ALL GOOD THINGS
Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, Frank Langella, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kristin Wiig, Trini Alvarado, Philip Baker Hall, Diane Venora, Lily Rabe, John Cullum, Nick Offerman (Directed by Andrew Jarecki; Written by Andrew Jarecki, Marc Smerling and Marcus Hinchey; Magnolia Pictures)
Real estate can be an extremely 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. --Guy Flatley Now Playing
Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder, Benjamin Millepied (Directed by Darren Aronofsky; Written by Mark Heyman, Andrew Heinz and John McLaughlin; Fox Searchlight)
How does one top the spectacle of Mickey Rourke as a physically battered, emotionally numb, spiritually dumb wrestler lurching bloodily about inside the ring and crashing even more catastrophically outside it?
It can’t be easy, but here’s how Darren Aronofsky, the director who transformed laughable loser Mickey Rourke into a serious Oscar contender for “The Wrestler,” performed still another impressive miracle. He took the ravishingly cool, ethereal Natalie Portman, heated her up, and then dumped her, feet first, into the cuttingly competitive, sometimes ghoulish, arena of classical ballet. Portman plays Nina Sayers, an obsessive, self-lacerating, borderline psychotic who simply must be a diva or die. Literally.
Living in a cramped Upper West Side apartment with her toxically adoring stage mama (Barbara Hershey), Nina pirouettes her way to the brink of stardom in a bizarre staging of “Swan Lake” slotted for Manhattan’s Lincoln Center. But a totally unrehearsed twist of plot suddenly casts a sinister shadow on Nina’s fairytale dream: her rogue of a choreographer (Vincent Cassel) insists that the sultry allure she needs to project on stage can best be achieved just a few steps beyond his bedroom door.
What’s a poor virginal girl to do? Possibly the key to Nina’s psychosexual lock may be located in the intimate company of Beth MacIntyre, the incurably high-strung dancer played by Winona Ryder. Or, better still, the sizzly little number named Lily (Mila Kunis), with whom Nina eventually collaborates on a notably uninhibited, strictly offstage, scene.
But where will it all end? Well, have you never seen “The Red Shoes”? --Guy Flatley Now Playing
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, politically 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." -- Guy Flatley Now Playing
THE COMPANY MEN
Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Craig T. Nelson Rosemarie DeWitt, John Dorman, Liam Ferguson, Dana Eskelson, Tonye Patano, Scott Winters, Candy Huffman (Written and directed by John Wells; The Weinstein Company)
How’s this for typecasting? Three first-rate actors who do not get as many gigs as they deserve are starring as a trio of macho, blithely confident employees abruptly sacked by the hot-to-downsize honchos of a Massachusetts shipbuilding firm.
Not that you should think of these wannabe careerists played here by Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper as the brethren of the low-level laborers so triumphantly terminated by George Clooney in “Up in the Air.” Ben, Tommy Lee and Chris are—make that were—lavishly paid executives thoroughly accustomed to a life of luxury. That's why having to make do without mansions, pools, Porsches, country clubs, sybaritic getaways and marketable resumes is such a bummer for them.
If the rapturous response to this ripped-from-the-headlines flick at the 2010 Sundance Festival is a sign of things to come, ace TV writer-director John Wells, making his big-screen debut, and his three key players (plus Kevin Costner as a savvy survivor of the economic storm), will soon find themselves at the top of the Hollywood job heap. --Guy Flatley Now Playing
Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Robert Wahlberg (Directed by David O. Russell; Written by Paul Attanasio and Lewis Colick; Paramount)
Here come Micky and Dickie. And we do mean Micky Ward and Dickie Eklund. As an avid sports fan, you undoubtedly know that hard-punching “Irish” Micky Ward from Lowell, Massachusetts, played here by Mark Wahlberg, was a wow in the ring during the 1990s, thanks largely to the wise coaching of his half-brother Dickie, a former boxer who lost a battle with drugs, did time in the pen, and became an exemplary inmate before his release. The role of this tricky Dickie, originally assigned to Matt Damon and then to Brad Pitt, was eventually entrusted to Christian Bale. Amy Adams portrays a spirited bartender who serves Irish Micky much more than a brew or two. --Guy Flatley Click here for Diane Baroni's 2002 interview with Amy Adams. Now Playing
Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Rufus Sewell, Timothy Dalton, Steven Berkoff (Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck; Written by Julian Fellowes, Christopher McQuarrie and Jeffrey Nachmanoff; Columbia Pictures)
In “Salt,” CIA agent Angelina Jolie kicked plenty of butt—especially male butt--with a crazed disregard for subtlety. Now, in “The Tourist,” Jolie has been elevated to the role of an Interpol agent. Hopefully, this time out she will be a bit more ladylike, perhaps even cerebral and reflective. Maybe yes, maybe no. One thing’s certain: she will once again be irresistibly sexy.
During the unreeling of “The Tourist,” you may ask yourself, “Hey, where have I seen all this before?” The answer could be that back in 2005, you were teased and tricked by “Anthony Zimmer,” the French flick directed by Jerome Salle and starring Sophie Marceau and Yvan Attal. Yes, this is still another American remake of a European movie.
But there’s a chance that “The Tourist” will amount to something more than a stylish recycling of a popular thriller, since the helmer in this case is Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, the young German director whose tough, intellectually probing “The Lives of Others” won a 2006 Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Whether von Donnersmarck, with his masterful cinematic style, can pump fresh life into a tale already told remains to be seen. But unless he decided to scrap the plot of “Anthony Zimmer,”
here is the substance of what you will experience when you travel with his “Tourist.”
Elise (Angelina Jolie), an obsessively secret agent, is determined to pick up where she left off with a ruthless but charismatic con man who’s currently being pursued by the Russian mafia and the International Police. These lethal, no-nonsense forces, however, are severely hampered in their pursuit by the knowledge that, thanks to state-of-the-art plastic surgery, the villain is rumored to have a whole new look and sound. So now, as Elise well knows, they will be shadowing her in the hope she will lead them to their most wanted, dead or alive, man.
And that’s when she spots Frank (Johnny Depp), an American bachelor who is touring Venice solo in an effort to shake the bloody blues that have plagued him since he was dumped by his long-time squeeze. The thing Elise finds particularly grabby about Frank is that, in terms of physique and body language, he is a ringer for you know who—a fact that will not be lost on the ever-peeping Russkies and Interpols. Now, if only Elise can quickly maneuver this total stranger into a compromising position in plain view of the secret snoops, the heat will be on the clueless Frank and off her gone but not forgotten man.
Could Elise possibly succeed in her most brazen scheme yet? Look at it this way: Could Angelina possibly steal Brad from Jen? --Guy Flatley Now Playing
HOW DO YOU KNOW
Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, Jack Nicholson, 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.” --Guy Flatley Now Playing Click here for Guy Flatley's 1974 interview with Jack Nicholson.
Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Sandra Oh, Jon Tenney, Giancarlo Esposito, Tammy Blanchard (Directed by John Cameron Mitchell; Written by David Lindsay-Abaire; Fox Searchlight Pictures)
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 teenager 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? –Guy Flatley Now Playing
Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Michael Sheen, Michael Teigen, Beau Garrett, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, James Frain (Directed by Joseph Kosinski; Written by Adam Horowitz, Richard Jefferies and Edward Kitsis; Disney)
You may have thought that Kevin Flynn, the brilliant, exceedingly daring video-game creator played by Jeff Bridges in the 1982 mega-hit “Tron,” had by now retired to a serene, gated community on the Pacific coast. If so, you’d be dead wrong.
As we learn in this cinematic update, Flynn, acted once again by the irreplaceable Bridges, went missing a couple of decades ago, much to the sorrow of his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund), who was not much more than a toddler when his dad vanished into thin sci-fi air.
So, naturally, the young man’s spirits are lifted considerably when he receives a mysterious electronic signal that could only be coming from Kevin. Alas, in his frantic attempt to hook up with Dad again, Sam is sucked into a nightmarish digital world, the very same villain-packed ground upon which Kevin has been trapped all these years.
We firmly believe that father and son will eventually return, shoulder to shoulder, to peaceful turf. But you can bet that their homeward journey will be unsparingly traumatic, especially when gimmicked up with the flashiest, dizziest state-of-the-art 3-D effects.--Guy Flatley Now Playing
Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Garrett Hedlund, Leighton Meester (Written and directed by Shana Feste; Screen Gems)
In the mood for a musical quartet? Then “Country Strong” may be the movie for you, even though not every member of the film’s foursome is a musician, and the music involved is far from classical. In truth, it’s purely, proudly country music, the homespun, sexy, heartbreaking stuff that would be completely at home in Nashville.
Here’s the cast of characters: Kelly Canter (Gwyneth Paltrow), a been-there-done-that-too-many-times singer-guitarist who’s definitely on the skids; Beau Williams (Garrett Hedlund), a rising singer-composer star who wants to help Kelly get back on track—and into bed with him; Kelly’s loyal hubby Ed (Tim McGraw), who manages what’s left of his wife’s career; and Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester, of “Gossip Girl” fame), a beauty pageant champ who’s determined to become a country western superstar, preferably one who sings with the ever-charismatic Beau Williams.
The writer-director of this film, Shana Feste, performed the same double-duty service on “The Greatest,” her 2009 feature debut starring Carey Mulligan, Susan Sarandon and Pierce Brosnan. It should also be noted that the original title for Feste’s second directorial effort was “Love Don’t Let Me Down.” Can’t help wondering who the genius was that thought “Country Strong” was a more marketable title. --Guy Flatley Now Playing
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! -- Guy Flatley Now Playing Click here for Guy Flatley's 1973 interview with Robert De Niro; click here for Guy's 1979 interview with Dustin Hoffman; click here for Guy's 1973 interview with Barbra Streisand; click here for Diane Baroni's 2000 interview with Teri Polo.
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.” --Guy Flatley Now Playing
Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Hailee Steinfeld, Barry Pepper, Paul Rae, Ed Corbin (Written and directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen; Paramount)
Hey, if Jeff Bridges could win an Oscar for his performance as a boozy, warbling country-western survivor in “Crazy Heart,” why shouldn’t he nab another one for playing a boozy, wobbling Old West lawman named Rooster Cogburn in “True Grit”?
After all, John Wayne, approaching the sunset of his career, bagged his one and only Oscar for his bigger than life performance as the ornery old Rooster in the 1969 film adaptation of the popular Charles Portis novel. As the man chosen by 14-year-old Mattie Ross to round up the villains responsible for the murder of her dad, Duke wore a cowboy hat, an eye patch, duds that did not conceal his paunch, and a perpetual scowl. He weighed heavily on his horse and used tough, salty language to get his ideas across.
Under the guidance of Joel and Ethan Coen, the auteurs behind Bridges’ great turn in “The Big Lebowski,” the riding-high actor will be joined in his quest for a second statuette by Matt Damon as a Texas Ranger (a role played in the original film by singer Glen Campbell); Josh Brolin as a scumbag murderer; and Hailee Steinfeld as spunky Mattie, a colorful character that, sadly, did not turn out to be a starmaker for Kim Darby. –Guy Flatley Now Playing
Javier Bardem, Maricel Alvarez, Eduard Fernandez, Diaryatou Daff, Cheick Ndiaye, Taishheng Cheng, Luo Jin, Hanaa Bouchaib, Guillermo Estrella (Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu; Written by Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, Armando Bo and Nicolas Giacobone; Focus Featues)
When he’s bad, Javier Bardem is very bad, as he proved by scaring the bejeezus out of us in “No Country for Old Men.” But he is arguably best of all when he plays a man who is half bad and half good, as he does in “Biutiful,” the film for which he was voted Best Actor at the recent Cannes Festival.
Which is not to say you will have a jolly time viewing this nervous-making drama from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the gifted, unsparing Mexican director who jolted audiences with “Amores Perros,” “21 Grams” and “Babel.” Having split with Guillermo Arriaga, author of the screenplays for those three grim grippers, Inarritu himself had a hand in the writing of “Biutiful,” along with Argentina’s Armando Bo and Nicolas Giacobone.
What this trio came up with for the mercurial Bardem is the juicy role of Uxbal, conflicted small-time racketeer residing in a squalid, scary Barcelona that bares no resemblance to the luscious paradise so cherished by the serial lothario Bardem played in Woody Allen’s joyous “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”
Uxbal’s daily routine entails close encounters with disgruntled sweatshop laborers, slimy drug dealers and other less than model citizens. But, unlike his sadistic brother Tito and his other criminal colleagues, Uxbal is essentially a compassionate man, kind to his impoverished friends and neighbors and loving with his two children, Ana and Mateo. On the other hand, he has zero patience with Marambra, the kids’ nasty, loose-cannon mom.
Between having to deal with his estranged wife and trying to outmaneuver the thugs with whom he does business, Uxbal figures things couldn’t get much worse. But he’s dead wrong, as he discovers during a medical check-up. His doctor makes it clear that Uxbal has reason to be concerned about his health (and if the sight of splashing blood disturbs you, be sure to look the other way during the graphic urination scenes). In short, the petty crook’s days are numbered, and he should waste no time in putting his affairs in order.
Not a pretty prognosis. And the pressure on Uxbal to quickly build a safe future for his precious children is overwhelming. You can be absolutely certain that, with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu at the helm, Uxbal’s last voyage will be dark, turbulent and virtually unendurable. With luck, this arduous trip will reward you with at least a glint of light and hope.
Let us pray too that Javier Bardem, one of the most extraordinary movie actors in the world today, will soon do an encore with Woody Allen in a sunny, story-book pretty Barcelona that is meant simply to entertain us. –Guy Flatley Now Playing
Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, Lesley Manville, Oliver Maltman, Peter Wight, David Bradley, Martin Savage, Karina Fernandez, Michele Austin, Phil Davis, Imelda Staunton (Written And Directed By Mike Leigh; Sony Pictures Classics)
Over the past two decades, England’s Mike Leigh has firmly established himself as one of the contemporary cinema’s most gifted, probing, uncompromising yet compassionate writer-directors. His achievements include such gems as “High Hopes,” “Life Is Sweet,” “Naked,” “Secrets & Lies,” “Topsy-Turvy,” “All or Nothing,” “Vera Drake” and “Happy-Go-Lucky.” And, judging from the response to his latest film at this year’s Cannes Festival, Leigh has done it again.
This time, in “Another Year,” he focuses on one year in the lives of an elderly, uncommonly in-love West London couple named Tom and Gerri, their unmarried son Joe, and various friends of the family, most notably Mary, a no-longer-young and increasingly boozy divorcee.
Perhaps there is nothing earth-shattering—no emotional explosions or painful revisits to a nearly forgotten past--in store for Tom (Jim Broadbent), a geologist, and Gerri (Ruth aSheen), a physical counselor, as they advance tentatively toward forced retirement. Nor should we expect Joe (Oliver Maltman), an idealistic lawyer whose clients are lamentably low on cash, to spotlight his loss and loneliness with riveting exhibits of panic. As for Mary (Lesley Manville), it’s clear to us that her recurring daydreams of a passionate affair with Joe will never make it into the real world.
Substantial change—especially in the realm of self-awareness—may be beyond the grasp of these seemingly ordinary but truly complicated individuals. At least, not within the brief four seasons we spend with them. But, as is invariably the case in a film by Mike Leigh, viewers are apt to be deeply moved by the director’s ability to illuminate both the fragility and the strength, the grace and the grit, that dwell close to the dark center of the soul.--Guy Flatley Now Playing
Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Faith Wladyka, John Doman, Mike Vogel, Ben Shenkman, Jen Jones, Maryann Plunkett (Directed by Derek Cianfrance; Written by Derek Cianfrance, Joey Curtis, Cami Delavigne; The Weinstein Co.)
The long, twisting journey from rapturous infatuation to marital rage is documented here with microscopic intensity. Directed and co-authored by Derek Cianfrance, this unfunny valentine opens with the desperate attempt by Dean and Cindy, a weary, combative couple, to rekindle their love at a romantic hotel, far from the strain of their suburban home and their young daughter. They truly want to make love but, as usual, they make war.
Then, with a sudden flashback, we are shown Dean and Cindy as a carefree young man and woman meeting and quickly falling in love. How did they go from that time and place to this unbearable present? Presumably, that is precisely what writer-director Cianfrance intends to reveal in his uncompromising drama. Although "Blue Valentine" is no picnic in the park, the audience at this year’s Sundance Festival applauded it warmly. And there was major Oscar chat about the performances of Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as the long-suffering Dean and Cindy.--Guy Flatley Now Playing