August 21, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

>>BELLY
Video hipster Hype Williams makes his feature directorial debut with this thriller about two hustlers from Queens (Earl ”DMX” Simmons and Nasir ”Nas” Jones). But don’t expect Belly to look anything like jiggy. ”I got the shaft around Hollywood because people expected me to do all this bright, cheery stuff,” Williams says. ”This is not that.” (Nov. 4)

>>I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS
Jonathan Taylor Thomas is a prep-school brat who hitches cross-country with a Santa Claus beard glued to his chin and a girl (Jessica Biel) glued to his side. Racing home to get the Porsche pop promised him, he ”learns the importance of family,” says director Arlene Sanford. Nothing like finding a lesson in your stocking. (Nov. 6)

>>VELVET GOLDMINE
It’s London in the ’70s — the age of glam-rock, cross-dressing, and unisex use of sparkly makeup. This Todd Haynes (Safe) film stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Ewan McGregor, Toni Collette, and Eddie Izzard, appearing in various states of emotional wreckage. Of the 90-day, independently financed, technically complicated shoot, Haynes says, ”Every day was the scariest day of my life.” And he didn’t have to wear the clothes. (Nov. 13)

>>CENTRAL STATION
This Brazilian road movie about a woman who helps an abandoned boy find his father won a Sundance prize in 1996 and was the first Latin American film to win a Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. ”I hope Americans can be as touched as the Brazilians,” says director Walter Salles. ”The [characters’] quest is a universal one.” (Nov. 20)

>>RUGRATS
When the stork delivers ”Dil” Pickles, all heck breaks loose for the ‘rats in this $25 million animated adaptation of Nickelodeon’s Emmy-winning series. The lure for grown-ups: Jakob Dylan, Beck, Lisa Loeb, and Iggy Pop on the soundtrack. ”Busta Rhymes gets to say: ‘I am Reptar. Hear me roar!”’ brags exec producer Albie Hecht. ”I’m sure he needs a SAG card now.” (Nov. 25)

>>CONDO PAINTING
Who knew the director of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer was an art lover? ”I was mortified by the idea,” says contemporary American artist George Condo (thus the cute title) of John McNaughton’s interest in making a movie about his painting. ”But then I saw Henry, and I had to admit … it’s extremely artful.”

>>ELIZABETH
She was bigger than Mrs. Brown. Bigger than King George. Now the 16th-century royal has her own biopic. ”I learned that Elizabeth bathed once a year,” offers star Cate Blanchett (Oscar and Lucinda), ”and even that was considered excessive.” Mercifully, it’s not filmed in Odorama.

Plus

Lawrence Kasdan’s baby-boomer classic THE BIG CHILL returns to theaters for its 15th anniversary. Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1987 Oscar victor THE LAST EMPEROR will be rereleased with an extra hour of footage. Two money-hungry salesmen try to sell a murdered hustler’s stolen car in BLOOD, GUTS, BULLETS & OCTANE. A local strip club energizes a French couple’s sex life in DRY CLEANING. Not for the weak of heart, HALLELUJAH documents the sadomasochistic rituals of performance artist Ron Athey. Austrian neighbors come to blows over a murdered farmer’s land in THE INHERITORS. Poison lead singer Bret Michaels stars as a convict who pens a book about his crime in A LETTER FROM DEATH ROW, which he also wrote, produced, directed, and scored. In PUSHER, a Copenhagen dealer is hunted by the Croatian drug lord he swindles. Tom Everett Scott stars as a young man who kills his abusive father in RIVER RED. A French surgeon encounters civil strife in the fictional African nation of PORT DJEMA. In SHATTERED IMAGE, a woman awakens from a dream to realize that she’s someone else. Dennis Quaid is a mercenary who cares for an orphaned Bosnian baby in SAVIOR. A woman’s carnal desires dominate everyone she encounters in STATES OF CONTROL, while in SUE, an alienated woman uses casual sex to compensate for her relationship problems. Jonathan Demme chronicles two of singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock’s Gotham gigs in STOREFRONT HITCHCOCK. Ethan Coen (Fargo) cowrote THE NAKED MAN, a small town-versus-big corporation comedy. Finally, in the import STEAM: THE TURKISH BATH, a man inherits one of the titular hot spots and warms to the custodian’s son.

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