Raw melodrama, dark thrillers in store

Category: 300 News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: January 7, 2007 | Publication: Chicago Tribune | Author: Michael Phillips
Publication/Article Link:http://www.chicagotribune.com

Last summer the big hits just kept on not coming. When a "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequel turned out to be the best junk food on the market, it wasn't much of a market.

Then autumn made everything right, bringing a stream of good pictures -- awards-season prestige material, yes, but also items such as "Casino Royale," the summer hit that showed up three months late.

This is what I hope for in the winter of aught-seven: surprise; a sense of craft; and old formulas shaken and stirred. Here are 10 prospects:

- "Letters From Iwo Jima," opens Friday. Clint Eastwood's bookend to "Flags of Our Fathers" revisits the famous battle from the Japanese perspective. Already laden with awards, time will tell if this sober and sobering work finds an audience. It deserves one.

- "The Italian," Feb. 2-8, Music Box Theatre. It's the stuff of raw melodrama: At a squalid Russian orphanage, young Vanya dreams of locating his birth mother, even as an Italian family considers him for adoption. But director Andrei Kravchuk's handling of the Dickensian material is masterly, at once blunt and delicate. A highlight from the most recent Chicago International Film Festival.

- "Number 23," opens Feb. 23. Jim Carrey stars in this dark thriller as a man obsessed with a book whose story line is eerily similar to his own life. It ends badly in the book; can Carrey avoid the same fate? "Stranger Than Fiction" indeed. Directed by Joel Schumacher and co-starring Virginia Madsen.

- "Black Snake Moan," opens Feb. 23. Due for a big launch at this year's Sundance Film Festival, director Craig Brewer's film stars Samuel L. Jackson as a blues musician taking it up with Christina Ricci in a rather explicit way. We hear. Justin Timberlake co-stars.

- "Zodiac," opens March 2. A movie about a serial killer -- thank heavens, it's been nearly 10 minutes! But this one may be the exception to the rule. Director David "Fight Club" Fincher's cast includes Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo as San Francisco Chronicle staffers (all daily journalists look like that, pretty much) working with a homicide cop (Robert Downey Jr.) to track a maniac.

- "300," opens March 9. Ancient Greece, get ready to rrrrruuumble! Based on Frank "Sin City" Miller's graphic novel, this one's set in 480 B.C. (Before Cruise) and deals with the Persian army's run-in with the Spartans. Pretty violent, they say. Well, as Mel Gibson would say, it should be. Green Bay's own Zack Snyder, who remade "Dawn of the Dead," directs a cast starring Gerard Butler, David "Faramir" Wenham and Lena Headey.

- "The Namesake," opens March 9. Jhumpa Lahiri's novel comes to the screen in director Mira Nair's film telling the story of a Calcutta family's uneasy relocation to New York. Kal Penn plays Gogol, the good son who feels an inexorable pull coming from India.

- "Reign Over Me," opens March 9. Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle team up for this post-9/11 comedy-drama about a man, played by Sandler, coping with the tragic loss of his family. He meets up with his old college roommate (Cheadle). Chicago favorite Mike Binder ("The Mind of the Married Man," "The Upside of Anger") wrote and directed.

- "Lucky You," opens March 16. Lately seen torturing himself in "Munich," Eric Bana stars in this gambler's tale, directed and co-written by Curtis Hanson ("L.A. Confidential," "In Her Shoes"). Co-stars include Drew Barrymore and Robert "Ol' Reliable" Duvall.

- "Meet the Robinsons," opens March 30. Poaching on "Jimmy Neutron" territory, this animated (one hopes) Disney adaptation of the William Joyce book "A Day With Wilbur Robinson" pits young Lewis and his "memory scanner" against the wicked Bowler Hat Guy. Wilbur swoops in from the future to help out and introduce his family.