Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Traci Lords, Jason Mewes, Craig Robinson | R

bgwhite bgwhite   



COMEDY
If the economy continues its nosedive, the improbable fund-raising scheme hatched in desperation by the title characters in Zack and Miri Make a Porno may no longer seem so far-fetched. Underachievers Zack (Rogen) and Miri (Banks), platonic pals urgently in need of dough, decide to star in a dirty movie—a Star Wars parody called Star Whores—and sell it online. Zack's rationale: "Porno has gone mainstream, like Coke or Pepsi."

Just as those X-rated specialty cakes shaped like bosoms and other naughty bits let buyers have their risqué fun and eat it too, so the likable, lackadaisical Porno is determined to have it both ways. While its raunchy humor is often near-hardcore (don't take Grandma!), the film boasts a decidedly mushy, softcore heart. Director-writer Kevin Smith (Dogma) steers Zack and Miri to realize—cue the violins—that their feelings for each other run far deeper than their desire to make the next Deep Throat. Banks is pertly amusing while Rogen, playing a close variation of his Knocked Up slacker, again demonstrates his basic slob appeal.

Robert De Niro, Bruce Willis, Robin Wright Penn | R

bgwhite bgwhite   



COMEDY
De Niro can be a sensational comic actor, though his deftly subtle performance here can't save this flimsy Hollywood satire. He plays a harried movie producer busily shuttling between ex-wives and kids, nagging studio execs and egotistical directors and stars (Bruce Willis in a nifty cameo as a heftier, bearded version of himself). Based on a memoir by real-life film producer Art Linson, What Just Happened is intent on skewering Hollywood for its vanities and pretensions. Come on, tell us something we don't already know.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Catherine Keener, Michelle Williams, Emily Watson | R

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  



DRAMA
When screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) passes on, he should will his brain to science, because it certainly works in whacked-out and wonderful ways. Making his directing debut with this massively ambitious comic drama, Kaufman follows a glum theater director (Hoffman) who creates an epic, lifelong autobiographical production. With its time shifts and parallel universes, Synecdoche is impossible to understand fully, especially on first viewing. But the performances are delicious, and much of it is brilliant, hilarious and thought-provoking—brain food for the rest of us.

• The actress, 48, has Oscar buzz as an ex-con in I've Loved You So Long.

DID YOU LIKE SHOOTING THE FILM WITHOUT MAKEUP?
I loved having to leave vanity at the door. I never had to look at myself during the shooting of the film once.

ANY DOWNSIDES TO PLAYING AN EX-CON?
The cigarettes I had to smoke! I couldn't even look at another one for months afterward.

WHAT'S BEEN YOUR FAVORITE REVIEW SO FAR?
Somebody compared my performance to Steve McQueen. That's the ultimate compliment to me: to be compared to a man!

With two movies in theatres and one more on the way, the busy actress-producer, 34, shares her tips for jugging lots of jobs.

STAY ON TARGET
I shot W., Zack and Miri Make a Porno and Role Models [out Nov. 7] in different places, so I spent lots of time in Target buying bedding and lamps, getting resettled every time.

TWO WEEKS IS TOO LONG
My husband [Max Handelman, 35] was producing [next year's sci-fi thriller] The Surrogates in Boston at the same time as all this. We try not to go more than two weeks without seeing each other, and we were pretty successful almost the entire time.

WHEN IN DOUBT, YOU CAN ALWAYS WORK IN PORNO
I had no hesitation about anything in Zack and Miri. If it doesn't scare you a little bit, then what's the point of doing it? If you're going to go, go big!

• What Demi Moore really wanted to do was direct. So she spent the summer making her directing debut with the short film Streak (starring her daughter Rumer, 20), part of Glamour magazine and Suave's Reel Moments initiative to bring more women to filmmaking. "I was terrified," she says. "But I knew the worst thing I could do was say no."