Burn After Reading Joel and Ethan Coen follow their grim No Country for Old Men with a comedy about two gym employees (Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand) who stumble onto a computer disc containing the scandalous memoirs of a CIA agent. With George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, and John Malkovich.
Envisioning Russia Running through October 30, this touring program from Seagull Films focuses on the USSR’s Mosfilm studio, with screenings of Tretya Meshchanskaya’s Bed and Sofa (1927), Grigori Aleksandrov’s Jolly Fellows, Alexander Medvedkin’s Happiness (1934) and The New Moscow (1938), Mikhail Kalatozov’s The Cranes Are Flying (1957), Andrea Koncahlovsky’s Uncle Vanya (1970), and Karen Shakhnazarov’s Courier (1986). As the cherry on the sundae, Film Center will also screen a new print of Sergei Eisenstein’s towering Alexander Nevsky (1939). aGene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, 312-846-2800. For more information see seagullfilms.com.
The First Transition: World Cinema in the 1930s These classic films screen on Fridays and Wednesdays as part of a lecture course at the School of the Art Institute taught by Reader contributor Jonathan Rosenbaum, though he’ll lecture only at the Wednesday shows. Scheduled for this fall: Charles Chaplin’s City Lights (9/12, 9/17), Fritz Lang’s M (9/19, 9/24), Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr (9/26, 10/1), Ernst Lubitsch’s Trouble in Paradise (10/3, 10/8), George Cukor’s Sylvia Scarlett (10/10, 10/15), Leo McCarey’s Make Way for Tomorrow (10/17, 10/22), Jean Vigo’s Zero for Conduct and Frank Borzage’s Man’s Castle (10/24, 10/29), Lewis Milestone’s Hallelujah, I’m a Bum! (10/31, 11/5), Lubitsch’s The Man I Killed (11/7, 11/12), Kenji Mizoguchi’s The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums (11/14, 11/19), Howard Hawks’s Only Angels Have Wings (11/21, 11/26) and Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game (12/5, 12/10). aGene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, 312-846-2800.
Flow Oscilloscope Laboratories, the new production company of Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, made its debut this summer with the sleep-inducing basketball documentary Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot. This follow-up release, directed by Irene Salina, looks at the privatization of the world’s fresh water supply.
A Girl Cut in Two Claude Chabrol’s 2007 suspense film, which screened earlier this year as part of the European Union Film Festival, gets its first local run. It’s about the dangerous romantic triangle between a young TV weather announcer (Ludivine Sagnier), an aging writer with whom she’s having an affair (Francois Berleand), and a young heir who isn’t happy about it (Benoir Magimel). aMusic Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport, 773-871-6604.
Kagemusha A new print of Akira Kurosawa’s 1980 samurai epic. “The direction is consistently strange, and often apparently wrong,” writes Dave Kehr. “Kurosawa deliberately emphasizes stiff, formal moves over the emotions of his screenplay, in a way that effectively cuts the film off from the audience, forcing us to adopt the director’s distant, cosmic perspective. The film’s deepest meanings are contained in its rhythms, which pointedly alternate between stillness and motion. Something large and abstract is stirring here, though the film’s ultimate implications are chilling.” aGene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, 312-846-2800.
Righteous Kill De Niro. Pacino. For Christ’s sake, get rid of that white zin before they see you. The macho stars track a serial killer in this thriller written by Russell Gewirtz (Inside Man) and directed by Jon Avnet (88 Minutes).
Santouri: The Music Man Banned in its native Iran, this 2007 drama by veteran director Dariush Mehrjui (The Cow) is about a santoor player whose heroin addiction destroys his career and his personal life. aFacets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton, 773-281-4114.
Les Sixties Running through October 2, this series revisits such landmarks of the French New Wave as Alan Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad (1961), Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Doulos (1961), and Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt (1963) and Two or Three Things I Know About Her (1967). aGene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, 312-846-2800.
Sukiyaki Western Django The insanely prodigious Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike made an international name for himself as a transgressive bad boy (Audition, Ichi the Killer) but more recently directed the family-friendly fantasy The Great Yokai War. Set during the 12th century, this western stars Hideaki Ito as a lone gunmen who rides into a town gripped by the Genpei Wars between the rival Taira and Minamoto clans.
The Women Diane English, best known as creator-producer of Murphy Brown, makes her directing debut with this adaptation of the Clare Booth Luce play (which George Cukor turned into a Hollywood classic in the 30s). Among the all-female cast are Annette Bening, Candice Bergen, Carrie Fisher, Ana Gasteyer, Cloris Leachman, Debi Mazar, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing, Bette Midler, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Meg Ryan. Almost all the crew are women too, though one of the producers is . . . Mick Jagger.
Tyler Perry’s The Family that Preys Perry’s last drama, Meet the Browns, suggested the African-American entertainment phenom was in dire need of a rest. Five months later, here comes his next feature, about a wealthy socialite (Kathy Bates) and her working-class pal (Alfre Woodard) united by their dismay over their respective children’s financial and sexual shenanigans.
Best of PXL THIS Festivals 13-16 The PXL 2000 was a toy camcorder, sold to children by Fisher-Price in the late 80s, that recorded sounds and images onto standard audiocassettes (Richard Linklater used it to shoot the pixel-ated bar scene in Slacker). This program collects 14 shorts that screened between 2003 and 2006 at the annual PXL THIS festival in Venice, California. aChicago Filmmakers, 5243 N. Clark, 773-293-1447.
Abject Expressionism Screening Monday nights through September 29, this series focuses on movies “whose aesthetic derives from their limited means”: Tom Palazzolo’s Caligari’s Cure (1982), Tom Kalin’s Swoon (1992), Sadie Benning’s Flat Is Beautiful (1998), and Jim Trainor’s The Fetishist (1998). aGene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, 312-846-2800.
Beautiful Losers Documentarians Aaron Rose and Joshua Leonard look at the do-it-yourself ethic in fine art; among their interview subjects are filmmakers Mike Mills (Thumbsucker) and Harmony Korine (Gummo, Mister Lonely). aGene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, 312-846-2800.
Fanboys Five Star Wars geeks (including Jay Baruchel, Dan Fogler, and Kristen Bell) break into Skywalker Ranch, hoping to filch a copy of the still-gestating Phantom Menace. Boy, are they in for a disappointment.
Ghost Town Will Hollywood ever figure out what to do with Ricky Gervais? Probably not, but for some reason I’m still looking forward to this comic fantasy about a consummate jerk (Gervais) who suffers a near-death experience and discovers he’s now capable of seeing spirits. David Koepp (Secret Window) directed; with Greg Kinnear and Tea Leoni.
Hounddog Director Deborah Kampmeier (Virgin) weathered an epic shitstorm after family-values activists learned that this drama included a scene of Dakota Fanning being raped. More than a year and a half after it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, it’s finally getting a commercial release, though according to people who’ve seen it, the scene in question hardly justifies all the hullaballoo. Fanning plays a southern wild child in the 50s who’s obsessed with the blues and Elvis Presley; with David Morse, Robin Wright Penn, and Piper Laurie.
Igor The hunchbacked lab assistant of Hollywood lore finally gets his own movie, a kiddie animation featuring the voices of John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, Christian Slater, Jennifer Coolidge, Eddie Izzard, and John Cleese.
Lakeview Terrace After his laughable remake of The Wicker Man, Neil LaBute returns with this button-pushing drama about a black cop (Samuel L. Jackson) harassing the interracial couple who’ve moved in next door to him (Patrick Wilson, Kerry Washington).
Last Stop for Paul Director Neil Mandt and cameraman Marc Carter play the leads in this improvised road movie (2006) about two guys making their way to Thailand and scattering a friend’s ashes at stops along the way. aFacets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton, 773-281-4114.
Mister Foe Scottish filmmaker David Mackenzie, who made his name in the U.S. with the excellent drama Young Adam (2003), directed this tale of a young voyeur (Jamie Bell of Undertow) prowling around Edinburgh in search of the facts behind his mother’s death. aMusic Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport, 773-871-6604.
My Best Friend’s Girl Unpromising romantic comedy with Dane Cook, Kate Hudson, Jason Biggs, and Alec Baldwin. Howard Deutch (The Odd Couple II, The Whole Ten Yards) directed.
Towelhead A Lebanese-American teenager (Summer Bishil) tries to survive life in a Houston suburb during the Persian Gulf war. Alan Ball, creator of the HBO series Six Feet Under, wrote and directed, adapting a novel by Alicia Erian. With Aaron Eckhart, Toni Colette, and Maria Bello.
Hollywood Chinese Joan Chen, Justin Lin, Amy Tan, Wayne Wang, and Ang Lee are among the interview subjects in this documentary about the representation of Asians in Hollywood movies. Arthur Dong directed. aGene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, 312-846-2800.
The Short Films of Kirthi Nath Chicago Filmmakers’ series 3rd I, which focuses on independent filmmakers from Southeast Asia, continues with this program of shorts by Bay Area video maker Kirthi Nath, whose work explores “female subjectivity, memory, desire, and racial and sexual identities. Nath will attend. aChicago Filmmakers, 5243 N. Clark, 773-293-1447.
Battle in Seattle Irish actor Stuart Townsend makes his writing and directing debut with this drama set during the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle. The cast includes Martin Henderson, Michelle Rodriguez, Woody Harrelson, Charlize Theron, Andre Benjamin, and Ray Liotta.
Choke Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, and Kelly Macdonald star in this adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s best-selling satirical novel, about a sex addict who works at a colonial theme park.
Derek Director Isaac Julien and writer Tilda Swinton are the only commenters in this personal portrait of British filmmaker Derek Jarman, which screens along with three of his features—Caravaggio (1986), Wittgenstein (1993), and Blue (1993). aGene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, 312-846-2800.
The Duchess A period drama with Keira Knightley as 18th-century socialite Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (who was satirized by Richard Brinsley Sheridan in School for Scandal). Director Saul Dibbs hasn’t got much of a track record, but Danish hotshot Anders Thomas Jensen (Brothers, After the Wedding) worked on the script and the cast includes Ralph Fiennes, Charlotte Rampling, and Simon McBurney.
Eagle Eye After scoring with the Rear Window ripoff Disturbia, director D.J. Caruso returns with this paranoid thriller about two random people (Shia LeBeouf, Michelle Monaghan) roped into carrying out an assassination plot. Billy Bob Thornton plays an FBI agent with lines like, “Son, you’re in a lot of trouble.”
The Lucky Ones See Best Bets.
Milking the Rhino The latest documentary from Chicago’s Kartemquin Films looks at two African tribes, the Masai of Kenya and the Himba of Namibia, as they try to shift their economies toward environmental conservation. David E. Simpson (Refrigerator Mothers) directed. aGene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, 312-846-2800.
Miracle at St. Anna Spike Lee adapts the James McBride novel about four African-American soldiers in World War II, trapped behind enemy lines in the Italian village of Sant’Anna di Stazzema. The project is already enveloped in controversy, with Lee proclaiming the film a corrective to our white-oriented history of the war and some villagers claiming the movie distorts the Nazi massacre that occurred in Sant’Anna in August 1944.
Nouveau Before It Was New Running through October 2, this week-long series showcases the French novelist and filmmaker Alain Robbe-Grillet, who died earlier this year. After making the transition to film with the screenplay for Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad (1961), Robbe-Grillet became a director in his own right; the series includes Marienbad as well as Robbe-Grillet’s L’Immortelle (1963), Trans-Europ-Express (1966), The Man Who Lies (1968), and Eden and Afterwards (1970). aFacets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton, 773-281-4114.
Nowhereland Eddie Murphy stars as one of those executives who’s too busy for his little girl and must be straightened out by the final reel. After his career hits the skids, he ventures into his daughter’s imaginary land.
Nights in Rodanthe Just the trailer for this glossy romance made me want to barf. A doctor (Richard Gere) estranged from his grown son and an innkeeper (Diane Lane) reeling from a failed marriage enjoy a weekend of passion, but can they find lasting happiness? George C. Wolfe directed this adaptation of a novel by Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook).
A Very British Gangster UK documentary maker Donal MacIntyre profiles the openly gay Manchester crime figure Dominic Noonan, whose alias, Lattlay Fottfoy, stands for “Look After Those That Look After You, Fuck Off Those That Fuck Off You.” aFacets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton, 773-281-4114.
The Gay Desperado Leo Carrillo stars in this 1936 comedy about a Mexican bandito who wants to turn his ratty outfit into an underworld syndicate. I haven’t seen it, but director Rouben Mamoulian was one of the more neglected stylists of Hollywood’s golden age; he did the Fredric March version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) and the Greta Garbo classic Queen Christina (1933). aBank of America Cinema, 4901 W. Irving Park, 312-904-9442.
Crossing Over Or, “Crash 2.” Wayne Kramer (The Cooler) describes his drama as a “multi-character canvas” about immigrants in Los Angeles. The large cast includes Harrison Ford, Sean Penn, Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Alice Braga, Summer Bishil (Towelhead), and Cliff Curtis (Whale Rider).
Allah Made Me Funny Muslim stand-up comedians Azhar Usman, Preacher Moss, and Mo Amer star in this concert movie. At least the airplane jokes won’t be about food.
Appaloosa Ed Harris’s first directorial effort since Pollock is a western about two hired guns (Harris, Viggo Mortensen) trying to take down a powerful rancher (Jeremy Irons). Renee Zellweger and Timothy Spall round out the cast.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua Disney product about wise-cracking pooches. The director is Raja Gosnell, perpetrator of Big Momma’s House, Scooby Doo, and Yours, Mine and Ours.
Blindness Fernando Mereilles (City of God, The Constant Gardener) directed this adapation of Jose Saramago’s dystopian novel about a town seized by an epidemic of blindness. Mark Ruffalo is a doctor who loses his sight and gets herded into an asylum community that degenerates into chaos; Julianne Moore is his wife, who pretends to be blind in order to rescue him.
Canary Akihiko Shiota based his 2005 Japanese drama on the Aum Shinrikyo cult’s deadly 1995 sarin-gas attack in the Tokyo subway. In the movie a preteen boy raised in a similar cult is abandoned by his parents after an attack and placed in state custody; hoping to reunite his family, he escapes and meets a girl his age who’s fleeing an abusive father. aFacets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton, 773-281-4114.
The Express Inspirational sports drama about African-American football star Ernie Davis (Rob Brown) and his coach and mentor at Syracuse University, Ben Schwartzwalder (Dennis Quaid).
The Godfather A digital restoration of the 70s classic, to be followed a week later by The Godfather, Part II. aMusic Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport, 773-871-6604.
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People Robert Weide started out making first-rate documentaries about Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce, W.C. Fields, and the Marx Brothers before he graduated to directing Larry David’s HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm. He makes his feature directing debut with this comedy about a troublemaking British writer (Simon Pegg from Shaun of the Dead) trying to adjust to life at a Vanity Fair-type glossy. The cast also includes Kirsten Dunst, Jeff Bridges, Danny Huston, and Gillian Anderson.
La Leon Written and directed by Santiago Otheguy, this black-and-white Argentinean drama traces the uneasy relationship between two men on the Parana Delta: a gay man who supports himself by harvesting reeds and a ferry boat caption who takes a proprietary interest in his passengers.
Momma’s Man A man on a business trip to New York stops off to visit his parents and, installed in his old room, decides never to leave. Writer-director Azalel Jacobs cast his own mother and father—Flo Jacobs and experimental filmmaker Ken Jacobs—as the hero’s parents. Coincidentally, Ken Jacobs’ latest work, Razzle Dazzle: The Lost World, screens at Chicago Filmmakers on October 4 (see listing) aMusic Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport, 773-871-6604.
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist Nerdy teen romance with Michael Cera (Juno) and Kat Dennings (E.R.) meeting cute at a rock club and spending a wild night together. Director Peter Sollett has been missing in action since 2002, when he debuted with the charmer Raising Victor Vargas; this second feature is adapted from a young-adult novel.
Religulous I got to see some of this at the Toronto film festival last year, when filmmakers Bill Maher and Larry Charles (Borat) appeared in person to talk about the project. Excerpts showed Maher traveling the globe, seeking out scholars and holy men, and asking them variations on the question, “You’re kidding, right?”
What Just Happened? Producer Art Linson has a filmography as long as your arm, with such standout titles as Car Wash (1976), Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), The Untouchables (1987), This Boy’s Life (1993), and Fight Club (1999). This comedy is adapted from his eponymous Hollywood memoir and stars Robert De Niro as a fading moviemaker. Barry Levinson (Wag the Dog) directed a cast that includes Stanley Tucci, John Turturro, and Catherine Keener.
Festival of Films from Iran This year’s installment of the annual series includes new features by Rassul Sadr-Ameli (director of The Girl in Sneakers and I Am Taraneh, 15) and Manijeh Hekmat (director of Women’s Prison), as well as a personal appearance by Dariush Mehrjui (Leila, The Cow, and Santouri: The Music Man, which screens this week at Facets Cinematheque). aGene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, 312-846-2800.
Razzle Dazzle: The Lost World Experimental filmmaker Ken Jacobs (Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son; Star Spangled to Death) describes this 91-minute abstraction as “an early Edison shot cut off at its head and tail and along its four sides from the continuity of events,” which eventually becomes a commentary on the distance between this century and the last, and on “our America, hopelessly gone to rot.” aChicago Filmmakers, 5243 N. Clark, 773-293-1447.
Body of Lies Leonardo DiCaprio is a CIA operative trying to nab a terrorist leader in Jordan, the help of veteran spook Russell Crowe. Ridley Scott directed, and the screenplay is by William Monahan (The Departed), whose Wikipedia entry is longer than William the Conqueror’s.
City of Ember Christian-oriented Walden Media (the Chronicles of Narnia movies) and Tom Hanks’s Playtone (the HBO series John Adams) collaborated on this fantasy about an underground city whose lease is about to run out. Gil Kenan, who directed the well-reviewed animation Monster House, makes his live-action debut with a cast that includes Bill Murray, Tim Robbins, Martin Landau, and young Saoirse Ronan (Atonement).
Intimidad In Mardi Gras: Made in China (2005), video maker David Redmon cut between exploited girls stringing beads in a Chinese factory and New Orleans partiers enjoying them; in Kamp Katrina (2007) he and Ashley Sabin looked at the homeless in New Orleans after the hurricane. The team’s new documentary follows a young couple as they struggle to build a decent home for their daughter in Reynosa, Mexico. aFacets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton, 773-281-4114.
Rachel Getting Married Jonathan Demme has been busy with remakes (The Manchurian Candidate, The Truth About Charlie), concert movies (Heart of Gold, Storefront Hitchcock), documentaries (The Agronomist, Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains), and a Toni Morrison adaptation (Beloved), but this is his first original story since Philadelphia in 1993. Jenny Lumet (daughter of director Sidney Lumet) wrote the script, about a woman with a history of substance abuse (Anne Hathaway) attending her sister’s wedding. The cast includes Debra Winger and Anna Deavere Smith.
Quarantine Jennifer Carpenter used to get typecast as a preppie, but after hurling herself about as the title character in The Exorcism of Emily Rose, she’s graduated to a more remunerative gig as a horror scream queen. Here she stars as a TV reporter, doing a puff piece on a Los Angeles fire station, who gets sucked into a fearsome epidemic crisis.
Save Me After a gay man suffers a drug overdose, his family ship him off to a Christian ministry to be “cured” of his homosexuality. Robert Cary directed; his last project was the sublime screwball comedy Ira & Abby. aMusic Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport, 773-871-6604.
Chicago International Film Festival This is the big one. Running through October 29, the 44th edition of the Chicago International Film Festival will present Chicago premieres of about 160 shorts, documentaries, and features. At press time, the following features had been confirmed: from Sweden and Denmark, Jan Troell’s Everlasting Moments; from Mexico, Gerardo Naranjo’s I’m Going to Explode; from Italy, Antonello Grimaldi’s Quiet Chaos; from Iran, Behnam Behzadi’s Before the Burial; from Brazil, Matheus Nachtergaele’s The Dead Girl’s Feast; from Germany, Doris Dorrie’s Cherry Blossoms; from South Korea, Kim Ji-woon’s The Good, the Bad and the Weird; from South Africa, Ralph Ziman’s Jerusalema; from France, Arnaud Desplechin’s A Christmas Tale; from the UK, Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky (see Best Bets); and from the U.S., Barry Jenkins’s Medicine for Melancholy, Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York, Joe Swanberg’s Nights and Weekends, and Gavin O’Connor’s Pride and Glory. This year the festival honors Leigh at the screening for Happy-Go-Lucky and actor Sidney Poitier and hip-hop artist Common at the Black Perspectives Tribute on Saturday, October 18, at the Chase Auditorium, 10 S. Dearborn. The opening- and closing-night events will take place at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance at 205 E. Randolph. The regular screenings will be at the Music Box, River East 21, and 600 N. Michigan; tickets are $12, $10 for students and seniors, and $9 for members of Cinema/Chicago. For more information call 312-683-0121 or see chicagofilmfestival.com.
Flash of Genius Greg Kinnear stars as Robert Kearns, who invented the intermittent windshield wiper and then spent decades suing Ford and Chrysler for patent infringement. Marc Abraham directed a script adapted from John Seabrook’s story in the New Yorker.
Happy-Go-Lucky See Best Bets.
Max Payne Video game adaptation with Mark Wahlberg as a DEA agent whose parents were killed by the mob and whose investigation leads him to the supernatural. Director John Moore did the remakes of The Omen and Flight of the Phoenix; the cast includes Beau Bridges, Chris O’Donnell, and Mila Kunis of Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Morning Light Disney documentary about a crew of 15 young sailors training for the TRANSPAC (Transpacific Yacht Race) from Los Angeles to Honolulu.
The Secret Life of Bees In 1964, a white teenager (Dakota Fanning) runs away from home and lands in a South Carolina town with three beekeeping black sisters (Queen Latifah, Sophie Okonedo, Alicia Keys). TV veteran Gina Prince-Blythewood directed.
Sex Drive A high school kid in Chicago strikes up an online relationship with a girl in Knoxville, Tennessee, who promises him, “If you drive all the way for me, I’ll go all the way for you.” This must have been produced before gas topped four dollars a gallon, but like John McCain, it clearly favors more drilling.
Toots A documentary about the legendary bar owner Toots Shor, whose drinking establishment in midtown Manhattan was a social magnet in the 40s and 50s, hosting such celebrities as Walter Cronkite, Earl Warren, Frank Sinatra, and Joe DiMaggio. Steven Lippma and Kristi Jacobson, Shor’s granddaughter, directed.
W As if you weren’t already sick of George W. Bush, here comes the Oliver Stone biopic, which follows Bush (Josh Brolin) from his youth as a spoiled, oblivious fuckup to his maturity as a spoiled, oblivious fuckup. With Elizabeth Banks (as Laura Bush), James Cromwell (George H.W. Bush), Ellen Burstyn (Barbara Bush), Richard Dreyfuss (Dick Cheney), Jeffrey Wright (Colin Powell), Scott Glenn (Donald Rumsfeld), Thandie Newton (Condi Rice), Toby Jones (Karl Rove), and Rob Corddry (Ari Fleischer).
Corridor of Mirrors Before directing the early James Bond thrillers Dr. No (1962), From Russia With Love (1963), and Thunderball (1965), Terence Young made this 1948 romance about an art collector who believes his lover is the reincarnation of a woman in one of his paintings. aBank of America Cinema, 4901 W. Irving Park, 312-904-9442.
Paper Tiger TV Two recent provocations by the New York outfit Paper Tiger TV, which has been taking advantage of public-access television since the early 80s to challenge corporate power and the mainstream media. Paper Tiger Reads Paper Tiger Television (2007) is a “jubilant mosaic” of achival footage, animations, and interviews that centers on new uses for media; Smokin’ Out the Evil-Doers (2004) flips the bird to the Republican National Convention as it nominates George W. Bush for reelection. aChicago Filmmakers, 5243 N. Clark, 773-293-1447.
Chicago International Children’s Film Festival Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the Children’s Film Festival runs through November 2. Weekday screenings are generally filled by school classes, but the Saturday and Sunday screenings are open for parents and kids. There are also children’s classes on acting, animation, and other elements of filmmaking. Screenings will take place at the Davis, 4614 N. Lincoln; Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton; the Victory Gardens Biograph, 2433 N. Lincoln; and the Wilmette, 1122 Central, Wilmette. For more information call 773-281-9075 or see cicff2008.org.
The Brothers Bloom Rian Johnson’s low-budget noir Brick was one of the more impressive indie debuts of 2005. His second film is about two con men (Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo) who set out to swindle an offbeat heiress (Rachel Weisz) as they squire her around the world.
Changeling Clint Eastwood’s 28th picture as director is loosely based on the Wineville Chicken Murders, in which three young boys were kidnapped and killed in Los Angeles in 1928. Angelina Jolie stars as a woman whose son is returned to her by the LAPD but who begins to suspect the little boy is someone else.
Frontrunners Caroline Suh documents a race for student council president of prestigious Stuyvesant High School in Lower Manhattan.
High School Musical 3: Senior Year The third and presumably last installment in the Disney franchise—this time young lovers Zac Efron and Vanessa Anne Hudgens are seniors getting ready for college and putting on one last show.
Pride and Glory Edward Norton, Colin Farrell, Jon Voight, Noah Emmerich, and Jennifer Ehle star in this long-shelved drama about a family of New York City cops. Screenwriter Joe Carnahan specializes in heavy macho stuff (Narc, Smokin’ Aces), and director Gavin O’Connor is best known for the Kurt Russell hockey drama Miracle (2004).
Saw V Another installment in the torture-porn franchise.
What Remains of Us This Canadian documentary looks at Kalsang Dolma, a Tibetan refugee living in Quebec who set out to smuggle a videotaped message from the Dalai Lama back into the country in 1996. While there, she also documented people’s responses to the message, some of which have been integrated into the film.
Stars in My Crown Jacques Tourneur is remembered for his thrillers and chillers (Cat People, I Walked With a Zombie, Out of the Past), but he also directed this moving 1950 drama about the struggle between faith and science, played out in the small-town rivalry between a preacher (Joel McCrea) and a young physician (James Mitchell, who’s still slugging it out on the soap opera All My Children). aBank of America Cinema, 4901 W. Irving Park, 312-904-9442.
Who by Water, Who by Fire Patrick Friehl, who recently decamped from Chicago Filmmakers and launched his own experimental series, White Light Cinema, returns to introduce this program of shorts by Bill Morrison (Decasia), Peter Rose, Christian Lebrat, Marianna Milhorat, Takashi Ishida, Kerry Laitala, and Vanessa O’Neill. aChicago Filmmakers, 5243 N. Clark, 773-293-1447.
Chicago Underground Film Festival This year the festival has abandoned its customary slot in August and leapt into the thick of the fall festival season, opening at the tail end of the Chicago International Film Festival and closing on November 2, just before Reeling gets underway. Venues and ticket prices have yet to be announced.
Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema A relative newcomer to the city’s festivals, this showcase of new Israeli theatrical features and television movies screens through November 9 at Pipers Alley, 1608 N. Wells, and the Wilmette, 1122 Central, Wilmette. Tickets range from $5 to $10; for more information call 847-675-3378 or see chicagofestivalofisraelicinema.org.
Ballast Lance Hammer’s dramatic feature was shot in southern Mississippi with a nonprofessional cast; its story involves the emotional repercussions of a man’s suicide for his girlfriend and brother, who’ve never liked each other, and the dead man’s 12-year-old son, who’s begun smoking crack. aMusic Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport, 773-871-6604.
I’ve Loved You So Long After serving a 15-year prison sentence, Kristin Scott Thomas gets out of the can, moves in with her college professor sister, and tries to reconnect with the rest of the world. French novelist Philippe Claudel wrote the script and makes his directing debut.
Rocknrolla More crime comedy from brash Brit Guy Ritchie (Revolver, Snatch, and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels). Among the ensemble are Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Thandie Newton, Idris Elba, Jeremy Piven, and Ludacris.
Tokyo Gore Police Japanese horror craziness about a cop tracking a mad scientist who’s created a race of insane mutants. aFacets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton, 773-281-4114.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno Platonic friends Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks decide to collaborate on a porno movie and begin to have unexpected feelings for each other. This is Kevin Smith’s latest, following his critically derided Jersey Girl (2004) and Clerks II (2006).
Dear Zachary After Andrew Bagby was murdered in Pennsylvania in November 2001, his girlfriend, Shirley Turner—the prime suspect in the case—fled to Canada, where she gave birth to Bagby’s child. Kurt Kuenne, a friend of the victim, began this documentary as a portrait of Bagby to be given to the child at some future date, but its focus shifted when Turner was released on bail, pending extradition to the U.S., and Bagby’s parents filed for custody of the child.
One Bad Cat: The Albert Wagner Story Thomas Miller’s 2007 documentary profiles Albert Wagner, who was born to Arkansas sharecroppers in the 1920s and has since become a Christian minister in East Cleveland and a noted outsider artist. aChicago Filmmakers, 5243 N. Clark, 773-293-1447.
Passionate Encounters: The Cinema of David Lean Before Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago, and The Bridge on the River Kwai, the great British director David Lean painted on a somewhat smaller canvas. This survey of his early features, screening through early December, ranges from familiar titles like Brief Encounter (1945), Blithe Spirit (1946), Great Expectations (1946), and Oliver Twist (1948) to such lesser known works as In Which We Serve (1942), This Happy Breed (1944), The Passionate Friends (1949), Madeleine (1950), The Sound Barrier (1952), and Hobson’s Choice (1954). aGene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, 312-846-2800.
Reeling: The Chicago Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival This year’s festival runs through November 15, with screenings at Chicago Filmmakers, 5243 N. Clark; Columbia College Ludington Bldg., 1104 S. Wabash; and Landmark’s Century Centre, 2828 N. Clark. Tickets are $8 to $15, and festival passes are $35 to $125. For more information call 773-293-1447 or see reelingfilmfestival.org.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas British writer-director Mark Herman (Brassed Off, Little Voice) adapts John Boyne’s novel in which the son of a concentration camp commandant strikes up a friendship with a Jewish boy interned there. Sounds bathetic, I know, but any movie with David Thewlis and Vera Farmiga is worth a look.
Lola Montes Max Ophuls’s opulent period drama (1955) stars Martine Carol as the legendary Spanish courtesan, but Peter Ustinov steals the show as the cynical ringmaster putting Lola through her paces in a circus performance that both exploits and frames flashbacks to her scandalous past. Screening in a restored print. aMusic Box, 3733 N. Southport, 773-871-6604.
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa Another go-round for the wacky animals that talk like Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Sacha Baron Cohen, et al. The original title was “Madagascar: The Crate Escape,” but someone must have decided that was too witty.
Repo! The Genetic Opera An epidemic of organ failures spells opportunity for a biotech company that figures out how to grow organs for transplant; the payment plan is exhorbitant, however, and deadbeats are in for a painful repossession process. Written and directed by Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II, III, and IV).
Synecdoche, New York Here’s your chance to get a little bit further inside Charlie Kaufman’s head, as the brainy writer of Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind makes his directing debut. Philip Seymour Hoffman stars as a theater director who wins a MacArthur Fellowship and tries to stage a play encompassing his entire life experience. The head-turning cast includes Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, Catherine Keener, Emily Watson, Dianne Wiest, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Hope Davis.
Polish Film Festival in America This year’s festival runs through November 23 with screenings at the Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th; Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence; Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton; Pickwick, 5 S. Prospect, Park Ridge; River East 21, 322 E. Illinois; Skokie, 7924 N. Lincoln, Skokie; and Society for Arts, 1112 N. Milwaukee. Tickets for the opening-night gala are $100, tickets for regular screenings are $12, and festival passes, good for five screenings, are $50. For more information call 773-486-9612 or see pffamerica.com.
Expresso Bongo A satire of the British teen-idol biz, this 1959 cult comedy from the UK stars Laurence Harvey as a conniving manager and real-life pop singer Cliff Richard as his protege. aBank of America Cinema, 4901 W. Irving Park, 312-904-9442.
Ashes of Time Redux A commercial disappointment when it was released in Hong Kong in 1994, this kung fu adventure by rhapsodic stylist Wong Kar-wai has been re-edited and rescored; this version runs about ten minutes shorter than the original and is reportedly easier to follow. aMusic Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport, 773-871-6604.
Quantum of Solace Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale (2006), which introduced Daniel Craig as James Bond, was hailed as the best 007 adventure in years; like Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, it dared to take the material seriously again. This follow-up was written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, both veterans of the Pierce Brosnan epoch (Die Another Day, The World Is Not Enough), though Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby) pitched in as well. The director is Marc Forster (The Kite Runner, Stranger Than Fiction, Finding Neverland, Monster’s Ball), an odd choice if you ask me.
Role Models Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott are sentenced to community service and have to mentor two kids (including Christopher Mintz-Plasse of Superbad). David Wain, a veteran of the sketch-comedy shows Stella and The State, directed a cast that includes Elizabeth Banks and Jane Lynch.
Soul Men The late Bernie Mac and the late Isaac Hayes both appear in this comedy by Malcolm D. Lee (Undercover Brother, Roll Bounce), sort of a soul remake of The Sunshine Boys with Mac and Samuel L. Jackson as estranged singing partners who agree to reunite for a show at the Apollo Theater.
Bolt Disney animation about a dog (voiced by John Travolta) that stars as a superhero in a TV series but runs into trouble when it’s stranded in New York City and has to get back to Hollywood.
Nothing Like the Holidays John Leguizamo, Debra Messing, Freddy Rodriguez, Alfred Molina, and Luis Guzman star in this drama about a Puerto Rican family celebrating Christmas together in Humboldt Park.
The Road John Hillcoat, who appeared out of nowhere with the crackerjack Australian western The Proposition (2005), adapts Cormac McCarthy’s novel about a man (Viggo Mortensen) and his son wandering a postapocalyptic America. With Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, and Robert Duvall.
The Soloist Once a promising music student at Julliard, Nathaniel Ayers was homeless and playing violin on the subway when Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez took an interest in his plight and helped rehabilitate him. Jamie Foxx is the musician and Robert Downey Jr. is the journalist in this adaptation of Lopez’s book; the script is by mush monger Susannah Grant (Charlotte’s Web, In Her Shoes), but director Joe Wright is just coming off the tough-minded Atonement.
Twilight Catherine Hardwicke rattled parents and conservative commentators with her debut feature, Thirteen (2003), but her follow-up projects, Lords of Dogtown (2005) and The Nativity Story (2006), both sucked. This feature moves her from the New Testament back to more characteristic material: a popular young-adult romance by Stephenie Meyer, in which a small-town girl falls in love with a vampire boy who threatens to pierce more than her tongue.
A Matter of Life and Death An RAF pilot (David Niven) cheats death when his plane crashes and becomes convinced he belongs in heaven in this 1946 British fantasy by the great Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp). aBank of America Cinema, 4901 W. Irving Park, 312-904-9442.
Australia A British aristocrat in Australia (Nicole Kidman) partners with a stock drover (Hugh Jackman) to get her cattle to market, even as Japanese bombardiers, flush with their success at Pearl Harbor, approach the continent. Baz Luhrmann directed this historical epic, his first feature since Moulin Rouge! (2001).
Four Christmases Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherpoon spend Christmas Day shuttling from one family gathering to another, and another, and another. Thanksgiving weekend is the traditional launching pad for feeble holiday comedies about people who despise their relatives but finally accept, with a sigh, that family is what matters. Director Seth Gordon comes fresh from the offbeat documentary The King of Kong, but the screenplay is credited to two different pairs of hacks, always a bad omen.
Transporter 3 Jason Statham returns as Frank Martin, the man who delivers questionable packages with no questions asked. The script is by French action whiz Luc Besson, who dreamed up the series, and Corey Yuen returns as director after sitting out Transporter 2.
Sing-a-Long Sound of Music A return engagement for the captioned version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. aMusic Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport, 773-871-6604.
The Mortal Storm A German family splinters during the rise of Adolf Hitler in this 1940 melodrama by the great Hollywood romanticist Frank Borzage (Seventh Heaven, History Is Made at Night). Starring Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart, Robert Young, and Robert Stack. aBank of America Cinema, 4901 W. Irving Park, 312-904-9442.