Can Matthew McConaughey lead an all-star, he-man cast of sub-mariners to victory over the Nazis? For that matter, can he lead them to victory over reigning box-office champs Samuel L Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones?
"U-571," which stars McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel and Jon Bon Jovi, leads the pack of new films entering theaters nationwide this weekend. Based on reviews and good-ol’-fashioned buzz, the undersea action flick appears to stand the best chance of bumping "Rules of Engagement" from the top spot.
Two other major films will get wide releases this weekend: "Love and Basketball," with a stellar cast; and "Gossip" starring Joshua Jackson of "Dawson’s Creek" fame and a cast of post-adolescents. Meanwhile, the directorial debut of Sofia Coppola (daughter of Francis, natch), "The Virgin Suicides" with Kirsten Dunst and James Woods, will open in limited release.
Here’s a rundown of this weekend’s new releases:
"U-571" See the trailer THE LOWDOWN: A group of WWII naval officers, using their zippy submarine, try to steal a stop-secret coding device from a Nazi U-boat and save the world from fascism. THE UPSIDE: Harvey Keitel could take on the Nazis single-handedly. THE DOWNSIDE: Standing next to Keitel, Matthew "skinny guy from ‘Contact’" McConaughey and Jon "Livin’ On a Prayer" Bon Jovi are decidedly lacking in the cojones department.
"LOVE AND BASKETBALL" See the trailer THE LOWDOWN: Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan star as lifelong, platonic hoop-shooting friends of the opposite sex, who eventually give in to mutual attraction. THE UPSIDE: Also features Harry Lennix, who was amazing as the Moor in "Titus." THE DOWNSIDE: If your girlfriend can beat you at a game of one-on-one, you ought to try baseball instead.
"GOSSIP" THE LOWDOWN: James Marsden, Kate Hudson and Lena Heady star in a story about a rumor that’s planted as part of a college class project but soon escalates out of control. THE UPSIDE: The film’s marketing campaign heavily exploits the fact that is in the cast. THE DOWNSIDE: Jackson is a supporting player, which means most of the movie is about Marsden, Hudson and Heady.
"THE VIRGIN SUICIDES" See the trailer THE LOWDOWN: Based on a 1991 novel about a real-life 1970s incident, it’s the story of a suburban family thrown into a state of depression and isolation after one of their five daughters attempts suicide. THE UPSIDE: An extremely cool cast, including Kathleen Turner as the family mom. And as "The Ice Storm" showed a few years ago, disaffected 1970s suburban families make for fine movie subject matter. THE DOWNSIDE: This one debuted at Sundance earlier this year, and the word-of-mouth in Park City was not kind. MAINSTAYS: Look for "Erin Brockovich," "The Road to El Dorado," "Keeping the Faith," "The Skulls" and perhaps even "Return to Me" to remain in the Top 10.