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This summer’s movie season is full of odd couples: movies that are somehow linked, by concept or subject, yet are so different. Oddly enough, the selection offers great diversity and a chance to mix and match a lively program of movies. Andrew L. Urban reports.

Casino Royale
Daniel Craig steps into the Aston Martin as James Bond 007 in the story of his very first mission: to stop a banker winning a giant casino tournament which would help him fund terrorists. A contemporary element brings Bond’s first sortie right up to date, and Craig is … well, craggy, not pretty, thank goodness. Dir. Martin Campbell

The Blood Diamond
Controversial by virtue of the local politics in its shooting location of troubled Sierra Leone, The Blood Diamond stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Danny, a mercenary, going after a spectacular stone hidden by ex-mine worker Solomon (Djimon Hounsou), with help from American journalist Maddy (Jennifer Connelly). Story elements aren’t original, but execution is tops. Dir. Edward Zwick

Marie Antoinette
The young 8th century Queen of France, Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst), struggles through the Palace politics of Versailles, in a not-quite audacious biopic that is neither dramatic enough nor funny enough but looks endlessly fabulous. Dir. Sofia Coppola.

The Queen
When Princess Diana was killed, HM The Queen (astonishingly played by Helen Mirren) had to be royally shoved by her new PM, Tony Blair (Michael Sheen), into making a public statement of grief, before her loyal subjects turned on her in theirs. An irresistible glimpse inside the Royal family at a time of crisis well within living memory. Dir. Stephen Frears.

In the remote sands of the Moroccan desert, a rifle shot detonates a chain of dramatic events that will link strangers around the world, from American tourists (Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett), to their children in Los Angeles and people in Mexico to father and daughter in Japan. A gripping exploration of misunderstandings that separate our civilisation. Dir. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

The ancient Maya civilisation faces decline and the rulers decree that building more giant temples and some human sacrifice will resuscitate their empire. Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), is chosen for sacrifice, but in a dissenting decision, makes a run for it. Epic scale adventure with a message. Dir. Mel Gibson

Happy Feet
A cute-attack in which animated Emperor penguins sing and dance – well, one can’t sing, the others can’t dance and he’s the hero … a major tapdancing talent. Coping with being different is the message, but no-one will stop laughing and crying long enough to notice, in this sublime animalation. Dir. George Miller (He’s doing for penguins what he did for piglets in Babe…)

Razzle Dazzle
Competitive children’s dancing never looked so … hilarious. Top satire with a cast including Kerry Armstrong, Ben Miller, Nadine Garner, Denise Roberts, Tara Morice, Jane Hall, Toni Lamond, Barry Crocker and Noeline Browne. As the filmmakers point out, “who says that a routine about the oppression of women in Afghanistan can’t have a bit of glamour?” Dir. Darren Ashton

The Holiday
In the wake of broken relationships, Amanda Woods (Cameron Diaz) and Iris Simpkins (Kate Winslet) swap homes (London v Los Angeles) for a change – where they both meet locals (Jude Law, Jack Black) and fall in love. Gives your mind a holiday. Dir. Nancy Meyers

Heading South
There is nothing exotic about the Haiti depicted in Laurent Cantet’s adaptation of Dany Laferriere’s stories about middle aged American women like Ellen (Charlotte Rampling), heading south for a summer of sexual adventures with the young men of the oppressed island. Mixing sex and politics results in a Molotov cocktail with explosive results. Dir. Laurent Cantet


Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich and Robert Carlyle bring marquee power to this novel-based fantasy that fills the gap left by LOTR. A farming boy’s destiny is changed by an encounter with a dragon, giving him a chance to save or destroy an empire. Complete within its own magical world, the film offers a wonderful escape from life outside the cinema. Dir. Stefan Fengmeier

A Night at the Museum
By total contrast, this is a comedic fantasy about a bumbling night guard (Ben Stiller) at a museum who lets loose the curse that awakens the exhibits – from T Rex to President Roosevelt (Robin Williams) – in the Natural History Museum. Havoc ensues. Dir. Shawn Levy

Mr Bean’s Holiday
Rowan Atkinson’s Mr Bean travels to the South France seeking the sun, camcorder in hand, setting off mayhem but this time recording it for what might be the avant garde movie hit of the Cannes film festival. Or not. Filmbiz satire buried in slapstick. Dir. Steve Bendelack

For Your Consideration
A fast, cutting-yet-kind spoof on the film industry’s weirdly egotistical and yet genuinely generous awards culture, as three stars in the same arthouse film get a sniff of awards talk on their behalf. Filmbiz satire buried in satire. Dir. Christopher Guest

Déjà Vu
Jerry Bruckheimer’s beefy live action movie is blended with psychological woo-hoo: Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington), an ATF agent - whatever ATF is - travels back in time to save a woman from being murdered, falling in love with her during the process. Washington has the cred, Bruckheimer brings the budget. Dir. Tony Scott

Meet the Robinsons
Turning the clock in the opposite direction … boy genius Wilbur (voiced by Wesley Singerman), travels forward in time, after inventing a machine that recovers forgotten memories. He encounters a family whose survival depends on his ingenuity. Disney animation with a voice cast that includes Angela Bassett and Tom Selleck. Dir. Danny Elfman

Running With Scissors
Talented youngster Augusten Burroughs (Joseph Cross) knew he was gay from day one (or three), and grew up in a bizarre environment with an absent, alcoholic father (Alec Baldwin) and a disturbed mother (Annette Bening) in Massachusettes. Black and funny and moving, the film is based on Augesten’s autobiography (part ). Dir. Ryan Murphy

Shut Up & Sing
The story of Dixie Chicks, who put many of their core country music fans offside with a dig at President Bush in 003 (ashamed he was from their home state of Texas for his decision to invade Iraq) and other negative consequences. Where Running With Scissors is psychotically funny, Shut Up and Sing is a sobering (but sometimes humorous) comment on free speech in the US. Dir. Barbara Kopple, Cecilia Peck


The Valet
Hilarious French farce about a lowly valet (Gad Elmaleh) and a supermodel (Alice Taglioni) who must pretend they are a couple to save a businessman’s financially important marriage; he is the model’s real lover. Daniel Auteuil plays the businessman and Kristin Scott Thomas plays his rich wife. Dir. Francis Veber

Penelope Cruz plays Raimunda, whose sister, Sole (Lola Dueñas), is being visited by their deceased mother Irene (Carmen Maura) in a layered story of mothers, daughters, husbands and enemies – and secrets of identity. Not even ghosts are who they seem in this Cannes award-winning comedy drama. Dir. Pedro Almodovar

Published December 21, 2006

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Marie Antoinette and The Queen

Heading South and The Holiday

The Valet and Volver

Babel and Apocalypto

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