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by Peter Knegt
January 12, 2009 8:27 AM
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Focus Sets '09 Slate With Coens, Lee, and Sundance Entry

A scene from Cary Joji Fukunaga's "Sin Nombre." Image courtesy of Focus Features.

Sundance entry "Sin Nombre," screening in the World Dramatic Competition lineup at the upcoming fest, is among the film on the Focus Features slate for 2009, company CEO James Schamus announced today, confirming several dates for the seven titles on tap. "The 2009 releases from Focus represent the most diverse lineup in the company's history," said Schamus in a statement. In addition to unveiling highly anticipated new films from directors with whom we have already had great success, such as Ang Lee, Jim Jarmusch and Joel and Ethan Coen, the complete slate covers a diverse range of genres including animation."

Writer/director Cary Joji Fukunaga's "Nombre" will open in select cities March 20th after its world premiere in Park City. The filmmaker's "firsthand experiences with Central American immigrants seeking the promise of the U.S." form the basis of the Spanish-language movie. "Nombre" stars Paulina Gaitan, Edgar Flores, Kristyan Ferrer, Tenoch Huerta Mejia, Diana Garcia, Luis Fernando Pena, and Hector Jimenez.

Also on tap is Focus' first-ever animated movie, "Coraline." a stop-motion animated feature and the first one to be conceived and photographed in stereoscopic 3-D. Director/screenwriter Henry Selick works from author Neil Gaiman's book, with a voice cast that includes Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders and Ian McShane. The film will open in 3-D-equipped theaters nationally on February 6th and will also simultaneously open in non-3-D-equipped theaters nationwide.

Jim Jarmusch's new film, "The Limits of Control," will open May 22nd. The story of "a mysterious loner" (played by Isaach. De Bankole), the film is set in contemporary Spain and also stars Hiam Abbass, Gael Garcia Bernal, Paz De La Huerta, Alex Descas, John Hurt, Youki Kudoh, Bill Murray, Jean-Francois Stevenin, Tilda Swinton, and Luis Tosar.

Joel and Ethan Coen on the set of "A Serious Man." Image courtesy of Focus Features.

Opening on June 5th in limited release is "Away We Go," Sam Mendes latest film from an original screenplay by Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida. The movie "follows the journey of an expectant couple" (John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph), as they travel the U.S. in search of a place to raise a family. "Go" also stars Jeff Daniels, Allison Janney, Melanie Lynskey, Chris Messina, Catherine O'Hara, and Paul Schneider. It is produced and co-financed with Focus by Big Beach.

Adapted by Schamus himself is "Taking Woodstock," Ang Lee's latest film. The true story, set in 1969, follows Elliot Tiber (Demetri Martin), who "inadvertently played a pivotal role in making the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival into the famed happening it was." Based on the book by Mr. Tiber with Tom Monte, the cast includes Emile Hirsch, Imelda Staunton, Henry Goodman, Jonathan Groff, Mamie Gummer, Eugene Levy, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Liev Schreiber. Taking Woodstock opens in select cities on August 14th.

A second animated film comes care of Shane Acker, who directs the "9," a feature-length expansion of his short film of the same name. Produced by Tim Burton, Timur Bekmambetov, and Jim Lemley, the "surreal tale takes place in a world parallel to our own, a post-apocalyptic fantasy in which a band of courageous rag dolls battles for the survival of civilization." The voice cast includes Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, Crispin Glover, Martin Landau, Christopher Plummer, and John C. Reilly. "9" will be released in exclusive engagements on September 9th (appropriately marking its release date as 9/9/09).

Finally, Focus again teams with Joel and Ethan Coen for their October 2nd release, "A Serious Man." The film is about "an ordinary man's search for clarity in a universe where Jefferson Airplane is on the radio and F-Troop is on TV." Set in 1967, the film stars a cast of mostly unknowns: Michael Stuhlbarg, Sari Lennick, Fred Melamed, Richard Kind, Aaron Wolf and Jessica McManus. A detailed plot summary care of Focus:

Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), a physics professor at a quiet Midwestern university, has just been informed by his wife Judith (Sari Lennick) that she is leaving him. She has fallen in love with one of his more pompous colleagues, Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed), who seems to her a more substantial person than the feckless Larry. Larry's unemployable brother Arthur (Richard Kind) is sleeping on the couch, his son Danny (Aaron Wolf) is a discipline problem and a shirker at Hebrew school, and his daughter Sarah (Jessica McManus) is filching money from his wallet in order to save up for a nose job. While his wife and Sy Ableman blithely make new domestic arrangements, and his brother becomes more and more of a burden, an anonymous hostile letter-writer is trying to sabotage Larry's chances for tenure at the university. Also, a graduate student seems to be trying to bribe him for a passing grade while at the same time threatening to sue him for defamation. Plus, the beautiful woman next door torments him by sunbathing nude. Struggling for equilibrium, Larry seeks advice from three different rabbis. Can anyone help him cope with his afflictions and become a righteous person - a mensch - a serious man?

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