STARRING Beyoncé Knowles, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, Anika Noni Rose
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY Bill Condon
While promoting Miami Vice in July, Foxx made sure he squeezed in plenty of shout-outs for Dreamgirls, too, even though it's still months from release. The way he sees it, he's got to tub-thump early. ''It's a different animal,'' says Foxx. ''It's a musical, so you have to grow [support] right now. There's a lot of movies in December...so you gotta make sure you stay in their face.'' To that end, DreamWorks and Paramount, the studios behind this $75 million adaptation of the Tony-winning 1981 stage musical, have been giving Dreamgirls the full-court press, including a 20-minute rave-drawing sneak peek at the Cannes film festival in May. Foxx plays Curtis, a hard-driving music manager who finds his meal ticket in a talented young trio called the Dreamettes (played by pop star Knowles, Tony winner Rose, and former American Idol standout Hudson). The singers clash as Curtis elevates Beyoncé's Deena to the lead position of the group sort of like what happened with Diana Ross and the Supremes. As Effie, Hudson plays the temperamental diva pushed out in the name of mainstream success. She found her movie gig pretty sweet karma after getting booted from Idol's third season. ''Simon [Cowell] said, You only get one shot,'' Hudson recalls. ''One shot at fame, and the runner-ups, you ain't never gonna see again. Y'know what, Simon? I got shot number 2.'' Speaking of comebacks, the loudest buzz on Dreamgirls is over Murphy's turn as James Thunder Early, a James Brownesque singer on a downward curve. His manic performances prompted spontaneous ovations on set from the crew especially since they could see what a stretch the part was for him. ''Eddie seems to be a deeply shy person,'' says Condon. ''I think the kind of really extravagant performing he does here is a struggle for him. He's like a kid jumping off the diving board. Every time he gets to the edge, he doesn't want to do it. Then he does it, and he's thrilled.''
STARRING Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly
WRITTEN BY Charles Leavitt
DIRECTED BY Edward Zwick
Zwick laughs when he's asked about his propensity for making ''important'' movies, but with epics like The Last Samurai and Glory on his CV there's no hiding the truth. ''I'm attracted to ideas,'' the director says, ''and an idea necessarily gives a movie size.... When stories take place in a larger context it helps ennoble the personal drama.'' Set against the backdrop of civil-war-torn Sierra Leone in the 1990s, Blood Diamondfocuses on a South African mercenary (DiCaprio) and a tribal fisherman (Hounsou) who confront the diamond cartels that kidnap, enslave, and terrorize the populace. But the bigger picture, DiCaprio says, deals with the strip-mining of Africa for diamonds and other natural materials. ''When superpowers demand these resources from much less financially stable countries,'' he asks, ''what does that do to their livelihood?''