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Virginia Madsen alert! By a weird coincidence, the beautiful and mesmerizing actress stars in both of this weekend’s major releases, though, alas, she’s stuck playing the dutiful wife in both. The Astronaut Farmer is a charmer of a movie, though, about a former astronaut turned rancher (Billy Bob Thornton) who’s building a rocket in his barn, much to the chagrin of the federal government. It’s The Right Stuff meets Field of Dreams, and it’s wonderful. The same cannot be said of The Number 23 [my review], which is a disaster of absurd proportions, though Madsen and Jim Carrey — as her husband, a man obsessed with the weird coincidences involving the titular number — do as much as they can with the poor material they’re stuck with.

Not screened for critics alert! The Abandoned is the 2,983,901st movie of 2007 to be released sight unseen by the likes of yours truly. You have been warned. And while Reno 911!: Miami wasn’t entirely withheld from critics (there were a few reviews up at Rotten Tomatoes before public screenings began on Friday, which means at least a couple critics saw it in advance), Fox didn’t exactly go out of its way to let us know about screenings. My requests for info about opportunities to see the film went suspiciously unanswered. Take from that what you will.

Cute guys with accents alert! Welsh hottie Ioan Gruffudd — late of the terrific made-for-cable movies about Horatio Hornblower — time-travels back to the same era, the early 19th century, to play the British abolitionist and politician William Wilberforce in Amazing Grace, opening in limited release today. If you’re into historical drama or just into Ioan, check it out: it’s good stuff. And Scottish cutie James McAvoy — who deserved an Oscar nom alongside his Last King of Scotland costar Forest Whitaker — takes a lighter turn in the comedy Starter for 10, opening in a very limited release (20 screens). I haven’t seen this one yet, but plan to soon. I loves me a Scottish accent.
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MaryAnn Johanson
author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride
minder of FlickFilosopher.com

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