Aug. 18, 2017

Winter Guide 2006: Winter’s Tales

November 8, 2006, 12:00 am
A selection of big-screen releases for the coming months.



Harsh Times
Christian Bale and Freddy Rodríguez (Six Feet Under) star as two friends who are unemployed and out for trouble on the streets of South Central LA. This is the directorial ***image8***debut for Training Day scribe David Ayer, who is equally as disturbing and violent here as in his Oscar-nominated work, delving even deeper into the nefarious underbelly of Hollywood's homeland. Bale is Jim Davis, an ex-Army Ranger returned home from his Iraqi tour of duty with magnified homicidal tendencies and a horrid case of post-traumatic stress. He attempts to cover up his frayed nerves by driving around town with his best friend, Mike Alonzo (Rodríguez), drinking, smoking weed and causing havoc instead of looking for a job. While Jim's dream call from the LAPD never comes, a tap from Homeland Security does, and soon the unstable troublemaker is assigned once again to be a killer. Rodriguez' loyal lady, Sylvia, played by Maxim's Top 100 lady Eva Longoria, begs her man to get his shit together and leave Jim behind, but Mike can't walk away.

***image13***Stranger Than Fiction
Harold Crick (Will Farrell) is an IRS auditor who suddenly finds himself followed by a narrating voice "with a better vocabulary." Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) is a bestselling author with a case of writer's block so severe her publishers send in Queen Latifah. Eiffel is going to kill Crick-just as soon as she figures out how. This surreal comedy told by auteur Marc Forster (Finding Neverland) blurs the line between fact and fiction, creating a place where the two coexist, harmoniously and otherwise. Dustin Hoffman and Maggie Gyllenhaal bolster the already stellar cast.


***image2***Casino Royale
A new Bond for a new day, as they say, and this 007 takes the cake. He's buff but also blond and not 100 percent misogynistic (what's a purist to do?). Daniel Craig brings to life an up-and-coming Bond on his first serious mission for MI6, British Secret Intelligence. How will the budding agent prove his worth? By drinking martinis and wining a casino tournament to keep money away from terrorists. Not a bad way to start a career.

***image6***Fast Food Nation
An ensemble cast containing everyone from Kris Kristofferson to Wilmer Valderrama brings to life Eric Schlosser's bestselling book about the horrific truths behind the fast food industry. From migrant farm workers to fat cat industry execs, the characters explored by this film smartly reveal how our country has grown so crooked and so obese at the same time.

***image7***For Your Consideration
Christopher Guest and crew are back with their newest off-the-cuff, improvised extravaganza. This time it's a caricature of Hollywood as three washed-up actors fight their way back into the spotlight. When a period film about a lesbian Jew (Parker Posey) starts Oscar buzz, these B-movie bumpkins trip over themselves all the way to the red carpet. The usual suspects-Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy and the hilarious Jennifer Coolidge-star.


The History Boys
***image17***A group of boys from the wrong side of the tracks band together to try to beat the odds and break through the glass ceiling into the prestigious Oxford University. They share an inspirational teacher who won't give up on them, kind of like a Dead Poets Society for the British. Once again, things don't go well for the gifted teacher as he struggles to weed out the noble teens from the rotten.


***image4***Déjà vu
We've all felt it, we've all had it, we've all wondered what the heck it is. Déjà vu takes on a new purpose in Tony Scott's upcoming high-octane, big-budget thriller starring Denzel Washington. The savvy Oscar winner plays an ATF agent who travels back in time to save a woman from a brutal murder and ends up falling in love with her. Now what's the saying about relationships that start under extreme circumstances? Never mind, this is Hollywood at its best: big stars, big explosions and big money flushing down the pipes faster than sewage. A perfect remedy for the post-turkey snooze; put the pumpkin pie in Tupperware and buy your tickets in advance.

***image14***Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny
This is Jack Black's mythical interpretation of the creation of a rock band. A singer-songwriting duo meet up in Venice Beach, Calif., searching for the golden ticket to stardom and find it in the form of a magical guitar pick. The two set off rockin' and rollin', struttin' and strollin' on a 300-mile tour of adventure to steal the "pick of destiny" and complete the recipe for the most raging band ever.



***image19***The Nativity Story
Keisha Castle-Hughes was phenomenal in Whale Rider, but who would have thought her next big role would be as the mother of God? Catherine Hardwicke's new film focuses on the relationship between Mary and Joseph (Jesus' folks) and their experiences before the birth of their son. With the growing interest in the true particulars about Jesus' family life, this film is sure to garner attention.


Mel Gibson is back with his newest attempt to give mankind nightmares through force-fed history lessons. The targeted culture of choice this time: the bloodthirsty Mayan Empire. Do not be seduced by the pretty pictures of Mayans with filed ***image1***teeth and large piercings killing each other; this movie is not for the faint of heart. Gibson has a penchant for depicting men who inflict or are exposed to the most gruesome atrocities in order to save their families or their way of life. From Braveheart to The Passion of the Christ, this theme persists, and Apocalypto is no different. With the decline of the Mayan Empire, its heads of state up the ante of human sacrifices. Expecting a new child, Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) flees his fate of death in hopes of living out his days with the family that needs him…and killing a lot of people who get in his way.

***image18***The Holiday
From the director of Something's Gotta Give (Nancy Meyers) comes a new holiday love story laden with good old battles between the sexes. Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz star as two women who have had it with their love lives and need a change of pace. A good old-fashioned house swap is just the ticket, and soon Winslet is living the good life in Los Angeles and Diaz is cozied up by the fire in Britain. Enter Winslet's brother, played by Jude Law, and Diaz' friend, played by Jack Black, and you get one guess what happens. A Love Actually with a lot fewer storylines, this romantic comedy is the perfect chick flick for a good girls' night out.


***image11***The Pursuit of Happyness
Will Smith stars with his real-life son Jaden in this serious tear-jerker about a single dad on the verge of destitution. Smith's character is based on the struggles of a now successful stockbroker who lived in shelters with his son while interning with a brokerage firm. The shimmering city of San Francisco is the backdrop for this heartfelt drama by Italian director Gabriele Muccino, shot by the incomparable Phedon Papamichael (Walk the Line, Sideways).


***image3***Charlotte's Web
Dakota Fanning stars as Fern, the little girl in this remake of the favorite children's novel. Wilbur, the little pig who could, is saved from a sausage fate by a maternal spider with a talent for spelling human words. Oprah Winfrey and Steve Buscemi provide unforgettable voices and Julia Roberts lends her pipes to the title role.


***image15***The Fountain
In an attempt to cover his bases in the romance genre, director Darren Aronofsky makes a love story spanning 1,000 years and three storylines. Rachel Weisz and Hugh Jackman star as an ancient couple on a quest for an elixir of immortality. In the past, Jackman is a powerful knight who transcends all boundaries searching for a tree that grants eternal life. In the present, he is a doctor fighting against an unknown disease to keep his better half alive. Where was that tree again? Aronofsky weaves fantastical animation and sacred geometry into his work surrounding his stars; some additional glamour lighting when needed.

***image16***The Good Shepherd
Robert De Niro's first directorial effort since 1993's A Bronx Tale looks closely at a very different kind of organization: the CIA. Set during the Cold War, The Good Shepherd depicts a group of men willing to sacrifice anything and everything to protect America who become the first members of the Central Intelligence Agency. In a sense, these men did not exist and at certain points had to decide whether to maintain ties with their lives outside the agency or not. Matt Damon stars as a man on the verge of becoming invisible, but when your wife is Angelina Jolie, how do you just call it quits? Alec Baldwin, William Hurt, Billy Crudup, John Turturro and Robert De Niro also star.

***image9***Night at the Museum
Jumanji meets Zoolander in Ben Stiller's latest. Stiller plays Larry Dale, a dreamer down on his luck who takes a job as a graveyard shift security guard at a museum of natural history. What Dale could never suspect is that he has accidentally let loose an ancient curse that resurrects the entire museum to life at the end of each day. Amidst Attila the Hun's pillaging, Roman gladiators and a deadly T-Rex, Dale confides in a wax statue of Theodore Roosevelt (Robin Williams). Will the dead president help Dale find a way to set things right?

***image12***Rocky Balboa
How many times can a boxer come out of retirement and what is he doing with all that money? Sylvester Stallone writes, directs and stars in his own homage to his original success story, Rocky. This time, the old-school champ of the Philly meat lockers is up against Mason "The Line" Dixon. Forced to defend the honor of the northern states, Rocky accepts the challenge, but will he wear a "Don't tread on me" T-shirt?


A trio of black soul singers from Chicago travel with their songwriter to the Apollo theater to compete. There, they are discovered by the fast-talkin' manager man Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Jamie Lee Fox), and begin a bumpy ride to the pop charts. They lose one singer and gain Beyoncé, scale back their soul sound for a white audience and become The Dreams. A remake of a very successful musical, the details of this film have been kept under strict lock and key. With a star-studded cast and an already famous soundtrack, this flick has a lot to live up to.



***image10***Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Jean-Baptiste Grenouille has the ultimate nose: He can detect tadpoles in a stream or a lovely lady all by a whiff of their scents. With most of his brain given over to the cultivation of olfactory brilliance, the part used for common sense is shortchanged. In a fool's attempt to find the world's most tantalizing scent, he turns into a madman. Dustin Hoffman stars as his teacher Giuseppe Baldini, who is blind to the lengths of his protégé's obsession; even he cannot stop the madness that ensues. The cult followers of Patrick Süskind's book upon which Perfume is based are sure to sniff out any flaws in this long-awaited release.


***image20***The Painted Veil
If you didn't get enough of Edward Norton in period garb in The Illusionist, here he is again, without a mustache. His discipline of choice this time is not sleight of hand but medicine. Confronted with his wife's (Naomi Watts) infidelity, he forces the spoiled lady to accompany him to an area of China fraught with war and disease. In isolation, surrounded by certain peril, the two find that they do like each other after all.


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