Moviecrazed
  Web www.moviecrazed.com   



DECEMBER 2003

THE LAST SAMURAI: Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Tony Goldwyn, Billy Connolly, Timothy Spall, Masao Harada, William Atherton, Scott Wilson, Togo Igawa (Directed by Edward Zwick; Warner Bros.) Tom Cruise plays a Civil War veteran with a mission that is perhaps impossible. The Emperor of China persuades him to help rid his country of powerful, roving bands of samurai warriors. Tom is gung-ho until he’s taken captive by the alleged enemies. Much to his surprise, he discovers they are cool dudes. Now Playing


FORGET BAGHDAD: JEWS AND ARABS—THE IRAQI CONNECTION: Shimon Ballas, Moshe Houri, Sami Michael, Samir Naqqash, Ella Shohat (Directed by Samir Jamal Aldin; AFD Theatrical) A report on the thousands of Iraqi Jews who streamed into Israel in 1948, this documentary focuses on four elderly survivors as they recall their turbulent history. Now Playing

HONEY: Jessica Alba, Mekhi Phifer, Lil’ Romeo, David Moscow, Zachary Williams, Joy Bryant, Missy Elliott, Anthony Sherwood, Lonette McKee (Directed by Bille Woodruff; Universal) You’ve heard of the casting couch; now get ready for the choreo couch. This is the heart-wrenching tale of a spunky video choreographer who must make a painful decision: sleep with her so-called mentor or never put TV dancers through their wiggles and swivels again. Foxtrot, anyone? Now Playing

PRISONER OF PARADISE: Archive footage of Kurt Gerron, Peter Lorre, Maurice Rossel; narration by Ian Holm (Directed by Malcolm Clarke and Stuart Sender; Alliance Atlantis) Hitler set up a phony, prettied-up concentration camp that was periodically visited and reported upon by representatives of the Red Cross. The infamous camp was called Theresienstadt, and this documentary tells the grim story of Kurt Gerron, a prominent Jewish actor/director who spent his time there turning out a Nazi propaganda film. Now Playing

WHAT ALICE FOUND: Judith Ivey, Bill Raymond, Emily Grace, Michael C. Maronna, Jane Lincoln Taylor, Justin Parkinson, David Rose (Directed by A. Dean Bell; Castle Hill Productions) What Alice finds in this dark drama is far from a wonderland. The poor—very poor—thing gets cozy with a tricky couple who gives her a lift in their RV. Alice’s plan was to travel from New Hampshire to Florida, but instead she ends up spending an awful lot of time in the back of that RV at seedy truck stops. Sundance took writer-director Bell’s film to heart, awarding it a Special Jury Prize for Artistic and Emotional Truth. Now Playing

BIG FISH: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Alison Lohman, Helena Bonham Carter, Danny De Vito, Steve Buscemi, Robert Guillame, Matthew McGrory, Loudon Wainwright III (Directed by Tim Burton; Columbia) Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney play the same restless, tall-tale-telling man over several decades, and both Jessica Lange and Alison Lohman play the yarn-spinner’s long-suffering wife. As the man lies dying, his estranged son (Billy Crudup) visits him and makes an effort to discover the truth beneath the colorful fabrications that have been the source of so much pain and pleasure. Now Playing

GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING: Scarlett Johansson, Colin Firth, Tom Wilkinson, Cillian Murphy, Essie Davis, Alakina Mann, Judy Parfitt (Directed by Peter Webber; Lions Gate) Back in the 17th century, Johannes Vermeer was one of Holland’s hottest—if not nicest—painters, and one of his greatest works was Girl With a Pearl Earring, the portrait of a lovely, enticing teenager. Peter Webber’s debut feature speculates on who this lovely model might have been and comes up with a scenario about a cold, vain artist and the servant girl he did not do too well by. Firth is Vermeer and Johansson—in a role originally intended for Kate Hudson—is said to be stunning as his not altogether unwilling victim. Now Playing

LOVE DON’T COST A THING: Nick Cannon, Christina Milian, Steve Harvey, Al Thompson, Kal Penn, Kenan Thompson, Vanessa Bell Calloway (Directed by Troy Beyer; Warner Bros.) It’s seldom easy to be a teenager, as demonstrated by the pathetically inept high school hero of this flick. The clueless klutz is so desperate to pass for a cool dude that he pays a nubile cheerleader to pose as his squeeze. Pretty original concept, right? Wrong. This is a resurrection of "Can’t Buy Me Love," a 1987 Patrick Dempsey vehicle we assumed to be safely buried. Now Playing

SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE: Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Amanda Peet, Keanu Reeves, Frances McDormand, Jon Favreau, Nichole Hiltz (Directed by Nancy Meyers; Sony Pictures Entertainment) A flagrantly womanizing music industry executive (Nicholson) suffers a heart attack while at the home of the mother (Keaton) of his latest tootsie (Peet). During his convalescence, he comes to feel more passion for mama than he does for tootsie. And, oh yes, the young pup of a doctor tending him falls for mama, too. Tootsie might as well get herself to a nunnery. (To read Guy Flatley's 1974 New York Times interview with Jack Nicholson, click here; for his Los Angeles Times interview with Diane Keaton that same year, click here. And for Guy's 2002 New York Daily News interview with Amanda Peet, click here.) Now Playing

THE STATEMENT: Michael Caine, Tilda Swinton, Charlotte Rampling, Alan Bates, Jeremy Northam, Ciaran Hinds, John Neville, Matt Craven, Edward Petherbridge, William Hutt (Directed by Norman Jewison; Sony Pictures Classics) Michael Caine, so shattering as a morally fuzzy British journalist in last year’s "The Quiet American," plays a French Nazi sympathizer responsible for the execution of 14 Jews in Ronald Harwood’s adaptation of Brian Moore's fact-based novel. Having been protected for more than 40 years after World War II by right-wingers within the French government and the Catholic Church, the executioner is suddenly exposed and brought to the court of a judge (Tilda Swinton) whose obsession is to bring Nazis to justice. And he is also pursued by mysterious hit men. Could it be that Caine will snare the Oscar many felt he deserved for "The Quiet American"? Now Playing

STUCK ON YOU: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Eva Mendes, Jessica Cauffiel, Wen Yann Shih, Frankie Muniz, Seymour Cassel, Michael Callan and--as themselves—Cher, Jay Leno, Jack Nicholson, Adam Shankman, Meryl Streep (Directed by Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly; Fox) Things have always gone smoothly for Bob (Damon) and Walt (Kinnear) as contented a pair of Siamese twins as you could ever hope to meet. But when Walt gets it into his head that he wants to become a movie star, problems arise. Do you feel your sides starting to split? Now Playing

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING: Elijah Wood, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Sean Astin, Ian McKellen, Ian Holm, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Liv Tyler, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Bernard Hill, Brad Dourif, Miranda Otto, Karl Urban, John Noble, David Wenham, Alexandra Astin, Bruce Spence, Hugo Weaving (Directed by Peter Jackson; New Line) What astonishing revelations do Jackson and his imaginative crew have in store for us this time around? Well, would you believe that Aragorn turns out to be of royal blood? The sly fox! They say this is the final chapter of the saga, but that’s what they said about "Rocky III." Now Playing

CALENDAR GIRLS: Julie Walters, Helen Mirren, Ciaran Hinds, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, John Alderton, Linda Bassett, Jay Leno (as himself) (Directed by Nigel Cole; Disney/Touchstone Pictures) You may be tempted to say hubba hubba, but you should probably keep your cool when a number of unprofessional British models disrobe for the benefit of the camera. Actually, they’re doing this full monty for charity, and all the profits from the sale of their calendar will be spent on cancer research. Farfetched? Not really. This is a true story and the brave, overaged, warmhearted pin-ups made a killing. Now Playing

THE FOG OF WAR: (Directed by Errol Morris; Sony Pictures Classics) Former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, one of the men who brought us the Vietnam War, is the central figure of this documentary, which is said to be a controversial, disturbingly relevant surefire Oscar contender. And a must-see for Donald Rumsfeld. Now Playing

THE HEBREW HAMMER: Adam Goldberg, Judy Greer, Andy Dick, Mario Van Peebles, Peter Coyote, Sean Whalen, Tony Cox, Nora Dunn, Richard Riehle, Melvin Van Peebles, Ed Koch (Directed by Jonathan Kesselman; ContentFilm) After arranging to have his father gored to death by reindeer, the swinish son of Santa Claus embarks on a vicious, anti-Semitic scheme. Now it’s up to investigator Mordechai Jefferson Carver to prevent the termination of Hanukkah. Adam Goldberg is the private eye, Andy Dick is Santa’s bad seed, and look for former New York mayor Ed Koch in a cool cameo. Now Playing

HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG: Jennifer Connelly, Ben Kingsley, Ron Eldard, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Ashley Edner, Frances Fisher, Kia Jam, Navi Rawat (Directed by Vadim Perelman; Miramax) A woman abandoned by her husband lets booze get the best of her, loses emotional control and allows her lovely home in the California hills to slip into foreclosure. When the house is purchased by a former Iranian air force colonel, she decides she’ll do whatever she has to do to get it back. Now Playing

 

 

MONA LISA SMILE: Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ginnifer Goodwin, Dominic West, Juliet Stevenson, Marcia Gay Harden, John Slattery, Marian Seldes, Terence Rigby, Topher Grace, Jordan Bridges, Ebon Moss-Bachrach (Directed by Mike Newell; Columbia) The time is the early 50's, when right-wing Senator Joseph McCarthy rides high and wicked and a spunky pretty woman gets a gig teaching art at a liberal women's college. Straining to dig every nugget of pre-feminist wisdom from professor Julia Roberts are Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Talk about student bodies! This nostalgic traipse through the groves of academe is being conducted by Mike Newell, director of "Four Weddings and a Funeral," so you know you'll soon be laughing through your tears. Now Playing

MONSTER: Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Bruce Dern, Scott Wilson, Lee Tergesen, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Annie Corley, Marco St. John, Bubba Baker, Marc Macaulay, Brett Rice (Directed by Patty Jenkins; Newmarket Film Group) Charlize Theron put on a few pounds and sharpened her acting skills to play Aileen Wuornos, the real-life Florida hooker who made a habit of murdering her johns. Christina Ricci, who probably hasn’t played a nice girl since she reached puberty, portrays the prostitute’s lesbian lover, the one who ratted on her and paved the way to death row. Wonder why they didn’t get a Christmas Day booking for this one. Now Playing

CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN: Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Tom Welling, Piper Perabo, Hilary Duff, Ashton Kutcher (Directed by Shawn Levy; Fox) Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth wrote a gently comic reminiscence about their father, a gently dictatorial efficiency expert. In 1950, the best seller was turned into a popular film starring Clifton Webb as the great dictator. And now, here it comes again. Or does it? The fact that the family name has been changed from Gilbreth to Baker, the time has been pushed forward to the 21st century, and Dad has been promoted from efficiency expert to football coach should tell you something. It tells me all I need to know about this liberty-taking remake. Now Playing

COLD MOUNTAIN: Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, Natalie Portman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Giovanni Ribisi, Brendan Gleeson, Charlie Hunnam, Ray Winstone, Donald Sutherland, Jena Malone, Kathy Baker, James Gammon, Ethan Suplee (Directed by Anthony Minghella; Miramax/MGM) It was tough luck for director Anthony Minghella ("The English Patient," "The Talented Mr. Ripley") when Tom Cruise decided against starring in the film of Charles Frazier's National Book Award winner about the struggle of a wounded soldier to make it home after the Civil War. On the other hand, Minghella might not have landed Nicole Kidman for the part of a minister's daughter who loves the sensitive warrior had her ex-husband signed up for the shoot. Jude Law--not a bad consolation prize--steps in for Cruise, and Renee Zellweger plays Nicole's bosom buddy. Now Playing

THE COMPANY: Neve Campbell, Malcolm McDowell, Fames Franco, Susie Cusack, Members of the Joffrey Ballet (Directed by Robert Altman; Sony Pictures Classics) Neve Campbell, an actress who once dreamed of being a ballerina, plays a splendid dancer who must decide just how much she is willing to sacrifice for her career. Tempting her to take it easy is her ardent, non-balletic suitor (James Franco), and goading her to give her all is the artistic director of her dance company (Malcolm McDowell). The plot may sound tattered, but it's a safe bet that the perpetually innovative Robert Altman has turned it into something stirring. (To read an interview with Malcolm McDowell by Guy Flatley, click here.) Now Playing

PAYCHECK: Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman, Aaron Eckhart, Michael C. Hall, Paul Giamatti, Colm Feore, Joe Morton, Kathryn Morris (Directed by John Woo; Paramount) Ben, a top-secret employee of the federal government, suddenly can't remember where he's been or what he's done for the past two years, thanks to the villainy of his sneaky, electronically skilled boss (Aaron Eckhart). So what's the poor quasi-amnesiac to do? We're not sure, but he probably gets a helping hand from Uma Thurman, who may or may not be a woman from his past. Now Playing

PETER PAN: Jason Isaacs, Jeremy Sumpter, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Ludivine Sagnier, Olivia Williams, Richard Biers, Harry Newell, Freddie Popplewell, Lynn Redgrave, Rupert Simonian, Bruce Spence (Directed by P. J. Hogan; Universal) The Darling kids are off to Never Never Land again (no, not the Neverland Ranch). On this occasion, the boy who refuses to grow up is Peter, not Michael. We assume that Jason Isaacs will be more fun as James M. Barrie’s Captain Hook than Dustin Hoffman was in Steven Spielberg’s under-nourishing 1991 turkey, "Hook." And Ludivine Sagnier, fresh from her triumph in "Swimming Pool," is bound to make a splash as Tinker Bell. Now Playing

JAPANESE STORY: Toni Collette, Gotaro Tsunashima, Matthew Dyktynski, Lynette Curran, Yumiko Tanaka, Kate Atkinson, John Howard (Directed by Sue Brooks; Samuel Goldwyn Films) A hard-edged Australian geologist (Toni Collette) agrees to show a Japanese businessman (Gotaro Tsunashima) around an eerily remote district that has captured his imagination. At first, she can barely tolerate the stuffy, married foreigner, but when they find themselves in a dangerous situation, an erotic attraction swiftly builds. Now Playing