JUNE 2005

CINDERELLA MAN: Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger, Paul Giamatti, Craig Bierko, Paddy Considine, Bruc McGill, Connor Price (Directed by Ron Howard; Written by Akiva Goldsman and Cliff Hollingsworth; Universal) Even before The Great Depression, James Braddock had a tough time scraping together enough money to put spuds and burgers on the humble family table, and things certainly didn’t get better after the 1929 crash. So ex-boxer Braddock did what he had to do—he went back to being a boxer, one who was capable of enduring extraordinarily brutal blows in the ring. Even when his hands nearly gave out, he continued to slug away and, in 1935, he went up against formidable champ Max Baer. Crowe will have to brush up his New York accent to portray the real-life scrapper in this gritty drama; as for Zellweger, we can surely count on her to bring plenty of "Cold Mountain" spunk to the role of the valiant Mrs. Braddock. So far as we know, she did not feel copelled to gain or lose weight for this flick. To read about many more new biopics, click here, and to read about a Russell Crowe movie that was over before it began, click here. For a Critics Roundup on "Cinderella Man," click here. If you want to read about Russell Crowe's real-life misadventures in Manhattan, click here. Now Playing

MR. AND MRS. SMITH: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Vince Vaughn, Kerry Washington, Angela Bassett, Keith David, William Fichtner, Jennifer Morrison, Adam Brody, Miguel Caballero, Benton Jennings, Simon Kinberg (Directed by Doug Liman; Written by Simon Kinberg; Fox) Definitely not a remake of Hitchcock’s uncharacteristically sweet 1941 lark with Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery, this ultra 21st-century comedy focuses on a bored-with-each-other couple who get interested again when they discover they've been hired to assassinate one another. As the whole world knows, Brad and Angelina put everything they had into their roles. Will Pitt and Turner put Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner, the paid-killer couple of "Prizzi's Honor," to shame? Don't be silly! For a Critics Roundup on Brad and Angelina's #1 box-office smash, click here. To read Guy Flatley's 1998 interview with Vince Vaughn, click here. By the way, "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" is not the only new movie glamorizing an assassin-for-hire. For Variety's enthusiastic review of "The Matador," starring a lethal Pierce Brosnan, click here. Now Playing

BATMAN BEGINS: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Ken Watanabe, Katie Holmes, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Linus Roache, Rade Serbedzija (Directed by Christopher Nolan; Written by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer; Warner Bros) Batman begins what, you might well ask. And the answer is, he begins being Batman, or rather Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) begins being Batman one fine day (make that one fine night.!). This movie will show you exactly why--and how--Bruce made the morph. Now Playing

BEWITCHED: Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine, Jason Schwartzman, Kristin Chenoweth, Heather Burns, Jim Turner, Stephen Colbert, David Alan Grier, Steve Carell (Directed by Nora Ephron; Written by Delia and Nora Ephron; Columbia) Zany but, yes, bewitching Samantha (Kidman) is sick to death of being a witch, so—against the wishes of Mommy and Daddy (MacLaine and Caine)—she becomes a Valley Girl, hooks up with an on-the-skids movie star (Ferrell) and lives magically ever after. To read Guy Flatley's 1977 interview with Shirley MacLaine, click here. Variety’s critic says the movie goes “bizarrely haywire, spinning out of control like a runaway broomstick” and that it “suffers from its sheer peculiarity as well as a lack of chemistry between Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell.” For the full review, click here. Now Playing

YES: Joan Allen, Simon Abkarian, Sam Neill, Shirley Henderson, Samantha Bond, Gary Lewis, Raymond Waring (Written and directed by Sally Potter; Sony Pictures Classics) Joan Allen plays a London-based Irish-American woman being driven bonkers by her husband (Sam Neill). Her situation improves—more or less—when she embarks on an affair with a Lebanese chef who’s determined to return to his Islamic roots because of British bigotry. Can this couple find peace? Perhaps, but it won’t be simple, because this film is the creation of Sally Potter, the complicated artist responsible for “Orlando,” starring the magnificent Tilda Swinton. Expect the unusual, including dialogue spoken in verse. Now Playing

WAR OF THE WORLDS: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Tim Robbins, Miranda Otto, James DuMont, Justin Chatwin, Rick Gonzalez, David Alan Basche, Daniel Franzese, Gene Barry, Ann Robinson (Directed by Steven Spielberg; Written by David Koepp; Paramount) We don’t know how far director Spielberg and screenwriter Koepp will stray from H. G. Wells’ 1898 novel or Orson Welles’ 1938 radio shocker, but we do know that the story now takes place in the 21st century and the invaders are no longer from Mars. These new aliens are from some other planet and they’re not the least bit hesitant to seize control of Mother Earth. But you can bet that rugged Boston patriot Tom Cruise and his adorably feisty daughter Dakota Fanning are not about to surrender an inch of their beloved turf to evildoers from outer space. For the trailer, click here. Now Playing