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by Jim Wunderle

Now that the Oscars have come and gone, and the movie industry is celebrating its "titanic" revival, at least at the box office, it seemed like a good time to look at what's in store for the 1998 season.

The National Association of Theater Owners just had its annual convention in Las Vegas, and I managed to obtain the official "preview" newspaper of every motion picture scheduled for release this year. Here are a few that I found noteworthy.

"Godzilla." Following in the footsteps of 1997's big-budget epic, director Roland Emmerich brings everyone's favorite B-movie monster back to the big screen. This time, instead of trampling Tokyo, the giant reptile sets his sights on New York City.

Emmerich, you might remember, is the man who gave us the box-office smash "Independence Day," and the studio powers-that-be are banking that his giant lizard will draw the same audiences.

This is just one of more than two dozen major films in the science fiction genre on tap for release in 1998. Other sci-fi pieces include "Species II"; Brad Pitt as an alien in "Meet Joe Black"; "Deep Impact," wherein the Earth is threatened by an approaching asteroid; and "Armageddon," where the doomsday object is a meteor.

"Mighty Joe Young" is a remake of the classic "big monkey" film from 1949, and TV fans will no doubt flock to the big-screen version of "The X-Files."

More interesting than that is the movie version of the campy 1960s TV series "Lost in Space." The film version apparently foregoes the cheesy comedy that everyone remembers from the series and is being billed as a serious science fiction film.

On a more serious side is Dutch director Marleen Gorris' latest, "Mrs. Dalloway." Gorris' last outing, "Antonia's Line" was a great movie and deservedly won an Oscar for best foreign-language film of 1995. In "Mrs. Dalloway," Vanessa Redgrave makes a welcome comeback in an intensely emotional story based on the novel by Virginia Woolf. There's already talk of Redgrave walking away with next year's best actress award.

Recently, we've had a case of "is art imitating life or vice versa ?" with Barry Levinson's political satire "Wag the Dog." Following on the heels of that film is the film version of "Primary Colors," the successful political novel officially credited to an author named "Anonymous."

The author is no longer such, and the characters in the book while not having the names Bill, Hillary, James, etc. were never meant to be veiled in any kind of secrecy. So, now comes Mike Nichols directing a cast that includes John Travolta as the president, Emma Thompson as his first lady and Billy Bob Thornton as the chief political strategist.

Legendary director Stanley Kubrick ("2001," "A Clockwork Orange") hasn't made a film since his brilliant 1987 antiwar drama, "Full Metal Jacket," but for the past couple of years there has been much talk about his latest project, titled "Eyes Wide Shut." The film stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, and is under a very tight security routine, something that is common on a Kubrick project.

I'm also intrigued by the sequel to one of my favorite films of the 1990s, "Babe Pig in the City" will explore the further exploits of everyone's favorite sheep- herding swine.

(Jim Wunderle works at Associated Video Producers and is a Springfield free-lance writer and musician.)

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