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). New York Times critic Manohla Dargis calls Lynch's latest "one of the few films I’ve seen this year that deserves to be called art. Dark as pitch, as noir, as hate, by turns beautiful and ugly, funny and horrifying, the film is also as cracked as Mad magazine." For the full review, click here. Now Playing

APOCALYPTO: Dalia Hernandez, Mayra Serbulo, Gerardo Taracena, Raoul Trujillo, Rudy Youngblood (Directed by Mel Gibson; Written by Mel Gibson and Farhad Safinia; Touchstone/Disney) Auteur Mel Gibson applies his fabled passion to the task of solving the mystery behind the breakdown of the magnificent Mayan civilization. Leaving his idyllic Malibu home behind, the adventurous director traveled to Veracruz, Mexico, and rounded up a cast of virtually unknown locals to tell a story of a good man’s heroic effort to liberate his loved ones from brutally oppressive forces. And, oh yes, you’d best brush up your Yucatec Maya, because that’s Mel’s language of choice this time around. For a Critics Roundup on "Apocalypto, click here. Now Playing

THE HOLIDAY: Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black, Eli Wallach, Shannyn Sossamon, Jon Prescott, Lydia Blanco, Steve Humphreys, Nobel Chen (Written and directed by Nancy Meyers; Columbia) It’s difficult to imagine either Cameron or Kate getting getting dumped by any man, but that’s precisely what sets this romantic comedy spinning. The women meet soon after being jilted and become bosom buddies. But they still yearn for male companionship. Eventually, Kate the Brit seems to find a suitable candidate in a decidedly non-Anglo composer of movie music (Jack Black), while all-American Cameron doesn't do so badly with jolly Brit Jude Law. Now Playing

THE BLOOD DIAMOND: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou (Directed by Ed Zwick; Warner Bros.) Once he’s finished giving his all to playing a gangster--or is it really an undercover cop?--in Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed,” Leo the Indefatigable will take on the role of a smuggler who, during the nineties civil war in Sierra Leone, is presented with a major moral challenge involving a farmer whose son has been kidnapped and turned into a child warrior. We're counting on Leo to do the right thing. To read about more upcoming DiCaprio movies, click here and browse the D page of STAR TURNS; for Terry Trucco's interview with Jennifer Connelly, click here. Now Playing

BREAKING AND ENTERING: Jude Law, Juliette Binoche, Robin Wright Penn, Martin Freeman, Ray Winstone, Poppy Rogers, Vera Farmiga (Written and directed by Anthony Minghella; Miramax) Back in 1991, Anthony Minghella made his directorial debut with “Truly Madly Deeply,” working from his own gooey screenplay about a dreamy but plucky Londoner (Juliet Stevenson) who has a questionable affair with the ghost of her former lover (Alan Rickman). Not a very bright beginning for director Minghella, but he fared much better with the likes of “The English Patient” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” Now, for the second time in his career, Minghella will direct his own original screenplay, one which sounds not all that gooey. Starring Jude Law, with whom the director successfully teamed in “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Cold Mountain,” “Breaking and Entering” focuses on a jaded London architect whose life is turned inside out by a young Muslim thief who breaks into his office. Now Playing

THE GOOD GERMAN: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire, Beau Bridges, Jack Thompson, Dominic Comperatore, Tony Curran (Directed by Steven Soderbergh; Written by Paul Attanasio; Warner Bros.) Hitler and his war are kaput, and an American journalist makes a visit to Berlin his number one priority. How come? If you read the Joseph Kanon novel upon which this movie is based, you know that the newsman played by George Clooney is keen on reuniting with his favorite fraulein. You also know he soon finds himself deep in the middle of a murder mystery. To read about more new murderpix, click here. Now Playing





THE 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

VENUS: Peter O’Toole, Leslie Phillips, Jodie Whittaker, Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Griffiths (Directed by Roger Michell; Written by Hanif Kureishi; Miramax) When he was presented with an honorary Oscar three years ago, a gracious but uneasy Peter O’Toole managed to make it clear he still considered himself a potential contender for the real thing. And now, playing a gravely ill, flamboyant-to-the-end thespian, the 74-year-old veteran actor is generating serious buzz about a Best Actor of 2006 Oscar. His drinking buddy, a lesser light of the theater, is played by Leslie Phillips, and Jodie Whittaker portrays Phillips’ 19-year-old grand-niece, a vixen who stirs a lust in O’Toole’s heart. There’s also talk of a Best Supporting Actress nomination for the great Vanessa Redgrave, who plays O’Toole’s former--but deeply loyal--wife. To read the Variety review of "Venus," click here; for a 1972 New York Times interview by Guy Flatley in which Peter O'Toole claimed, "I was sort of the Vanessa Redgrave of the fifties," click here. Now Playing

LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Shido Nakamura, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase, Yuki Matsuzaki, Hiroshi Watanabe, Takumi Bando, Nobumasa Sakagami, Takashi Yamaguchi, Nae Yuuki (Directed by Clint Eastwood; Written by Iris Yamashita; Paramount/DreamWorks) In “Flags of Our Fathers,” Clint Eastwood gave us his take on the battle of Iwo Jima, as well as the crippling psychological damage suffered by some of the heroic American participants in the bloody battle. Now, in the Japanese-language “Letters From Iwo Jima,” Eastwood returns to combat, this time telling the story from the Japanese point of view. As Variety puts it, “ A big awards question is whether the two films will compete for attention; whether there is room for both in major Oscar categories; or whether kudos voters will view Eastwood's twin pics as two sides of the same coin and honor both by voting for one. (Some theorized that the Oscar wins for the third ‘Lord of the Rings’ was in effect recognition of the entire trilogy.)” Now Playing

THE PAINTED VEIL: Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber, Diana Rigg, Toby Jones, Anthony Wong, Yu Xia, Lu Yin (Directed by John Curran; Written by Ron Nyswaner; Warner Independent Pictures) Can you ever forget Garbo as the long-suffering wife of Herbert Marshall in the film version of Somerset Maugham's “The Painted Veil”? Of course you can’t, because you surely didn’t see it. Not many moviegoers did catch this MGM tearjerker, which was perhaps the dreariest MGM film of 1934. But we’re living in a whole new century now, so Naomi Watts, an especially game actress, will tackle the role of the weary woman whose punishment for cheating on her doctor-hubby (Edward Norton) is the chore of tagging along with him to a remote region of China that has been hit hard by a plague. Naturally, she becomes so bored that she allows herself to fall in love with the good doctor all over again. Now Playing

DREAMGIRLS: Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, Keith Robinson, Hinton Battle, Sharon Leal, Anika Noni Rose, Danny Glover, Loretta Devine, John Lithgow (Written and directed by Bill Condon; DreamWorks/Paramount) A trio of R&B singers from Chicago enter a competition at Harlem’s Apollo Theater and eventually achieve fame as mainstream pop artists--but at a high emotional price. Though he does not play a member of the trio, Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx is top-billed as the girls’ fast-talking, not-totally-trustworthy manager. Written and directed by Bill Condon, who penned the screenplay for "Chicago," this adaptation of the 1981 Broadway blockbuster will also treat us to the sight and sound of Eddie Murphy, shown above with the dreamy girls, as James “Thunder” Jones, a red-hot king of pop. To read the Variety review, click here. Now Playing

THE GOOD SHEPHERD: Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Robert De Niro, John Turturro, William Hurt, Alec Baldwin, Billy Crudup, Michael Gambon, Gabriel Macht, Tammy Blanchard, Oleg Stefan, Timothy Hutton, Keir Dullea, Eddie Redmayne, Lee Pace, Vladimir Mashkov, Patrick Wilson (Directed by Robert De Niro; Written by Eric Roth; Universal) Matt Damon plays an uptight pioneer CIA agent in this decades-spanning drama and Robert De Niro has the role of his live-wire superior. Damon's neglected wife--and he mother of his child--is played by Angelina Jolie. De Niro also helmed the film—his first behind-the-camera gig since “A Bronx Tale,” his directorial debut in 1993. To read about many more new biopics, click here; for Guy Flatley's 1973 New York Times interview with De Niro, click here. Now Playing

NOTES ON A SCANDAL: Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, Bill Nighy, Andrew Simpson, Juno Temple, Emma Kennedy (Directed by Richard Eyre; Written by Patrick Marber; Fox Searchlight) Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) is having it all--a solid husband (Bill Nighy), a nifty new job teaching pottery, a sexy 15-year-old lad who is her student and bedmate (Andrew Simpson), and a brand new chum named Barbara Covett (Judi Dench), with whom she shares the details of her clandestine affair. The question is, can Sheba trust Barbara to keep her secret? Richard Eyre, who directed Judi Dench with stunning success in “Iris,” helmed "Notes on a Scandal," and Patrick Marber, author of the impressively nasty "Closer," is responsible for this adaptation of Zoe Heller's much acclaimed novel. Now Playing

ROCKY BALBOA: Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Tarver, Burt Young, Milo Ventimiglia, Geraldine Hughes, Tony Burton, James Francis Kelly III (Written and directed by Sylvester Stallone; MGM) He’s baaaaaack! Sly Stallone, whose “Rocky” won an Oscar as the Best Picture of 1976, is in the ring again as the loser from Philly who managed to pull himself together and punch his way to a World Championship. In this, the sixth in the series, the long-in-the-tooth pugilist is a widow (sorry about that, Talia) who, for complicated reasons, decides to go up against a fighter still in the flush of his youth. Wanna make a bet about who’s left standing as Bill Conti’s theme music swells to a climax? Let’s hear it for Philly’s scrappiest senior! Now Playing

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.” Now Playing

PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER: Ben Whishaw, Dustin Hoffman, Alan Rickman, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Corinna Harfouch, Carmen Contreras, Sara Forestier, Birgit Minichmayr (Directed by Tom Tykwer; Written by Bernd Eichinger, Andrew Birkin and Tom Tykwer; DreamWorks) What if you didn’t have a scent in the world? Zilch body odor. Bet you’d feel funny and would do almost anything to work up some good old-fashioned b.o. But you might not go so far as Jean-Baptiste Grenouille did. He’s the 18th-century Parisian at the center of “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer,” Patrick Suskind’s best-selling 1985 horror novel. Even though Grenouille--played by budding Brit star Ben Whishaw under the direction of “Run Lola Run’s” Tom Tykwer--was nothing to sniff over, he did have something going for him: he had a profound sense of smell, a gift which made it possible for him to concoct a variety of enticing but dangerous perfumes. He wasn't experimenting with fragrances just for the money, however. Grenouille's true goal was to literally extract scents from numerous young women--25, to be exact--and, by way of a secret process and perhaps with a little help from oddball perfumer Giuseppe Baldini (Dustin Hoffman), convert those scents into his very own sweet smell. The down side of this elaborate scheme was that he had to kill the unfortunate ladies in order to accomplish his mission. What a stinker! 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.; The Weinstein Company) 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. To read about many more new biopics, click here. Now Playing

PAN'S LABYRINTH: Mirabel Verdu, Sergi Lopez, Ivana Baquero, Doug Jones (Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro; Picturehouse) Described as a fairy tale but sounding more like an art-house fright flick, hot Mexican director Guillermo del Toro’s latest movie deals with a dangerous fable dreamed up by a lonely, soulful Spanish girl at the peak of the brutally suffocating Franco regime. Del Toro, the fiendishly imaginative creator of “Cronos,” “Mimic” and “Hellboy,” can be counted on to stir our emotions and stoke our fears. Now Playing