the Hill" creator Mike Judge will direct "Messiah Complex," a comedy about a pious college student who starts to believe he was cloned from the Shroud of Turin. No word on whether Beavis and Butthead will co-star.
SPELLING BEE: Catherine Zeta-Jones, who's been a busy bride-to-be lately, is in talks to star in "Traffic," a film that looks at the high-revenue industry of drug trafficking. According to EW Online, the film is based on the acclaimed British miniseries "Traffik," but American studios had to change the title. But we're still afraid moviegoers will think it's a film about the Los Angelesfreeways.
REAL TRAFFIC: Jamie Foxx, fresh from his success in "Any Given Sunday," will star in "National Security," a buddy-cop comedy. Foxx will play a man beaten by a white cop, who then teams up with the officer wrongly accused of the beating.
ADDITIONS: Liev Schreiber, a recent Golden Globe nominee for the cable film "RKO 281," will join the cast of "Pay it Forward," starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment... Tim Guinee ("Blade") has been added to Dimension Films' "Impostor," whichstars Gary Sinise and Madeleine Stowe ... Lisa Thornhill ("Ally McBeal") has been tapped to co-star with Nicolas Cage in "Family Man," to be directed by Brett Ratner ("Rush Hour") ... Alexandra Paul ("Baywatch") will co-star with Ron Silver in the independent film "Exposure," to be film in NewZealand.