Patrick Stettner 's moody thriller The Business Of Strangers (the one with Stockard Channing and Julia Stiles seeking vengeance on an accused rapist) was one of the sleeper hits of 2001. So Stettner's a good choice to direct The Night Listener , an adaptation of Armistead Maupin 's novel about a troubled boy who reaches out to a gay radio host ( Robin Williams ). The trailers, with Sandra Oh (looking concerned) and Toni Collette (looking insane), make it out to be a juicy psychological thriller, which could set it apart from other midsummer offerings. And let's see how Williams fares as a gay guy - his last outing was 10 years ago in The Birdcage. Opens August 4.
Helena Bonham Carter is often dismissed as a period-pic actor in films like A Room With A View and Howards End. Have corset, will act. She gets to show off her contemporary chops in Conversations With Other Women , a smart indie feature about a couple (Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart , hot off Thank You For Smoking) who reunite at a Manhattan wedding. Director Hans Canosa employs a dual-frame, split-screen technique that's a thrill to watch. And you'll be surprised by Bonham Carter's gutsy performance, too. Opens August 11.
Can Snakes On A Plane live up to its online buzz? Samuel L. Jackson , who's been chatting up the film up for months on talk shows, plays an FBI agent escorting a witness to a trial when an assassin releases hundreds of deadly, scaly reptiles to scare the hell out of everyone on board. Talk about turbulence. New Line's so pumped about the film, it ordered reshoots to change its rating from PG-13 to R, believing it could reach an older demographic. I've just learned, though, that it won't be pre-screened for any media. Look for late screenings the night before the film slithers onto screens August 18.
If you liked that retro-cool video for OutKast's Hey Ya!, you'll probably like Idlewild , starring André Benjamin and Antwan Andre Patton (aka OutKast's Andre 3000 and Big Boi, respectively) and directed by Bryan Barber , who helmed that famous music vid. The two actors play workers at a speakeasy in Prohibition-era Georgia who get in trouble with the Mob. This could have terrific crossover potential - or it could sink like a stone. Actors like Cicely Tyson , Ben Vereen and Terrence Howard rub shoulders with musical stars like Patti LaBelle and Macy Gray . Can't wait for the soundtrack. Opens August 25.
Fiction films didn't score well at last year's Sundance Fest. An exception was Little Miss Sunshine , which caused a four-studio bidding war. It's a road movie about an extended (and dysfunctional, natch) family travelling in an old VW bus to a kids' beauty pageant. The ensemble cast includes Steve Carell as a suicidal gay professor, Toni Collette as a liberal parent and Abigail Breslin , who was so good in the indie flick Keane, as the beauty contestant. Directors Valerie Faris and her husband, Jonathan Dayton , have helmed music videos for bands like Oasis and the Smashing Pumpkins; let's see how they make the jump to first feature. Opens August 4.
Carved in Stone
This could go down as the year of the 9/11 movie. We've already seen the nicely understated United 93. Next up is World Trade Center , directed by Oliver Stone , a guy who wouldn't know the meaning of the word "understated" if it grabbed him by the throat and yelled at him repeatedly. The film stars Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena (Crash) as real-life police officers John McLoughlin and William J. Jimeno, the last two men dug out alive from under the rubble of the towers. It's supposed to be incredibly moving and inspirational. Gee, maybe Stone's mellowed. Opens August 9.
Let's get in a TIFF
The Toronto International Film Festival doesn't start till after Labour Day (September 7 to be precise), but you'd better get organized now. Passes and coupon books have been on sale for weeks. And check out NOW's August 31 issue for advance reviews of the big galas and obscure flicks people will be talking about all year. The just-announced Canuck lineup includes The Journals Of Knud Rasmussen ; Sarah Polley 's debut feature, Away From Her ; another doc, Empz 4 Life , from the brilliant Allan King ; and comic Andrew Currie 's Canada First! program opener, Fido . See you in line. 416-968-FILM.