Wide Angle: New viewing figures in '98

It's going to be a big year for big names, with new films from Tarantino, Verhoeven, Spielberg and Eastwood. But trendspotters can also have fun with the many interesting films from unknowns

Men In Black? LA Confidential? Nil By Mouth? ... soooo last year, darling, So what's in store for cinephiles, blockbuster babes and multiplex monsters in 1998? It's back to the spangly 1970s for the first few months of next year, as the nostalgia wheel spins film-makers back to the decade that fashion forgot. First off is January's Boogie Nights (right), a sprawling glitterball of reflections on the sex industry from Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring Julianne Moore as Amber Waves, Heather Graham as Rollergirl, Don Cheadle as Buck Swope and Mark Wahlberg as Dirk Diggler, the film is epic in names alone, not to mention the unfeasibly-large prosthetic penis Wahlberg gets to don for the role of protege to porn auteur Burt Reynolds (in another nicely self-parodic turn).

While also set in the 1970s, Ang Lee's stunning latest The Ice Storm (February) offers quite a contrast. This cool but intense chamber piece explores the crisis in confidence of Nixon's America through the emotional fracturing of two families. Offering powerfully understated performances from an ensemble that includes Sigourney Weaver, Kevin Kline and Joan Allen, it's a definite must-see.

Travel back in time to a parallel Seventies in March, with Quentin Tarantino's neo-exploitation flick Jackie Brown, starring original superfly star Pam Grier alongside Samuel Jackson, Bridget Fonda and Robert De Niro. Expect big hair, big shoes and big backchat from the motor-mouthed maestro.

Finally, 1998 also sees enormously talented American indie director Todd Haynes moving away from the minimalism of Safe to embrace the excesses of 1970s glam rock in Velvet Goldmine, which stars Ewan McGregor as an lggy Pop-style rock God.

But enough of this retro-kitsch and back to the future. One of the first blockbusters of the year promises to be Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers, a bug-eyed and ultra-violent B-movie which essentially pits a crew of beautiful unknowns against a load of computer-generated giant insects. Sci-fi fans can also look forward to seeing Mulder and Scully finally hitting the big screen this summer in X Files: The Movie.

James Cameron's hulking Titanic washes up on the screens at the end of January, while February sees Spielberg turning serious once more with Amistad, the true story of a 1839 uprising on board a slave ship. The Coen brothers release their mistaken identity comedy The Big Lebowski, starring Jeff Bridges and John Goodman. Other releases include Woody Allen's Deconstructing Harry and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which shows an intriguing change in orientation from director Clint Eastwood, who abandons his usual lean style for a foray into Southern Gothic.

On the star side, catch Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman in The Avengers, Robert De Niro and Anne Heche in political thriller Wag The Dog and Claudia Schiffer making her film debut in The Black Out, the latest nightmare to escape from the troubled brain of Abel Ferrara.

For those whose tastes run to something darker than celebrity spotting, this year offers a fine crop of provocative independent work. This week's well-wrought Kissed assays nechrophilia, while next month's documentary, Sick: The Life and Death of Supermasochist Bob Flanagan, poignantly charts how cystic fibrosis sufferer Flanagan takes control of his own suffering, unflinchingly detailing his predilection for hammering nails through tender body parts.

Spring is sadism, with Neil La Bute's In The Company of Men describing how two frat boy executives decide to revenge themselves on women by victimising a deaf secretary. And if that weren't enough, April also sees the release of Gummo, the bizarre new film from Kids writer Harmony Korine which, with its heady combination of cat killing and squalid sex, looks set to rival 1997's Crash in controversy. Happy New Viewing.

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