Great Actors: 8 Movies [2 Discs] [DVD]
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A powerful behind-the-scenes man in politics and show business finds himself skidding into a very public scandal in this taut drama. Eli Wurman (Al Pacino) was raised in the deep South, attended Harvard Law School, and has devoted his spare time to progressive political causes since working alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s. However, Wurman now makes his living as a press agent and PR man, and while he's near the top of his profession, years of overwork, constant smoking and drinking, and ceaseless tension are taking their toll, leaving him on the verge of collapse, with only the prescriptions of his friend Dr. Napier (Robert Klein) keeping him on his feet. One of Wurman's biggest clients is Cary Launer (Ryan O'Neal), a fading film star with political aspirations who, after attending a disastrous Broadway opening, asks Wurman to do him a big favor -- bail Launer's girlfriend, Jilli (Téa Leoni), out of jail and keep an eye on her. Wurman manages to get Jilli out of the stir, but she insists upon being escorted to an exclusive sex and opium den for a night of heavy drinking and drugging, and then reveals to Wurman that she owns a device which she's used to record footage of the most public figures who attend the club, including Elliott Sharansky, a billionaire Jewish civic leader (Richard Schiff). That night, a half out-of-it Eli accompanies Jilli back to her hotel room when an intruder barges in and forces an overdose on her, killing her instantly. The next morning, Wurman has only fuzzy memories of what transpired. He decides to focus on his attempts to set up a political fundraiser, but has a hard time getting the right A-list celebs to appear, just as many of New York's power brokers aren't especially interesting in working with Wurman or Launer. In the midst of this chaos, Victoria (Kim Basinger), who was married to Wurman's late brother, arrives in New York and urges him to leave the city and his career behind while he still can. People I Know was screened in competition at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
The owner of an aircraft salvage company (Viggo Mortensen) is reported killed in a crash. However, his wife (Andie MacDowell) knows better, and she decides to find him and his secret bank accounts. She travels around the world, and winding up in Cairo, she meets Liam Neeson, who helps her uncover her husband's smuggling scheme. ~ Deb Rainsbottom, Rovi
Director Lasse Hallström offers a brisk account of the scam that shook the literary community with this semi-comic biographical drama starring Richard Gere as the man who sold a fraudulent biography of Howard Hughes to publishing giant McGraw Hill. The year was 1971; the Vietnam War was raging and protestors filled the streets. Clifford Irving (Gere) was a struggling author with bold ambitions, and the determination needed to see them through. When Irving's attempt to sell his latest novel to McGraw Hill via his in-house publisher, Andrea Tate (Hope Davis), falls through at the last minute, the frustrated author loudly proclaims that his next novel will be "the book of the century." Upon returning to his wife Edith's (Marcia Gay Harden) makeshift studio, the humiliated author catches a glimpse of eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes on a magazine cover. Later, almost jokingly, Irving and his best friend Dick Suskind (Alfred Molina) begin to fantasize about a scenario in which the author convinces his publishers that he has been personally selected by Hughes to pen the billionaire's memoirs. The revenge fantasy becomes a complicated reality, however, when Irving and Suskind approach skeptical McGraw Hill heavy Shelton Fisher (Stanley Tucci) with a series of forged letters presumably written by Hughes himself and offering unwavering support for the project. His credibility continually questioned as the ante is upped at every turn, Irving is forced to maintain the increasingly difficult charade as he strong-arms McGraw Hill to pay "Hughes" an unheard-of one million dollars for the rights to his life story, acquires a the illegally procured documents that will provide the foundation for the book, and works around the clock to meet his publisher's deadline. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi
Family of Cops
In this made-for-TV thriller, Paul Fein (Charles Bronson) is a veteran police detective whose son Eddie (Sebastian Spence) is also a cop. Paul is assigned to investigate the murder of a prominent businessman, and he soon learns that the field of suspects has been narrowed down to two -- the victim's sexually freewheeling wife Anna (Lesley-Anne Down), and Paul's wild-child daughter Jackie (Angela Featherstone). Neither Paul nor Eddie believe that Jackie could have committed the murder, and soon Paul is using himself as a decoy in a bid to find out more about what Anna does and doesn't know about her husband's death. Family of Cops was followed by two sequels. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
The Crossing Guard
Sean Penn wrote and directed this tale of loss, guilt, and revenge. The daughter of Freddy and Mary Gale (Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston) was killed by a drunk driver, John Booth (David Morse). The death of their child took a heavy toll on the Gales; their marriage broke up, and, while Mary has remarried and attempted to put her life back together, Freddy has become an embittered alcoholic, seething with directionless rage and searching for a purpose in life. Freddy intends to kill Booth as soon as he's released from prison, as he believes that jail was not a severe enough punishment for his daughter's death. But Freddy discovers that Booth is still wracked with guilt for his crime and can barely live with himself. He tells Booth that he has three days left to live; Booth tries to find solace in the arms of artist Jojo (Robin Wright), while Freddy continues to wallow in alcohol and self-pity at a strip club. The Crossing Guard also features an original song by Bruce Springsteen; Penn's previous directorial outing, The Indian Runner, was loosely based on a Springsteen song from his album Nebraska. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
Breach of Faith: A Family of Cops II
A priest has been murdered in the neighborhood of Inspector Paul Fein's youth, and it's up to the seasoned cop to crack the case in director David Greene's entry into the tense Family of Cops series. It's not going to be easy going back to the streets of his childhood, but despite the demons that linger in the shadows of every corner, this is one case he's not willing to let slip through the cracks. With all evidence pointing to the Russian Mafia as being responsible for the crime, Inspector Fein searches desperately for a witness who's willing to talk. As fear tightens its grip on the scared Russian community of Milwaukee, bodies continue to pile up and an unspoken code of silence threatens to stonewall the investigation. Now, with both his life and the lives of his family hanging in the balance, Inspector Fein must make the decision to pull back, or press forward and pray that the killer won't get to him before he gets to them. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi
A bright young African-American boy attempts to survive life in the city by acting as an errand boy for a drug dealer in this thoughtful, sharply plotted drama. Known as Fresh, the young man must use his delivery jobs to support himself and his troubled sister, receiving nothing from his distant, alcoholic father but the occasional chess lesson. His intelligence and quiet determination serve him well, as he wins the trust of his employer and settles into an unpleasant but survivable routine. Even this small comfort disappears, however, when Fresh accidentally witnesses the killing of a classmate and becomes a potential target himself. Forced into an impossible situation, he puts his experience and strategic ability to good use, developing a tricky plan to protect his own life and defeat the killers. First-time director Boaz Yakin emphasizes restraint and realism, presenting potentially sensationalistic material with a minimum of violence and flash. Instead, attention is placed on the strong, layered performances, particularly Sean Nelson as Fresh and Samuel L. Jackson as his embittered father. While some have questioned the film's treatment of inner city life, the film was generally acclaimed, thanks to its seriousness and complexity. ~ Judd Blaise, Rovi
She's So Lovely
Written by the late John Cassavettes in 1987 and filmed by his son Nick a decade later, the comic drama She's So Lovely (originally and more appropriately titled She's De Lovely in honor of the Cole Porter composition central to the movie) stars real-life couple Sean Penn and Robin Wright-Penn as Eddie and Maureen, a young husband and wife whose relationship is strained by Eddie's frequently irrational behavior. When a run-in with a slimy neighbor (James Gandolfini) leaves the pregnant Maureen beaten and bruised, Eddie goes on the warpath, and his violent actions land him in a mental institution. Upon his release a decade later, he discovers Maureen has remarried (to a construction manager portrayed by John Travolta), had two more kids, and moved to the suburbs. Regardless, he resolves to win her back. A kind of reworking of the Cassavetes Sr. masterpiece A Woman Under the Influence, She's So Lovely marked the second film directed by Nick after Unhook the Stars. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi