Reel Life - 28th July 2003

Monday's movie news thinks Geoff Hoon might make a good Peter Pettigrew...

AH! PERHAPS this is why Alfonso Cuarón won't be directing any more Harry Potter movies: he's compared the über-evil series villain Lord Voldemort to George W Bush.

Given the current culture of paranoia in the States, Cuarón's comments are likely to cause a stir. The "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" director told Newsweek that Voldemort reminds him of both Bush and Saddam Hussein: "They both have selfish interests and are very much in love with power," he said. "Also, a disregard for the environment. A love for manipulating people."

And the political comparisions don't stop there: "I read books four and five, and [Minister of Magic] Fudge is similar to Tony Blair. He's the ultimate politician. He's in denial about many things. And everything is for the sake of his own persona, his own power. The way the Iraq thing was handled was not unlike the way Fudge handled affairs in book four."

Warner Bros recently began talks with Mike Newell to direct "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire".

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VETERAN BRITISH DIRECTOR John Schlesinger has died.

The Oscar-winning director first broke through with 60s kitchen sink drama "A Kind of Loving" and followed that with "Billy Liar" (1963). Two years later he captured the Swinging 60s in "Darling", for which Julie Christie won an Academy Award.

His career hit its commercial peak at the end of the 60s with "Midnight Cowboy", which was to bring him a Best Director Oscar. Although his career never sustained such heights, he did enjoy success in the mid-70s with Laurence Oliver thriller "Marathon Man" and in the 1990 thriller "Pacific Heights". He died on Friday, following complications from a stroke he suffered in 2000. He was 77. For a full obituary, visit BBC News.

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JANE FONDA IS A monster. Producer Chris Bender hopes so, anyway.

The suit behind "American Pie" wants the 60s radical to play Jennifer Lopez's tyrannical mother-in-law in "Monster-in-Law".

"We're looking for a director and we're hoping to start in November," he tells BBCi Films. "Jane is interested in making movies again and Jennifer just responded to the role and she's perfect for it.

"It's about a mother-in-law who's very protective of her son and about a stubborn but likeable girl who falls for the perfect guy. Everything seems perfect until, inevitably, she has to meet his mother, and then they go to war."

And the perfect guy? J.Lo has expressed a desire to work again with her "Gigli" co-star, and current squeeze, Ben Affleck. "He can come in and have any role he wants," says Bender.

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PERHAPS HE SHOULD watch "Gigli" before making that decision. Early word on the Martin Brest-directed romancer isn't good - and press criticism of the picture has led to a media fallout with Columbia Pictures.

Following damning articles in The Sun and The Daily Mirror, international press were verboten at the movie's LA premiere on Sunday - with the studio doing a u-turn on an invite issued just days earlier.

Assuming "Gigli" does stink - and why should we doubt The Sun, eh? - Ben and Jen must be hoping their next collaboration, "Jersey Girl", hits big. Except, um, early word on that is poor, too.

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PINT-SIZED SPIES hammered Lara Croft at the US box office this weekend.

Robert Rodriguez's "Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over" exceeded expectations to grab top slot with $32.5 million, while Angelina Jolie starrer "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life" opened in fourth, with $21.8 million - a disastrous showing for a marketed-to-the-max $95 million picture screening just about everywhere.

"Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" continued its predicted (here) success, holding onto second spot with $22.4 million, while "Bad Boys II" took third with $22 million.

Tobey Magurie's talked-up horseracing drama "Seabiscuit" bowed in fifth, with $21.5 million - a strong performance for a movie playing in 1200 theatres less than every other film in the top five. Incidentally, it's the first time every movie in the US top five has taken more than $20 million. But unless you're very boring down the pub, you probably don't need to know that.

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DENNIS QUAID is to star in a remake of Robert Aldrich actioner "The Flight of the Phoenix". The 1965 original starred James Stewart, Peter Finch and Richard Attenborough as members of a group of men whose plane crashes in the Sahara Desert. They try to build another plane using the wreckage.

The remake will be "contemporised" and set in the Mongolian desert - see what they did there? Good as it is to see the "Far From Heaven" star finding work, it's hard to get enthusiatic when the director is John Moore - the man responsible for poor man's "Top Gun" (yes, a poor man's "Top Gun") "Behind Enemy Lines".

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"KISS THE GIRLS" is the best film Gary Fleder ("Impostor", "Don't Say a Word") has made, so don't hold out much hope for "Jailhouse Lawyer", his next project. It's about a convict asked to defend a fellow inmate in court.

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WOODY HARRELSON is laying off the hemp long enough to find work. The former Cheers star will play Pierce Brosnan's FBI nemesis in post-heist thriller "After the Sunset". Salma Hayek is also aboard.

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"25TH HOUR" STAR Rosario Dawson is in talks to join Colin Farrell and Angelina Jolie in Oliver Stone's "Alexander". She'll play Roxanne, first wife of the titular nation-basher (Farrell).

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STEVEN SHAINBERG - director of UK sleeper hit "Secretary" - has inked to helm "Arbus", a biopic of acclaimed American photographer Diane Arbus, who made her name through a series of bizarre photographs of herself.

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WE MAY HAVE reported this before, but just in case: Frankie Muniz, Dustin Hoffman, Whoopie Goldberg, Joe Pantoliano, Mandy Moore, Patrick Stewart, Joshua Jackson, David Spade and Michael Clarke Duncan will either be lending themselves or their vocal talents to live-action/CG kids flick "Racing Stripes" - about a zebra who wants to become a race horse.

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"CLUELESS" DIRECTOR Amy Heckerling (and you can take that anyway you want) has signed to helm "Sweat" - a comedy described as "Shampoo" set in the world of athletic personal training. Contain yerselves.

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