The key word for springtime moviegoers is relationships – amorous relationships, family relationships, etc. These promise the emotional catharsis that’s usually reserved for autumn, after the onslaught of summer blockbusters. This spring, however, even the action flicks look character-driven, at least on paper.
The spring season will also answer some questions posed by both moviegoers and movie moguls. It’s been a great year for Terrell’s Jamie Foxx. Will it be a good year for Matthew McConaughey? Will Sahara continue the momentum of his surprise 2003 hit How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days? And will it provide a crossover success for co-star Penelope Cruz, who needs to strike a chord with mainstream audiences? Will Guess Who make Ashton Kutcher known as something more than Demi Moore’s young squeeze? Stay tuned to your local megaplex for the answers. Opening dates are subject to change.
One to watch:
Melinda and Melinda – This is getting the best buzz of any Woody Allen flick since Bullets Over Broadway, which was 11 years ago. Radha Mitchell, last seen as Johnny Depp’s wife in Finding Neverland and Dakota Fanning’s mother in Man on Fire, plays messed-up urbanite Melinda, whose story is told from two perspectives. Woody doesn’t act in this one, but Will Ferrell serves as his alter ego. Chloe Sevigny and Amanda Peet also star.
THE HUMAN TOUCH
One to watch:
Millions – Shows the bright side of Danny Boyle, dour director of Trainspotting, Shallow Grave and A Life Less Ordinary. The new film sounds like a warm-hearted variation of Shallow Grave. In Millions, two young brothers find a bag of British pounds and must spend it within one week, as The Bank of England is finally going to switch over to the Euro. The altruistic brother thinks they should donate the loot to the poor. His older brother’s plans are more self-serving. This one was a big hit at the Toronto Film Festival.
Also touching the heart:
· Schultze Gets the Blues, which shows a retired German miner getting a new lease on life
· Assisted Living, in which a nursing home janitor befriends a resident who thinks he’s her son
· You I Love, a Russian comedy in which a woman discovers her boyfriend in bed with a man
· Chrystal, an Ozark-based drama, with Billy Bob Thornton seeking redemption
· Brother to Brother, which uses the Harlem Renaissance as a background to explore the experience of being both black and gay
TIES THAT BIND
One to watch:
In Her Shoes – Director Curtis Hanson rarely goes wrong, his last three films having been L.A. Confidential, 8 Mile and the criminally neglected Wonder Boys. This time out, he inspects sibling relationships. Cameron Diaz is the wild ’n’ crazy sister; Toni Collette is the no-nonsense one. When Toni’s boyfriend has a fling with Cameron, all peace treaties are off. Shirley MacLaine adds her touch to the comedy-drama.
Other films dealing with family relations:
· Dear Frankie, with Emily Mortimer as a mother who’s told her deaf son heroic falsehoods about his missing father
· Nobody Knows, a widely praised Japanese film about four young children forced to fend for themselves when their mother abandons them
· The Boys & Girl From County Clare, in which two brothers who haven’t seen each other for 20 years meet at an Irish music festival
· Off the Map – with Campbell Scott directing a tale of an 11-year-old coming to terms with her father’s depression
· The Ballad of Jack and Rose, in which Rebecca Miller, daughter of late playwright Arthur, directs her husband, Daniel Day-Lewis, as a father who raised his 16-year-old daughter in seclusion but must now deal with the outside world
· Look at Me, about an aspiring French model struggling for her father’s approval
· Winter Solstice, with widower Anthony LaPaglia trying to communicate with his two sons
A BARREL OF LAUGHS
One to watch:
Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous – Is William Shatner worth risking your life for? Apparently Sandra Bullock thinks so. In this extension of Bullock’s surprise 2000 hit, her hard-hitting FBI agent finds yet another unlikely environment. She goes undercover as a Vegas showgirl in order to save Shatner’s hide. Regina King, Treat Williams and Ernie Hudson are among the onlookers.
Also hoping to tickle your funny bone:
· Guess Who, wherein Bernie Mac has some withering things to say about his daughter’s plans to marry Ashton Kutcher
· Up and Down, Czech film in which two smugglers have a change of heart after discovering an abandoned child
· Beauty Shop, with Queen Latifah taking no sass from anyone, including Kevin Bacon, Alicia Silverstone, Andie MacDowell, Alfre Woodard, Djimon Hounsou and Mena Suvari
· Rebound, with Martin Lawrence coaching middle school students with hoop dreams
· Kung Fu Hustle, a Cantonese film about a gangster wannabe who must deal with an inquisitive landlady
One to watch:
The Interpreter – Nicole Kidman always looks like she can take care of herself, thanks just the same. But this time, she needs Sean Penn to protect her. She’s a United Nations interpreter who overhears an assassination plot. He’s an FBI agent. These two Oscar winners are directed by another golden-boy holder, Sydney Pollack, whose Three Days of the Condor was a stirring, character-driven ’70s thriller. Moviegoers will want to see if Nicole and Sean create fireworks.
Others promising thrills:
· Walk on Water, an Israeli thriller about a homophobic agent who befriends his target’s gay grandson
· In My Country, in which Samuel L. Jackson and Juliette Binoche explore the wrongs of apartheid
· Sahara, with this month’s hottie couple Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz in a Dirk Pitt adventure. Strong cast also includes William H. Macy, Steve Zahn and Delroy Lindo
Still to come:
· Sin City, with a metropolis that lives up to the title, its mean streets are occupied by the likes of Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis, Elijah Wood, Benecio Del Toro, Clive Owen, Nick Stahl and Michael Madsen
· Oldboy, a lauded Korean thriller in which a man is released from a 15-year confinement and discovers that more terrors await him
· The Amityville Horror, another telling of the story of a family moving into a home that was the site of horrendous murders
· Layer Cake, with the ubiquitous Daniel Craig as a semi-gangster who learns that the rules of the underworld have changed
· Serenity, from the television show about a transport ship, 500 years in the future, that takes on unsavory passengers
· The Other Side of the Street, wherein a retired senior citizen suspects a police officer of offing his wife
· XXX: State of the Union, in which Ice Cube and Samuel L. Jackson try to thwart Willem Dafoe’s plans to overthrow America’s government
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
One to watch:
Steamboy – Katsuhiro Otomo, maestro of the Japanese anime movement, directs this lavish tale of a young inventor in 19th-century England who must fight ruthless business czars in order to bring the coveted “Steam Ball” to the world. Patrick Stewart, Alfred Molina and Anna Paquin provide voices.
Others of note:
· Downfall, a German film making strong waves as it re-creates the final days of Adolf Hitler
· Gunner Palace, documentary of American soldiers in Iraq
· Sky Blue, animated futuristic South Korean feature about a handful of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world
· Dust to Glory, a documentary that follows the tracks of the annual Baja 1000 race
· Notre Musique, in which legendary French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard questions where contemporary society is taking us
· The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, a documentary about a homeless man who befriends a flock of parrots
· Uber Goober, a documentary that explores the wide world of gamers
· Spike & Mike’s Festival of Animation, a celebration of envelope-pushing animation
© 2005, The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.