APRIL 2008

LEATHERHEADS: George Clooney, Renee Zellweger, John Krasinski, Jonathan Pryce, Stephen Root, Ezra Buzzington, John Vance, Nick Bourdages (Directed by George Clooney; Written by Duncan Brantley and Rick Reilly; 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? Now Playing

MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS: Norah Jones, Jude Law, David Strathairn, Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman (Written and directed by Wong Kar-wai; The Weinstein Company) We all know that Grammy winner Norah Jones is an extraordinary singer-songwriter. But can she act? We’ll find out when Wong Kar-wai, the Hong Kong director of the breathtaking “In the Mood for Love” and “2046,” unspools his first English-language film--a quirky road movie in which Jones plays the central role. Her character, a dreamy single New Yorker, binges on a blueberry-and-whipped-cream creation in a China Town café and falls asleep with her head upon the bar. And that’s when the adventurous café manager (Jude Law) leans across the bar and steals an especially sweet kiss. We don’t know if the kiss is the start of something big, but we do know that before long Jones comes down with a bad case of the jitters and attempts to calm down by taking a cross-country journey. Maybe she’ll return for another blueberry binge, and maybe she won’t. Now Playing

DARK MATTER: Liu Ye, Aidan Quinn, Meryl Streep (Directed by Chen Shi-Zheng; First Independent Films) Based on a tragedy that took place on the University of Iowa in 1991, this film centers on Liu Xing, a brilliant Chinese physics student who fell victim to campus politics, suffered an emotional breakdown, and went on a bloody rampage, killing six people. Chen Shi-Zheng, famed for his work on the operatic stage, is making his movie directorial debut here. In the wake of last year's Virginia Tech massacre, it seemed likely that "Dark Matter" would not receive theatrical distribution. On February 15, however--just one day after five people were shot dead on the campus of Northern Illinois University by a former student who then turned his gun on himself--Gary Rubin, audacious president of First Independent Films, announced that the shocker will indeed play in theaters. Now Playing

SMART PEOPLE: 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 sexiest doctor in the city. Now Playing

STREET KINGS: Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie, Chris Evans, Common, The Game, Amauray Nolasco, Naomie Harris, Jay Mohr (Written and directed by David Ayer; Fox Searchlight) The corrupt cop who takes the law into his own hands in order to advance a personal agenda is no stranger to our urban society. In his illicit scheme to play judge and executioner of people he has sworn to protect, he is the perfect poster boy for a new century that promises to be as cold-hearted as any the world has ever known. We’re thinking of the kind of murderous lawmen made so disturbingly real by Denzel Washington in “Training Day” (2001) and Kurt Russell in “Dark Blue” (2002), two uncompromising thrillers written by David Ayer. Now Ayer will direct his screenplay of another bad-cop story, this one based on an unpublished script by noir master James Ellroy. Keanu Reeves plays an LAPD officer who, at the time of the L.A. riots and the O.J. Simpson trial, is publicly shamed for his violent, unorthodox work habits. The switch here is that the man with a badge makes a huge effort to redeem himself. The question is, will his captain--played by Forest Whitaker--buy his act of contrition? Now Playing

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.” Now Playing

MAMA BABY: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Greg Kinnear, Dax Shepard, Sigourney Weaver, Steve Martin, Romany Malco, Maura Tierney, Holland Taylor, James Rebhorn (Written and directed by Michael McCullers; Universal) At the clock-ticking age of 37, over-achieving career woman Kate Holbrook (Tina Fey) suddenly realizes that in her rush to succeed in the cut-throat world of the health-food industry, she has robbed herself of something important--the joy of motherhood. Enter Angie Ostrowiski, a coarse, pushy member of the masses willing to play surrogate mother for Kate’s offspring-on-demand. Nifty. But not so nifty is the sudden of the unexpectedly homeless Angie on Kate’s doorstep. She seeks shelter from Kate and gets it. And, after nine months of sitcomedic cohabitation, guess who’s bringing up baby. Those of us who’ve followed the Saturday Night Live progress of performers Fey and Poehler, writer Michael McCullers and co-producer Lorne Michaels, look forward to celebrating the birth of their big-screen “Baby.” And, as a strictly-for-fun bonus, we get Sigourney Weaver as the awesomely fertile director of a surrogancy center and Steve Martin as a pony-tailed, new-age guru with super sales savvy. Mama Mia! Now Playing

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE: (Sony Pictures Classics) It's a story that must be told, and we're grateful that it's Errol Morris who has undertaken the challenge of exploring the horrors that took place at Iraq's infamous Abu Ghraib prison. Morris, arguably the finest documentary filmmaker of our time, is the man responsible for such sharp, provocative works as “Gates of Heaven,” “The Thin Blue Line,” “Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.” and “Fog of War." You can count on him to shed light on the shameful, dark deeds commited at Abu Ghraib, sparing no one, not even those at the very top of the dung heap. "I feel this is one of the most significant films I have ever worked on," he says. "There is a mystery about the war in Iraq. Not just how and why it started, but what it is ultimately about. It is a mystery that I am trying to investigate.” His investigation met with the jury's approval at the 2008 Berlin Film Festival, where "Standard Operating Procedure"--the first documentary ever to be shown in competition at the Berlin event--won the Silver Bear award. Now Playing

THEN SHE FOUND ME: Helen Hunt, Bette Midler, Colin Firth, Matthew Broderick (Written and directed by Helen Hunt; THINKFilm) 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. Opens Now Playing