Movies for aging boomers

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Driving home the other day, listening to the radio I heard a reference to the "key demographic marketing group, the 25 through 52s."

Hmm, I thought, not bad.

Ten minutes later I heard reference to the same group, only now it was "the 25 through 54s."

Even better: The "key group" had matured two more years in 600 seconds. The baby boom -- epicenter of popular culture all these years -- is aging fast.

We see that phenomenon reflected in coming movies, which tend to stress family values, togetherness, less risque (and risky) forms of comedy. Thus the films seem to feature less on the blood and gore quotient, and even when they do they are usually linked to baby-boomer themes such as nostalgia or ecology. The larger arc to the season is that there are more films for the whole family as boomers, their kids getting older, cling to the things that matter.

Alas, their teen-agers have been largely ignored, though there are one or two films strictly engineered for the twentysomethings.

A subtheme for local interest is the presence in the lineup of three films shot in Baltimore.

Here's a rough look at the next three months of movie-going, offered with the proviso that such things are always somewhat sketchy and that films mysteriously appear and disappear as the weeks progress.

FEB. 11: "The Getaway" re-creates one of the early '70s' coolest movies, the one with Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw. Well, actually, the movie wasn't so cool, but the fact that McQ. stole MacG. from hotshot pretty boy producer Bob Evans . . . that was really cool. No stealing in this version, as the couple involved is already married -- Alex Baldwin and Kim Basinger, as Doc and Carol McCord, bank robbers extraordinaire who pull off a job for a corrupt official and must flee for their lives while being pursued by both cops and robbers. It's from a Jim Thompson novel.

The other three openers next weekend are primo family fare: "Blank Check," with Brian Bonsall as a kid who comes up with a million-dollar check swiped from some embezzlers; "My Girl 2," returning Anna Chlumsky, Dan Aykroyd and Jamie Lee Curtis, only this time depositing the little cutie in L.A.; and, Stephen Frears' extremely ingratiating down-home Dublin comedy about family life in the best sense, called "The Snapper." The title, a reference to a percolating baby in an unmarried daughter's tum, gives you some idea of the lack of sentimentality in this amusing film.

FEB. 18: This week offers up one of the genuine twentysomething jobs in Ben Stiller's "Reality Bites," with himself, Ethan Hawke and Winona Ryder as youngsters trying desperately to get above retail economy jobs without compromising their beliefs, all two of them. For the family audience, Shaq O'Neill makes his movie debut in "Blue Chips," as the savior of a faltering college basketball team coached by Nick Nolte. Finally, the "eco-thriller" "On Deadly Ground," in which karate guy Steven Segal (directing himself) fights a nasty oil company headed by Michael Caine for the purity of Alaska and the hand of Joan Chen. The previews look pretty awful, with Segal in a buckskin and bead coat and Caine having had some sort of gruesome plastic surgery that has turned him into Gig Young.

FEB. 25: The big number is "Sugar Hill," with Wesley Snipes as a drug dealer trying to get out of the rackets but having, as usual, a difficult time. Bad boy director Abel Ferrara is represented in a second remake of the classic little Don Siegel horror thriller "Body Snatchers" (1956); Gabrielle Anwar is one of the stars. Luke Perry stars as champion bull rider Lane Frost in "8 Seconds," although the people from PETA are already sending out nasty notes warning critics to go hard on rodeo-ing as an amusement. And, for those baby boomers who missed it the first time around, when they were just a tad too young for the X rating, John Schlesinger's "Midnight Cowboy," in a restored version, is being released.

Other February possibles include "Farewell My Concubine," still looking for a theater in Baltimore, "Blue," the same; and, "Romeo Is Bleeding," a crime melodrama with Gary Oldman and Lena Olin.

MARCH 4: March comes in like a lamb, with but two films on the fourth. First, "China Moon," a Florida thriller with Madeleine Stowe and Ed Harris billed as "erotic," whatever that means in the context; it was directed by former cinematographer John Bailey. Then there's the long-awaited and much anticipated "Angie," (originally called "Angie, I Says,") in which Geena Davis plays an unwed Italian mother in Bensonhurst; James Gandolfini, who was the tough hood memorably killed by Patricia Arquette in "True Romance," also stars, and Martha Coolidge directs.

MARCH 11: The first of several films shot in Baltimore arrives: "Guarding Tess," in which Nicholas Cage plays a Secret Service agent assigned to keep a former first lady -- the indefatigable Shirley MacLaine -- from coming to harm. At least in this one, Baltimore isn't supposed to be Cleveland.

This weeks also sees "The Ref," with that irritating MTV guy, Dennis Leary, as a jewel thief who kidnaps a married couple played by Kevin Spacey and the great Judy Davis, and ends up driven nuts by their bickering. Also in the blackly comic vein is "Greedy," in which a passel of itchy-palmed relatives -- Michael J. Fox among them -- try and outflank the doddering patriarch of the clan (Kirk Douglas) from leaving his fortune to his new girlfriend, a sexy pizza waitress. And then there's "Lightning Jack," with Paul Hogan of "Crocodile Dundee" in a western.

MARCH 25: The family fare entrant is "The Mighty Ducks 2," with the same dreary cast, this time framed around the dilemma of coach Emilio Estevez's temptation to go pro. Right. Ten years a lawyer and this guy is going into the NHL? They'd make chicken salad out of him in the first two minutes. On a more reasonable level is "The Paper," directed by Ron Howard, the first drama of the newspaper life since "Absence of Malice" so many years back. Michael Keaton plays a reporter trying to get That Big Scoop even as his wife goes into labor and the competition tries to hire him away and his boss, Glenn Close, gives him a hard time. I wonder who plays the film critic, Charles Nelson Reilly or Tony Randall? "Above the Rim," also opens that day; an inner city basketball drama.

MARCH 30: On March 30 -- a Wednesday -- we get a double dose. In one, Baltimore is made to do penance as Cleveland and our great ballyard is degraded by being gussied down into that city's dreary Municipal Stadium. It's "Major League II," shot here last fall, with Tom Berenger, Corbin Bernsen and Charlie Sheen. Then there's the animated film "Hans Christian Andersen's Thumbelina," from Don Bluth, the ex-Disney animator who's done such films as "The Secret of NIMH" and "The Land Before Time," but also, may God forgive him, "Rock-A-Doodle."

A couple of big March releases without dates are "Naked Gun 33 1/3 ," in which Leslie Nielsen falls down a few dozen more times, and "The Hudsucker Proxie," the new film from auteurs Joel and Ethan Coen, with Tim Robbins and Paul Newman. It's a satire set in a major corporation. Warner Bros. calls it "an industrial fantasy," whatever that means. Other March possibles: "You So Crazy," a concert film following stand-up comic Martin Lawrence through a performance; and, "Mother's Boys," a thriller in which a ma tries to get back the kids she abandoned, with Jamie Lee Curtis, Peter Gallagher, Joanne Whalley-Kilmer and Vanessa Redgrave. Then there's "Four Weddings and a Funeral," a comedy with Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell, as directed by Mike Newell of "Enchanted April."

APRIL: As with March, April also gets off to a sedate start, with an art film and a comedy that's been sitting on shelves for a couple of years. The former is "House of Spirits," from the Isabel Allende novel, with a brilliant cast including Glenn Close, Jeremy Irons and Winona Ryder. It was directed by Bille August, the gifted Swede. Then there's "Clifford," from nearly defunct Orion, with dust on the film from the long stay in the vault while Orion struggled to reorganize financially. Martin Short plays an extremely irritating child and Charles Grodin his extremely irritable guardian.

APRIL 8: It's off to the races, with five starters, the most notable among them being "Serial Mom," the new John Waters film shot here last summer with Kathleen Turner and Sam Waterston. Everyone connected with it says it's Waters' best in years. Then there's the season's second dedicated twentysomething film, "Threesome," about a triangle between Stephen Baldwin, Baltimorean Josh Charles (his big break?) and Lara Flynn Boyle. The trick is the triangle is gay, not straight, with a gal and a guy in love with the same guy. A thriller with Bruce Willis is called "Color of Night," in which Willis plays a therapist who must find the psycho killer in his group. Richard Rush, who did the cult hit "The Stuntman," directs. A film version of William Boyd's much-admired first novel "A Good Man in Africa" also arrives that day. The fifth fits into the touchy-feely realm and is called "With Honors," starring Brendan Fraser and Joe Pesci, about a group of Harvard law students who adopt the homeless man they find living in the basement of Harvard's law library.

APRIL 15: Disney comes up with "Myth of the White Wolf: The Further Adventures of White Fang," a sequel to "White Fang," the Disney hit in '92. Stars are Scott Bairstow and Alfred Molina, though the thing has a 1990s feel rather than an 1890s feel, as the hero helps an Indian tribe find the reason the caribou are disappearing.

APRIL 22: "Brainscan," a "virtual reality" thriller with Edward Furlong of "Terminator 2," and "When A Man Loves a Woman," a domestic drama starring Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia.

The undated films include Matty Rich's second effort (after "Straight Out of Brooklyn"), "The Inkwell," about a shy black teen-ager on the Martha's Vineyard of 1976; Larenz Tate stars. Then there's -- hold your breath -- the new Leonard Nimoy. It's "Holy Matrimony," starring Patricia Arquette and Tate Donovan, as bunco artists hiding in a sedate religious community. Bernardo Bertolucci returns to the cinema in "Little Buddha," with Keanu Reeves, Bridget Fonda and Chris Izaak. The last of the big April films is "Bad Girls," with Madeleine Stowe, Drew Barrymore, Andie MacDowell and Mary Stuart Masterson as gunslingers in the Old West.

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