Stranger Than Fiction
You can file this one under Charlie Kaufman-lite, though it's just as appealing. Will Ferrell is a taxman who discovers he's the main character in a novel by a troubled author (Emma Thompson), and she plans to kill him off. This sets in motion a series of various Will Ferrell freakouts (nobody freaks out better than Will Ferrell), as he attempts to find the author, and makes a pit stop for a little lovin' in the process. The relationship between Maggie Gyllenhaal's pastry-baking anarchist and Ferrell's IRS stooge is a little tough to swallow, but hey, it's fiction. It's not all that strange, though: The idea that Ferrell's character exists solely as a work of fiction in an otherwise real world is never questioned. Like Kaufman fare, the film strives to be charming, funny and heartfelt all at once, and does a damn fine job hitting all of the above. I also found the film inspiring: I've since began writing a book mapping out the demise of my sworn enemy (you know who you are).
Rent or buy | Watch Ferrell/Hoffman Unscripted
Fun Fact: Maggie Gyllenhaal was the main character in this dream I had last night.
The Heart of the Game
Have you ever watched a documentary and thought to yourself, how in the world did this filmmaker know that this seemingly ordinary subject would become such an extraordinary story? Did director Ward Serrill have any sort of hunch? Was it dumb luck? Is he a warlock? Watching a film like The Heart of the Game makes me think there must be a few hundred other docs about girls high school basketball that will never see the light of the day. Initially inspired by charismatic, slightly off-his-rocker coach Bill Resler, Serrill actually followed the Roosevelt Roughriders (kind of dirty name, no?), a premiere Seattle varsity team, for six years. His 200 hours of raw footage was whittled down to an immensely entertaining, highly inspiring 97 minutes that focuses in large part on the relationship between coach and Darnellia Russell, the team's sole black player, who will face off-court drama (and actual court drama) and attempt a valiant comeback. Expect catfights, rousing locker room pep talks, buzzer beaters and the most fun you've had on the tiles since Teen Wolf.
Rent or buy the DVD
Fun Fact: Miramax plans to release the 10-disc, 200-hour Heart of the Game: Director's Cut in Fall, 2008.
Unnecessary Sequel of the Week:The Return
(Clarification: Though The Return, Sarah Michelle Gellar's latest horror flick, isn't related to The Grudge franchise and isn't "technically" a sequel, experts have still deemed it unnecessary.)
Other New Releases (Feb. 27):
Disclaimer: Never trust fun facts.