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J

HUGH JACKMAN

AUSTRALIA: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, David Wenham, Bryan Brown, Jack Thompson, Barry Otto (Directed by Baz Luhrmann; Written by Ronald Harwood; Fox) Hugh Jackman, who made a hasty entrance when Russell Crowe made an even hastier exit over a salary squabble, plays an enigmatic Australian who comes to the aid of a British damsel in distress (Kidman). In danger of losing her recently inherited ranch to villainous robber barons, the determined Brit allows the take-charge Aussie to escort her and her 2,000 head of cattle to the presumed safety of Darwin, an Australian site the scurrying couple could scarcely know would soon become the target of the very Japanese forces that had just bombed Pearl Harbor. Now Playing

CAROUSEL: Hugh Jackman (Fox) “The Sound of Music” made a big, big noise at the 1963 box office. Despite Julie Andrews’ ravishing voice and perky spirit, however, the movie was basically a bore. That, alas, was also true of numerous other screen adaptations of Rodgers & Hammerstein hit musicals, including “Oklahoma!,” “South Pacific,” “The King and I” and “Flower Drum Song.” And it was certainly true of “Carousel,” the 1956 Cinemascope snooze starring Gordon MacRae as Billy Bigelow, the macho carnival barker and thief who is given a one-day pass from purgatory in order to straighten out the lives of the wife and daughter he left behind. The good news here is that the handsome, boastful lug singing “If I Loved You” and “Soliloquy” will be Hugh Jackman, who triumphed in a 2000 Carnegie Hall concert version of “Carousel.” Opening date to be announced

SAMUEL L. JACKSON

RESURRECTING THE CHAMP: Samuel L. Jackson, Josh Hartnett, Kathryn Morris, Rachel Nichols, David Paymer, Teri Hatcher, Alan Alda (Written and directed by Rod Lurie; Phoenix Pictures) The gung-ho journalist played by Josh Hartnett may be young, but he feels he knows how to sniff out a newsworthy story like an old pro. So when he encounters a mysterious homeless person (Samuel L. Jackson), it doesn’t take him long to conclude the down-and-outer is actually a long-missing boxing champ. But is our cub reporter getting his facts straight, or is the stranger even more mysterious than he seems? Now Playing

SCARLETT JOHANSSON

HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Kevin Connolly, Bradley Cooper, Ginnifer Goodwin, Scarlett Johansson, Kris Kristofferson, Justin Long (Directed by Ken Kwapis; Written by Marc Silverstein and Abby Kohn; New Line Cinema) Smart, attractive and variously driven young men and women meet, mix, meld and sometimes split in exotic, erotic Baltimore. The star-studded story is based on the self-help book by “Sex and the City” writers Greg Behrendt and Liz Tucillo and is being directed by Ken Kwapis, who deserves credit for his contributions to television’s “The Office,” “The Larry Sanders Show,” “The Bernie Mac Show” and “Malcolm in the Middle.” Mention should be made, too, of Kwapis’ big-screen, big-flop “License to Wed,” starring a spectacularly unfunny Robin Williams as a man of the cloth who's determined to put Mandy Moore and John Krasinski through holy hell before deigning to marry them. To read about more new comedies, click here; for Diane Baroni's 1998 interview with Kris Kristofferson, click here. Opens 2/6/09


DWAYNE JOHNSON

GET SMART: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin, Terence Stamp, Bill Murray, James Caan (Directed by Peter Segal; Written by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember; Warner Bros.) It all began in the fertile, funny minds of scripters Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. The date was September 18, 1965, and the premiering show--a weekly spoof about the misadventures of secret agents--was called “Get Smart.” It starred Don Adams as fumbling agent Maxwell Smart and Barbara Feldon as his truly smart partner, and it aired 138 episodes, ending on September 11, 1970. “The Nude Bomb,” a 1980 film returning Adams to the role of Smart, turned out dumb, a bomb in the showbiz sense of the word. But perhaps a new generation of moviegoers will get the 2008 Smart, played by Steve Carell, a cinematic champ in “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Little Miss Sunshine.” Anne Hathaway is Agent 99, the character first played to perfection by Barbara Feldon but booted by the misguided packagers of “The Nude Bomb.” Click here to read about more new comedies. Now Playing

ANGELINA JOLIE

ATLAS SHRUGGED: Angelina Jolie (Directed by Vadim Perelman; Written by Randall Wallace; Lionsgate) When “Atlas Shrugged,” Ayn Rand’s follow-up to her cult novel “The Fountainhead,” was published in 1957, most critics did not shrug. But they did snarl and go on to brand the book as arrogant, elitist, and downright fascistic. But that didn’t stop idolatrous readers from turning “Atlas Shrugged” into an enduring, top-selling tome. Nor did it stop the unceasingly audacious Angelina Jolie from tackling the role of Dagny Taggart, the made-of-steel, ego-driven industrialist who is the heroine of Rand’s doggedly humorless tale. Smarty-pants Dagny never for a second doubts that her superior intellectual and physical attributes entitle her to universal acclaim and unlimited privilege. And she does not hesitate to use two of her discarded lovers to promote the cause of her one true love, the profoundly pompous visionary John Galt. As critic Joe Queenan pointed out in a 2007 New York Times essay, “Despite being one of the worst books ever written, ‘Atlas Shrugged’ is no fun at all.” To read about more new movies based on books, click here. Opening date to be announced

NORAH JONES

MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS: Norah Jones, Jude Law, Davod Strathairn, Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman (Written and directed by Wong Kar-wai; The Weinstein Company) We all know that Grammy winner Norah Jones is an extraordinary singer-songwriter. But can she act? We’ll find out when Wong Kar-wai, the Hong Kong director of the breathtaking “In the Mood for Love” and “2046,” unspools his first English-language film--a quirky road movie in which Jones plays the central role. Her character, a dreamy single New Yorker, binges on a blueberry-and-whipped-cream creation in a China Town café and falls asleep with her head upon the bar. And that’s when the adventurous café manager (Jude Law) leans across the bar and steals an especially sweet kiss. We don’t know if the kiss is the start of something big, but we do know that before long Jones comes down with a bad case of the jitters and attempts to calm down by taking a cross-country journey. Maybe she’ll return for another blueberry binge, and maybe she won’t. To read the Variety review of "My Blueberry Nights," click here. Now Playing

TOMMY LEE JONES

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN: Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald, Tess Harper, Stephen Root, Barry Corbin (Directed by Joel Coen; Written by Joel and Ethan Coen; Miramax Films and Paramount Vantage) It’s 1980, and somewhere in a wild, rough region of Texas, a young Vietnam vet named Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) comes to an abrupt halt in his early-morning hunt for antelope. What stops Llewelyn is the discovery of a bundle of heroin, a suitcase containing two million dollars, and several bloody corpses. And what Llewelyn does is this: he takes the money and runs, followed closely by deranged drug dealer Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). If this man-on-the-run has any hope for survival, it rests with Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), a smart, stubborn World War II vet who’s convinced the world has gone bonkers. This adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel sounds chilling and oddball enough to stand beside such Coen Brothers shockers as “Blood Simple,” “Miller’s Crossing,” “Fargo” and “The Man Who Wasn’t There.” To read the Variety review of "No Country for Old Men," click here. Now Playing

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