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THE VENICE WINNERS: HELEN MIRREN AND BEN AFFLECK

Helen Mirren, at left, won the Best Actress award for her performance in "The Queen" at the 63rd Venice Film Festival, which ended on September 9. The Best Actor award went to Ben Affleck for his turn in "Hollywoodland." To read more about these and other festival films, browse below; for more information about the Venice Festival, click here and visit the official web site.

 

 

IN COMPETITION

HOLLYWOODLAND: Ben Affleck, Diane Lane, Adrien Brody, Bob Hoskins, Kathleen Robertson, Robin Tunney, Lois Smith, Joe Spano, Jordan Barker, Jeff Teravainen, Larry Cedar, Steve Adams (Directed by Allen Coulter; Written by Paul Bernbaum and Howard Korder; Focus Features) George Reeves, who played the minor role of one of Scarlett O’Hara’s many swains in “Gone With the Wind,” is perhaps best remembered as Superman, a role he played on live television for six years during the fifties. In a funk because he couldn’t shed the tacky small-screen image of the caped wonder and ascend to major stardom, he put an end to his frustration with a bullet to his head in 1959 at the age of 45. Or did he? Some suspect that he was murdered in the bedroom of his Hollywood mansion by somebody who did not approve of his affair with the wife of MGM executive Eddie Mannix. Ben Affleck, a daredevil if ever there was one, takes on the role of the failed superhero for which Hugh Jackman was originally slated, Diane Lane plays his not-so-secret lover, and Adrien Brody is cast as a cool gumshoe who works up a sweat trying to solve the mystery surrounding Reeves’ death. Now Playing

THE BLACK DAHLIA: Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, Mia Kirshner, William Finley, Fiona Shaw, Pepe Serna (Directed by Brian De Palma; written by Josh Friedman; Universal) In 1947, the mutilated body of Elizabeth Short was discovered in one of Hollywood’s seedier neighborhoods. The vicious murder of this woman who became known as The Black Dahlia prompted a huge manhunt and was a front- page story for many months. To this day, the killer has not been tracked down. Nor has the bloody murder of James Ellroy’s mother ever been solved, one of the reasons the noir author became obsessed with the case of Elizabeth Short and eventually wrote “The Black Dahlia,” the 1987 cult novel that probed the mystery of Short’s life and death. Hartnett and Eckhart play detectives driven to frustration bordering on madness--though they're not to far gone to take an intense interest in blonde bombshell Johansson. They also find time to take note of Swank. Kirshner plays victim Elizabeth Short. The chances of this movie being a genuine shocker are solid, given the fact that Brian De Palma, its director, is the man responsible for “Carrie,” “Dressed to Kill” and “Scarface.” For the Variety review of "The Black Dahlia," click here; to read about more upcoming Johansson films, click here and browse the J page of STAR TURNS; for more Hartnett films, click here and browse the H page of STAR TURNS; for Guy Flatley's 1976 interview with Brian De Palma, click here. Opens 9/15/06

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 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? To read the Variety review of "The Queen," click here. Opens 9/30/06

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. Opens 11/17/06, five days before the 43rd anniversary of President Kennedy’s death.

CHILDREN OF MEN: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlie Hunnam, Michael Klesic, Oana Pellea (Directed by Alfonso Cuaron; Written by Alfonso Cuaron, David Arata and Timothy J. Sexton; Universal) You think the world is in a mess now? Well, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. For true catastrophe, stick around until 2027. By then, according to P. D. James’ dystopian novel, men and women have lost the knack for procreation, and the only solution to the problem that the world’s leaders can recommend is suicide. But suddenly a woman turns up pregnant, and if she succeeds in giving birth, this could truly be the start of something big. That’s why one of the smartest, toughest and meanest men alive decides to become her constant guardian. He’s played by Clive Owen, and Julianne Moore is the possible mom-to-be. Their director is Alfonso Cuaron, to whom we are forever grateful for “Y Tu Mama Tambien.” Opens 9/15/06

THE FOUNTAIN: Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn Sean Gullette, Donna Murphy, Sean Patrick Thomas, Ethan Suplee, Mark Margolis, Alexander Bisping, Cliff Curtis, Marcello Bezina (Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky; Warner Bros.) Back in 2001, Brad Pitt was primed to play a man who spends a thousand years or so trying to cure his wife of the cancer that threatens her life. Primed though he may have been, Brad fell out with writer-director Darren Aronofsky, and the sci-fi love story was cancelled by Warner Bros. Eventually, “The Fountain”--as in Fountain of Youth--got turned back on, this time with Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz as the lengthily tormented soulmates. And, as we all know, Brad Pitt went on to bigger, if not better, things. Opens 11/22/06

OUT OF COMPETITION

WORLD TRADE CENTER: Nicolas Cage, Michael Pena, Maria Bello, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Donna Murphy, Patti D’Arbanville, Jay Hernandez, Armando Riesco, Jon Bernthal, Brad William Henke, Michael Shannon, Lucia Brawley, Wass M. Stevens (Directed by Oliver Stone; Written by Andrea Berloff; Paramount) Oliver Stone depicted the assassination of President Kennedy in “JFK,” the tumble into disgrace of another president in “Nixon,” and the horrors of the Vietnam war in “Platoon” and “Born on the Fourth of July.” So it should come as no surprise that the filmmaker has now chosen to focus on the greatest American tragedy of all, the terrorist attacks of 9/11, in “World Trade Center.” Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena play John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno, the heroic Port Authority officers who were the last survivors to emerge from beneath the rubble. At the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, Stone screened a twenty-minute preview of his film--a harrowing mixture of actors, special effects and raw real-life footage. Many in the audience were deeply disturbed, some wondering why Hollywood views the nightmare of 9/11 as suitable entertainment for mass consumption. Opens 8/9/06

THE WICKER MAN: Nicolas Cage, Ellen Burstyn, Molly Parker, Leelee Sobieski (Written and directed by Neil LaBute; Warner Bros.) You’ve got to proceed with caution when you attempt to get to the bottom of a mystery on a supposedly sleepy little island off the coast of Maine. That, to his horror, is what the sheriff played by Nicolas Cage learns in this thriller by the dependably merciless Neil LaBute. An American spin on the 1973 British cult movie written by Anthony Shaffer and directed by Robin Hardy, this fright flick deals with the disappearance of a girl who may have fallen into the hands of neopagans who see her as the ideal sacrificial lamb. Sheriff Nic should be able to save the day for the tot--so long as a swarm of killer bees don’t declare war on him. Opens 9/1/06

INLAND EMPIRE: Laura Dern, Jeremy Irons, Harry Dean Stanton, Justin Theroux, Julia Ormond, Terryn Westbrook, Michael Pare, Ian Abercrombie, Kristen Kerr, Peter J. Lucas, Masuimi Max, Emily Stofle, Kat Turner (Written and directed by David Lynch; StudioCanal) David Lynch, never known as a blabber, has said very little about his latest film, except to say that it is a “mystery about a woman in trouble” and that he didn’t work from a completed script. During shooting, he acknowledged that “I write the thing scene by scene and much of it is shot and I don’t have much of a clue where it will end.” That’s good enough for us, because we happen to believe Lynch is one of the most imaginative and compelling moviemakers around. His “woman in trouble” here--a crumbly cookie stuck in a California burg called Inland Empire--is played by Laura Dern, an actress who experienced a pack of trouble in Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” and “Wild at Heart.” And let’s extend a big welcome-back to Justin Theroux, an actor we predicted would become a huge star after Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive” (maybe this time he’ll be lucky at last). Also on board: Julia Ormond, a much-hyped Brit we predicted would never become a huge star after she fizzled as the new Audrey Hepburn in the remake of “Sabrina” (maybe this time she’ll be lucky, too). Director Lynch will be awarded the festival’s Golden Lion for career achievement.

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?--sultry songbird Peggy Lee. The mere thought of that gives me fever. Opens 10/13/06

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA: Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Stanley Tucci, Adrien Grenier, Emily Blunt, Simon Baker, Traci Thoms, Giselle Bundchen (Directed by David Frankel; Written by Aline Brosh McKenna and Don Roos; Fox) The fact that Lauren Weisberger, the author of the book upon which this film is based, slaved as an assistant to Vogue super-editor Anna Wintour does not mean that what we have here is a biopic. But I don’t know anyone who believes that not to be the case. Nor do I know anyone who has seen the film and does not think Meryl Streep is a sure bet for an Oscar nomination for her subtly wicked spin on Wintour. Now Playing