Moviecrazed
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DECEMBER



ADAPTATION: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Tilda Swinton, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Brian Cox, Jane Adams, Stephen Tobolowsky, Judy Greer, Curtis Hanson, John Cusack, Catherine Keener (Spike Jonze; Sony/Columbia) Can't get enough of Nicolas Cage? You'll get two of him in this comedy from director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, the team responsible for "Being John Malkovich." Cage plays brothers, one of whom is lean and one of whom is chubby. One's a screenwriter whose wretched case of writer's block is slowing down the adaptation of "The Orchid Thief" (Susan Orlean's real-life non-fiction book about a man who schemes to make a fortune by cloning a rare, dizzyingly fragrant orchid). The other brother is brought in to break the block, or maybe tackle the script himself, or merely smell the orchids. Cusack and Keener play themselves playing the characters they played in "Being John Malkovich." Don't know about you, but we can hardly wait for the sweet smell of "Adaptation." Opens 12-6

ANALYZE THAT: Billy Crystal, Robert De Niro, Lisa Kudrow, Anthony LaPaglia, Cathy Moriarty (Directed by Harold Ramis; Warner Bros.) It sounds like a case of "Mafiosa, heal thy physician," as mobster De Niro helps analyst Crystal get a grip on his neuroses in this variation on the 1999 cornball comedy "Analyze This." Fans who remember when De Niro was a dedicated, no-nonsense artist will be pleased to see him reunited with Cathy Moriarty, his battered bride in "Raging Bull." Opens 12-6

ABOUT SCHMIDT: Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis, Kathy Bates, Howard Hesseman, Dermot Mulroney, Len Cariou, James Crawley, Tung Ha, Cheryl Hamada, Steve Heller, Chris Huse, June Squibb, Mark Venhuizen (Directed by Alexander Payne; New Line) Nicholson, in what is certain to be another Oscar bid, plays a disgruntled Midwestern widower who questions the career choices and family decisions he has made and is now determined to prevent his daughter (Davis) from marrying a dim-witted waterbed salesman (Mulroney). Audiences at the Cannes and New York festivals roared their approval of Nicholson's performance. Jack, a terrific actor and fearless risk-taker, is always A-OK in our book, but the chief reason we're eager to see "About Schmidt" is that writer-director Payne is the man who gave us the razor-sharp, nastily subversive "Citizen Ruth" and "Election." Opens 12-13

EVELYN: Pierce Brosnan, Juliana Margulies, Stephen Rea, Alan Bates, John Lynch, Aidan Quinn, Sophie Vavasseur, Eileen Colgan, Marian Quinn, Karen Ardiff, Niall Beagen, Des Braiden, Lauren Carpenter (Directed by Bruce Beresford; MGM/UA) The place is Ireland, the time is the repressive fifties, and the destitute Brosnan, ditched by his wife, has his children yanked away by the government and placed in a godawful orphanage. Despite the efforts of plucky barmaid Margulies and her lawyer brother (Rea), things get a lot worse before they get better in this reality-based drama. Opens 12-13

HOT CHICK: Rob Schneider, Rachel McAdams, Anna Faris, Andrew Keegan, Matthew Lawrence, Robert Davi, Sam Doumit, Melora Hardin, Melissa Lawner, Leila Kenzle, Maritza Murray, Tamera Mowry, Tia Mowry, Michael O'Keefe, Eric Christian Olsen, Matt Weinberg (Directed by Tom Brady; Touchstone Pictures) A pretty, Heatherish teenager goes to sleep and when she wakes up, she's an unattractive man in his 30's. As if that were not depressing enough, the man she's become is played by Rob Schneider. Don't you love Hollywood's high-concept movies? Opens 12-13

MAID IN MANHATTAN: Jennifer Lopez, Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson (Directed by Wayne Wang; Sony) When this project was first announced, it was called "Chambermaid" and starred Hilary Swank. We felt certain it was a remake of "Diary of a Chambermaid," a teasingly perverse story previously told on film by both Jean Renoir and Luis Bunuel. But no, it's much scarier than that. It's an update of "Cinderella" starring Jennifer Lopez as a humble domestic in a luxury New York hotel who's mistaken for royalty by gullible politician Fiennes. We don't know what he's smoking, but we sense he's in for a bigger burn than he got in "The English Patient." Opens 12-13

STAR TREK: NEMESIS: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Fraks, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis (Directed by Stuart Baird; Paramount) How many of these things do they have to make before they get it right? Opens 12-13

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen. Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Liv Tyler, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett, Bernard Hill, Brad Dourif, Miranda Otto, Karl Urban (Directed by Peter Jackson; New Line) Frodo and Sam are off to Modor, where they plan to toss the One Ring into Mount Doom. And somebody has got to find Merry and Pippen, those adorable kidnapped Hobbits. But don't look at us--we expect to be otherwise engaged. Opens 12-18

THE ANTWONE FISHER STORY: Denzel Washington, Derek Luke, Joy Bryant, Salli Richardson, De'Angelo Wilson (Denzel Washington; Fox Searchlight) As an actor, Oscar-winner Washington is known as a man who takes chances, but he's no fool. Making his directorial debut, he had the good sense to cast himself as the magnetic shrink who shapes up Antwone Fisher, the troubled U.S. sailor-turned-writer who is both subject and author of this true-life story. The movie, scheduled to be shown at the Toronto Film Festival in September, stars newcomer Derek Luke in the title role. Opens 12-20

NARC: Ray Liotta, Jason Patric, Chi McBride, Busta Rhymes, Anne Openshaw, Richard Chevolleau, John Ortiz (Directed by Joe Carnahan; Paramount) There was a time when Liotta and Patric, the standouts of "Something Wild" and "After Dark, My Sweet," respectively, seemed unstoppable on the track to superstardom, but their careers somehow derailed. Audiences at Sundance 2002, however, seemed to feel the tough guys are back where they belong in this drama of undercover cops out to avenge one of their own. And it looks like a giant step forward for Joe Carnahan, director of "Blood, Guts, Bullets & Octane." Opens 12-20

TWO WEEKS NOTICE: Sandra Bullock, Hugh Grant, Alicia Witt, Mark Feurstein, Dorian Missick, Dana Ivey, Robert Klein, Jeff Aaron, Jason Antoon, Heather Burns (Directed by Marc Lawrence; Warner Bros.) If you loved "Forces of Nature" and "Miss Congeniality," you'll probably lap up this cute hoot written and directed by Marc Lawrence, author of those Bullock baubles. This time Sandra's a perky but ulcerous lawyer who just can't take any more of her demanding, dreadfully self-absorbed client, Hugh Grant. This is beginning to sound like "About a Boy," and I'm just not going to take any more. Opens 12-20

THE WILD THORNBERRYS: Brenda Blethyn, Tim Curry, Rupert Everett and Lynn Redgrave star in this tale of an eccentric clan of do-gooders. But itiLs a toon, based on a Nickelodeon show, so at least you doniLt have to actually watch these seriously over-exposed actors perform. (Directed by Cathy Malkasian and Jeff McGrath; Paramount) Opens 12-20

CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND: George Clooney, Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts, Rutger Hauer, Fred Savage (Directed by George Clooney; Miramax) The dangerous mind belongs to Chuck Barris, who claims to have led a double life as the host of a seventies TV program called "The Gong Show" and as a CIA hit man known in select circles as Sunny Sixkiller. Sam Rockwell, a superstar waiting to happen, plays Barris, and first-time director Clooney cast himself as the CIA agent who coaxes him to play the assassination game. Drew Barrymore and Julia Roberts are the (presumably) femme fatales, and Brad Pitt and Matt Damon pop up as contestants on "The Gong Show." Opens 12-22

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Amy Adams, Frank John Hughes, Brian Howe (Directed by Steven Spielberg; Dreamworks) Limber Leo springs from the mean 19th-century streets of Hell's Kitchen in Scorsese's "Gangs of New York" to the highways and airways of the 1970's in Spielberg's spin on Frank Abagnale Jr., the high-school drop-out who successfully passed himself off as various people he most certainly was not (including a doctor, lawyer, commercial pilot and the attorney general of Louisiana). What he was for real was a crackerjack bank robber and the youngest man ever to make the FBI's Most Wanted List. Hanks plays the Fed who fells the fake. Opens 12-25

CHICAGO: Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, Christine Baranski, Taye Diggs, Mya, Colm Feore, Lucy Liu, Dominic West (Directed by Rob Marshall; Miramax/Columbia) If Zellweger and Zeta-Jones can sing and dance, that puts them two steps ahead of Nicole Kidman, who somehow managed to come up with an Oscar nomination for her efforts in last yeariLs blockbuster musical "Moulin Rouge." Far from the Paris of Toulouse Lautrec, the setting here--as in the Kander and Ebb Broadway hit and the 1942 Ginger Rogers flick, "Roxie Hart"--is the Chicago of Al Capone, crooked cops, shady judges, bootleggers and a couple of pistol-packiniL dames who meet and tangle behind bars (where theyiLve landed for shooting their mates). The lawyer lucky enough to defend them is played by everyoneiLs favorite crooner, Richard Gere, and the prison matron is Queen Latifah. Feel your feet beginning to tap? Opens 12-25

PINOCCHIO: Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Carlo Guiffre, Mino Belli, Kim Rossi Stuart, Alessandro Bergonzoni, Corrado Pani, Vincenzo Cerami, Bruno Arena, Giuseppe Barra, Riccardo Bizzarri, Lando Buzzanca, Max Cavallari, Luis Molteni (Directed by Roberto Benigni; Miramax) Rabidly cute Roberto Benigni directs himself as the beloved boy puppet, and that's all we need to know before moving on to the next plex. Opens 12-25

THE 25TH HOUR: Edward Norton, Barry Pepper, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rosario Dawson, Anna Paquin (Directed by Spike Lee; Disney/Buena Vista) On what is presumably his last night of freedom, Edward Norton--sentenced to seven years for dealing drugs--parties with two childhood friends. What really happens when the party's over? My hunch is that we're in for a cool surprise. Opens 12-25

GODS AND GENERALS: Mira Sorvino, Robert Duvall, Stephen Lang, Jeff Daniels, C. Thomas Howell, Jeremy London, Stephen Spacek, William Sanderson, Malachy McCourt, Ted Turner (Directed by Ronald F. Maxwell; Warner Bros.) It may not be "Gone With the Wind," but it most certainly is the Civil War--four major battles of it. All right, if you must know: Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. And, yes, Ted Turner is the Ted Turner you think it is. Opens 12-27

THE HOURS: Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Allison Janney, Ed Harris, Claire Danes, Toni Collette, Eileen Atkins, Stephen Dillane, Charley Ramm, John C. Reilly, Miranda Richardson (Directed by Stephen Daldry; Paramount) Kidman is Virginia Woolf; Moore and Streep, two very different women living in separate worlds, are similarly influenced by the novelist's artistry and humanity. Stephen Daldry, the man behind "Billy Elliot," directed David Hare's adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Michael Cunningham. ( Opens 12-27)

LOVE LIZA: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kathy Bates, Jack Kehler, Sarah Koskoff, Stephen Tobolowsky, Erika Alexander (Directed by Todd Louiso; Sony Pictures Classics) Unable to cope with his grief or even read the note his wife wrote to him before committing suicide, lovable loser Hoffman gets hooked on sniffing gasoline fumes. Does he survive or does he O.D.? We won't say, but audiences at Sundance 2002 were thrilled by the sniffer's struggle, and the star's brother, Gordy Hoffman, won the screenwriting award for this defiantly indie drama. Opens 12-27

MAX: John Cusack, Noah Taylor, Leelee Sobieski, Molly Parker, Ulrich Thomsen, Judit Hernadi, Istvan Kulka (Directed by Menno Meyjes; Lions Gate) The ability to spot a spark of talent in a seemingly dum-dum individual is a gift. And John Cusack, as gallery owner Max Rothman, proves he has the gift when he takes a wannabe painter named Adolf Hitler under his wing. Opens 12-27

CONFIDENCE: Edward Burns, Dustin Hoffman, Andy Garcia, Rachel Weisz, Paul Giamatti, Morris Chestnut, Luiz Guzman, Donal Logue, Robert Forster, Robert Loggia, Elysia Skye, Franky G., Brian Van Holt, Tom "Tiny"Lister Jr. (Directed by James Foley; Lions Gate) Director James Foley's talent for turning mean, nasty material into gripping entertainment--as evidenced by "At Close Range" and "After Dark, My Sweet"--should come in handy on this tough tale of a con artist (Edward Burns) who tries to chisel the accountant of a notably cruel crime lord. (Dustin Hoffman). Opens in December

GANGS OF NEW YORK: Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, Liam Neeson, Jim Broadbent, Brendan Gleeson, John C. Reilly, Henry Thomas, Cara Seymour (Directed by Martin Scorsese; Miramax) The whole world knows that director Scorsese and Miramax biggie Harvey Weinstein did not see eye-to-eye on the shape, length and weight of this epic recreation of the birth of the Mafia in mid-nineteenth-century New York. To some, it seemed the movie--shot in Rome amid reports of turmoil and angst--would never be completed. But finished it is, and those who've seen glimpses of it say it's more than worth the wait, perhaps the most powerful film to date from the driven movieman responsible for "Mean Streets," "Taxi Driver," "New York, New York," "Raging Bull," "Age of Innocence" and "GoodFellas." Opens in December

HERO: Daoming Chen, Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung, Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Zhang Ziyi (Directed by Zhang Yimou; Miramax) Remember "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"? Of course, you do. And the gang at Miramax is hoping you'll remember it fondly enough to stand in line for this martial arts extravaganza about a wildly charismatic feudal warlord who sets out to rule the six kingdoms of China. Opens in December

THE PIANIST: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay, Maureen Lipman, Emilia Fox, Ed Stoppard, Julia Rayner, Jessica Kate Meyer, Ruth Platt (Directed by Roman Polanski; Universal/Focus) This true story of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish pianist who miraculously survived the Holocaust, marks the comeback of Roman Polanski, who spent his early years in the Warsaw ghetto before achieving international fame with "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown" and then suffering a personal and professional decline because of a sexual encounter with an underage partner. The recipient of the Palm d'Or at Cannes, this could be the film that finally lifts Adrien Brody to stardom. Opens in December