Moviecrazed
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DECEMBER 2009

BROTHERS

Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Tobey Maguire, Bailee Madison, Mare Winningham, Sam Shepard, Clifton Collins Jr. (Directed by Jim Sheridan; Written by David Benioff; Lionsgate)

 

 



There was a time when moviegoers had difficulty telling the difference between Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire. Finally, we got the picture: Tobey was a climber of skyscrapers; Jake was a herder of sheep.

More than ever before, it will be important to tell the stars of “Spider-Man” and "Brokeback Mountain" apart when we see "Brothers," a drama in which a patriotic young man goes off to combat in Afghanistan, leaving his wife and child in the care of a younger brother not known for his reliability. The four-square sibling is played by Maguire, and Gyllenhaal plays the rebel wihout a conspicuous cause. The role of the woman responsible for expanding their fraternal relationship into a love triangle has been entrusted to Natalie Portman. "Brothers" is a remake, so if you're eager for more details, check out Susanne Bier's 2004 Danish-language film starring Ulrich Thomsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Connie Nielsen.
-- Guy Flatley Now Playing

EVERYBODY’S FINE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert De Niro, Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, Melissa Leo, James Frain, Lucian Maisel (Written and Directed by Kirk Jones; Miramax)

A lonely, no-longer-young widower just doesn't know what to do with himself. Then one day, it dawns on him that what he really needs to make his life meaningful is to hook up with each of his geographically scattered children again. But what if his kids turn out to be selfish little bastards who don't give a fig for their father? Robert De Niro is the wandering dad in this remake of "Stanno Tuti Bene," Giuseppe Tornatore's 1990 Italian comedy-tearjerker starring Marcello Mastroianni. Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell play De Niro's grown-up brats. --Guy Flatley Now Playing

Click here for Vincent Canby's 1991 review of the original "Everybody's Fine" in The New York Times; to read Guy Flatley's 1973 New York Times interview with Robert De Niro, click here.

THE LAST STATION

Helen Mirren, Christopher Plummer, Paul Giamatti, James McAvoy, Anne-Marie Duff (Directed by Michael Hoffman; Written by Jay Parini; Notro Films)

 

 

 

 

 

Anthony Hopkins was set to play Count Leo Tolstoy, the author of "War and Peace" who was struggling to live out his final days with dignity and grace. But somewhere along the line Hopkins dropped out and Christopher Plummer dropped in.

Getting back to Leo--who on earth was making it difficult for him to travel a peaceful path into the hereafter? It was none other than Sofya Andreyevna, his luxury-loving, more warring than peaceful, wife. And--like Anthony Hopkins--Meryl Streep, cast as Sofya, made an exit, leaving her role to Helen Mirren. Paul Giamatti plays a loyal friend of Tolstoy's who does his best to rein in Sofya, James McAvoy plays Tolstoy's secretary, and Anne-Marie Duff--McAvoy's real-life wife--plays the tormented literary lion's daughter.

Jay Parini's screenplay for "The Last Station" is based on his 1990 novel, which in turn was based on the actual diaries of the contentious Tolstoys and their piles of relatives and friends. The director here is Michael Hoffman, whose eclectic oeuvre includes “Soapdish” (Robert Downey Jr. & Sally Field), “Restoration” (Hugh Grant & Meg Ryan), and “One Fine Day" (George Clooney & Michelle Pfeiffer).
--Guy Flatley Now Playing

UP IN THE AIR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Danny McBride, Melanie Lynskey, Amy Morton, Sam Elliott, J.K. Simmons, Zach Galifianakis (Directed by Jason Reitman; Written by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner; Paramount Pictures)

In these downbeat, downsized times, what we really need is an upbeat flick about a guy who lands a perfect job and keeps it--even though nearly everyone he encounters on his perfect job gets the sack.

That’s precisely the kind of guy George Clooney plays in this comedy-drama helmed by Jason Reitman, director of “Thank You for Smoking” and “Juno.” The guy is named Ryan Bingham, and his special skill is that he is able to swiftly, neatly fire the employees that his own corporate bosses are too cowardly to fire themselves. And, ever the dedicated professional and obsessive frequent flyer, Ryan jets from city to city, from company to company, peforming his chores with pizzazz, giving the sad sacked a pat on the shoulder while painting a picture of glorious rebirth now that they’ve dropped out of the rat race. It's like he's doing them a huge favor.

Fittingly enough, it suddenly looks as if Ryan himself may be dropping out of the rat race, thanks to hot-shot techie Natalie (Anna Kendrick), who’s on the brink of persuading his boss (Jason Bateman) that people can best be fired by her newfangled, sublimely impersonal form of video conferencing. So who needs Ryan?

Maybe Natalie will succeed in her scheme, and maybe she won’t. If she does, Ryan will have a shoulder to cry on. It's the sexy shoulder of Alex, a kindred spirit he picked up in a bar and has managed to reconnect with in various hotel suites around the country. Lucky for us, Alex is played by the delightful Vera Farmiga, and her chemistry with Clooney is said to be breathtaking.--Guy Flatley Now Playing

CRAZY HEART

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Sarah Jane Morris, Beth Grant, Annie Corley, Tom Bower (Written and directed by Scott Cooper; Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Otis “Bad” Blake, the raunchy, raspy-voiced, certifiably alcoholic country-music star played by Jeff Bridges, has seen far better days and nights. When he gets lucky with with a barroom pickup, he doesn't exactly wow her in the sack and he's wise enough to make an exit in the morning before the lady wakes up to the reality that she's truly been had.

Is there any hope for this very "Bad" boy? Maybe. That's because a reporter who's half his age, Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), interviews him and deems him a good story. And, yes, a good person--and possibly a good father for this single mom's needy young son.

After reading the above, you may have decided to postpone the pleasure of "Crazy Heart," at least until it pops up on an inevitable double bill with Mickey Rourke's similarly-themed "The Wrestler." On the other hand, the people at Fox Searchlight Pictures are betting on heavy Academy Award buzz for Jeff Bridges, the impeccable actor's actor who has never taken home an Oscar, despite his stunning turns in "The Last Picture Show," "Bad Company," "Fat City," "The Last American Hero," "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot," "Cutter's Way," "The Jagged Edge," "The Fabulous Baker Boys," "The Big Lebowski" and "Door in the Floor." Well, you get the picture.

Here are two more reasons to take a chance on "Crazy Heart": The presence of the seldom bland, occasionally charismatic Colin Farrell as a hot contemporary country-music performer who's strangely in tune with the boozy old-timer, and Robert Duvall as "Bad's" favorite bartender.--Guy Flatley Now Playing

INVICTUS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Scott Eastwood, Langley Kirkwood, Robert Hobbs, Tony Kgoroge, Grant Roberts, Bonnie Henna (Directed by Clint Eastwood; Written by Anthony Peckham; Warner Bros.)

Unjustly charged with the crime of sabotage, Nelson Mandela, the world’s most forceful opponent of apartheid, endured 27 years of captivity in a South African prison. Following his release—and the liberating defeat of white supremacy—Mandela became the first black president of South Africa.

Yet many of the country’s citizens remained in need of spiritual healing. And that’s when President Mandela, seizing on a bold plan to unite the races in a common goal, shifted his focus to the participation of South Africa’s rugby team in the 1995 World Cup championships.

Under the direction of Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman stars as Nelson Mandela  and Matt Damon plays Francois Pienaar,  the captain of the rugby team. Freeman won an Oscar for  Best Supporting Actor of 2004 in Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby.” Could it be that 2009 will finally be his year to clutch onto the all-important Best Actor award--even if it means Jeff ("Crazy Heart") Bridges must go home empty-handed once again? --Guy Flatley Now Playing

THE LOVELY BONES

Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Michael Imperioli, Saoirse Ronan (Directed by Peter Jackson; Written by Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh; DreamWorks)




In a welcome change of pace, Peter Jackson is taking a breather from the tricky, sometimes tedious special-effects world of the "Rings" trilogy and "King Kong." His new film will be an audacious attempt to mix reality and fantasy. As readers of Alice Sebold's imaginative, deeply disturbing 2002 novel know, the heroine of "The Lovely Bones" (played here by Saoirse Ronan) is raped, murdered and dismembered by a neighbor at the age of 14.

But that is not the end of the story; in her afterlife, the girl focuses intently on the torment of her grieving family (including her parents, played by Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz, and her grandmother, played by Susan Sarandon) and on the fiendish schemes of her unrepentant killer (Stanley Tucci).

Director Jackson, whose finest achievement is "Heavenly Creatures"--the haunting 1994 film in which two emotionally entwined adolescents (Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey) commit an especially horrific murder--seems the perfect person to bring "The Lovely Bones" to flesh-and-blood life.--Guy Flatley
Now Playing

A SINGLE MAN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode, Nicholas Hoult, Ginnifer Goodwin, Paulette Lamori (Written and directed by Tom Ford; Weinstein Company)

Arguably the most emotionally powerful novel written by Christopher Isherwood, “A Single Man,” published in 1964, focuses on one day in the life of George Falconer, a British professor living in California who is mourning the death of his long-time partner, Jim.

Now, along comes Tom Ford, a handsome, mischievous and awesomely ambitious native of Austin, Texas. Ford, as you may have heard, migrated to Manhattan at an early age, came to the conclusion one steamy night at Studio 54 that he was gay, went on to become a major force in the world of fashion during his reign at the house of Gucci, and, surprisingly, toyed with the dream of fleshing out Isherwood’s story on film.

That dream, representing the 48-year-old Ford’s directorial debut and reflecting fragments of Isherwood’s own bittersweet life, was recently acclaimed at the 66th Venice Film Festival. On screen, Colin Firth plays the prof in stiff-upper-lip mourninng; Julianne Moore is an alcoholic friend who once slept with him and is more than willing to rekindle their romance even though she is well aware that he is gay; Matthew Goode (shown above, having a brew with Firth) is the gone but not forgotten Jim; and Nicholas Hoult—the lad who made Hugh Grant behave like a grown-up in 2002’s “About a Boy”—plays Kenny, a college student who may have a crush on teacher George.--Guy Flatley Now Playing


AVATAR

Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, Zoe Saldana, Giovanni Ribisi, Laz Alonso, CCH Pounder, Wes Studi, Stephen Lang (Written and directed by James Cameron; Twentieth Century-Fox)


 

 

Flocks, if not armies, of sci-fi freaks and geeks are being driven into a must-see frenzy by the iceberg-sized chunks of hype that keep whizzing their way about this 3-D epic from James Cameron, creator of “Titanic” and “Terminator.” Although the premiere is not until late December, some of us are already daydreaming about donning those moronic-looking but depth-providing glasses that will transport us to a far-off planet.

Sam Worthington, for whom"Avatar" may do what "Titanic" did for Leo and "Terminator" did for Arnie, is the vulnerable but sexy human hero in Cameron's latest special-effects pig-out. The picture-perfect Aussie plays a severely wounded soldier who flees to another universe, a haven where he hopes to find--and inhabit--an alien whose body is in better shape than his own.

But he may need a helping medical hand to pull off that particular miracle, which, of couse, is where Dr. Grace Augustine--played by Sigourney Weaver, a cool actress we all applauded when she kicked butt in James Cameron's "Aliens"--comes in. And, in case you didn't know it, "Aliens" was directed by James Cameron.--Guy Flatley Now Playing


NINE


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson, Sophia Loren, Stacy Ferguson (Directed by Rob Marshall; Written by Anthony Minghella and Michael Tolkin; Weinstein Company)


Who could forget "8 1/2," the stunning 1963 film in which Marcello Mastroianni, under the direction of Federico Fellini, played a Felliniesque director who made more women than movies?

Certainly, composer Maury Yeston and dramatist Arthur Kopit could not erase this classic from their memories. That's why, in 1982, they came up with a Broadway musicalization of it starring the late, great Raul Julia as the womanizing auteur on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The show, called "Nine," was successfully revived in 2003, showcasing the song-and-dance skills of Antonio Banderas.

Now comes the movie version of the hit musical. It's directed by Rob Marshall, who gave us "Chicago," and it stars Daniel Day-Lewis, one of the few actors now working who could be ranked alongside Marcello Mastroianni. Penelope Cruz plays his mistress, Marion Cotillard, who triumphed as Edith Piaf in "La Vie en Rose," is his shortchanged wife, Nicole Kidman is an actress who greatly inspires him, Kate Hudson is a fashion reporter who intrigues him, and Sophia Loren will undoubtedly haunt him and us as the ghost of his mama. --Guy Flatley Now Playing

THE YOUNG VICTORIA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent, Thomas Kretschmann, Mark Strong, Jesper Christensen, Harriet Walter, Julian Glover (Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee; Written by Julian Fellowes; Apparition)


Surely you saw Judi Dench’s astonishing performance as Queen Victoria, a widow in mourning for her beloved Prince Albert,  in 1997’s “Mrs Brown.” And maybe, somewhere along the line, you caught Anna Neagle playing both the young and the old monarch in 1937’s “Victoria the Great.” If you were lucky, you also saw Irene Dunne playing a royal, frozen-in-grief widow who was eventually thawed by Anthony Ray as an irresistible street urchin in 1950’s “The Mudlark.”

But if you somehow managed to miss all three hails to Queen Victoria, not to fret. Soon, in "The Young Victoria," you'll be treated to a close-up view of a sensitive, savvy post-teen royal as she ascends the throne and begins to take ladylike but forceful control of her empire. This time, the actress donning the crown is Emily Blunt, the subtle dynamo noted chiefly for her shameless scene-stealing in “The Devil Wears Prada,” “Dan in Real Life” and “Charlie Wilson’s War.” If the audience reaction at the recent Toronto Film Festival is a reliable gauge, Blunt's starlet days are over; from here on in, she's pure leading lady.

Here's more good news: in contrast to the monotonously mourned stiff of past dramatizations, Prince Albert is said to come across as very much alive and brimming with passion, thanks to the performance of Rupert Friend, most recently praised as the red-hot lover of Michelle Pfeiffer in "Cheri." Preview audiences have also applauded the never-less-than-magnetic Paul Bettany as Lord Melbourne, a slick politician with his own sexual plans for the young but not quite up-for-grabs Victoria.--Guy Flatley

Click here to read Guy Flatley's 2002 interview with Paul Bettany. Now Playing  

IT'S COMPLICATED

Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, John Kasinski, Hunter Parish, Rita Wilson, Zoe Kazan, Mary Kay Place, Lake Bell

(Written and directed by Nancy Meyers; Universal)

 

 

 

What could a trio of chilled-out dudes like Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin and John Kasinski possibly find to fight about? You guessed it, a woman. But not just any woman. The femme fatale in this case is Meryl Streep, and anyone who's seen "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Doubt" knows how hard-to-get La Streep can be. With luck, writer-director Nancy Meyers will work as well with her as she did with Diane Keaton in "Something's Gotta Give," which would surely lead to another Oscar nomination for our Meryl--unless she's tapped for "Julie & Julia" instead. --Guy Flatley Now Playing

SHERLOCK HOLMES

Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, Kelly Reilly, Eddie Marsan, James Fox, Hans Matheson, Bronagh Gallagher (Directed by Guy Ritchie; Written by Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham and Simon Kinberg; Warner Bros. Pictures)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the heyday of Hollywood’s low-budget, high-creativity studio system--—the thirties and forties—Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce earned their keep by breathing elegant life into Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, the legendary partners in crime-busting dreamed up by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Now, in an effort to get back where he was before he embarked on the 2002 Madonna shipwreck of a movie known as “Swept Away,” Guy Ritchie, the diva’s one-time husband  and director, has cast Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as the unflappable super-sleuths. To play a damsel who may or may not be in distress, Ritchie selected fast-rising star Rachel McAdams.

Perhaps Madonna was otherwise engaged.--Guy Flatley Now Playing

THE WHITE RIBBON


 

Ulrich Tukur, Susanne Lothar, Christian Friedel, Burghart Klaussner, Leonie Benesch, Josef Bierbichler, Rainer Bock (Directed by Michael Haneke; Written by Michael Haneke and Jean-Claude Carriere; Sony Pictures Classics)

Ghastly things start happening to the youthful members of a choir in a German village on the eve of World War I. Is it possible that these grotesque "accidents" are in fact crimes committed by extraordinarily cruel adults? Michael Haneke, the controversial Austrian director of “Caché,” “The Piano Teacher,” “The Time of the Wolf” and “Funny Games,” won the Palme d'Or at the 2009 Cannes Festival for this enigmatic film that deals, in part, with the birth of Nazism.—Guy Flatley Opens 12/30