By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
By Raillan Brooks
THE AFFAIR OF THE NECKLACE
A pre-Revolutionary aristocrat is stripped of her title and compelled to steal a priceless necklace to restore her family's honor. Hilary Swank plays the lead, supported by the period outfits worn by Adrien Brody, Joely Richardson, Christopher Walken, and Jonathan Pryce.
Michael Mann could film the phone book and make it seem fresh, and Ali seems like perfect biopic material. Will Smith doesn't look anything like Ali, and the script's been rewritten more often than Smith's résumé. Jon Voight stars as Howard Cosell, presumably because Tony Shaloub was busy.
THE BUSINESS OF STRANGERS
NO MAN'S LAND
Sure, on paper, it's just a Rat Pack heist-flick remake with high-wattage cast (Clooney, Pitt, Roberts), but Steven Soderbergh turns crime-movie clichés inside out better than any A-lister.
Junkie/ex-convict/playwright Miguel Piñero gets the lost-weekend treatment, with the disconcertingly strapping Benjamin Bratt in the lead.
Cameron Crowe gives Tom Cruise a chance to wear, if not a fat suit, then at least disfiguring makeup. The mystery of exactly how Penélope Cruz's magnetic loveliness has been chronically misplaced by Hollywood will doubtless grow deeper.
Hard to imagine that the cataract of speculation and anticipation online won't be more enjoyable for the faithful than the film(s) itself.
An anxious bourgie makes a substitute baby out of a tree root for his child-craving wife, only for the kid to mutate into a carnivorous monster in Jan Svankmajer's mostly live-action rumble. Flabby at 127 minutes, it still brims with splendid Svank requisites (orifices real and imagined; revolting close-ups of swampy food).
A friend of a Voice staffer broke his DVD player through compulsive zooming and rewinding on Tom Hanks's big backyard pissing scene in The Green Mile. No doubt that Frank Darabont's follow-up will prove just as queasily inspirational, with Jim Carrey as a blacklisted '50s screenwriter determined to make a new life in a small town.
A BEAUTIFUL MIND
With Russell Crowe in the lead, Ron Howard adapts Sylvia Nasar's excellent biography of schizophrenic game-theory prodigy John Forbes Nash Jr. Maybe the gimme-Oscar combo of math and emoting is preemptive (cf. Good Will Hunting), but the source material is impeccable.
THE SHIPPING NEWS
For a third year running, Miramax hitches their Academy cart behind Lasse Hallström and his homespun paeans to tolerance, this time taking the form of E. Annie Proulx's egregiously overpraised Booker Prize winner. As quixotic Quoyle, Kevin Spacey surely italicizes his American Beauty sadsack.
THE TIME MACHINE