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A Reel Coming-Out Party

It's Christmas in July (not to mention June or August) as dozens of films make their debuts.


Summer is a great time to catch up on several smaller films you might have missed this past Christmas and spring. Several interesting vintage flicks also are making their video debuts, along with a new Disney adventure starring Winnie the Pooh. So get your VCRs primed and ready for the onslaught. (See release dates in video news column at right).

The biggest Oscar-winning title arriving this summer is the Tom Cruise blockbuster "Jerry Maguire" (Columbia TriStar), featuring Cuba Gooding Jr.'s Academy Award-winning performance.

But this was the year independent films ruled the Oscars. Beating Cruise out of the best actor award was Australian stage actor Geoffrey Rush, who won for his role as troubled pianist David Helfgott in the intimate, low-budget Aussie drama, "Shine" (New Line).

Even more of a sleeper than "Shine" was Billy Bob Thornton's evocative drama "Sling Blade" (Miramax), for which he received the Oscar for his adapted screenplay and picked up a best actor nomination for his role as a mentally challenged man released from an institution after 25 years.

Documentary lovers will want to check out "When We Were Kings" (Polygram), Leon Gast's splendid Oscar-winning chronicle of the 1974 Muhammad Ali-George Foreman heavyweight bout in Zaire.

Gloria Steinem's least-favorite film, "The People vs. Larry Flynt" (Columbia TriStar) may find the audience on home video it failed to reach in theaters. Directed in high style by Milos Forman, the freewheeling tragicomedy stars Woody Harrelson, in his Oscar-nominated title role, Courtney Love and Edward Norton.

Despite generally rave reviews, Lars von Trier's "Breaking the Waves" (Evergreen) had a very limited release. Now is the chance to catch newcomer Emily Watson's best actress-nominated performance as a mentally unbalanced wife.

One of last fall's most anticipated films, Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" (FoxVideo) failed to attract an audience, perhaps because of its depressing and familiar subject matter--the Salem witch trials. Despite its lackluster performance, Miller received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay based on his classic play, and Joan Allen picked up a best supporting actress nod.

If you didn't think you could sit still for Kenneth Branagh's four-hour version of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" (Columbia TriStar), home video is the perfect opportunity to watch this ambitious, opulent production, which received four Oscar nominations, at your own pace.

Art-house films rarely get wide release in theaters, so home video is usually the best opportunity to catch such films as Trevor Nunn's version of "Twelfth Night" (New Line). This sprightly comedy is uneven, but features a delightful performance from Nigel Hawthorne.

Satirical, naughty and sophisticated, "Ridicule" (Miramax) was France's best foreign-language film nominee. Fanny Ardant stars in Patrice Leconte's film.

Ron Rifkin received acclaim and awards for his memorable performance as a strong-willed, stubborn New York book publisher in Jon Robin Baitz's off-Broadway play "The Substance of Fire." But the movie version (Miramax) came and went with a blink of an eye earlier this year. Rifkin is equally stunning in the film, which also stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Tony Goldwyn and Timothy Hutton as his troubled offspring.

It's a busy summer for Walt Disney Home Video. First up is the video debut of the 1947 live-action and animated film "Fun and Fancy Free," featuring Walt Disney's last outing as the voice of Mickey Mouse. Edgar Bergen, Dinah Shore, Luanna Patten and Charlie McCarthy also star.

Disney's latest straight-to-video animated film is the "Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin." And, in late August, Disney is offering a restored, limited edition of its 1964 Oscar-winner "Mary Poppins," starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.

Classic movie buffs can look forward to Kino's six-volume "Cecil B. DeMille: The Visionary Years 1915-1927" (June 17), which features such delectable DeMille silent films as "Carmen," "Male and Female" and "King of Kings." Also new for June 17 is Home Vision's digitally remastered edition of Leni Riefenstahl's masterpiece "Olympia," which was restored under the supervision of the German filmmaker who is now in her 90s, and Rhino's three-volume, 30th anniversary edition of "The Monterey Pop Festival," featuring never-before-seen footage.

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