Two prominent American directors, Clint Eastwood and Gus Van Sant, will compete for the top prize at this year's prestigious Cannes Film Festival, it was announced Wednesday.
Eastwood's suspense thriller Mystic River, which stars Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon and Tim Robbins, is one of the top contenders for the coveted Palme d'Or, given to the best feature film winner. The film, scheduled for release stateside Oct. 3, 2003, revolves around three childhood friends who are reunited 25 years later when they become linked to a murder investigation.
Good Will Hunting director Van Sant will present Elephant, a film focusing on high school violence.
Also in competition is British director Peter Greenaway's period drama, The Tulse Luper Suitcase, starring J.J. Field and Kathy Bates. The epic tale follows 92 characters, 92 events, and 92 suitcases from the year 1928 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. This is the director's third Palme d'Or nomination.
Danish director Lars von Trier, who won the Palme d'Or two years ago for the musical Dancer in the Dark, will show his new thriller Dogville. The film stars Nicole Kidman as a woman on the run who takes refuge in a small town inhabited by an anguished apple grower, his wife and their seven children.
French director Patrice Chereau, actress Meg Ryan and director Steven Soderbergh are in this year's jury.
Celebs expected at this year's festival include Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Lauren Bacall, Laurence Fishburne, Keanu Reeves, Monica Bellucci, Toni Collette and James Caan.
The 56th Cannes Film Festival opens May 14 in Paris with Penelope Cruz's new comedy Fanfan la Tulipe, a remake of the 1952 French film starring Gina Lollobrigida.
The French festival also showcases international films out of competition. Warner Bros.' highly anticipated sci-fi sequel The Matrix: Reloaded premieres worldwide May 15 on the festival's second day.
The festival closes on May 25.
Here is the complete list of films in competition:
Les Invasions Barbares, Denys Arcand, Canada
Il Cuore Altrove, Pupi Avati, Italy
Carandiru, Hector Babenco, Brazil
Uzak, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey
Mystic River, Clint Eastwood, United States
The Brown Bunny, Vincent Gallo, United States
The Moab Story/The Tulse Luper Suitcases--Part I, Peter Greenaway, Britain
Shara, Naomi Kawase, Japan
Akarui Mirai, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan
A Cinq Heures de l'Apres-Midi, Samira Makhmalbaf, Iran
Ce Jour-La, Raoul Ruiz, Switzerland
Father and Son, Alexandre Sokorov, Russia
Dogville, Lars von Trier, Denmark
Elephant, Gus Van Sant, United States
Purple Butterfly, Lu Ye, China
Les Cotelettes, Bertrand Blier, France
La Petite Lili, Claude Miller, France
Swimming Pool, Francois Ozon, France
Les Egares, Andre Techine, France
Tiresia, Bertand Bonello, France
Out of competition:
Le Temps Du Loup, Michael Haneke, France
Vai E Vem, Joao Cesar Monteiro, Portugal
Mansion by the Lake, Lester James Peries, Sri Lanka
The Matrix: Reloaded, Andy and Larry Wachowski, United States
Les Triplettes de Belleville, Sylvain Chomet, France
Qui A Tué Bambi?, Gilles Marchand, France
'Twas the month before Christmas When all through the studios Execs were stirring, with high hopes and fear, Giant posters were hung and trailers rolled out All in hopes that the public would soon be in the movie houses.
Come this December moviegoers can expect Flicks from Kevin Costner, as well as from Mel, But let's not forget there're also Meg and Russell Plus other big names like Hanks and Cage.
So without further ado Here's our list Of all the high-profile films that are coming To accompany you through the month of December.
DEC. 1 No major releases are coming out on the first Friday of the month.
"Proof of Life": From the set of this movie came the romance between Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe. If that's not enough to go see the film, it's about an American hostage negotiator (Crowe) who falls in love with the wife (Ryan) of the man he's trying to rescue.
"Vertical Limit": But didn't Sylvester Stallone already do this in "Cliffhanger"? Oh well. In this mountain-climbing flick, Chris O'Donnell plays a retired climber who's sucked back to the sport after his sister becomes trapped on K-2, the world's second-highest mountain.
"Dungeons and Dragons": Geeks rejoice. The live-action adaptation of the role-playing game stars Jeremy Irons as the evil wizard who's trying to dethrone the young empress played by "American Beauty's Thora Birch.
Also look for in limited release: Director Ang Lee's Chinese swordsmen pic with Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh -- "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." It was an audience favorite at this year's Cannes Film Festival.
"What Women Want": No, it doesn't star Christina Aguilera (she's a girl, after all), but it does have Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt, Bette Midler and Lauren Holly in a comedy wherein an ad exec (Gibson) gains the ability to hear what women are thinking.
"Dude, Where's My Car?": It's "Beavis and Butthead" meets "Road Trip." After a late night of heavy partying, two stoners (Ashton Kutcher and "Road Trip" alumnus Seann William Scott) realize that they have forgotten where they parked their car.
"The Emperor's New Groove": Featuring the voices of David Spade and John Goodman, Disney's 39th full-length animated feature follows a ruthless emperor who's been transformed into a llama. Go figure.
Also look for in limited release: "Chocolat" starring Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche and directed by "The Cider House Rules'" Lasse Hallstrom.
"Thirteen Days": Rusty on the history of U.S.-Cuban relations? The Kevin Costner starrer is an intense look at the two-week Cuban Missile Crisis that took place in October 1962.
Also look for in limited release: "Finding Forrester" with Sean Connery playing mentor to an aspiring writer, and "The Gift", which marks the return of Oscar winner Hilary Swank ... and Keanu Reeves as a wife beater.
"Cast Away": Tom Hanks plays a FedEx worker stranded on a deserted island after a plane crash, and Helen Hunt plays his fiancee. Hanks lost weight for this role, which is likely to draw audiences still keen on CBS' summer phenomenon "Survivor."
"Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000: Director Wes Craven would like you to know that Christmas inspires horror. His Y2K Dracula reinterpretation has Christopher Plummer tangling with the bloodsucking one over his kidnapped daughter.
"Family Man": Sounds like an "It's a Wonderful Life" redux. In this "what if" flick, Nicolas Cage plays a man who gets the chance to see what his life would have been like had he married his college sweetheart, as played by Mrs. David Duchovny, Tea Leoni.
"Miss Congeniality": She's baaack! After taking on a dramatic role in the alcohol rehab film "28 Days," Sandra Bullock returns to comedy by playing an FBI agent who goes undercover in a beauty pageant to thwart a terrorist attack. Guess the real acting stretch will be transforming cutesy Bullock into an ugly duckling.
Also look for in limited release: The Coen Brothers' "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" with George Clooney and renowned playwright-director David Mamet's new comedy State and Main with Alec Baldwin, Sarah Jessica Parker and William H Macy.
"All the Pretty Horses": Directed by Billy Bob Thornton," this cowboy tale stars Matt Damon (in a role passed on by Leonardo DiCaprio) as a young, rebellious youth who falls in love with the daughter of a wealthy Mexican rancher (Penelope Cruz), but with not so happy results.
Also look for in limited release: "Erin Brockovich" helmer Steven Soderbergh's new drug trade flick "Traffic" with newlyweds Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones and the Oscar buzz gothic "Shadow of the Vampire" with John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe.
Santa is not the only big boy coming out to play this Christmas holiday.
Things are certainly looking up in December after Mel Gibson's $34 million-plus record-setting opening last weekend at the box office for "What Women Want."
And judging from the big names, business is only going to be better this weekend as heavily anticipated films such as Tom Hanks' "Cast Away" and Nicolas Cage's "Family Man" bow nationwide today.
"It's going to be a huge weekend this holiday. I can't see how it can't be, with all the hot openings and strong holdovers," Brandon Gray, editor of boxofficemojo.com, told Hollywood.com.
And despite all the new entries breathing down its neck, Gray maintains that Gibson's "What Women Want" might not go quietly down the rankings and that the battle to watch this four-day holiday at the box office will be between the mind-reading romantic comedy and Hank's "Cast Away."
And without further ado, here's a look at the major films that will be opening during the long Christmas holiday weekend.
OPENING FRIDAY, Dec. 22
THE SKINNY: Multiple Oscar winner Tom Hanks plays a FedEx guy stranded on an island after he miraculously survives a plane crash (and you thought Bruce Willis was lucky in "Unbreakable"). Helen Hunt again plays second fiddle as the girlfriend who has been worried sick. THE UPSIDE: "It's going to be a super close weekend between 'Cast Away' and 'What Women Want,' but I am giving the edge to the Tom Hanks film," Gray says. "It seems like Tom Hanks has another winner here. He's reteaming with his 'Forrest Gump' director Robert Zemeckis, and the film has a very impressive marketing campaign." THE DOWNSIDE: The scraggly Hanks reminds you too much of "Survivor" jackpot winner Richard Hatch ... especially whenever Hanks is half-naked, which is pretty often.
"THE FAMILY MAN"
THE SKINNY: Oh, the big "what if": Nicolas Cage does a turn as a ruthless banker who wakes up one day to find himself shacked up in a beautiful house and a beautiful wife that were not his before. THE UPSIDE: It's "It's a Wonderful Life" with a somewhat modern overhaul. THE DOWNSIDE: Alas, Cage is no Jimmy Stewart. And, alas, the film will probably only be good enough for a No. 3 or No. 4 opening this weekend, depending on if "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" continues to make a killing, Gray predicts.
THE SKINNY: Sandra Bullock plays an FBI agent planted as a mole in a beauty pageant to thwart a terrorist bombing. THE UPSIDE: "This film is a wild card," Gray said. "It could come in at No. 5. It's either that or 'The Emperor's New Groove.'" THE DOWNSIDE: Remember "28 Days"? Need we say more.
"WES CRAVEN PRESENTS DRACULA 2000"
THE SKINNY: Horror-meister Wes Craven's millennial update of the bloodsucker yarn. This one has Justine Waddell, Christopher Plummer, singer Vitamin C and Omar Epps. THE UPSIDE: The teen-heavy horror film is trying to duplicate the success of "Scream 2" back in 1997, which also opened during the same weekend. And this positioning of "Dracula 2000" for the teen set might just work, especially when the marketplace is saturated with sappy, old fart flicks. THE DOWNSIDE: If you really want to see a vampire flick, it might serve your needs better to see "Shadow of the Vampire" next week.
And that's not all. Over in the limited release category, there're the "Good Will Hunting"-esque "Finding Forrester" with Sean Connery and the psychological drama "The Gift" with Cate Blanchett, last year's Best Actress Oscar winner Hilary Swank and Keanu Reeves (as a wife beater, no less).
Plus: the Coen Brothers' "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" with George Clooney and the David Mamet comedy "State and Main" will also open in limited release.
OPENING MONDAY, DEC. 25
"ALL THE PRETTY HORSES"
THE SKINNY: In this tale helmed by Billy Bob Thornton, Matt Damon plays a Texas cowboy heading south of the border for some adventure and life experience. He finds both in Penelope Cruz, who plays the daughter of a Mexican rancher not too keen on the burgeoning romance. THE UPSIDE: Since the film opens on Christmas Day and at the tail end of the four-day holiday weekend, it will definitely not be a Top Five contender. But, as Gray says, that shouldn't keep the film from doing decent business for the day. THE DOWNSIDE: The talented Mr. Damon was swiftly forgotten by moviegoers in "The Legend of Beggar Vance." Will audiences do the same to him with this film?
Kevin Costner's Cuban Missile Crisis drama "Thirteen Days" and the luscious period piece "Vatel" with Uma Thurman and Gerard Depardieu both also open -- in New York and Los Angeles -- on Christmas Day.
And don't forget other holdovers such as "Dude, Where's My Car?," "Vertical Limit," and "Proof of Life" to finish out the Top 10.