Coming soon: ‘The Hurricane,’ ‘The Third Miracle,’ ‘Jesus’ Son’

The biggest millennium party is definitely not going to take place at your local cineplex this week. Taking into account the pre-millennial craze suffered by shifty audiences coast to coast, Hollywood is taking a low-key, market-testing approach to the week’s more recognizable releases.

The Denzel Washington vehicle “The Hurricane” will make its limited-release debut Wednesday. A favorite of critics, the well-reviewed film based on the true story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter features an award buzz turn by Denzel Washington as the titular boxer who is wrongly accused of the murders of three white men in 1966.

Also hitting the theater mid-week is Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Third Miracle.” Starring Ed Harris and Anne Heche, it is a story of lost faith and renewed hope set in present-day Chicago.

For those wanting to journey to the sardonic dark side of America before the turn of the millennium, there’re two indie favorites from Lions Gate: the adaptation of Denis Johnson’s “Jesus’ Son,” with Billy Crudup staking the lead as the nihilistic, angst-ridden junkie traveling through the post-war drugscape of 1970s America; and renowned Errol Morris‘ (“The Thin Blue Line,” “Fast, Cheap and Out of Control“) latest offering “Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.,” a psychological profile of Fred A. Leuchter Jr., the man best known, and most hated, for his involvement with the Holocaust denial movement.

On a lighter (and a glaringly Technicolor) note, Disney will usher in the new millennium with “Fantasia 2000,” a newly restored version of its 1940 animated classic that blends the creative innovation of the original with the technical capability of today’s technology. “Fantasia” purists will not only be able to view the timeless musical in a visually and aurally enhanced setting via IMAX technology, they will also be treated to six new computer-generated musical segments specially created for the occasion.

Below is a list of all the films opening this week.

Opening Wednesday, Dec. 29, 1999

Limited Release

The Hurricane” (Universal) — Based on a true story, Denzel Washington stars as Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the middleweight boxer who was wrongly convicted for the murders of three white men in 1966. Spanning over 20 years, the film follows the innocent boxer’s fight for justice that leads to his eventual exoneration. Deborah Kara Unger, John Hannah and Liev Schreiber co-star as the activists who champion his cause.

Jesus’ Son” (Lions Gate) — Billy Crudup plays an itinerant junkie stumbling across 1970s America, searching for meaning in everything from drug and sex to chance encounters with anonymous strangers. From rural Iowa to arid Arizona, his nihilistic journey weaves together interconnected stories of loss, angst and isolation into a jarring collage of an American subculture. Samantha Morton, Holly Hunter, Denis Leary and Dennis Hopper co-star. Based on a collection of short stories by Denis Johnson.

Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.” (Lions Gate) — From groundbreaking documentary filmmaker Errol Morris comes another distinctive portrait of human extremes. The subject of this fascinating portrait is the infamous Fred A. Leuchter Jr., the erstwhile engineer of death row technology who disclaimed the occurrence of the Holocaust in 1988. Rather than being the crowning achievement of his career, his alignment with the Holocaust denial movement instead ruined his life.

The Third Miracle” (SPC) — Ed Harris plays a disillusioned Catholic priest sent to Chicago to investigate the life of a deceased woman who’s under consideration for sainthood after a religious miracle. His religious conviction and faith further erode as the skeptical priest finds himself increasingly attracted to the woman’s daughter, played by Anne Heche.

Opening Saturday, Jan. 1, 2000

“Fantasia 2000” (Disney) — The 1940 Disney animated classic returns with an added touch of technological magic this time around. Combining traditional cell-animation with computer-generated animation, the musical gala features six new segments — each created by different directors and creative teams. The renovated Mouse House favorite is also the first animated feature to be specially formatted for IMAX theaters.