Casualties of War (August). Michael J. Fox wants to challenge what he calls “that squeaky-clean perception of me.” He does so with a vengeance in this Vietnam War drama, directed by Brian DePalma and costarring Sean Penn. The film, which producer Art Linson labels “a moral tragedy,” concerns five soldiers and the rape and murder of a Vietnamese woman.
Dead Poets Society (June). Robin Williams plays a defiant English teacher at a New England prep school, circa 1959, where the boys are isolated from social change and independent thought. Parallels with the late Eighties are purely intentional. Director Peter Weir (Witness, The Mosquito Coast) moves the film from humor to heartbreak, and fans of the star of Good Morning, Vietnam may resist his turn toward drama. Williams hopes not. “It’s a movie of passion,” he says, adding that it’s time for students “to care again about more than dollars.” Of course, Williams knows he’s fighting an uphill battle in the summer. “It’s not Chainsaw Circumcision,” he allows. So he’s devised a mock ad. “How’s this?” he asks. ” ‘The Dead Poets — they’re back, they’re pissed.’ ”
Wired (August). Until Atlantic Releasing came to the rescue, it looked like the film of Bob Woodward’s book on the life — and drug-related death — of John Belushi would never find theater space. Belushi’s pal and former partner Dan Aykroyd denounced the project: “I have witches working to jinx the thing.” Rumor had it that Aykroyd’s agency, CAA, run by power broker Mike Ovitz, had moved to block the film’s distribution. Ovitz denied the charge: “The film will rise or fall on its own merits.” Maybe not. The controversy is sure to attract the curious.
sex, lies, and videotape (August). A Louisiana lawyer (Peter Gallagher) is having an affair with the sexy sister (Laura San Giacomo) of his wife (Andie MacDowell), until a college buddy (James Spader) drops by and throws off everyone’s equilibrium. From this setup, and working on a meager $1.2 million budget, first-time writer-director Steven Soderbergh has made a movie voted the audience favorite at the recent U.S. Film Festival. “It works like magic,” says Gallagher, who nonetheless expresses a familiar concern: “The critics can blow the whole thing apart in ten minutes. It could end up a fart in the breeze.” Not likely. Gallagher is right. It does work like magic.
Do the Right Thing (June). Produced, written, directed by and starring Spike Lee, this provocative film takes us into the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant for one twenty-four-hour period when black-white racial tensions erupt into violence. Lee says the 1986 Howard Beach incident prompted the film. Openly critical of New York mayor Ed Koch, Lee believes the summer release of the movie he calls “my best” is perfect timing. Box office is not his concern. His intent is to affect the November mayoral race. “My only hope is that my film will have something to do with Koch’s ousting,” says Lee, who has made that rare movie for summer or any season: one that literally fights city hall.