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Spring Movie Preview: Also in March 1998

‘The Big Lebowski,’ a ‘Grease’ comeback and more

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The Leading Man
Britain. Tweed. Thespians. Not words we associate with rocker Jon Bon Jovi. But as an American action star who flees for the London stage, he fits into the English landscape like a well-manicured hedge. Usually. “We’d shoot in Trafalgar Square,” says director John Duigan (Sirens), “and we’d have to hide Jon so 500,000 girls wouldn’t show up.” (March 6)

Clockwatchers
A dark comedy starring Emma‘s Toni Collette, indie queen Parker Posey, and Friends‘ Lisa Kudrow as spiteful office temps who terrorize their coworkers. The foray into the world of nine-to-five left Posey feeling she’d made the correct career choice. “I’d never want to work in an office,” she says. “The cubicles, fluorescent lighting, white noise. I’d go insane!” (Moved to May 1)

The Big Lebowski
The Coens (Fargo) are up to their hostage-taking tricks again, with Jeff Bridges as Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski, a stoned layabout who gets snared in some surreal kidnapping high jinks. Along for the joyride are John Goodman (Barton Fink) as a Vietnam-vet psycho, John Turturro as a flamboyant bowling champ, and Steve Buscemi as their dim-witted whipping boy. “We’re the Coens’ stable players,” laughs Goodman. “Jeff, the virgin, took to it like a duck to water…or, you might say, like a Lebowski to bowling.” (March 6)

Sour Grapes
Steven Weber (Wings) and Craig Bierko (The Long Kiss Goodnight) play cousins at odds when one hits a jackpot with the other’s quarters. This comedy is the writing-directing film debut of Seinfeld cocreator Larry David, who told EW, “It’s immodest to brag, but this is the funniest movie of all time.” He called back to say he wasn’t serious. (Moved to April 17)

Grease
Grease is the word — again. Celebrating the film’s 20th anniversary, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John return as hopelessly devoted sweethearts Danny and Sandy. Despite an enduring soundtrack and Travolta’s even more enduring box office appeal, it took producer Allan Carr a year to persuade Paramount to rerelease the T-Birds. “Monday after Star Wars opened, they said, ‘We’re doing it,”‘ he says. As long as Grease 2 stays where it belongs. (March 27)

Welcome to Woop Woop
Director Stephan Elliott (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) sends a New York sharpie (Johnathon Schaech) to Woop Woop, an outback town full of eccentrics. “It’s hugely politically incorrect,” brags Elliott. After mining ABBA hits for Priscilla, Elliott puts a spin on Rogers and Hammerstein music in Woop Woop, which features covers by Neneh Cherry and Boy George. (March 20)

Mr. Nice Guy
Martial artist Jackie Chan tries his hand at physical comedy as a TV chef caught up in Mob mayhem. But while the $15 million thriller includes everything from a horse-drawn carriage chase to Chan driving one of the world’s biggest trucks, don’t look for Emeril-style culinary tricks. How well can Chan cook? Says director Samo Hung, “Boiled egg.” (March 27)