2012 Lester Cohen
Despite not signing on to direct further installments of the Hunger Games series, writer and director Gary Ross enjoyed working with his leading lady so much that the two are planning to reunite for not one, but two more films. Ross has tapped Jennifer Lawrence to star in an upcoming adaptation of the John Steinbeck classic East of Eden, which is a retelling of the story of Cain and Abel. Lawrence would reportedly play Cathy Ames, the cold, cruel mother of the boys, who she abandons along with their father — you know, just some lighthearted family fun. East of Eden will be split into two films in order to properly capture its epic tale, and although a script has already been written, there's a chance that Ross may rewrite the film himself in addition to directing it.
The pair is also reportedly trying to adapt Hannah Kent's novel Burial Rites, which centers around of a woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829. It's based on the true story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last person to be executed in Iceland. Lawrence would play Agnes, a role reminscent in tone of her breakout performance in 2010's Winter's Bone.
Neither film is a surprising choice for Lawrence, who has been balancing out the Hunger Games series with Oscar season films like the upcoming American Hustle and last year's Silver Linings Playbook — which earned her an Academy Award — both of which were directed by David O. Russell. However, the role of Cathy Ames may prove to be more difficult for her, as it seems like it may be better suited to an older actress. Her performance in Winter's Bone proves that Lawrence can play bleak incredibly well, so there's a chance that she will manage to do the part justice, although we're predicting the better performance will come from Burial Rites. Either way, she's pretty much a lock for yet another Oscar nomination.
The bigger challenge, though, rests in the hands of Ross, who is tasked with taking Steinbeck, a great but very dense writer, and turning his work into a compelling film. He also must compete with the 1955 version of East of Eden, which was directed by Elia Kazan and starred James Dean. He'll be under less pressure for Burial Rites, but in both cases, his previous directorial credits prove that Ross' specialty is highly-stylized, beautifully shot films, so he should have no problem capturing the bleak tone of the novels on film. And with four previous nods under his belt, we can guarantee that both movies will be surrounded by Oscar buzz before filming wraps.
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David Ames (Tom Cruise) lives a charmed life the ultimate golden boy. He's got looks charisma and money--lots of money. David has inherited a multimillion-dollar publishing business from his late father and he could care less about it. He has women buzzing around him like flies including one actress Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz) who has more than a crush on him. One fateful night David meets the girl of his dreams Sofia (Penelope Cruz) and has an amazing all-nighter with her where she tells him profound things like "Every minute that passes is an opportunity to turn things around." David finally understands what it means to fall in love and to commit but then abruptly his luck runs out. In the morning David flushed with exhilaration as he leaves Sofia's apartment makes a near-fatal mistake: he gets into a car with Julie who has been following him to smooth things out with her. In one tragic moment his whole life radically changes. He desperately tries to piece things together to get Sofia back but the more he tries the stranger the circumstances become around him especially when he's accused of murder. Soon he's not sure whether what's happening to him is a dream or reality.
Cruise is a great actor when given the right material. His performances in movies such as Born on the Fourth of July and Magnolia show that Cruise has the acting chops to dig in and make it work. Unfortunately Vanilla Sky wasn't the right vehicle for him. Cruise is actually somewhat compelling as the superficial rich guy who falls in love and then deals with his tragic deformity but his performance falls apart halfway through the film as the character spirals into his own private abyss. His co-star Cruz who played the same character in the 1997 Spanish film on which Sky is based Abre Los Ojos is truly a beauty on screen but the chemistry between the two was pretty tame. Somehow Sofia's transition into the English-speaking world lacks passion. In fact the only time Sofia is truly passionate is when she yells at David in Spanish. Diaz does a serviceable job playing the stalker Julie but doesn't really have much screen time. Even the usually good Jason Lee as David's best friend seems wasted. Only Kurt Russell's supporting turn as David's prison therapist hangs together and rings true.
It's painfully obvious writer/director Cameron Crowe did not make this movie from his heart like his other films. Instead he adapted the material from Abre Los Ojos a film about the world of casual sex and young adults taking responsibility for their actions and turned it into this convoluted mess. Sky starts with some promise as Cruise's shallow playboy deals with the increasingly wacky Julie and then falls in love with the beautiful Sofia. The long night David and Sofia spend together is filled with sexual energy (more from their banter though than any real sparks between the actors) and the characters seem alive--just the stuff Crowe thrives on. Even the pain David first goes through after the accident is moving. The wonderful thing about Crowe is he can really write unbelievable dialogue. Sofia has one of the best lines to describe Julie as she watches her pine after David: "She's the saddest girl I've ever seen holding a martini glass." Yet it is clear that if Crowe doesn't feel it in his bones the movie falls flat. Once Sky moves off into the surreal halfway through Crowe loses his touch and you're left scratching your head saying "Huh?"