APRIL 2007

THE 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,” but that's another shaggy-dog story), and presumably nobody plays Howard (where-the-hell-did-he-go?) Hughes. To read the Variety review, click here. Opens 4/6

LONELY HEARTS: John Travolta, James Gandolfini, Jared Leto, Salma Hayek, Laura Dern, Scott Caan, Alice Krige, Marc Macaulay, Dagmara Dmincyzk, Michael Gaston, Jay Amor (Written and directed by Todd Robinson; Millennium Films) 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 murderpix, click here. Now Playing

NEXT: Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore, Jessica Biel, Thomas Kretschmann, Peter Falk, Nicolas Pajon (Directed by Lee Tamahori; Written by Gary Goldman, Paul Bernbaum, Jared Chandler and Jonathan Hensleigh; Columbia) Nicolas Cage won an Oscar for his smashing performance as a hopeless lush in 1995’s “Leaving Las Vegas.” Now he’s back in that garish burg, this time as a two-bit magician who doesn’t dare sink into a drunken stupor. He has no choice but to remain alert at all times. That’s because he has been saddled with the ability to see into the future, a skill that makes him of special interest to U.S. government agents who learned of his secret talent, as well as a band of foreign terrorists who are determined to nuke Los Angeles. Directed by New Zealand’s Lee Tamahori, this adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s short story, “The Golden Man,” co-stars Julianne Moore as a mystery woman capable of casting her own magic spell on the beleaguered magician. Opens 4/27