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Weekend Box Office: October 19-21, 2007
30 Days of Night tops the box office with $16.0 million

Daily Box Office: Sunday, October 21, 2007
30 Days of Night tops Sunday's box office with $3.8 million

Rendition / **** (R)
“Rendition” (R, 120 minutes). Gavin Hood’s terrifying, intelligent thriller tells the story of an Egyptian-born American, who is “disappeared” from a flight by the CIA, and held without good cause for torture and interrogation. Reese Witherspoon plays his pregnant wife, who turns to an old boyfriend (Peter Saarsgard) to intervene with his boss, a senator (Alan Arkin). Meryl Streep chillingly plays the U.S. head of intelligence, and Jake Gyllenhaal is the troubled CIA bureau chief in the country that is hired to torture the man. A big, confident, effective film with its politics seamlessly a part of its story. Hood won an Oscar in 2005 for his “Tsotsi.” Rating” Four stars.

Gone Baby Gone / ***1/2 (R)
“Gone Baby Gone” (R, 115 minutes). Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan) play lovers and business partners, who are private investigators specializing in tracking down deadbeats. Approached by clients to help find a missing child, they protest that they’re just garden-variety PIs, don’t carry guns, aren’t looking for heavy lifting. But maybe they’ll see something the cps miss. Impressive directing debut by Ben Affleck, with a top-drawer supporting cast: Morgan Freeman, Amy Madigan, Ed Harris, Amy Ryan. Rating: Three and a half stars.

Sleuth / *** (R)
“Sleuth” (R, 86 minutes). Do not make the mistake of thinking that if you’ve seen the earlier play or film, you’ve got this one covered. Kenneth Branagh directs a new screenplay by Harold Pinter that only uses one line of the Anthony Shaffer original. Michael Caine plays a wealthy novelist, whose isolated country house is visited one night by Jude Law, playing the man who is having an affair with his wife. The two engage in a Pinteresque conversation, and their verbal duel, not the wife, may be the whole point. Banish all thoughts of wives, adultery, disguises, accents, ploys, surprises and denouements, and simply listen to the words and watch Caine and Law at work. Then try to decide when the characters (not the actors) are acting, and when they are not. Rating: Three stars.

Lars and the Real Girl / ***1/2 (PG-13)
“Lars and the Real Girl” (PG-13, 106 minutes). Ryan Gosling plays Lars Lindstrom, a painfully shy young man who can barely stand the touch of another human being. One day he orders a life-sized love doll through the internet, using “Bianca” not for sex but for companionship. He expects everyone else to treat the doll the same way, including his brother (Paul Schneider), sister-in-law (Emily Mortimer) and therapist (Patricia Clarkson). Only after the movie is over do you realize what a balancing act it was, what risks it took, what rewards is contains. Directed by Craig Gillespie, written by Nancy Oliver (“Six Feet Under”). Rating: Three and a half stars.

Things We Lost in the Fire / *** (R)
"Things We Lost in the Fire" (R, 112 minutes). A new widow (Halle Berry) is moved to invite her late husband’s best friend (Benecio Del Toro) to live in a room in her family’s garage—an improvement from his life as a recovering heroin addict. No, not a love story, but the portrait of two damaged people who loved the same man more than anyone else did. A perceptive view of how grief affects us, and an accurate look at Del Toro’s experiences in a 12-step program. American debut of Danish director Susanne Bier (“Open Hearts,” “Brothers”). Rating: Three stars.

My Kid Could Paint That / *** (PG-13)
"My Kid Could Paint That" (PG-13, 83 minutes). Documentary about Marla Olmstead, a 4-year-old girl from Binghamton, N.Y. who got a lot of publicity because at her age she was producing abstract paintings that sold for hundreds and then thousands of dollars. Was she painting them herself? This fascinating documentary leaves it for you to decide. Rating: Three stars

30 Days of Night / **1/2 (R)
By Roger Ebert A gaunt stranger haunts the streets of Barrow, Alaska, warning: "That cold ain't the weather. That's Death approaching." Since Barlow is said to be the northernmost town in America, 300 miles of roadless wilderness from its closest neighbor, and 30 days of continuous sunless night are commencing, I expected someone to reply, "You could have fooled me. I thought it was the weather."

Shut Up and Sing / ***1/2 (Rated R)
“Shut Up and Sing” (R, 93 minutes). On March 10, 2003, in the first days of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Dixie Chicks lead single Natalie Maines told a London audience, “I’m ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” Her statement unleashed a perfect storm. The Chicks were banned from every country station in the land, record sales plummeted, death threats were received. This documentary, by Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck, follows them for the next three years, as they deal with the consequences of assuming they had freedom of speech. In the process, they demonstrate American freedom in action, Rating: Three and a half stars.

Broken / ** (R)
"Broken" (R, 97 minutes). Heather Graham is Hope, an optimistic Ohioan who dreams of stardom in LA. Jeremy Sisto is Will, her junkie ex-boyfriend. Hope's dreams parade before her during a long waitressing shift at an all-night diner. Will has a gun and makes his way toward her through the darkness. Flashbacks and fantasy sequences occur. It's as schematic as it sounds. The Brian Jonestown Massacre songs are great. Rent "DIG!" instead. Rating: Two stars.

Great Movie: Sansho the Bailiff (1954)
By Roger Ebert Kenji Mizoguchi's "Sansho the Bailiff," one of the best of all Japanese films, is curiously named after its villain, and not after any of the characters we identify with. The bristle-bearded slavemaster Sansho is at the center of two journeys, one toward him, one away, although the early travelers have no suspicion of their destination. He is as heartless a creature as I have seen on the screen.

Movie Answer Man: Sorry, haters, all you need is love
Q: I, like you, fell in love with "Across the Universe." However, I am somewhat taken aback by how many critics seem to HATE it. There's quite a lot of vitriol toward this movie. Why do you think this is? Kevin Fuld, Dallas A. It mystifies me. No other movie this year has generated such favorable feedback to the Answer Man. But it's "Rotten" on the Tomatometer, and some critics are savage. I'll bet if the movie were allowed to hang in theaters, it would find a big audience. It will be in revival for years. I agree with Stephen Holden of the New York Times: " 'Across the Universe' captured my heart, and I realized that falling in love with a movie is like falling in love with another person. Imperfections, however glaring, become endearing quirks once you've tumbled."

People: Anthony Hopkins: Flashing
in front of his eyes
By Roger Ebert Anthony Hopkins has written and directed a very peculiar film. He is the first to say so. It has no continuity. That's what he explained to the continuity girl. It doesn't make logical sense. That's what he told the cast. It's stream of consciousness. That's what Spielberg told him. It's exactly the film he wanted to make. That's what he told himself. It's the film he had to make. That's what his wife Stella told him. "You're next." That's what Kevin McCarthy said in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," and he says it again, in Anthony Hopkins' very peculiar film.

People: Deborah Kerr: In Memory
by Roger Ebert She shared a passionate kiss with Burt Lancaster as the surf rolled over them in “From Here to Eternity.” She was “I” in “The King and I.” She crawled through the mud with a Marine played by Robert Mitchum in “Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison.” She was a sheep drover’s wife in “The Sundowners,” a headmaster’s wife in “Tea and Sympathy,” and the wife of Brutus in “Julius Caesar.” She missed an appointment with Cary Grant atop the Empire State Building in “An Affair to Remember.” In three different roles, she represented the colonel’s lifelong romantic obsession in “The Life and Death of Col. Blimp.” And simply by standing up in “Black Narcissus,” she started the young Martin Scorsese thinking about movies in a new way.

Editor's Notes: Close Up: The movie
by Jim Emerson Words are linear. Movies not so much, even though they are encoded onto strips of celluloid or served up as streams or spirals of digital bits. The web is not so linear, actually. Hyperlinks in all directions are more like the interconnected synapses of the human brain than any other technology or art form I can think of. But sometimes when I try to convey something about my experience of movies -- filtered, as always, through reflections and contrasts between images, memories, themes, styles -- what I really want to do is make a movie about it. That seems like the shortest, most direct way from imagination to articulation. The movie itself (as Godard famously suggested) is the criticism, the analysis.

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