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Cautionary tales about a near future

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Aman learns that his whole life was created for a popular television show. A baby's future is predicted on the basis of the genetic markers in his blood drawn at birth. The beautiful star of a new hit movie is really a computer program.

Welcome to the world of Andrew Niccol. The New Zealand-born filmmaker, who burst on the scene as the writer/director of "Gattaca" (1997) and the writer of "The Truman Show" (1998), releases his third feature, "Simone," today. His work is among the most literate science fiction on screen, which, as it turns out, is something of a surprise to him.

"I was almost the last to know that I was writing science fiction," says Niccol during a promotional tour for his new film. "I just wrote what occurred to me."

These days, science-fiction movies are loaded with special effects – the more the better, as with this summer's "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones."

Niccol's films may require some special effects, but they're about people who are recognizable from our own world. Although each of his films presents technology that doesn't yet exist, there are no alien spaceships or atomic ray guns. It's all within the realm of the possible. As Niccol puts it, "I like to set my movies five minutes in the future."

With "Simone," Niccol turns his attention to Hollywood, lampooning every aspect of the industry, from the celebrities to the media to the public hungry for every celebrity detail. "The biggest dig is at us: the audience," he explains. "The real question is ... why do you know more about Julia Roberts than your own family?' "

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