HOLLYWOOD

THE SUMMER IS OVER AND FALL is upon us. We can deny that fact, or we can embrace it. Frankly, denial seems underrated sometimes. Here is our second annual bid for an endless summer: a preview of what Hollywood plans for the dog days of 1998. Some release dates will change. Some titles will change. And some of the movies that studios rhapsodize about now will, in fact, suck. Still, there's something invigorating about seeing filmmakers ready for battle. This past summer was so overcrowded it once threatened to be a financial disaster (following story). Executives insist next summer won't have as many stale ideas and bloated budgets. You see? Denial is your friend.

Godzilla. Director: Roland Emmerich. Godzilla has held his own against King Kong, but surely Matthew Broderick can kick his butt. This is next summer's surest thing: it's being made by the ""Independence Day'' team, and who among us isn't afraid of being stepped on by something really, really big? The plot of ""Godzilla'' is a secret. Rumor has it that the monster's now the result of French nuclear testing and that he--actually, he's a she now--hikes across America and rampages through Central Park and the subway while a scientist (Broderick) labors to stop her. ""There's nothing wrong with popcorn movies, but they need to be made by people who love them,'' says producer Dean Devlin. ""If you yourself don't go to popcorn movies on Friday night, why are you making them?''

Mighty Joe Young. Director: Ron Underwood. While Godzilla sacks Manhattan, a 15-foot gorilla will be trashing L.A. This is a remake of the 1949 adventure about a misunderstood ape on the lam. A zoologist (Bill Paxton) and a comely young woman (Charlize Theron) try to save Joe before the authorities drop their nets.

Meet Joe Black. Director: Martin Brest. Brad Pitt plays the blond reaper in a movie inspired by ""Death Takes a Holiday.'' Pitt comes for a tycoon (Anthony Hopkins), but falls for his daughter (Claire Forlani). During the shoot, Pitt parted with Gwyneth Paltrow and reportedly began dating Forlani--all the while battling Bradmania. Says Brest, ""One day Brad and I went outside to stage a scene and 1,000 girls started screaming. I said, "Jesus, Brad, you'd think these girls never saw a movie director before'.''

6 Days/7 Nights. Director: Ivan Reitman. Who on earth is going to believe a romance between Anne Heche and Harrison Ford? The guy's twice her age--and he stank in ""Sabrina.'' ""6 Days'' concerns an acerbic cargo pilot and an acerbic magazine editor who crash-land on a deserted island. The ""real'' controversy surrounding the cast, of course, is the fact that Heche fell for Ellen DeGeneres earlier this year. Director Reitman bemoaned the relationship's effect on his box office, but he has now regained control of his tongue. ""Anne Heche is going to make the sort of splash Lauren Bacall did in her first movies with Humphrey Bogart,'' he says. ""There is no lack of sexual tension on screen. Whatever her personal life is, it's hers. It's clear she likes this particular man.''

Stepmom. Director: Chris Columbus. Death, life, laughs. A hippieish mom with a tattoo (Susan Sarandon) learns she has cancer and prepares her ex-husband's new girlfriend (Julia Roberts) to mother her children. ""Every parent's fear is that you're not going to live to see your kids grow up,'' says Sarandon. ""Every time we have lunch and talk about specific scenes, we end up weeping with our sunglasses on.''

A Civil Action. Director: Steve Zaillian. Several Massachusetts children get leukemia, apparently because two giant chemical companies have dumped carcinogens in the water supply. A flamboyant lawyer (John Travolta) embarks on a class-action suit--and a devastating downward spiral. ""Action'' is a true story based on Jonathan Harr's extraordinary best seller, so Travolta has no excuse for not winning an Oscar. The real-life parents of the dead children, however, may wind up empty-handed. The filmmakers didn't ask for their permission, so the survivors are lobbying legislators to pass laws protecting people's right to their life stories.

Doctor Dolittle. Director: Betty Thomas. Eddie Murphy, a revelation in ""The Nutty Professor,'' hops back on the remake train. ""We're in a time where people want to laugh at things that aren't mean-spirited,'' he says. ""And in what other job can a black man talk to a drunk monkey and kiss a rat and still be respected?''

Armageddon. Director: Michael Bay. Earth Threatened by Asteroid! NASA's Billy Bob Thornton sends Bruce Willis into space to blow up an incoming rock. By the way, what's the difference between an asteroid and a comet?

Deep Impact. Director: Mimi Leder. Earth Threatened by Comet! Robert Duvall goes into space to nudge a comet off its course. Meanwhile, TV reporter Tea Leon contemplates life in the face of death. Leder, who directed this fall's ""The Peacemaker'' for DreamWorks, isn't concerned about ""Armageddon.'' ""I think perhaps that might just be an action movie,'' she says. ""And we're coming out first, so there.''

The Avengers. Director: Jeremiah Check. Earth Threatened by Sean Coney! Ralph Fineness and Uma Thurman are the Avengers in this nod to the mod Brit TV hit. Connery is August De Wynter, who wants to control the weather. Somebody hit the guy with an umbrella.

Gloria. Director: Sidney Lumet. A remake of the John Cassavetes picture. Sharon Stone's a former mob moll trying to live a quiet life. Then gangsters gun down some neighbors and she flees with the only survivor: an 8-year-old boy.

The X-Files. Director: Rob Bowman. Agents Mulder and Scully investigate the bombing of an office building in Dallas--and resolve some of the TV show's cliffhangers. The creator of the show, Chris Carter, says, ""My dream would be a series of movies.'' His and 30 million fans'.

Species 2. Director: Peter Medak. A manned mission to Mars brings back soil with some nasty alien DNA. And if that's not scary enough, producer Frank Mancuso Jr. says, ""There's a much deeper emotional context to this movie.''

Mulan. A girl and a friendly dragon. Disney's latest animated outing finds a Chinese girl disguising herself as a man so she can take her father's place in the army. Eddie Murphy breathes fire into her sidekick.

Quest for Camelot. A girl and a friendly dragon--the latter with two heads. Warners' own animated feature concerns young Kayley battling to save King Arthur's Court.

Snake Eyes. Director: Brian DePalma. The secretary of defense is assassinated at a prizefight. Nicolas Cage seals off the arena and interrogates 14,000 suspects.

U.S. Marshals. Director: Stuart Baird. Tommy Lee Jones, not a man given to hyperbole, describes the movie thusly: ""It's a sequel to "The Fugitive.' We're just chasing another fugitive.'' This time round, Jones is after a much wilier mouse, a secret government agent played by Wesley Snipes. Producer Arnold Kopelson says they haven't yet figured out a way to write a sequel with Harrison Ford. How many times can Dr. Kimble not kill his wife?

I Am Legend. Director: Riddle Scott. Based on the '50s sci-fi novel. An apocalyptic virus has flattened life as we know it, and Arnold Schwarzenegger wars with superhuman, bloodthirsty mutants. It's the summer movie season, after all--when was the last time anybody got along?