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FROM REAL LIFE TO REEL LIFE: THE BIOPICS KEEP MARCHING IN

J. EDGAR

Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Judi Dench, Charlize Theron (Directed by Clint Eastwood; Written by Dustin Lance Black)

J. Edgar Hoover, the much loved, much loathed co-founder and boss of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is played by Leonardo DiCaprio in this let-it-all-hang-out biopic. Under the direction of the preternaturally prolific Clint Eastwood, the film, which was written by Dustin Lance Black, the author of "Milk," will span many decades--from 1895 to 1972, the year Hoover died at the age of 77. As a result, we will have the pleasure of seeing Dame Judi Dench play the youthful Hoover’s American-as-apple-pie mom, as well as Charlize Theron in the role of the aging Hoover's fanatically loyal secretary.

The most daring casting is perhaps that of Armie Hammer (the 24-year-old wonder who played both of the snooty, filthy-rich Winklevoss twins in “The Social Network”) in the part of Clyde Tolson, the FBI Associate Director who became Hoover's constant companion and sole heir. And, according to various sources, he was the true love of bachelor Hoover’s life. There have indeed been rumors that Eastwood plans to shoot at least one close-up showing Hammer and DiCaprio enjoying a tender kiss. That should make their day.
Opening date to be announced (In case you're wondering, the dandy on the right in the photo above is Hoover, presumably having a swell time with Clyde.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

W.

Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, Ioan Gruffudd, Thandie Newton, Richard Dreyfuss, Scott Glenn, Jeffrey Wright, Ellen Burstyn, James Cromwell, Rob Corddry, Toby Jones, Michael Gaston (Directed by Oliver Stone; Written by Stanley Weiser; Lionsgate)

In case you’re having trouble sorting through the merits and flaws of the Junior Bush administration, Oliver Stone will lend you a hand with “W.” This inevitably absurdist extravaganza stars Josh Brolin as George II--from hell-raising, booze-guzzling rogue to chatting-with-Jesus commander in chief. Richard Dreyfuss plays gun-toting, bunker-hugging VP Dick Cheney and Thandie Newton has been cast as the scholarly, vigorously inattentive Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Scott Glenn is the you-fight-with-the-army-you’ve-got Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Elizabeth Banks is stand-by-your-cowboy Laura; and the senior Bushes are played by James Cromwell and Ellen Burstyn. Now Playing

 

BIOPICS NOT YET SET FOR RELEASE

AMELIA: Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, Virginia Madsen, Christopher Eccleston, Cherry Jones, Joe Anderson, Aaron Abrams, Mia Wasikowska (Directed by Mira Nair; Written by Ronald Bass; Fox Searchlight) Did you know that AMELIA EARHART, who was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and eventually went missing over the Pacific in 1937, had a torrid affair with GENE VIDAL, the father of writer Gore Vidal? And that was while the ace aviatrix was said to be blissfully married to publisher GEORGE PUTNAM! But as director Mira Nair (“Monsoon Wedding”) will undoubtedly make clear to us, this pioneer feminist was never one to let stuffy rules get in her way. In a bit of inspired casting, Hilary Swank is Amelia; Richard Gere and Ewan McGregor are her husband and her lover, respectively; and Virginia Madsen is her husband’s first wife.

A COLD CASE: (Directed by Mark Romanek; Written by Eric Roth; Universal) A tenacious New York district attorney is bent on solving a 27-year-old murder case before his retirement rolls around. Why is he so determined? Because the murder victim was his friend. Tom Hanks was at one point set to play the driven D.A., but he apparently turned cold on the case. This true story of investigator ANDY ROSENZWEIG is directed by Mark Romanek, who recently put Robin Williams through some pretty creepy crawls in "One Hour Photo."

DIRTY TRICKS: Meryl Streep, Gwyneth Paltrow, Annette Bening, Jill Clayburgh (Written and directed by Ryan Murphy; Paramount) They called her Martha the Mouth, Mouth of the South or simply Moutha. Her real name was MARTHA MITCHELL, and she was the full-throttle wife of John Mitchell, Attorney General to President Richard M. Nixon. Never one to hold back, Martha, who died in 1976, had this to say about her hubby’s boss: “Nixon bleeds people. He draws every drop of blood and then drops them from a cliff. He’ll blame any person he can put his foot on.” Nor did Martha go all that easy on Mitchell himself, referring to him at one point as “that gutless, despicable crook.” Is it any wonder that in an effort to shut her up, her enemies eventually drugged her and held her captive in a California hotel room? Ryan Murphy, director of “Running With Scissors,” is bringing this adaptation of John Jeter’s play about the woman who spilled the beans that bumped Tricky Dick from the White House to the screen. And, best news of all, Murphy had the good sense to cast Meryl Streep as the biggest Moutha ever. Also on prominent display: Jill Clayburgh as PAT NIXON, Gwyneth Paltrow as MAUREEN DEAN and Annette Bening as HELEN THOMAS, the veteran White House correspondent who received many a late-night phone call from the whistle-blowing Martha.

EAT, PRAY, LOVE: Julia Roberts (Written and directed by Ryan Murphy; Paramount) Depressed, nearly suicidal, ELIZABETH GILBERT (author of the memoir upon which this film is based) decides to take a year off from her successful literary career in an attempt to get over her divorce from a seemingly ideal husband and her stressful love affair with a man who was definitely not ideal. Her plan is to flee Manhattan and spend one third of the year seeking pleasure in Italy, another third searching for spiritual serenity in India, and the final third striking a balance between the two extremes in Indonesia. And, yes, Elizabeth, played by Julia Roberts, will not say no if a suitable bachelor pops up somewhere along the way and pops the right question. If director Ryan Murphy can get the kind of performance out of Roberts that he got out of Annette Bening in “Running With Scissors,” Julia could be adding another Oscar to her collection.

EMPEROR ZEHNDER: Richard Gere, Timilee Romolini (Directed by Gregory Hoblit; Disney) In one of his top performances, Richard Gere played a cool but unscrupulous lawyer who defended an altar boy accused of murdering a predatory bishop. The psychological thriller was called "Primal Fear" and it was released in 1996. Now Gere is reteaming with that film's director, Gregory Hoblit, on what sounds like a less chilling but possibly more inspiring project. For once, the actor will play a pure, real-life hero--BRUNO P. ZEHNDER. The "P" stands for penguin, as well it should, for Zehnder, an uncompromising photographer, spent a great deal of his life photographing the surprisingly complex creatures in Antarctica--which is precisely what he was doing just before his death in a blizzard.

ESCAPE FROM TEHRAN: George Clooney (Directed by George Clooney; Written by George Clooney and Grant Heslov; Warner Bros.) In the wake of the WMD blunder that started the Iraqi War ball rolling, the CIA is in desperate need of an image makeover. Perhaps it will get the p.r. boost it needs with this real-life comedy-drama set not in Iraq, but in Iran. Co-producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov are basing their screenplay on Joshua Bearman’s investigative report in Wired magazine about the astonishing 1980 rescue of six Americans in Tehran by CIA operative TONY MENDEZ. Wacky as it seems, Mendez convinced Iranian officials that he and his U.S. colleagues were actually Canadian filmmakers with plans to shoot a major epic in Tehran. Not only did they manage to fool the Iranians, but they also put one over on Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, both of which did dead-earnest reports on the making of the movie. As was the case with “Good Night, and Good Luck,” the previous Clooney-Heslov collaboration, Clooney is expected to direct and act in “Escape From Tehran.” He sounds like the perfect Mendez to us.

Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Simon Baker, Ty Burrell, Bruce McGill, David Denman, Brooke Smith, Michael Kelly, Noah Emmerich, Remy Auberjonois, Geoffrey Cantor, David Andrews, Melody Weiss

Directed by Doug Liman

Written by Jez Butterworth and John Butterworth

There was no way Hollywood could ignore the Valerie Plame Wilson story for long. The true-life tale was dramatic, scary, enraging, tender and surprisingly romantic. As we know, the keen, classy-looking blonde CIA agent’s cover was blown by conservative Washington Post columnist Robert Novak in 2003--with the aid of strategically-placed Bushies--as an apparent act of punishment to her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, who had written a New York Times op-ed article poking holes in the Bush administration’s claims about Iraq’s secret stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction.

Life became close to unbearable for the Wilsons and their 2-year-old twins, and Valerie came to doubt her own sanity. But this story, like so many Hollywood stories, has a happy ending. In 2007, Valerie achieved sweet revenge in “Fair Game,” a tell-all tome that did not send Ari Fleischer, Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and other key players in this nasty drama rushing to the Barnes & Noble book-signing party.

Still, Fleishcer, as played by David Andrews, does pop up in the movie, as does Libby, who’s played by Geoffrey Cantor. Nobody seems to have been assigned to play Cheney, however. But Melody Weiss did land the plum role of his secretary.

In the end, “Fair Game” is apt to succeed on the strength of its undeniably appealing star-team--Naomi Watts, replacing the originally announced Nicole Kidman, and Sean Penn, taking over for the presumably no-longer-available Russell Crowe. And it certainly doesn’t hurt to have Doug Liman, the sharp, resourceful director of "Swingers," "The Bourne Identity" and "Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” at the helm.

THE FIGHTER: Brad Pitt, Mark Wahlberg (Directed by Darren Aronofsky; Written by Paul Attanasio, Lewis Colick, Eric Johnson and Paul Tamasy; Paramount) Here come Micky and Dickie. And we do mean MICKY WARD and DICKIE EKLUND. As an avid sports fan, you undoubtedly know that hard-punching “Irish” Micky Ward from Lowell, Massachusetts, played here by Mark Wahlberg, was a wow in the ring during the 1990s, thanks largely to the wise coaching of his half-brother Dickie, a former boxer who lost a battle with drugs, did time in the pen, and became an exemplary inmate before his release. Brad Pitt signed up for the role of Dickie when it became clear to Matt Damon that he himself had signed up for so many flicks that he had to drop out of this one.

GRACE: Sandra Bullock, Patrick Jordan, David Morse, Joanna Lowe, Ben Blazer, Marty Giles (Directed by Andrew Paul; Written by Naomi Foner, Alie Kolb, Mathew Kopel and Ben Penhan; Fortis Films) For some people, it was a shocking peep into the living rooms and, especially, the bedrooms of small-town fifties America; for others, it was plain old trash. Whatever it was or was not, “Peyton Place” was certainly the vehicle that propelled previously unsung novelist GRACE METALIOUS to international notoriety. It also led to the break-up of her marriage and, eventually, to her death by suicide. Spunky Sandra Bullock may not seem like the ideal choice to play Metalious, nor did she seem ideal to play Harper Lee in "Infamous"--but she gave a performance in the latter film that's a strong possibility for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. Although screenwriter Naomi Foner is the mother of Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, she neglected to write roles for her talented kids on this occasion.

GREY GARDENS: Drew Barrymore, Jessica Lange, Olivia Waldriff (Directed by Michael Sucsy; Written by Patricia Rozema and Michael Sucsy; HBO Films) LITTLE EDITH BOUVIER BEALE was JACQUELINE KENNEDY'S cousin, and her mother, BIG EDITH BOUVIER BEALE, was the First Lady’s aunt. At one time, the two Edies lived sumptuously on Manhattan’s Park Avenue, but they ended up in a squalid, raccoon-infested estate on Long Island. Thanks to the intervention of Jackie, the East Hampton health department did not carry through with its plan to raid the dump. But that didn’t keep the messy eccentrics out of the headlines, and eventually they became the subjects of “Grey Gardens,” a memorable 1976 documentary made by David and Albert Maysles. Now an expanded version of their story that includes material on the young Jackie Bouvier (portrayed by 8-year-old Olivia Waldriff) and covers Little Edie’s late-blooming career as a nightclub chanteuse is headed your way. Let us hope that Jessica Lange has more luck playing Drew Barrymore’s mom than she did playing Christina Ricci’s in the wretched “Prozac Nation.” Opening date to be announced

GUERRILLA: Benicio Del Toro, Lou Diamond Phillips, Franka Potente, Julia Ormond, Oscar Iaac, Meg Gibson, Alex Manette, Paul Vasquez, Rob Macie (Directed by Steven Soderbergh; Written by Peter Buchman; Focus Features) This sequel to Soderbergh's "The Argentine" deals with the post-Cuban Revolution adventures of CHE GUEVARA, once again played by Benicio Del Toro. Demian Bichir is also back as Fidel Castro. Opening date to be announced

IN SEARCH OF CAPTAIN ZERO: Sean Penn (Directed by Stacy Peralta; Written by Michael Bacall; Radar) There may not be a real Captain Zero, but there is a real ALLAN WEISBECKER. A former surfer and drug-smuggler, Weisbecker packed up his memories of rowdy adventures and misdeeds and put them into a book, and this quirky-sounding movie is based upon that memoir. The biopic, starring Sean Penn as the restless, reckless Weisbecker, deals with more than just dope and waterplay. Much of it is devoted to the author’s determination to hook up again with a close surfing pal who vanished a while back, probably somewhere in the wilds of Central America. But was their relationship really as joyful as it seemed, and can it possibly be resurrected?

THE LAST STATION: Christopher Plummer, Helen Mirren, Paul Giamatti, James McAvoy, Anne-Marie Duff (Directed by Michael Hoffman; Written by Jay Parini; Notro Films) Anthony Hopkins was set to play COUNT LEO TOLSTOY, the author of "War and Peace" who was strugglig to live out his final days with dignity and grace. But somewhere along the line Hopkins dropped out and Christopher Plummer dropped in. Getting back to Leo--who on earth was making it difficult for him to travel a peaceful path into the hereafter? It was none other than Sofya Andreyevna, his luxury-loving, more warring than peaceful, wife. And--like Anthony Hopkins--Meryl Streep, cast as Sofya, made an exit, leaving her role to Helen Mirren. Paul Giamatti plays a loyal friend of Tolstoy's who does his best to rein in Sofya, James McAvoy plays Tolstoy's secretary, and Anne-Marie Duff--McAvoy's real-life wife--plays the tormented literary lion's daughter. Jay Parini's screenplay for "The Last Station" is based on his 1990 novel, which in turn was based on the actual diaries of the contentious Tolstoys and their piles of relatives and friends. The director here is Michael Hoffman, whose eclectic oeuvre includes “Soapdish” (Robert Downey Jr. & Sally Field), “Restoration” (Hugh Grant & Meg Ryan), and “One Fine Day" (George Clooney & Michelle Pfeiffer).

LOVE RANCH: Helen Mirren, Joe Pesci, Gina Gershon, Rio Hackford (Directed by Taylor Hackford; Written by Mark Jacobson; Capitol Films) Not so long ago we were calling Helen Mirren queen; soon we’ll be calling her madam. That’s because the Oscar winner is playing an earthy, enterprising woman based on the character of SALLY CONFORTE, who--along with hubby Joe--made her wildest dream come true by opening the Mustang Ranch, Nevada’s first legal brothel. Life became one big love-in for Sally and JOE CONFORTE--until that memorable moment in 1976 when OSCAR BONANEVA, an Argentinian prizefighter rumored to have gotten raunchy with the Mustang boss-lady, was shot dead by a ranch bodyguard. Director Taylor Hackford, Mirren’s real-life husband, will be putting his wife through her “Love Ranch” paces.

MANOLETE: Adrien Brody, Penelope Cruz (Written and directed by Menno Meyjes; Lolafilms) Adrien Brody, faced with monstrous competition for the attention of Naomi Watts in “King Kong,” will presumably have an easier time of it when he woos Penelope Cruz in this true-life romance. Brody plays magnetic bullfighter MANUEL RODRIGUEZ SANCHEZ, better known as Manolete, and Cruz takes on the role of sultry actress LUPE SINO.

NAPOLEON AND BETSY: Scarlett Johansson (Written and directed by Benjamin Ross) Busy, busy Scarlett Johansson will have a chance to try on a new accent when she plays the Brit who won the heart of elderly NAPOLEON BONAPARTE during his final days on St. Helena. The rumor that Danny DeVito will play the amorous Frenchman has yet to be confirmed.

THE RISE OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT: Leonardo DiCaprio (Directed by Martin Scorsese; Written by Nicholas Meyer; Paramount) Leo for president? Why not? Martin Scorsese, who directed him in “Gangs of New York,” “The Aviator” and the upcoming “The Departed,” thinks Leo is just the man for the job of portraying the remarkably complex 26th president of the U.S. in the adaptation of Edmund Morris’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt.” As in the book, Teddy will go from a frail, asthmatic Harvard grad to the bear of a man who commanded the Rough Riders, governed the state of New York, and eventually called the White House home. Hail to the chief! For Guy Flatley's 1973 interview with Martin Scorsese, click here.

SASHA'S STORY: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A RUSSIAN SPY: Johnny Depp (Warner Bros.) Will moviegoers glut themselves on a double serving of the true-life tragedy of ALEXANDER "SASHA" LITVINENKO, the KGB agent-turned-superspy who suffered a hideous death last November after dining on sushi containing polonium-210? Possibly so, if both Warner Bros. and Columbia follow through with plans to fast-track competing versions of the same raw-deal tale. The Warner Bros. project, "Sasha's Story: The Life and Death of a Russian Spy," is based on a Doubleday book being written by Alan Cowell, the New York Times bureau chief who has covered the story extensively for The Times. It’s extremely likely that Johnny Depp, whose Infinitum Nihil production company is partnered with Warner Bros., will play the bigger-than-life character who, on his deathbed, accused Vladimir Putin of plotting his murder. While the people at Columbia will not have the pleasure of Johnny Depp’s company on their Litvinenko take, they will surely be working with solid pros, starting at the top with director Michael Mann, and including Marina Litvinenko, the former spy’s widow, and Alex Goldfarb, her collaborator on “Death of a Dissident,” a book scheduled to be published by Free Press, a Simon & Schuster subsidiary, in May. No word on who’ll play Litvinenko in “Death of a Dissident.” But the names of Tom Cruise and Sacha Baron Cohen do flutter to mind.

SHAME ON YOU: Dennis Quaid (Written and directed by Dennis Quaid) Good old boy SPADE COOLEY was sometimes a bad old boy, most notably on the day in 1961 when he stomped, strangled and burned his wife Ella Mae to death in the presence of their daughter Melody. What madness drove the famed Western Swing fiddler to murder? You’ll find out a while after Quaid starts his cameras rolling on what he hopes will be a New Orleans location. Katie Holmes was set to play Ella Mae, but she bowed out due to a dizzying schedule.

THE STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT: Ryan Phillippe, Channing Tatum, Paul Dano, Charlie Hunnam, Kieran Culkin, Jesse Eisenberg, Ben McKenzie (Directed by Christopher McQuarrie; Written by Christopher McQuarrie and Tim Talbott; Icon Entertainmet Intl.) Is it conceivable that a highly respected doctor/sociologist could set up a faux prison at a prestigious college--using some student volunteers as prisoners and others as guards--for the purpose of conducting a serious exploration of human behavior? Well, you’d better believe it, because it’s true. Doctor PHILIP ZIMBARDO conducted his controversial study at Stanford University in 1971, and the student role-players slipped so deeply into character--some of them becoming outrageously abusive--that the good doctor had to call a halt to his campus charade at the halfway mark. Christopher McQuarrie, the screenwriter who won an Oscar for “The Usual Suspects” (1995) and reaped positive reviews for his writing and direction of “The Way of the Gun” (2000), is directing the “The Stanford Prison Experiment” screenplay that he co-authored with Tim Talbott.

STOMPANATO: Antonio Banderas, Sharon Stone (Directed by Francois Girard; Written by David Webb Peoples and Janet Peoples; Stonelock Pictures) LANA TURNER and JOHNNY STOMPANATO were sweethearts--until the day in 1958 when the screen queen's daughter, CHERYL CRANE, stabbed the hot-tempered gangland figure before he could make an exit from her mom's Beverly Hills bedroom. (For those with short memories, the verdict was justifiable homicide). Stone seems a smart choice for Turner, but Bandera had better get to work on his American accent--starting yesterday. No word yet on who will tackle the challenging role of 14-year-old Cheryl, but if Dakota Fanning is on the list, let us hope she is toward the bottom.

SUGARLAND: Jodie Foster, Robert De Niro (Directed by Jodie Foster; Written by Daniel Barnz and Ned Zeman; Universal) When last seen together on screen, she was a post-adolescent prostitute and he was a psychotic cabbie treating her to free rides on the wild side of Manhattan. That was in Martin Scorsese’s 1976 “Taxi Driver.” After that memorable bloodbath, Jodie Foster and Robert De Niro went their separate, Oscar-winning ways. But at long last they are teamed again, this time in an adaptation of Marie Brenner’s “In the Kingdom of Big Sugar,” a true story about two brothers, ALFY and PEPE FANJUL, who were accused of seriously abusing migrant workers in Florida. Brenner’s gripping account was published in the February 2001 issue of Vanity Fair. Foster, gutsy enough to both direct and star in the film, plays a crusading attorney, and De Niro plays a powerful sugar baron with strong political connections. To read Guy Flatley's 1973 interview with Robert De Niro, click here.


BIOPICS THAT HAVE RELEASE DATES OR HAVE ALREADY OPENED

THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND: Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington, Gillian Anderson, Simon McBurney, David Oyelowo, Stephen Rwangyezi, Abby Mukiibi, Adam Kotz (Directed by Kevin Macdonald; Written by Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock; Fox Searchlight) The occasionally charming but essentially monstrous GENERAL IDI AMIN DADA was responsible for the massacre of hundreds of thousands of innocent people before his brutal eight-year reign of terror in Uganda came to an end in 1979. Based on Giles Foden’s 1998 novel, “The Last King of Scotland,” starring Forest Whitaker in what has been described as an Oscar-worthy performance,” focuses on Amin’s bizarre relationship with an opportunistic Scotsman (James McAvoy) who becomes his personal physician and then makes a very serious, drunken wrong move on one of the dictator’s wives (Kerry Washington). To read the Variety review of "The Last King of Scotland," click here. Now Playing

THE QUEEN: Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Sylvia Syms (Directed by Stephen Frears; Written by Peter Morgan; Miramax Films) According to preview audiences, Helen Mirren, who just won a Best Actress Emmy for her performance in HBO's "Elizabeth I," is sure to be a contender for a Best Actress Oscar for her turn as ELIZABETH II in "The Queen," a depiction of the emotional aftermath of Princess Diana's death. The film zeroes in on what appears to have been a major conflict between Her Majesty and Prime Minister TONY BLAIR over just how public the royal family’s mourning need be. "The Queen," which was selected by the Film Society of Lincoln Center to open the 44th New York Film Festival, has a screenplay by Peter Morgan and was directed by Stephen Frears, the British master responsible for “The Hit,” “My Beautiful Laundrette,” “Prick Up Your Ears,” “Dangerous Liaisons,” “The Grifters” and “High Fidelity.” How could it possibly be less than a royal treat? For the Variety review of "The Queen," click here. Now Playing

INFAMOUS: Toby Jones, Daniel Craig, Sandra Bullock, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sigourney Weaver, Hope Davis, Jeff Daniels, Isabella Rossellini, Peter Bogdanovich, Juliet Stevenson (Written and directed by Douglas McGrath; Warner Independent Pictures) “In Cold Blood,” a masterpiece of true storytelling about the horrific murder of a mid-western family by a pair of intruders from hell, is perhaps the late TRUMAN CAPOTE'S finest achievement. Maybe that’s why two new films--this one and "Capote"--deal with the strange psychological connection between the author, acted by Toby Jones, and convicted killer Perry Smith (Daniel Craig), a bond forged during Smith’s time on death row. Sandra Bullock plays Harper Lee, author of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and a close friend of Capote, and Gwyneth Paltrow is cast as--are you ready for this?--a sultry blonde songbird who's a dead ringer for Peggy Lee. The mere thought of that gives me fever. Now Playing

MARIE ANTOINETTE: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Rip Torn, Judy Davis, Danny Huston, Steve Coogan, Asia Argento, Marianne Faithfull, Aurore Clement, Molly Shannon, Shirley Henderson, Rose Byrne (Written and directed by Sofia Coppola; Columbia) Kirsten Dunst, who made director Sofia Coppola proud in “The Virgin Suicides,” will try to do the same thing in this fresh take on the royal who lost her head during the French Revolution. In a move that some might brand as nepotism, Coppola cast cousin Jason Schwartzman as KING LOUIS XVI. Anyone who saw “Rushmore,” however, knows that Schwartzman--nephew of Francis Ford Coppola, son of Talia Shire--is as talented as he is well-connected, so obviously the kid should have stayed in the picture. Now Playing

RUNNING WITH SCISSORS: Joseph Cross, Annette Bening, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes, Alec Baldwin, Vanessa Redgrave, Evan Rachel Wood, Jill Clayburgh, Kristin Chenoweth, Colleen Camp, Gabrielle Union, Patrick Wilson (Written and directed by Ryan Murphy; Sony Pictures) What kind of mother would dump her 14-year-old son in the filthy, falling-down house of her lunatic shrink and his dysfunctional family and then encourage the kid to have a sexual relationship with a vile, long-in-the-tooth pedophile? The answer is DEIRDRE BURROUGHS, the egomaniacal, chain-smoking, wannabe-poet mom of AUGUSTEN BURROUGHS, who wrote so brilliantly about her, his runaway dad and various other oddballs in his harrowing and hilarious 2002 memoir, “Running With Scissors.” Deirdre is played by Annette Bening, Joseph Cross (off screen, he's a pint-sized rocker who couldn't convince his high school principal that his band should be called COCK) plays Augusten, Joseph Fiennes is his dirty-old-man lover, and Gwyneth Paltrow plays the lad's flaky gal pal. Except in the case of the Burroughs clan, the names of the real-life characters in the book were carefully changed by the author. Later Burroughs allegedly got a bit careless and revealed their true names in public. These days, he’s mum on the subject and perhaps a bit nervous about having his day in court. To read a New York Times article about a pending lawsuit, click here. Now Playing

CATCH A FIRE: Tim Robbins, Derek Luke, Bonnie Henna, Robert Hobbs (Directed by Phillip Noyce; Written by Shawn Slovo; Focus Features) PATRICK CHAMUSSO, who worked in a South African oil refinery during the 1980s, spent most of his off-time playing soccer, a sport he loved with a passion. Politics was a subject that seldom entered his mind, until the day he and his wife were severely assaulted by government-trained terror squads. This harrowing true story, concentrating on Chamusso’s bold battle against the apartheid regime, extends to the present day in South Africa. Derek Luke (“Antwone Fisher,” “Pieces of April”) portrays the politicized Chamusso, and Tim Robbins plays a government agent who may or may not be in his corner. Now Playing

COPYING BEETHOVEN: Ed Harris, Diane Kruger, Matthew Goode, Nicholas Jones, Joe Anderson, Phyllida Law (Directed by Agnieszka Holland; Written by Stephen J. Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson; Contemporary World Cinema) It seems like only yesterday that we saw Ed Harris playing a temperamental genius who passionately throws paint on canvas. The genius, of course, was Jackson Pollock. Now Harris is at it again, this time playing a temperamental genius who passionately throws tantrums, and he answers to the name of LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN. Diane Kruger plays an aspiring composer who helps Ludwig make it through his twilight years. Now Playing

FUR: Nicole Kidman, Robert Downey Jr., Ty Burrell, Harris Yulin, Jane Alexander, Emmy Clark, Genevieve McCarth, Boris McGiver (Directed by Steven Shainberg; Written by Erin Cressida Wilson; Picturehouse Films) Having grown up privileged and at least a little absurd in Manhattan, strikingly original photographer DIANE ARBUS became famous for illuminating the unique qualities of various dwarves, transvestites and other uncommon folk and for reportedly capturing her own suicide--in 1971, at the age of 42--on film. As we all know, Nicole Kidman won an Oscar for killing herself on screen as Virginia Woolf in “The Hours,” and it’s quite possible that she will pull off that particular trick again. Based on Patricia Bosworth’s “Diane Arbus: A Biography,” Erin Cressida Wilson’s screenplay will be directed by Steven Shainberg (they last teamed on the splendidly bizarre “Secretary”). Ty Burrell plays Allan Arbus, the fashion photographer to whom Diane was passionately, if not always happily, married, and Robert Downey Jr. has been cast as the couple's exceptionally mysterious neighbor. Now Playing

BOBBY: Emilio Estevez, Demi Moore, Anton Kutcher, Martin Sheen, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt, Harry Belafonte, William H. Macy, Sharon Stone, Lindsay Lohan, Elijah Wood, Laurence Fishburne, Heather Graham, Christian Slater, David Krumholtz, Shia LaBeouf, Dave Fraunces, Jeridan Frye, David Kobzantsev (Written and directed by Emilio Estevez; The Weinstein Company) At first glance, it looks as if Emilio Estevez got a bunch of his friends together and said, “Hey, let’s put on a show!” Well, okay, long-ago sweetheart Demi Moore surely still qualifies as something more than a friend, and Martin Sheen is, after all, Emilio’s dad. And, looking closer, you do suspect that “Bobby”--the colorful cast notwithstanding--is not just another show. For the Bobby in question here is New York senator ROBERT F. KENNEDY, younger brother of President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963. Five years later, 42-year-old Bobby, a strong contender for the presidency, was fatally shot by a man named SIRHAN SIRHAN during a Democratic Party celebration at Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel. The fact-based story writer/director/actor Estevez tells is set during the hours leading up to and immediately following the assassination, and it focuses on a complex mix of people who were present on that tragic evening at the Ambassador. Relative unknowns Dave Fraunces and Jeridan Frye play Bobby and ETHEL KENNEDY, and David Kobzantsev is cast as fanatical Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan. To read the Variety review of "Bobby," click here. Now Playing

PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS: Will Smith, Thandie Newton, Jaden Smith, Alan Frakesh, Branden Weslee Kong, David Pearl (Directed by Gabriele Muccino; Written by Steve Conrad; Columbia Pictures) No budding actor will ever be more engagingly playful and subtly subversive than the youthful Will Smith of TV’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and the big screen’s “Six Degrees of Separation,” “Independence Day” and “Men in Black.” Unless, that is, 7-year-old Jaden Smith proves to be a chip off the old block in this comedy-drama about a down-and-out Chicago salesman who’s given custody of his son but still clings to his American Dream of becoming an ace stock broker. But first he’s got to move out of that homeless shelter the pair are holed up in. Sounds fabricated and silly? Tell that to billionaire investment banker CHRIS GARDNER, whose real-life rags-to-riches story was the inspiration for this biopic. Thandie Newton plays Smith’s embittered ex, and she may or may not be around at the film’s fade-out. Now Playing

MISS POTTER: Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Emily Watson, Bill Paterson, Jane How, Anton Lesser, Lloyd Owen, Barbara Flynn (Directed by Chris Noonan; Written by Richard Maltby Jr.; Summit Entertainment) If you’re spending your days writing about the adventures of Peter Rabbit, can you spend your nights having a hot sex life with the man who says he’s going to publish your rabbit tales and make you a world-acclaimed author? We’ll learn the answer to that question when Renee Zellweger hits the screen as perky Victorian author BEATRIX POTTER. Ewan McGregor, who teamed with Zellweger in the ever-forgotten “Down With Love,” will play Potter’s up-with-love publisher. Now Playing

ALPHA DOG: Emile Hirsch, Anton Yelchin, Justin Timberlake, Sharon Stone, Bruce Willis, Courteney Cox-Arquette, Ben Foster, Shawn Hatosy, Dominique Swain, Lukas Haas, Olivia Wilde, Shera Danese, David Thornton, Harry Dean Stanton, Vincent Kartheiser, Xan Cassavetes (Written and directed by Nick Cassavetes; Universal) A desperate young dope pusher (Emile Hirsch) kidnaps a teenager (Anton Yelchin) whose big brother owes him a substantial sum of money. It turns out that the kid enjoys being held hostage since it gives him an opportunity to learn new tricks from his captor and his companions. This quirky crime story is based on the adventures of JESSE JAMES HOLLLYWOOD, one of the youngest people ever to land on the FBI's Most Wanted List (he was dropped from the list when he was captured in the summer of 2005). Now Playing

ZODIAC: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards (Directed by David Fincher; Written by Jamie Vanderbilt; Warner Bros. and Paramount) David Fincher, who proved he knows all there is to know about coaxing audiences to pay the price of admission for nerve-shattering punishment in “Seven,” “Fight Club” and “Panic Room,” is at it again. This time he’s zeroing in on a true crime--make that crimes--story, the still unsolved mystery of the Zodiac, the fiendishly playful serial killer who deliberately left “clues” behind after murdering at least 37 San Franciscans during the 1960s and ‘70s. Based on ROBERT GRAYSMITH’s "Zodiac" and "Zodiac Unmasked: The Identity of America's Most Elusive Serial Killer Revealed," the thriller stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Graysmith, the young San Francisco Chronicle journalist who cut his reportorial teeth covering the grisly stages of the case. Gary Oldman plays MARVIN BELLI, the ace attorney who, in 1969, received a lengthy, revealing--but not revealing enough--Christmas greeting from the Zodiac. For Diane Baroni's 2001 interview with Jake Gyllenhaal, click here. Now Playing

HOAX: Richard Gere, Marcia Gay Harden, Julie Delpy, Alfred Molina, Hope Davis (Directed by Lasse Hallstrom; Written by Bill Wheeler; Disney) Way back in the seventies, long before Jason Blair’s journey to reportorial paradise was cut short by the discovery that his stunning on-the-scene stories for The New York Times were fiction dreamed up in the privacy of his apartment, another major journalistic scam rocked the world of media mavens and just plain readers. Aggressively imaginative author CLIFFORD IRVING became a mega-celebrity when the juicy “autobiography” of maniacally reclusive Howard Hughes--allegedly penned in collaboration with Irving--was published and voraciously consumed in Great Britain. Only later, when the book seemed destined to repeat its overseas best-sellerdom, did it became clear that Irving and Hughes had never, ever met face-to-face, word to note-pad. In the end, the wannabe Pulitzer Prize winner paid dearly--in the pen--for his audacious penning. Under the sometimes hot, sometimes cold, direction of Lasse Hallstrom (“My Life As a Dog,” “An Unfinished Life”), Richard Gere plays Irving, Marcia Gay Harden plays his wife, Julie Delpy plays his mistress (sultry, syllable-slurring NINA VAN PALLANDT, whose untapped thespian skills were mined by Robert Altman in the terrific 1973 noir thriller, “The Long Goodbye"), and presumably nobody plays the where-the-hell-did-he-go? Hughes. To read the Variety review, click here. Now Playing

LONELY HEARTS: John Travolta, James Gandolfini, Salma Hayek, Jared Leto, Laura Dern, Scott Caan, Alice Krige, Marc Macaulay, Dagmara Dmincyzk, Michael Gaston, Jay Amor (Written and directed by Todd Robinson; Lonely Hearts Productions) This tale sounds repulsive enough to be true. And it is true. Based on actual grotesque characters and events (and “The Honeymoon Killers,” Leonard Kastle’s 1970 cult movie starring Shirley Stoler and Tony Lo Bianco), it tracks sickos MARTHA BECK and RAYMOND MARTINEZ FERNANDEZ on a serial-killing journey through the U.S. during the late forties. The film also follows the two crazed cops who are hot--but not always hot enough--on the crackpots’ trail. Fernandez--who began his shameful scam by writing to war widows, boasting of the steamy sex he can supply them, and then visiting and murdering them for their money--will be played by Jared Leto. Martha Beck was targeted as his victim but instead became his sexually voracious partner in slaughter and was making goo-goo eyes at him right up to the day in 1951 when they were executed, side by side, at Sing Sing. John Travolta and James Gandolfini, who have done their most striking film work as remorseless hit men in “Pulp Fiction” and “The Mexican,” respectively, play the tunnel-visioned lawmen. To read Variety's rave review of "Lonely Hearts," click here; for more upcoming murderpix, click here. Now Playing

LA VIE EN ROSE: Marion Cotillard, Gerard Depardieu, Sylvie Testud, Pascal Greggory, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marc Barbé, Caroline Sihol, Catherine Allegret (Directed by Olivier Dahan; Written by Olivier Dahan and Isabelle Sobelman; Picturehouse Entertainment) Everybody loved EDITH PIAF, except Piaf herself. An insecure, impoverished Parisian who suffered a brutal childhood dominated by her brothel-managing grandmother, Piaf blossomed into the most idolized, heartbreaking chanteuse in the history of France. Yet she died young, the victim of booze, drugs and her own emotional fragility. Playing Piaf, Marion Cotillard is already being talked about as a contender for an Oscar as Best Actress of 2007. To read Diane Baroni's 1991 interview with Gerard Depardieu, click here. Now Playing

A MIGHTY HEART: Angelina Jolie, Dan Futterman, Sajid Hasan, Will Patton (Directed by Michael Winterbottom; Written by Michael Winterbottom and Laurence Coriat; Paramount Vantage) In “A Mighty Heart,” MARIANE PEARL wrote movingly about the kidnapping and murder of her husband, Wall Street Journal reporter DANIEL PEARL, by Muslim terrorists in Pakistan. Now, in the adaptation of her book, Mrs. Pearl will be played by activist-actress Angelina Jolie. A strong indication that the film will be both tough and compassionate is the fact that it will be directed by Michael Winterbottom, currently represented on screen by “The Road to Guantanamo.” Winterbottom collaborated on the screenplay with Laurence Coriat, author of the screenplay of his wonderful “Wonderland.” To read about other new movies based on books, click here. Now Playing

EL CANTANTE: Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, John Ortiz, Ralph Mercado, Deirdre Lorenz, Tony Devon, Federico Castelluccio (Directed by Leon Ichaso; Written by Leon Ichaso and David Darmsteder; Picturehouse) HECTOR LAVOE, who was born in Puerto Rico and became an enormously popular singer after moving to New York City at the age of 17, was sometimes called the Bad Boy of Salsa. And for good reason. The Latin icon had a tough time dealing with success and was soon seeking relief in booze and hard drugs, a habit that caused him to arrive late--or not at all--for sold-out performances. But his fans always forgave him, because they identified so strongly with the music and the spirit of the man they called “La Voz” (“The Voice”). Neither the adoration of his fans nor the loving support of his wife Puchi, however, was enough to pull him through tragic times--his mother-in-law was murdered, his son was shot to death, his house burned down, and he himself toyed with suicide. Physically and emotionally drained, the 46-year-old Lavoe died in 1993, a victim of cardiac arrest and, possibly, AIDS-related complications. Pop performer Marc Anthony plays Lavoe, and his real-life wife, Jennifer Lopez, plays his beloved Puchi. But don’t call them Antlope. Now Playing

IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH: Tommy Lee Jones, Susan Sarandon, Charlize Theron, Jason Patric, Josh Brolin, James Franco, Frances Fisher, Barry Corbin, Jonathan Tucker (Written and directed by Paul Haggis; Warner Independent Pictures) Readers of Playboy magazine were shocked by “Death and Dishonor,” Mark Boal’s investigative article published in the summer of 2004. Boal interviewed LANNY DAVIS, a former U.S. Army M.P., about the death of his son, who had been reported AWOL following a tour of duty in Baghdad. Davis, refusing to accept the army’s version of his son’s disappearance, eventually discovered that the young man had in fact been brutally murdered by his army buddies after a night of partying in Georgia. Paul Haggis, the writer-director of “Crash,” purchased rights to the story, added a few fictional elements, and cast Tommy Lee Jones as the driven ex-soldier and Susan Sarandon as his grief-ravaged wife. Now Playing

THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD: Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Shepard, Mary Louise Parker, Sam Rockwell, Zooey Deschanel, Michael Parks, Barbara Kozicki, Garret Dillahunt (Directed by Andrew Dominik; Written by Ron Hansen; Warner Bros.) JESSE JAMES, a good old Missouri boy, had little tolerance for the feds and railroad tycoons who relieved farm folk of their homes in the late 19th century. That’s presumably why he formed a gang and got into the profitable but risky business of robbing banks and terrorizing train riders. In the end, Jesse was undone by ROBERT FORD, a young gang member who went from revering his outlaw boss to deeply resenting him. Or so the story by novelist/screenwriter Ron Hansen--which is the basis for this film--goes. Brad Pitt, who’s at his best when playing on the wrong side of the law, is Jesse and Casey Affleck is Robert Ford. As for Sam Shepard, he plays Jesse’s brother FRANK JAMES, a role which gave Henry Fonda the opportunity to steal the 1939 “Jesse James” from Tyrone Power. Now Playing

INTO THE WILD: Emile Hirsch, Vince Vaughn, Catherine Keener, William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, Hal Holbrook, Jena Malone (Written and directed by Sean Penn; Paramount) CHRISTOPHER McCANDLESS, a restless, searching idealist, graduated from college in 1992 but did not even consider competing with his peers for a prestigious, lucrative job. Instead, as readers of Jon Krakauer’s best seller know, McCandless left behind his worldly goods, hitchhiked to Alaska, and strived to become one with nature. Four months later, his corpse was discovered in a wilderness campsite. Under the direction of Sean Penn, “Alpha Dog’s” Emile Hirsch plays McCandless; Keener and Vaughn play a motherly stranger and a sensitive tough guy he meets on his journey. For Guy Flatley’s 1998 interview with Vince Vaughn, click here. Now Playing

ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE: Cate Blanchett, Clive Owen, Geoffrey Rush, Samantha Morton, Hugh Dancy, Tom Hollander, Abbie Cornish (Directed by Shekhar Kapur; Written by Michael Hirst) Could it be that ELIZABETH I, England’s icy Virgin Queen, had something hot going with occasional adversary SIR WALTER RALEIGH? Advance word suggests that director Shekhar Kapur, helmer of 1998’s fiery “Elizabeth,” will bring the intriguing subject out into the open in this sequel. Best news of all: Cate Blanchett returns, making a royal effort to nab the Best Actress Oscar she almost got in 1998 (she lost to Gwyneth Paltrow for “Shakespeare in Love”). More good news: Raleigh will be played by the unfailingly masterful Clive Owen. Now Playing

I’M NOT THERE: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw, Julianne Moore, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Michelle Williams, (Directed by Todd Haynes; The Weinstein Company) Did you ever have the feeling that there’s something baffling, if not downright bizarre, about legendary music man BOB DYLAN? Bob Dylan? Well, the mystery may soon be cleared up in this brazen biopic. Who's been handed the task of acting (and singing) like Dylan in all of his shifting complexity? As it turns out, it took at least five men and one woman to rise to the challenge: Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw, Marcus Carl Franklin and, yes, a notably curly-haired Cate Blanchett. The women in Dylan’s life are played by Julianne Moore, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Michelle Williams. Director Todd Haynes, who worked wonders with Julianne Moore in “Safe” and “Far From Heaven,” will undoubtedly keep all of these heavyweight performers blowin’ eloquently in the wind. Now Playing

THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY: Mathieu Almaric, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Emmanuelle Seigner (Directed by Julian Schnabel; Written by Ronald Harwood; Focus Features) It makes perfect sense that JEAN-DOMINIQUE BAUBY'S stunning book, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," should carry the subtitle of "A Memoir of Life in Death.” Bauby, a dynamic, articulate, happily married father of two, was the widely admired editor-in chief of France’s Elle Magazine in 1995 when, at the age of 44, he suffered a stroke that left him in a coma for 20 days. It was assumed that he would never again share thoughts and impressions with his loved ones and former colleagues. And when he did finally awake, the only part of his body that appeared to be functioning was his left eye. Soon, however, with the blink of that eye, he was able to make it understood that his brain had not been impaired. Amazingly, a system was devised by his family and friends whereby he would blink when a particular letter of the alphabet was read aloud to him. From there, it was a matter of his forming words, structuring sentences and conveying the complex, passionate ideas and images that filled his mind and then shape them into a unique manuscript. Bauby died in 1998, just two days after the publication of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” It was thought that Johnny Depp, who worked with director Julian Schnabel in "Before Night Falls," would tackle the challenging role of Bauby, but that plan fell through. So Depp's loss is Mathieu Almaric's gain. Now Playing

CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Rachel Nichols, John Slattery, Om Puri (Directed by Mike Nichols; Written by Aaron Sorkin; Universal) Sometimes Texas politicians misbehave on a lavish scale--no, we’re not talking about Tom DeLay or Alberto Gonzales. The congressman in question here is Representative CHARLES WILSON, a boozer who was caught not only in his cups, but also in a Las Vegas hot tub with a couple of coke-sniffing party girls. That was early in the eighties, and for a while it looked like a long goodbye for the man once known as Good Time Charlie. But eventually Wilson staged a comeback as a crackerjack CIA agent, a major player in the expulsion of the Russians from Afghanistan. And now the guy’s a D.C. lobbyist! Tom Hanks hasn’t had this much fun since playing with all those wonderful toys in “Big.” And Julia Roberts, who had fun of a darker kind under Mike Nichols' direction in "Closer," plays Joanne Herring, the powerhouse Texas socialite who persuades Charlie Wilson to turn over a new leaf. To read Guy Flatley's 1976 interview with Mike Nichols, click here. Now Playing

THE GREAT DEBATERS: Forest Whitaker, Denzel Washington, Columbus Short, Collins Pennie, Emil Pinnock (Directed by Denzel Washington; Written by Robert Eisele and Suzan-Lori Parks; The Weinstein Company/MGM) For decades, the movie industry did pitifully little to create opportunities for black actors. Gradually, the situation improved, most conspicuously when Sidney Poitier became the first African American to win an Oscar as Best Actor (for his performance in 1963’s “Lilies of the Field”). Then, following in Poitier’s Oscar path, came Denzel Washington, Best Actor for “Training Day” (2001); Halle Berry, Best Actress for “Monster’s Ball” (2001); and Forest Whitaker, Best Actor for “The Last King of Scotland” (2006). The latest good news is that Whitaker and Washington will share screen time in “The Great Debaters,” a true-life drama about a debating team from Wiley College in Texas that went up against Harvard’s prestigious crew of debaters in the 1930s. Washington plays MELVIN B. TOLSON, the tunnel-visioned coach of the Texan team, and Whitaker plays the emotionally conflicted father of one of Tolson’s students. Another sign of progress: Washington, who made an impressive helming debut with “Antwone Fisher” in 2002, will be sitting in the director’s chair. Now Playing

BERNARD AND DORIS: Ralph Fiennes, Susan Sarandon (Directed by Bob Balaban; Written by Hugh Costello; HBO Films) DORIS DUKE had beaucoup servants, but so far as we know, she had only one butler who was Irish, gay and crazy as they come. His name was BERNARD LAFFERTY, and it was to him that the poorest little rich girl in all the world left the bulk of her fortune (approximately $1.2 billion). Bernard was 51 at the time of Doris’s death, but wealthy as he became, he did not live happily ever after. He died, crankily, three years later. It’s so hard to please the help, isn’t it? To see what else Susan Sarandon is up to, click here; for Guy Flatley's 1978 interview with Sarandon, click here. This HBO production was greeted enthusiastically by the critics when it premiered on cable in February 2008.

THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL: Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Mark Rylance, Rue McClanahan (Directed by Justin Chadwick; Written by Peter Morgan; Sony) Quick! Who was MARY BOLEYN? You know, of course. She was the kid sister of ANNE BOLEYN, the regal mate of England’s KING HENRY VIII who literally lost her head in 1536 as a result of trumped-up charges that she was guilty of adultery, incest and witchcraft. Mary, who was married to William Carey at the ripe old age of 12, was by no means a stranger to the lascivious king herself, having served as his infamous mistress--and possibly the mother of his son--before Anne popped onto the scene. Why should you care about all this ancient history? Because Anne and Mary are being played by Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson, respectively, in this adaptation of Phillipa Gregory’s fact-based novel. Eric Bana will undoubtedly have a romp as horny Henry. To read about many more new upcoming Scarlett Johansson movies, click here and browse the J page of STAR TURNS; for more upcoming movies based on books, click here. Now Playing

DARK MATTER: Meryl Streep, Val Kilmer, Liu Ye (Directed by Chen Shi-Zheng; Myriad Films) Based on a tragedy that took place on the University of Iowa in 1991, this film centers on LIU XING, a brilliant Chinese physics student who fell victim to campus politics, suffered an emotional breakdown, and went on a bloody rampage, killing six people. Chen Shi-Zheng, famed for his work on the operatic stage, is making his movie directorial debut here. Now Playing

TRUMBO: Joan Allen, Brian Dennehy, Michael Douglas, Paul Giamatti, Nathan Lane, Josh Lucas, Liam Neeson, David Strathairn, Donald Sutherland (Directed by Peter Askin; Written by Christopher Trumbo; Samuel Goldwyn Films) DALTON TRUMBO remembered it all, and pity those who tried to prevent him from speaking--and writing--the truth. Among the legendary screenwriter's most vivid memories: the war to end all wars, the witch-hunt that landed him behind bars, and the spectacle of Ginger Rogers' mom tearfully addressing a Congressional committe and denouncing him as a commie. This documentary, alternating rare footage of Trumbo, his friends, family and foes with excerpts from his letters and published works read by distinguished actors, was enthusiastically received at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival. To read Guy Flatley’s review of “Trumbo,” click here; for Guy's 1970 New York Times interview with Dalton Trumbo, click here. Now Playing

MILK: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, James Franco, Diego Luna, Alison Pill, Lucas Grabeel, Howard Rosenman, Stephen Spinella, Victor
Garber (Directed by Gus Van Sant; Written by Dustin Lance Black; Focus Features) On November 27, 1978, HARVEY MILK, a militant gay activist and enormously charismatic San Francisco supervisor, was shot dead, along with his boss, Mayor GEORGE MOSCONE, by DAN WHITE, a disgruntled ex-supervisor. The light sentence given to the assassin led to San Francisco’s historic White Night Riots. Under the masterful direction of openly gay Gus Van Sant, Sean Penn plays Harvey Milk and Josh Brolin is Dan White. Now Playing

CADILLAC RECORDS: Adrien Brody, Jeffrey Wright, Beyonce Knowles, Cedric the Entertainer, Mos Def, Eamonn Walker, Gabrielle Union, Norman Reedus, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Tammy Blanchard, Jay O. Sanders, Eric Bogosian (Written and directed by Darnell Martin; TriStar Pictures) Chess Records, the Chicago label that first gave voice to some of the world’s top rhythm and blues greats, is paid tribute in this big-screen biopic written and directed by Darnell Martin, the woman behind various episodes of Law & Order, Grey’s Anatomy, ER and The L Word. Adrien Brody plays LEONARD CHESS, the company’s co-founder and the man who helped the legendary ETTA JAMES (Beyonce Knowles) kick a harrowing drug habit. Jeffrey Wright takes on the role of MUDDY WATERS, Moss Def is CHUCK BERRY and Cedric the Entertainer plays WILLIE DIXON. In a recent New York Times article by Alan Light, Beyonce Knowles described meeting 70-year-old Etta James shortly after completing “Cadillac Records.” “She’s honest and no-nonsense,” said the 27-year-old Knowles. “I know that in some interviews she was like, ‘I don’t know if she can play me.’ But when I met her, she said, ‘You are a bad girl,’ and I know that’s the ultimate compliment from her.” Click here to read the entire New York Times article. Now Playing

FROST/NIXON: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen (Directed by Ron Howard; Written by Peter Morgan; Universal) RICHARD NIXON may be the second worst president the American public ever had to put up with. In 1977--three years after bidding a mortifying adieu to the White House, thereby avoiding impeachment because of the Watergate scandal--he agreed to appear in a series of televised conversations with British media giant DAVID FROST. Nixon learned too late that he should have played harder to get; as it turned out, Frost stripped him bare, exposing his soul for anyone who owned a television set to see. Fortunately, Peter Morgan, author of the screenplay for “The Queen,” decided to explore the confrontation between these two strong-willed men in dramatic terms. The resulting play was a triumph last season in England and is now a huge hit on Broadway. Best of all, director Ron Howard had the smarts to sign up Frank Langella and Michael Sheen--the duo who brought Nixon and Frost to riveting life in London and New York--to repeat their roles in the film version of “Frost-Nixon. Click here to read about more new films based on plays. Now Playing

CHE: PART 1 (THE ARGENTINE): Benicio Del Toro; Franka Potente, Julia Ormond, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Demian Bichir (Directed by Steven Soderbergh; Written by Peter Buchman; Focus Features) In “The Motorcycle Diaries,” director Walter Salles focused on the youthful ERNESTO "CHE" GUEVARA (played by Gael Garcia Bernal) as the budding revolutionary biked his way through South America and witnessed acts of injustice he would never forget. If you loved Salles’ 2004 hit movie, the odds are that you will be similarly moved by this follow-up film from director Steven Soderbergh. In place of the beautiful, magnetic Bernal, we now have the less beautiful but equally magnetic and talented Benicio Del Toro as the mature Argentine doctor who leaves his country and his profession and becomes known as Che, the idealistic but tough disciple of Cuban crusader FIDEL CASTRO. The first of two new Soderbergh takes on Che, "The Argentine" will be followed by "Guerrilla." Now Playing

VALKYRIE: Tom Cruise, Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, Patrick Wilson, Tom Wilkinson, Stephen Fry, Carice Van Houten, Eddie Izzard (Directed by Bryan Singer; Written by Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander; MGM/United Artists) COLONEL CLAUS von STAUFFENBERG was the passionately Catholic, marginally crazed Nazi who huddled, somewhat tardily, with his fellow officers and hatched a plan to bump off Adolf Hitler toward the wind-down of World War II. Not only was he motivated by his deepening hatred of Hitler, but he was totally turned off by the war itself, having lost his left eye in a 1943 aerial strafing, plus his right hand and 2 fingers of his left hand on the same occasion. But that was nothing compared to what happened in July, 1944, when he planted a bomb under Hitler’s conference room table. Some people were killed in the ensuing explosion, but nowhere among them was Adolf Hitler. And that’s how poor Von Stauffenberg came to face a Berlin firing squad later that month. The question now is, who could possibly play the role of this unpredictable, tricky, high-energy wannabe hero? And the answer, of course, is that incomparably unpredictable, tricky, high-energy superstar Tom Cruise. Adding to the promise of unpredictability and trickery is the fact that the director and the screenwriter of the film, former New Jersey high school classmates Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie, are the guys who fooled us so masterfully in 1995’s “The Usual Suspects.” Now Playing

PUBLIC ENEMIES: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Channing Tatum, Billy Crudup, Marion Cotillard, Leelee Sobieski, Stephen Dorff, Lili Taylor, Emilie de Ravin, Giovanni Ribisi, Rory Cochran, Shawn Hatosy, Stephen Lang, Stephen Graham, Matt Craven (Directed by Michael Mann; Written by Ronan Bennett, Ann Biderman and Michael Mann; Universal) JOHN DILLINGER was not as scary as Sweeney Todd, but don't be surprised if Johnny Depp makes the gun-toting terror of thirties Chicago almost as chilling as he made the demon barber of Fleet Street in Tim Burton's maniacal musical. “Public Enemies” is based on the book by Bryan Burrough about FBI biggie J. EDGAR HOOVER'S crusade to bring Dillinger and other dirty rotten scoundrels, such as PRETTY BOY FLOYD, to justice. You might think that pretty boy Billy Crudup would be the ideal choice to play gangster Floyd, but no, that role has been undertaken by up-and-coming Tatum Channing. So who does Crudup play? The emphatically un-pretty J. Edgar Hoover! Putting his Batman drag in mothballs, Christian Bale becomes Melvin Purvis, the agent Hoover puts in charge of the Dillinger manhunt. Marion Cotillard and Leelee Sobieski play a couple of dollies with whom Dillinger dallies.Opens 7/1/09

JULIE & JULIA: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci (Written and directed by Nora Ephron; Columbia) A world-famous chef, who was also the star of her own popular live-TV show, once blithely flipped a potato pancake into the air, only to see it land not in the intended pan but on a decidedly un-photogenic work table. Not a bit flustered, she simply scooped up the smashed potato and molded it back into shape. Then, looking firmly into the eye of the camera, she told her audience, “Remember, you are alone in the kitchen, and no one can see you.” This unflappable flipper, of course, was JULIA CHILD, the lovably eccentric American who somehow managed to become an idolized French chef. And playing Child in this movie is Meryl Streep, who, as you know, can glide from American to French or any other nationality on a minute’s notice. The question is, what sort of scenario has writer-director Nora Ephron concocted that will give Streep a chance to don her apron and flip her potato pancake, as well as engage in some out-of-the-kitchen antics? After all, this film is supposedly an adaptation of “Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen,” Julia Powell’s 2005 book dishing out the comedy-drama of her decision to cook, over the course of one year, every single recipe in Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and to serve the presumably tasty results to her husband and other guinea pigs. Her experiment took a toll in both the digestive and domestic realms. Amy Adams ("Catch Me If You Can," "Junebug," "Charlie Wilson's War") plays the central role of Julie. But you can bet that Ephron will cook up something tres delicious for Streep, who played the author to perfection in "Heartburn," based on Ephron's account of her disastrous marriage to philandering journalist Carl Bernstein. Child's own husband, Paul, a foreign diplomat suspected of being a commie by Senator Joseph McCarthy, will be played by Stanley Tucci. To read about more new movies based on books, click here.

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