Picks and Pans Review: Spotlight On...

updated 06/02/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/02/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>Big-Screen Buzz


BUG SEASON IS COMING, AND HOLLYWOOD has the screen door wide open. Insects—the horrific, gargantuan type bent on exterminating America and all it stands for—will infest movie houses in numbers not seen since the Eisenhower era. How did those '50s B-movie terrors metamorphose into the bad guys of the '90s? "Aliens—all right, bug aliens—are one of the only groups it's not politically incorrect to hate," says director Barry Sonnenfeld, whose tongue-in-cheek thriller Men in Black, opening July 2, pits Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith against oversize mantis-type aliens. "If you're looking for villains, they're perfect," adds director Guillermo del Toro, whose July 18 Mimic places creatures he calls a hybrid of termites and praying mantises in New York City. "They have no heart, no soul." The pestilence spreads to indie director Gregg Araki's surrealistic Nowhere and this fall's Starship Troopers, in which soldiers battle arachnid-like aliens. Still in the larval stage are two animated films: Bugs, a follow-up to Toy Story, and Ants, with the voice of Woody Allen.

Will insect pics have legs? The singing roaches in last year's Joe's Apartment got squashed at the box office. But the new bugs are bigger, badder and, studios hope, therefore better. "We're able to do amazing things that we couldn't do before," says Star-ship screenwriter Ed Neumeier. Mimic coproducer Michael Zoumas insists that crawlie creepshows are timeless. "Bugs are gross," he says. "Remember the last time you squished one?"

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