First things first: Babel opens this weekend at the Bijou. Go see it. We'll have a review for you next week, but you needn't wait. Go. Now.
So, the going story with Rogue Pictures is that, in 2004, classy art-house outfit Focus Features (I love 'em) had picked up the rights to Seed of Chucky, but weren't too keen on sullying their good name and by releasing the heap (by then, they had their stamp on Gosford Park, The Pianist, Lost in Translation, and 21 Grams, among others), so they created Frankenstein-ish, low-grade clone Rogue to do the job. Out, then, with what's now Rogue's ninth flick, the Austin-filmed, Tex-centric spookybit The Return, wherein a haunted-by-visions-and-well-timed-sound-cues Sarah Michelle Gellar investigates her own murder in a small Texas town. (Wha- ? Oh, yeah. You read that right. It's Rogue, baby.) Plus: Sam Shepard, and the perpetually terrified-looking Kate Beahan.
This is all leading up to a showdown, and you know it. On the heels of the particularly well-received (and very funny) Talladega Nights, Will Ferrell takes his highest-profile dip into pseudo-drama with Stranger than Fiction (interview, page 21), about a man who discovers that the events of his life are being written in a book that ends with a troubling, yet-to-happen death.
They say write what you know; David Ayer listens. An ex-Navy sonar specialist who grew up on the rough-and-tumble streets of L.A., Ayer has writer's credits on six scripts, only one of which doesn't have to do with the LAPD or the Armed Forces (or both). Whoops - scratch that: Dude in The Fast and the Furious ('01, not '55) was an undercover cop or something. At any rate, the writer of Training Day and Dark Blue gets a shot at the director's foldy chair with (the awkwardly titled) Harsh Times, and a helping hand from a somewhat intriguing cast that includes Christian Bale, Eva Longoria, and Freddy Rodriguez.
Ridley Scott + Russell Crowe = rom-dram-com. Promise. It's called A Good Year; the (tepid) review's on page 23.
Happy this week ... next week: Bond en Blond!
Local premiere dates for limited-release films are tentative and can change at the last minute. Please check your local theater listings to confirm showtimes.