You’d call them stocking stuffers if the stockings were the size of missile silos.
We refer, of course, to the annual stampede of holiday movies. This year they’re jostling one another like holiday shoppers, competing for screen space, dozens of them, more than usual. All very gladiatorial, all very Hollywood. Here are movies we’ve been hearing about for months: Steven Spielberg’s slave-revolt saga, “Amistad”; Clint Eastwood’s Southern Gothic murder case, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”; James Cameron’s splashy “Titanic”; Sigourney Weaver back from the dead in “Alien Resurrection.”
Also, Francis Ford Coppola meets John Grisham in “The Rainmaker,” with Matt Damon as a dragon-slaying lawyer. Robin Williams bounces through “Flubber,” then returns as counselor to Matt Damon’s South Boston prodigy in “Good Will Hunting.” Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond takes on a media baron in “Tomorrow Never Dies.” Quentin Tarantino steps up to the plate again with “Jackie Brown.” Kevin Costner delivers post-apocalyptic mail in “The Postman.” Leslie Nielsen is the oblivious “Mr. Magoo,” one of a string of family-oriented projects including Fox’s animated “Anastasia,” Dreamworks’ “Mouse Hunt,” and “Home Alone 3.”
There are so many big-ticket items, in fact, that some will wait until early 1998 to hit the multiplex (after limited Oscar-qualifying runs before the calendar turns). Among them are Martin Scorsese’s Dalai Lama epic, “Kundun”; the updated “Great Expectations” with Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow; “The Boxer,” with the “My Left Foot” team of Jim Sheridan and Daniel Day-Lewis, bolstered by Emily Watson; Robert Redford’s “The Horse Whisperer,” with Kristin Scott Thomas. A small but promise-filled slate of art-house items includes “Wings of the Dove,” “Oscar and Lucinda,” “The Big Lebowski,” “The Butcher Boy,” “Bent,” “The Winter Guest,” “The Sweet Hereafter,” “Ma Vie en Rose,” and “Afterglow.”
Meanwhile, here’s a film-by-film guide to the big parade, in order of tentative opening dates:
“Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”
Clint Eastwood moves from Madison County to steamy Savannah to direct John Berendt’s bestseller about events surrounding the murder by an art dealer (Kevin Spacey) of his lover. (Nov. 21)
New spin on the usual John Grisham saga as lawyer Matt Damon plays David to a giant insurance company’s Goliath, which has denied his client a bone-marrow transplant. (Nov. 21)
Fox climbs into the full-length animation arena, with Meg Ryan voicing the part of the girl who may be the last surviving member of Czar Nicholas II’s murdered family. (Nov. 21)
Believe it or not, Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley is back despite dying in the last “Alien” sequel. Ain’t DNA grand? Winona Ryder plays her fellow starship trouper. (Nov. 26)
Robin Williams reprises Fred MacMurray’s absent-minded professor role as the discoverer of an antigravity substance. One of the F/X: Marcia Gay Harden as his flying college prez fiancee. (Nov. 26)
Tim Roth goes psycho again, this time with Renee Zellweger’s hooker, at the opposite pole from her “Jerry Maguire” character, in this thriller directed by sibs Josh and Jonas Pate. (Dec. 5)
Spielberg’s first serious film since “Schindler’s List,” about an 1839 slave revolt on a ship steered to the United States, where the rebels are put on trial. Matthew McConaughey, Anthony Hopkins, and Morgan Freeman star. (Dec. 12)
“For Richer or Poorer”
Tim Allen and Kirstie Alley as a Manhattan couple trying to lose themselves in Amish country after their crooked accountant lands them in trouble with the IRS. (Dec. 12)
The season’s big teen-bait item. Director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson take what’s left of the original “Scream” gang to college two years later, where they pump up the body count. (Dec. 12)
A $200 million-plus budget and a three-hour-plus running time may make “Water-world” look like a music video. James Cameron insists it’s a love story, with upper-deck Kate Winslet finding love in steerage with Leonardo DiCaprio. (Dec. 19)
“Tomorrow Never Dies”
Bond gets help from Hong Kong action star Michelle Yeoh. He needs every karate chop he can get to stop the presses of a media baron, slobbering to start World War III. (Dec. 19)
To sell a seedy mansion they inherit, brothers Nathan Lane and Lee Evans must evict a mouse. Naturally, they’re the ones who feel trapped as the place turns into a money pit, with cheese. (Dec. 19)
“Home Alone 3”
No more Macaulay Culkin. No more Catherine O’Hara, John Heard, Daniel Stern, or Joe Pesci. But the franchise goes on, this time with 8-year-old Alex D. Linz as the kid whose parents can’t seem to find a sitter. (Dec. 19)
Woody Allen plays a writer with a messed-up love life. It’s not autobiographical, he says. With Elisabeth Shue, Billy Crystal, Kirstie Alley, Bob Balaban, Mariel Hemingway, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Robin Williams. (Dec. 25)
Great expectations, as Tarantino gets the chance to show us “Pulp Fiction” was no fluke. Samuel L. Jackson’s gun runner, Pam Grier’s smuggling stewardess, and Robert De Niro’s ex-con are in his corner. (Dec. 25)
“Good Will Hunting” Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote this script starring Damon as a brilliant but antisocial youth befriended by a no-nonsense shrink (Robin Williams, playing it straight) determined to set him right. (Dec. 25)
“As Good As It Gets”
Three Manhattan neighbors - cranky novelist Jack Nicholson, waitress Helen Hunt, and painter Greg Kinnear - hit the road for Baltimore in James L. Brooks’s teary comedy. (Dec. 25)
It’s 2013, it’s post-apocalyptic, and it takes place on parched land as Costner sets out to deliver de letter de sooner de better. Neither rain nor sleet - but there are thugs led by Will Patton who intend to stamp Costner out. (Dec. 25)
Leslie Nielsen steps off the edge as the blissfully myopic title-roleist, narrowly avoiding disaster after disaster as he blunders through the aftermath of a jewel heist. (Dec. 25)
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