Moviecrazed
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SEPTEMBER 2005

AN UNFINISHED LIFE: Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez, Morgan Freeman, Josh Lucas, Damian Lewis, Becca Gardner, Camryn Manheim (Directed by Lasse Hallstrom; Written by Mark Spragg and Virginia Korus Spragg; Miramax) Splitting from her abusive boyfriend, desperate J. Lo is reduced to bundling up her daughter and moving in with her father-in-law, a bitter rancher (Robert Redford) who can't forget that she was behind the wheel of the car in which his son lost his life. Morgan Freeman also stars in this soapy drama from Lasse Hallstrom, the erratic director who gave us "My Life as a Dog," "What’s Eating Gilbert Grape," "Cider House Rules," "Chocolat" and "The Shipping News." Originally slated by Miramax for a December 2004 release--in order to qualify for Academy Award consideration--the movie was taken out of the running so that Oscar campaigning could be concentrated on Miramax's "Finding Neverland" and "The Aviator." Somebody had to be joking. For Guy Flatley's review of "An Unfinished Life," click here. Now Playing

PROOF: Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hope Davis (Directed by John Madden; Miramax) A young woman (Gwyneth Paltrow) whose relationship with her father (Anthony Hopkins) has always been complicated must come to grips with the fact that this brilliant, mentally unstable mathematics professor will soon die. She must also face the fact that she has inherited some of her father's disturbing psychological traits. The film, adapted by Rebecca Miller and David Auburn from Auburn's hit play, re-teams Paltrow with John Madden, her "Shakespeare in Love" director. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a former student of Hopkins whose decision to bed Paltrow may have little to do with lust, and Hope Davis (above) is Paltrow's comforting sister. To read the Variety review of "Proof," click here; for Diane Baroni's 2001 interview with Jake Gyllenhaal, click here. Now Playing

JUST LIKE HEAVEN: Reese Witherspoon, Mark Ruffalo, Donal Logue, Dina Waters, Ben Shenkman, Jon Heder, Ivana Milicevic (Directed by Mark Waters; Written by Peter Tolan and Leslie Dixon; DreamWorks) Reese Witherspon, everyone’s favorite legally blonde lawyer, is a legally dead ER doctor this time around, due to a little encounter with a big truck. But she seems to be in denial, as evidenced by her return to her San Francisco apartment, where she launches a campaign to persuade its mopey new tenant (Mark Ruffalo) to stop obsessing about his dead wife and to start obsessing about her. The poor haunted sap would like to introduce her to his best buddy (Donal Logue) to see what he makes of her. But he can’t, since he’s the only one who can actually see her. Wonder if there will be a “Just Like Heaven 2”? Now Playing

THUMBSUCKER: Lou Taylor Pucci, Tilda Swinton, Vincent D’Onofrio, Vince Vaughn, Keanu Reeves, Benjamin Bratt, Kelli Garner, Chase Offerle (Written and directed by Mike Mills; Sony Pictures Classics) If, like Justin Cobb (Lou Taylor Pucci), you were getting long in the teenage tooth and still couldn’t manage to keep your thumb out of your mouth for more than a few minutes at a time, to whom would you turn for help in breaking this embarrassing habit? Your mom and dad (Tilda Swinton and Vincent D’Onofrio)? Nah, they’re too caught up in their own trivial problems to notice your suffering. Well, then, how about your debate coach (Vince Vaughn) or maybe your wacko orthodontist (Keanu Reeves)? Hey, they’re both worth a shot. Based on Walter Kirn’s much admired 1999 comic novel, this oddball indie--for which the then 19-year-old Pucci was named Best Actor at the 2005 Berlin Film Festival--could deliver the laughs we so desperately need. To read Guy Flatley's review of "Thumbsucker," click here; for Guy's 1998 interview with Vince Vaughn, click here. Now Playing

FLIGHTPLAN: Jodie Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Sean Bean, Erika Christensen, Marlene Lawston (Directed by Robert Schwentke; Written by Peter A. Dowling and Billy Ray; Disney/Touchstone) Remember the nerve-rattling time flight attendant Karen Black had piloting that out-of-control jet in "Airport 1975"? Well, that was nothing compared to the panic experienced by put-upon widow Jodie Foster in this sky caper. Poor Jodie cuddles and comforts her adorable but despondent daughter when they settle in for their trip from Germany to the States. But somehow the kid slips from sight and seemingly vanishes into thin air, so to speak. To make matters worse, no one among Jodie’s fellow passengers can remember seeing the tot in the first place. Could be that Jodie has lost not her daughter but her marbles, as many aboard the plane suspect. Hey, didn’t Hitchcock already stage a version of this jinxed journey--albeit on a train, with a lovable senior gone missing--in 1938's “The Lady Vanishes”? Come to think of it, where is Dame May Whitty when you really need her? Now Playing

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE: Vigo Mortensen, Maria Bello, William Hurt, Ed Harris, Ashton Holmes, Heidi Hayes, Stephen McHattie, Greg Bryk, Peter MacNeill (Directed by David Cronenberg; Written by Josh Olson; New Line Cinema) What we have here is a seemingly wholesome family who reside in Anytown, U.S.A. And in Anytown anything brutal, unnatural, sickening and deadly can--and does--happen. Fans of “Spider,” “Crash,” “Dead Ringers,” “The Fly,” “The Dead Zone” and “Scanners” know that uncompromising, wildly imaginative director David Cronenberg never leaves a nerve unshattered. And for that we are grateful. Now Playing

OLIVER TWIST: Ben Kingsley, Barney Clark, Jamie Foreman, Harry Eden, Leanne Rowe, Edward Hardwicke, Ian McNeice, Mark Strong, Jeremy Swift, Frances Cuka, Liz Smith (Directed by Roman Polanski; Written by Ronald Harwood; Sony Pictures Entertainment) Evicted from the poor house for requesting a second serving of gruel, frail but tenacious orphan Oliver Twist (Barney Clark) takes a long walk to London, where he is soon instructed in the fine art of theft by shameless child-corruptor Fagin (Ben Kingsley). If the movie’s a hit, it may encourage Roman Polanski and Ronald Harwood to give “David Copperfield” a try--which would please the Dickens out of me. Now Playing

FORTY SHADES OF BLUE: Rip Torn, Dina Korzun, Darren Burrows, Paprika Steen, Red West, Jenny O’Hara (Directed by Ira Sachs; Written by Michael Rohatyn and Ira Sachs; Flux Film/Tiny Dancer/High Line) A self-infatuated icon of the Memphis music scene (Rip Torn), pampered and primed by his dutiful, much younger Russian wife (Dina Korzun) for a public tribute, pretty much ignores the lady during the big event. But then up pops the music man’s sexy son from a previous marriage. Unlike his father, the lad does not ignore this lovely, hard-working, deeply frustrated woman, paying more attention to her, in fact, than to his own pregnant wife. The 2005 Sundance Festival bestowed the American Dramatic Grand Jury Prize to "Forty Shades of Blue," whose director, Ira Sachs, had made a big Sundance splash back in 1997 with "The Delta." To read a roundup of other Sundance Festival movies, click here. Now Playing

CAPOTE: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr., Mark Pellegrino, Bruce Greenwood, Chris Cooper, Amy Ryan, Bob Balaban (Directed by Bennett Miller; Written by Dan Futterman; Sony Pictures Classics) To the rich and beautiful Manhattanites who blackballed him, Truman Capote was a brilliant, flamboyantly gay gossip who charmed them with fluff like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” but eventually told one too many scandalous tales out of school to be trusted; to devotees of juicily ripe southern-gothic yarns, he was cherished for “Other Voices, Other Rooms,” his debut novel, published when he was 23; to literary critics and just-plain-readers, Capote is best remembered for “In Cold Blood,” a masterful depiction of the murder of a Kansas family and a disturbingly sympathetic study of Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, the young drifters responsible for the bloodbath. In 1967, Richard Brooks turned this real-life story into a searing film, one that contained a memorable performance in the role of homicidal Perry Smith by Robert Blake. In researching his book, Capote, played here by the remarkably versatile Philip Seymour Hoffman (shown above), developed an intense rapport with Smith (acted by Clifton Collins Jr. on this occasion), and “Capote” is expected to devote extensive footage to their bonding process. Capote’s close friend, Harper Lee, author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” will be played by Catherine Keener. And don’t think this film will be the last to portray Capote at the time of “In Cold Blood.” Warner Independent Pictures is busily pumping out “Have You Heard?,” starring British Capote look-alike Toby Miller and Gwyneth Paltrow as--are you ready for this?--sultry song bird Peggy Lee. For A. O. Scott's New York Times review of "Capote," click here; to read about many other new biopics, click here. Now Playing

THE PRIZE WINNER OF DEFIANCE, OHIO: Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Laura Dern, Ellary Porterfield (Written and directed by Jane Anderson; DreamWorks) Evelyn Ryan (Julianne Moore), mother of 10 and wife of a bitter alcoholic (Woody Harrelson), fought off poverty by entering and winning small-scale jingle contests during the 1950’s. How did she retain her sanity and manage to hold her family together? See this offbeat comedy-drama biopic--written and directed by Jane Anderson, who won a Best Screenplay Emmy in 1993 for "The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom"--and find out. To read about many other new biopics, click here. Now Playing