Moviecrazed
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OCTOBER 2004

I HEART HUCKABEES: Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Jude Law, Naomi Watts, Jason Schwartzman, Mark Wahlberg, Isabelle Huppert (Directed by David O. Russell; Written by David O. Russell and Jeff Baena; Fox Searchlight) Who are these Huckabees and will you, too, take them to your heart? Probably not, unless you love overstuffed department stores. Because that’s what Huckabees is, a whole chain of them, as a matter of fact. Luscious model Dawn Campbell (Naomi Watts) is the official Voice of Huckabees and her boyfriend, Brad Stand (Jude Law), is an upstanding executive on the Huckabees fast track. They should be ecstatically happy, but they’re not. That’s why they hire Existential Detectives Bernard and Vivian Jaffe (Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin) to analyze them and find out why, down deep, they are feeling so blah. Where will it all end? My guess is somewhere hilariously horrific, if director David O. Russell follows the path he trod in “Spanking the Monkey” and “Flirting With Disaster.” To read Guy Flatley's 1979 interview with Dustin Hoffman, click here. Now Playing

LADDER 49: Joaquin Phoenix, John Travoltra, Jacinda Barrett, Morris Chestnut, Balthazar Getty, Kevin Daniels, Robert Patrick, Kevin Chapman, Jay Hernandez, Billy Burke, Tim Guinee (Directed by Jay Russell; Written by Lewis Colick; Disney/Buena Vista) Trapped in a building that has turned into an instant inferno, firefighter Phoenix thinks of his precious wife—played by Jacinda Barrett, last seen stark naked in "The Human Stain." But these thoughts—sweet as they are--may not be Phoenix’s last thoughts. Fire chief Travolta, determined that his protégé shall not perish, is on the way. To read an interview Guy Flatley did with Travolta just as the young pup of an actor was about to go into his "Saturday Night Fever" dance, click here; for Diane Baroni's 2001 interview with Balthazar Getty, click here. Now Playing

SHARK TALE: The voices of Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Renee Zellweger, Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Martin Scorsese, Ziggy Marley, Doug E. Doug, Michael Imperioli, Vincent Pastore, Peter Falk, Katie Couric (Directed by Vicky Jenson, Bibo Bergeron and Rob Letterman; Written by Rob Letterman and Michael J. Wilson; DreamWorks) A fish goes missing, some brutal underwater mobsters use their fins as weapons of watery destruction, and where is Nemo when you really need him? Now Playing

WOMAN THOU ART LOOSED: Kimberly Elise, Loretta Devine, Debbi Morgan, Boatman, Clifton Powell, Idalis DeLeon, Sean Blakemore, Ricky Harris (Directed by Michael Schultz; Written by Stan Foster; Magnolia Pictures) A crack-addicted prostitute who has been violently abused for most of her life demonstrates that she too is capable of extreme violence. Kimberly Elise, in the central role, is said to be extraordinary, as is Bishop T.D. Jakes, who plays himself in this cinematic adaptation of his own fiery, inspirational prose. Now Playing

AROUND THE BEND: Michael Caine, Christopher Walken, Josh Lucas, Glenne Headly, Jonah Bobo, David Eigenberg, Robert Douglas, Carlos A. Cabarcas, Gerry Bamman, Jean Effron (Written and directed by Jordan Roberts; Warner Independent Pictures) A selfish, irresponsible man (Christopher Walken) suddenly pops up in the life of the son (Josh Lucas) he had years earlier abandoned to the care of his own father (Michael Caine). Will the son--now a father himself--greet his errant dad with open arms? Are you kidding? Now Playing

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: Billy Bob Thornton, Derek Luke, Jay Hernandez, Lucas Black, Garrett Hedlund, Connie Britton, Tim McGraw, Lee Jackson, Lee Thompson Young, Grover Coulson, Connie Cooper, Kasey Stevens, Amber Heard (Directed by Peter Berg; Written by Aaron Cohen and Peter Berg; Universal) There’s more to life than football, but that doesn’t seem to be the belief of the folks in Odessa, Texas, as depicted by H.G. Bissinger in his 1990 non-fiction book, upon which this movie is based. Making sure Permian High School’s team wins the 1988 state championship is the major goal of everyone in town, especially the players themselves and their go-for-broke coach (Billy Bob Thornton ). They’ve GOT to come home football heroes! Now Playing

PRIMER: Shane Carruth, David Sullivan, Casey Gooden, Anand Upadhyaya, Carrie Crawford, Jay Butler, John Carruth, Juan Tapia, Ashley Warren, Samantha Thomson, Chip Carruth, Jack Pyland, Keith Bradshaw, Ashok Upadhyaya, Brandon Blagg (Written and directed by Shane Carruth; ThinkFilm Inc) Four fledgling inventors come up with a fact-checking gadget to end all fact-checking gadgets. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t made a huge mistake. This sci-fi puzzler won the Grand Jury prize at the 2004 Sundance Festival. Now Playing

RAISE YOUR VOICE: Hilary Duff, Oliver James, David Keith, Rita Wilson, Rebecca DeMornay, John Corbett, Jason Ritter, Dana Davis, Johnny Lewis, Kat Dennings, Lauren C. Mayhew, Robert Trebor (Directed by Sean McNamara; Written by Sam Schreiber; New Line) The voice-raiser here is Hilary Duff, a dutiful daughter whose stuffy dad can’t bear the thought of his little girl attending a performing arts school in famously sinful Los Angeles. So do you think Hilary meekly settles for singing at the Y in Flagstaff, Arizona? Now Playing

STAGE BEAUTY: Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Rupert Everett, Ben Chaplin, Tom Wilkinson, Hugh Bonneville, Edward Fox, Zoe Tapper, Richard Griffiths, Tom Hollander, Nancy Chandler, Clare Higgins, Alice Eve (Directed by Richard Eyre; Written by Jeffrey Hatcher; Lions Gate) Rupert Everett has his eye on a ravishing leading lady of the stage, played by Billy Crudup. Billy's a leading lady because this movie is set in 17th-century England, a time and place where women were confined to the audience. Until King Charles (Everett) got bored with the situation and decided to let the ladies act up, thereby driving the suddenly unemployed Billy to despair. In the end, he is comforted by, of all people, an actress (Claire Danes). That's right, the same actress who comforted him away from Mary-Louise Parker in real life. To read Guy Flatley's 2002 interview with Billy Crudup, click here. Now Playing

TARNATION: Jonathan Caouette, Renee LeBlanc, Rosemary Davis, Adolph Davis, David Sanin Paz, Michael Cox (Written and directed by Jonathan Caouette; Wellspring) When 31-year-old Jonathan Caouette was only 11, he was given a super-8 camera. From that time on, he obsessively photographed every odd, intimate thing he saw taking place in his epically dysfunctional family and in the stifling Texas suburb they more or less called home. Nor did he leave himself out of the picture (see photo above). “Tarnation” is a meticulously structured montage of those images, narrated with unflinching candor by Caouette, and it left audiences at the Sundance and New York film festivals shattered but grateful. To read Guy Flatley's review, click here. Now Playing

TAXI: Queen Latifah, Jimmy Fallon, Giselle Bundchhen, Jennifer Esposito, Ann-Margret, Henry Simmons, Christian Kane, Ana Cristina de Oliveira, Ingrid Vandebosch, Magali Amadei (Directed by Tim Story; Written by Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, Jim Kouf; Fox) A bumbling New York City cop (Jimmy Fallon) who can’t drive hooks up with a taxi driver (Queen Latifah) who is hell on wheels. Ann-Margret plays Fallon’s lush of a mom. Now Playing

VERA DRAKE: Imelda Staunton, Phil Davis, Peter Wright, Adrian Scarborough, Heather Craney, Daniel Mays, Alex Kelly, Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Ruth Sheen, Helen Coker, Jim Broadbent (Written and directed by Mike Leigh; Fine Line Features) Who is Vera Drake? She’s a married woman with two grown but needy children who cleans houses in order to survive in dreary postwar England. She also performs abortions, but not for money. It seems that Vera Drake is uncommonly compassionate and just can’t turn a deaf ear to young women in deep trouble. Bear in mind, however, that we’re in fifties Britain, and the authorities view abortion as a serious crime. The movie won the Golden Lion at the Venice Festival, and Imelda Staunton was named Best Actress for her powerful portrait of Vera Drake. Now Playing

BEING JULIA: Annette Bening, Jeremy Irons, Shaun Evans, Michael Gambon, Juliet Stevenson, Bruce Greenwood, Miriam Margolyes, Lucy Punch, Tom Sturridge, Rosemary Harris, Rita Tushingham, Maury Chaykin, Sheila McCarthy, Leigh Lawson (Directed by Istvan Szabo; Written by Ronald Harwood; Sony Pictures Classics) It’s 1938, and Hitler is gobbling up Austria and Czechoslovakia and on the verge of goose-stepping into Poland. Meanwhile, back in London, scintillating stage star Julia Lambert (Annette Bening) is in a funk. Why? Because her marriage to splendidly successful impresario Michael Gosselyn (Jeremy Irons) has become duller than fish and chips. Maybe what she needs is some younger, jazzier male companionship—which is what she soon finds in Tom Fennell (Shaun Evans), an amorous fan. But is Tom sincere? Based on a W. Somerset Maugham novella, this comedy-drama could be fun, especially if director Istvan Szabo has been as effective with Annette Bening as he was with Glenn Close when she tackled the role of a narcissistic opera diva in his 1991 gem, “Meeting Venus.” It will be sad if Bening, so extraordinary in “The Grifters,” “Bugsy” and “American Beauty,” comes to be known primarily as Mrs. Warren Beatty. Now Playing

THE DUST FACTORY: Armin Mueller-Stahl, Hayden Panettiere, Ryan Kelley, Kim Meyers, George De La Pena, Michael Angarano, Peter Horton (Written and directed by Eric Small; MGM) Two preposterously innocent teen-aged strangers forge an emotional bond during the period of their suspension between purgatory and heaven. Talk about meeting cute! Now Playing

EULOGY: Debra Winger, Ray Romano, Hank Azaria, Rip Torn, Zooey Deschanel, Piper Laurie, Jesse Bradford, Famke Janssen, Kelly Preston, Glenne Headly, Lucy Boyle (Directed by Michael Clancy; Artisan Entertainment) Pop (Rip Torn) An old geezer kicks off, and members of his clan—spanning three generations—gather to pay respect, get things off their chests, and right some wrongs. I don't know about you, but I get a Big Chill just thinking about this one. Now Playing

MOOLAADE: Fatoumata Coulibaly, Maimouna Helene Diarra, Salimata Traore, Dominique T. Zeida, Mah Compaore, Aminata Dao (Written and directed by Ousmane Sembene; New Yorker Films) The courageous wife of a village tribesman gives shelter to four girls who have escaped from a female circumcision ceremony. “Moolaade” (Protection) is said to be a remarkable triumph for 81-year-old Senegalese director Ousmane Sembene. To read A. O. Scott's rave review in The New York Times, click here. For Guy Flatley’s interview with the filmmaker, conducted shortly after his “Mandabi” was shown at the 1969 New York Film Festival, click here. Now Playing

P.S.: Laura Linney, Topher Grace, Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden, Paul Rudd (Written and directed by Dylan Kidd; Newmarket Films) Louise Harrington (Laura Linney), a sensitive director of admissions at Columia University’s School of Fine Arts, seems to have done alright for herself, but in truth the Manhattan divorcee has seldom gotten what she’s really wanted out of life. Then one day, while interviewing an aspiring painter (Topher Grace) who has applied for admission to grad school, she is shocked by how very much the young man resembles her high school sweetheart, a dashing lad killed in a car crash. And almost before she can say, “Show me some samples of your work,” she is having fantastic sex with the kid. Could it be that this passionate stranger more than just looks like her lost love? From the sounds of it, this romantic drama, based on Helen Schulman’s novel, is definitely not in the vein of “Roger Dodger,” director Kidd’s supremely nasty debut film. Here’s to versatility! Now Playing

SHALL WE DANCE?: Jennifer Lopez, Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Bobby Cannavale, Nick Cannon, Lisa Ann Walter, Deborah Yates, Richard Jenkins, Anita Gillette, Ja Rule (Directed by Peter Chelsom; Miramax) Richard Gere plays an accountant whose career has grown as dull as a math textbook. One day, he looks out his office window into a window across the street and sees a vibrant woman giving dance lessons. This sizzler, of course, is J. Lo, and before long Richard--who may be more bored with his wife (Susan Sarandon) than he is with his job--is her star pupil. Can Richard and Susan's marriage be saved? A more pertinent question, perhaps, is can this movie, which was directed by Peter Chelsom--the man who gave us the infamous "Town and Country"--be saved? If the movie-remakers are smart, they won't stray far from Japanese director Masayuki Suo's original 1996 film. To read Guy Flatley's 1978 interview with Susan Sarandon, click here. Now Playing

TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE: The voices of Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Kristen Miller, Masasa, Phil Hendrie, Maurice LaMarche (Directed by Trey Parker; Written by Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Pam Brady; Paramount) Not your typical puppet show, this no-raunchy-strings-barred musical comedy is the “South Park” team’s take onte terrorists, politicians, documentarians and movie-star activists. It’s guaranteed to rattle George W. Bush, Michael Moore, Alec Baldwin, Tim Robbins, Martin Sheen and many, many others. Now Playing

SIDEWAYS: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Sandra Oh, Virginia Madsen, Alysia Reiner, M. C. Gainey, Patrick Gallagher, Missy Doty, Joe Marinelli (Directed by Alexander Payne; Written by Jim Taylor and Alexander Payne; Fox Searchlight) Two losers—Miles, who once dreamed of writing the great American novel, and Jack, who once dreamed of being a Hollywood superstar—travel to California’s wine country together for what turns out to be an unexpectedly raunchy time. So raunchy that Jack wonders if he should cancel his wedding plans with the girl he left behind. Directed by the man who gave us “Citizen Ruth,” “Election” and “About Schmidt,” this sounds like a winner. Maybe it will bring Paul Giamatti (as Miles) the Oscar nomination he deserved for “American Splendor.” Now Playing

THE GRUDGE: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, William Mapother, Clea DuVall, KaDee Strickland, Grace Zabriskie, Bill Pullman, Rosa Blasi, Ted Raimi (Directed by Takashi Shimizu; Written by Stephen Susco; Sony Pictures Entertainment) A young American is hired to take care of an ailing elderly woman in Tokyo. The house her employer lives in turns out to be haunted by the ghosts of extremely restless former residents--a woman, her son, and the husband/father who murdered them and killed himself. Don’t you think the stranger in the house should immediately head home to the States? Well, she doesn’t. Now Playing

THE MACHINIST: Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, John Sharian, Michael Ironside, Anna Massey (Directed by Brad Anderson) Christian Bale’s job as a lathe-operator in a mean, mean machine shop is literally killing him. A shadow of his former self, all he wants to do is sleep. But he can’t, because he has the world’s worst case of insomnia. Bale is said to have lost more than 50 pounds for this role. Hope it was worth it, you skinny dude, you! Now Playing

SURVIVING CHRISTMAS: Ben Affleck, James Gandolfini, Christina Applegate, Catherine O'Hara, Josh Zuckerman, Bill Macy, Danielle Panabaker, Bryan Fisher, David Selby (Directed by Mike Mitchell; DreamWorks/Columbia) Ben's a fabulously successful record producer, but he's a lonely man. As a generous Christmas gift to himself, he returns to his hometown and persuades the family currently residing in his old house to share the holiday with him. Prominent among the family members are a possibly psycho mom and pop (Catherine O'Hara and James Gandolfini) and their daughter (Christina Applegate), a hot scientist who loves sharing, and not only on Christmas. The director of this distant cousin to "It's a Wonderful Life" is Mike Mitchell, which is not a good sign. He's the joker who gave us "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" (well, at least he didn't give us "Male Gigli"). Now Playing

UNDERTOW: Jamie Bell, Josh Lucas, Devon Alan, Dermot Mulroney, Shiri Appleby, Pat Healy, Bill McKinney (Directed by David Gordon Green; Written by David Gordon Green and Joe Conway; MGM/UA) Jamie Bell travels from the “Billy Elliot” scene of British ballet to the violent scene of America’s deep south in this melodrama of two boys on the run from their evil brother, who has murdered their father in the hope of getting his hands on some valuable missing coins. One wonders where Jamie will pop up next. Now Playing

BIRTH: Nicole Kidman, Cameron Bright, Danny Huston, Lauren Bacall, Arliss Howard, Peter Stormare, Anne Heche, Ted Levine, Cara Seymour, Alison Elliott, Milo Addica, Elizabeth Greenberg, Zoe Caldwell, Novella Nelson (Directed by Jonathan Glazer; New Line) Kidman, an elegant New York widow, is set to wed handsome Danny Huston (son of director John Huston), much to the relief of fretful mommy Lauren Bacall. But then she meets a precocious 10-year-old boy (Cameron Bright) who insists he is the reincarnation of her late husband. The weird thing is that Nicole believes the kid. And here's some delicious news: the director of "Birth" is Jonathan Glazer, the devil who gave us the brutally entertaining "Sexy Beast." Opens 10/29

ENDURING LOVE: Daniel Craig, Rhys Ifans, Samantha Morton, Bill Nighy, Corin Redgrave, Amanda Root, Bill Weston, Rosie Michell (Directed by Roger Michell; Written by Joe Penhall; Paramount Classics) A man brings a woman to a lovely green field, where he intends to uncork a bottle of wine and present his sweetheart with an engagement ring. Their romantic moment turns is turned to tragedy, however, by the sudden appearance of a boy and his dad and a runaway hot-air balloon. A death occurs, and a mysterious stranger who witnesses that death comes to have a major impact on the relationship of the traumatized lovers. Sounds like the disturbing stuff from which good dramas are made. Opens 10/29

RAY: Jamie Foxx, Regina King, Kerry Washington, Larenz Tate, Aunjanue Ellis, Robert Wisdom, Harry J. Lennix, C. J. Sanders, Bokeem Woodbine, Richard Schiff, Patrick Bauchau, David Krumholtz (Directed by Taylor Hackford; Written by James L. White; Universal) We lost an irreplaceable treasure when the great music man Ray Charles died earlier this year. But we still have his records and tapes to play and replay, and we’ll soon have this reportedly searing biopic to view and review. Taylor Hackford, the erratic director of “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982) and “Proof of Life” (2000), is said to have been unsparing in his depiction of the harsh challenges faced by Charles, including the burdens of racism, blindness, drug abuse and debilitating relationships with women. We know the music will be splendid, and we have a feeling that Jamie Foxx will be competing with himself for a Best Actor Oscar nomination. Will it be “Collateral” or will it be “Ray”? Opens 10/29