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OCTOBER 2006

THE DEPARTED: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin, Ray Winstone, Gerard McSorley, Vera Farmiga, Todd Peterson (Directed by Martin Scorsese; Written by William Monahan; Warner Bros.) Leo as a Chinese undercover cop who’s infiltrated a sinister Hong Kong gang, and Matt as a ruthless member of that gang passing himself off as a gung-ho Hong Kong police recruit? Am I making this up? Only a little. These Hollywood baby-icons are in fact starring in an American rehash of “Wu Jian Dao” (“Infernal Affairs”), a big 2002 Hong Kong action hit. This time, the tricky thrills and spills are played out in the streets and back rooms of Boston, and the gang at the center of the mischief is Irish, not Chinese. And speaking of gangs, Leo is surely thrilled to be re-teamed with his “Gangs of New York” director, Martin Scorsese. Actually, as you well know, it won’t be their first re-teaming; Leo got an Oscar nomination for his performance as the flamboyantly secretive Howard Hughes in Scorsese's "The Aviator." To read Guy Flatley's 1973 interview with Scorsese, click here; for Guy's 1974 interview with Jack Nicholson, click here. Now Playing

LITTLE CHILDREN: Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly, Patrick Wilson, Sadie Goldstein, Ty Simpkins, Jackie Earle Haley, Phyllis Somerville, Gregg Edelman, Noah Emmerich, Raymond J. Barry, Trini Alvarado (Directed by Todd Field; Written by Todd Field and Tom Perrotta; New Line Cinema) “In the Bedroom” (2001) was a painful-to-watch but impossible-to-resist drama about a middle-aged couple who scheme to murder the person responsible for the death of their son. Now, in his second feature, Todd Field, the writer-director of that film, has come up with what sounds like another powerhouse drama. Based on the novel by Tom Perrotta, the screenplay by Field and Perrotta focuses on the seemingly simple but dangerously complex relationships between husbands, wives, their children and their neighbors in a small suburban community. They mingle and engage in innocent, mundane activities of mainstream American life. But at least two of these individuals--a sexually frustrated woman and a stay-at-home dad--take risky steps to relieve the tedium of their lives. The repercussions of their rebellion are thornier than anticipated. Now Playing

INFAMOUS: Toby Jones, Daniel Craig, Sandra Bullock, Sigourney Weaver, Hope Davis, Jeff Daniels, Isabella Rossellini, Peter Bogdanovich, Juliet Stevenson, Gwyneth Paltrow, (Written and directed by Douglas McGrath; Warner Independent Pictures) “In Cold Blood,” a masterpiece of true storytelling about the horrific murder of a mid-western family by a pair of intruders from hell, is perhaps the late Truman Capote’s finest achievement. Maybe that’s why two new films--this one and "Capote"--deal with the strange psychological connection between the author, acted by Toby Jones, and convicted killer Perry Smith (Daniel Craig), a bond forged during Smith’s time on death row. Sandra Bullock plays Harper Lee, author of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and a close friend of Capote, and Gwyneth Paltrow is cast as--are you ready for this?--a sultry blonde songbird who's a dead ringer for Peggy Lee. The mere thought of that gives me fever. To read A. O. Scott's New York Times review of "Infamous," click here. Now Playing

FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS: Ryan Phillippe, Adam Beach, Jesse Bradford, Paul Walker, Neal McDonough, Jamie Bell, Joseph Cross, Robert Patrick, Barry Pepper, Kirk Woller, Brian Kimmet, Jason Gray-Stanford, Matt Huffman, Joe Michael Burke, Georgiana Jianu, Shon Blotzer (Directed by Clint Eastwood; Written by William Broyles Jr. and Paul Haggis; Paramount/DreamWorks) Americans, particularly those who have volunteered to serve in Iraq, know that war is hell. Now Clint Eastwood reminds us that war in the forties was also hell. Set during the climactic year of 1945, “Flags of Our Fathers,” which is based on the best seller by James Bradley and Ron Powers, depicts the bloody, ferocious battle for control of Pacific island Iwo Jima. In particular, the movie focuses on the five marines and one navy corpsman who raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi. These are the men shown in the photo that has since become a universal symbol of valor and victory. And this is the movie that--following “Mystic River” and “Million Dollar Baby”--could be the third Oscar contender in a row for director Clint Eastwood. To read a Critics Roundup on "Flags of Our Fathers, click here; for Guy Flatley's 1976 New York Times interview with Eastwood, click here. Now Playing

MARIE ANTOINETTE: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Rip Torn, Judy Davis, Danny Huston, Steve Coogan, Asia Argento, Marianne Faithfull, Aurore Clement, Molly Shannon, Shirley Henderson, Rose Byrne (Written and directed by Sofia Coppola; Columbia) Kirsten Dunst, who made director Sofia Coppola proud in “The Virgin Suicides,” will try to do the same thing in this fresh take on the royal who lost her head during the French Revolution. In a move that some might brand as nepotism, Coppola cast cousin Jason Schwartzman as King Louis XVI. Anyone who saw “Rushmore,” however, knows Schwartzman--nephew of Francis Ford Coppola, son of Talia Shire--is as talented as he is well-connected, so obviously the kid should have stayed in the picture. To read about many more new biopics, click here. Now Playing

THE PRESTIGE: Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, David Bowie, Piper Peabo, Andy Serkis (Directed by Christopher Nolan; Written by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan; Disney) As British director Christopher Nolan demonstrated in “Memento” and “Batman Begins,” he can be a fiendishly tricky filmmaker. And now he and Jonathan Nolan--his co-screenwriting brother--seem to be up to a bundle of clever new tricks. Set at the beginning of the twentieth century, this mystery, based on the novel by Christopher Priest, revolves around two talented, keenly competitive magicians (Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale) who will stop at nothing--perhaps not even murder--to best one another at the slippery game of magic. And we wouldn’t be surprised if that sly Scarlett Johansson works her own pesonal magic on both of these bloody blokes. To see what else Hugh Jackman and Scarlett Johansson are up to, click here and browse the J page of STAR TURNS. Now Playing

RUNNING WITH SCISSORS: Joseph Cross, Annette Bening, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes, Alec Baldwin, Evan Rachel Wood, Jill Clayburgh, Kristin Chenoweth, Colleen Camp, Gabrielle Union, Patrick Wilson (Written and directed by Ryan Murphy; Sony Pictures) What kind of mother would dump her 14-year-old son in the filthy, falling-down house of her lunatic shrink and his dysfunctional family and then encourage the kid to have a sexual relationship with a vile, long-in-the-tooth pedophile? The answer is Deirdre Burroughs, the egomaniacal, chain-smoking, wannabe-poet mom of Augusten Burroughs, who wrote so brilliantly about her, his runaway dad and various other oddballs in his harrowing and hilarious 2002 memoir, “Running With Scissors.” Deirdre is played by Annette Bening, Joseph Cross (off screen he's a pint-sized rocker who couldn't convince his high school principal that his band should be called COCK) plays Augusten, Joseph Fiennes is his long-in-the-tooth lover, and Gwyneth Paltrow plays the lad's loony gal pal. Except in the case of the Burroughs clan, the names of the real-life characters in the book were carefully changed by the author. Later Burroughs allegedly got a bit careless and revealed their true names in public. These days, he’s mum on the subject and perhaps a bit nervous about having his day in court. To read a New York Times article about a pending lawsuit, click here. Now Playing

BABEL: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal, Elle Fanning, Nathan Gamble, Koji Yakusho, Fernandez Mattos Dulce, Lynsey Beauchamp, James Melody (Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu; Written by Guillermo Arriaga; Paramount Classics) A variety of troubled people in several countries (including Morocco, Tunisia, Mexico and Japan) somehow manage to forge a connection. And you can count on the results being violent, bloody, mystifying and perhaps a tiny bit uplifting. Why is that? Because “Babel” is another collaboration between director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, the awesomely disturbing team responsible for the violent, bloody, mystifying and perhaps a tiny bit uplifting “Amores Perros” and “21 Grams.” Now Playing

CATCH A FIRE: Derek Luke, Tim Robbins, Bonnie Henna, Robert Hobbs (Directed by Phillip Noyce; Written by Shawn Slovo; Focus Features) Patrick Chamusso, who worked in a South African oil refinery during the 1980s, spent most of his off-time playing soccer, a sport he loved with a passion. Politics was a subject that seldom entered his mind, until the day he and his wife were severely assaulted by government-trained terror squads. This harrowing true story, concentrating on Chamusso’s bold battle against the apartheid regime, extends to the present day in South Africa. Derek Luke (“Antwone Fisher,” “Pieces of April”) portrays the politicized Chamusso, and Tim Robbins plays a government agent who may or may not be in his corner. Now Playing

DEATH OF A PRESIDENT: Hend Ayoub, Becky Ann Baker, Brian Boland, Michael Reilly Burke, Patricia Buckley, Seena Jon, Robert Mangiardi, M. Neko Parham, Jay Patterson, Chavez Ravine, Christian Stolte, James Urbaniak, Jay Whittaker (Directed by Gabriel Range; Written by Gabriel Range and Simon Finch; Newmarket Films) Where were you on the evening of October 27, 2007, the evening President Bush was assassinated? That’s the question Americans would be asking for decades to come if the events shown in this controversial British “docudrama” were more than a figment of filmmaker Gabriel Range’s imagination. And we’d all be debating about President Dick Cheney’s Patriot Act III and whether we should cut and run in Syria. Click here for the Variety review of this Toronto Film Festival winner. Now Playing