''Independence Day,'' ''Kazaam,'' and ''A Time to Kill'' are among the films coming to theaters

Independence Day
Starring: Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Harry Connick Jr., Robert Loggia, Harvey Fierstein, Randy Quaid
Directed by: Roland Emmerich

Somewhere out there is one peeved reporter. Asking Emmerich ”Do you believe in aliens?” at 1994’s StarGate junket prompted the director to turn to his writing partner and producer, Dean Devlin, and say, ”I think we have our next movie” — making the reporter the uncredited genius behind what may be one of the summer’s biggest movies. With more than 3,000 special-effects shots, the $70 million-and-counting film, about a group of aliens out to destroy the earth, is the most technologically ambitious of the summer. ”It makes StarGate look like a rock video,” says Devlin. All those special effects meant the actors spent much time emoting at nothing, though Pullman, as the U.S. President, had an easier time than Goldblum, a chess-playing intellectual, and Smith, a fighter pilot. ”I had real things around me,” Pullman says. Still, when it came time to stare in horror at a spaceship the size of Washington, D.C., ”we all looked up at different things for 15 minutes. We’d say, ‘Are you looking at the telephone pole or that little gray thing? What is that gray thing?”’

While a large model of the spaceship was built in a hangar in L.A., most of the shots involve computer animation and will continue being added until days before the film opens. ”We’re way within budget,” says Devlin, ”but the feeling is we could use more…we’ve learned it’s not enough for the good guy to win. The bad guy has to suffer, and we realize we don’t have enough of that.” 20th Century Fox has backed the decision. ”It’s not very expensive to add the shots,” says Emmerich, ”and it depends on how well behaved you were the rest of the shoot.”

Not so well behaved were Smith and Goldblum, who found themselves aboard the spaceship for several tense days of shooting. ”We got into a laughing jag that was uncontrollable,” says Goldblum, who had to delay the shoot a day to get it together. ”We just made a decision to give our lives for the planet,” explains Smith. ”And it was completely hilarious that Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith had to save the world.” (July 3)

BUZZ If Independence Day lives up to the eight thrilling minutes shown to exhibitors in February, it won’t be an impossible mission for the film to be the summer’s top grosser.

Courage Under Fire
Starring: Denzel Washington, Meg Ryan, Lou Diamond Phillips, Michael Moriarty, Bronson Pinchot, Scott Glenn
Directed by: Edward Zwick

Seven years after they bonded in Glory, the Civil War epic that earned Denzel Washington a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, he’s joined Zwick for another tour of duty, this time in the Gulf War. Even though Courage deals with the charged issue of friendly fire — Washington plays an Army investigator leading an inquiry into the battlefield behavior of medevac pilot Meg Ryan — Zwick was able to secure some Pentagon cooperation: Washington joined war games at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., and Ryan met with chopper pilots. ”The Army is not a monolith,” Zwick says. ”There are those who feel full disclosure about friendly fire is not a bad thing.” Keeping digital effects to a minimum, Zwick staged his own war outside El Paso. ”With real tanks clanking around in the desert at night, there was a lot of heat, a lot of explosions, and a lot of gunfire,” says Washington, who shared only one day of filming with Ryan (her story is all told in flashback). ”While I went off with the tank guys, she was off with the helicopter guys.” (July 12)

A Time to Kill
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