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NOVEMBER 2004

ALFIE: Jude Law, Susan Sarandon, Marisa Tomei, Sienna Miller, Omar Epps, Nia Long, Jane Krakowski, Renee Taylor, Gedde Watanabe, Graydon Carter, Anastasia Griffith, Tara Summers, Cosima Shaw (Directed by Charles Shyer; Written by Charles Shyer and Elaine Pope; Paramount) Michael Caine solidified his superstar status and won an Oscar nomination for his performance as the cockiest skirt-chasing Cockney of them all in the 1966 original version of this flick. Will the remake do the same thing for Jude Law? To read Guy Flatley's 1978 interview with Susan Sarandon, click here. Now Playing

 

CALLAS FOREVER: Fanny Ardant, Jeremy Irons, Joan Plowright, Jay Rodan, Gabriel Garko (Directed by Franco Zeffirelli; Written by Martin Sherman; Here! Films) This portrait of Maria Callas in the Norma Desmond phase of her life is said to take numerous liberties with the facts while remaining true to the spirit of the flamboyant diva. Director Zeffirelli, who directed Callas on several occasions, focuses here on the filming of “Carmen,” a project that did not exist in real life. As one might imagine, the Callas recordings, which fortunately do exist in real life, work beautifully on screen. And European audiences have been stunned by Fanny Ardant’s rich performance as Callas. Jeremy Irons, sporting a ponytail, has also drawn attention as the singer’s gay, manipulative manager, a character who also did not exist in real life. But, hey, if it works, it works. To read about many more new biopics, click here. Now Playing

THE INCREDIBLES: The voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee, Wallace Shawn, Sarah Vowell, Spencer Fox, Brad Bird, Elizabeth Pena, Dominique Louis (Written and directed by Brad Bird; Disney/Buena Vista) Once upon a time in America--perhaps in the 1950s--Mr. Incredible, a beloved superhero (Craig T. Nelson), makes the mistake of saving someone who doesn’t want to be saved. As a result, he and his brave, spirited wife Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) are required to enter the superhero relocation program. Thanks to a major makeover, they become an ordinary, struggling, boring insurance salesman and a downtrodden housewife, much at the mercy of their conspicuously annoying kids. But how long can this Incredible couple remain so incredibly dull, minding their own business and repressing the urge to do spectacularly heroic deeds? Happily, according to audiences attending previews of this Pixar feature, not for long at all. Now Playing

INTOXICATION: Kirk Harris, John Savage, Eric Roberts, Camilla Overbye Roos, Joanne Baron, D. W. Brown, Ron Gilbert, Allan Rich (Directed by Mark David; Written by Kirk Harris; Rogue Arts) If you were being wheeled into the operating room for heart surgery, wouldn’t you want your doctor to be clean and sober? Well, you’d be out of luck if your surgeon was Dr. Dorian Shanley (Kirk Harris), an emotional basket case strung out on coke supplied by best buddy Teddy (Eric Roberts--yes, Julia’s big brother is baaaaack!). One other problem: the doctor’s beloved dad, an ex-boxer (John Savage), is one sick cookie. What more do you need to know? Now Playing

THE POLAR EXPRESS:The voices of Tom Hanks, Debbie Lee Carrington, Eddie Deezen, Peter Scolari, Chris Coppola (Directed by Robert Zemeckis; Warner Bros.) It’s Christmas Eve and Santa has a special treat for a lucky bunch of kids—a journey by steam train to the North Pole. And the special-special treat is that a toon who looks and talks just like Tom Hanks is playing conductor. (Actually, Hanks, whose image has been "digitalized," also plays four other roles). All aboard? We may wait for the next train. Now Playing


AFTER THE SUNSET
: Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek, Woody Harrelson, Don Cheadle, Naomie Harris (Directed by Brett Ratner; Written by Paul Zbyszewski and Craig Rosenberg; New Line) A master thief (Pierce Brosnan) does one last job and retreats to a lush, pleasure-filled island. But how's he going to relax and concentrate on his tan when two FBI agents--Salma Hayek and Woody Harrelson--are hot on his trail? Now Playing

BRIDGET JONES: THE EDGE OF REASON: Rene Zellweger, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth (Directed by Beeban Kidron; Written by Adam Brooks and Richard Curtis; Miramax and Universal) Just a month after hooking up with solid-as-they-come Mark Darcy, the lovably liberal Bridget discovers the big lug is a conservative! Things aren't going well on the job, either. It's enough to drive a girl to chocolate. What's truly worrisome is that Sharon Maguire, the nimble director of "Bridget Jones' Diary," is not on hand for the sequel. Beeban Kidron is in charge. Who's she? The director of "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar," the unfunniest comedy of 1995. Enough said? Now Playing

FINDING NEVERLAND: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Radha Mitchell, Dustin Hoffman, Julie Christie, Kelly Macdonald, Freddie Highmore, Ian Hart, Nick Roud, Joe Prospero, Luke Spill, Kate Maberly, Tony Way (Directed by Marc Forster; Written by David Magee; Miramax) This movie is based on a play by Allan Knee called “The Man Who Was Peter Pan,” which means that we can expect to see Johnny Depp flying high, if not quite so high as he flew in “Pirates of the Caribbean.” As James M. Barrie, he faces the challenge of bringing a smidgeon of magic into the lives of four neighbor boys whose mother (Kate Winslet) is suffering from a terminal illness. What he decides to do is write a play about a lovely place where people never grow old or die. And we know just how well that project turned out. It’s to be hoped that “Finding Neverland” will be somewhat sunnier than director Marc Forster’s last film—a dreary little number called “Monster’s Ball.” To read Variety's review of "Finding Neverland," click here; for Guy Flatley's 1979 interview with Dustin Hoffman, click here; to read about many more new biopics, click here. Now Playing

KINSEY: Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Chris O'Donnell, Peter Sarsgaard, Timothy Hutton, John Lithgow, Oliver Platt, Tim Curry, Lynn Redgrave, Arden Myrin (Written and directed by Bill Condon; Fox/Searchlight) Sexy Liam Neeson plays Alfred C. Kinsey, the man who rocked the world's sexual boat with his daring, comprehensive studies of behind-the-bedroom-door behavior. Sexy Laura Linney plays Neeson's wife, as she did on Broadway in "The Crucible," and Chris O'Donnell, Peter Sarsgaard and Timothy Hutton are other sexy researchers. Director Condon is the man responsible for "Gods and Monsters," as well as the screenplays for "Chicago" and "The Devil and Daniel Webster" (Alec Baldwin's directorial debut, which vanished somewhat mysteriously once the cameras stopped rolling back in 2001).Worthy of note is the fact that Peter Sarsgaard, who's on full-frontal display here, demonstrates his versatility by having sex with both Mr. and Mrs. Kinsey. I suppose that comes under the heading of research. To read Variety's review of "Kinsey," click here ; for Dinitia Smith's revealing interview with Neeson in The New York Times, click here; to read about many more new biopics, click here. Now Playing

NOEL: Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, Penelope Cruz, Paul Walker, Alan Arkin, Marcus Thomas, Daniel Sunjata (Directed by Chazz Palminteri; Written by David Hubbard; Red Rose Productions LLC) Susan Sarandon, as a seemingly suicidal editor of kiddie books, and Robin Williams, as a former priest who’s lost his faith, meet cute on Christmas Eve in New York, and things immediately start looking up. And they’re just two of the characters who connect or disconnect or reconnect in what sounds like a determinedly heartwarming drama about life’s “little people.” For example: Penelope Cruz and Paul Walker play an engaged couple who battle and then decide to call the whole thing off. But maybe not forever. “Noel” is actor Chazz Palminteri’s first time out as a director, and--who knows?--he may turn out to be this century’s Frank Capra. Now Playing

SEED OF CHUCKY: Jennifer Tilley (as herself and the voice of Tiffany), Brad Dourif (the voice of Chucky), Billy Boyd (the voice of Glen), Redman, John Waters (Written and directed by Don Mancini; Focus Features) You thought that Chucky and his mate, those incorrigible killer dolls from the “Child’s Play” series, were as dead as dead can be. And you were right, except that in this, their fifth outing, they’re brought back to life by their son Glen, a lad who, oddly enough, frowns upon murder. But you’ll be happy to know that he is unable to prevent his parents from going on a violent spree in Hollywood, where they succeed in driving Britney Spears over a cliff. Now Playing

WHO KILLED BAMBI?: Sophie Quinton, Laurent Lucas, Catherine Jacob, Yasmine Belmadi, Michele Moretti, Valerie Donzelli (Directed by Gilles Marchand; Written by Gilles Marchand, Vincent Dietschy; Strand Releasing) Isabelle (Sophie Quinton) has just been hired as a nurse, but she may not be ideal for her position in this eerily white hospital surrounded by menacing dark woods--and not just because she hasn’t yet been certified by the medical board. Isabelle, you see, has an illness of her very own, one that causes her to be unsteady on her legs and to suffer inconvenient blackouts. And it seems that every time she wakes up, another patient has gone missing. Could that cool but horny Dr. Philipp (Laurent Lucas) be in some way responsible for this weird vanishing act? Now Playing

BAD EDUCATION: Gael Garcia Bernal, Fele Martinez, Daniel Gimenez, Lluis Homar, Javier, Camara, Petra Martinez, Nacho Perez, Raul Garcia Forneiro (Written and directed by Pedro Almodovar; Sony Pictures Classics) The latest film from the darkly playful Almodovar skips back and forth over the years and deals with the lasting impact of a lustful priest's violation of a soulful Spanish schoolboy and his cruel treatment of the boy's best friend. For a Critics Roundup on "Bad Education," click here. Now Playing

NATIONAL TREASURE: Nicolas Cage, Harvey Keitel, Jon Voight, Diane Kruger, Sean Bean, Justin Bartha, Christopher Plummer (Directed by Jon Turteltaub; Written by Cormac and Marianne Wibberley; Disney/Buena Vista) Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage), an American history buff if ever there was one, is convinced there is a map on the back of the Declaration of Independence which will lead him to a hidden treasure. When his impulsive friend (Sean Bean) decides to steal the precious document, Benjamin must whip into action. I swear to you, I’m not making this up. Now Playing

THE SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS MOVIE: The voices of Tom Kenny, Alec Baldwin, Scarlett Johansson, Rodger Bumpass, Jeffrey Tambor, Clancy Brown (Directed by Sherm Cohen and Stephen Hillenburg; Written by Stephen Hillenburg; Paramount) SpongeBob, who is not shaped like his tubular kinfolk, is a happy-go-lucky, if square, chef at the Krusty Krab Diner, located at the bottom of the sea. But things take a turn for the serious when King Neptune’s crown is stolen and SpongeBob must embark on a mission to retrieve it. Now Playing

ALEXANDER: Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Rosario Dawson, Jared Leto, Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Gary Stretch, Brian Blessed (Written and directed by Oliver Stone; Warner Bros.) The last time we saw this world-conquering Macedonian, he was being played by the moodily majestic Richard Burton in Robert Rossen's 1956 cerebral epic. Given Oliver Stone's penchant for parading real-life figures in the flashiest warts-and-all manner, you can expect more firepower for your buck from the director and his rugged Irish star, Colin Farrell. The photo of Farrell and Jared Leto at left suggests that Stone will not be downplaying Alexander's bisexuality. For a New York Times article about gay movie heroes, click here; to read about many more new biopics, click here. For a Critics Roundup on "Alexander," click here. Now Playing

CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS: Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Julie Gonzalo, Dan Aykroyd, Felicity Huffman, Jake Busey, Cheech Marin, Elizabeth Franz, Tom Poston, M. Emmett Walsh, Julia Roth (Directed by Joe Roth; Written by Chris Columbus; Sony) Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis are a couple of Kranks. Actually, they are Mr. and Mrs. Kranks, and they’ve had it with the commercialization of Christmas. So what they do is plan a holiday cruise to the Caribbean, a getaway they might not get away with because of their daughter’s unexpected decision to spend the yuletide season with them. If this icky plot sounds familiar to you, that might be because you’ve read John Grisham’s “Skipping Christmas,” upon which it is based. As for me, I may indeed skip this “Christmas.” Now Playing

NOTRE MUSIQUE: Sarah Adler, Nade Dieu, Jean-Luc Godard, Rony Kramer, Georges Aguilar, Leticia Gutierrez, Ferlyn Brass, Simon Eine, Jean-Christophe Bouvet (Written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard) Mellowing perhaps a wee bit, peerless provocateur Jean-Luc Godard reflects on the imbecility of war in this three-part, fact/fiction film set primarily in Sarajevo. To read a 1970 interview with the unsinkable New Wave auteur by Guy Flatley, click here. Now Playing

EASY: Marguerite Moreau, Brian F. O’Byrne, Naveen Andrews, Caroline Goodall, Emily Deschanel, Jordan Garrett, Nelson Aspen, Vanessa Marano, John Rothman, Tom Todoroff (Written and directed by Jane Weinstock; Screen Media Ventures) Unlucky in love her whole life through, a successful career woman (Marguerite Moreau) suddenly gets lucky with not one, but two desirable men. One (Brian F. O’Byrne) is an Irish comic; the other (Naveen Andrews) is an Indian poet. Who will lead the lady to the altar, or at least to the bedroom? We’re betting funnyman Brian will have the luck of the Irish. Now Playing

GUERRILLA: THE TAKING OF PATTY HEARST: (Directed by Robert Stone) Long before she became a staple of the John Waters’ sick cinema scene, Patty Hearst was a clean-scrubbed heiress/college student who got sullied by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army. The terrorists kidnapped her, brainwashed her, changed her name to Tania and turned her into a pistol-packing bank robber. After her capture by the Feds, poor Patty/Tania spent quite some time in the slammer. This documentary tells us more than we ever knew (or perhaps wanted to know) about the whole messy affair. To read about many more new biopics, click here. Now Playing

A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT: Audrey Tautou, Gaspard Ulliel, Jean-Pierre Becker, Dominique Bettenfeld, Clovis Cornillac, Maron Cotillard, Jean-Pierre Daroussin, Jodie Foster, Ticky Holgado, Tcheky Karyo, Chantal Neuwirth (Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet; Written by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant; Warner Independent) World War I, particularly as it was waged in the trenches and the no-man’s land separating French and German troops, was as bloody and brutal and senseless as any war ever fought. The women left behind had no choice but to weep over their slaughtered husbands and sweethearts and to face life on their own. But Mathilde (Audrey Tautou, reunited with Jeunet, the director of “Amelie”) was different. She wasted no time grieving for her 20-year-old-fiance, Manech (Gaspard Ulliel), since she refused to accept the official report of his death. In the depths of her soul, she was certain that she would know if he had perished in combat. This highly touted French film, a safe bet for Oscar consideration, is the story of Mathilde’s unshakable determination to find Manech. Now Playing