EW Staff
February 10, 2006 AT 05:00 AM EST

INSIDE MAN
Starring Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, Clive Owen, Willem Dafoe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Christopher Plummer; written by Russell Gewirtz; directed by Spike Lee

Ron Howard initially pondered making this bank-heist-gone-bad picture. Then Russell Crowe said yes to Cinderella Man with Howard helming, and Inside Man bounced into Lee’s court. Basketball fanatic Lee is tickled that Washington’s NYPD detective character is named Keith Frazier, an homage to hoops legend Walt. Lee also wanted Frazier’s partner (Ejiofor) to be named Monroe, as in Earl. ”But Denzel squashed that,” says Lee, chortling. ”He said, ‘This film is not the New York Knicks.”’ Foster came aboard as a mysterious power broker, and having just done Flightplan, according to Lee, ”she felt relieved that the weight of the film was not on her shoulders.” Not that it all falls to Washington, either. ”This is an ensemble piece,” the star says. ”I only worked I think four and a half weeks.” Lighting up his fourth Lee joint (the first since 1998’s He Got Game), Washington adopts a Noo Yawk accent as he negotiates with a brainiac robber (Owen) who takes hostages. So how come another police story? ”I’m telling you, I’m so sick of it,” says Washington. ”It’s like all the parts now, on TV, too — crime fighters and lawyers.” But he makes this guy different, right? ”Well, we’ll see.” (March 24)

FEBRUARY

DATE MOVIE
American Pie’s Alyson Hannigan heads up this send-up of romantic comedies, from Say Anything to Wedding Crashers. Adam Campbell costars. (Feb. 17)

FREEDOMLAND
An adaptation of the Richard Price novel, Freedomland features Julianne Moore as Brenda, a frazzled mother who loses her son in a carjacking and ultimately triggers a racial crisis in a New Jersey housing project. ”It’s interesting in light of what happened with [Hurricane] Katrina this year,” says the actress, ”because this movie is really about poverty and loss.” Samuel L. Jackson costars as the detective unraveling Brenda’s story. (Feb. 17)

EIGHT BELOW
When a member of his Antarctic expedition must be helicoptered out, scientist Jerry Shepard (Paul Walker) is forced to temporarily abandon his team of eight sled dogs, who must then fend for themselves in the frozen landscape (pass the Kleenex, please). A true-to-life tale (it’s based on an article that appeared in National Geographic magazine), Below is directed by longtime producer Frank Marshall (who also made 1993’s cannibalistic survival tale Alive) and costars Jason Biggs and Bruce Greenwood. (Feb. 17)

TYLER PERRY’S MADEA’S FAMILY REUNION
Screenwriter-director and no-nonsense drag granny Perry follows up Diary of a Mad Black Woman with this dramedy about the lives and loves of an extended family. (Feb. 24)

RUNNING SCARED
In a 180-degree turn from his heroic role in Eight Below, Paul Walker plays Joey Gazelle, a low-level criminal in charge of dumping ”hot” guns used for Mob killings. The chase is on, though, when one .38 gets back out on the street. Written and directed by The Cooler‘s Wayne Kramer. (Feb. 24)

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