Monday, March 30, 2009

Don't Tempt Me... This is Getting Ridiculous

The 20 Most Tempting
Titles of 2009


#11-15 here / #16-20 here

(6) Whatever Works
Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, Patricia Clarkson, Henry Cavill

Woody Allen's return year after year is a bit like Christmas for me -- a funny, philosophical, adulterous Christmas. Last year's Vicky Cristina Barcelona was a stupendously light and lustful surprise, and my favorite film of the year. With Woody's latest we'll be again seeing Patricia Clarkson turn her two minutes of screen time into another resonant stunner, and she's joined by Woody's neurotic match point, Larry David. The plot's Mighty Aphrodite-vibe links Larry to Evan Rachel Wood for a romantic and comic tryst once he decides to abandon his upper-echelon existence for something more bohemian... and blond. Whatever works, Larry.

And permit me to begin my "Don't Tempt Me 2010" list because Woody's already lined up an awe-inspiring cast for his next (untitled) feature that's definitely what's working for me: Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, Antonio Banderas and Josh Brolin! Swoon.

Evan Rachel wants nothing to do with Larry's banana. If she's anything like me she's holding out for Henry Cavill's.

(7) This Side of the Truth
Director: Ricky Gervais /Matthew Robinson
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, Christopher Guest, Jason Bateman, Jeffrey Tambor

Ricky Gervais is the rare television/film/podcast/standup mastermind whose talents and empire are actually deserving. As a comic genius he's also wise to surround himself with rival comic genius. Christopher Guest! Jason Bateman! Jeffrey Tambor! Tina Fey! No lie, this sounds like comedy heaven. It also acts as a potentially amazing placeholder for the Arrested Development Movie while it's still in development shackles.

In a world where no one ever tells lies, Gervais stars as the first man to exploit dishonesty for financial gain. A boldfaced move on his part that sets off a catastrophic tidal wave of deception and farcical falsehoods. The plot's promising enough on its own, and we already know how Gervais handles playing a socially inept cad. Maybe it's having re-watched The Office and Extras back-to-back, but if God were to come back as a British comic he'd look exactly like this:

Another "Don't Tempt Me 2010" addition: It's actually possible Gervais is working on something even more tempting with The Men at the Pru -- his first feature film collaboration with co-mastermind Stephen Merchant, the man at the side of Ricky's greatest successes. Even our British Comedy Savior needs his man behind the curtain.

(8) Please Give
Director: Nicole Holofcener
Starring: Catherine Keener, Rebecca Hall
, Amanda Peet, Kevin Corrigan

Of the female directors working in America, Nicole Holofcener seems one of the most notable and still too unnoticed. Please, someone, give her consistent indie funding, and preferably her own HBO series starring Catherine Keener.
If we're ever to believe IMDb, this is the appropriately simple summary to her latest project: In New York City, a husband and wife butt heads with the granddaughters of the elderly woman who lives in apartment the couple owns.

Not so tempting in theory, but with Holofcener's films it's all about those ringing truths and small characteristic tweaks. I should never undersell her either: Friends with Money had Jennifer Aniston smoking weed and stealing vibrators and face cream, plus Frances McDormand refusing to wash her hair. In Holofcener's hands Catherine Keener's also been busted for underage sex with a minor, but as in her tradition of creating relatable scenarios, it was with Jake Gyllenhaal.

Friends with Munchies

Her work on cult faves like Walking and Talking, even episodes for TV classics Six Feet Under and Sex and the City, mark some of the more fully realized female arcs available in modern comedy, and some genuinely whip-smart and funny character pieces in general. Keener continues her collaboration, assuredly sharp as ever. She's joined by Rebecca Hall, who worked some sour/supple magic in Vicky Cristina Barcelona that actually seems in perfect fusion with Holofcener's films.

SO relatable.

(9) Nine
Director: Rob Marshall
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Penélope Cruz, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sophia Loren, Judi Dench

A stunning cast is setting the stage for Rob Marshall's return to the movie musical post-Chicago. One of the best things about that film was Marshall's successfully cinematic showstoppers, which is perfect considering this film revolves around a filmmaker and the many women revolving through his life. So many promising setups and period style, and the perfection that is this cast. Nicole Kidman's returning to movie musical that treated her so well, alongside Oscar-winning follow-up performances by the mesmerizing Daniel Day-Lewis and Penélope Cruz. Some real razzle dazzle!

Somebody's been good to Mama, because Mama's been good to us!

(10) Nailed
Director: David O. Russell
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal
, Catherine Keener, Jessica Biel, Paul Reubens, Jon Stewart, Kirstie Alley

I don't know if it's due to the abuses inflicted on his cast and crew, but David O. Russell knows great comedy. And since misery loves company, he also knows how to assemble an awesome ensemble. This time his oddball choice of casting Jessica Biel is softened by the blow of a nail to her character's head -- and it's actually a central plot device that sends her character to Washington D.C., dizzy with a cause and into the arms of a willing senator, played by the ever-nailable Jake Gyllenhaal. As Russell's done with I Heart Huckabees and Flirting with Disaster, there's a troupe of underused comic supporters. Among them there's the pleasant coincidence of Jake actually being reunited with his still Lovely & Amazing co-star Catherine Keener after all that nasty police business and him having hit legal age.

SO, SO relatable.

COMING SOON: The 5 Most Tempting Titles of 2009!

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