Film Review Hotline

Down, Down, Deeper and Down
Checking the status quo on the U-Boat drama U-571 • Matthew McConnaughey in uniformWhat Saving Private Ryan did for the Normandy landings, U-571 aims to do for the Battle of the Atlantic. The $90 million World War II epic will be this year’s Christmas blockbuster from Universal Pictures and tells of a bold bid by US sailors to steal a German coding device, named Enigma, from a stranded U-boat in 1942 and turn the tide of the war. Jonathan Mostow directs the action adventure currently being filmed at Rome’s Cinecitta Studios, and on location in Malta.

U-571 stars Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, Jon Bon Jovi, Jake Weber, David Keith and a host of solid supporting actors. Film Review will be going on the Rome set later for a full report plus interviews with the leads. For now, here's the very first picture of McConaughey in his naval costume. But Mostow says he isn’t just making the next war movie after The Thin Red Line. “U-571 is more in the great tradition of sea stories like Homer’s Odyssey. Filming on water is going to be a challenge, I know that. Water is not a friend to film, they don’t mix....”

Julia's Civil Action
Time to pay out • Julia Roberts takes the title role in the Universal Pictures drama Erin Brockovich for Steven Soderbergh, the Out of Sight director. The feature’s based on a true story of a woman who takes a low-level secretarial job at a suburban Los Angeles law firm. While on the job, she follows an obscure case involving the poisoning of the water supply by Pacific Gas & Electric and ends up championing the case all the way through the judicial system, winning the largest class-action suit of its type.

Oscar couple together again
Independent roots call stars back • Ben Affleck and Matt Damon will appear in the comedy-romance The Third Wheel, the first film to go into production under their Miramax-based Pearl Street Productions banner. The two actors will executive-produce the independent film and take supporting-actor roles opposite lead Jay Lacopo, who wrote the script. Jordan Brady will direct the film about two friends, Stanley and Michael (Affleck), who plan an exciting evening for Stanley’s date with Diana, the girl of his dreams. The roles of Stanley and Diana are not yet cast but Damon will play the cameo role of Diana’s ex-boyfriend.

Ton Up Madonna
Maddy takes on the tabloids • Madonna will produce and play a cynical tabloid TV reporter in the Warner Bros romantic comedy Ton 80. Her character is assigned to find and expose a reclusive female self-help author. It turns out that ‘she’ is a gruff, handsome, dysfunctional man who never listens to the advice he dishes out. When the reporter falls in love with him, she must decide whether to still sell him out.

Just a taste of Alan Jones' extensive news section. Read the full news pages every month in Film Review.

Also in this issue: James Cameron-WIlson reports on the Oscars, and details of all this year's British Academy film nominations
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