AGORADirector: Alejandro Amenabar Producers: Mod Prods., Himenoptero, Telecinco Cinema Stars: Rachel Weisz, Max Minghella The scoop: One of the most ambitious indie productions of 2008 saw a lavish re-creation on Malta of fourth-century A.D. Alexandria. Playing astrologer-philosopher Hypatia, Weisz tries to save the Alexandria library and the knowledge of the ancient world as the Christian revolt engulfs the city. Any reading of the stars points to this being one of Europe’s standout bows in 2009. Sales: Focus Features Intl. BROKEN EMBRACES Director: Pedro Almodovar Producers: El Deseo, Universal Stars: Penelope Cruz, Lluis Homar, Blanca Portillo, Jose Luis Gomez The scoop: Almodovar’s noirish four-way love story promises to be as volcanic as the island of Lanzarote, where it was partially shot. Sony Pictures Classics carries out domestic duties, and Pathe repeats in the U.K., France and Benelux. Warners bows pic in Spain on March 18. Sales: Focus Features Intl. THE DANCER AND THE THIEF Director: Fernando Trueba Producers: Fernando Trueba P.C., Cecchi Gori Star: Ricardo Darin The scoop: The return of award-winning Trueba (“Belle epoque”) to fiction feature directing after eight years, pic’s a genre-blending romantic drama with a topnotch cast, led by Argentina’s Darin. Sales: 6 Sales MAP OF THE SOUNDS OF TOKYO Director: Isabel Coixet Producers: Mediapro, Versatil Cinema Stars: Rinko Kikuchi, Sergi Lopez The scoop: Coixet’s homage to nighttime Tokyo sees Kikuchi (“Babel”) play Tokyo fish market worker by day and hired assassin by night, sent to do a job on a Spanish wine merchant. Six-week shoot has just wrapped, and buyers will be hoping to see footage at Berlin. Sales: Imagina Intl. Sales. PLANET 51 Director: Jorge Blanco Producers: Ilion Animation Studios, Handmade Films Intl. Stars: Jessica Biel, Dwayne Johnson The scoop: CG-animated alien-adventure comedy. A star voiceover cast and screenwriter (“Shrek” and “Shrek 2’s” Joe Stillman), big budget ($50 million-plus) and sales deals record (major territories closed worldwide, including a studio deal for domestic with Sony) make this on paper one of Europe’s standout toon features for 2009. Sales: Handmade Films Intl. REC 2 Director: Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza Producers: Filmax Entertainment, Castelao Prods. Stars: N/A The scoop: Spanish zombie fiesta “REC” grew a fanboy following, grossed $27 million worldwide and inspired Screen Gems remake “Quarantine.” Kept largely under wraps, sequel “REC 2″ has co-directors Balaguero and Plaza and presumably its winning style — faux reality-TV handheld-cam lensing — back onboard and takes up exactly where “REC” left off. Expect similar B.O., too. Sales: Filmax Intl.
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