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BOP 25 Most Anticipated Holiday Movies: 5-1

By BOP Staff

November 3, 2006

Antonio Banderas will be along any minute to shoot these people. 5) Fast Food Nation

Fast Food Nation may be one of the more unlikely seeming adaptations to the big screen in some time, in large part since it's based on a non-fiction expose of the fast food industry written by Eric Schlosser. Director Richard Linklater has taken the strategy of dramatizing the effects detailed in the book, from the migrant workers involved in producing the food, up to the executives of the companies, and the environmental, social and economic ramifications of their decisions.

An ensemble film, these multiple story lines blend together in a Traffic-esque fashion, though the proximate star is Greg Kinnear as an executive for a burger company named Mickey's (I'll give you one guess which one this stands in for), but the film also features prominent roles from Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Wilmer Valderrama and Catalina Sandino Moreno.

It's easy to read this film as a companion to the documentary Super Size Me. It is destined to be a lightning rod this fall, and a prominent example of the new socially conscious cinema. Just don't look for the Happy Meal tie-in. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
Compare me to Pierce Brosnan one more time. I dare you. 4) Casino Royale

After the Broccoli family declined to invite Pierce Brosnan back for the 20th installment in the James Franchise, the stargazing public went through literally years of speculation as to who would take over the keys to the Aston Martin. Plenty of names were bandied about (some of them only rumors), from Ewan McGregor to Julian McMahon to Hugh Grant to Hugh Jackman to Clive Owen to Pierce Brosnan again, and that was just the tip of the iceberg. In the end, though, the producers went with the (largely) unpopular choice in Daniel Craig, whose big-budget roles have seen him play mid-level villains (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Road to Perdition). He's better known as an indie darling, with notable roles in Enduring Love, Layer Cake, and the currently-in-release Infamous. He faces a daunting task as he hopes to woo longtime Bond fans as well as new ones, and many aficionados of the series have reservations, and probably rightfully so. Not only is there a new Bond to deal with, but the movie itself is a return to the basics. Q is gone, and rather than having baccarat be the focal game as it was in the book and original film, Casino Royale's creators decided to go with the more fad-friendly Texas Hold 'Em.

Still, even with all of these concerns, there is reason for hope. Craig is a fine actor and a dominating screen presence, and trailers have highlighted his strengths in the best possible way. The special effects, given the smaller-than-typical budget, look quite solid. And this Bond looks to be a gritty, tough, dark film that is much closer in tone to the intent of the Ian Fleming books than has perhaps been achieved in some of the earlier iterations. We're rooting for Casino Royale and a rejuvenation of the Bond franchise, and a little reinvintion might just be the way to go. (Kim Hollis/BOP)




Can you believe we couldn't spring for a color film? 3) The Good German

Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney working together for the fifth time is cause enough for confidence. The directing/acting pair's original creation, Out of Sight, is one of the best movies of the 1990s. They added several of Hollywood's elite for their next effort, Ocean's 11, and the result was a $183 million blockbuster beloved by almost everyone who saw it. Their third production, Solaris, was a stubbornly off-putting movie in a lot of ways, but its dispassionate, emotionally withdrawn nature is the perfect tone for such a marvelous think piece. And the most recent union was Ocean's 12. Moving along quickly...

What we know is that Soderbergh and Clooney are capable of the highest quality output Hollywood has to offer these days when they are on their game. When they're not, we wind up with Julia Roberts "acting" as Julia Roberts. BOP presumes that was an unfortunate mistake never to be repeated again. We expect their fifth outing to be much closer to Ocean's 11 and Out of Sight in terms of quality. The project is certainly ambitious enough.

The Good German is a modern day Casablanca and if you believe that's not a comparison they want, simply take a look at the poster on the front page of the site. Based on the popular Joseph Kanon novel, the movie tells the story of an American journalist, Jake Geisman (Clooney), who returns to post-World War II Europe to cover the Potsdam Conference. But the real purpose of the reporter's visit is to reunite with his lover, a married German woman (Cate Blanchett) whose husband is an important mathematician.

When the body of an American soldier washes ashore in the Russian zone, Geisman begins an investigation into the death. In the process, he unravels a mystery involving multiple governments as well as some of the finest minds in the world. His main purpose throughout, however, is to win back the heart of another man's wife. How's that for a Casablanca-flavored plot? Since we named the Bogey/Bergman classic #1 in our Most Romantic Films list and the annual Calvins don't seem complete without at least one Clooney or Soderbergh film, it's obvious why we are so excited about The Good German. Please don't break our hearts again like you did with Ocean's 12. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Stop telling me we're ripping off The Truman Show! 2) Stranger Than Fiction

Imagine, if you will, that as you go about your daily business, a voice from above narrates and discusses every action you take. Even as you decide to eat some General Tso's Chicken, that voice has predestined your decision and is controlling everything that happens to you. You'd be through the looking glass when your invisible narrator gets to the part where you go to philosophy class and discuss free will.

Such is the premise of Stranger Than Fiction, a comedy/drama about a man whose life is being narrated by a strange female voice. In reality, this female is a writer, and our hero is the character of her latest book. Trouble is, he really exists, and her plans for him have completely complicated his life. Even worse, when she decides to kill him off, he must desperately search for a way to get her attention.

Will Ferrell makes the Jim Carrey transition from Comedy to potential award-winning fare here, and his everyman is an ideal choice. Sure, he's starred in the funniest film of the past five years (Anchorman), but when Ferrell does straight and deadpan, he can be quite effective. His foil is the magnificent Emma Thompson, who many people may not realize got her own start in comedy. Early MTV viewers such as myself will remember her from the University Challenge episode of British comedy series The Young Ones. The cast also includes such strong supporting players as Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman and Queen Latifah. As far as the director goes, Marc Forster, who helmed the remarkable Finding Neverland, has charge of the proceedings. With such an intriguing premise and a formidable pedigree, this project is one that not only looks to be a box office break out, but also a potential awards contender. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Sacha Baron Cohen hides from the inevitable slew of attorneys headed his way. 1) Borat

Perhaps the best known high-wire act in comedy today, Borat is Sacha Baron Cohen's second character to get a big screen release, following Ali G Indahouse, though that saw little exposure in North America. In the meantime, his fame has grown, and thus the blitz for Borat.

A mockumentary, Borat (full title: Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan) has Cohen as Kazakhstani journalist Borat Sagdiyev on a journey to learn about America. Of course, it's all a huge put-on to interact with unsuspecting strangers and to get them to hang themselves with truly mind-boggling statements.

And what a good job he does of it, with just a little prompting of some ridiculously racist and anti-Semitic remarks, pointing out just how easy it can be to provoke racism and xenophobia. This tactic has proven extremely controversial, forcing the actual nation of Kazakhstan into responding to the character's claims about the country, much to Cohen's delight. Directed by Larry Charles, the film is essentially one large, extended prank, but for those in the know, it's just about the funniest-damn thing they've ever seen. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)


     


 
 

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