The First Wives Club

  • Directors: Hugh Wilson
  • Producers: Scott Rudin
  • Writers: Olivia Goldsmith, Robert Harling, Paul Rudnick
  • Genres: Comedy
  • Actors: Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton, Bette Midler, Elizabeth Berkley, Stockard Channing, Stephen Collins, Victor Garber, Marcia Gay Harden, Eileen Heckart, Dan Hedaya, Sarah Jessica Parker, Bronson Pinchot, Maggie Smith

At Middlebury College in 1969, four friends, Elise Elliot (Goldie Hawn), Brenda Morelli (Bette Midler), Annie MacDuggan (Diane Keaton), and Cynthia Griffin (Stockard Channing), are graduating. As graduation gifts, Cynthia (the valedictorian of the class) presents the girls with matching pearl necklaces. As the graduates take a commemorative picture of the four of them (presumably for the last time), Cynthia makes Annie, Brenda and Elise promise that they will always be there for each other throughout the remainder of their lives.

In the present time, the four friends eventually lose touch with one another, as evident when Cynthia is tearfully gazing at the picture of the four of them on that graduation day. She gives her maid a pearl necklace (identical to the one she gave to her friends on graduation day), and she has her mail letters to her college chums. She later walks outside of the balcony of her luxurious penthouse in a floor length fur coat, a cigarette and a drink, and then commits suicide by jumping off the balcony after learning through tabloids that her husband is divorcing her for a much younger woman. Her former friends aren’t doing much better: Brenda is divorced, left for a younger woman, depressed, and struggling financially. Elise, also divorced for a younger woman, is now an aging alcoholic movie star who has become a plastic-surgery addict to keep her career afloat. Annie, meanwhile, is separated and going through therapy with her husband. Shortly after Cynthia’s funeral, at which the three remaining friends are reunited for the first time since college, Annie’s husband Aaron (Stephen Collins) leaves her for her younger therapist (Marcia Gay Harden) and asks her for a divorce; Brenda has a rather unpleasant encounter at a clothing store with her ex, Morty (Dan Hedaya) and his younger and rather hateful mistress Shelly (Sarah Jessica Parker), and Elise finds out that her husband wants a divorce and is requesting alimony and half of their marital assets. Also, during a meeting with a director for a possible leading lady movie role, she discovers that she is only wanted for the mother of the leading lady. Shortly thereafter, the three friends receive the letter that Cynthia mailed to them before her suicide. After all three read their letter from Cynthia and feeling that they have been taken for granted by their husbands, the women decide to create the First Wives Club, aiming to get revenge on their exes. Annie’s lesbian daughter Chris (Jennifer Dundas) also gets in on the plan by asking for a job at her father’s advertising agency so she can supply her mother with inside information.

Deciding that revenge would make them no better than their husbands, they instead use these situations to push their men into funding the establishment of a non-profit organization dedicated to aiding abused women, in memory of their college friend Cynthia. The movie ends with a celebration at the new women’s center. Annie narrates that Elise started a relationship with a cast member in her new play, that Brenda and Morty reconciled their differences and got back together, and that when Aaron tried to get back together with her, Annie, she told him to “drop dead.”

Clueless

  • Directors: Amy Heckerling
  • Producers: Scott Rudin, Robert Lawrence, Twink Caplan
  • Writers: Amy Heckerling
  • Genres: Comedy, Romance
  • Actors: Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy, Paul Rudd, Donald Faison, Breckin Meyer

Clueless is a modernized version of Jane Austen’s 1815 novel Emma. The film tells the story of Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone), a good-natured but superficial girl (based on Emma Woodhouse, the title character of the novel).

Cher is attractive, popular, and extremely rich. At a few months shy of sixteen, she has risen to the top of the high school social scene and is happy and self-assured in her insular, fashion-obsessed world. She lives in a Beverly Hills mansion with her father (Dan Hedaya), a ferocious $500-an-hour litigator; her mother is long dead, having succumbed to complications while undergoing liposuction. Cher’s best friend is Dionne Davenport (Stacey Dash), who is also rich, pretty, and hip, and understands what it’s like to be envied.

Among the few people to find much fault with Cher is Josh (Paul Rudd), her socially conscious ex-stepbrother who visits during a break from college. Josh and Cher spar continually but without malice; she refers to him as “granola breath” and mocks his scruffy idealism, while he teases her for being selfish, vain, and superficial, and says that her only direction in life is “toward the mall”.

Illustrating that Cher’s selfishness is usually innocent and relatively harmless, Cher plays matchmaker for two lonely, nerdy, hard-grading teachers, Mr. Hall (Wallace Shawn) and Miss Geist (Twink Caplan). She achieves her original purpose – to make them relax their grading standards so she can renegotiate a bad report card – but when she sees their newfound happiness, she realizes she likes doing good deeds. Cher now decides that the ultimate way she can give back to the community would be to “adopt” a “tragically unhip” new girl at school, Tai Frasier (Brittany Murphy). Cher and Dionne give Tai a makeover and initiate her into the mysteries of popularity. Cher also tries to extinguish the strong mutual attraction between Tai and Travis (Breckin Meyer), an amiable skateboarding slacker, and to steer her toward Elton (Jeremy Sisto), a rich snob.

The film has a happy Hollywood ending for Cher: Mr. Hall and Miss Geist get married; her friendships with Tai and Dionne are reaffirmed; Tai and Travis are in love; and, in Josh’s arms, she too has now finally found love.

Greenberg

  • Directors: Noah Baumbach
  • Producers: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Scott Rudin, Lila Yacoub
  • Writers: Noah Baumbach, Jennifer Jason Leigh
  • Genres: Drama, Comedy
  • Actors: Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Chris Messina, Brie Larson, Juno Temple

Greenberg (Ben Stiller) is at a crossroads in his life. Out of a job and none too interested in finding one, he agrees to housesit for his younger and more successful brother, thereby getting a free place to stay in Los Angeles. Once settled in, Greenberg sets out to reconnect with his old friend and former bandmate Ivan (Rhys Ifans). But times have changed, and old friends aren’t necessarily still best friends, so Greenberg finds himself spending more and more time instead with his brother’s personal assistant Florence (Greta Gerwig), an aspiring singer and herself something of a lost soul. As their relationship develops through a series of embarrassingly awkward romantic encounters, even someone as irascible as Greenberg might have at last found a reason to be happy.[1]

Ransom

  • Directors: Ron Howard
  • Producers: Brian Grazer, Kip Hagopian, Scott Rudin
  • Writers: Story, Cyril Hume, Richard Maibaum, Screenplay, Richard Price, Alexander Ignon
  • Genres: Action, Crime, Thriller
  • Actors: Mel Gibson, Rene Russo, Gary Sinise

While multimillionaire airline owner Tom Mullen (Mel Gibson) attends a science fair in Central Park that his wife Kate (Rene Russo) is judging, their son Sean (Brawley Nolte) is kidnapped. Sean is taken to an apartment by Maris Conner (Lili Taylor), who previously worked for Mullen as a caterer at a party, along with small-time criminal Cubby Barnes (Donnie Wahlberg), Cubby’s older brother Clark (Liev Schreiber) and high-tech criminal Miles Roberts (Evan Handler). Tom and Kate receive an untraceable email from the kidnappers, demanding $2 million as ransom. Tom calls the FBI, who set up a base of operations in his apartment.

Detective Jimmy Shaker (Gary Sinise) of the NYPD is arresting a perpetrator in a convenience store when Cubby comes in and nervously buys some FrankenBerry cereal. Shaker follows Cubby into the building where the kidnappers are residing; Shaker is the mastermind behind the kidnapping and is romantically involved with Maris. He chides Cubby for buying a box of kids’ cereal in front of cops during a kidnapping investigation. The group argues over the plan to kill Sean once the ransom has been delivered. Cubby tells Clark that he plans to release Sean despite the risk of identification.

Cops converge on Tom and Shaker outside the bank. Shaker panics and opens fire, killing several cops. Tom throws himself at Shaker and Shaker loses his gun to Tom. Tom throws Shaker through a store window and when they emerge they are surrounded by armed policemen. Shaker draws his back-up revolver from an ankle holster. Tom and Hawkins fire first, killing Shaker. The film closes as Hawkins stops the police from arresting Tom.

The School of Rock

  • Directors: Richard Linklater
  • Producers: Scott Aversano, Steve Nicolaides, Scott Rudin
  • Writers: Mike White
  • Genres: Comedy, Family, Music
  • Actors: Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White, Sarah Silverman, Miranda Cosgrove

Dewey Finn (Jack Black), a hard rock singer and guitarist, is unanimously voted out of his band No Vacancy by the rest of the members for his arrogance and frequent hyperactive stage antics. His submissive roommate and lifelong friend Ned Schneebly (writer Mike White), a substitute teacher, threatens Dewey with eviction under heavy pressure from his girlfriend Patty Di Marco (Sarah Silverman) unless Dewey “gets a real job” and pays off his growing rent debt. Dewey feels forced to give up his passion until he receives a phone call intended for Ned from Rosaline Mullins (Joan Cusack), principal of Horace Green, a prestigious prep school, asking Ned to fill in for a teacher who would be out for several weeks. Desperate for income to avoid getting evicted, Dewey impersonates Ned and takes the job as a substitute teacher for the fifth-grade class.

Dewey has no real idea how to carry out his role as a teacher, and instead simply gives his students constant free time. However, when he overhears his pupils playing in music class he realizes that some of the children in the class have musical talent. He decides to turn his temporary job into what he tells them is a special class project, but is actually a personal one: to turn a classroom full of kids into a rock band and crew, complete with a ten-year-old manager, a girl called Summer (Miranda Cosgrove), which will serve as a vehicle to stardom, ultimately to win the upcoming Battle of the Bands, where he is out to avenge his eviction from his old band and win the $20,000 prize.

As the credits go up, Summer is seen arguing a deal over the cell phone as she enters the School of Rock, a newly opened after-school program where Dewey continues to coach the band and Ned teaches the younger ones, and the credits roll as the band sings “The movie is over, but we’re still on screen” breaking the fourth wall.

Revolutionary Road

  • Directors: Sam Mendes
  • Producers: Bobby Cohen, Sam Mendes, Scott Rudin, Sharan Kapoor
  • Writers: Justin Haythe, Based on the novel by Richard Yates
  • Genres: Drama, Romance
  • Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Michael Shannon

Set in 1955, Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) and April Wheeler (Kate Winslet) move to Revolutionary Road in one of New York City’s wealthy Connecticut suburbs, and have a daughter and a son.

April is dissatisfied with her life as a suburban housewife, and Frank despises his marketing job at Knox Business Machines, where his now-deceased father worked for twenty years in a similar position. The Wheelers feel they are unique and special, but trapped in the conformity of life in the suburbs, where they moved to raise their children. From time to time they have bitter arguments, with Frank berating April and acting out physically.

On Frank’s thirtieth birthday he seduces a young secretary from his office, and begins to sleep with her on occasion. Returning home late, April surprises him with a birthday cake and a proposal that they move to Paris, with April working as a secretary to support the family so that Frank can discover what he truly wants to do in life. Frank is reluctant at first but ultimately embraces the idea, and the renewed optimism breathes fresh life into their relationship. Colleagues and friends react politely to the couple’s decision, but tell each other they consider it to be immature or impractical.

April runs into the woods and asks to be left alone. She returns and, the next morning, calmly acts the part of a supportive housewife. When Frank leaves for the day she attempts to perform an abortion with her device, which goes wrong, and she dies later that day in the hospital. Frank moves to the city with the children. The neighbors’ lives carry on and they tell each other in various ways that they disapproved of the Wheelers.

The Reader

  • Directors: Stephen Daldry
  • Producers: Anthony Minghella, Sydney Pollack, Scott Rudin
  • Writers: David Hare
  • Genres: Drama, Romance
  • Actors: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, David Kross, Alexandra Maria Lara, Lena Olin, Bruno Ganz

The Reader begins in 1995 Berlin, where Michael Berg (Ralph Fiennes) is preparing breakfast for a woman who has spent the night with him. After she leaves, Michael watches a U-Bahn pass by, flashing back to a tram in 1958 Neustadt. A teenage Michael (David Kross) gets off because he is feeling sick and wanders around the streets afterwards, finally pausing in the entryway of a nearby apartment building where he vomits. Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet), the tram conductor, comes in and assists him in returning home.

Michael, diagnosed with scarlet fever, must rest at home for the next three months. After he recovers he visits Hanna. The 36 year old Hanna seduces and begins an affair with the 15 year old boy. During their liaisons, at her apartment, he reads to her literary works he is studying, such as The Odyssey, The Lady with the Little Dog, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Tintin. After a bicycling trip, Hanna learns she is being promoted to a clerical job at the tram company. She abruptly moves without leaving a trace.

After seeing the adult Michael, a lawyer, we see him (played again by David Kross) at Heidelberg University law school in 1966. As part of a special seminar taught by Professor Rohl (Bruno Ganz), a camp survivor, he observes a trial (similar to the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials) of several women who were accused of letting 300 Jewish women die in a burning church when they were SS guards on the death march following the 1944 evacuation of Auschwitz. Hanna is one of the defendants.

The film ends with Michael getting back together with his daughter, Julia, at Hanna’s grave and beginning to tell her the story.

Doubt

  • Directors: John Patrick Shanley
  • Producers: Scott Rudin
  • Writers: John Patrick Shanley
  • Genres: Drama, Mystery
  • Actors: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis

Set in 1964 at a Catholic church in the Bronx, New York, the film opens with Father Flynn (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) giving a sermon on the nature of doubt, noting that, like faith, it can be a unifying force. That evening, Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), the strict principal of the attached school, discusses the sermon with her fellow nuns, the Sisters of Charity of New York. She asks if anyone has observed unusual behavior to give Father Flynn cause for preaching about doubt, and instructs them to keep their eyes open for any such behavior.

Sister James (Amy Adams), a young and naïve teacher, observes the closeness between Father Flynn and Donald Miller, the school’s only black student and an altar boy. One day during class, Sister James receives a call in her class asking for Donald Miller to meet Father Flynn in the rectory. When he returns, Donald is distraught and Sister James notices the smell of alcohol on his breath. Later, while her students are learning a dance, she sees Father Flynn placing a white shirt in Donald’s locker. On guard for unusual behavior, Sister James reveals her suspicions to Sister Aloysius.

Under the pretext of discussing problems with the school’s Christmas play, Sisters Aloysius and James confront Father Flynn with their suspicions that his relationship with Donald may be inappropriate. Several times, Father Flynn asks them to leave the matter alone as a private issue between the boy and himself but Sister Aloysius persists. The priest relents, revealing that Donald had been caught drinking altar wine. He explains that he had promised the student not to tell anyone about the incident, and that he could remain an altar boy. Having now been forced to break that promise and reveal the truth, he will need to dismiss Donald as an altar boy. Father Flynn tells Sister Aloysius that he is disappointed in the way she handled this.

Following his final sermon, the nuns sit together in the church garden. Sister Aloysius tells Sister James that although Father Flynn has left, he has been given a more prestigious parish with its parochial school, in effect a promotion. She goes on to reveal that she lied about speaking to a nun at Father Flynn’s former church. Repeating a line from earlier in the film that “In the pursuit of wrongdoing, one steps away from God,” she adds that there is also a price. Aloysius breaks down in tears and says to Sister James, “I have doubts.”

Sleepy Hollow

  • Directors: Tim Burton
  • Producers: Scott Rudin, Adam Schroeder, Francis Ford Coppola, Larry J Franco
  • Writers: Washington Irving, Kevin Yagher, Andrew Kevin Walker, Tom Stoppard
  • Genres: Horror, Mystery
  • Actors: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gough, Christopher Walken

In 1799, New York City police constable Ichabod Crane is dispatched by his superiors to the Hudson Highlands hamlet of Sleepy Hollow, to investigate a series of brutal slayings in which the victims have been found beheaded. A frequent user of new, though so far unproven investigative techniques such as finger-printing and autopsies, Crane arrives in Sleepy Hollow armed with his bag of scientific tools only to be informed by the town’s elders that the murderer is not of flesh and blood, rather a headless supernatural warrior from beyond the grave who rides at night on a massive black steed.

Crane does not believe them and begins his own investigation, until he comes face to “face” with the Headless Horseman. Boarding a room at the home of the town’s richest family, the Van Tassels, Crane develops an attraction to their daughter, the mysterious Katrina, even as he’s plagued by nightmares of his mother’s horrific torture when he was a child.

Delving further into the mystery with the aid of the orphaned Young Masbeth, whose father was a victim of the Horseman, Crane discovers within the Western Woods both the Horseman’s entry point between this world and the beyond, the gnarled Tree of the Dead, and his grave.

He finds the Horseman’s skull is missing though the murders continue until Crane uncovers a murky plot revolving around revenge and land rights with the Horseman controlled by Katrina’s stepmother, Lady Van Tassel, who sends the killer after her. Following a fight in the local windmill and a stagecoach chase through the woods, Crane eventually thwarts Lady Van Tassel by returning the skull to the Horseman, who regains his head and heads back to Hell along with her. His job in Sleepy Hollow completed, Crane returns to New York with Katrina and Young Masbeth in time for the new century.

The Addams Family

  • Directors: Barry Sonnenfeld
  • Producers: Scott Rudin
  • Writers: Charles Addams, Caroline Thompson, Larry Wilson
  • Genres: Comedy, Family, Fantasy
  • Actors: Anjelica Huston, Christopher Lloyd, Dan Hedaya, Elizabeth Wilson, Christina Ricci, Jimmy Workman, Carel Struycken, Judith Malina

The story begins as Gomez (Raúl Juliá) mentions to his lawyer, Tully Alford (Dan Hedaya), that he has not spoken to his brother Fester since a quarrel twenty-five years ago. Morticia (Anjelica Huston) invites Tully and his wife to a séance in which they will attempt to contact the spirit of Fester, believed to be lost in the Bermuda Triangle all of this time. Tully gets a surprise visit at his office from loan shark Abigail Craven (Elizabeth Wilson), and her son Gordon (Christopher Lloyd), who have come to collect what he owes them. Gordon harasses Tully until he discovers the gold doubloons with which Gomez has paid the monthly expenses. Tully notices that Gordon appears similar to Fester, and proposes that Gordon pose as Fester to infiltrate the Addams’ vault where the family fortune is kept.

At the séance, the Addamses attempt to contact Fester’s spirit, demanding he knock three times. As they ask, they hear three knocks at the door. They answer it to find Gordon (as Fester with amnesia) and Abigail (posing as a psychiatrist named Dr. Greta Pinder-Schloss). Gomez is initially overjoyed, but his elation quickly turns to suspicion as Fester fails to remember key events from their childhood. Fester attempts to break into the vault but is foiled by several treacherous booby traps, such as rusty chains, a toxic underground lake, and a piranha tank.

Seven months later, all is well with the family as they are throwing a Halloween party. Fester had vanished in the Bermuda Triangle and developed amnesia, and Abigail made him think he was her son so that he would assist in her criminal schemes; the book’s lightning strike restored his memory. As everyone rushes out to the graveyard for a rousing game of “Wake the Dead,” Gomez ponders what could possibly make life better. Morticia reveals she is pregnant, and the two share a passionate kiss.