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Unreeling in the next few months Previews: Coming soon are "Marvin's Room," "Return of the Jedi" and a rerelease of John Waters' "Pink Flamingos." Save room for popcorn.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

It begins with "Booty Call" and ends with "McHale's Navy," and if that doesn't sum up a couple of months in the life of the American movie industry, nothing can.

Here's our occasional advance scouting mission on the movies of the next few months, offered with the usual proviso that films come and go in odd ways and what you're getting is essentially an upfront postcard of a very fluid situation.

February

On Wednesday, "Booty Call" features "In Living Color" bad boys Jamie Foxx and Tommy Davidson hot to rock with a couple of hot dates. The gals, of course, have other ideas, as gals always do.

Then on Friday, "Donnie Brasco" returns Al Pacino to the mob world, this time as Johnny Depp's mentor. Al just doesn't know Johnny's an FBI agent. Based on a true story, this film was directed by Mike Newell. "Marvin's Room" boasts a brilliant cast: Diane Keaton (who received an Oscar nomination for this role), Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert DeNiro and Hume Cronyn, in a drama about the good sister who's cared for a declining father until she gets sick, and then her bad sister has to come down and resentfully take over. Keaton: good. Streep: bad. That same day will be the "abortion comedy" "Citizen Ruth," with Laura Dern as a completely amoral, dimwit hustler who plays pro-choicers and anti-abortioners against each other in her endless quest for getting high on patio sealant.

March

On March 5, a music documentary, "Rhyme & Reason," opens with such groups as Salt'N'Pepa, the Fugees, Notorious B.I.G. ,, and many more.

On March 7, the big news is -- Are you ready for this, America? If not, too bad, because Howard Stern doesn't care -- "Private Parts," with the shock jock as himself in his life story, as produced by high-ender Ivan Reitman and directed by Betty Thomas. Will "Return of the Jedi," which opens the same day, stand a chance?

Also March 7, "Kama Sutra," from the Mira Nair who did "Mississippi Masala," looks at the origin of the famous lovemaking manual in 15th-century India, with Naveen Andrews from "The English Patient." "Hard Eight" is a gambling story set in sleazy Reno, with the definitely unsleazy Gwyneth Paltrow and Samuel L. Jackson. David Lynch returns in "Lost Highway," a double helping of noir in which, in one universe, Bill Pullman ends up on death row for killing his wife and in another, Balthazar Getty is wooed into committing murder by a seductress. One problem: Both the wife and the seductress are the same woman, Patricia Arquette. Go figure.

On March 14, Disney unleashes the fastest remake in the history of the biz. It's "Jungle 2 Jungle," which was in theaters just last year as "Little Indian, Big City," except that the city was Paris. Now it's New York and the star is Tim Allen; he plays a businessman who learns he has a 14-year-old son by his first wife, who remains in the Amazon. He takes the boy back to the U.S. of A. and lots of wackiness happens.

Less wacky is film noir pastiche "Blood & Wine" that reunites director Bob Rafelson and actor Jack Nicholson for the first time since "The King of Marvin Gardens." Nicholson is a wine merchant, plotting against his wife. "City of Industry" is another crime movie, this time with Tim Hutton as a gangster, and Stephen Dorff and Harvey Keitel. Unknown director is Ken Solarz. "love jones" follows love among the hipster population of Chitown, with Larenz Tait and Nia Long.

Peter Hoeg's high-toned thriller, "Smilla's Sense of Snow," makes its film debut March 21 with Julia Ormond as the detective searching for the killer of a small boy in Denmark. Richard Harris and Gabriel Byrne also star. Much less high-toned is "Liar Liar" with Jim Carrey as a lawyer who is cursed for a day by having to tell the absolute truth; career collapse soon follows. Even lower-toned: "Selena," the bio of the Mexican-American Tejana singer whose murder at the hands of her demented fan-club president shocked the nation. Jennifer Lopez stars. Even lower-toned: "Turbo: A Power Rangers Adventure." And finally, the gutter: David Cronenberg's disturbing "Crash," based on the J. G. Ballard novel, deemed unreleasable by Ted Turner. Everyone who sees it says it's brilliant and sickening.

The next Wednesday, March 26, the troubled "The Devil's Own," with Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford, opens. A tale of Irish cops and terrorists set in the United States, it's said to be a mess by its own co-star, Pitt, who alas, later relented. That same day an animated film from Warner Bros., "Cats Don't Dance," also heaves into theaters; it's about a kitty trying to get dancing gigs in Hollywood, with the vocal talents of Scott Bakula, Natalie Cole and Hal Holbrook, among others.

On March 28, the big opener is "B.A.P.S.," which stands for "Black American Princesses" and hails from Robert Townsend. The stars are Halle Berry and Martin Landau, and it's about a Georgia girl who gets involved in a scam to steal some money from a wealthy guy. "Hoodlum," that same day, retells the story of Bumpy Johnson, the black numbers king of Harlem, who defied Dutch Schultz and Lucky Luciano; Larry Fishburne and Tim Roth star.

Some March possibles: "Kolya," a well-reviewed Czech movie, which received an Oscar nomination in the foreign film category, and finally "When We Were Kings," a documentary account of the famous 1974 "rumble in the jungle," that is, Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman, in Zaire.

April

pTC On April 4, bad boy Dennis Rodman makes his movie debut in "Double Team" as a weapons expert who gets involved with hard kicker Jean-Claude Van Damme. Van Damme seems to get the Hong Kong Boys on their first try at America: He made "Hard Target" with John Woo. Now the Chinese genius behind this one is Tsui Hark.

Another basketball theme is sounded in "The Sixth Man," in which an angel shows a team the way through the N.C.A.A. playoffs. With Marlon Wayans and Kadeem Hardison. "That Old Feeling" is a romantic comedy with Bette Midler and Dennis Farina. They're divorcees who meet again at their daughter's wedding and odd things of a romantic nature develop. Good to see the very interesting Farina in a big role in a mainstream movie.

In "Inventing the Abbotts," working-class guys go after upper-class gals. The hunters and the quarry are Billy Crudup, Joaquin Phoenix, Jennifer Connelly, Liv Tyler and Joanna Going. Finally, in "The Saint," Val Kilmer gets to slip through society as the elegant secret agent that George Sanders and Roger Moore used to play. The woman in the caper is Elisabeth Shue.

The big news April 11 has a local spin: It's the rerelease, these many years later, of John Waters' "Pink Flamingos." Will it earn another $100 million in three weeks like "Star Wars"? The other films appear to have much less potential to incite rebellion. One is "Murder at 1600," with Wesley Snipes investigating a bad scene at the White House. One of the suspects is Alan Alda and, oh boy, do I hope he did it.

Then there's "Grosse Point Blank," with John Cusack as a professional hit man who goes back to his high-school reunion. Finally, "Chasing Amy" depicts comic-book artists in love. It's from Kevin Smith, who did "Clerks."

On April 18, Demi Moore plays the Navy's first female S.E.A.L. in "In Pursuit of Honor." A big snake squishes the life out of some documentary filmmakers in the Amazon in "Anaconda." And "Addicted to Love" might be cute, with Meg Ryan and Matthew Broderick trying to get revenge on former lovers.

April 25 closes out the month on a noirish note: "Nightwatch," with Ewan McGregor and Nick Nolte, is a spooky remake of a French suspense hit, in which a morgue attendant comes under suspicion for serial murders; then, finally, there's "L.A. Confidential," from the big, bruising James Ellroy novel about bad goings-on in the Tinsel Town of the '50s. Among the plotters are Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger and Danny DeVito. And the last bit of whimsy: "McHale's Navy," with Tom Arnold in the old Ernest Borgnine role.

Pub Date: 2/23/97

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