By Larry Ratliff
Oscar season is heating up and some familiar big-names we haven’t heard from in a while are back in the spotlight and/or back in the director’s chair. Would you believe Warren Beatty as late, mysterious entrepreneur Howard Hughes and Mel Gibson calling the shots on a conscientious objector war drama titled Hacksaw Ridge?
Beatty, who put a Best Director Academy Award on his mantle for the biographical war-drama Reds in 1981, is wearing most of the creative hats in Rules Don’t Apply. A mere 18 years after flexing his auteur muscles in Bulworth, the former star of Bonnie and Clyde wrote the story, penned the screenplay, hopped in the director’s chair and stars as Hughes in Rules Don’t Apply.
Look for the 79-year-old cinematic everyman to share screen time with Lily Collins as an up-and-coming actress under Hughes’ wing and Alden Ehrenreich, who portrays the eccentric billionaire’s driver who falls for her. Rules Don’t Apply opens Nov. 23.
Gibson, who won his directing Oscar for Braveheart in 1995, told me at the time that directing and acting in that period war drama almost drove him crazy. Hacksaw Ridge stars Hugo Weaving as the WWII medic who becomes the only conscientious objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor. It hits screens Nov. 4.
A couple of sci-fi adventures look promising as well. Excellent actress Amy Adams (American Hustle), who’s been nominated for five Academy Awards, portrays a noted linguist charged with communicating with visiting aliens from another world in Arrival (Nov. 11)
In Passengers (Dec. 21) a computer glitch awakens a couple of passengers (Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt) 90 years too early in a 120-year mission into deep space. Let’s just hope they brought along a deck of cards.
There’s also animated fun ahead for the festive holiday season. Dwayne Johnson leads the voice cast in Moana (Nov. 23), a yarn about a young woman who sets sail for a mysterious island. And Scarlett Johansson, Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and Seth MacFarlane provide the vocal acting in Sing (Dec. 12), a let’s-put-on-a-show drama-with-comedy set in a world inhabited solely by animals.
And, if you’re tough enough, Billy Bob Thornton returns as the boozing, profanity-spewing department store Santa Claus in Bad Santa 2 on Nov. 23.