Space Chimps 2: Zartog Strikes Back

Space Chimps 2: Zartog Strikes Back
Unspeakably bad digimation sequel which comprises a total vacuum of charm, energy, surprise and coherence and only barely delivers on the promises of its title (only one chimp actually goes into space and Zartog's attempt at 'striking back' is utterly feeble).

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Wilderness

Wilderness
“Wilderness”, Michael Bassett’s follow-up to his World War I horror movie “Death Watch” can best be described as “Lords of the Flies” meets “Friday the 13th”. The film concerns an intrepid band of delinquent teens who, after one of their own commits suicide due to bullying, are sentenced to become one with nature at a remote island. They are watched over by Jed (British genre horror mainstay Sean Pertwee), who soon takes a couple of crossbow bolts to the body and is dispensed with.

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Banshee

Banshee
Banshee is a crime drama starring Tayrn Manning as Sage, a professional car thief who has stolen the wrong car. Sage makes a bet with her friend Tony and steals one more car for the night, a '66 Classic Charger. Sage doesn't notice that she dropped her driver's license at the crime scene but the owner of the Charger, a deranged serial killer notices and now has set his sights on Sage and her friends. Now Sage is on the run from a serial killer, two cops, and her fellow criminals. Warning: my movie review contains plot spoilers.

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Arthur

Arthur

It's still an open question whether in this day of increased concerns about alcoholism and health you can do a remake of 1981's Arthur, a comedy about a lovable drunk, because the new Arthur, with Russell Brand playing the Dudley Moore role, is a mere burlesque riffing off the old Arthur rather than an actual remake that has reconceived or rethought the original film.

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Balancing the Books aka Fatal Secrets

Balancing the Books aka Fatal Secrets
"BALANCING THE BOOKS" is a character-driven suspense drama about an attractive woman who enlists the help of her two best friends to confront a traumatic experience she can no longer deny. Julia, divorced and successfully self-employed, seems to have it all - except the right guy in her life. Her friends urge her to "get back out there." But they don't yet know about Scott - a charming man with a secret background whose true colors paint a streak of pain and fear through Julia's life. When Scott's effect on Julia reaches the breaking point, she and her friends take matters into their own hands... and underestimate the consequences. The outcome forces all of them into a desperate situation.

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Closer

Closer
If you pay attention to Hollywood's romantic comedies, the interaction between men and women is all about love and companionship. If you instead rely upon the philosophy of Closer, it's all about power. Closer starts like a nice romantic drama, with a couple of "meet cutes" (as Roger Ebert calls them), then does a 180-degree turn and shows what happens when happily ever after rots from the inside out. It isn't just the relationships that curdle, but the characters. Their interaction becomes bitter and cynical. Sex is a tool used in power struggles and one-upsmanship games. Although the word "love" is mentioned a few times, it has little place in this movie, where emotions are weaknesses to be exploited by others. With Closer, director Mike Nichols and screenwriter Patrick Marber (translating his stage play) have ventured into Neil LaBute territory (In the Company of Men, Your Friends and Neighbors). For Nichols, this is not new terrain - he has visited here twice previously, in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Carnal Knowledge. Put those two older films together with Closer and you get a grim trilogy that doesn't have a lot of good things to say about the human condition.

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Primeval

Primeval
What a croc! Unsolicited advice to filmmakers: When making a monster movie, do not attempt to sell said film as a picture about a serial killer. Second piece of unsolicited advice to filmmakers: When making a monster movie, keep the focus on the monster. Do not populate the movie with a bunch of henchmen rejects from old James Bond films. A giant crocodile should be enough to keep the audience's attention. If it's not, either a new script or a new concept is needed. In the case of Primeval, reworking both could only have resulted in an improvement.

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Lives of Others

Lives of Others
It's no secret that some of the most powerful dramas are those that depict character transformations. Such is the case with The Lives of Others, the stirring and affecting feature debut of German filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. With a deft hand, von Donnersmarck engages us in the life of a cold, dispassionate character then takes us on a journey that transforms him from detached observer to involved partisan. The film is careful to avoid overt melodrama but, at the same time, it engages the emotions. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the movie is the complexity and intelligence evident in the screenplay, which offers multiple valid interpretations for certain actions but never insults the audience by insisting upon one. A contender for the 2007 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar and major player in European and Film Festival awards, The Lives of Others is deserving of the accolades it has thus far obtained.

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Deep Impact

Deep Impact
Another summer, another double-dip of disaster dramas. This time around, instead of volcanoes, it's comets. The films in question, Mimi Leder's Deep Impact and Michael Bay's Armageddon, are separated by two months, so the first should have a chance to run its course before the second reaches the screen. (More likely, the first will get squashed by Godzilla.) The movies, while utilizing similar premises (big piece of space debris on collision course with our beloved planet), have fundamentally different slants. Deep Impact focuses more on the Earth-based sitting ducks than on the would-be astronaut heroes. Armageddon sends Bruce Willis into space to kick asteroid. (Armageddon is not near the top of my "must see" list -- after Mercury Rising, I've had enough of Willis for the year.)

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Oscar and Lucinda

Oscar and Lucinda
Ralph Fiennes is carving out a nice niche for himself in the genre of period piece romances. For his followup to the Academy-beloved The English Patient, he has once again turned to a love story, this time directed by accomplished Australian film maker Gillian Armstrong (Little Women). Despite some obvious overplotting, Oscar and Lucinda is a mostly effective and often affecting motion picture that touches our hearts while daring our minds to balk at its implausible coincidences.

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Scent of a Woman

Scent of a Woman
Scent of a Woman is about Charles Simms (Chris O'Donnell), a Boston prep school senior, and the Thanksgiving weekend he spends working as the aide and companion of Lt. Colonel Frank Slade (Al Pacino), an embittered, lonely, blind veteran. The job, which begins as an onerous task performed principally for money, becomes a tour of self-discovery when Slade decides to make an unexpected visit to New York City. There, amidst all the holiday hoopla, the lieutenant's actions force Charlie into making an emotionally painful - and potentially physically dangerous - decision.

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Hot Shots!

Hot Shots!
It's heartening to know that while we sat through one of the emptiest synthetic hit movies of the 1980's, the seeds of parody were being sown. It's also nice to see that the three-headed Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker directorial entity, the one responsible for "Airplane!," has split into three fully formed talents without any apparent loss of verve.

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The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice
The film opens with images of Venetian life in 1596, especially discrimination against the Jews. Words on the screen inform the audience about anti-Semitism in the period, describing the system of the ghetto and Jewish usury. Shylock and Antonio are seen among a crowd watching Jews being thrown from the Rialto Bridge into the canal.

Otherwise, the film follows the plot of Shakespeare's play closely. There are some significant emendations: In Act III, scene i, Tubal tells Shylock that in Genoa, a person "showed me a ring that he had of your daughter for a monkey." Shylock replies "Thou torturest me, Tubal: It was my turquoise; I had it of Leah when I was a bachelor; I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys." Nothing more is said of it. However, in an added scene at the end of the film, there is a close-up shot of the turquoise ring on Jessica's finger, implying that Shylock had jumped to the wrong conclusion.

Another significant emendation is that we don't see that Antonio receives the good news that three of his ships were not stranded and have returned safely after all at the end of the film.

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Like Dandelion Dust

Like Dandelion Dust
Two police officers knock on the door of a home and a drunk man answers. This man is Rip Porter, and he lives at the house with his wife Wendy Porter. The police say they are checking in on a domestic disturbance, and when they walk upstairs, they find Wendy injured by Rip's hand. They then arrest Rip, and he spends the next seven years in prison. It is unknown that if domestic assault was Rip's only crime, but he is an alcoholic and may have had a prior criminal record.

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Last Stand at Saber River

Last Stand at Saber River
As America recovers from the Civil War, Paul Cable (Tom Selleck) returns home to Texas after being years away from his family fighting for the Confederacy. His wife, Martha (Suzy Amis), is a pretty but strong willed frontier woman, whose independence makes her a force in of herself. She had been told that he was killed in action. Upon his unexpected return, she devotes herself once again to being his wife, but resents him for having left her and their children behind to fight a war she didn't care to understand. Having loved each other since childhood, the two now, though married, are like strangers, and the tension between them is evident. During his absence, their youngest daughter had died from fever, and Martha, having borne that without him, has developed a hatred for her husband. Her father James Sanford (Harry Carey Jr.) scolds her for her attitude toward Cable, to which she stands her ground, never backing down from her stance on the subject. Her father knows her well, and lets the subject alone.

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The Carey Treatment

The Carey Treatment
Dr. Peter Carey is a pathologist at a Boston hospital. The daughter of the hospitals Chief of Staff dies after an illegal abortion goes wrong, and Careys friend and colleague Dr. David Tao is accused of performing the abortion. Carey doesnt buy it, and so he digs deeper, angering the girls father in the process. Questions abound Who performed the abortion? Was the girl really pregnant? And what does it have to do with stolen morphine, blackmail attempts, and a mysterious and dangerous masseur?

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