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Holiday Movie Preview 2006

Holiday Movie Preview 2006

Articles - Directing

Blood Diamond
Directed by: Edward Zwick
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou
Edward Zwick executive produced the television
show “thirtysomething.” He also directed
the film Glory. Which means he directed
a film about the first black regiment to see
combat in the Civil War and created the
whitest show ever on television—no small
accomplishment. Blood Diamond takes
place in the civil war-ravaged country of
Sierra Leone during the 1990s. It’s the story
of an African farmer (Hounsou), a smuggler
(DiCaprio) and a journalist (Connelly).
When the three become involved with a
precious—and highly coveted—pink diamond,
the thrill ride ensues.

The Fountain

Bobby
Directed by: Emilio Estevez
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Demi Moore, Lindsay Lohan, William H. Macy, Ashton Kutcher
A powerful drama chronicling the assassination
of Robert F. Kennedy might be
the last thing you’d expect from the star
of Maximum Overdrive, but that’s exactly
what you get with Bobby. Nominated for
the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film
Festival, the film—which features a huge
and stellar cast of new and seasoned actors, including the writer-director’s
father, Martin Sheen—will continue its
selective festival run, opening up this
year’s AFI FEST, before hitting theaters
later in the month.

Breaking and Entering
Directed by: Anthony Minghella
Starring: Jude Law, Juliette Binoche, Robin Wright Penn, Ray Winstone
Jude Law is an architect who lives with
Robin Wright Penn. After a series of
break-ins at his office, he decides to
investigate further. When he catches a
young thief (Rafi Gavron), he chases him
home, where he meets the boy’s mother
(Binoche) and immediately becomes
entranced, forcing him to reevaluate
his life. Sound confusing? Sure. But in
the hands of a director as capable as
Minghella, who has turned elaborate
stories like The English Patient, The
Talented Mr. Ripley
and Cold Mountain into Oscar fodder, this film is cinematic
poetry.

The History Boys

Children of Men
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Starring: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Not to be confused with Children of the
Corn.
This film takes place in the year
2027, when there is no more procreation and the human race is dying. A bureaucrat
(Owen) helps to take the only pregnant
woman on earth to a sanctuary where scientists
can help her give birth and, hopefully,
save humankind. This is not a popcorn
and Sour Patch Kids movie; Prozac
and gin may be more appropriate.

Déjà Vu
Directed by: Tony Scott
Starring: Denzel Washington, James Caviezel, Paula Patton
This is a Tony Scott (Domino, True
Romance) film, which means you’d better
grab your Dramamine as you’re sure
to be treated to some spasmodic editing
and a camera seizure or two. Denzel
Washington plays an ATF agent who travels
back in time (in a Humvee, no less)
to save a woman from being murdered.
Of course, he then falls in love with her.
Sounds like fans of Timecop have got
themselves a sequel!

Dreamgirls
Directed by: Bill Condon
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, Eddie Murphy
The musical has experienced a bit
of a rebirth in recent years, thanks in
large part to the work of writer-director
Condon, who received an Oscar nomination
for his Chicago script. He’s tackling the genre once again with Dreamgirls,
which is based on the Broadway musical
of the same name about a trio of
black soul singers who rise and fall in the
1960s. Here’s hoping that this one goes
the way of All That Jazz—and not Glitter.

The Good Shepherd

Eragon
Directed by: Stefen Fangmeier
Starring: John Malkovich, Jeremy Irons, Robert Carlyle
Eragon is based on the first book of
Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance trilogy.
How many more of these fantasy
trilogies can we handle? How many more
trolls? How many more rings of power?
How many more underbathed Riders of
Rohan? Looks like Stefen Fangmeier is
banking on just one.

For Your Consideration
Directed by: Christopher Guest
Starring: Eugene Levy, Bob Balaban, Michael McKean, Parker Posey
Departing from the mockumentary format
that has become Guest’s trademark,
For Your Consideration is the story of
three actors who are learning their roles
for a film called Home For Purim. Guest
reassembles his usual cast of characters
and adds in one Ricky Gervais (“The
Office,” “Extras”), presumably for some
much needed comic relief.

The Fountain
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn
It has been six years since audiences
have heard from writer-director
Aronofsky, who stormed the indie scene
with Pi in 1998 and Requiem for a
Dream
two years later. Now he brings us
The Fountain, a part period piece, part
science-fiction medley that spans 1,000
years and, like Aronofsky’s previous films,
is sure to be a bit nebulous. Some say
it is the story of enduring love between
stars Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz,
while others say it is an exploration of our
own mortality. Whatever. We just know it’s
about time.

Eragon

The Good German
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire
Steven Soderbergh reunites with his
old pal George Clooney, who plays an
American journalist headed to post-war
Berlin to locate his former mistress. Part
thriller, part romance and set against the
sexy backdrop of post-war Berlin, this
movie has all the markings of a great
film noir.

The Good Shepherd
Directed by: Robert De Niro
Starring: Matt Damon, Robert De Niro, Angelina Jolie
Leonardo DiCaprio was slated to play
the lead role in The Good Shepherd,
about the tumultuous early days of the
CIA, before he bailed out to make room
for Matt Damon. Damon plays Edward
Wilson, a man whose morality is challenged
when he takes a position with
the newly formed CIA. This has been De
Niro’s pet project for over a decade, so
hopefully the wait pays off for him—and
his fans.

The History Boys
Directed by: Nicholas Hytner
Starring: Richard Griffiths, Samuel Anderson, Samuel Barnett
This is one of those British movies that
stars virtually no one you’ve ever heard
of, perhaps with the exception of Richard
Griffiths, the wonderful character actor
who played Dr. Meinheimer in The Naked
Gun 2 ½
. Still, screenwriter Alan Bennett
is one of the great contemporary playwrights,
so have some faith. And because
it’s based on a play, and it’s British, it’s
a bit more intelligent than other comingof-
age movies of its ilk. Let the hijinks
ensue!

The Holiday
Directed by: Nancy Meyers
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black
Two women, Cameron Diaz and Kate
Winslet, swap homes in each other’s
respective countries where they meet
local men and fall head over heels in
love. Sounds a little silly, but let’s not forget
it’s brought to us by the same person
who wrote I Love Trouble, so it must have
some backbone and sizzle. They say it’s
not Jude Law’s fault that all of his movies
seem to be released at the same time.
Well, it’s certainly not our fault.

Home Of The Brave
Directed by: Irwin Winkler
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel, Christina Ricci, 50 Cent
Irwin Winkler is mostly a producer.
However, when he does decide to helm
the camera, the effort is usually justified.
Here is the story of three Iraq war veterans
who come home and attempt to
readjust to life after combat. It stars 50
Cent, who may or may not rap in the film.
But I assume he has penned a rap for
the soundtrack about readjusting to life
after the Iraq War. Okay, so maybe he’s
not a soldier, but the man does know
something about his material—he’s certainly
no stranger to getting shot at.

The Nativity Story

The Nativity Story
Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Keisha Castle-Hughes
This one seems fairly self-explanatory.
It centers around the lives of Mary and
Joseph as they travel to Bethlehem for
the birth of Jesus. To make the film more
authentic, the actors were taught how
to press their own olives, make their
own cheese and milk their own cows.
Which is a good thing, as non-authentic
cow milking can easily be detected on
screen and totally ruin the moviegoing
experience. Home video footage of the
actual birth of Jesus was omitted from
the final film for copyright reasons.

Notes On A Scandal
Directed by: Richard Eyre
Starring: Cate Blanchett,
Judi Dench, Bill Nighy
This movie is about a pottery teacher
(Blanchett) who has an affair with an
underage student. Unlike the American
attempts at this story (both fictionalized
and otherwise), the focus of this tale is
on Blanchett and the friend who keeps
her secret (Dench). Phillip Glass did the
music for this film, which is worth the
price of admission alone.

The Painted Veil
Directed by: John Curran
Starring: Liev Schreiber,
Edward Norton, Naomi Watts
This is one of those “journey of selfdiscovery”
type movies much in the vein of Out Of Africa or The Hobbit. I
didn’t read the book by W. Somerset
Maugham, but had I started it I’m sure
I wouldn’t have finished it. It’s about a
woman (Watts) who becomes disenchanted
with her marriage. She sets off
for the Far East, where she becomes
dedicated to battling a Cholera epidemic.
It also stars Liev Schreiber, who
no doubt lends the movie a sense of
sophistication, and Edward Norton,
who no doubt lends the movie a sense
of self-importance.

Pan’s Labyrinth
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Doug Jones, Ivana Baquero
As far as I know, this movie has nothing
to do with Peter Pan. But don’t
think I didn’t investigate it thoroughly. I
believe it takes place in Franco’s Spain,
at the height of his post-war, fascist
regime. There, a young girl named
Ofelia (Baquero) comes to terms with
the repression of the times by creating
an imaginary friend and a fable to
accompany it. Rife with scary monsters
and graphic violence (it is, after all, from
modern day master of horror del Toro),
don’t make the mistake of assuming this
is a kid’s movie.

Venus

The Pursuit of Happyness
Directed by: Gabriele Muccino
Starring: Will Smith, Jaden Smith
Unless Will Smith really screws something
up here, this film’s got Oscar nominee
written all over it. It tells the true—and truly
inspiring—story of Christopher Gardner.
Gardner, homeless and struggling as a
salesman, assumes custody of his son
(played here by Smith’s own son, Jaden)
and begins a new career on Wall Street
where he turns himself into a millionaire.
So why is “Happyness” spelled incorrectly
in the film’s title? Guess you’ll just have to
pay the $10 to find out for yourself.

Rescue Dawn
Directed by: Werner Herzog
Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Zahn, Jeremy Davies

Why is Werner Herzog a great director?
Because he is crazy, a rabid perfectionist
and a true storyteller. While not always
conducive to a pleasant work environment,
these traits help to create unadulterated
truth on the screen. This is the true
story of U.S. fighter pilot Dieter Dengler
(Bale) who, after being shot down over
Laos during the Vietnam War, plans a daring
escape from a POW camp. The movie
is based on Herzog’s own short film, Little
Dieter Needs to Fly
. An almost unrecognizable
Zahn must have used co-star Bale’s
The Machinist diet of one can of tuna and
an apple per day to achieve the frighteningly
frail look he’s sporting in this role.

Rocky Balboa
Directed by: Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Burt Young, Milo Ventimiglia
The tagline is “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over,”
but it’s probably safe to say that it’s
been over for quite some time. Rocky is
back, out of retirement (at the age of
60?) to step back into the ring for one
more paycheck. Is there anything left
in the tank? Burt Young thinks so. Talia
Shire does not. She sat this one out. We
see her only in the form of archival footage.
Sly’s son, Sage, also decided not
to reprise his role as Rocky’s son. Good
move little Sly, good move.

Unaccompanied Minors
Directed by: Paul Feig
Starring: Dyllan Christopher, Tyler James Williams
Paul Feig has directed mostly television
shows. But they’ve been some
damn good television shows—all of
them too short-lived (see “Freaks and
Geeks,” “Undeclared” and “Arrested
Development”). So I will see this Paul
Feig motion picture. Even if it does
involve a fictional Chicago airport, a
band of snowbound kids on Christmas
who create a makeshift holiday celebration
and Wilmer Valderrama.

Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj
Directed by: Mort Nathan
Starring: Kal Penn, Glen Barry, Lauren Cohan
Speaking of coming of age college movies
set in Britain—here comes Van Wilder
II: The Rise of Taj
. “Who the hell Is Taj?”
you may be asking. Friends, I just don’t
know. How can you have a Van Wilder
movie without Van Wilder? The answer
is, you can’t… and most likely don’t. In
case you do care, this movie—brought to
you by the director of Boat Trip— is about
a guy named Taj (Penn, Kumar in Harold
and Kumar Go to White Castle
), who goes
to Oxford to mess shit up old school.

Venus
Directed by: Roger Michell
Starring: Peter O’Toole, Leslie Phillips, Vanessa Redgrave
From the same team that created Notting
Hill
comes a story about a couple of old
farts and a kid. Peter O’Toole and Leslie
Phillips are well seasoned British actors
and here, I’m afraid, we may see one or
more of them naked. The two play a pair
of veteran actors whose lives become
drastically altered when they meet a
feisty teenager (Jodi Whitaker). A little
ickiness ensues, but not so much that
the film still couldn’t be considered “a
feel good movie.” MM

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