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Arts Reviews: Holiday Events

Cirque Ingenieux will bring its imagination to the Colonial Theatre this holiday season.
By Vladimir Zelevinsky
Staff Reporter

All good things must come to an end, and so does the year 1998. For your convenience, I would like to provide this brief list of all the film and theatre openings for the coming month. A necessary disclaimer: I haven't seen any of these, and have simply listed the events which seem interesting on the basis of their pedigree; in other words, this is what I plan to catch. Most of these will be reviewed in the future.

Film

Opening dates are subject to the whim of the studios; some films open for Oscar consideration (that you can catch only if your travel plans include New York City or Los Angeles), and then expand wide.

Star Trek: Resurrection

Opening Dec. 11

The trailer looks fun, Patrick Stewart is reliably good, director Jonathan Frakes demonstrated he can spin a satisfying yarn with his Star Trek: First Contact, and F. Murray Abraham (Salieri in Amadeus) should make a fun villain. On the other hand, this is the ninth installment, and we all know that odd-numbered Star Trek films are usually unworthy of much attention.

A Simple Plan

Opening Dec. 11 in limited release, in full release the following weekend

Sam Raimi (director of the Evil Dead trilogy and creator of TV's Xena) tries his hand at a snow-bound thriller about two brothers who steal a cool $4 million from a downed plane. Both the snowy ambiance and Raimi's previous films point to something like Fargo, but the presence of Billy Bob Thornton in front of the camera gives hope that this "Plan" is more dramatically straightforward - and satisfying.

Shakespeare in Love

Opening Dec. 11 for Oscar-qualifying run, expanding on Dec. 25

A "who's who" of the independent cinema; with Gwyneth Paltrow, Rupert Everett, Ben Affleck, Judi Dench, Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and newcomer Joseph Fiennes (Ralph Fiennes' younger brother) as the titular Bard of Avon. Co-written by the wordweaver extraordinaire Tom Stoppard, this is the unlikely front-runner for the most fun movie of the year.

You've Got Mail

Opening Dec. 18

Tom Hanks reunites with his Sleepless in Seattle co-star Meg Ryan, which is good. They reunite with Sleepless writer/director Nora Ephron, which is not so good. Ephron's track record has been spotty at best, especially if you remember - or, better yet, don't remember - Mixed Nuts. But let's hope for the best. Hanks, at his worst, is still better than most.

Prince of Egypt

Opening Dec. 18

I don't know what to expect from the ostensibly reverential retelling of the story of Exodus as an animated musical, but DreamWorks proved that they know a thing or two about tweaking the formula with Antz. Good thing, because I was getting a bit tired of Disney whimsy.

The Faculty

Opening Dec. 25

The screenwriter of Scream and director of Desperado add up to: (a) a mindless two hours; (b) a copious amount of gore; (c) a whole lot of fun; (d) all of the above. My money is on (d).

A Civil Action

Opening Dec. 25. for Oscar-qualifying run, expanding Jan. 8

Another "who's who," this time of big-name actors: John Travolta, Robert Duvall, John Lithgow, william H. Macy, Tony Shalhoub, Kathleen Quinlan. Written and directed by Steven Zaillian (screenwriter of Schindler's List). Filmed here in Boston, the story (Woburn toxic waste dump case) combines harrowing drama and real-life excitement.

The Thin Red Line

Opening Dec. 25. for Oscar-qualifying run, expanding Jan. 8

A World War IIaction drama, with yet another roster of top names in business: Sean Penn, Ben Chaplin, George Clooney, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Jared Leto, Bill Pullman, Nick Nolte, John Travolta (in a supporting part). Directed by the legendary Terrence Malik, if this doesn't sound like an Oscar-hopeful, I don't know what does. The trailer looks absolutely fantastic.

Stage

Cirque Ingenieux

At Colonial Theatre on Dec. 22-27. More info at (617) 931-2787 and at http://www.cirquetour.com/

With all the shows opening in Boston during holiday season, some sound like fun (Victor/Victoria and Smokey Joe's Cafe), and some are justly perennial favorites (Blue Man Group). But only one show (with the exception of the ever popular Nutcracker) seems to have not only a wealth of skill and imagination, but also the true holiday spirit of wonder and adventure.

Cirque Ingenieux chronicles the story of a young girl who comes to the circus, and then travels beyond it, both in place (to different exotic countries) and time (from the era of simple one-ring circuses to the future). All of the alternative realities are created with unbridled imagination and promising sights you can't see anywhere else. It is this interplay of discovering unseen worlds in the solid and comforting framework of a familiar form that produces the best art.