COMING SOON--OR NOT SO SOON--TO A MULTIPLEX NEAR YOU
ALL GOOD THINGS
Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, Frank Langella, Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Directed by Andrew Jarecki; Written by Andrew Jarecki, Marc Smerling, Marcus Hinchey; The Weinstein Co.)
Real estate is almost always a profitable game to play in Manhattan, but sometimes it can be murder. Literally, as it turns out in this thriller about a wealthy family that plays--and perhaps slays--together. The movie marks the fictional-feature debut of Andrew Jarecki, who directed “Capturing the Friedmans,” the chilling documentary about a very different sort of family.
Angelina Jolie (Directed by Vadim Perelman; Written by Randall Wallace; Lionsgate)
When “Atlas Shrugged,” Ayn Rand’s follow-up to her cult novel “The Fountainhead,” was published in 1957, most critics did not shrug. But they did snarl and go on to brand the book as arrogant, elitist, and downright fascistic. But that didn’t stop idolatrous readers from turning “Atlas Shrugged” into an enduring, top-selling tome. Nor did it stop the unceasingly audacious Angelina Jolie from tackling the role of Dagny Taggart, the made-of-steel, ego-driven industrialist who is the heroine of Rand’s doggedly humorless tale. Smarty-pants Dagny never for a second doubts that her superior intellectual and physical attributes entitle her to universal acclaim and unlimited privilege. And she does not hesitate to use two of her discarded lovers to promote the cause of her one true love, the profoundly pompous visionary John Galt. As critic Joe Queenan pointed out in a 2007 New York Times essay, “Despite being one of the worst books ever written, ‘Atlas Shrugged’ is no fun at all.”
THE BRAZILIAN JOB
Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, Seth Green, Mos Def (Directed by F. Gary Gray; Written by David Twohy; Paramount)
Wahlberg, Theron, Statham, Green and Def--the slick, stylish quintet of thieves who thrilled us with their bravado in 2003’s “The Italian Job”--are set to thrill us again, this time by pulling a red-hot heist in Rio de Janeiro. All they need is a director who can whip up the smart combination of humor, action and sexiness that made crime pay the last time around. And presumably that’s what they’ve got, since this sequel is being masterminded by F. Gary Gray, the man in charge of the original caper. Actually, the “original” was a remake of 1969’s “Italian Job,” directed by Peter Collinson and starring Michael Caine, Noel Coward, Raf Vallone, Rossano Brazzi and Margaret Blye. And that was good criminal fun, too.
Hugh Jackman (Fox 2000)
“The Sound of Music” made a big, big noise at the 1963 box office. Despite Julie Andrews’ ravishing voice and perky spirit, however, the movie was basically a bore. That, alas, was also true of numerous other screen adaptations of Rodgers & Hammerstein hit musicals, including “Oklahoma!,” “South Pacific,” “The King and I” and “Flower Drum Song.” And it was certainly true of “Carousel,” the 1956 Cinemascope snooze starring Gordon MacRae as Billy Bigelow, the macho, carnival barker and thief who is given a one-day pass from purgatory in order to straighten out the lives of the wife and daughter he left behind. The good news here is that the handsome, boastful lug singing “If I Loved You” and “Soliloquy” will be Hugh Jackman, who triumphed in a 2000 Carnegie Hall concert version of “Carousel” honoring Rodgers & Hammerstein. To read about many more new remakes, click here.
Meryl Streep, Aishwarya Rai, Michael David White (Directed by Coline Serreau)
Brutally assaulted by a trio of street punks, a blood-splattered prostitute pleads with a middle-aged couple to take her into their car. The driver shuts his window and drives on to a dinner party. The next day, the driver’s guilt-ridden wife tracks down the victim and before long they are close--and exceptionally scheming--friends. French film director Coline Serreau is directing this English-language remake of her story of vengeance, violence and bizarre bonding. Streep plays the older woman, and Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai plays the hooker who changes her life, not entirely for the better.
Meryl Streep, Gwyneth Paltrow, Annette Bening, Jill Clayburgh (Written and directed by Ryan Murphy; Paramount)
They called her Martha the Mouth, Mouth of the South or simply Moutha. Her real name was Martha Mitchell, and she was the full-throttle wife of John Mitchell, Attorney General to President Richard M. Nixon. Never one to hold back, Martha, who died in 1976, had this to say about her hubby’s boss: “Nixon bleeds people. He draws every drop of blood and then drops them from a cliff. He’ll blame any person he can put his foot on.” Nor did Martha go all that easy on Mitchell himself, referring to him at one point as “that gutless, despicable crook.” Is it any wonder that in an effort to shut her up, her enemies eventually drugged her and held her captive in a California hotel room? Ryan Murphy, director of “Running With Scissors,” is bringing this adaptation of John Jeter’s play about the woman who spilled the beans that bumped Tricky Dick from the White House to the screen. And, best news of all, Murphy had the good sense to cast Meryl Streep as the biggest Moutha ever. Also on prominent display: Jill Clayburgh as Pat Nixon, Gwyneth Paltrow as Maureen Dean and Annette Bening as Helen Thomas, the White House correspondent who received many a late-night phone call from the whistle-blowing Martha. To read about many more new biopics, click here; to see what else Meryl Streep is up to, click here; for Gwyneth Paltrow, click here, and for Annette Bening, click here.
Richard Gere, Timilee Romolini (Directed by Gregory Hoblit; Written by Daniel Barnz and Ned Zeman; Disney)
In one of his top performances, Richard Gere played a cool but unscrupulous lawyer who defended an altar boy accused of murdering a predatory bishop. The psychological thriller was called "Primal Fear" and it was released in 1996. Now Gere is reteaming with that film's director, Gregory Hoblit, on what sounds like a less chilling but possibly more inspiring project. For once, the actor will play a pure, real-life hero--Bruno P. Zehnder. The "P" stands for penguin, as well it should, for Zehnder, an uncompromising photographer, spent a great deal of his life photographing the surprisingly complex creatures in Antarctica--which is precisely what he was doing just before his death in a blizzard.
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-drama 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.
FIREFLIES IN THE GARDEN
Julia Roberts, Ryan Reynolds, Willem Dafoe, Emily Watson, Carrie-Anne Moss, Ioan Gruffudd, Hayden Panettiere, Cayden Boyd, Shannon Lucio, George Newbern, (Written and directed by Dennis Lee; Senator International)
Need proof that midwestern American families can be every bit as dysfunctional as the East Coast variety? You’re apt to find it in this semi-autobiographical drama by Dennis Lee, auteur of the well-received short, “Jesus Henry Christ.” The troubled, accident-prone Taylor clan--headed by dictatorial professor/wannabe writer Charles (Willem Dafoe) and relentlessly sacrificing mom Lisa (Julia Roberts)--suffer profusely, as do their kids, in the grim present, as well as in a string of painful incidents shown in flashback. Among the family’s favorite diversions: tormenting the titular fireflies in the garden and exploding fish on the Fourth of July. In charge of photographing all this tragic frivolity: Danny Moder, A.K.A. Julia Roberts’ husband.
Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep (Written and directed by Diane English; Disney)
If a guy’s got tons of self esteem and doesn’t give a hoot if people ridicule him for giving up his dream of becoming the next Ted Turner in order to give his wife a career boost, that’s a thing of beauty. Especially if his wife has her heart set on the White House. Coming from Diane English, who created “Murphy Brown,” this could turn out to be a cutting-edge romantic comedy. On the other hand, didn’t Fred MacMurray and Polly Bergen already cover this ground in 1964’s “Kisses for My President”?
THE FRIDAY NIGHT KNITTING CLUB
Julia Roberts (Universal)
How many single mothers who manage colorful Manhattan knitting shops and look like Julia Roberts do you know? Probably none, and probably the mom played by Julia Roberts in this adaptation of a soon-to-be-published novel by Kate Jacobs is truly one-of-a-kind. To lessen the pressure of her fabulous but demanding job, mother Julia meets with her favorite customers every Friday evening for the purpose of sharing the details of their various careers and indulging in what used to be called girl talk or just plain gossip. Then tragedy strikes and their knitting club becomes much more than a frivolous diversion. We only hope that tragedy does not involve Julia’s high-spirited teenage daughter (a role not yet cast).
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.
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 Tim 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?
IN SEARCH OF CAPTAIN ZERO
Sean Penn (Directed by Stacy Peralta; Written by Michael Bacall; Radar)
There may not be a real Captain Zero, but there is a real Allan Weisbecker. A former surfer and drug-smuggler, Weisbecker packed up his memories of rowdy adventures and misdeeds and put them into a book, and this quirky-sounding movie is based upon that memoir. The biopic, starring Sean Penn as the restless, reckless Weisbecker, deals with more than just dope and waterplay. Much of it is devoted to the author’s determination to hook up again with a close surfing pal who vanished a while back, probably somewhere in the wilds of Central America. But was their relationship really as joyful as it seemed, and can it possibly be resurrected?
THE KIND ONE
Casey Affleck (Written by Tom Epperson; Disney)
Danny Landon is a 1930s resident of L.A. affectionately known as Two-Gun Danny because that’s how many weapons he once used to murder a boatload of suckers during a wildly successful heist at sea. At least that’s what Danny (Casey Affleck) has been told by his pals. The tragic truth is that he is suffering from amnesia and finds it difficult to believe he could ever have been such a badass. Nevertheless, he is clearly on the payroll of Bud Seitz, a repulsive mobster joshingly referred to as The Kind One. And, just as clearly, Danny has made the grave mistake of falling in love with his boss’s perpetually soused tootsie. No word on who will direct Tom Epperson’s adaptation of his own novel or who will play the title role. But wouldn’t Ben Affleck, who did such a nifty job of directing his kid brother in “Gone Baby Gone,” be the right man for both slots?
Gina Carano, Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas, Bill Angarano, Mathieu Kassovitz (Directed by Steven Soderbergh; Written by Lem Dobbs; Lionsgate)
Can a stunner celebrated for her Martial Arts achievements make the tricky jump to major movie stardom? We’ll find out when this globe-hopping thriller from ever-innovative Steven Soderbergh descends on our local cineplex. At the center of the intrigue and action is agile Gina Carano, playing secret agent Mallory Kane, a woman who thinks nothing at all about breaking local laws, sometimes lethally, as she flits from tight spot to tight spot, including dark alleys in Spain, Ireland and, yes, the USA.
But, wouldn’t you just know that Our Gal Mal is headed for a heap of deep trouble? It comes in the form of a nasty double-cross, one that is probably engineered by some villainous male. Among the suspects are the gents played by Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas and Antonio Banderas. –Guy Flatley Opening date to be announced
Adrien Brody, Penelope Cruz (Written and directed by Menno Meyjes; Lolafilms)
Adrien Brody, faced with monstrous competition for the attention of Naomi Watts in “King Kong,” will presumably have an easier time of it when he woos Penelope Cruz in this true-life romance. Brody plays magnetic bullfighter Manuel Rodriguez Sanchez, better known as Manolete, and Cruz takes on the role of sultry actress Lupe Sino.
Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, J. Smith-Cameron, Jeannie Berlin, Matthew Broderick (Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan; Fox Searchlight)
One of the funniest and most moving films of 2000 was “You Can Count on Me,” written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, whose biggest prior claim to movie fame was his screenwriting contribution to “Analyze This,” the Robert De Niro-Billy Crystal comedy released the year before. If you saw “You Can Count on Me,” you know that the tyro director drew astonishing performances from Laura Linney as a single mother, Mark Ruffalo as her screwed-up brother, and Matthew Broderick as the petty, despotic boss who unexpectedly becomes her red-hot lover, even though he is already married to a conspicuously pregnant bore. Now Lonergan is about to go behind the camera again, this time as the director of his own screenplay about a Manhattan teenager with plenty of problems, not the least of which is her mom, a neurotic actress. Plus she is a bit unhinged about a bus accident she recently witnessed--an accident that may not have been an accident. The troubled teen is being played by Anna Paquin, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for “The Piano” when she was a mere tot. Maybe this time it will simply be a Best Actress Oscar.
THE MATARESE CIRCLE
Denzel Washington, Tom Cruise (Directed by David Cronenberg; Written by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas; MGM)
A global conspiracy threatens to derail our wobbly world. Who’s to prevent the miscreants from succeeding in their scarily possible mission? Super spy Tom Cruise, for one, and super spy Denzel Washington, Tom’s former foe, for another. At least that’s the way the drama unfolded in Robert Ludlum’s cold war novel, which has been updated by screenwriters Michael Brandt and Derek Haas. Can’t wait to see how these sparring undercover heroes manage to preserve civilization as we know it. What comes next? A sequel, of course--for which MGM has already purchased the rights. And you thought “Valkyrie” would be Tom’s swan song!
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."
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, she might try convincing him that she herself would make the best of all possible Mrs. Skillpas. Or maybe get the hell out of Peacock.
Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Sandra Oh, Diane Wiest, Jon Tenney, Giancarlo Esposito, Mike Doyle, Tammy Blanchard (Directed by John Cameron Mitchell; Written by David Lindsay-Abaire; Fox Searchlight)
The serenity of a suburban family is shattered when a four-year-old boy is killed by the driver of a speeding car. Will a visit from the teen-ager who was behind the wheel bring solace to the boy’s mother, or will it fill her with rage? David Lindsay-Abaire's play won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and Cynthia Nixon was awarded a Tony for her performance as the grief-ravaged woman. Does that mean Nicole Kidman, who received an Oscar for "The Hours," will be nabbing another statuette?
THE RISE OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT
Leonardo DiCaprio (Directed by Martin Scorsese; Written by Nicholas Meyer; Paramount)
Leo for president? Why not? Martin Scorsese, who directed him in “Gangs of New York,” “The Aviator” “The Departed” and "Shutter Island," thinks Leo is just the man for the job of portraying the remarkably complex 26th president of the U.S. in the adaptation of Edmund Morris’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt.” As in the book, Teddy will go from a frail, asthmatic Harvard grad to the bear of a man who commanded the Rough Riders, governed the state of New York, and eventually called the White House home. Hail to the chief!
THE RUM DIARY
Johnny Depp (Written and directed by Bruce Robinson; FilmEngine)
It’s been 12 years since Johnny Depp played Raoul Duke, a hell-raising journalist, in the film version of Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” Nobody, including the author, believed that Duke was anyone other than Thompson himself. Now Depp is playing Paul Kemp, an eccentric reporter in “The Rum Diary,” the autobiographical novel the late Hunter published when he was 22. Set in San Juan, Puerto Rico, during the fifties, “Diary” depicts the chaotic, booze-and-drugs fueled adventures of a brawling Hunteresque freelancer from New York who tries to twist himself into a latter-day Hemingway.
SHAME ON YOU
Dennis Quaid (Written and directed by Dennis Quaid)
Good old boy Spade Cooley was sometimes a bad old boy, most notably on the day in 1961 when he stomped, strangled and burned his wife Ella Mae to death in the presence of their daughter Melody. What madness drove the famed Western Swing fiddler to murder? You’ll find out a while after Quaid starts his cameras rolling on what he hopes will be a New Orleans location. Katie Holmes was set to play Ella Mae, but she bowed out due to a dizzying schedule.
Johnny Depp (Directed by Mira Nair; Written by Eric Roth and Gregory David Roberts; Warner Bros.)
An Australian named Lindsay (Johnny Depp) has a major heroin habit which sends him to what promises to be a long, harsh term of imprisonment. As in the Gregory David Roberts novel from which this drama stems, however, Lindsay escapes and lands in a crime-crammed Bombay slum, where he manages to pass himself off as a crackerjack physician--one who engages in gunrunning and smuggling in order to give his poor patients the meds they so richly deserve. The next stage of Lindsay’s physical and spiritual journey is Afghanistan, where he joins the insurgents in their struggle to oust the Russians. Tomorrow Iraq? Peter Weir, who was set to direct "Shantaram," dropped out when the folks at Warner Bros. informed him that his take on the material was all wrong. He was replaced by Mira Nair, director of "Monsoon Wedding" and "The Namesake."
THE STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT
Ryan Phillippe, Channing Tatum, Paul Dano, Giovanni Ribisi, Charlie Hunnam, Kieran Culkin, Jesse Eisenberg, Ben McKenzie (Directed by Christopher McQuarrie; Written by Christopher McQuarrie and Tim Talbott; Icon Entertainmet Intl.)
Is it conceivable that a highly respected doctor/sociologist could set up a faux prison at a prestigious college--using some student volunteers as prisoners and others as guards--for the purpose of conducting a serious exploration of human behavior? Well, you’d better believe it, because it’s true. Doctor Philip Zimbardo conducted his controversial study at Stanford University in 1971, and the student role-players slipped so deeply into character--some of them becoming outrageously cruel and sexually abusive--that the good doctor had to call a halt to his campus charade at the halfway mark. Christopher McQuarrie, the screenwriter who won an Oscar for “The Usual Suspects” (1995) and reaped positive reviews for his writing and direction of “The Way of the Gun” (2000), is directing the “The Stanford Prison Experiment” screenplay that he co-authored with Tim Talbott.
Mickey Rourke, Ray Winstone, Jason Statham, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Ray Liotta, 50 Cent, Michael Shannon, David Zayas, Ben Gazzara, Sam Riley (Written and directed by Gela Babluani; Endeavor)
The spoiled-rotten wealthy class--is there no limit to their sense of entitlement? Evidently not, if we are to judge by the privileged specimens on display in this Americanization of “13 Tzameti,” the hardboiled 2005 French thriller that won the grand jury prize for world cinema at the Sundance Film Festival. Here’s what the scoundrels do: they gamble bits and pieces of their wealth on a life-and-death sport played in secrecy, a Russian Roulette-inspired competition between desperate men who’ve been sneaked out of prison--as in the case of the character played by Mickey Rourke--or an insane asylum--as in the psycho played by Ray Winstone. The English-language adaptation is by Gela Babluani, the writer-director responsible for the original. So you can’t say he doesn’t have a feel for this sort of thing.
UNTITLED MICHAEL MANN
Leonardo DiCaprio (Directed by Michael Mann; Written by John Logan; New Line)
Hollywood’s best year ever, according to many critics and movie buffs, was 1939. MGM’s release schedule alone included “Gone With the Wind,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Ninotchka,” The Women,” “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” and “Babes in Arms.” So it seems fitting that much of the scandal-smeared action of this crime drama takes place on MGM’s Culver City lot during that golden year. What scandals are we talking about? The juicy ones that the hard-working private eye played by Leo DiCaprio is being paid big bucks by MGM and other studios to keep secret from the press, the public and, if possible, the cops. It sounds like good not-so-clean fun, so long as the movie doesn’t reveal the scandalous side of Garbo, Mickey & Judy, or the Munchkins.
George Clooney (Directed by Joe Carnahan; Written by Joe Carnahan and Matthew Michael Carnahan; Warner Independent Pictures)
Not all cops are the same. Some are good, and some are bad. Dave Klein (George Clooney) is a good--well, mostly good--cop making a buck the scary way on the LAPD vice squad in 1958, and he’s being set up for a calamitous fall by the city’s police commissioner, a bad-to-the-core cop if ever there was one. Will Klein outwit his boss? You can count on it. Nor would you be wrong to count on a full tank of blood, guts, bullets and octane in this adaptation of the James Ellroy novel, since writer-director Joe Carnahan is the man who gave us “Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane,” the 1998 cult thriller, as well as 2003’s police saga “Narc.”
A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Annette Bening, Sienna Miller, Sean Bean (Directed by Janusz Kaminski; Written by Howard Himelstein; Myriad Pictures)
Suppose you were a proper young lady who had the misfortune of being seduced and abandoned by a wealthy, unscrupulous gentleman. What would you do if, years later, your grown-up son proudly introduced you to his powerful new mentor, a man who--unbeknownst to the poor bastard--is his own father, the very same creep who decided to cut and run decades ago? That’s the question Oscar Wilde wanted Victorian theater-goers to ponder when he turned out “A Woman of No Importance” in 1893, and that’s the question screenwriter Howard Himelstein hopes we’ll struggle with in his update of the play. The question I’m truly struggling with is, do I really want to sit through a revamping of Wilde by the man who gave us “A Good Woman,” the terminally tame version of the witty playwright’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan”? Quick, somebody stop this man before he goes completely Wilde!