You know it's the fall movie season because it's all about actors and their performances. In the noir-lite period film, Hollywoodland, Oscar-winner Adrien Brody plays a LA two-bit gumshoe hired to investigate the mysterious death of actor George Reeves. What makes this movie worth a viewing is the strong acting by the whole cast. Ben Affleck as Reeves, a TV actor who always wanted to be more than his Superman persona, gives a performance that almost makes you forget Gigli. Diane Lane is also top notch, as Reeves' married girlfriend, that is until they put all the aging makeup on her towards the end. Scary. The rest of the flick is nicely atmospheric, especially if you dig that LA Confidential look, though unfortunately this mystery story isn't quite as complex or satisfying. Regular teenagers may seem evil with their cliquish ways, but in The Covenant they really are. Director Renny Harlin last butchered the Exorcist prequel, and now he's trying his hand at horror targeted towards the myspace demographic. Should be chilling, but not really in a good way.

At the Angelika, two New York releases worth seeking out: Man Push Cart and La Petit Lieutenant. Push Cart was shot here in Queens and midtown Manhattan and follows the sisyphean life of a Pakistani coffee vendor. Director Ramin Bahrani shot the movie with a tiny crew and primarily non-actors giving an intriguing insight into what life is like for an essential part of New York's fabric. Lieutenant is a French detective story, but where it lacks an American cop show's quick moving procedural style, it makes up for in well drawn characters with complex lives.

The U.S. vs. John Lennon, a new documentary about the ramifications for Lennon from his public anti-war stance, opens theatrically next weekend but you can catch a special screening tonight at Lincoln Center at 8 pm. The filmmakers David Leaf and John Scheinfeld as well as Leon Wildes, who was John Lennon's immigration attorney, will be on hand for a Q&A after the film.

There are two things that Thai action star Tony Jaa loves in his new movie The Protector, which begins a run at the Sunshine this weekend: ass kicking and elephants. That's right, those kidnapped royal elephants are like family members and he'll stop at nothing, not even traveling to Australia and kicking ass, to save them. At Cinema Village, they're rolling out Rolling Family, a South American movie about a boisterous extended Argentinean family on a road trip together.

This weekend at Film Forum, they kick off a series devoted to the Japanese master director Mizoguchi, with a bunch of all new 35 mm prints. Ugetsu, the flick kicking it off is a supernatural ghost story and garnered the director as Silver Lion at that year's Venice Film Festival.

Gothamist Pick:
2006_09_arts_sherrybaby.jpgLocal girl and soon to be mama, Maggie Gyllenhaal gives yet another stellar performance in her new indie flick, Sherrybaby out this week. Gyllenhaal plays Sherry, a recovering drug addict who is trying to rebuild her relationship with her daughter as she returns from jail to life in suburban New Jersey. Sherry's the kind of woman who sucks up all the attention whenever she enters the room, but its obvious as the story unfolds that all that focus hasn't been the most positive. Gyllenhaal uses her slinky body to great effect, whether it's cozying up to a fellow AA member Danny Trejo, modeling a pair of skin tight jeans for her chubbier sister-in-law or crawling under a fort made of sheets with her daughter. Gyllenhaal makes you both hate Sherry for her selfishness and ache for her to turn her life around. An early fall performance that's not to be missed.