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‘Zack and Miri Make a Porno’ (Oct. 30)
Rarely has a title been so accurate in its description as it is here, and the writer and director Kevin Smith (“Clerks”) tells the tale of two longtime friends (Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks), desperate for cash, who turn to the seemingly lucrative world of adult entertainment. The leering title and premise don’t tell the entire story, however. This isn’t just some silly, gross-out sex comedy (though, to be sure, there’s plenty of that). As in his indie hit “Chasing Amy,” Smith knows that there’s no such thing as “just sex,” and, with the help of his charismatic leads, thoughtfully explores what happens when platonic pals decide to take that big leap.
‘Billy on the Street’: Seasons 1-5 (Oct. 31)
Few contemporary comedians have a persona as distinctive as Billy Eichner’s. A frenzied, impatient pop culture connoisseur, he is quick with a quip and so sly with his insults that they often fly past their targets. Eichner is an unabashedly 21st century personality, which makes it especially amusing that he is best known for the “man on the street” interview — a comedic device that stretches back to Steve Allen and the earliest days of television comedy. “Billy on the Street” is, on paper at least, a game show; he and his celebrity guests offer passers-by the opportunity to win cash and prizes for answering questions and participating in their reindeer games. But the stakes are low and the games are silly; the show exists primarily as a vehicle for his unique sensibility and wit.
‘Catch Me if You Can’ (Oct. 31)
Leonardo DiCaprio’s apparent agelessness is one of his most fascinating features — we all still think of him as a matinee heartthrob, even in middle age — and Steven Spielberg puts it to fine use in this dashing 2002 comedy-drama, based on the memoir of the con artist and fabulist Frank Abagnale Jr. (which may, itself, have been fabricated). DiCaprio’s Abagnale is a born swindler, masquerading as a doctor, lawyer and airline pilot while kiting checks across the country; the actor’s sensitive portrayal captures gee-whiz likability that made him so successful, while subtly conveying the pain underneath. Tom Hanks is in top form as the by-the-books treasury agent on his tail, but the M.V.P. is Christopher Walken, Oscar-nominated for an atypically understated turn as Abagnale’s absentee father.
‘Legally Blonde’ (Oct. 31)
When this Reese Witherspoon vehicle hit theaters in 2001, a fair number of critics dismissed it as lightweight, disposable fluff — a reaction strangely appropriate to this story of a young woman whose peers underestimate her based on looks and impressions. But just as Elle Woods thrived, against all odds, at Harvard Law School, this summer comedy has become a cultural touchstone thanks to its quotable dialogue, masterfully modulated lead performance and timeless message about self-determination in the face of adversity.
‘Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You’ (Oct. 31)
The term “living legend” has been bandied about so freely that it doesn’t seem a grand enough descriptor for Norman Lear, the now 99-year-old writer, producer and philanthropist behind some of the most popular (and groundbreaking) television programs of the 1970s, including “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons” and “One Day at a Time.” This energetic bio-documentary from the directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady tells his story with the appropriate gusto and showmanship, taking a thematic rather than chronological approach that separates it from the standard biographical showcase.