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DECEMBER 2004

THE ARYAN COUPLE: Martin Landau, Judy Parfitt, Caroline Carver, Steven Mackintosh, Adrian O’Donnell, Tyler Bizzell, Austen Palmer, Kenny Doughty (Directed by John Daly; Written by John Daly and Kendrew Lascelles; Atlantic Film) A Jewish industrialist is stripped of his power and must bargain with the Nazis so that his family will be allowed to leave Hungary and settle in Palestine. Now Playing

CLOSER: Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen (Directed by Mike Nichols; Written by Patrick Marber; Sony) Four far-from-ordinary Londoners: A beautiful photographer adept at shifting focus from one man to another; a successful doctor who likes to take chances, especially sexual chances; a stripper jaded beyond her tender years; and a cynical journalist who works the obituary beat. These are the fierce but fidgety figures who make love and war over a four-year period in Patrick Marber’s adaptation of his own blistering stage hit. Mike Nichols, whose most recent successes have been on the small screen, is said to be back in fine “Virginia Woolf” form. To read Guy Flatley's 1976 interview with Mike Nichols, click here; for details on upcoming films starring Julia Roberts, Jude Law and Clive Owen, click here and browse the alphabetical listing of STAR TURNS. Now Playing

HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS: Ziyi Zhang, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau, Song Dandan (Directed by Zhang Yimou; Written by Li Feng, Wang Bin and Zhang Yimou; Sony Pictures Classics) A lovely blind woman who entertains in a ninth-century house of pleasure is suspected of being a member of a radical anti-Tang Dynasty group. So two clever cops scheme to have her lead them to her rebel leader. Making what might well be a serious mistake, at least one of the lawmen falls in love with the mysterious, high-kicking, dagger-wielding beauty. Now Playing

I AM DAVID: Ben Tibber, Joan Plowright, Jim Caviezel, Maria Bonnevie, Silvia De Santis, Viola Carinci, Francesco De Vito, Paul Feig, Adrian McCourt, Matt Patresi, Hristo Shopov (Written and directed by Paul Feig; Lions Gate) The tyrants who ruled Joseph Stalin’s labor camps were unmercifully brutal, even to children. This drama, which writer-director-actor Paul Feig has adapted from the novel by Anne Holm, follows the long, terrifying journey to freedom of a 12-year-old Bulgarian boy (Ben Tibber) lucky and brave enough to escape his captors. Now Playing

BLADE: TRINITY: Wesley Snipes, Jessica Biel, Ryan Reynolds, Kris Kristofferson, Parker Posey, Cascy Beddow, James Remar, Natasha Lyonne, Dominic Purcell, John Michael Higgins (Written and directed by David S. Goyer; New Line) Could Blade, the majestic vampire hunter we’ve come to trust and love so much, be a psychotic serial killer? That’s what the shameless rumor-mongering, blood-sucking villains in the third installment of this franchise want the world to believe. Blade (Wesley Snipes) will need all the help he can get from intrepid Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) and gung-ho Nightstalker Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds). They’ll sure have to keep an eye on the particularly slinky vamp played by Parker Posey. For Diane Baroni's 1998 interview with Kris Kristofferson, click here. Now Playing

THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon, Noah Taylor, Bud Cort (Directed by Wes Anderson; Written by Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach; Disney/Buena Vista) Like Ahab before him, oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) is driven to the point of derangement in his quest for revenge against a sea beast. This time, however, the beast is a shark, one that has offed Zissou’s seafaring partner. Zissou needs help on his mission, of course, so among those coming along for the watery ride are his ex-wife (Anjelica Huston), an investigative reporter (Cate Blanchett), and a weirdo (Owen Wilson) who may or may not be Zissou’s son. Expect Bill Murray to shine as Zissou, since he’s working here with Wes Anderson, the writer-director who served him so beautifully in “Rushmore” and “The Royal Tenenbaums.” And yes, Bud Cort is the same Bud Cort who won our hearts, if not our minds, 33 years ago as Ruth Gordon’s sweetheart in “Harold and Maude.” Now Playing

OCEAN'S TWELVE: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Don Cheadle, Elliott Gould, Vincent Cassel, Carl Reiner, Scott Caan, Casey Affleck (Directed by Steven Soderbergh; Warner Bros.) Why "twelve"? Because Julia Roberts has decided to officially join the pack and assist in three major heists--in Rome, Paris and Amsterdam. Well, it's about time! To read Guy Flatley's 1973 interview with Elliott Gould, click here. Now Playing

MILLION DOLLAR BABY: Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman, Anthony Mackie, Margo Martindale (Directed by Clint Eastwood; Written by Paul Haggis; Warner Bros.) Hilary Swank, who won an Oscar for "Boys Don't Cry," will let us know if a girl cries when she steps into the ring and gets punched in the nose. Probably she doesn't, since wannabe boxer Swank is expertly coached by former pugilists Eastwood and Freeman. Insiders are saying the actress may grab another Oscar for her performance in this adaptation of F. X. Toole's "Rope Burns: Stories From the Corner." Eastwood, Oscar-nominated as Best Actor and Best Director, has already received a nod as Best Director of 2004 from the Directors Guild of America, beating out Marc Forster for "Finding Neverland," Taylor Hackford for "Ray," Alexander Payne for "Sideways" and Martin Scorsese for "The Aviator." For Guy Flatley's 1976 interview with Clint Eastwood, click here. Now Playing

THE AVIATOR: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, Jude Law, Willem Dafoe, Barry Pepper, Ian Holm, Alan Alda, Adam Scott, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin, Gwen Stefani, Kelli Garner, Brent Spiner, Edward Herrmann, Danny Huston, Frances Conroy (Directed by Martin Scorsese; Miramax) Re-teaming with his "Gangs of New York" director and Miramax mogul Harvey Weinstein, Leo will fly the mean skies of early aviation history as visionary (some say wacko) aero-addict and dabbling moviemaker Howard Hughes. Since the movie, inspired by Charles Higham's "Howard Hughes: The Secret Life," covers a mere 19 years--from 1928 to 1947--we won't get to see the bearded, wild-eyed Hughes babbling incoherently to his horrified business associates or hallucinating in the Nevada desert, as he is said to have done in his twilight years. Nor will we see him romancing lovely actresses Jean Peters and Terry Moore, at least one of whom the long-time marital holdout actually wed. We will, however, see him wooing Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett), Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale), Jean Harlow (Gwen Stefani) and Faith Domergue (Kelli Garner). But we can't begin to imagine what we'll see him doing with fellow satyr Errol Flynn (Jude Law). To read Guy Flatley's 1973 interview with Martin Scorsese, click here; for Guy's 2001 interview with Willem Dafoe, click here; to read about many more new biopics, click here. Now Playing

BEYOND THE SEA: Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, John Goodman, Bob Hoskins, Brenda Blethyn, Greta Scacchi, Caroline Aaron, Peter Cincotti, William Ulrich (Directed by Kevin Spacey; Written by Paul Attanasio, Lorenzo Carcaterra, Jeffrey Meek, James Toback; Lions Gate) Like Cole Porter in “De-Lovely,” brash, groovy, finger-snapping ’50s and ’60s pop singer Bobby Darin looks back over his roller-coaster life and wonders if it was really great fun or just one of those things. The kid from the Bronx survived rheumatic fever, became a teen favorite with his recording of “Splish Splash” (followed by “Mack the Knife” and “Beyond the Sea”), married perky Sandra Dee (the “Gidget” of his dreams), became a proud pop and won an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor of 1963 for his performance in “Captain Newman, M.D.” Then, suddenly, all of the good stuff--including his marriage--went missing, leaving him stunned and unsure of himself and his talent. Darin died at the age of 37, so it’s hard to imagine a happy ending for “Beyond the Sea.” But who says a movie needs a happy ending to be terrific? Kevin Spacey, who managed to direct himself in the leading role, does his own singing here and is said to sound more like Darin than Darin. To read about many more new biopics, click here. Now Playing

IMAGINARY HEROES: Sigourney Weaver, Emile Hirsch, Jeff Daniels, Michelle Williams, Kip Pardue, Deirdre O’Connell, Ryan Donowho, Suzanne Santo, Jay Paulson (Written and directed by Dan Harris; Sony Pictures Classics) A suburban father (Jeff Daniels) who has pushed his swimmer son (Kip Pardue) to the competitive limit is uderstandably heartbroken when the kid commits suicide. But that doesn’t stop Dad from keeping his emotional distance from his other son (Emile Hirsch), a lad in clear need of guidance. Meanwhile, tart-tongued Mom (Sigourney Weaver) is smoking an awful lot of weed. This sounds perfect for moviegoers who’ve never met a dysfunctional family they didn’t like. (The film opens 12/17 and will play one week only, in order to qualify for Oscars; it will reopen 2/11.)

LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS: Jim Carrey, Meryl Streep, Liam Aiken, Emily Browning, Craig Ferguson, Billy Connolly, Timothy Spall, Jennifer Coolidge, Luis Guzman, the voice of Jude Law (Directed by Brad Silberling; Written by Robert Gordon and Daniel Handler; Paramount) Three kids, orphaned when their conspicuously wealthy parents perish in a fire, go to live with Count Olaf (Jim Carrey, at right), an unscrupulous relative who will stop at nothing to gain control of all that dough. He should be warned, however, that although Sunny, the youngest of the trio, doesn't really know how to speak, she certainly knows how to bite. Now Playing

THE SEA INSIDE: Javier Bardem, Belen Rueda, Lola Duenas, Mabel Rivera, Celso Bugallo, Clara Segura, Joan Dalmau, Alberto Jimenez (Directed by Alejandro Amenabar; Written by Alejandro Amenabar and Mateo Gil; Fine Line Features) Ramon Sampedro, a Spanish poet paralyzed from the neck down, engages in a lengthy, valiant battle for the right to end his life with dignity. Based on the true story of Ramon Sampedro, “The Sea Inside” won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 Venice Film Festival, and Javier Bardem was named Best Actor. To read about many more new biopics, click here. Now Playing

SPANGLISH: Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni, Paz Vega, Sarah Steele, Cloris Leachman, Allen Covert, Ian Hyland, Matt Battaglia (Written and directed by James L. Brooks; Columbia Pictures) A hot Mexican mama and her enchanting 12-year-old daughter take up residence in the home of a drippingly rich Los Angeles family, where the beauty from south of the border does housework and the kid charms everyone she encounters. Where will it all end? Writer-director Brooks, of course, is the man who made us laugh and cry ourselves through “Terms of Endearment,” “Broadcast News” and “As Good As It Gets,” but he is also the man who inflicted the ghastly “I’ll Do Anything” upon us. Now Playing

THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX: Dennis Quaid, Giovanni Ribisi, Tyrese, Miranda Otto, Tony Curran, Jared Padalecki Jacob Vargas (Directed by John Moore; Fox) A plane is down in the Sahara, and the crash victims must endure a blistery struggle for survival. At least, that's the way it went with James Stewart, Peter Finch, Ernest Borgnine, Ian Bannen, George Kennedy, Hardy Kruger, Dan Duryea and the rest of the all-male cast in Robert Aldrich's 1965 version of this story. To read Guy Flatley's 1976 interview with James Stewart, click here. Now Playing

HOTEL RWANDA: Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Joaquin Phoenix, Nick Nolte, Jean Reno (Directed by Terry George; Written by Terry George and Keir Pearson; MGM/Lions Gate) For more than three months in 1994, Rwanda, a former colony of Belgium, was the scene of a ferocious attempt by the militant Hutus to “cleanse” the country of its Tutsi population. The machete-wielding militants succeeded in killing a million of their neighbors. But not all of the Tutsis were slaughtered. This based-on-fact film, directed by Terry George, who made his feature debut with the highly regarded “Some Mother’s Son” in 1996, focuses on the successful efforts of Paul Rusesabagina, the Hutu manager of a luxury hotel in the capital city of Kigali, to shelter 1,200 Tutsis. Don Cheadle, an unfailingly impressive actor, is said to give a towering performance in the role of Rusesabagina. "Hotel Rwanda" won the Best Picture award at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival. To read about many more new biopics, click here. Now Playing

MEET THE FOCKERS: Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo (Directed by Jay Roach; Written by Vince Di Meglio, John Hamburg, Jim Herzfeld, Tim Rasmussen; Universal) Okay, so you've already met Jack and Dina Byrnes (De Niro and Danner), the parents of the lucky girl (Polo) who married male nurse Greg Focker (Stiller). Prepare now to meet Greg's parents, the quirky Mr. and Mrs. Focker (Hoffman and Streisand). If you were knocked silly by director Jay Roach's sledgehammering comic skill in "Meet the Parents" and the Austin Powers flicks, you should do fine with Father and Mother Focker. To read Guy Flatley's 1973 interview with Barbra Streisand, click here; for Guy's interview that same year with Robert De Niro, click here, and for his 1979 interview with Dustin Hoffman, click here. To read Diane Baroni's 2000 interview with Teri Polo, click here. Now Playing

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA: Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson, Minnie Driver, Miranda Richardson, Alan Cumming, Simon Callow, Ciaran Hinds, Jennifer Ellison (Written and directed by Joel Schumacher; Warner Bros) Is there anything Joel Schumacher thinks he cannot do? You’ve got to give the auteur of "Flatliners," "Dying Young," "8MM," "Bad Company" and "Phone Booth" a D+ for daring and determination. Not only is Schumacher directing the film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s monster musical, but he also pitched in and did the screenplay. Gerard Butler is the masked man from down below and teenager Emmy Rossum (Sean Penn’s murdered daughter in "Mystic River") is his songbird of choice. Now Playing

THE WOODSMAN: Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Benjamin Bratt, Eve, Mos Def, David Allen Grier (Directed by Nicole Kassell; Written by Steven Fechter and Nicole Kassell; Newmarket Film Group) Can a convicted pedophile turn himself around and spend his post-prison time as an upstanding, non-menacing member of society? Despite what current news reports lead us to believe, it may be possible. Kevin Bacon, so painfully vulnerable in the pedophilia-themed "Mystic River," plays the child molester on this occasion. They loved "The Woodsman" at Sundance, and there's already talk of an Oscar nomination for Bacon. To read David Rooney's review in Variety, click here. Now Playing

DARKNESS: Anna Paquin, Lena Olin, Iain Glen, Giancarlo Giannini, Fele Martinez, Stephan Enquist (Directed by Jaume Balaguero; Written by Juame Balaguero and Fernando de Felipe; Miramax/Dimension) A sensitive teenager and her parents move into an impressive Spanish country house, only to discover, faster than you can say ghost, that it’s a dwelling in which things–scary things—go bump in the night. To read Guy Flatley's 1998 interview with Anna Paquin, click here. Now Playing

FAT ALBERT: Kenan Thompson, Shedrack Anderson III, Jermaine Williams, Keith Robinson, Marques Houston, Aaron Frazier, Alice Greczyn, Keri Lynn Pratt, Kyla Pratt, Dania Ramirez (Directed by Joel Zwick; Written by Bill Cosby, Lowell Ganz and Charles Kipps; Fox) Bill Cosby, who grew up absurd in Philadelphia, later drew on his crazy adolescent experiences for his standup comedy routines and a couple of animated TV series, "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids" (1972-1979) and "The New Fat Albert Show" (1979-1982). Now super-chub Albert and his neighborhood chums are back having fun in Philly—and they’re as young as ever, even though this live-action flick is set in the 21st century. A word of warning: the film’s director, Joel Zwick, is the same man who encouraged Nia Vardalos to mug her way through "My Big Fat Wedding." Now Playing

THE ASSASSINATION OF RICHARD NIXON: Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Don Cheadle, Jack Thompson, Brad Henke, Jared Dorrance, Nick Searcy, Jenna Milton, Mariah Massa, Eileen Ryan, Michael Wincott, Mykelti Williamson (Directed by Niels Mueller; Written by Kevin Kennedy and Niels Mueller; Arn Productions LLC) If your memory goes back as far as 1974, you know that someone had a scarily specific plan to bump off tricky Dick Nixon. This probing drama, well received at the 2004 Cannes Festival, focuses on the motivation of the failed assassin, a furniture salesman played by Sean Penn with an intensity that is said to be awesome. Could that be another Oscar we see in Penn’s future? To read about many more new biopics, click here. Now Playing

IN GOOD COMPANY: Dennis Quaid, Scarlett Johansson, Topher Grace, Marg Helgenberger, Philip Baker Hall, Selma Blair, David Paymer, Ty Burrell, Zena Grey, Kevin Chapman (Written and directed by Paul Weitz; Universal) Topher Grace did alright for himself, bedwise, opposite Laura Linney in “P. S.” In that offbeat comedy-drama he played an aspiring artist who was spectacularly bedded by his notably older mentor. This time out, he’s sleeping with someone closer to his own age--the daughter (Scarlett Johansson) of the ad-sales sap (Dennis Quaid) whose job he has just snatched away. Can Dennis survive the indignity of having to now play deputy to young-pup Topher? Will Scarlett become the bride of her dad’s boss? Finally, how will Dennis handle the news that his own wife (Marge Helgenberger) is once again in the family way? Can’t wait to find out. Now Playing

A LOVE SONG FOR BOBBY LONG: John Travolta, Scarlett Johansson, Gabriel Macht, Deborah Kara Unger, Dane Rhodes (Written and directed by Shainee Gabel; Lions Gate) Purslane Hominy Will (Scarlett Johansson), a teenaged drifter who’s been there and done just about everything a teenager shouldn’t do, learns that her mother has passed over to the other side. Returning to the New Orleans home of her childhood, Purslane is surprised to find that the colorfully run-down house is now inhabited by two apparent friends of her mom--Bobby Long (John Travolta), a heavy-drinking professor of literature who hasn’t taught in quite a while, and Lawson Pines (Gabriel Macht), his loyal protégé. The duo graciously decline Purslane’s invitation to vacate the premises. So what’s a girl to do? Get to know the guys, of course. To read Guy Flatley's 1976 interview with John Travolta, click here. Now Playing

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE: Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Joseph Fiennes, Lynn Collins, Zuleikha Robinson, Allan Corduner (Written and directed by Michael Radford; Sony Pictures Classics) Isn’t it about time we saw Al Pacino (shown at far right) take a shot at Shakespeare's Shylock? I’d pay a pound or so to see him tackle the challenge--all the while hoping he goes easy on The Method and that Michael Radford doesn't let his screenplay credit go to his head. It's nice that director Radford, who hasn’t done much of merit since “Il Postino” in 1994, gets a chance here to redeem himself...come to think of it, “Il Postino” was never all that it was cracked up to be. But let’s keep an open mind. To read Guy Flatley's 1973 interview with Al Pacino, click here. Now Playing


HOW DO THESE YEAR-END ATTRACTIONS STACK UP AGAINST THE DECEMBER 2003 RELEASES? CLICK HERE TO COMPARE.