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OCTOBER 2007

MICHAEL CLAYTON: George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, Sydney Pollack, Sean Cullen, Michael O’Keefe, Ken Howard, Austin Williams, David Zayas, Kevin Hagan, Pamela Gray, Amy Hargreaves, Heidi Armbruster, Christopher Mann, Jack Fitz (Written and directed by Tony Gilroy; Warner Bros.) A phone tapper and a hit man are just two of the bad boys who may feel at home at the prestigious New York law firm where attorney Michael Clayton (George Clooney) works. Clayton himself, the divorced father of a troubled boy, has conceivably schmoozed with these and other thugs during the 15 years he has performed legal miracles for his slippery, high-profile clients. One thing he learns for sure: more than one of these clients have not told him the entire truth about matters of life and death. And now, at a time of personal peril, Clayton is probably wondering why the lovely young attorney with whom he’s been having a clandestine affair is asking him so many deeply probing questions about his unlovely work history. This thriller marks the directorial debut of writer Tony Gilroy, whose screenplays include “Devil’s Advocate,” “Proof of Life,” "The Bourne Identity,“"The Bourne Supremacy”and "The Bourne Ultimatum." Now Playing

ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE: Cate Blanchett, Clive Owen, Geoffrey Rush, Samantha Morton, Hugh Dancy, Tom Hollander, Abbie Cornish (Directed by Shekhar Kapur; Written by Michael Hirst; Universal) Could it be that Elizabeth I, England’s icy Virgin Queen, had something hot going with occasional adversary Sir Walter Raleigh? Advance word suggests that director Shekhar Kapur, helmer of 1998’s fiery “Elizabeth,” will bring the intriguing subject out into the open in this sequel. Best news of all: Cate Blanchett returns, making a royal effort to nab the Best Actress Oscar she almost got in 1998 (she lost to Gwyneth Paltrow for “Shakespeare in Love”). More good news: Raleigh will be played by the unfailingly masterful Clive Owen. To read about many more new biopics, click here. Now Playing

WE OWN THE NIGHT: Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Robert Duvall, Eva Mendes, Tony Musante (Written and directed by James Gray; Universal Pictures) A fierce crime wave, whipped up by ruthless drug dealers, raged through New York during the late eighties, nowhere more out of control than in the Brighton Beach area of Brooklyn. This drama--written and directed by James Gray, who roamed similar turf in the memorable “Yards”--centers on the dilemma of Bobby Green (Joaquin Phoenix), the manager of a Brighton Beach night club that’s a favorite of the dope-dealing Russian mafia. Bobby doesn’t want to ruffle the Ruskies, but he has to do something when his brother Joseph (Mark Wahlberg), a cop who keeps his relationship to Bobby a secret, is brutally wounded by the drug-thugs. Don’t be surprised if the brothers reconcile their differences and take back the New York night from the dopesters. Whatever the case, it’s good to see Phoenix and Wahlberg, two of today’s more forceful performers, reunited with “Yards” director Gray. Let’s hope the results are as striking on this outing as they were the first time around. Now Playing

SLEUTH: Michael Caine, Jude Law (Directed by Kenneth Branagh; Written by Harold Pinter; Sony Pictures Classics) A distinguished, conniving, sexually possessive playwright discovers that his lovely wife is having a red-hot fling with a brazen young actor. So, while his wife is away, he invites the handsome adulterer to spend the weekend with him at his secluded manor. Just a couple of buddies amusing--and possibly even murdering--one another. If this all sounds more than a little familiar to you, that may be because you saw Anthony Shaffer’s thriller on stage, as well as the 1972 movie version starring Laurence Olivier as the wordsmith and Michael Caine as the thespian. This time, Caine is playing the cuckold and the role of the sneaky lover has been entrusted to Jude Law (who, as you no doubt know, played the shameless womanizer in the remake of “Alfie,” a role brought memorably to life by Michael Caine in the original). To read about more new movie remakes, click here. Now Playing

GONE BABY GONE: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Robert Wahlberg, Mark Margolis, John Ashton, Amy Ryan (Written and directed by Ben Affleck; Miramax Films) Why should a bright, able-bodied man in his thirties take orders from his big brother? It’s because he’s actor Casey Affleck and he’s being directed in his most important role to date by sibling Ben Affleck, making his directorial debut (unless you count “I Killed My Lesbian Wife, Hung Her on a Meat Hook, and Now I Have a Three-Picture Deal at Disney,” the short he shot in 1993). In “Gone Baby Gone,” based on the book by “Mystic River’s” Dennis Lehane, the younger Affleck plays a Boston detective who, along with his partner (Michelle Monaghan), reluctantly takes on the horrific case of a four-year-old girl who vanished from her home in a Boston slum. Surprisingly, the private investigators are more hindered than helped in their search by the cops, the child’s dope-addicted mom, and other questionable characters. The U.K. release of this film, set for 12/28, has been scrapped due to the similarity of the child's mysterious disappearance to the case of Madeleine McCann, the 4-year-old British girl who went missing while on vacation with her parents earlier this year in Portugal. Now Playing

RENDITION: Jake Gyllenhaal, Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep, Peter Saarsgard, Alan Arkin, Omar Metwally (Directed by Gavin Hood; Written by Kelley Sane; New Line) The U.S. policy of abducting terrorist suspects, secretly transporting them to countries where torture is the favored tool for interrogation, and imprisoning them for prolonged periods is known as Extraordinary Rendition. The covert practice, much to the displeasure of the Bush administration, has recently been exposed and well documented by the press. And, not too surprisingly, more than one of these torture victims have been proven innocent beyond all doubt. Set in the Middle East, “Rendition” top-lines Jake Gyllenhaal as an idealistic CIA analyst who is shocked when he discovers, firsthand, the brutal methods employed by secret-police interrogators; Reese Witherspoon plays a panicked American whose Egyptian husband has gone missing, thanks to rendition. Gavin Hood, the man responsible for “Tsotsi," the powerful South African film about a vicious thug who “adopts” the child of a woman he has slain, is the director of this sure-to-be-controversial thriller. To read about more current and upcoming war-themed films, click here; for Diane Baroni's 2001 interview with Jake Gyllenhaal, click here. Now Playing

RESERVATION ROAD: Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Connelly, Mira Sorvino, Elle Fanning, John Slattery, Antoni Corone (Directed by Terry George; Written by John Burnham Schwartz; Focus Features) Dwight Arno, speeding through the night to return his 10-year-old son to his ex-wife on time, turns a bend, hits a boy who’d been walking on the side of the road, and drives on. Nearby, Ethan Learner, the father of the fatally injured boy, sits behind the wheel of his own car. Before long, Ethan will be consumed by grief, guilt and a deep thirst for revenge. If you’ve read John Burnham Schwarz’s 1998 novel, “Reservation Road,” you already know how this story ends, but you’ll probably rush to see the movie version all the same. Adapted by the novelist, the film is being directed by Terry George (“Hotel Rwanda”) and stars Mark Ruffalo as the fleeing father and Joaquin Phoenix as his potential avenger. Jennifer Connelly, who co-starred with Phoenix in 1997’s “Inventing the Abbotts,” plays his distraught wife on this occasion. To read about more new movies based on books, click here. Now Playing

THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE: Halle Berry, Benicio Del Toro, David Duchovny, Alexis Llewellyn, Alison Lohman (Directed by Susanne Bier; Written by Allan Loeb; Paramount) Halle Berry won an Oscar for “Monster’s Ball,” in which she played a widow who has a hot affair with a prison guard (Billy Bob Thornton) who, unbeknownst to her, had executed her husband (Sean Combs). In “Things We Lost in the Fire,” she again plays a beautiful young widow who is perhaps a bit on the clueless side about the troubled man (Benicio Del Toro) she takes into her home after the untimely death of her husband (David Duchovny). Maybe the guy didn’t kill her hubby, but he certainly knew him. Could "Things We Lost" add up to another Oscar win for Halle? Now Playing

BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney, Marisa Tomei, Rosemary Harris, Brian F. O’Byrne, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Michael Shannon (Directed by Sidney Lumet; Written by Kelly Masterson; ThinkFilm) If you’re so strapped for cash that masterminding a robbery seems your best solution, doesn’t it make perfect sense to target your Mom and Pop’s jewelry shop, thereby keeping things more or less in the family? That’s the shaky rationale of Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Hank (Ethan Hawke), the desperate brothers in this thriller from Sidney Lumet. If “Devil” turns out to be classier and more complex than it sounds, it will probably be because the 83-year-old Lumet--whose meticulous studies of people accussed of breaking the law include “12 Angry Men,” “Fail Safe,” “The Anderson Tapes,” “The Offence,” “Serpico,” “Murder on the Orient Express,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Prince of the City,” “The Verdict,” “Gloria” and “Find Me Guilty”--has not lost the knack for making celluloid crime pay. To read Guy Flatley's 1974 New York Times interview with Sidney Lumet, click here. Now Playing