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Virginia Madsen from The Astronaut Farmer and The Number 23

With two films opening up on the same day, people might start thinking Virginia Madsen’s new lucky number is 23. After all, one of the films is called “The Number 23,” the other being “The Astronaut Farmer.”

“I stayed away from that whole enigma,” Madsen says. I’m not superstitious about anything, though I don’t try and tempt the fates.”

“The Astronaut Farmer” is a family drama about Charles Farmer (Billy Bob Thornton) attempting to build a rocket and orbit the Earth. “The Number 23” is a thriller starring Jim Carrey about a family man who becomes obsessed with the number 23.

”It’s so bizarre, I’m competing against myself,” she says. “But these are two such different films.”

In both films, she plays a wife and mother, supportive of her husband’s passion/obsession. But the

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The Number 23

Plot: Walter Sparrow is a run-of-the-mill normal man. He’s an animal control officer who loves his work and his family. He stumbles upon the book “The Number 23” and his life takes a turn for the worse. Walter becomes obsessed with the novel and the number, starting to worry he could be capable of truly awful things.

Who’s it for: Thriller die-hards who want to see Jim Carrey stretch his acting in a new direction … although this isn’t that good of a direction. Plus, if you are happy Virgina Madsen is back on the map, you could pull a double-feature. Madsen is co-starring in “The Astronaut Farmer” with Billy Bob Thornton, which also opened Feb. 23.

THE SCORECARD

Expectations: I was excited. I’ve been a Jim Carrey fan and love when

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5th Annual TSR Movie Awards – 2006

The results are in, and “The Departed” is clearly the fan favorite for all the people that voted in the 5th Annual TSR Movie Awards.

As always, we don’t just get winners with the awards, we get to see the losers as well. Yes, “Eragon,” and “The Da Vinci Code,” I’m talking to you.

The magic number this year is five votes. This means a movie needed at least five votes to be considered for eligibility.

Popular doesn’t mean better. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” received the most overall votes, but it didn’t win a thing. In fact, the highest mark it received was a 7.16 for Jack Sparrow.

But then again, better sometimes isn’t good enough. The perfect example is Peter O’Toole. Out of all the people who voted, only

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Jennifer Hudson from Dreamgirls

Whenever Jennifer Hudson hears things like “stole the show” or “owns the movie,” she doesn’t know what to say. Well, she needs to start thinking about it. The Chicago native has one of the breakout performances of the year with her role of Effie White in “Dreamgirls.”

Hudson is incredibly humble in person, constantly saying that she is just glad to be a part of a film that stars Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles and Eddie Murphy. “Dreamgirls” is the adaptation of the Broadway show about a trio of black female soul singer in the 1960s.

The audition process wasn’t easy for Hudson.

“They called me and asked me to audition for Effie White,” Hudson said. So she went in and heard things like, “You’re by far the best we’ve seen.” Time passed and

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Paul Feig the director of Unaccompanied Minors

He’s got on a suit, a vest, a tie and nicely framed glasses. Some things in the universe just make sense. Paul Feig looks exactly like the type of guy you would hope create a show as great as “Freaks and Geeks.” It all fits, cool geek.

Since “Freaks and Geeks” was canceled, the author and director has kept busy, and that’s the way he wants it. While we sat down together at the Peninsula Hotel, he talked about his drive to constantly be working. He made an independent film, “I am David,” and directed numerous episodes of “Arrested Development” and “The Office.” Now, his first studio film, “Unaccompanied Minors,” just opened. The film is about a group of kids who get stuck at a Chicago airport over the holidays.

Feig talks

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Will Smith from The Pursuit of Happyness

“Independence Day,” “Men in Black.” “Enemy of the State.” … Will Smith. He is big-budget blockbuster. Even his first Oscar nomination was portraying a man larger than life — Muhammad Ali. Now he has found a different path, and he brought his son (Jaden Smith) along for the ride. Don’t worry, he’ll be back doing blockbusters such as “I Am Legend.”

But now it’s time for “The Pursuit of Happyness” — which opens Dec.15 — the real-life story of Chris Gardener, a father who struggles in poverty while taking care of his son and his attempts to rise above. And yes, if you’re curious, Smith is really that good at the Rubik’s Cube.

The day after he was on “Oprah” in November, I had a chance to join in a round

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Darren Aronofsky the director of The Fountain

Darren Aronofsky is not your normal Hollywood director, if there is such a thing. In 1998 he came out with “Pi,” a low-budget film about the over-analyzing of numbers. In 2000 Aronofsky directed Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans and Ellen Burstyn in the dark, disturbing “Requiem for a Dream.” It remains one of the best cinematic showcases of destruction drug addictions.

“The Fountain” is Aronofsky’s latest, but it has taken awhile to get the film to theaters. Originally, Brad Pitt was signed on and the budget was much bigger. But now with Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz (Aronofsky’s girlfriend) and a budget of $35 million, “The Fountain” is set to release Wednesday, Nov. 22. The easiest way to describe the film is to say it’s a love story, adventure, drama and

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Richard Linklater the director of Fast Food Nation

As different as “Fast Food Nation” is from “Dazed and Confused,” “Newton Boys,” “Before Sunset” and “School of Rock” they all have one thing in common — Richard Linklater.

Normally, a director is labeled a comedic director (Todd Phillips) or an action director (Michael Bay) yet Linklater is able to jump from drama to comedy to science-fiction (“A Scanner Darkly”).

In his newest film, which will open in Chicago on Nov. 17, he takes on the fast food industry. But this isn’t just about a couple of extra pounds we pack on eating fries. “Fast Food Nation” is based on the non-fiction book from Eric Schlosser and takes a look at working conditions, the food the animals eat, and a kill floor.

Linklater and I sat around an enormous 20-person oval table at

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Joey Lauren Adams the director of Come Early Morning

With all the voices in Hollywood, it’s hard to stand out. But when you hear the squeaky, typically quiet voice of Joey Lauren Adams, you immediately know who you are talking to. The actress from “Chasing Amy” and “Dazed & Confused” has decided to put a pause on acting and focus her attention behind the camera. Adams has written and directed “Come Early Morning” (due November 10).

I had a chance to sit down with Adams at the James Hotel and discuss the process of making the film that started more than seven years ago. It stars Ashley Judd as Lucy, a woman who goes through the motions of life and love. Lucy has the responsibility of taking care of her grandparents, dealing with her estranged father and losing track of

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Matthew McCrory the technical director of Flushed Away

When you go to the new animated film “Flushed Away,” which opened last week, it’s going to be hard to pick out Matthew McCrory’s work.

The West Dundee native is not a voice; that would be the work of Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Bill Nighy and Ian McKellen. Nor is McCrory one of the film’s animators. His title reads “technical director.” Don’t worry, the question of what a tech director does was my first to him.

And there’s a reason you see only images from “Flushed Away” for this article — technical directors just don’t do headshots.

Bayer: What does a technical director do?
McCrory: (Laughing) I get asked that a lot. It’s not always the most straightforward thing to answer. It’s a range of responsibilities. Whenever an artist might not be able to

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