NEED A LAUGH? THEN YOU MAY WANT TO TAKE A CHANCE ON THESE CURRENT AND UPCOMING COMEDIES WHEN THEY ARRIVE AT YOUR LOCAL MULTIPLEX
By Guy Flatley
I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS
Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Michael Mandel (Written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa; Freestyle Releasing)
How’s this for Meeting Cute? Steven Russell, a severely flawed husband and father who’s rarely encountered a law he didn't try to break, finally lands in the slammer, where his cellmate, a hot blond bachelor named Phillip Morris, turns out to be the love of his life.
And how’s this for Casting Cute? Sex maniac Steven is played by Jim Carrey, and dippy but seductive Phillip is played by Ewan McGregor. If you’re curious about how the decidedly odd couple manages to make whoopee behind bars (and eventually outside prison walls), go ahead and put this carnal comedy on your must-see list.
Here's something else to think about: if you were a big fan of “Bad Santa,” the outrageous, politcally incorrect 2003 laughathon starring Billy Bob Thornton and Bernie Mac, you may want to run, not walk, to the front of the multiplex line. That’s because Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the screenwriters of “Bad Santa,” wrote and directed “I Love You Phillip Morris.” Another reason to catch this flick: Steven's out-of-luck wife is played by the irresistibly zany Leslie Mann (aka Mrs. Judd Apatow).
As you may already know, the bizarre saga of Steven Russell is based on a true-life story which served as the basis for Steve McVicker’s 2003 novel, "I Love You Phillip Morris." Now Playing
Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence, Riley Thomas Stewart (Directed by Jodie Foster; Written by Kyle Killen; Summit Entertainment)
When last coupled on screen, Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster were a pair of poker-playing con artists scheming to fleece as many unsuspecting citizens of the Old West as possible. That was in 1994’s “The Maverick,” directed by Richard Donner.
No doubt they still make a striking combo but in their latest film, at least one of them is definitely looking weird. And we do mean Mel, who plays Walter Black, a severely agitated man who never goes anywhere or does anything unless he’s sporting his ludicrous-looking beaver hand puppet. That’s the only way this loser is able to calm down, but thanks to that damn beaver, his faithful wife Meredith Black, played by Jodie, is becoming more and more frantic. Which is why their son Porter Black (Anton Yelchin) insists that mom dump dad.
So who’s directing "The Beaver"? None other than two-time Oscar-winning actress Jodie Foster, whose previous behind-the-camera achievements include “Little Man Tate” (1991) and the underrated “Home for the Holidays” (1995). The rumor that Jodie was Mel’s first choice to direct “The Passion of the Christ” seemingly has no basis in fact. But wouldn't it be fun if Mel turns out to be the director of "The Beaver, Part 2"? Assuming he can fit it into his hectic schedule. Opens 3/23/11
DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS
Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis, Jemain Clement, Stephanie Szostak, Lucy Punch, Bruce Greenwood, David Williams (Directed by Jay Roach; Written by David Guion and Michael Handelman; Paramount, DreamWorks and Spyglass Entertainment)
Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, who proved they know how to milk a silly story for whopper laughs in such champs as “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” (2004) and “The 40 Year Old Virgin” (2005) are at it again. In “Dinner for Schmucks,” a reworking of Francis Veber’s French box-office hit “Le Diner de Cons,” Rudd plays the cluelessly insensitive clod who joins his callous boss Lance (Bruce Greenwood) in staging a dinner party/contest, with the prize going to the player who succeeds in bringing the biggest schmuck of the evening as his guest.
And that, of course, is where Carell, cast as the clumsily toupeed, conspicuously buck-toothed Barry—a natural-born goofball if ever there was one—comes in. Obviously, this material could be extraordinarily offensive, but preview audiences (and more than a few critics) have roared their approval. Maybe you should go see for yourself. Now Playing
Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Patrick Wilson, Jeff Goldblum, Juliette Lewis, Thomas Robinson (Directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon; Written by Allan Loeb; Miramax Films/Mandate Pictures)
At a madcap New York insemination party for a girl named Kassie, a drunken guy named Wally staggers into a bathroom and immediately overturns a crucial cup of sperm that’s been left there for Kassie’s use by a sober guy named Roland. What to do? Simple. To prevent Kassie from crying over Roland’s spilled sperm, Wally, impassioned by a magazine cover of Diane Sawyer, manages to fill the cup with his own seed before making a hasty, if unsteady, exit from the john. As you might imagine, complications ensue, some of them taking place in Minnesota and involving Kassie’s eccentric son Sebastian, and all of them aiming for the funny bone.
As you also might imagine, this mating-cute comedy is simply labeled “The Switch,” and Kassie, Wally and Roland are played by Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman and Patrick Wilson, each of whom would surely benefit from a switch to heavy drama as soon as possible. Now Playing
EAT PRAY LOVE
Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, Richard Jenkins, James Franco, Billy Crudup, Viola Davis (Written and directed by Ryan Murphy; Paramount)
Depressed, nearly suicidal, Elizabeth Gilbert (author of the memoir upon which this film is based) decides to take a year off from her successful literary career in an attempt to get over her divorce from a seemingly ideal husband and her stressful love affair with a man who was definitely not ideal. Her plan is to flee Manhattan and spend one third of the year seeking pleasure in Italy, another third searching for spiritual serenity in India, and the final third striking a balance between the two extremes in Indonesia.
And, yes, Elizabeth, portrayed by Julia Roberts, will not say no if a suitable bachelor pops up somewhere along the way and pops the right question. Among the presumably available strangers encountered by Elizabeth on her merry way are a long in the tooth mystic played by Richard Jenkins and a red-hot man of mystery played by super-cool Javier Bardem. Now Playing
Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray, Lucas Black, Gerald McRaney, Bill Cobbs, Scott Cooper, Lorie Beth Edgeman (Directed by Aaron Schneider; Written by Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell; Sony Pictures Classics)
Some people love a parade; others love a carnival or maybe a wedding. And then there’s the rare bird who loves a funeral, such as Felix Bush, the elderly, irascible—some said menacing--loner who emerged from his backwoods Tennessee home one day during the Great Depression with the wacky goal of finding somebody to give him a festive, folksy funeral, replete with music, booze, and cash prizes. All this while Felix is still among the living.
Sound a bit far-fetched? Well, according to the makers of “Get Low,” it’s all true, based on events in the life of an eccentric whose proper name was Felix Breazeale and who did manage to celebrate his own fun-filled send-off from our prosaic planet with mischievous, surprisingly raunchy panache.
Critics who voted thumbs up on this sleeper did so largely because of the solid, in-depth performances by veterans Robert Duvall as the cantankerous but vulnerable Felix, Bill Murray as the crafty, highly unorthodox director of the local funeral parlor, and Sissy Spacek as a sweet yet sassy widow who once made the mistake of letting Felix fly off on his own. Now Playing
Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito, Mary-Louise Parker, Jenna Fischer, Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots, David Costabile (Directed by David Levien and Brian Koppelman; Written by Brian Koppelman; Anchor Bay Films)
Some men cheat on their wives. Some men cheat on their wives by attempting to rekindle a relationship with their ex-wives. Some men even cross a dangerous line with the nubile daughters of their latest wives. And, forgetting women for a second, it’s true that some men are at their most untrustworthy in the cold-blooded pursuit of big bucks.
Rarely does all of the above apply to one solitary man. But, happily, Ben Kalman, the mendacious car salesman and dedicated womanizer superbly played by Michael Douglas in this wickedly dark comedy, is a notable exception. And he deserves a round of applause from all serious moviegoers. Now Playing
GET HIM TO THE GREEK
Jonah Hill, Russell Brand, Elisabeth Moss, Rose Byrne, Colm Meaney, Sean Combs (Written and directed by Nicholas Stoller; Universal Pictures)
The “Him” here is Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), a stoned, crude, shamelessly horny British rock star suffering a breakdown over the catastrophic flop of “African Child,” his latest album. But who has been ordered to get Snow to the Greek, that storied Concert Hall in Los Angeles where the mercurial performer might stage a sensational comeback? It’s pudgy, super-excitable Aaron Green (Jonah Hill), a record company staffer assigned by his boss Sergio Roma (Sean Combs) to speed to London, collect the swirling Snow and bring him back alive and sedate as possible to L.A.
Will Brand and Hill emerge from this thinly plotted gross-out devised by Nicholas Stoller, a protégé of anything-for-a-laugh filmmaker Judd Apatow, as the 21st Century answer to Abbott and Costello? See “Get Him to the Greek” and judge for yourself. Now Playing
Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Benicio Del Toro, Michelle Monaghan, Robert Schwartzman (Written And Directed By Sofia Coppola; Focus Features)
Johnny Marco, a hot, perpetually stoned movie star, is a more or less permanent resident of the Chateau Marmont, the trendy Hollywood hotel that proved to be the last stop for a drug-fogged John Belushi. Marco (played by Stephen Dorff, the mercurial performer best remembered as a very special nut case in John Waters’ “Cecil B. Demented” and as transvestite Candy Darling in Mary Harron’s “I Shot Andy Warhol”) whiles away his off-camera time popping pills and lazing about in his suite with a bevy of Playboy-style babes.
Then, suddenly and totally unannounced, his 11-year-old daughter Cleo—the product of a marriage gone haywire—pops up on Marco’s Marmont doorstep. And since the kid is played by Elle Fanning, the tyke who nearly swiped “The Door in the Floor” from Jeff Bridges in 2004, you can bet that sparks will fly between Fanning and Dorff in this exceptionally promising dad & daughter comedy-drama.
One reason to expect the unexpected in terms of narrative substance and cinematic style is the fact that “Somewhere” has been written and directed by the playfully subversive Sofia Coppola, an artist who managed to surprise and delight us with “The Virgin Suicides,” “Marie Antoinette” and, especially, “Lost in Translation.” Opens 12/22/10
LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS
Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Judy Greer, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, Jill Clayburgh, George Segal, David Morse (Directed by Edward Zwick; Written by Charles Randolph; 20th Century Fox)
Back in 2005, in Ang Lee’s melancholy but triumphantly commercial “Brokeback Mountain,” Jake Gyllenhaal played a closeted gay cowpoke who carries a torch for his sexually conflicted buddy Heath Ledger and ends up marrying a crass, clueless but emphatically heterosexual rodeo addict played by Anne Hathaway.
Now Gyllenhaal and Hathaway are reteamed in another film with sex on its mind. This time, however, the focus will be primarily on nitty-gritty details--an intimate study of studly performance rather than a torturous exploration of sexual repression. And if the flick sticks to the story Jamie Reidy spun so mischievously in his 2005 memoir, “Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman,” it may indeed stand tall at the box office.
Reidy, of course, is the former pitchman who made an easy bundle during the nineties peddling the little miracle pill from Pfizer that could turn men deflated by erectile dysfunction into round-the-clock lotharios. After leaving Pfizer, Reidy felt ready to try his hand at writing, and what he chose to write was a comical, anatomically explicit account of his time of toil in the drug industry. To his surprise, his new bosses at Eli Lilly failed to appreciate the raunchy humor employed by Reidy in “Hard Sell,” and he soon learned the hard way what it feels like to be unemployed.
Gyllenhaal, with his engaging, off-center sense of the ridiculous, seems a natural to play the guy who lucks into selling a product that practically sells itself. As for Hathaway, she’s a business client who happens to have Parkinson’s and, as it turns out, more than a dollars-and-cents interest in the conspicuously hot super salesman. Which is why she makes a pitch.
If "Love and Other Drugs" gives you an erection lasting more than four hours, call your shrink right away! Now Playing
KNIGHT AND DAY
Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Dano, Maggie Grace, Marc Blucas, Viola Davis, Olivier Martinez (Directed by James Mangold; Written by Patrick O’Neill; Twentieth Century-Fox)
The last time Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz hooked up on screen Tom was a love-her-and-leave-her narcissist who dumped Cameron the second sizzly Penelope Cruz cruised his way. Understandably, this sexual dismissal sent Cameron into a prolonged pout, which is why she offered her straying stud a ride home late one evening after he’d kissed Penelope goodnight. Scarcely giving the cad a chance to fasten his seat belt, his embittered ex pressed her foot to the pedal and headed for the nearest bridge, where she swiftly executed a four-wheel suicide-and-murder dive into the water below. For Cameron, it worked; for Tom, the results were ghastly disfigurement and a hellish new way of life.
The year was 2001, and the movie, as connoisseurs of cinematic kitsch well know, was “Vanilla Sky.” But that was then, and this is what we have now: a brand new, sunnier, if not funnier, action comedy called “Knight and Day.” On this occasion, Tom and Cameron play a cuddly, secretive couple who take to the road and to the air, from Kansas to Massachusetts to Austria to Spain, in a frantic attempt to dodge various no-nonsense assassins and to live zanily ever after. (Let’s hope Tom is at the wheel this time.) Now Playing
IRON MAN 2
Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, John Slattery, Gary Shandling, Christiane Amanpopur, Bill O’Reilly (Directed by Jon Favreau; Written by Justin Theroux; Paramount Pictures)
Following his smashing 2008 debut, playful but tough Tony Stark is back, and once again the Marvel comic hero with the high-tech heart is being played by the unaplogetically over-the-top Robert Downey Jr. This time, the aggressive altruist is joined by another Iron Man, an Army Colonel played by Don Cheadle, as well as a battery of good and bad guys and girls that includes Gwyneth Paltrow as spicy Pepper Potts, San Rockwell as an unscrupulous defense contractor, Scarlett Johansson as an intensely athletic spy, Mickey Rourke as a mad Russian scientist and Samuel L. Jackson as a loose cannon named Nick Fury. All this, and Gary Shandling, Christiane Amanpour and Bill O’Reilly, too! Now Playing
SEX AND THE CITY 2
Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, John Corbett, Chris Noth, David Eigenberg, Evan Handler, Jason Lewis, Willie Garson, Mario Cantone, Alice Eve, Liza Minnelli, Penelope Cruz (Written and directed by Michael Patrick King; Warner Brothers)
This sequel to the popular comedy about a quartet of boringly libidinous Manhattan babes may not collect any year-end awards. On the other hand, it did collect what will almost certainly be the year's most scathing set of reviews. As A. O. Scott put it, “Your watch will tell you that a shade less than two and a half hours have elapsed, but you may be shocked at just how much older you feel when the whole thing is over.” Click here for the full New York Times review. Now Playing
Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Tom Selleck, Catherine O’Hara, Katheryn Winnick, Kevin Sussman (Directed by Robert Luketic; Written by Bob DeRosa and T. M. Griffin; Lionsgate)
You thought Katherine Heigl got a raw deal as the trusting airhead who is impregnated by slothful slob Seth Rogen in “Knocked Up”? Then you may be happy to find her in the intimate company of a former CIA superspy, a smooth, sexy hero—played by Ashton Kutcher--who decides he wants to marry her the minute he meets her on the French Rivera. And before long, the newlyweds are cuddling in the serenity of suburbia.
But they do not live happily ever after. That’s because assassins from out of hubby’s past want to play a part in what is beginning to look a lot like a very short future.
Did we forget to tell you that this is a comedy? Well, apparently somebody forgot to tell the audience on the day the movie opened, because the tragic truth is that nobody laughed. So now “Killers” is giving “Sex and the City 2” heavy competition for the title of The Unfunniest Movie of the Year. Now Playing
Queen Latifah, Common, Paula Patton, James Pickens Jr. Phylicia Rashad, Pam Grier (Directed by Sanaa Hamri; Written by Michael Elliot; Fox Searchlight)
A high-jumping N.B.A. champ, played by mega-rapper Common, takes a bad jump and is in urgent need of physical therapy. That’s where Leslie Wright, played by Queen Latifah--an actress who rarely goes wrong--steps in. Naturally, this dedicted healer falls hard for her fast-dribbling client; yet she is a tad too professional to make a pass. Her best pal (Paula Patton), on the other hand, gets a glimpse of the red-hot hoopster and decides in a split second that she definitely has what it takes to make the perfect Trophy Wife.
So does that mean that Dr. Wright will never win her Mr. Right? Are you kidding—didn’t you hear me just say this sporting lady is played by Queen Latifah? Now Playing
Helen Mirren, Joe Pesci, Gina Gershon, Rio Hackford (Directed by Taylor Hackford; Written by Mark Jacobson; Capitol Films)
Not so long ago we were calling Helen Mirren queen; soon we’ll be calling her madam. That’s because the Oscar winner is playing an earthy, enterprising woman based on the character of Sally Conforte, who--along with hubby Joe--made her naughtiest dream come true by opening the Mustang Ranch, Nevada’s first legal brothel. Life became one big love-in for Sally and Joe--until that memorable moment in 1976 when Oscar Bonavena, an Argentinian prizefighter rumored to have gotten raunchy with the Mustang boss-lady, was shot dead by a ranch bodyguard.
Director Taylor Hackford, Mirren’s real-life husband, will be putting his wife through her “Love Ranch” paces. And her real-life stepson, actor Rio Hackford, will also be on hand in a supporting role. Now Playing
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT
Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson, Kunal Sharma, Eddie Hassell, Zosia Mamet, Yaya Dacosta, Joaquin Garrido (Directed by Lisa Cholodenko; Written by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg; Focus Features)
Jules (Julianne Moore) is a lovably flaky landscaper; Nic (Annette Bening), a distinguished doctor, is nice, too, but arguably more of a straight arrow. In many ways, they are a perfect pair. You could even say this affluent L.A. lesbian couple truly has it all, thanks, in large part, to Paul, a generous bachelor whose anonymous sperm donations, over the years, have made it possible for them to be the proud parents of a daughter and son, one of whom is about to become a college freshman.
So what could possibly go wrong? Simple. The kids have somehow managed to track down their biological pop and have decided to bring him home to finally meet his co-procreators. What follows is a wacky wave of shock, embarrassment, anger, frustration and fraternization, capped off with a totally unexpected burst of romance. Who could ask for anything more sitcomic? Now Playing
YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER
Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones, Freida Pinto, Lucy Punch, Naomi Watts, Anna Friel, Ewen Bremner, Carla Bruni, Pauline Collins, Christian McKay, Neil Jackson, Jim Piddock (Written and directed by Woody Allen; Sony Classics)
Woody’s latest maybe-not-so-comic flick has its very own Facebook page. Here’s what it has to say about “Dark Stranger’s” story line. "A little romance, some sex, some treachery, and apart from that, a few laughs. The lives of a group of people, whose passions, ambitions and anxieties force them all into assorted troubles that run the gamut from ludicrous to dangerous.” Any questions? Click here for Todd McCarthy's review of "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger." Now Playing
GOING THE DISTANCE
Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Christina Applegate, Ron Livingston, Charlie Day, Jim Gaffigan, Kelli Garner, Rob Riggle, Jason Sudeikis (Directed by Nanette Burstein; Written by Geoff LaTulippe; Warner Bros.)
They’ve got looks, youth, brains, ambition and lots of sex appeal. It’s no wonder they can’t get enough of each other. Literally, they can't. That’s because each has landed a job in a different city. One is now tied to San Francisco; the other is stuck in New York. So how can they hope to find the time, not to mention the city, to keep their red-hot affair sizzling? And, by the way, exactly who are they?
They are Erin and Garrett, the crazy-in-love characters played by Drew Barrymore and Justin Long, who, as you probably learned from Extra or Access Hollywood, are a former crazy-in-love couple in real life. And unless screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe has dreamed up a downbeat ending for his feel-good romantic comedy, Erin and Garrett will surely arrive at a blissful solution to their reel-life problem.
So where does that leave Drew and Justin? Who knows? Perhaps this glam duo should give long-distance love a shot. Now Playing
Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Patrick Wilson, Jeff Goldblum, 50 Cent (Directed by Roger Michell; Written by Aline Brosh McKenna; Paramount)
Imagine this: Still half asleep, you click your remote to “Daybreak” one morning, expecting the predictably bland patter of the news show’s co-anchors to usher you calmly into the stress and turbulence of another day in urban America. Instead you are subjected to the shattering sight and sound of the normally polite Mike Pomeroy and Colleen Peck (Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton) as the veteran tube stars engage in a shockingly venomous, intensely personal war of words.
Riveting as the total loss of cool might be for thrill-starved viewers, it is not a scene destined to warm the hearts of the “Daybreak” people who gambled on the possibility that macho, hard-news Mike and girly-soft former beauty queen Colleen could combine forces and help raise the show’s sagging ratings. Who knew that they’d turn out to hate one another? Certainly not Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams), the panic-prone wannabe producer who pitched the idea of this dream team in the first place. Oh, well, if Becky is fired, it won't be the first time. Maybe she's lucky in love? Nope. Her dashing beau, played by Patrick Wilson, seems ready to dash off in a whole new direction Opens 11/12/1O
HOW DO YOU KNOW
Reese Witherspoon, Jack Nicholson, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, Kathryn Hahn, Mark Linn-Baker (Written and directed by James L. Brooks; Columbia Pictures)
Reese Witherspoon is having a ball. So what if it’s only a soft ball? She’s sure to be a champ as born-to-win Lisa Jorgenson, a woman whose seemingly impossible dream of becoming a big-league softy does indeed come true.
But this being a film by James L. Brooks, the writer-director who created such richly textured comedy-dramas as “Terms of Endearment,” “Broadcast News” and “As Good As It Gets,” you can be sure there will be more on Lisa’s mind than hits, runs and errors.
Men, for example. Lisa’s line-up includes George (Paul Rudd), a high-powered player in the world of big business, and Manny (Owen Wilson), a professional hardball pitcher who’s eager to score a home run with Lisa. Playing an older, presumably platonic fan of Lisa is Jack Nicholson, who won an Oscar his last time at bat for Brooks in 1981’s “As Good As It Gets.” Opens 12/17/10
Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner, Owen Wilson, Jessica Alba, Harvey Keitel, Laura Dern, Raven-Symone (Directed by Paul Weitz; Written by John Hamburg and Victoria Strouse; Universal Pictures)
They’re baaaack! We’re talking about the unstoppable Fockers--horny, long-in-the-tooth Bernie and his sex-therapist spouse Roz (Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand) and their incurably nerdy son (Ben Stiller). We’re also talking about the Byrnes clan, former CIA operative Bernie and his long-suffering wife (Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner) and their flaky daughter (Teri Polo), who has married the nerd of the Focker family and more or less glued her clan to his clan.
You may or may not be stunned to learn that the stickiest glue holding the families together is a precious, notably photogenic set of twins named Henry and Samantha. And if this installment of the lucrative franchise works out as expected, we may soon behold the blessed event of little Focker triplets! To read Guy Flatley's 1973 interview with Robert De Niro, click here; for Guy's 1979 interview with Dustin Hoffman, click here; for his 1973 interview with Barbra Streisand, click here; and for Diane Baroni's 2000 interview with Teri Polo, click here. Opens 12/22/10
Paul Giamatti, Reese Witherspoon, Sacha Baron Cohen (Directed by Alexander Payne; Written by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor; Fox Searchlight)
“The movies didn’t get smaller—I did,” is what Paul Giamatti may be saying in this comedy-drama-fantasy directed and co-written by Alexander Payne, the man who made him a star to reckon with in 2004’s “Sideways.”
Here Giamatti plays a serial loser who, in an effort to become a winner, submits to an experimental procedure that will turn him into a teensy but deliriously happy, enormously successful person. And as he shrinks and then shrinks some more, he hooks up with some other tiny folk, including Reese Witherspoon (an actress who first made it truly big in 1999, playing a predatory teenager in director Payne’s “Election”) and Sacha Baron Cohen, who proved in “Borat” (2006) and then again in “Bruno” (2009) that he will stoop as low or jump as high as necessary when he feels he’s ready for his close-up.
This could be the start of something small! Opening date to be announced
ESCAPE FROM TEHRAN
George Clooney (Directed by George Clooney; Written by George Clooney and Grant Heslov; Warner Bros.)
In the wake of the WMD blunder that started the Iraqi War ball rolling, the CIA is in desperate need of an image makeover. Perhaps it will get the p.r. boost it needs with this real-life comedy set not in Iraq, but in Iran. Co-producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov are basing their screenplay on Joshua Bearman’s investigative report in Wired magazine about the astonishing 1980 rescue of six Americans in Tehran by CIA operative Tony Mendez. Wacky as it seems, Mendez convinced Iranian officials that he and his U.S. colleagues were actually Canadian filmmakers with plans to shoot a major epic in Tehran. Not only did they manage to fool the Iranians, but they also put one over on Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, both of which did dead-earnest reports on the making of the movie. As was the case with “Good Night, and Good Luck,” the previous Clooney-Heslov collaboration, Clooney is expected to direct and act in “Escape From Tehran.” He sounds like the perfect Mendez to us. Opening date to be announced
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates, Michael Sheen, Carla Bruni (Written and directed by Woody Allen)
In the oddball 1996 musical comedy “Everyone Says I Love You,” Woody Allen was a notably uncomfortable American in Paris. Indeed, none of his American fellow-travelers—including Goldie Hawn, Edward Norton, Drew Barrymore and Natalie Portman—seemed to be having much fun in the City of Light. Now, in “Midnight in Paris,” Woody won’t have to worry about looking out of place. That’s because, as usual these days, the writer-director will not be performing in his own film.
And even though his latest comedy-drama already has a title—a rarity for an Allen project yet to go before the camera—we still know very little about the plot, except that it deals with various members of a family who discover some surprising truths about themselves while traveling abroad together.
Just imagine the epiphanies that chronically depressed clan in “Interiors” might have experienced on a trip to Gay Paree! Opening date to be announced
Paul Dano, Zooey Deschanel, John Goodman, Jane Alexander (Directed by Matt Aselton; Written by Matt Aselton and Adam Nagata; Killer Films and Epoch Films)
Lots of warm-hearted, noble-intentioned folks yearn to adopt a child from China. But very few exhibit less parental potential than Brian, a New York mattress salesman who also harbors unrealistic dreams of a sleep-in relationship with Harriett, a red-hot Manhattanite. Will Brian get the girl and the baby, too? Possibly, if he can first manage to out-maneuver the maniacal homeless man who’s bent on terminating him. Brian is being played by Paul Dano, who demonstrated his astonishing range as the semi-catatonic lad in “Little Miss Sunshine” and the shrieking religious fanatic in “There Will Be Blood.” Another bonus: the invariably wonderful Zooey Deschanel has been cast as Harriett. Opening date to be announced
JACK GOES BOATING
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Ryan, John Ortiz, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Mark Vincent, Kevin Cannon, Ricky Garcia, Shawna Bermender, Richard Petrocelli (Directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman; Written by Bob Glaudini; Overture Films)
One of the most critically acclaimed Off Broadway plays of the 2007 season was Bob Glaudini’s romantic comedy about a chubby, dreadlocked, pot-smoking New York limo driver named Jack who is set up by Clyde, his best buddy, with a motor-mouthed embalmer’s assistant. Especially promising is the fact that playwright-turned-screenwriter Glaudini has lined up Philip Seymour Hoffman, the Off-Broadway Jack, not only to star in the film but to direct as well.
Also making the transition from stage to screen are John Ortiz as the match-making Clyde and Daphne Rubin-Vega as his highly-sexed sweetheart. Playing Connie, the gabbiest toiler at Dr. Bob’s Funeral Home in Brooklyn, is Amy Ryan, best known to movie audiences for her major emoting in the minor role of the mother of a missing child in 2007’s “Gone Baby Gone.” Now Playing
Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page, Susan Sarandon, Josh Lucas, Bill Pullman, Jaimi Paige, Virginia Newcomb, Paul Cram (Directed by Michael Lander; Written by Michael Lander and Ryan Roy; Mandate Pictures)
Nothing much ever happened in the tiny town of Peacock, Nebraska--unless you count the day a train ran into the back yard of a humble bank clerk mamed John Skillpa (Cillian Murphy). That was the same day folks became aware that John had a housemate, a woman they took to be his wife. Peacockians being Peacockians, no one made much of the fact that John and his spouse never appeared in the same place at the same time. Finally, somebody took notice--a perky single mom, played by "Juno's" Ellen Page--began to suspect that something strange, maybe even sick, was going on in John's house.
How could this well-intentioned snoop bring John's story to a happy ending? Persuade John to put his wife up for adoption? Or, discovering that the guy had been getting off on slipping into something silky and masquerading as his own wife, try convincing him that she herself would make the best of all possible Mrs. Skillpas?
Or maybe she should simply get the hell out of Peacock. Opening date to be announced
THE HARDY MEN
Tom Cruise, Ben Stiller (Directed by Shawn Levy; Fox)
Boys will be boys. And then, if they pull themselves together and stop the kid stuff, they will be men. That is precisely what happens to cut-ups Tom and Ben in this comic updating of the “Hardy Boys” mystery series. What’s the hook? It seems the lads had a silly falling out on their journey to maturity and, in a huff, went their separate ways, never to co-sleuth again. But then something shocking happened, so they’re back together, pooling brains and brawn on a truly big, life-or-death criminal case. And is that “The Hardy Men 2” we see on the horizon? Opening date to be announced
ONE BIG HAPPY
Steve Martin, Diane Keaton (Paramount)
What we have here is a comedy about a family that is far from happy and has been that way for a long while. But you can bet that Ma and Pa, played by Keaton and Martin, will patch everything up in time for a big happy ending--just as they did in “Father of the Bride” and "Father of the Bride Part II." Opening date to be announced
THE MOVIES BELOW HAVE ALREADY COME AND GONE. SO IF YOU FEEL SAD ABOUT HAVING MISSED THEM, THERE'S ALWAYS NETFLIX...
Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman, Aubrey Plaza, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow (Written and directed by Judd Apatow; Universal Pictures)
In what is probably a smart move, the ads for “Funny People” make it clear that this comedy-drama is only the third film to be directed by Judd Apatow, the let-it-all-hang-out guy who helmed the much-acclaimed “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up.” That way, we’re not tempted to flash back to “Pineapple Express,” “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan,” “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” “Fun With Dick and Jane,” “Step Brothers,” “Drillbit Taylor,” “Kicking & Screaming” or any of the other macho, full-frontal, gas-passing assaults Apatow has perpetrated in his role as writer or producer. Conceivably, Apatow, beginning to probe adult themes, has chosen to downplay the adolescent but frequently hilarious excesses of his cinematic past.
Whatever the case, in his third time at auteur bat, director Apatow has cast Adam Sandler, a performer seldom saluted for his subtlety, as George Simmons, a driven, natural-born comic whose doctor slams him with a tragic diagnosis: his days are almost certainly numbered. But don’t get the idea that George slides into a self-pity fueled trance. Determined to remain in the spotlight, he hires neophyte L.A. standup Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) to write some dynamite material for him. Ira turns out to have the right stuff, and for his thanks he is repeatedly bullied and humiliated by his boss. Though, on occasion, the superstar does dribble genuinely helpful career tips to the thirsty young comic. Presumably, that’s showbiz, as practiced in L.A.
Will there be a tear-streaked but happy ending? If so, it may be linked to a visit George pays to his ex-steady (Leslie Mann), her sexy husband (Eric Bana), and the couple’s two daughters, played by Iris Apatow and Maude Apatow, who, in real life, are the daughters of director Judd Apatow. And, as you may have heard, the real-life mom of the precocious Apatow sprigs is actress Leslie Mann (AKA Mrs. Judd Apatow).
And that’s family life, as sometimes practiced in L.A.
NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 2: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN
Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Robin Williams, Dick Van Dyke, Hank Azaria, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais (Directed by Shawn Levy; Written by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon; Fox)
Amy Adams, who ascended to major stardom in “Enchanted,” continues her climb in this sequel to the enormously commercial 2006 comic adventure. She plays famed aviator Amelia Earhart, who crash lands in the wee small hours of the evening at Washington’s Smithsonian Museum. And security guard Ben Stiller, transferred from New York’s Museum of Natural History, where he won his stripes in the original, pops up again for brand new chuckles and chills. To read Diane Baroni's 2002 interview with Amy Adams, click here.
UP IN THE AIR
George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Danny McBride, Melanie Lynskey, Amy Morton, Sam Elliott, J.K. Simmons, Zach Galifianakis (Directed by Jason Reitman; Written by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner; Paramount Pictures)
In these downbeat, downsized times, what we really need is an upbeat flick about a guy who lands a perfect job and keeps it--even though nearly everyone he encounters on his perfect job gets the sack. That’s precisely the kind of guy George Clooney plays in this comedy-drama helmed by Jason Reitman, director of “Thank You for Smoking” and “Juno.” The guy is named Ryan Bingham, and his special skill is that he is able to swiftly, neatly fire the employees that his own corporate bosses are too cowardly to fire themselves. And, ever the dedicated professional and obsessive frequent flyer, Ryan jets from city to city, from company to company, peforming his chores with pizzazz, giving the sad sacked a pat on the shoulder while painting a picture of glorious rebirth now that they’ve dropped out of the rat race. It's like he's doing them a huge favor.
Fittingly enough, it suddenly looks as if Ryan himself may be dropping out of the rat race, thanks to hot-shot techie Natalie (Anna Kendrick), who’s on the brink of persuading his boss (Jason Bateman) that people can best be fired by her newfangled, sublimely impersonal form of video conferencing. So who needs Ryan? Maybe Natalie will succeed in her scheme, and maybe she won’t. If she does, Ryan will have a shoulder to cry on. It's the sexy shoulder of Alex, a kindred spirit he picked up in a bar and has managed to reconnect with in various hotel suites around the country. Lucky for us, Alex is played by the delightful Vera Farmiga, and her chemistry with Clooney is breathtaking.
THE BUCKET LIST
Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman, Serena Reeder, Jonathan Mangum, Beverly Todd, Sean Hayes (Directed by Rob Reiner; Written by Justin Zackham; Warner Bros. Pictures)
Yes, that’s “bucket,” as in kick the bucket. In what is evidently intended as a three-hanky comedy, Nicholson and Freeman play a pair of terminally ill patients who are not too ill to make a swift escape from their hospital ward. Once they’re on the road, they draw up a list of things they are determined to do before death comes calling. Topping the list are such musts as booze, caviar, poker and maybe an occasional broad. To read Guy Flatley's 1974 New York Times interview with Jack Nicholson, click here.
BURN AFTER READING
Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton (Written and directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen; Focus Features)
How do you top a fiendishly scary heart-stopper like "No Country for Old Men"? That was the challenge facing Joel and Ethan Coen, who may or may not have found a sensible solution to their problem in this screwball comedy-thriller about a bunch of Washington weirdoes. Acting very, very strange are John Malkovich as a zealous CIA agent who gets the boot for being too efficient and then drives his wife crazy by devoting all of his waking hours to penning an intimate, spooky tell-all book; Tilda Swinton as his enraged spouse who seeks solace in the arms of a married--but not too married--federal marshal played by George Clooney; Frances McDormand as an out-of-shape fitness center employee who schemes against her bosses when they refuse to finance the abundant plastic surgery she feels she deserves; and Brad Pitt as an exceptionally excitable gymnast and bed-hopper champ who comes to the needy lady's aid. Sort of.
Kate Hudson, Anne Hathaway, Kristen Johnston, Bryan Greenberg, Candice Bergen, Steve Howey, Chris Pratt, Casey Wilson, June Diane Raphael (Directed by Gary Winick; Written by Greg DePaul, Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael; Fox 2000 Pictures and Regency Enterprises)
Liv and Emma, played by Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway, have been bosom buddies since childhood, and they’ve always swapped dreams about a glitzy wedding at Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel. Different dreams, different husbands, and definitely different wedding days. That’s not the way things turn out, however, thanks to the scatterbrained preparations of the trendy super-planner played by Candice Bergen, who slips and books the two of them into the Plaza on the very same date. So, unsurprisingly, the two once-upon-a-time chums swiftly bare their claws and engage in down-and-dirty warfare. May the best airhead win! And this is what passes for sophisticated comedy these days.
Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, Kelly Macdonald, Brad William Henke, Clark Gregg, Joel Grey, Bijou Phillips, Willi Burke (Written and directed by Clark Gregg; Fox Searchlight)
A boy’s best friend is not always his mother, and that’s very much the case in this adaptation of "Choke," the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, cult author of "Fight Club." Yet, even though sicko lawbreaker Ida Mancini (Anjelica Huston) has always been cruel in her treatment of her son Victor (Sam Rockwell), the loyal lad foots the bill for her stay in a bizarre institution for women suffering from dementia. But how does he come up with the money, considering the fact that he is paid a mere pittance for his labors in a Colonial American theme park? Easy--he dines in elegant restaurants, pretends to be choking to death on his gourmet meal and then fleeces the sap who steps in to perform the Heimlich Maneuver. And, in his spare time, the orgasm-obsessed Victor attends 12-step meetings for sex addicts with Denny (Brad William Henke), his masturbation-crazed best friend. Meanwhile, mom's nurse (Kelly Macdonald) is hatching a scheme whereby an unsuspecting Victor will sire her child. Mamma Mia!
A CHRISTMAS TALE
Catherine Deneuve, Mathieu Amalric, Jean-Paul Russillon, Chiara Mastroianni, Emmanuelle Devos, Emile Berling, Anne Consigny, Laurent Capelluto, Hippolyte Girardot, Melvil Poupaud (Written and directed by Arnaud Desplechin; IFC Films)
Christmas is a time when scattered family members reunite, rejoice and count their numerous blessings. Well, that’s the way it goes with some families, but certainly not with the volatile clan that scrambles through Arnaud Desplechin’s thickly textured comedy-drama. For starters, the elegant, demanding matriarch played by Catherine Deneuve has just received a grim diagnosis from her doctor, and it looks as if someone in the family will have to agree to a bone marrow transplant. The donor could even be her rottenly behaved son (Mathieu Amalric), who has been allowed on the premises for the first time in five years. Or maybe Maman’s life will be saved by her youngest son (Melvil Poupaud), a man who has been blessed--or is it cursed?--with a gorgeous wife (played by Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve’s real-life daughter). “A Christmas Tale” was warmly received at the 2008 Cannes, Toronto and New York film festivals. To read Guy Flatley's 2000 interview with Catherine Deneuve, click here.
THE DARJEELING LIMITED
Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Anjelica Huston, Amara Karan, Waris Ahluwalia, Irfan Khan, Barbet Schroeder, Camilla Rutherford, Bill Murray, Natalie Portman (Directed by Wes Anderson; Written by Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman; Fox Searchlight)
A trio of emotionally addled, highly competitive American siblings (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman) still grieve--each in his own way--for their charismatic father one year after his death. In an attempt to heal spiritual wounds and repair severed brotherly bonds, they decide to choo-choo across India together. Their oddball stop-offs in remote villages and on parched stretches of desert are fueled by an abundant supply of pain killers and exotic cough syrup. If you’ve seen this auteur's inimitably topsy-turvy “Bottle Rocket,” “Rushmore,” “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” you surely know what to expect from the latest Andersonian odyssey. To read A. O. Scott's New York Times review of "The Darjeeling Limited," click here.
Owen Wilson, Nate Hartley, Troy Gentile, David Dorfman, Leslie Mann (Directed by Steven Brill; Written by Seth Rogen and Kristofor Brown; Paramount)
There seems to be at least one sadistic brute running riot in every American school yard, and the bully in this rowdy romp is so overbearing that two of his prime victims pool their allowances and hire a struggling bodyguard for protection. Happily, their tilted hero-for-hire is played by Owen Wilson, currently winning raves for his performance in "The Darjeeling Limited." The film, co-written by Seth Rogen and Kristofor Brown, is being produced by Judd Apatow, the same wiz who directed supporting actor Rogen in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and turned him into a star in “Knocked Up.” Special bonus: Owen Wilson’s love interest is played by Leslie Mann (above, left), the sly scene-stealer from those two comedies--and the woman who, in real life, answers to the name of Mrs. Judd Apatow.
Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Timothy Spall, Idina Menzel, Rachel Covey, Susan Sarandon, Kevin Lima, Jeff Bennett (Directed by Kevin Lima; Written by Bill Kelly; Walt Disney Pictures)
Part Snow White, part Cinderella, a perky animated princess named Giselle trips down a well and pops up in Manhattan, where she hooks up with a handsome single father (Patrick Dempsey). No longer a drawn figure, Giselle is now played by Amy Adams, who was nominated as Best Supporting Actress of 2005 for her performance in “Junebug” and is a strong bet for a Best Actress nomination for her work here. In her New York Times review, Manohla Dargis wrote, “Ms. Adams proves to be an irresistibly watchable screen presence and a felicitous physical comedian, with a gestural performance and an emotional register that alternately bring to mind the madcap genius of Carole Lombard and Lucille Ball.” And, oh yes, did I mention that "Enchanted" is a musical, with several songs by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz? Here's what Variety's Todd McCarthy had to say about one of the team's more ambitious numbers: "Most striking, however, is a prolonged production number, 'That's How You Know,' that moves through many sections of Central Park and employs dozens or more musicians, dancers and backgrounders. It's hard to think of a traditional musical number done on such a scale since the '60s, so it's startling to behold. Like the rest of the film, the sequence reaches far back into the past for its inspiration and manages to make it feel like something new again."
Robert De Niro, Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell (Written and directed by Kirk Jones; Miramax)
A lonely, no-longer-young widower just doesn’t know what to do with himself. Then, one day, it strikes him that what he really needs to make his life meaningful is to hook up with each of his geographically scattered kids again. He could be dead wrong about that. De Niro is the wandering dad in this remake of "Stanno Tuti Bene," Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1990 Italian comedy-tearjerker starring Marcello Mastroianni. Barrymore, Beckinsale and Rockwell play his grown-up brats. Click here for Vincent Canby's 1991 review of the original "Everybody's Fine" in The New York Times; to read Guy Flatley's 1973 New York Times interview with Robert De Niro, click here.
Zach Braff, Amanda Peet, Jason Bateman, Mia Farrow, Charles Grodin, Will Drummy (Directed by Jesse Peretz; Written by David Guion, Michael Handelman; The Weinstein Company)
The formerly career-crazed Manhattanite played by Amanda Peet decides that staying home and minding the baby beats taking meetings with suits. Which means that slacker-hubby Zach Braff--the sensation of “Garden State”--is forced to stop daydreaming and start punching the time clock for his father-in-law. To read Guy Flatley's 2000 interview with Amanda Peet, click here.
FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL
Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, Bill Hader, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, Jack McBrayer, Maria Thayer, Seth Rogen, William Baldwin, Jason Bateman, Billy Bush (Directed by Nicholas Stoller; Written by Jason Segel; Universal)
BOY MEETS GIRL. He’s a geek who churns out incidental, very minor music for a tacky TV crime show; she’s the show’s career-crazed leading lady.
BOY GETS GIRL. The sex is hot, at least for him, and he assumes it's a permanent thing.
BOY LOSES GIRL. She dumps him for a narcissistic British pop satyr and breaks the news to the clueless nerd when he is dressed in nothing but his own pale, flabby skin.
WILL BOY GET GIRL BACK? Stick around and find out--and try to guess who shows up in all his full-frontal glory just before the final fadeout. This raunchy-but-sweet comedy comes from the mini-factory of Judd Apatow, the writer-director-producer responsible, to varying degrees, for “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up,” “Superbad,” “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.”
Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Sissy Spacek, Mary Steenburgen, Kristin Chenoweth, Jon Voight, Jon Favreau, Robert Duvall, Dwight Yoakam (Directed by Seth Gordon; Written by Caleb Wilson; Warner Bros. and New Line)
Like it or not, you have a moral obligation to see your mom and dad at Christmas time. At least, that’s what the creators of this family flick seem to feel. And that’s why Brad and Kate (Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon) succumb to panic attacks the closer they get to the big 12/25, a day when they are expected to get warm and cozy at all four homes of their respective divorced-and-remarried parents (Sissy Spacek, Robert Duvall, Mary Steenburgen and Jon Voight). Can this holiday--and these marriages--be saved?
Jane Fonda, Lindsay Lohan, Felicity Huffman, Dermot Mulroney, Cary Elwes, Garrett Hedlund (Directed by Garry Marshall; Writen by Mark Andrus; Universal)
What would you do if you had a mom like Felicity Huffman and a granny like Jane Fonda? You might find out if you catch “Georgia Rule,” in which Lindsay Lohan plays a rebel who can’t take any more of Felicity, who’s even more dysfunctional than she was in “Transamerica,” and therefore throws herself on the mercy of Jane, who we assume is less manipulative than she was in “Monster-in-Law.” Cary Elwes co-stars as a Humbert Humbert-like stepfather who thinks of Lindsay as his very own Lolita.
Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin, Terence Stamp, Bill Murray, James Caan (Directed by Peter Segal; Written by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember; Warner Bros.)
It all began in the fertile, funny minds of scripters Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. The date was September 18, 1965, and the premiering show--a weekly spoof about the misadventures of secret agents--was called “Get Smart.” It starred Don Adams as fumbling agent Maxwell Smart and Barbara Feldon as his truly smart partner, and it aired 138 episodes, ending on September 11, 1970. “The Nude Bomb,” a 1980 film returning Adams to the role of Smart, turned out dumb, a bomb in the showbiz sense of the word. But perhaps a new generation of moviegoers will get the 2008 Smart, played by Steve Carell, a cinematic champ in “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Little Miss Sunshine.” Anne Hathaway is Agent 99, the character first played to perfection by Barbara Feldon but booted by the misguided packagers of “The Nude Bomb.”
John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah, Christopher Walken, Nikki Blonsky, Amanda Bynes, Zac Efron (Directed by Adam Shankman; Written by Leslie Dixon; New Line)
There is nothing like a dame, especially when she’s played by John Travolta. The dude who once made women quiver when he went into his dance in “Saturday Night Fever” is sure to swivel and even sing as he takes on the role of Edna Turnblad in this adaptation of the hit musical comedy based on John Waters’ 1988 cult film. Edna, played by the fabulously cross-dressing Divine in the original movie and by Harvey Fierstein in the Broadway show, is an ambitious 1960s mom trying to ease Tracy, her plump, perky daughter, through her troubled teens. The kid is played by newcomer Nikki Blonsky; Queen Latifah will strut her stuff as Motormouth Maybelle; and, believe it or not, Michelle Pfeiffer, who proved she could really sing in “The Fabulous Baker Boys,” will belt out a hot number or two as Velma Von Tussle, the menacing producer of a TV dance show on which Tracy is dying to perform. The producers of "Hairspray" will not object if you go out of the theater humming, but what they hope to hear during the movie is the sound of laughter. To read Guy Flatley's 1976 interview with John Travolta, click here.
HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU
Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Kevin Connolly, Bradley Cooper, Ginnifer Goodwin, Scarlett Johansson, Kris Kristofferson, Justin Long (Directed by Ken Kwapis; Written by Marc Silverstein and Abby Kohn; New Line Cinema)
Smart, attractive and variously driven young men and women meet, mix, meld and sometimes split in exotic, erotic Baltimore. The star-studded story is based on the self-help book by “Sex and the City” writers Greg Behrendt and Liz Tucillo and is being directed by Ken Kwapis, who deserves credit for his contributions to television’s “The Office,” “The Larry Sanders Show,” “The Bernie Mac Show” and “Malcolm in the Middle.” Mention should be made, too, of Kwapis’ big-screen, big-flop “License to Wed,” starring a spectacularly unfunny Robin Williams as a man of the cloth who's determined to put Mandy Moore and John Krasinski through holy hell before deigning to marry them. To read Diane Baroni's 1998 interview with Kris Kristofferson, click here.
Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, John Kasinski, Hunter Parrish, Rita Wilson, Zoe Kazan, Mary Kay Place, Lake Bell (Written and directed by Nancy Meyers; Universal)
What could two smoothies like Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin possibly find to fight about? A woman, of course. But not just any woman. The femme fatale in this case is Meryl Streep, and anyone who’s seen “The Devil Wears Prada” or “Doubt” knows how hard-to-get La Streep can be. With luck, writer-director Nancy Meyers will work as well with her as she did with Diane Keaton in “Something’s Gotta Give,” which could easily pave the way to another Oscar nom for our Meryl--unless she gets tapped for "Julie & Julia" instead.
HOW ABOUT YOU?
Vanessa Redgrave, Hayley Atwell, Imelda Staunton, Brenda Fricker, Joss Ackland, Orla Brady, Joan O’Hara (Directed by Anthony Byrne; Written by Jean Pasley; Ferndale Films)
Who does Vanessa Redgrave think she is, anyway--some kind of movie star? Well, that’s just who she is--or, rather, who she plays--in this comedy-drama. As for the kind of movie star she is, she’s the kind who was far from a superstar during her lackluster career in Irish films. And now she’s taken on the off-screen role of superbitch, the leader of a cantankerous quartet of seniors who’ve been left behind in a County Wicklow retirement home while their fellow residents are spending the Christmas holiday with their families. Redgrave and her cronies--Imelda Staunton and Brenda Fricker as erstwhile high-society sisters and Joss Ackland as a former judge--are not about to budge an inch when the determined young manager of the residence (Hayley Atwell, acclaimed star of the Irish TV series, “The Line of Beauty”) makes a stab at turning them into good, cooperative scouts. May the best generation win. If “How About You” sounds familiar to you, you’ve probably had the pleasure of reading “Hardcore,” the Maeve Binchy short story upon which it is based.
I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK & LARRY
Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Jessica Biel, Steve Buscemi, Dan Aykroyd, Nick Turturro, Richard Chamberlain (Directed by Dennis Dugan; Written by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor; Universal)
There was a time when the biggest fear of guys who were gay was that their secret might be detected and they would be dragged out of the closet. Apparently, times have changed, at least in Philadelphia, where, in order to collect domestic partner benefits, a couple of hetero firefighters who work side by side during the day pretend that at night they sleep side by side. This could be a winner, since it was written--or, at least, rewritten--by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, who were responsible for the wonderful “Sideways.” And, if we’re really lucky, Adam Sandler will ascend to the level of his inspired seriocomic performance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Punch-Drunk Love.” To read Guy Flatley's 1968 New York Times interview with Richard Chamberlain, click here.
Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, J. K. Simmons, Allison Janney (Directed by Jason Reitman; Written by Diablo Cody; Fox Searchlight)
Juno MacGruff (Ellen Page), a cool, been-there-done-that teenager figures it’s time to give sex a twirl. Unfortunately, neither she nor the nerd of her choice (Michael Cera) gives a thought to the conceivable consequences of their by-the-numbers experiment. So, faster than you can say condoms are for ninnies, they find themselves parents-to-be. Naturally, Juno does what any sensible 16-year-old would do. She systematically searches for a childless couple to adopt her baby. When she meets the Lorings (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman), it looks as if she’s found the perfect candidates. But has she? Directed by Jason Reitman, who wrote and directed last year’s sleeper “Thank You For Smoking,” this offbeat comedy-drama pleased audiences at the Toronto and St. Louis film festivals.
George Clooney, Renee Zellweger, John Krasinski, Jonathan Pryce, Stephen Root, Ezra Buzzington, John Vance, Nick Bourdages (Directed by George Clooney; Written by George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh, Duncan Brantley, Rick Reilly, Stephen Schiff; Universal)
In the 1920s, professional football was pretty much a losing game, basically a jumble of brawling boozers colliding, skidding and collapsing for the amusement of the stiffs in the stands. But proud, aging athlete Dodge Connolly (George Clooney) yearned to pull his failing team together and inspire it to perform more forcefully on the field than in the bar room. How better to accomplish this miracle than to woo Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski), a straight-arrow college football hero and idolized World War I veteran, away from his stuffy campus and into the unsavory world of the pro leagues? Dodge Connolly’s plan worked, and his band of brawlers suddenly became a winning team--until his girl, a spirited sports writer (Renee Zellweger), began to root a pinch too passionately for the new guy on the gridiron. Could it be that the time had come for some investigative reporting on the goody-goody boy's real war record?
Diane Keaton, Jon Heder, Jeff Daniels, Anna Faris, Dorian Missick, Sarah Chalke, Eli Wallach (Directed by Tim Hamilton; Written by Hank Nelken; Warner Independent Pictures)
Even in Texas, pompous prigs who like to posture and speak down to their superiors have been known to thrive. One such jerk is Jeffrey Mannus (“Napoleon Dynamite’s” Jon Heder), and the person he thinks he can count on abusing for as long as she lives is his dear, devoted mother (Diane Keaton). But Mom proves she knows how to get the best of her pushing-30 brat when a sexy self-help guru (Jeff Daniels) pops up and pops her the question. Will this couple marry and give the kid the gate? Well, someone’s gotta give. To read Guy Flatley's 1974 interview with Diane Keaton, click here.
MARGOT AT THE WEDDING
Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jack Black, John Turturro, Ciaran Hinds, Barbara Turner (Written and directed by Noah Baumbach; Paramount Classics)
“The Squid and the Whale” was one of the sharpest, funniest and most moving films of 2005, and it should have won at least one Oscar--maybe for Best Original Screenplay, for which Noah Baumbach was nominated. Unlike the dysfunctional Brooklyn family examined in “The Squid and the Whale,” the two sisters (Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh) and one husband (Jack Black) in writer-director Baumbach’s follow-up film dwell in upstate New York. But surely they will be at least a little bit dysfunctional. Incidentally, filmmaker Baumbach and actress Leigh are husband and wife in real life, and Barbara Turner is Jennifer's mom. So I guess that makes them a functional family. To read Guy Flatley's 2002 interview with Jack Black, click here.
THE NANNY DIARIES
Scarlett Johansson, Laura Linney, Paul Giamatti, Chris Evans, Donna Murphy, Alicia Keys, Brande Roderick (Written and directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini; The Weinstein Company)
Scarlett Johansson, who seems to be signing up for enough projects to carry her into her twilight years, plays the impetuous, wildly inexperienced kid-keeper in a falling-apart Manhattan marriage, as recorded by young authors Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus in their big-time bestseller. Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, the inspired scripters of the great “American Splendor,” are responsible for the adaptation, and they also served as co-directors.
Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin, Patricia Clarkson, Jenny Wade, Lily Rabe (Directed by Scott Hicks; Written by Carol Fuchs and Sandra Nettelbeck; Warner Bros.)
What’s cooking with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart? Plenty--from culinary rivalry to competition for the affection of an eccentric kid to the budding of something like love in this remake of the successful German romantic comedy, “Mostly Martha.” Zeta-Jones plays an obsessive, temperamental chef who draws drooling crowds to a posh restaurant. Her career is hobbled, however, when her sister is killed in a car crash and she is suddenly forced to sub as mom to her niece (the wonderful Abigail Breslin, from “Little Miss Sunshine.”) Adding to the frustrated chef’s misery, her boss (Patricia Clarkson) hires an ambitious, charming sous-chef (Eckhart) to pitch in at the restaurant when she’s home minding Little Miss Orphan. Co-scripter Sandra Nettelbeck was the writer-director of “Mostly Martha,” but the director of the remake is Scott Hicks, who really hasn’t been all that visible since winning an Oscar nomination for 1996’s “Shine.”
THE PLEASURE OF YOUR COMPANY
Jason Biggs, Isla Fisher, Joe Pantoliano, Joanna Gleason, Edward Herrmann, Margo Martindale, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Mark Consuelos, Chris Diamantopoulos, Heather Goldenhersh, Michael Weston (Written and directed by Michael Ian Black; MGM)
How’s this for rotten luck? An earnest young man works up the courage to ask his sweetheart to become his bride and somehow, in the process of proposing, manages to kill the poor girl. Think of it as dying cute. Unsurprisingly, the wannabe husband falls into a funk until the night a buddy badgers him into proposing to a sexy waitress he knows zilch about. Will she say yes, and can this story possibly have a happy ending? You can count on it.
SEX AND THE CITY
Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, Chris Noth, Jason Lewis, Candice Bergen, Jennifer Hudson, Evan Handler, Willie Garson, David Eigenberg, Mario Cantone, Lynn Cohen, Julie Halston, Michael Bloomberg (Written and directed by Michael Patrick King; New Line Cinema)
Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte--played, naturally, by Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis--will soon be sashaying onto the big screen and you can be sure they’ll still be residing in Manhattan and still fixating on the opposite sex. Among the borough’s hottest dudes: David Eigenberg, Evan Handler and Jason Lewis--all fixtures from the TV series--and, of course, Chris Noth as the macho Mr. Big. New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg plays his macho self in the film.
Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church, Ellen Page, Ashton Holmes (Directed by Noam Murro; Written by Mark Poirier; Miramax Films)
Professor Lawrence Wetherhold, the narcissistic, thickly bearded widower played by Dennis Quaid, yearns for a life without emotional entanglements. Serenity proves elusive, however, thanks to disturbing intrusions by Vanessa (Ellen Page), his brainy, relentlessly Republican daughter, and to James (Ashton Holmes), his troubled, poetic son, as well as Chuck (Thomas Haden Church), the staggeringly unpredictable adopted brother who, totally uninvited, has come home to cuddle with the family. Nor do things calm down when the accident-prone professor lands in the hospital, only to be treated by a former student (Sarah Jessica Parker) who’s turned out to be the doctor he'd most like to have sex in the city with.
Diane Keaton, Dax Shepard, Liv Tyler, Mike White, Ken Howard (Directed by Vince Di Meglio; Written by Tim Rasmussen and Vince Di Meglio; Inferno Distribution)
The flaky, ever-so-lovable Diane Keaton of yesteryear is turning out to be one mean mother. Having recently played a meddlesome mom in “Because I Said So” and “Mama’s Boy,” she climbs aboard this indie in which she plays an intensely bossy, dominating woman who decides to move in with her chronically unlucky son (Dax Shepard). Not only has he just gotten the boot from his employer, but he is also being bullied by his wife (Liv Tyler), who demands that he make her a mother.
THEN SHE FOUND ME
Helen Hunt, Bette Midler, Colin Firth, Matthew Broderick (Written and directed by Helen Hunt; Killer Films)
Bet you didn’t know that Oscar-winning actress Helen Hunt is also a writer and director. At least, she’s written this adaptation of Elinor Lipman’s comic novel, and she plays the central role of a schoolteacher whose husband (Matthew Broderick) decides to drop out of their marriage. But the really sad thing that happens is that her mom dies. And perhaps saddest of all is the decision of her birth mother, who abandoned her 36 years ago, to move in with--and perform a makeover on--Helen. Unlike the prim lady who raised Helen, this TV talk-show hostess, played by Bette Midler, is a total flake, a woman who doesn’t hesitate to put the moves on a charmer (Colin Firth) to whom her daughter has recently been introduced by a thoughtful student.
Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Nick Nolte, Brandon Jackson, Steve Coogan, Justin Theroux, Danny McBride, Bill Hader, Jay Baruchel, Matt Levin, Andrea De Oliveira, Tom Cruise, Matthew McConaughey, Tobey Maguire, Mickey Rooney (Directed by Ben Stiller; Written by Justin Theroux and Etan Cohen; DreamWorks)
What would you do if you were lucky enough to be cast in a gritty war movie, went on the shoot, and then got shot at because a real-life (and death) war was taking root? Director/star Ben Stiller and his zany crew will help you ponder this question. Tom Cruise, in a cameo, turns comic as a foul-mouthed, scumbag movie mogul reportedly based on Sumner Redstone, the Paramount biggie who famously gave Cruise the sack because of his alleged misbehavior. To read Guy Flatley's 2000 interview with Jack Black, click here; for Guy's 1979 interview with Nick Nolte, click here, and for his 1977 interview with Mickey Rooney, click here.
VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA
Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson, Patricia Clarkson, Rebecca Hall, Kevin Dunn, Chris Messina (Written and directed by Woody Allen)
There was a time when Diane Keaton was gloriously front and center in nearly every Woody Allen comedy or drama. A bit later, the same was true of Mia Farrow. Now the working-with-Woody thing is getting to be a habit with Scarlett Johansson, whose star turns in his British-lensed “Match Point” and “Scoop” will be followed by this maybe comedy/maybe drama. It was shot in Barcelona and Asturias and deals with the amorous adventures of a local lothario and two alluring American tourists. Happily, Woody had the good sense to team Scarlett with a pair of Pedro Almodovar's finest players--Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz as a lusty painter and his hot-tempered ex-wife. To read Guy Flatley’s 1978 Los Angeles Times interview with Woody Allen, click here.