JULY 2005

THE BEAT THAT MY HEART SKIPPED: Romain Duris, Niels Arestrup, Linh-Dan Pham, Aure Atika, Emmanuelle Devos, Jonathan Zaccai, Gilles Cohen, Anton Yakovlev, Melanie Laurent (Directed by Jacques Audiard; Written by Jacques Audiard and Tonino Benacquista; Wellspring) Inspired by James Toback’s nuttily riveting 1978 noir melodrama “Fingers,” this is possibly the most ambitious and successful film yet from Jacques Audiard, director of the first-rate “Read My Lips.” Romain Duris stars as an aspiring but schizoid classical pianist who splits his time between playing Bach toccatas and performing chores for his shady realtor father, such as releasing sacks of rats into various apartments, strong-arming tenants to make hasty exits, and much, much worse. Fans of the movie, including New York Times critic Manohla Dargis, are insisting that it is “essential viewing.” Now Playing

MODIGLIANI: Andy Garcia, Elsa Zylberstein, Omid Djalili, Miriam Margolyes, Udo Kier (Written and directed by Mick Davis; Bauer Martinez Sudios) Innovative, mercurial Italian painter Amadeo Modigliani died in 1920 at the age of 35. The cause of his death was tuberculosis, coupled with a craving for drugs and booze. But Amadeo nevertheless managed to have a laugh or two in naughty Paree with a little help from his friends--and we’re talking here about Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Maurice Utrillo, Max Jacob and people of that ilk. Judging by Stephen Holden’s review in The New York Times, you’ll have more than a laugh or two should you wander into a theater playing this heavy-duty drama. Click here to read Holden’s review. Now Playing

DARK WATER: Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly, Tim Roth, Dougray Scott, Pete Postlewaite, Camryn Manheim, Ariel Gade (Directed by Walter Salles; Written by Rafael Yglesias; Disney/Touchstone) Pity poor Dahlia (Jennifer Connelly). She’s a Manhattan mom so devastated from being dumped by her no-good husband that she’s reduced to bundling up her little girl and moving to Roosevelt Island, a leaky, puke-green residential area accessible to the Big Apple only by way of a scary overhead tram. Her new apartment is cheap, but that’s about the only positive thing you can say about it. Unless you consider the water-mark on her ceiling that keeps getting bigger and bigger with each eerily passing day a positive sign. And what’s with Dahlia’s daughter, anyway? Has she turned into a premature ghost or something even more irritating? Most important of all, will Dahlia ever make it back to the city of her dreams, even if she’s forced to settle for a rental on the Upper West Side? For Terry Trucco's insightful interview with actress-and-mommy Jennifer Connelly, click here. Now Playing

FANTASTIC FOUR: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon, Hamish Linklater, Kerry Washington (Directed by Tim Story; Written by Mark Frost and Michael France; Fox) What a novel quartet we have here--four astronauts who encounter calamity in outer space but manage not only to survive but to survive with truly astonishing supernatural powers. Using those powers, they hope to thwart the lethal plans of vile Doctor Doom. Doctor who? If you have to ask that question, you obviously have not read the profound comic book upon which this flick is based. Naturally, “Fantastic Four” opened in the Number One box-office position for the weekend of 7/8-10. Now Playing

MURDERBALL: Mark Zupan, Joe Soares, Robert Soares, Bob Luiano, Scott Hogsett, Christopher Igoe, Keith Cavill, Bob Lujano, Steve Costa (Directed by Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro; ThinkFilm) If you think a documentary about the rivalry between a United States rugby team and a Canadian rugby team is not for you, you’re almost certainly wrong. For the rugby here is a very special sport: the players speeding, smashing and crashing their ferocious way through a match of “murderball” are in wheelchairs. That’s because these rugged, salty athletes are quadriplegics determined to triumph on and off the court. Many of their conflicts have more to do with the game of life than with rugby. Audiences at the 2005 Sundance Festival cheered and stomped their approval of the movie and its real-life heroes.To read a lively, revealing USA Today interview with "Murderball" superstar Mark Zupan, click here. To read about many more new biopics, click here. Now Playing

HUSTLE & FLOW: Terrence Howard, Anthony Anderson, Taaryn Manning, Taraji P. Henson, Paula Jai Parker, Elise Neal, Isaac Hayes, DJ Qualls, Ludacris (Written and directed by Craig Brewer; Paramount) Djay (Terrence Howard in what's been touted as a star-making performance) is a flashy, dope-dealing Memphis pimp. But there's something missing in his life--what he really wants to be is a self-respecting, super-popular rap artist. Can he make the jump? "Hustle & Flow" won the American Dramatic Audience Award at the 2005 Sundance Festival and Paramount purchased distribution rights for $9-million, even though The New York Times' Manohla Dargis called the film "rubbish." To read a roundup of other Sundance Festival movies, click here. Now Playing

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY: Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, David Kelly, Helena Bonaham Carter, Noah Taylor, Missi Pyle, James Fox, Deep Roy, Christopher Lee, Liz Smith (Directed by Tim Burton; Written by John August; Warner Bros.) A poor but morally pure lad and four pampered, priggish youths win the opportunity to tour a fabled chocolate factory under the guidance of its reclusive owner, a man who--as played by Johnny Depp at his quirkiest--reminds Variety’s Todd McCarthy more than a little of Michael Jackson. To read McCarthy’s review of this adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, click here; for A. O. Scott's New York Times review, click here. "Charlie" opened in the Number One box-office position for the weekend of 7/15-7/17. Now Playing

WEDDING CRASHERS: Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Christophr Walken, Rachel McAdams, Isla Fisher, Jane Seymour, Ellen Albertini Dow, Keir O’Donnell, Bradley Cooper, Ron Canada, Henry Gibson (Directed by David Dobkin; Written by Steve Faber and Bob Fisher; New Line) One of the most chilling, knockout performances of 1998 was that of Vince Vaughn in “Clay Pigeons,” the directorial debut of David Dobkin. Vaughn, cool and magnetic, played a modern-day cowboy who had a way with woman. To be precise, he was a ladykiller. Literally. Now the actor is re-teamed with director Dobkin, and once again he is playing a ladykiller. But this time his amorous exploits--though far from honorable--are strictly for laughs. He and buddy Owen Wilson are a couple of horny loons who have mastered the art of worming their way into weddings and making out with the hottest babes on the scene. The wedding march to the bedroom hits a sour note for Vince, however, when Owen screws up and falls for the pretty, pure-of-heart sister of the bride. The girls’ father is Christopher Walken, a man you don’t want to cross. To read Guy Flatley’s 1998 interview with Vince Vaughn, click here ; for a 1980 interview in which Christopher Walken told Guy, "If I can tell someone to drop dead and go to hell, then it’s a good day," click here. Now Playing

THE ISLAND: Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Djimon Hounsou, Steve Buscemi, Michael Clarke Duncan, Shawnee Smith (Directed by Michael Bay; Written by Caspian Tredwell-Owen, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci; DreamWorks) Quick--send in the clones. Don’t bother, they’re here. Or at least, one of them--played by Ewan McGregor--is, and he’s having a hissy because he’s learned that the corporate big shots have cloned him to serve as a walking, talking spare-body-parts machine. Once he recovers from the shock, we’re sure he’ll get right on top of the situation. As for Scarlett Johansson, we don’t know what part--or parts--she will play. This is no doubt the most fun director Michael Bay has had since “Pearl Harbor.” To read the Variety review, click here. Now Playing

9 SONGS: Kieran O'Brien, Margot Stilley (Written and directed by Michael Winterbottom) In movies as diverse as “Butterfly Kiss,” “Jude,” “Welcome to Sarajevo,” “Wonderland” and “24 Hour Party People,” British director Michael Winterbottom has established himself as one of the most daring, uncompromising filmmakers in the world today. “9 Songs,” shown out of competition at Cannes in 2004, drew critical raves, as well as frequent gasps from viewers not accustomed to un-faked sex on screen. The bold fragmented story deals with a young Englishman and the lovely American he picks up at a rock concert, and the primary focus is on explicit (make that XXX-plicit) lovemaking. Now Playing

NOVEMBER: Courteney Cox Arquette, James LeGros, Anne Archer, Nora Dunn, Matthew Carey, Robert Wu (Directed by Greg Harrison; IFC Films) No wonder Courteney Cox Arquette looks as if she could use a few fresh friends. Not only has the man she intended to marry been robbed; he’s been murdered as well. And that may not be the worst of it. Suddenly Courteney finds herself looking around and not knowing if what she’s seeing is real or imaginary. Maybe it's a little of each? Now Playing