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RCA/Columbia Aims 'Roxanne' at Christmas Market; 'Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home' Tops New Releases

October 02, 1987|DENNIS HUNT | Times Staff Writer

"Roxanne," Steve Martin's amusing retelling of "Cyrano de Bergerac," was one of the summer's big hits and should be one of the most popular Christmas rentals. RCA/Columbia is releasing it Dec. 10. Martin is both the star and the screenwriter; Daryl Hannah plays Roxanne.

"Burke & Willis," the Australian adventure film that received critical plaudits, is due Nov. 25 from Nelson Entertainment. Despite the praise, audiences didn't flock to see it in theaters. Jack Thompson and Nigel Havers star.

Next week: "Lady and the Tramp" and "The Hanoi Hilton."

NEW RELEASES: You don't have to be a Trekkie to enjoy Paramount's "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home," which cleverly mixes a save-the-whale message with the usual sci-fi shenanigans. Capt. Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and the rest of the crew are back from the future--in modern-day San Francisco--searching for whales that might save the 23rd-Century world by communicating with a menacing space probe. The environmental message, of course, is that the future world wouldn't be in such a fix if the whales hadn't been extinct. The fun of the movie is watching the smug crew deal with the "primitive" moderns. Directed by Nimoy, it's easily the most entertaining of the four "Star Trek" movies and by far the most accessible to non-Trekkies.

Critics regarded Lorimar's "Swimming to Cambodia" as a minor miracle. It's director Jonathan Demme's film of actor Spaulding Gray's one-man, off-Broadway show, shot late last year. With just a few props, Gray, who's sitting at a table, raps mostly about his acting career and the circumstances surrounding his role in "The Killing Fields," set in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge horrors. Imaginative use of lights and camera, and Laurie Anderson's avant-garde score, keep you riveted during Gray's sad, funny, often gripping monologues. This one is mainly for the art-house crowd and those who share Gray's leftist politics.

Most adults will regard Touchstone's "Ernest Goes to Camp" as inane kid-stuff. Its target audience is primarily kiddies and young teen-agers who like slapstick and tolerate heavy-handed sentiment. Ernest is a good-hearted, bumbling handyman who's promoted to camp counselor. While helping some juvenile delinquents blend in with the other kids, he spearheads the attack on the bad guys who are trying to gut the camp to get at valuable ore. Jim Varney, whom you'll recognize from TV commercials, stars as Ernest. Box-office gross: more than $20 million.

Critics had a great time making fun of Media's "Mannequin," but the barbs didn't keep audiences away. This comedy/fantasy is about a down-and-out window dresser (Andrew McCarthy) who becomes a winner because of his affair with a mannequin. The twist--borrowed from scores of other movies, including the "Topper" series--is that the mannequin (Kim Cattrall) only turns human in his presence. The rest of the world sees him as a weirdo who's crazy about a department-store dummy. It was a big box-office hit, undoubtedly due to its great teen appeal.

Warner Video's "Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol" offers the Police Academy gang--including Steve Guttenberg, Bubba Smith and Bob Goldthwait--in another series of slapstick adventures. This time they're helping to organize a citizens' police force. Though the series is obviously running out of steam, Goldthwait seems to get better and better. There's enough on-target raunchy humor to satisfy fans of the series.

Nelson Entertainment's "Defense of the Realm" is a political thriller that's maddeningly oblique, right down to its surprisingly downbeat ending. Because the main story is entangled in confusing subplots, you're never quite sure what's going on. Your rewind button will get a lot of use while you're trying to figure this one out. Director David Drury crams too much into this tale of an investigative journalist (Gabriel Byrne) who stumbles onto a government cover-up while covering a sex-and-spy scandal. Denholm Elliott, who plays a drunken journalist, is probably the only cast member you'll recognize.

Paramount's "The Good Wife," which had limited theatrical release, is nearly undone by a slow first half. If you have patience, though, this romantic drama--which is littered with fine performances--has a steamy second half. In Australia in the late '30s, the good wife (Rachel Ward) is a bed of smoldering embers. She tolerates her solid but dull husband (Bryan Brown) until a newcomer--a callous, womanizing bartender (Sam Neill)--turns her on, straining her marriage to the breaking point. Though the story is ripe for moralizing, director Ken Cameron's approach is surprisingly nonjudgmental.

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