Some, though, prefer their anxieties translated into the conventions of a genre film. As when reality confronts illusion in the mob movie SMOKIN’ ACES (January 26), where the feds protect a disreputable Vegas magician from getting whacked after he rats out his Mafia buddies. Ben Affleck, Ray Liotta, and Jeremy Piven star; Joe Carnahan (Narc) directs. Or in the horror movie BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE (January 26), where a teenage werewolf is torn between species loyalty and her love for a mortal. Agnes Bruckner, Hugh Dancy, and Olivier Martinez star; German filmmaker Katja von Garnier (Bandits) directs. Just like Romeo and Juliet, and so is Anthony Minghella’s BREAKING AND ENTERING (January 26), a love story between an upper-class Londoner and a Balkan refugee. Jude Law and Juliette Binoche star.
BLACK SNAKE MOAN: Samuel L. Jackson plays the blues.
When you come down to it, we can thank the subject of Henriette Mantel & Steve Skrovan’s documentary AN UNREASONABLE MAN (February 2) for the past eight years: Ralph Nader. But who’s to blame for the evil that descends on the Solomon family’s North Dakota sunflower farm in THE MESSENGERS (February 2)? I’m betting Vincent van Gogh. Oxide and Danny Pang (The Eye) direct their first American movie; Dylan McDermott and Penelope Ann Miller star.
Now that we’re on the subject of causes, what was it that made that nice Dr. Lecter so odd? In HANNIBAL RISING (February 9), Peter Webber (Girl with a Pearl Earring) shows us the tough, formative early years of the cannibal (Gaspard Ulliel), who survives World War II by living in a château with Gong Li. Could she have told him I COULD NEVER BE YOUR WOMAN (February 9)? In any case, that’s the romantic comedy in which Tracey Ullman’s Mother Nature meddles in the love lives of Michelle Pfeiffer and her daughter. Amy Heckerling (Clueless) directs. More love woes are played for laughs in NORBIT (February 9) as Eddie Murphy is raised as an orphan by the owner of a Chinese restaurant and forced into a loveless marriage to a gluttonous woman — played by Eddie Murphy. Thandie Newton helps out; Brian Robbins (The Shaggy Dog) directs.
Nothing is so bad, though, that we can’t flee from it to a land of make-believe and make it worse. In BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA (February 16), two kids create their own imaginary world in the forest; Gábor Csupó adapts the Katherine Paterson book. BREACH (February 16) tells how the FBI imagined that Robert Hanssen was the God-fearing patriot he pretended to be; the damage to US intelligence has yet to be calculated. Ryan Phillippe and Chris Cooper star; Billy Ray (Shattered Glass) directs.
But if you believe in your dream enough, can it come true? In Mark Polish’s THE ASTRONAUT FARMER (February 23), Billy Bob Thornton plays an astronaut who retires to save his farm. Then he thinks, why not build my own rocket? Virginia Madsen plays the long-suffering wife. And sometimes when you believe in a dream hard enough, they call it paranoid schizophrenia. Maybe that’s what Jim Carrey finds out in Joel Schumacher’s THE NUMBER 23 (February 23), where he’s a man obsessed with a book that seems based on his life and ends in a murder. Maybe he just needs the kind of tough love dished out in BLACK SNAKE MOAN (February 23), where Samuel L. Jackson is a bluesman who locks up spitfire/abuse victim Christina Ricci (they must have worked out their Home of the Brave problems) until she mends her ways. Craig Brewer, hot off Hustle & Flow, directs.
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