MARCH 2006

ASK THE DUST: Colin Farrell, Salma Hayek, Donald Sutherland, Justin Kirk, Eileen Atkins, Idina Menzel, Dion Basco, Tamara Craig Thomas, Jeremy Crutchley (Written and directed by Robert Towne; Paramount Classics) Mamma Mia! Brazen black Irishman Colin Farrell becomes a brazen Italian who plops down in California during the Great Depression with dreams of writing the Great American Novel. Somewhere along the way, he translates his daydreams about Mexican waitress Salma Hayek into raunchy reality. In her search for suitable husband material, however, Salma is dreaming of someone a little less dreamy than this wannabe Steinbeck. If this story sounds familiar to you, it may be because you’ve read John Fante’s semi-autobiographical novel. To read the Variety review, click here. Now Playing

FIND ME GUILTY: Vin Diesel, Peter Dinklage, Annabella Sciorra, Linus Roache, Ron Silver, Richard Portnow, Alex Rocco, Aleksa Palladino (Directed by Sidney Lumet; Written by T.J. Mancini and Robert McCrea; Stratus Films) Starting with “12 Angry Men” 49 years ago and running through “Serpico,” “Prince of the City” and “The Verdict,” director Sidney Lumet has demonstrated a remarkable skill for exposing the dark complexities of American crime and punishment, from street violence to courtroom connivance. Now, at age 81, he’s focusing on the true drama of Jack DiNorscio (Vin Diesel), a mobster who grew weary of his wicked way of life and decided to confront the serious federal charges against him. The one hitch: DiNorsio insisted on serving as his own defense lawyer. To read the Variety review, click here; for Guy Flatley’s 1974 interview with Lumet, click here; to read about many more new biopics, click here. Now Playing

THANK YOU FOR SMOKING: Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, Cameron Bright, Adam Brody, Sam Elliott, Katie Holmes, David Koechner, Rob Lowe, William H. Macy, J. K. Simmons, Robert Duvall (Written and directed by Jason Reitman; Fox Searchlight Pictures) How far would someone go to help tobacco companies keep you hooked on nicotine? Far enough to kill you, if the jovial, relentless Washington lobbyist played here by Aaron Eckhart has his way. In case you didn’t know it, Jason Reitman, the writer-director of this loopy comedy-drama, is the son of Ivan Reitman, the auteur who served us “Meatballs,” “Stripes,” “Ghost Busters,” “Legal Eagles,” “Kindergarten Cop” and “Six Days Seven Nights.” So consider yourself warned. Now Playing

DON’T COME KNOCKING: Sam Shepard, Jessica Lange, Tim Roth, Gabriel Mann, Sarah Polley, Fairuza Balk, Eva Marie Saint (Directed by Wim Wenders; Written by Sam Shepard; Sony Pictures Classics) Howard Spence (Sam Shepard), a drugs-and-booze ravaged actor who has specialized in playing western heroes, is no longer considered very special by the critics or the movie-going public. But he still gets gigs. Hating the oater he’s shooting, however, he impulsively bolts from the set, heads for Nevada and pays a visit to his mom (Eva Marie Saint), his first visit to her in 30 years. She brings him up to date on current events, and also fills him in on not-so-current happenings, such as the fact that Doreen (Jessica Lange), a long-ago, nearly forgotten lover, bore his son and is now the owner of her very own Montana saloon. Will Spence hot-foot it to Butte and check out the mother and son? Of course he will. To read Guy Flatley's 1999 interview with Eva Marie Saint, click here. Now Playing

THE ZODIAC: Justin Chambers, Robin Tunney, Rory Culkin, Philip Baker Hall, William Mapother (Directed by Alexander Bulkley; Written by Kelley Bulkeley and Alexander Bulkley; ThinkFilm) “The Zodiac” is not to be confused with “Zodiac,” which will open later this year. On the other hand, both movies deal with the real-life Zodiac Killer, a fiend who roamed San Francisco and murdered at least 37 people during the sixties and seventies. And he’s still on the loose. The director and the man who co-wrote this film with him are said to be brothers; yet they can’t seem to agree on how to spell their family name. But, hey, some brothers are like that. Now Playing

INSIDE MAN: Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster (Directed by Spike Lee; Written by Russell Gewirtz and Menno Meyjes; Universal) Two of Denzel Washington’s best films--“Malcolm X” and “Mo’ Better Blues”--were directed by Spike Lee, and this reunion has the feel of another winner. Washington plays a shrewd cop who engages in a perilous game of cat and mouse with a man (Clive Owen) who may be even shrewder, a seasoned criminal bent on pulling off the bank heist to end all bank heists. His meticulous plan involves at least one hostage, but it does not involve the enigmatic lawyer (Jodie Foster) who makes a surprise appearance on the scene. Now Playing

LONESOME JIM: Casey Affleck, Liv Tyler, Mary Kay Place, Kevin Corrigan, Seymour Cassel, Jack Rovello, Jake La Botz (Directed by Steve Buscemi; Written by James C. Strouse; Plum Pictures) Is there anything more painful than the depression a proud 27-year-old loser feels when he has no choice but to move back with his parents in their less than palatial home in Indiana? Well, yes. There is the depression felt by his put-upon, conspicuously dysfunctional parents. This is the third time at directorial bat for actor Steve Buscemi--the first two features being “Trees Lounge, ” in 1996, and “Animal Factory,” in 2000. Now Playing

BASIC INSTINCT 2: Sharon Stone, David Morrissey, Charlotte Rampling, David Thewlis, Hugh Dancy, Stan Collymore (Directed by Michael Caton-Jones; Written by Leora Barish and Henry Bean; MGM) Once again, Sharon Stone tackles the role of venomous tease Catherine Tramell. Having said so-long to San Francisco and hello to London, Tramell is now busily engaged in various brazen adventures, including one of the lesbian kind. On the other hand, she does manage to acquire a fiance, but he soon expires. Scotland Yard, having the audacity to suspect Tramell of murdering her man, subjects her to an in-depth interrogation by a hard-ass shrink (David Morrissey), and the only serious question for movie audiences is, will she keep her legs crossed during the cross-examination? Now Playing