Bob Fosse's sexy cynicism still shines in Chicago, a faithful movie adaptation of the choreographer-director's 1975 Broadway musical. Of course the story, all about merry murderesses and tabloid fame, is set in the Roaring '20s, but Chicago reeks of '70s disenchantment--this isn't just Fosse's material, it's his attitude, too. That's probably why the movie's breathless observations on fleeting fame and fickle public taste already seem dated. However, Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones are beautifully matched as Jazz Age vixens, and Richard Gere gleefully sheds his customary cool to belt out a showstopper. (Yes, they all do their own singing and dancing.) Whatever qualms musical purists may have about director Rob Marshall's cut-cut-cut style, the film's sheer exuberance is intoxicating. Given the scarcity of big-screen musicals in the last 25 years, that's a cause for singing, dancing, cheering. And all that jazz. --Robert Horton
The English Patient
Winner of nine Academy Awards® and almost every critic's heart, The English Patient (based on Michael Ondaatje's prizewinning novel of love and loss during World War II) is one of the most acclaimed films of modern times. Hana, a nurse (Juliette Binoche), tends to an archaeologist (Ralph Fiennes) who has been burnt to a crisp in a plane crash. As their relationship intensifies, he flashes back to his overwhelming passion for a married woman (Kristin Scott Thomas). Meanwhile, Hana begins a new romance with a man who defuses bombs (Naveen Andrews) and Willem Dafoe almost steals the show as the thumbless thief Caravaggio. The intricately layered flashback narrative, sounding the depths of the lovers' hearts, improves with repeated viewings.
The King's Speech
Candidates for president and prime minister choose to run, but kings rarely have a choice. Such was the case for Prince Albert, known by family members as Bertie (Colin Firth), whose stutter made public speaking difficult. Upon the death of his father, George V (Michael Gambon, making the most of a small part), the crown went to Bertie's brother, Edward VIII (Guy Pearce), who abdicated to marry divorcée Wallis Simpson. All the while, Bertie and his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter, excellent), try to find a solution to his stammer. Nothing works until they meet Australian émigré Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a failed actor operating out of a threadbare office. He believes Bertie's problem stems from emotional rather than physiological issues, leading to a clash of wills that allows the Oscar®-winning Rush (Shine) and the Oscar-nominated Firth (A Single Man) to do some of their best work (in a neat bit of casting, Firth's Pride and Prejudice costar, Jennifer Ehle, plays Logue's wife). All their efforts, from the tense to the comic--Bertie doesn't stutter when he swears--lead to the speech King George VI must make to the British public on the eve of World War II. At a time when his country needs him the most, he can't afford to fail. As Stephen Frears did in The Queen, Tom Hooper (HBO's Elizabeth I) lends vulnerability to a royal figure, showing how isolating that life can be--and how much difference a no-nonsense friend like Logue can make. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Shakespeare in Love
One of the most endearing and intelligent romantic comedies of the '90s, the Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love is filled with such good will, sunny romance, snappy one-liners, and devilish cleverness that it's absolutely irresistible. With tongue placed firmly in cheek, at its outset the film tracks young Will Shakespeare's overwrought battle with writer's block and the efforts of theater owner Philip Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush, in rare form) to stage Will's latest comedy, Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter. Jokey comedy, though, soon takes a backseat to ravishing romance when the beautiful Viola De Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) disguises herself as a young man to wangle herself an audition in the all-male cast, and wins both the part of Romeo and, after much misunderstanding, the playwright's heart. Soon enough, Will's pirate comedy becomes the beautiful, tragic Romeo and Juliet, reflecting the agony and ecstasy of Will and Viola's romance--he's married and she's set to marry the slimy Lord Wessex (Colin Firth) in the near future.
The way that Oscar-winning screenwriters Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard enfold their story within the parameters of Romeo and Juliet (and even Twelfth Night) is nothing short of brilliant--it would take a Shakespearean scholar to dissect the innumerable parallels, oft-quoted lines, plot developments, and thematic borrowings. And most amazingly, Norman and Stoppard haven't forgotten to entertain their audience in addition to riding a Shakespearean roller coaster, with director John Madden (Mrs. Brown) reigning in his huge ensemble with rollicking energy. Along the way there are small gems to be found, including Judi Dench's eight-minute, Oscar-winning turn as a truly regal Queen Elizabeth, but the key element of Shakespeare in Love's success rests on the milky-white shoulders of its two stars. Fiennes, inexplicably overlooked at Oscar time, is a dashing, heartfelt Will, and as for Best Actress winner Paltrow, well, nothing she'd done before could have prepared viewers for how amazing she is here. Breathtakingly beautiful, fiercely intelligent, strong-willed, and lovestruck--it's a performance worthy of Shakespeare in more ways than one. By the film's end, you'll be thoroughly won over--and brushing up your Shakespeare with newfound ardor. --Mark Englehart
From the Studio
Winner of six Academy Awards® (including Best Picture!), and starring Academy Award® nominee (Best Actress, Chicago) and Golden Globe Award® winner (Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy Chicago) Renée Zellweger (Bridget Jones's Diary), Academy Award® winner (Best Supporting Actress, Chicago) Catherine Zeta-Jones (Traffic), Academy Award® nominee (Best Supporting Actress, Chicago) Queen Latifah (Bringing down the House), Golden Globe® winner (Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy, Chicago) Richard Gere (Unfaithful), and Academy Award® nominee (Best Supporting Actor, Chicago), John C. Reilly (Gangs of New York). Chicago is a dazzling spectacle cheered by audiences and critics alike! At a time when crimes of passion result in celebrity headlines, nightclub sensation Velma Kelly (Zeta-Jones) and spotlight-seeking Roxie Hart (Zellweger) both find themselves sharing space on Chicago's famed Murderess Row! They also share Billy Flynn (Gere), the town's slickest lawyer with a talent for turning notorious defendants into local legends. But in Chicago, there's only room for one legend! Also starring Lucy Liu (Charlie's Angels).
The English Patient
During World War II, a mysterious stranger is called for by British allies unaware of his dangerous past. Yet, as the mystery of his identity is revealed, an incredible tale of passion, intrigue and adventure unfolds!
The King's SpeechShakespeare in Love
After the death of his father King George V (Michael Gambon) and the scandalous abdication of King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce), Bertie (Colin Firth) who has suffered from a debilitating speech impediment all his life, is suddenly crowned King George VI of England. With his country on the brink of war and in desperate need of a leader, his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), the future Queen Mother, arranges for her husband to see an eccentric speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). After a rough start, the two delve into an unorthodox course of treatment and eventually form an unbreakable bond. With the support of Logue, his family, his government and Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall), the King will overcome his stammer and deliver a radio-address that inspires his people and unites them in battle. Based on the true story of King George VI, The King's Speech follows the Royal Monarch's quest to find his voice.
Triumphant winner of 7 Academy Awards® (including Best Picture) this witty, sexy smash features Oscar-winning Best Actress Gwyneth Paltrow (Sliding Doors
, The Royal Tenenbaums
) and an amazing cast that includes Academy Award®-winners Judi Dench (Best Supporting Actress), Geoffrey Rush (Best Actor -- Shine
), and Ben Affleck (Good Will Hunting
, Pearl Harbor
). When Will Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes, Elizabeth
) needs passionate inspiration to break a bad case of writer's block, a secret romance with the beautiful Lady Viola (Paltrow) starts the words flowing like never before! There are just two things he'll have to learn about his new love: not only is she promised to marry someone else, but she's successfully impersonating a man in order to play the lead in Will's latest production! A truly can't-miss motion picture event with outstanding critical acclaim to match its impressive collection of major awards -- everyone will love this funny behind-the-scenes look at the writing of the greatest love story ever told!