'Stranger Than Fiction':Will Ferrell takes a break from his usual wild-eyed, slapstick fare to star as Harold Crick, an IRS agent who starts hearing voices in his head. Scratch that -- he hears one voice, and it's a narrator who sounds suspiciously like Emma Thompson. Turns out she's Kay Eiffel, a writer working on a novel whose main character is named -- surprise! -- Harold Crick. It's all a bit much for poor Harold, who pieces things together with the aid of a literary theorist (Dustin Hoffman) and an anarchist baker (the adorable Maggie Gyllenhaal).
'Stranger Than Fiction' is clever, charming and bittersweet, 'Adaptation' meets 'The Truman Show' -- and while it's being billed as Will Ferrell's first big serious role, he's still funny in a fine, understated performance. This is a tricky one to predict. The teens and young males who made 'Talladega Nights' a hit aren't going to go for a Ferrell who doesn't take his clothes off; on the plus side, he doesn't take his clothes off. (No worries, guys, Borat's taken up the clothes-shedding mantle quite nicely.) Also, I loved it, and I figure that's gotta count for something, even if only in my head. Yup, I've got an inner voice, too. 'Cept mine sounds like Christopher Walken.
'The Return': You know her as the star of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' and 'The Grudge'; now Sarah Michelle Gellar is starring in ... a horror movie. Shocker! (Let's not forget, she also co-starred in 'I Know What You Did Last Summer' and 'Scream 2.') She's come a long way since her days as the bitchy Kendall on 'All My Children' ... but I digress. Gellar plays a young woman, haunted by visions, who starts to believe that she may have been murdered in a past life. 'The Return' is the only horror movie opening wide this weekend, and 'Saw III' may have peaked by now, so this should have the thrill-seeking crowd all locked up. On the other hand, it seems fairly forgettable as far as horror movies go, and that bland title doesn't help. It may as well be a movie about a young woman haunted by her overdue DVD rentals.
'A Good Year': If 'Stranger Than Fiction' features a comic actor in a dramatic role, then 'A Good Year' does the reverse, giving Russell Crowe a chance to do something he rarely ever does: smile. (See? Right there to your left -- there's your proof. Quick, you might miss it!) He plays an investment banker who goes to Provence to manage a vineyard his uncle left him in his will. Crowe's an Oscar-winner, and the director is the venerable Ridley Scott ('Alien,''Blade Runner,'Thelma and Louise'), so the movie's got that going for it; but the reviews have been disappointing, and the most memorable thing about this film may be the presence of rising young Aussie Abbie Cornish, aka The Woman Who May Have Broken Up Ryan and Reese's Marriage. (But she's also a fantastic actress.) In the end, I wonder whether Scott and Crowe should have stuck to gladiator movies.
Also opening wide or wider this week: 'Harsh Times,' which stars Christian Bale as a would-be cop, and 'Babel,'Alejandro González Iñárritu's film of intersecting storylines that stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Neither should make the top five this week. 'Babel' is getting a good bit of Oscar buzz, but it's still an indie, and not a particularly easy one, at that; while 'Harsh Times' is ... um, has anyone really even heard of this film? Sorry, Batman.That's it for the new releases. I won't bore you further by rambling on about 'Borat,' since I already did that last week -- God bless that crazy Kazakh and his little moviefilm that could. Is niiice. And now, without further ado, the picks you've all been waiting for. Please play along: one point for every movie in the top five, two points for every correct placement,and one extra point for getting the No. 1 movie right. Good luck, and have a great weekend. Peace out.
NOTE: Prediction entries must be submitted by midnight (Pacific time) on Saturday, and you may only post one prediction. Void where prohibited, yadda yadda yadda.
Borat, Stranger Than Fiction, The Return, A Good Year, movies, box office, prediction