Quirky takes on the classics spring forth this season, from Al Pacino’s Bard bits to a peachy Tim Burton production of an enduring Roald Dahl novel. Not to mention the classically quirky, including a political-homicide comedy and Stephen King’s slim-fast chiller.
HOT ON THE TRAILERS
STEPHEN KING’S THINNER
We’re not sure whether you should see this on a full stomach or an empty one. Robert John Burke (RoboCop 3) stars as an amoral 300-pound attorney with a problem: He starts losing weight no matter what he eats. (Yeah, we know — what’s the problem? But watch.) Burke’s real-life problem during the shoot? ”At his fattest he wears 60 pounds of prosthetics,” says director Tom Holland. ”It’s tough to act with your face under three inches of rubber.” (April 19)
THE LAST SUPPER
Set to open Easter week, first-time director Stacy Title’s $500,000 political comedy features yuppies who invite rabid right-wingers to dinner, then kill them. Landing a name cast was Title’s coup: ”It was an avalanche effect. We got Cameron Diaz, then Bill Paxton. Jason Alexander is my cousin — he has to be in everything I do.” Besides, who could resist the free food? (April 5)
LOOKING FOR RICHARD
Al Pacino spent three years interviewing such experts on Shakespeare’s Richard III as Vanessa Redgrave and Sir John Gielgud and employing such actors as Kevin Spacey and Winona Ryder, to ”put Shakespeare into the vernacular.” The result alternates documentary footage with snippets of Pacino’s own staging of the play. ”It’s kind of a flier for Richard III,” says Pacino. ”They can go out and see the play now, or the movie.” (April)
THE CELLULOID CLOSET
From Thomas Edison’s 1895 film of two men dancing together to Tom Hanks’ Oscar turn in Philadelphia, this documentary, based on the late Vito Russo’s book, unearths dramatic evidence of how gays and lesbians have been treated — and mistreated — by the movies. Codirectors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman also serve up numerous pointed interviews: Gore Vidal reveals the homosexual subtext in Ben-Hur, and Susan Sarandon offers the hilarious lowdown on her lesbian scenes in The Hunger. (March 15)
JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH
The Nightmare Before Christmas team of producer Tim Burton and director Henry Selick have fashioned Roald Dahl’s kiddie classic into a stylized adventure featuring the voices of Susan Sarandon and Richard Dreyfuss and the music of Randy Newman. Don’t expect another Toy Story, though — James includes just 40 minutes of animation framed by a live-action story. ”It’s anti-Pinocchio,” Selick explains. ”Instead of turning into a real boy, James turns into a puppet who enters a world of magic. Kids will accept it.” (April 12)
Look out, Spielberg: Jean-Claude Van Damme directs himself and Roger Moore in The Quest, about a New York City pickpocket who finds himself — naturally — competing in the Far East’s most prestigious martial-arts tournament. An aspiring actress (Theresa Randle) uses her performance skills as a phone-sex operator to get to Hollywood in Spike Lee’s Girl 6. Franco Zeffirelli attempts a Charlotte Bronte revival with Jane Eyre, starring The Piano‘s Anna Paquin as young Jane and William Hurt as Rochester. Fairuza Balk and Party of Five‘s Neve Campbell are wannabe witches at an L.A. Catholic school in The Craft. In Jack and Sarah, Richard E. Grant tries single fatherhood with the help of an American nanny (Samantha Mathis). Jim Jarmusch directs Johnny Depp and Gabriel Byrne in Dead Man, the story of an outlaw’s friendship with a Native American. Charlie Sheen and Sheena Easton speak for the animals in All Dogs Go to Heaven 2, a sequel to the 1989 animated hit, while real dogs and cats frolic in Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco, with Airplane! pilot Robert Hays. NASA astronomer Charlie Sheen (he’s everywhere!) finds himself entangled in conspiracies in The Arrival. A solar car takes teacher Halle Berry and her students to the Australian desert in Race the Sun. Cold Comfort Farm, starring Absolutely Fabulous‘ Joanna Lumley and Richard III‘s Ian McKellen, takes a light look at British class structure. Denis Leary and Gena Rowlands costar in The Neon Bible, a boy’s coming-of-age story set in the 1940s South. Threesome‘s Josh Charles and The Juror‘s Anne Heche distinguish between realistic goals and mere Pie in the Sky, also with Christine Lahti and John Goodman. Dennis Hopper begins an affair with a teenage girl (Amy Locane) and discovers passion in Carried Away. Rupert Everett (Ready to Wear) is the Cemetery Man, a graveyard guard who spends his nights putting zombies back in their rightful resting places. Director Giuseppe Tornatore follows up Cinema Paradiso with The Star Maker, about an aspiring talent scout who promises fame to poor Sicilian villagers. Toni Collette (Muriel’s Wedding) heads the cast of Cosi, in which a director stages a performance of Mozart’s opera Cosi Fan Tutte in a mental hospital. Tom Berenger is The Substitute, a soldier posing as a teacher to catch the toughs who assaulted his girlfriend (Heat‘s Diane Venora). Seven students (including Braveheart‘s Catherine McCormack) camp out in an old mansion to film their own horror movie in Loaded, the debut feature from Anna Campion (sister of Jane). A man thrown out of the flat he shares with his girlfriend moves in with a gay pal in the German sexcom Maybe… Maybe Not. Juliette Binoche searches for her husband in cholera-plagued Provence in the 19th-century drama The Horseman on the Roof. Bottle Rocket features three would-be Texas criminals and James Caan as the master thief they admire. Rolling Thunder Films, Quentin Tarantino’s Miramax label, debuts with Chunking Express, a tour of Hong Kong via the lives of two cops. Seven pals (including Wings‘s Tim Daly) search for love in the world of call waiting and voice-mail in Denise Calls Up. Backbeat‘s Ian Hart learns the dangers of Land and Freedom as a soldier in the Spanish civil war. A teen’s chemistry set leads to sickness, disfigurement, and death in The Young Poisoner’s Handbook. Disney offers the French comedy Little Indian, Big City, in which a Parisian transports his son from the jungle where he grew up to the City of Light. And the latest from director Pedro Almodovar, The Flower of My Secret, combines romance novelists, organ donors, and NATO peacekeepers as only he can.