Persistent Visions

This season's cinema demands attention

The Country Bears In perhaps the oddest cinematic concept since Dude, Where's My Car?, Haley Joel Osment voices an anthropomorphic bear raised by humans, who finally figures out that he's not like other kids. So he hooks up with a robotic gigolo and gets frozen in ice for 2,000 years and ... whoops, wrong movie. He actually figures out that his family members are the country-music-playing bears immortalized at Disneyland's Country Bear Jamboree, and that he must save them from the evil forces of Christopher Walken! Sure to be a cult hit at the very least. (Disney)

Nijinsky A dramatization of the diaries of famed Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, who suffered a nervous breakdown in 1918. Sir Derek Jacobi reads from the journals; the film also includes scenes from some of Nijinsky's ballets. (Wellspring)

Tadpole A precocious kid (Aaron Stanford) wins the weird-ass lottery and gets to seduce his stepmother (Sigourney Weaver) and her girlfriend (Bebe Neuwirth). Shot on digital video, which means you could make this sort of thing yourself, more or less. (Miramax)

Aug. 2

Full Frontal No one seems quite sure exactly what this sort-of sequel (sans original cast) to sex, lies, & videotape is about, but director Steven Soderbergh apparently allowed his actors plenty of room to improvise. Previous titles for the film, including How to Survive a Hotel Room Fire and The Art of Negotiating a Turn, may or may not provide any hints. But star Julia Roberts is not known for going garmentless, so don't expect the movie's title to refer to her. With David Fincher and Brad Pitt as themselves. (Miramax)

Girls Can't Swim A coming-of-age tale from France about teenage girls who must struggle with death, sexual identity, and jealousy during a summer in Brittany. (WinStar)

Happy Times A bittersweet romantic comedy of misunderstandings from China, courtesy of acclaimed The Road Home director Zhang Yimou. (Sony Pictures Classics)

Igby Goes Down Fresh from living a dangerous life as an altar boy, Kieran Culkin once again endures growing pains as his mother dies of cancer and he pursues relationships with older women. The all-star cast includes Claire Danes, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Susan Sarandon, Jared Harris, Ryan Phillippe, and Amanda Peet. (MGM/UA)

Karmen Geï A film set in Senegal and based loosely on the opera Carmen. (Frameline)

The Kid Stays in the Picture Former Paramount honcho and Hollywood mogul Bob "No, Damn It, Not the Freaking Sausage King" Evans is the subject of this wild, colorful biopic, directed by Brett Morgan and Nanette Burstein. (USA)

Master of Disguise Back when Garth was playing second air guitar to Wayne, the big screen seemed to be losing the subtlety of Dana Carvey's clever scales under Mike Myers' much louder riffs. Now, under the direction of Perry Andelin Blake, Carvey -- as a superspy -- puts his impressive gifts toward morphing into assorted Hollywood personalities and baked goods. See if you can tell them apart. (Sony)

Signs Mel Gibson gets the Bruce Willis treatment from M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) as he plays a man obsessed with crop circles. Is this a guaranteed megahit, or is Shyamalan a ding-dong? (Buena Vista)

XXX Vin Diesel -- aka Mark Vincent -- looks like a big, mean baby, but audiences are starting to dig the star of Pitch Black, so now he's playing a secret agent with a yen for extreme sports. (Sony)

Aug. 7

Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams If last year's surprise family hit was a fluke, this sequel from Robert Rodriguez should prove even flukier, with the secret-agent Cortez family on a weird new adventure involving Steve Buscemi and Beavis and Butt-head creator Mike Judge. (Miramax)

Aug. 9

Blood Work Shhh! Don't tell anyone the plot of this one, which puts Clint Eastwood on the trail of a killer! OK, so it's not so original, but seeing Eastwood go up against evil on the big screen generally makes our day. Though it's based on a book with a 42-year-old protagonist, Eastwood, who also directs, has aged the character appropriately and will actually be playing him as a feeble 71-year-old in ill health. But he could probably still kick your ass. (Warner Bros.)

A Guy Thing Normally seen as the wise-guy best friend, Jason Lee here gets to play romantic lead (be forewarned -- the last time he did this was in Kissing a Fool). Engaged to Selma Blair, he nonetheless finds himself waking up one morning next to Julia Stiles, and frantically tries to keep it quiet. (MGM/UA)

Skins Eric Schweig and Graham Greene play two Sioux brothers coping with life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Chris Eyre directs. (First Look)

Swimfan This Fatal Attraction for teeny-boppers involves a star swimmer (Bring It On's Jesse Bradford) being stalked by the new girl in school (Traffic's Erika Christensen). Aussie John Polson directs. (Fox)

Aug. 16

The Adventures of Pluto Nash This oft-delayed Eddie Murphy comedy (originally scheduled for last April) is his first in a while that isn't a remake. Murphy stars as Nash, owner of the most popular nightclub on the moon, caught in an intergalactic mob war. Randy Quaid plays Murphy's robotic sidekick, with a strong supporting cast that includes Jay Mohr, Pam Grier, Rosario Dawson, Joe Pantoliano, Illeana Douglas, and Peter Boyle. (Warner Bros.)

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