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NOVEMBER 2006

BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN: Sacha Baron Cohen, Daniel Castro, Pamela Anderson (Directed by Larry Charles; Written by Sacha Baron Cohen; Miramax) This sounds like a movie with something to offend just about everyone: Jews, Muslims, gays, straights, men, women, blacks, whites, kids and all manner of beasts. You name it. Yet, according to preview and festival audiences, British/Jewish comic Sacha Baron Cohen, best known for HBO’s “Da Ali G Show,” manages to be laugh-out-loud-and-long funny over and over as Borat, a dedicated anti-Semite who leaves his home in Kazakhstan in order to make a cross-country documentary in the U.S. Somewhere along the line, he hooks up with Pamela Anderson. Now Playing

VOLVER: Penelope Cruz, Lola Duenas, Blanca Portillo, Carmen Maura, Yohana Cobo, Chus Lampreave, Leandro Rivera, Carmen Machi, Pilar Castro (Written and directed by Pedro Almodovar; Sony Picures Classics) As is frequently the case with the films of Spain’s most outrageously daring, funny, profound, trashy auteur, “Volver” will be mostly, if not all, about women. This time, Almodovar intimately explores the quirks of the female members of a far-from-mainstream family. In truth, their lives are pretty much a mess, which is why the vexed, volatile mom played by Carmen Maura feels compelled to get back down to earth shortly after her untimely death. She’s simply got to make things right for her daughters (Penelope Cruz and Lola Duenas) and her granddaughter (Yohana Cobo). Go, ghost, go! Now Playing

COPYING BEETHOVEN: Ed Harris, Diane Kruger, Matthew Goode, Nicholas Jones, Joe Anderson, Phyllida Law (Directed by Agnieszka Holland; Written by Stephen J. Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson; Contemporary World Cinema) It seems like only yesterday that we saw Ed Harris playing a temperamental genius who passionately throws paint on canvas. The genius, of course, was Jackson Pollock. Now Harris is at it again, this time playing a temperamental genius who passionately throws tantrums, and he answers to the name of Ludwig Van Beethoven. Diane Kruger plays an aspiring composer who helps Ludwig make it through his twilight years. Now Playing

FUR: AN IMAGINARY PORTRAIT OF DIANE ARBUS: Nicole Kidman, Robert Downey Jr., Ty Burrell, Harris Yulin, Jane Alexander, Emmy Clark, Genevieve McCarth, Boris McGiver (Directed by Steven Shainberg; Written by Erin Cressida Wilson; Picturehouse Films) Having grown up privileged and at least a little absurd in Manhattan, strikingly original photographer Diane Arbus became famous for illuminating the unique qualities of various dwarves, transvestites and other uncommon folk and for reportedly capturing her own suicide--in 1971, at the age of 42--on film. As we all know, Nicole Kidman won an Oscar for killing herself on screen as Virginia Woolf in “The Hours,” and it’s quite possible that she will pull off that particular trick again. Based on Patricia Bosworth’s “Diane Arbus: A Biography,” Erin Cressida Wilson’s screenplay will be directed by Steven Shainberg (they last teamed on the splendidly bizarre “Secretary”). Ty Burrell plays Allan Arbus, the fashion photographer to whom Diane was passionately, if not always happily, married, and Robert Downey Jr. has been cast as the couple's exceptionally mysterious neighbor. Now Playing

A GOOD YEAR: Russell Crowe, Albert Finney, Marion Cotillard, Tom Hollander, Didier Bourdon, Abbie Cornish, Freddie Highmore (Directed by Ridley Scott; Written by Marc Klein, Tom Butterworth and Jez Butterworth; Fox 2000) Readers were charmed by Peter Mayle’s novel about a Brit who’s unlucky enough in his high-finance London job to get fired and lucky enough to then inherit a chateau and vineyard in magical Provence. It seems a good bet that moviegoers will be charmed as well when they see the unfailingly impressive Russell Crowe take on the role of the heir under the direction of Ridley Scott, who guided him to an Oscar in “Gladiator.” Albert Finney plays Crowe’s uncle and Marion Cotillard is cast as an attractive but troublesome American who insists that she is the true heir to the estate. Now Playing

STRANGER THAN FICTION: Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, Emma Thompson (Directed by Marc Forster; Written by Zach Helm; Mandate Films) An auditor for the IRS may not fit your image of the perfect movie hero. And perhaps the fib-and-cheat detector played by Will Ferrell in this oddball comedy is not altogether perfect. But you’ve got to feel for the guy. Here’s his problem: an inner voice that is not really his voice speaks up at unexpected moments, telling him more than he really wants to know about the way his life--and imminent death--are progressing. Dustin Hoffman, re-teaming with “Finding Neverland” director Marc Forster, plays a professor who tries to help Ferrell silence the meddlesome voice. Now Playing

CASINO ROYALE: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Simon Abkarian, Caterina Murino, Tobias Menzies, Ivana Milicevic, Clemens Schik, Ludger Pistor, Claudio Santamaria, Sebastien Foucan, Carlos Leal, Michael Youn (Directed by Martin Campbell; Written by Paul Haggis, Neal Puvis, Robert Wade; Sony Pictures) In 1962, the unflappable, inimitable Sean Connery shot to superstardom as Secret Service Agent 007, a.k.a. James Bond, in the fast, mischievous, raunchy “Doctor No.” Connery followed that blockbuster with several more Bond capers, but later, when 007 was played by lesser stars, the series became strictly mechanical and frequently dull. Let’s hope this new film, based at least a little on Ian Fleming’s very first Bond adventure, will prove to be a step in the right, fresh direction. Daniel Craig, a capable and sometimes exciting actor, will try to make us forget Connery, if only briefly, and Judi Dench, a dame who has been Bonded in past installments, will be on hand for some droll fun. Now Playing

CANDY: Heath Ledger, Abbie Cornish, Geoffrey Rush, David Argue, Tara Morice, Nathaniel Dean, Jim Wyatt, Paul Blackwell (Directed by Neil Armfield; Written by Neil Armfield and Luke Davies; Renaissance Films). Dan (Heath Ledger) is plenty sweet on Candy (Abbie Cornish), but even sweeter on another kind of candy, namely heroin. How low does this couple sink in order to stay high. Very low indeed--think damaged veins, prostitution and madness for starters. Coming on the heels of “Brokeback Mountain” and “Casanova,” this could well be Ledger’s third powerhouse in a row. To read the Variety review, click here. Now Playing

FAST FOOD NATION: Greg Kinnear, Ethan Hawke, Bruce Willis, Kris Kristofferson, Patricia Arquette, Catalilna Sandino Moreno, Lou Taylor Pucci, Bobby Cannavale, Paul Dano, Ann Claudia Talancon, Luis Guzman, Ashley Johnson, Esai Morales, Wilmer Valderrama, Avril Lavigne (Directed by Richard Linklater; Written by Eric Schlosser and Richard Linklater; Fox Searchlight) Don’t stop off at the concession counter to buy a burger when this movie plays your local theater unless you’ve got a barf bag handy. This fictionalized, extremely graphic adaptation of Eric Schlosser’s best seller focuses in minute detail on just what goes into “The Big One,” the most popular item on the menu at Mickey’s junk-food emporium in Cody, Colorado. Greg Kinnear plays a hotshot marketer assigned to check out the rumor that manure is one of the giant burger’s ingredients, and what he discovers truly stinks. Luis Guzman and Catalina Sandino Moreno pop up as illegal immigrant laborers, Kris Kristofferson is a resourceful rancher, and Bruce Willis is a no-nonsense supplier who firmly believes “We all have to eat a little shit from time to time.” To read Diane Baroni’s 1998 interview with Kris Kristofferson, click here. Now Playing

BOBBY: Emilio Estevez, Demi Moore, Anton Kutcher, Martin Sheen, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt, Harry Belafonte, William H. Macy, Sharon Stone, Lindsay Lohan, Elijah Wood, Laurence Fishburne, Heather Graham, Christian Slater, David Krumholtz, Shia LaBeouf, Dave Fraunces, Jeridan Frye, David Kobzantsev (Written and directed by Emilio Estevez; The Weinstein Company) At first glance, it looks as if Emilio Estevez got a bunch of his friends together and said, “Hey, let’s put on a show!” Well, okay, long-ago sweetheart Demi Moore surely still qualifies as something more than a friend, and Martin Sheen is, after all, Emilio’s dad. And, looking closer, you do suspect that “Bobby”--the colorful cast notwithstanding--is not just another show. For the Bobby in question here is New York senator Robert F, Kennedy, younger brother of President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963. Five years later, 42-year-old Bobby, a strong contender for the presidency, was fatally shot by a man named Sirhan Sirhan during a Democratic Party celebration at Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel. The fact-based story writer/director/actor Estevez tells is set during the hours leading up to and immediately following the assassination, and it focuses on a complex mix of people who were present on that tragic evening at the Ambassador. Relative unknowns Dave Fraunces and Jeridan Frye play Bobby and Ethel Kennedy, and David Kobzantsev is cast as fanatical Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan. To read the Variety review of "Bobby," click here. Now Playing

THE HISTORY BOYS: Richard Griffiths, Clive Merrison, Frances de la Tour, Stephen Campbell Moore, Sacha Dhawan, Samuel Anderson, Dominic Cooper, Andrew Knott, Samuel Barnett, Russell Tovey, Jamie Parker, James Corden, Penelope Wilton, Adrian Scarborough, Georgia Taylor (Directed by Nicholas Hytner; Written by Alan Bennett; Fox Searchlight) It’s not mere child’s play to get into the university of your choice, and it’s particularly tough breaking the admissions barriers at top British schools, such as Oxford and Cambridge. You've got to be drilled and then drilled some more in order to be in shape for those excruciating exams. But, you may well ask, is this the stuff from which entertaining movies are made? The answer is yes if Alan Bennett’s wise, hilarious, crowd-pleasing play--the show that New York Times critic Ben Brantley called “madly enjoyable”--is even half as good as the original. And it’s a safe bet that author Bennett, director Nicolas Hytner and actor Richard Griffiths, who repeats his turn as an outrageously opinionated English teacher, will be remembered during the awards season. Now Playing

DÉJÀ VU: Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer, Jim Caviezel, Bruce Greenwood, Paula Patton, Adam Goldberg, Elle Fanning (Directed by Tony Scott; Written by Bill Marsilii and Terry Rossio; Disney) Denzel Washington was so pleased with the way he came across in “Crimson Tide” and “Man on Fire” he decided to team with him again. In this thriller, to be shot in a resilient New Orleans, Washington will play an FBI agent with a unique skill--he is able to travel into the past and, with a little bit of luck, make things turn out better than they previously did. His mission here is to prevent the murder of the woman he once loved by a terrorist (Jim Caviezel, switching his "The Passion of the Christ" gears). How do you like them apples, Mr. J. Edgar Hoover? Now Playing

THE FOUNTAIN: Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn Sean Gullette, Donna Murphy, Sean Patrick Thomas, Ethan Suplee, Mark Margolis, Alexander Bisping, Cliff Curtis, Marcello Bezina (Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky; Warner Bros.) Back in 2001, Brad Pitt was primed to play a man who spends a thousand years or so trying to cure his wife of the cancer that threatens her life. Primed though he may have been, Brad fell out with writer-director Darren Aronofsky, and the sci-fi love story was cancelled by Warner Bros. Eventually, “The Fountain”--as in Fountain of Youth--got turned back on, this time with Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz as the lengthily tormented soulmates. And, as we all know, Brad Pitt went on to bigger, if not better, things. Now Playing