The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring ruled the box office so impressively, moviegoers can count on Tolkien-mania returning in force next Christmas, when the film's sequel—The Two Towers—opens. (The Return of the King will wrap up the trilogy the following Christmas.) The first film in Peter Jackson's riveting big screen adaptation continues to draw more raves than any movie since Titanic. A lot of these reviews have been mentioned in Film Forum over the last three weeks (1, 2, 3), so let's focus on newer releases this week.
Five new films opening or already playing across the country this week focus on men trying to make something better of themselves. One is a morally reprehensible man who tries to improve himself to save his family … or at least, he pretends to. Another constructs a meaningful, useful identity for himself, because he cannot remember who he is. The third tries to better himself in spite of a difficult mental disorder. Tired of being seen as weak, the fourth strives to be stronger and more self-assured. And number five? He'll conquer the world with boxing gloves on.
* * *
The Royal Tenenbaums is the latest comedy from up-and-comer Wes Anderson (Rushmore, Bottle Rocket). It features a large, talented ensemble cast, spectacular sets, and a cast of characters as varied and strange as the Addams Family. Tenenbaums follows the sad disintegration of the Tenenbaum family, and one man's efforts to bring them back together again, for one reason or another. When Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) divorces his wife (Angelica Huston) and leaves her with their three genius children, mother and kids spend the rest of their meandering lives limping from the damage. A father's love is crucial, and ...1