By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
IN THE CUT
Perhaps the only director capable of giving Meg Ryan her long-overdue career makeover, Jane Campion returns with a psychosexual thriller about a writer who becomes involved with a homicide detective. Rumor has it the rom-com queen gets very naked with Mark Ruffalo.
The Long Bow Group's Tiananmen Square chronicle, The Gate of Heavenly Peace, was one of the most important documentaries of the '90s; this time, the filmmakers take on the no less enduring trauma of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
In his Columbine-inspired Palme d'Or winner, Gus Van Sant finds a clearer thematic use for the formal experimentation of Gerry: Shooting mostly in shallow focus, often in extended tracking shots, he expertly approximates the feel of walking through high school in an oblivious haze.
Mathieu Kassovitz's first English-language film features Halle Berry as a psychiatrist (!) who wakes up to find she's a patient in her own mental hospital. The last time a French director went this Hollywood, the result was Alien: Resurrection.
THE SINGING DETECTIVE
Compression (to under two hours) and relocation (to Eisenhower's America) do no favors for Dennis Potter's metafictional Möbius of a miniseries, but Robert Downey Jr. digs into his psoriatic role with typical relish.
THE MATRIX: REVOLUTIONS
Are we still in the game?
THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED
IN MY SKIN
In Marina de Van's body-horror tour de force, self-mutilation is not (as in so many other movies) a self-esteem issue but an expression of existential panic and extreme corporeal alienation. Witty, beautiful, terrifying, heartbreaking, at times almost unwatchable, it's as gruesome and inspired a riff on the mind-body split as we've ever seen outside the Cronenberg oeuvre. One of the year's best films, and the most exciting debut feature in ages.
OFF THE MAP
Campbell Scott's Sundance-approved film is a coming-of-age story about a young girl in New Mexico (Valentina d'Angelis) learning how to live with her father's depression and her mother's eccentricities. Joan Allen and Sam Elliott play the parents.
MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD
Patrick O'Brian's all-consuming, habit-forming imperial sea saga runs 20 volumes, and here's the first movie, 34 years after the book's debut. With Russell Crowe as Aubrey, Paul Bettany as Maturin, and Peter Weir as possibly the best choice among Hollywood semi-hacks to capture the 1813 naval wars, the movie has a Swiss-cheese lifeboat's chance of emerging faithful to O'Brian in any sense. But we'll give it some rope.
"Of?" Alejandro González Iñárritu's American debut. Naturally, it involves a freak accident that conjoins a terminal Sean Penn, a woebegone Naomi Watts, and a paroled Benicio Del Toro. González Iñárritu might be developing into a satirist of happenstance. But then, he might not.
Ron Howard's annual holiday-season bid for sainthood, in a genre he hasn't ruined yet: the western. As a grudge-bearing woman and her crotchety father searching the prairie for a kidnapped granddaughter, Cate Blanchett and Tommy Lee Jones will doubtless be asked to personify archetypes, and provide pretentious counterpoint to The Searchers. Big yawn.
THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS
Denys Arcand's crowd-pleaser follows up on the talky ensemble of his 1986 art fart, The Decline of the American Empire.
DR. SEUSS' THE CAT IN THE HAT
You knew it was coming, after the chintz radiation of Ron Howard's Grinch, and how in hell they will hyperextend this tiny toddler parable into a loud, garish, witless feature is, for now, a blessed mystery. Mike Myers stars, presumably under the personality-obscuring, foot-thick layer of makeup that helped reap the Grinch's deep-nine figures.
THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE
If Jacques Tati had made an animated feature, it would've looked something like this. Director Sylvain Chomet assembles a panoply of mute, anamorphically distended caricatures and sets them loose in the most impressive fantasy megalopolis since Babe: Pig in the City.
Terry Zwigoff, taking a break from sophisticated-underground-comic-ness, adapts another old Coen brothers script, about two bandits (Billy Bob Thornton and Bernie Mac) posing as a mall Santa and his elf, and the eight-year-old who teaches them the error of their ways. Hopefully, it's more original than it sounds.