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NOVEMBER 2007


AMERICAN GANGSTER: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Cuba Gooding Jr., Josh Brolin, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Carla Gugino, Norman Reedus, Ted Levine, Roger Bart (Directed by Ridley Scott; Written by Terry George; Universal) Russell Crowe took home an Oscar as Best Actor of 2000 for “Gladiator,” and he nearly finished first again the following year for “A Beautiful Mind.” But he lost to Denzel Washington, who was named top gun for his work in “Training Day.” Now these powerhouse performers will be teamed for the first time since newcomer Crowe supported superstar Washington in 1995’s “Virtuosity.” But don’t expect a routine buddy flick. In this high-voltage thriller, set during the Vietnam War, Crowe plays a New York cop trying to stop the flow of drugs into the U.S., and Washington is a Harlem drug dealer who uses the coffins of American soldiers to keep that heroin coming in. May the best man win an Oscar. Now Playing

LIONS FOR LAMBS: Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, Michael Pena, Peter Berg, Derek Luke, Andrew Garfield (Directed by Robert Redford; Written by Matthew Carnahan; UA/MGM) Just when it seemed life was all play and no work, Mr. Cruise bounced down from Oprah's couch and went to Washington. This deadly serious drama casts mercurial Cruise as a conservative senator who has his own private reasons for cozying up to an investigative reporter (Meryl Streep). Director Robert Redford performs double duty, playing a professor whose prized student is wounded in combat and taken prisoner in Afghanistan. Don’t be surprised if teacher Redford enlists the aid of Cruise and Streep on a nearly impossible mission to rescue his young friend. Now Playing

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN: Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald, Tess Harper, Stephen Root, Barry Corbin (Written and directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen; Miramax Films and Paramount Vantage) It’s 1980, and somewhere in a wild, rough region of Texas, a young Vietnam vet named Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) comes to an abrupt halt in his early-morning hunt for antelope. What stops Llewelyn is the discovery of a bundle of heroin, a suitcase containing two million dollars, and several bloody corpses. And what Llewelyn does is this: he takes the money and runs, followed closely by deranged drug dealer Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). If this man-on-the-run has any hope for survival, it rests with Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), a smart, stubborn World War II vet who’s convinced the world has gone bonkers. This adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel sounds chilling and oddball enough to stand beside such Coen Brothers shockers as “Blood Simple,” “Miller’s Crossing,” “Fargo” and “The Man Who Wasn’t There.” To read the Variety review, click here. Now Playing

BEOWULF: Ray Winstone, Angelina Jolie, Crispin Glover, Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, Brendan Gleeson, Robin Wright Penn, Alison Lohman, Chris Coppola, Leslie Harter Zemeckis (Directed by Robert Zemeckis; Written by Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary; Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures) Angelina Jolie certainly made a flashy impression as Colin Farrell’s seductive mommie in “Alexander.” And now she’s at it again. This time she’s the predatory mom of the eternally impish Crispin Glover, who plays Grendel, the monster who menaces noble Beowulf in this adaptation of the 8th-century British epic poem. The great Ray Winstone plays the title role, but you mustn’t expect much in the way of physical nuance in his or any of the other performances on view. That’s because the neither-fish-nor-fowl digital process being used here is the same one that reduced Tom Hanks to an animated drawing in “The Polar Express.” Call it progress. Now Playing

REDACTED: Kel O’Neill, Ty Jones, Daniel Stewart Sherman, Izzy Diaz, Rob Devaney, Patrick Carroll (Written and directed by Brian De Palma; Magnolia Pictures) In 1989, director Brian De Palma shocked audiences with “Casualties of War,” an uncompromising drama written by David Rabe, who based his screenplay on a New Yorker article by Daniel Lang. The true story, starring Sean Penn and Michael J. Fox, focused on four GIs who kidnap a Vietnamese woman, rape her, and then stab her to death. The war this time takes place in Iraq, and, once again, the events detailed by De Palma in “Redacted” are based on a horrific true story--the rape and murder of an Iraqi teenager and three members of her family by four GIs. Now Playing

LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA: Javier Bardem, Giovanna Mezzogiomo, Benjamin Bratt, Liev Schreiber, John Leguizamo, Hector Alizondo, Catalina Sandino Moreno (Directed by Mike Newell; Written by Ronald Harwood; New Line) The astonishing Javier Bardem, who made us hiss him as we have not hissed a movie villain in ages in “No Country for Old Men,” will surely wring a tear from us as the spurned suitor of beautiful Giovanna Mezzogiomo in this adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ haunting tale that Thomas Pynchon, writing in The New York Times, called “a shining and heartbreaking novel. ” The screenplay is by Ronald Harwood, who won an Oscar for "The Pianist," and the director is Mike Newell, who presided over "Four Weddings and a Funeral." To read about other new movies based on books, click here. Now Playing

MARGOT AT THE WEDDING: Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jack Black, Zane Pais, John Turturro, Ciaran Hinds, Halley Feiffer (Written and directed by Noah Baumbach; Paramount Classics) “The Squid and the Whale” was one of the sharpest, funniest and most moving films of 2005, and it should have won at least one Oscar--maybe the Best Original Screenplay award, for which writer/director Noah Baumbach was nominated. In Baumbach's follow-up film, the Margot who goes to the wedding of her pregnant sister Pauline is played by Nicole Kidman; Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Pauline, and Jack Black is Malcolm, the blushing, bungling groom-to-be. To read the Variety review of "Margot at the Wedding," click here; for Guy Flatley's 2000 interview with Jack Black, click here. Now Playing

I’M NOT THERE: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw, Julianne Moore, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Michelle Williams, (Directed by Todd Haynes; Written by Todd Haynes and Oren Overman; The Weinstein Company) Did you ever have the feeling that there’s something baffling, if not downright bizarre, about legendary music man Bob Dylan? Well, the mystery may soon be cleared up in this brazen biopic. Who's been handed the task of acting (and singing) like Dylan in all of his shifting complexity? As it turns out, it took at least five men and one woman to rise to the challenge: Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw, Marcus Carl Franklin and, yes, a notably curly-haired Cate Blanchett. The women in Dylan’s life are played by Julianne Moore, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Michelle Williams (Heath Ledger’s wife in “Brokeback Mountain” and in real life). Director Todd Haynes, who worked wonders with Julianne Moore in “Safe” and “Far From Heaven,” will undoubtedly keep all of these heavyweight performers blowin’ eloquently in the wind. To read about more new biopics, click here. Now Playing

ENCHANTED: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Timothy Spall, Idina Menzel, Rachel Covey, Susan Sarandon, Kevin Lima, Jeff Bennett (Directed by Kevin Lima; Written by Bill Kelly; Walt Disney Pictures) Part Snow White, part Cinderella, a perky animated princess named Giselle trips down a well and pops up in Manhattan, where she hooks up with a handsome single father (Patrick Dempsey). No longer a drawn figure, Giselle is now played by Amy Adams, who was nominated as Best Supporting Actress of 2005 for her performance in “Junebug” and is a strong bet for a Best Actress nomination for her work here. In her New York Times review, Manohla Dargis wrote, “Ms. Adams proves to be an irresistibly watchable screen presence and a felicitous physical comedian, with a gestural performance and an emotional register that alternately bring to mind the madcap genius of Carole Lombard and Lucille Ball.” For more new Amy Adams movies, click here; to read about the new movies of other favorites, click here and browse the STAR TURNS index. Now Playing

STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING: Frank Langella, Lauren Ambrose, Lili Taylor, Adrian Lester, Jessica Bennett, Anitha Gandhi, Jeff McCarthy, Sean T. Krishnan, Karl Bury (Directed by Andrew Wagner; Written by Andrew Wagner and Fred Parnes; Roadside Attractions) Once, Leonard Schiller (Frank Langella) was a celebrated writer, basking in the praise lavished on his four novels by New York’s most sophisticated critics. But decades have passed, Leonard’s work is out of print, and he has yet to produce a fifth novel, even though he dutifully clocks in at his typewriter on a daily basis. Adding to his misery is the fact that he has lost the wife he so intensely loved and has himself suffered a major heart attack. Plus, he is scarcely recognized when attending the kind of literary events at which he was formerly the center of attention. Then along comes Heather Wolfe (Lauren Ambrose), an intellectually sharp, articulate and quirkily attractive blonde graduate student. She’s planning to write her thesis about Leonard and his novels and is hurt, hurt, hurt when the author refuses to grant her request for a series of interviews, pointing out that he must devote his time and energy to his new book. Eventually, the subtly aggressive young woman wears him down, loosens him up, critiques his writing and seductively smears honey on his forehead in the intimacy of his Manhattan apartment. In the end, might this be a case of All About Heather? (For an immediate answer to that question, pick up a copy of Brian Morton's widely praised novel from which this film was adapted.) Lili Taylor also stars as Leonard's not especially book-oriented daughter, a woman who cannot persuade her boyfriend (Adrian Lester) to impregnate her, even though her biological clock is ticking in a big way. Now Playing

THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josee Croze, Anne Consigny, Patrick Chesnais, Niels Arestrup, Olatz Lopez Garmendia, Jean-Pierre Cassell, Marina Hands, Max Von Sydow (Directed by Julian Schnabel; Written by Ronald Harwood; Miramax) It makes perfect sense that Jean-Dominique Bauby’s stunning book, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," should carry the subtitle of "A Memoir of Life in Death.” Bauby, a dynamic, articulate, happily married father of two, was the widely admired editor-in chief of France’s Elle Magazine in 1995 when, at the age of 44, he suffered a stroke that left him in a coma for 20 days. It was assumed that he would never again share thoughts and impressions with his loved ones and former colleagues. And when he did finally awake, the only part of his body that appeared to be functioning was his left eye. Soon, however, with the blink of that eye, he was able to make it understood that his brain had not been impaired. Amazingly, a system was devised by his family and friends whereby he would blink when a particular letter of the alphabet was read aloud to him. From there, it was a matter of his forming words, structuring sentences and conveying the complex, passionate ideas and images that filled his mind and ultimately shape them into a unique manuscript. Bauby died in 1998, just two days after the publication of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” It was thought that Johnny Depp, who worked with director Julian Schnabel in "Before Night Falls," would play Bauby, but that plan fell through. So Depp's loss is Mathieu Amalric's gain. To read about more new biopics, click here; for the Variety review of "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," click here. Now Playing

THE SAVAGES: Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Philip Bosco, Peter Friedman, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Cara Seymour, Debra Monk, Margo Martindale, Salem Ludwig (Written and directed by Tamara Jenkins; Fox Searchlight) Wendy and Jon Savage (Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman) are siblings who loathe one another with an intensity that does indeed border on the savage. Fortunately, they now live in different cities and are never ever tempted to turn back the clock and replay traumatic scenes from their dysfunctional-family past. Wendy, a wannabe playwright who dabbles in meds and steady-dates a guy she hopes to marry (the chief obstacle being his claim that he is madly in love with his current wife), resides in New York’s East Village. Brother Jon, on the other hand, has shuffled off to Buffalo, where his twin obsessions are the writing of perversely esoteric books and dodging conversations about commitment and marriage with his natural-born-homemaker girlfriend. What could possibly derail Wendy and Jon from their individual pursuits of non-familial happiness? Phone calls informing them that their dear old dad (Philip Bosco) is more demented than usual and in urgent need of hands-on caretaking. Sounds like a family reunion to remember. Now Playing