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Summer movie preview: 1991

Summer movie preview: 1991 — ”Backdraft,” ”Jungle Fever,” and ”Point Break” are some of the films coming out this season

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May

Backdraft
Two brothers (Kurt Russell and William Baldwin), taking after their fireman father, battle blazes — and a wicked arsonist — in the Windy City. Robert De Niro plays a character based on Chicago arson investigator Donald Rimgale. Directed by Ron Howard, whose last outing, 1989’s Parenthood, grossed nearly $100 million in U.S. theaters.

Inside Story: While De Niro went to a morgue to see fire victims and followed Rimgale with a tape recorder, Russell, Baldwin, and costar Scott Glenn prepared by riding with the Chicago Fire Department. ”Kurt was really digging this thing,” says co-executive producer Brian Grazer. ”One night he got his face cut and came back with this adrenaline rush. All the actors liked it, but they were coughing up black soot. I finally had to send out a document saying nobody was allowed to go on live fire calls anymore.” (Universal)

Hangin’ With the Homeboys
In the first of a wave of realistic, personal looks at inner-city life, writer-director Joseph B. Vasquez chronicles one crucial night for four buddies from the South Bronx. Much of the film is autobiographical, including a recounting of Vasquez’s first visit to a peep show at 17, when he and his compadres had one quarter between them.

Inside Story: Vasquez hopes to correct the image of the South Bronx circulated by The Bonfire of the Vanities: He walked out of the film as soon as he saw what director Brian De Palma had done to his old stomping grounds. ”When I saw these neighborhoods where I’ve been making films since I was 12 years old, with all those abandoned cars and all that rubble, it really pissed me off,” he says. ”They must have spent $3 million to make it look like a s—hole. My film shows the reality. It doesn’t make it pretty or ugly.” (New Line)

Hudson Hawk
An action-adventure starring Bruce Willis and featuring Andie MacDowell, James Coburn, Richard E. Grant, and Sandra Bernhard. See story on Bruce Willis on the Level

Only the Lonely
Next up for the hugely successful Home Alone team of John Hughes and Chris Columbus is a romantic comedy starring John Candy as a Chicago policeman who abides by the strict household rules of his overbearing mother (Maureen O’Hara, returning after a 20-year hiatus in a film career that includes Miracle on 34th Street and The Quiet Man). Then Candy’s character meets a funeral parlor cosmetician played by Ally Sheedy (The Breakfast Club), and experiences first love.

Inside Story: Sheedy studied embalming with a 28-year-old female mortician. ”We went up into a room with the table, and the floor with the drain in it for all the fluids. She showed me how to do the procedure — not on a real person — just what you cut and where you do different things,” Sheedy says. ”She was trying to find someone who would actually let me watch an embalming, but nobody wanted me to. It’s kind of a sacred thing.”

Soapdish
Sally Field stars as an over-the-hill, over-the-top soap queen who’s in a lather about being edged out of The Sun Also Sets by ambitious starlets (Cathy Moriarty and Teri Hatcher) and a lecherous director (Robert Downey Jr.). Not even Rose (Whoopi Goldberg), her scriptwriter and only ally, can save her from career-threatening plot lines that bring her ex-lover (Kevin Kline) and cherished ”niece” (Elisabeth Shue) onto the scene in this send-up of TV soaps.

Inside Story: An early script by Robert Harling (Steel Magnolias) had Field accepting a Daytime Emmy with ”You all really, really do like me!” The line was dropped from the final script by Andrew Bergman (The Freshman). ”That was an inside joke for the reading. I was never going to do that,” says Field, who figures once is enough.

Straight Out of Brooklyn
Writer-director-producer-actor Matty Rich — Hollywood’s only 19-year-old quadruple hyphenate — drew his inspiration from friends and relatives for a brutally frank portrait of black working-class life in Brooklyn’s Red Hook housing projects. Teenager Dennis Brown (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) robs a drug dealer so he can get his family out of the projects, but his parents face the terrible consequences.

Inside Story: With a Special Jury award from the Sundance Film Festival and “two studios grabbing at my throat,” Rich may want to confine his next movie to a soundstage. The novice — who financed his debut with credit cards, radio fund-raising, and help from director Jonathan Demme — shot in Red Hook, where he sought permission from the reigning street-corner drug dealer. One scene was ruined when a carton of eggs was hurled from a rooftop at the actors. Interiors were shot in the safe — if dinky — apartment of Rich’s grandmother, who cooked for up to 50 crew members every day. ”She would make all sorts of soul food,” says Rich. ”Lunch was the best part.”

Thelma and Louise
Susan Sarandon stars with Geena Davis in a female buddy-road movie.

Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken
For sheer theatricality, you can’t do much better than a horse with a pretty girl on it diving off a platform into a tank of water. Add a little historical perspective (the movie is based on the life of Sonora Webster), tragedy (she is injured during one stunt), triumph (she returns to dive again), and romance (this girl’s in love), and you have a film only an animal rights activist could hate. Gabrielle Anwar saddles up as the heroine, alongside Cliff Robertson and Michael Schoeffling (Mermaids).

Inside Story: The film’s death-defying dives weren’t even close to the 40- footers with which Webster thrilled Atlantic City crowds in the ’30s. Producer Matt Williams says Humane Society guidelines dictated that the jumps never exceed 10 feet. ”We accentuated them with low camera angles to make it appear to be 40 feet,” he explains. He also used a mechanical steed — about one-quarter the size of a horse — for special effects.

June

City Slickers
Here’s a movie for urban cowboys yearning for saddle sores. Mid-life is bleak for radio airtime salesman Billy Crystal, so when his pals Daniel Stern and Bruno Kirby arrange a vacation herding cattle in the wild West, Crystal’s fed up wife (Patricia Wettig) urges him to go and “find your smile.” Jack Palance rides along as an eerily demonic trail boss who’s a sucker for a harmonica tune.

Inside Story: The opener of Crystal and company running with the bulls in Pamplona was actually filmed on Universal’s European Street in Los Angeles, but the looks of abject fear on the actors’ faces are no re-creation. ”It was really scary,” says Stern. ”Not only were the bulls behind us, there was a line of stunt guys who’d fall in front of us and let the cattle run over them. So we’d have to jump over their bodies and head for a safe spot behind a fence. (Director) Ron Underwood is a great person, but he’s a little nuts.”

Jungle Fever
Spike Lee takes New York’s racial temperature once again, this time by examining an interracial romance. A black architect (Wesley Snipes) from a gentrified part of Harlem falls for a white secretary (Annabella Sciorra) from Bensonhurst, the site of notorious antiblack violence in 1989. Jungle Fever promises to be one movie with a soundtrack worth listening to: It contains 11 new songs by Stevie Wonder, his first album in four years.

Inside Story: Although Lee’s own stepmother is white, Jungle Fever isn’t based on her relationship with his father, nor did he interview them for the script. ”It’s not like (black-white liaisons) are from Mars or anything,” says Lee. ”I didn’t have to do any research.” The windows of Floral Fantasy, a Brooklyn shop he rented for the shoot, were smashed during filming last September. The owner reportedly received a telephone threat saying, ”That’s what happens when you rent to niggers.” The self-assured Lee hired extra security and shrugged it off: ”We’ve been through this before,” he says.

The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear
As Al Pacino returned to The Godfather, so Leslie Nielsen reprises his career-resuscitating role as hapless Lieut. Frank Drebin, who futilely tries to foil a plot to influence U.S. energy policy. Priscilla Presley, George Kennedy, and O.J. Simpson return in the slapstick comedy as well.

Inside Story: The Naked Gun 2 1/2 features a very environmentally conscious star vehicle: an experimental, partially solar-powered car, which appears as one of the energy-saving devices the evil petroleum consortium hopes to crush. Director-cowriter David Zucker, who already drives an electrically powered Ford Tempo, hopes to co-opt the movie’s roadster when production wraps. He has driven it on the freeway and says it did 65. ”It’s going to be the new Hollywood status symbol,” he boasts.

Robin Hood: Prince of the Thieves
The rustlings from Sherwood Forest suggest that if this adventure drama performs as expected, Robin can forget about the rich and cover the poor with a few points of the film’s gross. When Kevin Costner took on Errol Flynn’s classic role, he knocked two other features on the benevolent bandit out of the running (one became a TV film that aired this month; the other was scrapped). Kevin Reynolds (Fandango) directs Morgan Freeman as Azeem, Robin’s sidekick; Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Maid Marian; and Alan Rickman as the depraved Sheriff of Nottingham.

Inside Story: ”We’ve taken the classic swashbuckling tale and made it more of a roller-coaster ride, like Raiders of the Lost Ark,” says John Watson, coscreenwriter and coproducer. The costumes and plot were rethought: ”When we were casting the role, the big Hollywood agents were all wondering which of their clients would look good in green tights,” says Watson, who fooled them by opting for a more rugged look and ”assured Kevin he wasn’t going to have to wear tights.” When Costner arrived in England for filming, his first costume fitting featured a green outfit, tights and all. ”He went into the dressing room and came out screaming, ‘Oh no! What have I done?”’ says Watson of the gag. ”It was a great start.”

The Rocketeer
Cliff Secord (Bill Campbell) is a devil-may-care 1938 aviator who stumbles across a top-secret jet backpack, and he’s only just begun to fly it when he finds himself at the center of a chase involving G-men, gangsters, and Nazis (Timothy Dalton appears as his main antagonist).

Inside Story: Even as Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg was writing his famous memo urging his Mouseketeers to cut costs, The Rocketeer, officially said to have cost $35 million, was creeping past the $40 million mark. Director Joe Johnston (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids) staged the flying scenes by mixing and matching film of Campbell with shots of a miniature rocketeer, filmed at George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic, and of a stuntman hanging from a helicopter. The flames shooting from the backpacks worn by Campbell and his double were augmented with frame-by-frame, animated touch-ups.

July

Another You
Veteran odd couple Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor return as (respectively) a pathological liar trying to go straight and a con man trying to get the liar to pretend he’s a billionaire he resembles. Stephen Lang (Last Exit to Brooklyn) plays a business manager who stands in their way, Vanessa Williams appears as Lang’s secretary, and Mercedes Ruehl plays Pryor’s accomplice.

Inside Story: Six weeks into shooting in New York, Peter Bogdanovich was replaced as director by Maurice Phillips — reportedly because producers were dissatisfied with early footage — and filming started over in L.A. Ruehl, already in Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers on Broadway, shuttled between jobs on the N.Y.-L.A. red-eye. In the process, she says, her ”larger-than-life” stage character often overwhelmed her quieter movie one: ”Maurice would scratch his head and say, ‘What are you doing?’ I’d say, ‘Acting,’ and he’d say, ‘Too much.”’

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey
In this sequel to the low-budget 1989 hit Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter re-create their roles as spacey dudes desperate to make it in rock & roll. This time, their misadventures lead them, literally, to hell and back.

Inside Story: Though the first movie became something of a cult favorite, most of the cast and crew were unhappy with it. ”It wasn’t as funny as it could have been,” says Winter. ”As far as me and Keanu and the writers and producers are concerned, we thought we could all do better jobs and make the first movie a blueprint. The sequel has more of a plot and is much more visually interesting. I think it’ll surprise people.”

Boyz N the Hood
John Singleton’s $6 million feature-film directing and writing debut is a black coming-of-age tale set in a Los Angeles ghetto. Cuba Gooding Jr. plays a 17-year-old who manages to live within a system of gangs, drugs, and violence without succumbing to it. Rapper Ice Cube, whose song inspired the title, appears as Gooding’s friend.

Inside Story: Singleton filmed on the streets where he grew up. ”It was like a homecoming,” he says. ”Imagine everybody you knew from elementary school, high school, and college standing around cheering after every shot. That’s fun.”

Hot Shots: An Important Movie!
Jim Abrahams, of Airplane! and Naked Gun fame, directs Charlie Sheen and Cary Elwes (Days of Thunder) in a spoof of Top Gun-style Navy pilots.

Inside Story: Sheen played his role straight. ”The film is the star, I’m just along for the ride,” he says. ”If you try to out-funny a film like this, you start looking like a fool.” Will Americans welcome the spoof so soon after the gulf war? ”We’re hoping this country is ready to laugh at certain aspects of the military,” Sheen says. ”But I try to stay neutral. I don’t want to be too excited if the thing takes a dive.”

Life Stinks
Mel Brooks takes on poverty and homelessness as a billionaire who bets his archrival (Jeffrey Tambor) that he can survive in a Los Angeles slum without credit cards, cash, or connections. In their place he finds love: He falls for a dancer who has become a bag lady (Lesley Ann Warren).

Inside Story: Brooks says he was deeply affected by what he saw while shooting in the slums. One night, he was lying in a dark alley preparing for a scene when a homeless man sat down beside him. ”He said, ‘I ain’t got much, pal, but you look like you need this,”’ Brooks recalls. ”It was an old sandwich…I think it began life as tuna. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings so I ate half of it. Later on, I saw him again and said, ‘I found two $5 bills and I want to share them with you.’ He said, ‘You’re okay, buddy. See, there’s bread on the waters.”’

Mobsters
Christian Slater and Patrick Dempsey portray Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky in this story of the legendary gangsters’ rise to power from 1917 to 1930. Richard Grieco joins their mob squad as Bugsy Siegel, and F. Murray Abraham and Anthony Quinn show up as toughies Arnold Rothstein and Don Masseria.

Inside Story: The movie’s trailer has been drawing snickers from audience members who just can’t see the nouveau brat-pack stars as slick, ruthless criminals, but producer Steve Roth says he cast young because Lansky and Luciano were teenagers when they met. The kids, he says, got along famously with the veterans. ”Anthony Quinn would tell them lots of stories because he knew these guys. He told how Bugsy Siegel once shot at him because he was going out with Bugsy’s girl. Christian was just absolutely starry-eyed.”

Point Break
Blue Steel director Kathryn Bigelow’s latest aggressively slick flick juxtaposes fledgling FBI agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves, also seen this summer in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey) and a mystical master surfer called Bodhi (Patrick Swayze). Utah must penetrate the California surfing subculture in order to solve a rash of bank robberies.

Inside Story: ”The film is about getting to the metaphysical through the physical,” says Bigelow. To master the physical part, Swayze learned free-form skydiving — an aerodynamic dance performed while falling at more than 100 mph — and Reeves learned to surf. The director was impressed. ”Compromise,” she says, ”is not part of Patrick and Keanu’s vernacular.”

Regarding Henry
Harrison Ford and director Mike Nichols, collaborating for the second time, reverse the success-oriented premise of their 1988 comedy Working Girl. Ford plays an emotionally bankrupt executive who gets caught in cross fire during a drugstore robbery, an event that sparks his fall from corporate grace and begins his transformation to spiritually enriched family man. Helping introduce him to the joys of fatherhood is his embattled wife (Annette Bening).

Inside Story: Screenwriter Jeffrey Abrams, 24, scribbled the original version of Regarding Henry during his years at Sarah Lawrence College. ”I didn’t show it to anybody,” he says. Several drafts and one produced screenplay later (Taking Care of Business, which he wrote with Jill Mazursky), he sold the revised script for a cool $500,000. (Paramount)

Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s most memorable line from the 1984 original was ”I’ll be back.” Now the action superstar, costar Linda Hamilton, and director James Cameron have reunited to make the summer’s most hotly anticipated sequel — and, at a reported $85-100 million, the movie with the biggest budget tally ever. Schwarzenegger’s futuristic cyborg expired trying to terminate Hamilton in the first installment; now, reconstituted, he turns good guy and seeks to protect her teenage son, John Connor (Edward Furlong). Connor, remember, is destined to lead the humans against the machines in the mother of all battles on Aug. 29, 1997. If Arnold’s not tied up in a Senate campaign, that should be just about the time for a third installment.

Inside Story: Schwarzenegger entertained cast and crew on the set by imitating the sound of his 15-month-old daughter imitating him imitating an elephant. ”I brought home a brass elephant, showed Katherine the sound a real one makes, and she hasn’t stopped since,” he says. The Republican added that his Democrat wife, Maria Shriver, complained: ”It would be an elephant — couldn’t have been a donkey, of course not.”

August

The Butcher’s Wife
Following its megahit Ghost ($218 million gross to date in U.S. theaters), Paramount seems to be banking on the box office karma of supernatural-theme movies. This summer’s manifestation, The Butcher’s Wife, stars Ghost‘s Demi Moore as the clairvoyant Marina, whose arrival with her butcher husband wreaks havoc on a Greenwich Village neighborhood’s spiritual life. Jeff Daniels plays a psychiatrist fascinated by Marina’s powers.

Inside Story: To prepare for her role, Moore consulted clairvoyants on both coasts. Producers Wallis Nicita and Lauren Lloyd and director Terry Hughes also attended brief sittings. Hughes was almost tossed out by Moore’s L.A. seer when he concocted a fictional identity for himself. ”The psychic became very suspicious of me,” he says. Despite the hoax, Hughes picked up some personal information. ”She verified what my doctor had told me a week before,” he says. ”That my cholesterol was higher than it should be.”

Child’s Play 3
Chucky the devil doll was incinerated in 1988’s Child’s Play and blown up in last year’s sequel. He also took in about $60 million at the box office, so was there ever any doubt he’d pull himself together again? He’s still after his reluctant soul mate Andy (Justin Whalin), who’s now 16 and enrolled in a military academy.

Inside Story: During filming at Kemper Military School and Academy in Missouri, Don Mancini, 28-year-old writer of the Chucky trilogy, worried that school officials would flinch at the hazing scenes. ”Everything you hear about the abuse is true,” says Mancini, who visited two other academies in addition to Kemper. Fortunately, he found the school didn’t object to the movie’s depiction of hazing. ”The only thing they cared about was having the guns and artillery arranged in the right pattern.”

The Commitments
Earnest Irish lads and lasses obsessed with saving soul-Motown soul, that is. Eleven working-class Dublin kids — and one middle-aged trumpet player — form a band that manages authentic versions of classic soul tunes (including ”Chain of Fools” and ”In the Midnight Hour”). In the process, the band also manages to give its members ways of saving themselves.

Inside Story: Director Alan Parker (Midnight Express) auditioned 3,000 musicians from Dublin’s thriving pub and street-corner music scenes. Of the chosen dozen, only two had acted before. Parker gave them five weeks of acting lessons and recorded the vocals live, instead of miming and then dubbing them. There was no star treatment, and the principals took public transportation, not limos. ”I didn’t cosset them,” Parker says. ”I wanted to preserve music as the most important thing in their lives.”

Delirious
In the second soap-opera spoof of the season (and the second John Candy film — the big guy plays the writer of Beyond Our Dreams. He’s madly lusting for his ice-princess star (Emma Samms) when a car accident magically transports him into the melodramatic world his words have created.

Inside Story: Could portly Candy be the next Patrick Swayze? Director Tom Mankiewicz never doubted his star could be a romantic hero, but Candy’s sex appeal took costar Emma Samms by surprise. Candy and Samms appear in a dream dance sequence a la Fred and Ginger. ”John is a very graceful man,” says Samms, a former ballerina, disappointed that only 30 seconds of the three-minute segment ended up in the film. ”We did all these lifts and spins. We surprised everyone.”

Doc Hollywood
Michael J. Fox stars as an ambitious physician who gets sidetracked in a Southern burg on his way to making it big in Beverly Hills. Newcomer Julie Warner is the local catch who gives him a sample of small-town charm, and Bridget Fonda plays a saucy belle.

Inside Story: ”The movie’s very Frank Capra-like, extolling the virtues of small-town life,” says Scottish director Michael Caton-Jones (Scandal, Memphis Belle). Backwoods life, however, can be peculiar. In one scene Fox and Warner get better acquainted by trying out a folk method of discouraging deer from approaching. ”I guess the image of these two people scattering their pee about the woods is pretty funny,” admits Warner, who adds that while the scene is part of the courtship, ”it’s not your average roll in the hay.”

The Doctor
Children of a Lesser God‘s director and star, Randa Haines and William Hurt, reunite for another emotionally charged trauma drama. Hurt plays Dr. Jack MacKee, a heart surgeon suddenly diagnosed with cancer. Based loosely on A Taste of His Own Medicine, by Edward Rosenbaum, M.D., the movie follows his path to self-discovery once the operating tables have been turned on him. Elizabeth Perkins leads by example as MacKee’s enlightened fellow patient.

Inside Story: Haines went to unusual lengths to infuse her operating room scenes with realism. In one heart-transplant sequence, Hurt is backed up by a real-life anesthesiologist, surgical scrub nurse, and assisting surgeon, all of whom found the fake body remarkably convincing. ”Every time we shot the moment when the heart starts beating after the transplant,” Haines says, ”all those real medical people, who knew it was a rubber heart, had tears in their eyes.”

Double Impact
Kickboxer Jean Claude Van Damme plays twins separated at birth in a (very) loose, $15 million version of Alexander Dumas’ The Corsican Brothers, executive produced by Michael Douglas. Chad is a black belt in Beverly Hills; Alec is a street guy from Asia. Reunited in Hong Kong, they take on the Chinese mafia to avenge their parents’ deaths.

Inside Story: ”Plenty of action and love story,” promises Van Damme. ”This is the first movie I have been proud of. Nobody thinks Van Damme can do it, because Van Damme is just a karate slick. I tried to elevate myself and I think I did.”

Dying Young
Julia Roberts stars as a woman who answers a newspaper ad to care for a dying man (Campbell Scott) and then falls for him.

Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man
Mickey Rourke and Don Johnson are childhood friends who live on the fringes of society — Rourke as a drifter and Johnson as a former rodeo cowboy. When they band together to save their seedy hangout, the Rock ‘n Roll Bar and Grill, they get trapped in the middle of a drug-running ring.

Inside Story: Both stars have a lot riding on this. Rourke’s Wild Orchid and Desperate Hours and Johnson’s The Hot Spot were big box-office disappointments last year. Meanwhile, the title is in dispute: Both Harley-Davidson and Philip Morris, owner of the Marlboro trademark, have written stern letters to the studio to stop those names and products from being used in the film.

Mom and Dad Save the World
This sci-fi fantasy comedy stars Teri Garr and Jeffrey Jones as a couple whose 20-year marriage could use some intervention from Dr. Ruth. Instead, an alien (played by Jon Lovitz, in his first starring role since Saturday Night Live) yanks them up to his Oz-like planet — a galactic getaway that turns out to be just what the doctor ordered.

Inside Story: ”Jon is happy to disgrace himself on film,” says director Greg Beeman (License to Drive). ”It’s the perfect part for him because he is completely tyrannical and insecure. He gets to play himself.” One scene makes Beeman particularly proud: ”I have a feeling this is going to be the most disgusting on-screen kiss in history,” he says. ”Teri is under a love spell, so Jon gives her his best kiss. Let’s just say it’s tongue-filled.”

Mystery Date
Just how bad can a first date be? When Ethan Hawke (Dead Poets Society) lets his big brother set him up with his dream girl (Teri Polo), what starts as a perfect evening ends in darkly comic disaster. Along the way, the young lovers are pursued by a psychotic florist (Fisher Stevens) and held hostage by a crime lord (B.D. Wong).

Inside Story: Stevens was so drawn to his character’s violent nature that he blurred the lines between art and reality. In a scene in which he works himself into a rage, Stevens accidentally sliced his finger on a car antenna. He didn’t notice the wound — which required nine stitches — until the director yelled, ”Cut.” When Stevens made it to the emergency room at 2 a.m., slathered with fake blood along with the real thing, the doctors thought they had a full-scale trauma victim on their hands.

Return to the Blue Lagoon
The sequel to the film that captured Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins at the peaks of their careers. Brian Krause stars as the shipwrecked son of Shields and Atkins, and Milla Jovovich is his PG-13 paramour. It’s likely to be a little fish in the summer’s big pond with the critics, but if it grosses anything like the 1980 Blue Lagoon’s $100 million worldwide, there should be smooth sailing at Columbia.

Inside Story: Like the original, the sequel was shot in Fiji, which, director William A. Graham notes, is not to be confused with paradise. ”It rained almost every day for six weeks,” he says. ”We had parasites and hookworm. We had tropical ulcers, infected mosquito bites, mumps, and measles.” We can only hope the camera didn’t catch all that, too.

Shout
In mid-1950s Texas, a substitute music teacher (John Travolta) at a correctional facility for boys introduces his students to rock & roll, while newcomer Jamie Walters and Drugstore Cowboy‘s Heather Graham find they love each other tender.

Inside Story: Having made a name for himself choreographing Flashdance and A Chorus Line, Jeffrey Hornaday takes his first directorial steps on Shout. He says his job was made easier by ”a nice, friendly vibe on the set,” thanks to the buoyant spirits of heartthrob-turned-father-figure Travolta, who celebrated his engagement to Kelly Preston while he was shooting in Los Angeles. The crew and couple partied, says Hornaday, with ”massive amounts of sushi.” Don’t hold your breath waiting to hear about the wedding, though: The couple has yet to set a date.

The Super
Joe Pesci celebrates his Best Supporting Actor Oscar (for GoodFellas) by taking on his first starring role: a bigoted, money-grubbing slumlord sentenced to live and work as a super in his most decrepit tenement. Moviegoers will be less than shocked to learn that life among the poor teaches him tolerance and generosity.

Inside Story: During two months of shooting in Manhattan’s East Village, the production managed to keep peace with all the neighborhood residents but one: a disgruntled crack dealer who would drown out key bits of dialogue with his boom box. ”I’m used to this. I’ve lived in neighborhoods like this,” Pesci says. But when filming moved to the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, says the star, ”It was tough — we saw a guy get his throat cut for a dollar. I wasn’t used to that.”

True Identity
British impressionist/comedian Lenny Henry makes his feature-film debut in this comedy about a black actor named Miles Pope who disguises himself as a white man to avoid being rubbed out by the mob. Frank Langella plays a Mafia don who has assumed a new identity to escape prosecution. Directed by Charles Lane (Sidewalk Stories), who also appears as the makeup artist responsible for Miles’ cover.

Inside Story: Besides moving the locale from L.A. to his home turf of New York, Lane made one other change in the original story when he took on True Identity. ”I had Miles not be pleased in the least about his Caucasian transformation,” he says. ”In the previous draft, he was to some degree getting off on it. I thought that was inherently wrong and offensive.”

V.I. Warshawski
Kathleen Turner is Woman (hear her roar) in this adaptation of mystery novelist Sara Paretsky’s renowned female detective series. Turner plays private investigator V.I. Warshawski, who is enlisted by a spunky 13-year-old (Angela Goethals) after the girl’s father is murdered on the Chicago docks.

Inside Story: The filmmakers chose an apartment overlooking the Cubs’ Wrigley Field as Turner’s home. ”In the novels, V.I. was always a Cubs fan,” says producer Jeffrey Lurie, ”so we thought, wouldn’t it would be great to show that apartments exist where you can actually look into a major sports stadium from your living room?” After one game, the crew took the field for some base-running and pitching. Says Lurie, ”I think the crowd really got a kick out of seeing Kathleen on the pitcher’s mound.”

September

Love Crimes
Director Lizzie Borden (Working Girls) explores the dark side of female sexuality in this story of a prosecuting attorney (Sean Young) who goes undercover to nail an accused rapist (Patrick Bergin) and is taken in by his curious charm.

Inside Story: Young was nervous about her graphic love scene with Bergin, but, recalls Borden, ”I just put them in a room together and about four hours later Sean came out, threw her hands up in the air, and said, ‘I’m ready!”’ To make Bergin comfortable, she okayed his use of a strategically placed sock. ”It was flesh-colored, so if the camera caught a glimpse of it, it didn’t matter.”

Also coming soon…

Here’s a quick take on some other films currently scheduled for release this summer:

May

The psychological thriller Ambition stars Lou Diamond Phillips as a writer who becomes obsessed by the murderous skills of his subject, a convicted murderer (Clancy Brown).

Director Jane Campion follows last year’s acclaimed Sweetie with An Angel at My Table, a biopic of New Zealand author Janet Frame.

In the first 15 minutes of Drop Dead Fred, Elizabeth (Phoebe Cates) loses her husband (Tim Matheson), her job, and her purse, and is consoled by her long-lost imaginary childhood friend, Fred (Rik Mayall).

In Everybody’s Fine (Stanno Tutti Bene), Marcello Mastroianni plays an aging patriarch who travels across Italy to round up his scattered family for a final celebration. Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso).

June

When Christina Applegate (Married…With Children) and her four siblings discover their elderly babysitter Lil has passed on, they’re left home alone for two months in Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.

Based on a true incident, Prisoners of the Sun stars FX2‘s Bryan Brown as an Australian military trial lawyer who gets opposition from all sides when he tries to prosecute Japanese officers for World War II war crimes.

A 1950s period piece, The Reflecting Skin tells the nightmarish story of an 8-year-old Idaho boy (Jeremy Cooper) who’s convinced that the woman his brother loves is a vampire.

Talkin’ Dirty After Dark takes us into an all-black Los Angeles comedy club where the comics, their boss, and their loved ones engage in what writer- director Topper Carew calls ”an Afro-French farce.”

July

Liam Neeson stars in The Big Man as a miner, thrown into prison for his part in a strike, who turns to bare-knuckle boxing after his release.

In Dutch, Ed O’Neill (Married With Children) gets stuck on a cross-country road trip with girlfriend JoBeth Williams’ stuck-up son.

Lame Ducks stars John Turturro, Mel Smith, and Bob Nelson as mismatched oddballs enlisted by a wealthy dowager (Nancy Marchand) to help run her ballet company.

A student at the Ajax School of Broadcasting (Terrence ”T.C.” Carson) gains fame and fortune — but nearly loses his soul — in Livin’ Large!

Teenagers Jimmy and Rose (Niall Byrne and Lorraine Pilkington) find their quiet life in an Irish seaside town disrupted when Jimmy falls for a mysterious American (Beverly D’Angelo) in The Miracle.

* After wreaking havoc (and earning $50 million) in last summer’s Problem Child, Junior the terrible (Michael Oliver) moves with Dad (John Ritter) to a new town in Child 2.

August

In the kiddie feature Bingo!, Chuckie (Robert J. Steinmiller Jr.) is in love with a telephone-capable, car-driving mutt who saved him from drowning, but Chuckie’s parents (Cindy Williams, David Rasche) aren’t so enamored. Getting a good camera angle on the thigh-high star was tricky: ”You’ll see that Bingo spends a lot of time on the mantelpiece,” says producer Tom Baer.

Jeff Fahey stars as a criminal psychologist whose life slips out of control after he receives an arm grafted from a convicted murderer in Body Parts, a horror thriller.

In John Sayles’ City of Hope, Vincent Spano plays the son of a building contractor (Tony LoBianco) and Joe Morton is an idealistic councilman who grapples with big-city moral issues.

An aging, white has-been (William Russ) who plays minor league baseball in the 1950s bonds with a black rookie (Glenn Plummer), who’s also alienated from the team, in One Cup of Coffee.

Pure Luck pairs the world’s unluckiest accountant (Martin Short) with a tough detective (Danny Glover) to rescue an accident-prone heiress (Sheila Kelley) after she has vanished.

It’s a dog’s life for Rodney Dangerfield as the voice of a Las Vegas hound who hits the road to rescue a friend in the animated Rover Dangerfield.

John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) joins New York writer-actor Eric Bogosian (Talk Radio) in Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, a disturbingly comic stream of monologues based on Bogosian’s one-man Off-Broadway show.

Intergalactic macho hero Hulk Hogan moves in with Shelley Duvall and Christopher Lloyd when his spaceship is damaged in Suburban Commando.

Written by: Giselle Benatar, Meredith Berkman, Jess Cagle, Don Chase, Margot Dougherty, Melina Gerosa, Christopher Henrikson, Gregg Kilday, and Kelli Prior.

Researched by: Steve Daly, Tim Purtell, and Caren Weiner

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