The Big Picture

Studio offerings tend to become more drearily formulaic as they approach the holidays, and this year’s movies display the usual range of Hollywood’s unique brand of repetition-compulsion: Predator 2; The Godfather, Part III; Rocky V; Look Who’s Talking Too. But there are some more up-market new releases to look forward to. In November, Warner brings us Debra Winger and John Malkovich in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Sheltering Sky, based on the novel by Paul Bowles. December brings Fred Schepisi’s The Russia House (MGM/UA), starring Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer, based on John Le Carré’s latest espionage novel, set in post-glasnost Moscow. For Warner, Brian De Palma directs the film version of Tom Wolfe’s bestselling novel The Bonfire of the Vanities; Tom Hanks is the Wall Street broker whose life falls apart.

But your ultimate holiday treat may be a double dose of Woody Allen. In what’s either an inspired casting choice or a pairing from hell, Allen stars with Bette Midler in Touchstone Pictures’ Scenes From a Mall, directed by Paul Mazursky, about a couple celebrating their fifteenth anniversary with an orgy of jealousy. Orion’s Alice, directed by Allen with some of the usual suspects and a few new ones, concerns a wife’s experience at a critical juncture in her life. (Nobody gets to know more than this about a Woody Allen movie before it opens.)