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Hardy2
September 20, 2006

The Reel Deal


Shattered Illusions

The Illusionist, Edward Norton, Jessica Biel, Paul Giamatti (PG-13, 1 hr., 50 min.). Set in Vienna, Norton plays a master magician, Eisenheim, whose sleight of hand has no place in the rigid world of Chief Inspector Uhl (Giamatti). Uhl's boss, Crown Prince Leopold, is determined to expose Eisenheim as a fraud, not knowing that his fiancée (Jessica Biel), who knows the monarchy's deepest secrets, was Eisenheim's childhood love. They're talking Oscar, for the male stars at least. Directed by Neil Burger. Who?

It's A Bird . . .

Hollywoodland, Adrien Brody, Diane Lane, Ben Affleck (R, 2 hrs., 6 min). As Superman, George Reeves (Affleck) was invincible, but off the silver screen was the gunshot wound that felled him in June of 1959 self-inflicted or done in cold blood? The suspects include Toni Mannix (Lane), the wife of studio honcho Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins), and the object of Reeve's adulterous affections. Reeve's starlet fiancée Leonore Lemmon (Robin Tunney) mightn't be as innocent as she seems, either. Brody plays the dogged detective investigating the Man of Steel's death — some of the critics found his character a bit too mopey. Directed by Allen Coulter, HBO's in-house director, with numerous episodes of "The Sopranos," and "Sex and the City" under his belt.

Dark Flower

The Black Dahlia, Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansonn, Hilary Swank (R, 2 hrs.). The 1947 murder of aspiring actress Elizabeth Short stunned Hollywood and created the legend of the Black Dahlia around the deceased starlet. Hartnett, playing the detective investigating the murder, soon discovers that Short's death may have been linked to widespread corruption within the LAPD. Brian De Palma (Carrie, Scarface) directs.

A Final Smooch

The Last Kiss, Zach Braff, Jacinda Barrett, Rachel Bilson (R, 1 hr., 55 min.). Does love conquer all, or is the idea of spending the rest of one's life with one person enough to send the most committed man in search of something fresh? Braff and Barrett play the happy couple on the verge of crisis; heavy hitters Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson round out the cast as Braff's character's parents. Sounds like a snoozer. Tony Goldwyn (The Last Samurai) directs.

Shackled to the Field

Gridiron Gang, The Rock, Xzibit, Kevin Dunn (PG-13, 2 hours). The Rock plays a probation camp officer who transforms a group of juvies into a football team Rockne would be proud of. The teammates learn about social responsibility, respect, and, no doubt, how to sing a mean version of "Kumbaya." Sounds suspiciously like The Longest Yard with cute teenagers. No, they're not talking Oscar for The Rock. (His real name is Harold Mermelstein, by the way.)

Southern Royalty

All The King's Men, Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins (PG-13, Opens Friday). Sean Penn gives his intense style a political twist in the role of Willie Stark, a Louisiana governor with a populist streak and a taste for power, much like Gov. Huey Long, on whom the character is based. The film is based on Robert Penn Warren's novel of the same name, winner of the 1947 Pulitzer Prize. Here's the plan: sign up as many Academy Award winners as we can, release the film in the fall, and tell everyone it's the early favorite for Best Picture. We're not buying. The director Steven Zallian's last credit was for screenwriter in Jack The Bear. We laughed, we cried, we ran the gamut of emotions.

War Pilots

Flyboys, James Franco, Jean Reno, Martin Henderson, Jennifer Decker (PG-13, Opens Friday). The film tells the story of a group of American Airmen who volunteer for combat in World War I France and are assigned to the Lafayette Escadrille under the command of Captain Thenault (Reno). Academy Award winner Tony Bill, who produced The Sting, directs. Bill has extensive TV directing experience and appeared in Inside Deep Throat. He played a tonsil.

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